Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Thoughts on Ecology

I've been thinking some about ecology lately. Well, not ecology, exactly, but nature and the care of the physical world around us. What is our responsibilty for the state of the planet? Should we care about things like global warming, or just keep doing what we're doing and try to recycle occasionally? How does what vehicles we drive and how much we consume affect us as spiritual beings?

One book I've read recently that wrestles with these kinds of questions is Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. If I were to describe it, it would probably sound kind of boring, but it isn't. It uses the ancient form of the dialogue, where two or more characters converse about something. There is usually a story, of sorts, but it mostly serves as setup for the conversation. Greek philosophers and other premodern thinkers used it often, but I think it kind of went out of fashion during the modern era. Now that postmodernism seems to be taking the foreground (for what postmodernism is exactly, look elsewhere. I'm barely getting a grasp on it myself), the dialogue is coming back. I think it's a better way to talk about an issue than simply straightforward opinion. It allows deeper analysis, back-and-forth, argument. And it's usually a bit easier to maintain the reader's interest, especially if the topic is kind of heady and pedantic. All of that is just my rough opinion, anyway.

Now then. Ishmael consists of a dialogue between the unnamed narrator and an apparently telepathic gorilla named, appropriately, Ishmael. The talk is mostly of matters ecological, how to keep the human race from destroying the planet. It's an important question that deserves serious treatment. The human race has generally been of the opinion that we can do what we jolly well please with nature. I don't exactly know how it plays out in cultures other than my own Western one, but people have often (in my opinion, wrongly) interpreted the Bible's story of God telling man to "be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it" as a kind of carte blanche free-for-all to exploit nature. In a moment, I will explain why I don't believe this is a right interpretation.

Ishmael fascinatingly expounds on one interpretation of the book of Genesis' story of the Fall, and of Cain and Abel that I thought was incredibly interesting. The gist of it is that the Fall has to do with agriculture, with the human race's need to control our own destiny instead of living in the hands of the gods or God. I'm unconvinced that this is all the story means (one of the features of mythology being that it can mean many different things) but I think there is much truth to this interpretation.

(As an aside, it is worth noting that although I believe wholeheartedly in God, follow Jesus as His Son, and take the Bible to be inspired by God, I nonetheless think of most of Genesis as mythology. Only because of modern concepts of truth does that seem incongruous. To say something is mythological is not to say it isn't true. C.S. Lewis described mythology as "truth refracted through the lens of human imagination." Ishmael explores much of this characterization of mythology, particularly the way evolution and Darwinism and science have created their own sort of mythology about human destiny. My point is, although I don't take much of Genesis literally, I take it quite seriously.)

While I certainly enjoyed the entire book, and recommend it to anyone with an interest in philosophy, ecology, theology, etc., in the end I agreed more with the first two-thirds than the last section. This is because most of the the book is spent exploring the problems with the ambient human philosophy of conquest, whereas the latter portion discusses solutions. I found this part less convincing than the first. For one thing, I don't quite buy Ishmael's analysis of so-called primitive cultures. I'm not convinced there isn't as much crime, hopelessness, etc. as there is in the civilized world, albeit on a smaller scale. I fully admit I haven't studied the matter in great detail, and am not an anthropologist of any sort but the most amateurish people-watcher. Still, I somehow doubt the Bushmen and Aborigines and South American tribes lead as idyllic lives as the book suggests.

There were many passage/ideas that I found to be quite interesting. Ishmael's conceit that we need to find a way to run civilizations the way we do planes is one of them. The idea is that we don't break the law of gravity when we fly airplanes. We take advantage of other laws of nature (aerodynamics) to fly. But we're still subject to gravity when we do so. In the same way, we can't run a civilization by breaking the laws of the animal kingdom (competition, survival of the fittest, finding an ecological niche, and whatnot). We may, however (clever monkeys that we are) be able to live within those laws but still have medicine, computers, Philly Cheesesteaks and all the other benefits of "civilization". At least, I think that's what he meant.

I've already written more than I meant to, and I'm kind of at work, so I'll break off here. But I'll publish more soon about what I think is a Christian response to the challenges raised in Ishmael. I don't want to argue with the book so much as add another voice to the dialogue. As a follower of Jesus, I think that the Church has been entirely irresponsible on the subject of ecology and nature. I hope we can correct that in the coming century.

