Saturday, June 26, 2010

Books, Music, Love

This is one of those long, rambling type posts, so my apologies up front, but it is late and I've been up since 7 AM on this glorious Saturday thanks to my sweet children...

I finished Flannery O'Connor's short story collection today that I had been working through. She owns me like no other writer of fiction! Her dark, shadowy characters and settings paint a real-life picture to me. Her incredible ability to shed the light of the Gospel on the mundane, ordinariness of life captures my attention with every page. As I read these stories, I was reminded that I really prefer short stories to novels, which is a lesson I hope to take into my preaching and teaching. Honestly, I am a minister and have several years of theological education, if I get bored or disengaged in a sermon at the half way point, when is every one else tuning out? I am not the best at saying exactly what I want to say in succinct ways, but I am working on it.

The music of Bill Mallonee, especially his solo stuff reminds me of Flannery O'Connor's body of work in some way, shape, form or fashion. As I was doing yard work this morning, I heard this song from Mallonee.

I Will Never Be Normal (After This) Year: 2003 | Run Time: 5:31

Written by Bill Mallonee for CyBrenJoJosh (BMI) ©2004

now most of my friends
they have bailed out long ago
and they've all got their stories
for the paths that they have chosen
see for some their family's love
felt like a boxer's blow
now they spend their days feelin' small
wherever they do roam

but hey there are drugs to help you see God
and there are drugs for when depressed
and there are drugs that make you harder still
for when you get undressed
and there's drugs for the guiltiness
so you'll feel one with the universe
but girl you were the only one
to ever break the curse

yeah it could have been your eyes
but i suspect it was your kiss
honey i will never be normal after this

now everyone's a junkie
and since daylight's such a pain
we're all looking for some darkness
to stick into our veins
for some of us it's lust
for others it is power
for some of us it's playing songs
and drinking after hours

yeah you've gone and upped the ante
in this game that we all play
gotta wake up and believe
that love's the better way
and people can really be healed
there are even some of 'em you can trust
but first you gotta take a risk
and tell 'em where it hurts

what if it's for a purpose
what if we used our battered faith
they say God He doesn't make junk
and Jesus never makes mistakes
He has never given up
on anything that He has made
He will chase you like a lover
right through heaven's gate

There's definitely a lot to dissect in this song from a theological perspective! What struck me though is how much it captures my sentiment about Cyd. My life has not been the same or normal since I met her many years ago, yet it has been amazing!! She never ceases to astound me with her beauty, her wit, her wisdom and her perspective on life. She has a window to my soul that is only eclipsed by my Creator. She has a passion for life that is invigorating! I am so thankful to have her as my wife, I have certainly "never been normal since."

Friday, June 25, 2010

Searching For God Knows What by Donald Miller

Searching For God Knows What is a magnificent book about the reclaiming of Christianity as a relationship not a formulaic religion. Donald Miller is one of the greatest treasures to come out of evangelicalism in the last decade. His writing style and personality appeal to those who have been hurt, beat up or marginalized by the established religion as he offers fresh perspective on a life of faith lived in the context of community within the church.

Searching For God Knows What was the second book I ever read by Miller, which has only gotten better in this revised and expanded edition published by Thomas Nelson. Miller's thesis is authentic faith is not about rules, lists, good deeds or even correct is about a relationship with the Living God who created us and longs to live in community with us. Although this concept seems as if it should already be grasped by evangelicals (natural descendants of the 16th century Reformers) it seems we often forget what a relationship looks, feels and smells like.

Miller is a master storyteller who invites the reader to pull up a chair and fresh beverage of one's choice to have a conversation about what God and a relationship with Him is really all about. There will be plenty of critics of this book, because Miller seems to cast of systematic theology to some degree, but those critics are not giving Miller the benefit of the doubt. Several times he admits that he agrees that we need a strong theological framework in place, but if we reduce our faith down to just that theological framework "we are of most men to be pitied."

A fantastic reminder of the love affair God has for and with His people!

This book can be ordered from or Thomas Nelson.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

M-Fuge Pictures 2

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M Fuge Pictures

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M-Fuge Birmingham 2010

Have you ever been on a mission trip, retreat, or summer camp and you come home and people ask how it was...but you struggle to put into words exactly how God moved? I have found myself in that situation this week. We attended M-Fuge at Samford University in Birmingham, AL last week, which was a great week! God really showed up and did some incredible things in and through our students.

Eyes were opened to how fortunate we are, how God looks past skin color and education, and to a realization that God doesn't work in a set way each time he moves in our lives. My students taught me the value of looking at others the way God sees us as they loved on kids, senior citizens, other youth groups, and each other. They sweated their fannies off last week playing basketball in gyms without A/C, painting and scraping paint on houses, cutting grass, doing backyard Bible clubs and everything in between.

A few of the highlights for me...1. seeing students get excited about doing missions 2. hearing stories of how they were challenged and inspired by other students from other churches at their ministry sites 3. watching as God broke them about sin and disobedience in their own lives 4. seeing former students begin to really take on the roll of adults and leaders as they found themselves on the "leader" end of this trip.

All in all, I know that I saw God work in some incredible ways, but to really vocalize that has been a challenge...partly because of the fact that some of what happened last week was intangible. Conversations between students, with students, moments of challenge and encouragement and moments of sheer dependence on God just to stay awake during worship or church group devotion time. God showed up! And he showed up BIG!!