Sunday, December 18, 2005


Some time ago my blog-buddy James recommended I read Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn. I now have and thoroughly enjoyed it, even if I didn't entirely agree with all its conclusions. I'll have a more substantial post on this later when I've had time to digest it a little bit. For the time being suffice it to say it's about ecology and human history and civilization and the Neolithic Revolution.

Also a gorilla.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


So, I can be kind of stubborn. Ornery, even. An ass. Thing is, I'm not sure whether that's a virtue or a vice. Maybe it can be both. When one is right about something, stubbornness can be a handy thing in the face of opposition. And it comes in handy when attempting something difficult that may require a lot of attempts before one succeeds.

Still, it can also be pretty bad. If you're wrong about something, stubbornness may prevent you from seeing it. Being wrong is one thing; everybody's wrong sometimes, everybody screws up. But to be wrong and unable to admit it because you're just you're in real trouble. For instance, it's pretty clear that the Bush administration was wrong about WMD's in Iraq. Fair enough. International intelligence is a tricky thing, and you can't expect perfection, even (or especially) from a president. But to then ignore that wrongness, to not admit mistakes, and then to compound those mistakes...yeah.

I guess you have to find the line between confidence and arrogance. To be confident is good. Steadfast. To not be swayed by others' opinions, to hold onto whatever it is that tells you about truth. Your conscience, your convictions. As a Christian, I believe God Himself whispers in my ear, if I get still enough to hear Him. To be confident in that is a good thing.

But to be arrogant, to ignore the voices around you entirely, to be so sure of yourself you can never admit any wrongdoing, that's dangerous. I believe God speaks to me, but I don't believe i always hear Him right. And I certainly don't believe I'm the only one He talks to. That's arrogance.

I'm hoping I can find the place where I can be confident in who I am without being an arrogant ass.

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Sunday, December 4, 2005

The Streets

Last night I went out with some friends for what we're calling the Downtown Ministry. Basically we go to downtown (Orlando) and take clothes or food or whatever to the people living on the streets. We don't pass out lameass tracts or do anything most churches would consider "witnessing". We just hang out and talk to folks.

Jesus always met physical needs along with spiritual ones. We try to meet basic needs like food and clothing, but also emotional ones. People avoid the homeless. Pay attention to yourself, and you'll notice how you intentionally don't look at homeless people. Or people are jerks. Even those with good intentions can sometimes be condescending. We try to just restore some of the dignity of being a human being to our friends downtown.

It was really good. Like most "outreach" or whatever, I'm sure I took away a lot more than I gave. I didn't have any kind of epiphany about the poor or amazing spiritual experience. I just met some people, and talked (and learned how to listen) awhile. I highly recommend it.

Friday, December 2, 2005

Lessons from the Knife Drawer

You know that thing in your knife drawer that looks like a metal pole on a stick? The one you sometimes run along the blade to "sharpen" it?

You're not sharpening it. You're honing it.

If you want to sharpen the blade, take it to a knife sharpener. They actually scrape off metal so as to make the blade sharper. What you're actually doing with the honer is straightening the blade. Over time it gets bent, the edge pushed over a little bit, like Free Willy's dorsal fin. The honer straightens the blade back out, redirects it so it can be useful again.

Our lives work the same way. They're constantly getting knocked off-kilter, out of focus by the grind of our existence. If we want to stay focused on God so we can be of use to Him, we have to redirect our lives day by day. And it's that usual list of stuff: prayer, meditation, read the Bible, etc. that does the trick. Seems easy enough.

So why can't I seem to do it?

I have no discipline. I sleep in until the very last possible moment before I have to get up. It's rare that I actually pray in the morning, or even take two seconds to say hi to God before I'm off to "my" day, doing what I "have" to do. (Those quotes mean sarcasm.)

I'm trying. At least I think I am. It's just really tough. Following Jesus means living life intentionally for others. It means thinking of yourself last, and that takes thought. Our natural inclination is to think about ourselves first of all, then maybe others. Maybe. I really want to live my life in the way that Jesus wants me to. I want to live on less money so I can give more away. I want to be aware of injustice in the world so I can fight it, or at the very least not contribute to it. (i.e. Blood diamonds, stuff like that). I want to live in an environmentally responsible way so as not to ruin God's beautiful Earth. I want to be a true Jesus person.

And that's hard as balls.

Sunday, November 6, 2005

Okay, so I'm cheating...

This is actually something I wrote for English class. But I kinda like it, so read on if you dare.


It was pretty obvious that she liked me. The sly way she looked at me out of the corner of her eye, the way we talked in shorthand like old friends almost immediately. Still, sometimes people are just friendly. Did she like me, or did she like me? She was taking the LSAT on Saturday.

“I’m taking the LSAT on Saturday.”
“What’s the LSAT?”
“The test to get into law school. I’m taking it on Saturday and I’m not allowed to study on Friday. I’ve got nothing to do. I don’t know how I’m going to keep from studying.”

You’re not supposed to study the day before a big test. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself. Besides, if you’re not ready by then, you never will be. So she said. Whatever, it was clearly an opening to ask her out.

“So you’re looking for something to do on Friday?”

So two hours later she called me and said, “Ask me out, idiot!”

Okay, that’s not what happened. I asked her out and she said yes. She liked me. For some reason. She was clearly cooler and more interesting than me in every way. She had spent a semester in England and a month in India doing missions. She had red hair and a nosering and a tattoo and she’s smart as hell and what am I going to do on a date with Amy? Crap! She’s way cooler than me.

My father died when I was twelve. He was diabetic, and he had a heart attack in his sleep, surprising everyone. He was only 41. Ironically he was probably in the best shape of his life. People sometimes assume that my parents got divorced, the way I only talk about my mom. I tend not to talk about my father. It’s not that I’m uncomfortable talking about it. Then again, maybe it is; if I was comfortable, I would have used “him” in the preceding sentence rather than “it”. Why do I only think or talk about my father in terms of his death and its impact on me? The man was more than that, surely.

I picked Amy up at her indescribably awesome house in my very describably crappy car. The only good thing about my car is that the passenger door only works from the outside, so I always have to get out and open it like I’m a chauffer or someone with manners. I took Amy to the movies. The early, old people movies. We were out of the theater by five and it was disturbingly still bright outside, like we were living in Alaska. Then, brilliantly, I took her to the pet store. I knew she would like the pet store because she has a rat. I’ll repeat: this chick has a pet rat. Why is that so appealing?
The rat’s name is Geoffrey. He’s fat, kind of, in a Will Ferrell way, not a Chris Farley way. He’s extremely friendly and I’m pretty sure he was my first test. Women have tests, you see. There’s the best friend test, the music test, and the all-important animal test. If you’re not ready when the tests come, you never will be. I passed the animal test like it was a Cadillac with its blinker on.
The pet store was fun because it’s the pet store, and it has to be. The fish were pretty, which is half the reason I believe in God. The lizards were lazy and bored with you immediately, like rich teenagers. The dogs were all suitably pitiful, staring at you with the look that says, “You know you don’t want to leave me here in this little box.” And you don’t. So you look back apologetically, saying, “Yes, but I also don’t want to pay my landlord $200 and then feel bad because I’m too busy to take care of you.”

Pet stores are bittersweet in this way.

My father was a minister, which, like being a doctor or government official is a time-consuming profession. He was a good man, and a great father. I think. It disturbs me how truly little I remember about him. You don’t know your parents as people, as Jim or Cynthia or Mary, when you’re a kid. I know my mother now not just as Mom but as Janet. We talk about things like grown-ups, because we are. I never got there with my father, and I never will. I don’t know who he really was, which means I have to figure him out from vague memories and other people’s stories, like an archaeologist trying to describe an entire civilization of people from broken pottery and the shape of their turds.

Amy is the first romantic interest I’ve had to get to know from the ground up. She is, without exaggerating, one of the most interesting people I have ever met. “Interesting” sounds like it’s not quite a compliment, like it’s a fallback word for when you want to say something honest but not unkind about someone or something you don’t like. That isn’t the case here. She’s bloody fascinating and that’s all there is to it. She talks in funny voices and smiles like a child is passionate about important causes. When we got out of the pet store and went to eat it was only like 5:45. It was official: this was an old-people date.
Or it would have been apart from the fact that we went to a Thai restaurant. I don’t think old people eat Thai food. Except, of course, old people in Thailand. The food was good but I wasn’t very hungry, it being a first date and all. We talked really well. That sounds dumb when you say it out loud. “We’re good at talking.” But it’s true. She is, challengingly, direct. We were talking casually the way people talk who are getting to know each other. Then there was kind of a long silence, what people who use clich├ęs like to call a pregnant pause. She leaned in, tiny smile like she was going to tell me a secret, and asked, “So what are your thoughts?”