I will post some pictures later.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Pixar's Greatest Hits: Ranking its 10 Movies, Worst to First :: Blogs :: List of the Day :: Paste

So I really want to go see, I mean take my girls to see Toy Story 3 hopefully this week, we shall see. As I was checking my email I can an update from Paste Magazine and thought this was worth sharing.
Pixar's Greatest Hits: Ranking its 10 Movies, Worst to First :: Blogs :: List of the Day :: Paste

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


A friend, Allison, recommended a book to me a while back by her pastor. Tullian Tchividjian is the grandson of Billy and Ruth Graham and now the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. He has a new book that was just released but the one I read is entitled Unfashionable. The thesis of the book is that we as Christians are called to be different as we live for God in this world so that we can make a difference by being different. Tullian's writing reminds me of a the preaching style of many Aftrican-American ministers. What I mean is that they have one point they are trying to communicate and they hit their audience with it from different points of view. The book does just that by bringing the reader back to the main point in every chapter in some way.

Like some of the other books that I have read lately it is filled with a challenging call of radical obedience to living out a God infused life! A life that is so full of Christ that it influences everything we do, think, or say. The subtitle is: "Making a difference in the world by being different." That has been my passion for as long as I can remember (no comments please) and it is exactly what I challenged my students to do any chance I get.

A great book! Thanks for the recommendation Allison!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Reflections from Donald Miller

I recently finished reading the revised copy of Donald Miller's Searching for God Knows What as part of my Booksneeze agreement with Thomas Nelson. I wanted to share a few lines that especially caught my eye before I post my official review.

"I realized Christian conversion worked more like falling in love than understanding a series of concepts or ideas" (xiii).

"Our formulaic, propositional, lifeboat-territorial methodology has crippled the kingdom of God" (190).

"As for me, I'm somebody who repeats what I learned in Sunday school using fancier language. It may pay the rent but it isn't original thought" (199).

"The ever-overquoted C.S. Lewis said it this way in his book Mere Christianity: 'Most of us are not really approaching the subject in order to find out what Christianity says: We are approaching it in the hope of finding support from Christianity for the views of our own party. We are looking for an ally where we are offered either a Master or-a judge'" (200).

"There are many religions, and many religious sects within the faith of Christianity. Do I believe some are more scripturally faithful than others? Yes. But none of them matter in the slightest if formulas replace a personal relationship with Jesus. He is the authority we need. He is the God we must cling to for salvation. And He is a Person, not a list of ideas, not a theology" (206).

"I began to wonder if what we were really doing in evangelical circles, then, had more to do with redeeming ourselves to culture than it did with showing Jesus to a hurting world, a world literally filled with outcasts" (209).

I'm not sure I completely agree with Donald Miller on everything, even everything I quoted above, but he has a way of shedding fresh light on shop-worn ideas that make a person stop and reconsider what it is we believe and why!

The Weekend

Claire's dance recital was this weekend and it was such a great night. My mom turned 39 on Friday so we celebrated her birthday on Saturday before the recital. Claire was so excited, she could hardly stand it. I was so proud of my little girl as she danced and "pixiedusted" her way across the stage. She really did a great job!

In addition to all those fun activities, we scrambled to get the finishing touches in place for VBS this week. Day one, is over and done, thank you Jesus! It really was a great day! I have the best group of teachers I have ever had working with me this year too!

Fireproof and The Hangover

Not two movies you expect to see in a review together, but that just proves how culturally diverse I am, right?? Cyd and I finally saw Fireproof last night, we borrowed it from a friend. It was a good movie, trite and predictable in some spots but a solid evangelical message. I did anticipate the acting being a little bit better than Facing the Giants, but I'm not so sure that happened. As a side note, I think Kirk Cameron's best work was and is his role as Mike Seaver on Growing Pains!!

I recently caught most of The Hangover as well, I must say the premise is idiotic although there are a few funny moments. Most of my students have been quoting excerpts from this movie so I was curious, now to quote a truly funny movie, "Thank you Mr. Madison, we are all now dumber for having listened to you." That pretty much sums up my review of The Hangover.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Patched Together

I am on the FBC Senior Trip with some of our seniors that just graduated this weekend at Tybee. It's been fun so far. While I sat on the beach I read Brennan Manning's newest book Patched Together. It's actually a revision of a couple of other books and new material but it doesn't disappoint.

Here are a couple of lines that caught my eye:

"As to the scars, don't be in a hurry to get rid of them; they are more beautiful than you'll ever know. You'll just have to trust me." p.38

"Little Brother, you were forgiven before you asked. Now accept that forgiveness and be at peace. Don't punish yourself anymore." p. 59

"Aware of his rapt attention, the Medicine Man said, "When you get to heaven, Little Friend, which is where I live, Abba will not ask you how many prayers you said or how many souls you saved. No he'll ask, 'Did you enjoy the fajita?' He wants you to live with passion, in the beauty of the moment, accepting and enjoying his gifts." p. 60

This next one is perhaps my favorite, "Anyone can sing in the light, but it's those who can whisper a doxology in the darkness who are truly grateful." p. 112

Sonny Stroud, 40 years of Ministry and 60 years of Life

Friday evening Cyd and I had the opportunity to spend a special evening honoring the work of God through Sonny Stroud. Sonny was our minister of music when we were in middle school and high school and was an important person in helping to shape our lives. His wife, Dana, planned a surprise party to honor him for 40 years of ministry and 60 years of life and asked us to come, I also got to say a few words of reflection. It was a wonderful evening all around with fond memories, good food, great evening truly infused with the Holy Spirit. Cyd and I had a great time recalling memories of The Living Christmas Tree, Choir tours to Jamaica and Chicago, and everything in between.

We enjoyed the quick trip to Jacksonville and back on Friday not just for the event for Sonny but for some time together in the car! I forgot how much I miss road trips with Cyd, we don't make near as many as we use to these days, so it was a fun day all around, especially after having a visit from the stomach bug at our house last week. We are so grateful for the opportunity to be a
part of such a great evening.