Unspoken rest of the sentence: about us.

If I remember my father only vaguely, I remember his death with startling clarity. It was Sunday afternoon and he was taking a nap. I don’t know what I was doing, but I remember sitting on the couch listening to my mother explain to my brother and I that he apparently had a heart attack and was dead. I was twelve and wearing silk boxer shorts with the Tazmanian Devil on them. We went to a neighbor’s house because for some reason they make you leave when someone dies in your house. It was Sunday so we were supposed to go to church, supposed to like you’re supposed to brush your teeth. There wasn’t church that night. People rather quickly found out what happened, and came to us and said the sorts of things people say when someone dies and you are left. I went outside, and sat on a trampoline, somehow knowing silence is the best response to tragedy.

Amy had asked me a question, one that required an answer. My thoughts about Amy include, but are not limited to, the following: I like her, and I like being around her. We get along well together, and the more I know about her, the more I want to know. That was my answer and I think it’s a good one. She seemed to agree. I asked the waitress for a box for my uneaten food. We left and I still can’t believe this incredible girl smiles at me when I tell her I like her.
We went back to her place. It’s a big awesome house and her roommates are funny and nice and it’s just a great place to hang out, warm like a fireplace hearth that makes you want to stay there and maybe take a nap. We sat and talked of many things. I don’t remember any of them specifically, but sometimes those are the best conversations, the ones you get lost in like an old city.

Sometimes not having a father is like not having a circus tent, and sometimes it’s like not having a lung. Most of the time it’s not a big deal, not anymore, not having grown up used to the fact that my dad is dead, like a tree that long ago adapted to a fence or a post and is okay with the weird shape it’s in. Sometimes, though, I am unmistakably aware of the void, of the fact that I have questions I can’t ask the man who gave me half my DNA. I don’t know who my father really was, and more damning, I don’t know what he thought of me. What he would have thought. It does no good to say, Of course he would have loved you, been proud of you. I know this. But he’s not here to say it. I am forever waiting for the approval of a dead man.

It was pretty obvious that she liked me, but I knew for sure when she ate my leftovers. I accidentally left the box of Thai food in her refrigerator, and she totally ate it. Even the part of me that is insecure cannot deny the fact that you don’t eat someone else’s leftovers unless you’re comfortable enough with them. She didn’t even really apologize, just told me my food was gone. It was strangely intimate.
I had left at some strange early time, like 9:45. She had the LSAT the next day, which gave me a perfect opportunity to call her and ask how it went.

So I did.

My father is dead. I know that has shaped who I am and will continue to. I wonder if I’ll be a good husband, a good father, a good man. My father is dead and I am mostly left wondering. I wonder who I really am. I wonder about my past and my future.

I wonder what Amy’s doing right now.


When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
Paul, 1st Corinthians 13:11

God is faithful to change us even when we don't realize it. God works on us as a painter, never quite satisfied, never done, but always glad at the progress made. I'm thoroughly incomplete, and I see just enough to know I'm blind, but God is faithfully making me someone better.

When I think about my first two years of college, I wonder what the hell I was doing. I wasn't some monstrous sinner, wasting my inheritance on riotous living, but I was living for myself. Mostly I just sat around, watched TV, played videogames. None of those are bad things, in moderation. But that was pretty much my life. It seems so small now.

I'm super-busy. I leave the house in the morning and don't get back until late at night. I'm involved in work, school, Wesley stuff, social outings, dating a wonderful girl. I'm tired, but I love it. Don't ever ask God what He wants you to do, unless you really want an answer. Because He will f-ing give you something to do.

I'm just barely starting to learn how to really live on faith, to not trust my own judgment overmuch, but to really rely on Jesus to make sense of my life. It's scary as hell, but worth it. My girlfriend says she gets excited about all the things she's going to get to do in her life. When I sit and think, I can't help but agree. I've only really been following Jesus like I should for a year and a half, and it already seems like a lifetime. A couple more decades of this, I can't imagine who I'll be. That's scary too, but good.

I am an exceptionally slow learner of spiritual truths, but then God is a patient teacher. And when you actually listen to Him, devote yourself to learning from Jesus' teachings, living the ridiculous way He lived, life turns out how you least expected. My life is a mystery to me.

But then I love a good mystery.

Saturday, November 5, 2005

Not what I'd expected...

God's faithfulness is overwhelming at times. The person he's made me into, the life I have now is not what I'd expected. More later.

Sunday, October 16, 2005


So, my job is to edit sermons for television. Easy enough. But what's made it increasingly difficult over the past several months is my own distance from where the church and pastor are, theologically. I'm aware that this is a shift in myself. But what it means is that I have to edit and propagate things with which I disagree.

It's frustrating.

Take postmodernism, for instance. See Brian McLaren ( if you don't know what that means. My point is, it's not a four-letter word for me. I'm not saying I buy whole-heartedly into every philosophy with the label "post-modern," but I'm not going to dismiss it entirely out of hand. Besides which, I think it's inevitable that worldviews shift, just as inevitable as the modern world was at the end of the medieval age. I think there are a lot of opportunities in the postmodern world, and I'm excited at the prospect of discovering how to follow Jesus into this new world. I think that's a whole lot better attitude than just bitching about how things are changing, which is what I hear from a lot of the Christian establishment.

Times change. Ideas grow and move, come in and out of fashion. Following Christ is what matters, regardless of what world you're in. Personally I think too many leaders are still stuck in the "state church" mindset. We don't want to actually have to participate in the marketplace of ideas. In my view, there is a real cowardice among certain pastors. We don't want to have to actually know why we believe anything. I don't think blind acceptance constitutes faith. Faith requires a certain willingness to not know, to accept what God says. That doesn't mean I have to accept anybody's particular interpretation of what God says, and if I don't I'm a heretic.

Maybe I'm overreacting. But I want to follow Jesus in the ways of truth, trusting that I'll find it in Him. I don't want to be ordered from on high that I have to agree with the establishment on a huge checklist of issues before I'm a bonafide Christian.

Thursday, September 29, 2005


The stuff interred will move.
The shift ascending quick.
And we will rise and greet the Day He sings.
For He calls all times soon,
And creatures all His own.
The heavy sleep will break, a peasant’s burden on the floor.
The revolution comes
Unjust is gone, forgot
And we can dance, or rest, or play around the throne so glad.
It’s time to meet the light.
The spell is shattered slow,
But break it will and fin’lly life can true begin
So soon, awake!
The beauty be revealed.
The passion once declared
When all was young and none were base.
The lion and the lamb
The echo and the sound
Of laughters, king and kingdom here at last!
And then we shall awake,
And find our sleep was vain
But drift we did while cradled close by One who didn’t mind the wait.

Sunday, September 25, 2005


The first night of Wesley's new arts ministry is this Wednesday. We're not as prepared as we should be, but I still think it's going to be a great night where people can learn about God in a less passive, more interactive way. I'm fascinated by all forms of communication, but I think in the church we've tended to overemphasize preaching/speaking. Some things need to be said clearly. Sometimes we need to be encouraged, or warned. Other times, though, I think a little mystery is in order. A little ambiguity. As with any communication, in art you don't just receive what the artist wants you to. In a sense, all art is only half-finished. Somebody has to actually see it (hear it, taste it, whatever) to bring context, to make sense of it.

So hopefully that will go well. Prayers are always appreciated, as well as any stories about arts in church or just art in general.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


There are times when I'm seized by a beauty I wish God would teach me to express. I want to take hold of the alchemy that happens when I look at a painting or watch a film. I wish I could bottle it up and use it to make what's in me tangible to others. I want to be a storyteller. I want to be a poet. I want to be an artist. I want to show others the mystery of God that sometimes fills my heart to bursting with love, sometimes convicts when I'm not what I should be, but always reconciles with a will that doesn't quit.

Just read The Last Word and the Word After That. I really need to stop reading Brian McLaren books in one sitting. I am filled with the startling idea that perhaps no one can outwill God. He will win the staring contest. The intensity with which Paul writes about how nothing can separate us from the love of God fills me at this moment. I only wish I could express what he does. I want to make a movie. I want to sculpt. All I can do is write, and even this is hopelessly me-centered.

I want to tell a story.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Kingdom of God

I'm doing a Bible study for my old youth group back home. Of course, everybody in it now was a kid when I was in it, so that's gonna be weird. My brother's a senior in high school now, so at least I know some of his friends.

Anywho, I'm planning to talk about the Kingdom of God. It's totally unfathomable to me that this was the main thrust of Jesus' teaching, yet it receives so little airtime in the church environment. Jesus' teaching on the Kingdom was, simply, revolutionary. I like to call it that, the Revolution of God. I think that's closer to what Jesus (and others who used the term before and contemporaneously with him) meant when they said "Kingdom of God". In the Hebrew Scriptures (which is what I'm trying to call the Old Testament, out of respect for my Jewish friends) Kingdom of God meant the reestablishment of Israel under God's rule within history, along with a lot of utopian images such as lions laying down with lambs, no oppression of the poor, no sickness or early death, and the like. When Jesus uses it, the Kingdom goes far beyond the political and earthly, but doesn't (I believe) preclude the political. What I mean is, a lot of evangelical Christians seem to think that just because the Kingdom Jesus talked about wasn't the theocratic nation-state other people seemed to think it should be, that it's entirely a spiritual/moral concept.

It isn't.

What Jesus teaches is a complete moral/social/political revolution. Selfishness is out, altruism is in. Vengeance is out, forgiveness is in. Love is the new hate. Those old ways of life (anger, lust, judgment) are simply not going to work in God's Revolution. I think H.G. Wells said it best, ironically enough (Wells was decidedly opposed to Christianity). In a history of the world that he wrote, he said the following about Jesus' teaching on the Kingdom of God:

It was not merely a moral and a social revolution that Jesus proclaimed; it is clear from a score of indications that his teaching had a political bent of the plainest sort. It is true that he said his kingdom was not of this world, that it was in the hearts of men and not upon a throne; but it is equally clear that wherever and in what measure his kingdom was set up in the hearts of men, the outer world would be in that measure revolutionized and made new.

All that is to say that the Kingdom of God is not theocracy. It is not Christians seizing control of governments. But as more and more of the world comes under God's Revolution, changes in our political/economic structures are inevitable. I think communism in many ways tried to do what Christianity should have done, and one of these days, we American Christians are going to have to drop our love affair with capitalism. It may be what we have to accept right now, but an economy based on greed (read Adam Smith) is not going to work in the Kingdom of God. It should disturb us that the early church appeared to operate in a way that would appeal much more to Karl Marx than to Donald Trump.

So if nothing else I hope I can get people to get off thinking only about life after death, the selfish gospel that Dallas Willard calls "the gospel of sin management." Ask ten Christians why Jesus came to earth and 9 of them will probably say something like, "To die for our sins so we can go to heaven when we die." Bullcrap! I'm not saying that isn't true, it's just so small. He wanted us to have a better way of life. He wanted to change us. He wanted to set people free, not just from the guilt of sin, or from death, but from the very fear of death. From the whole way that life is generally lived. The "quiet desperation" that so many of us experience all the time.

I'm blogging this mostly to get my thoughts out. I have to finish this Bible study and I find it easier to think here for some reason.

I also like "Revolution of God" because a key part of the Kingdom message is repentance. What an ugly, heavy word. Repent. We hate it, and try to avoid it. Or we love it excessively, and turn the God of Love into a small god who barely stands you, with his arms crossed and an angry look on his face. Repent in the original language means literally to turn around, to change direction. And hey, look! That's what revolution means too.

Jesus comes at just the right time and says, "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!" Time to change. Time to revolt against the old ways of selfishness. Get ready to change, for God's Revolution is here! It's already among us.

May it come swiftly.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


I'd kind of like to expand my post below into more, possibly a book or something. I'd like to interweave Christ's suffering and cry of abandonment, Psalm 22, and some of my own experiences of feeling abandoned by God.

Crazy night. Open mic night at Cafe Natura. Mostly guys with guitars, but they did have a human beatbox guy and this weird chick that had a kind of Tenacious D feel. But not as funny.

So I'm taking a class on the Book of Job. It's at a secular college, though, so it's all about the literary qualities and possible authorship and dates and things like that. Interesting stuff if, like me, you're interested in the Bible and in history and literature. Anyway, the professor very coyly keeps his own opinions and beliefs under wraps, but since this is my second class with him I've figured out he has kind of a general Hebraic idea of God. I'm not sure if he's actually observant in Judaism, but he's definitely not a Christian of any sort. Which doesn't bother me, he's smart as crap and reads/speaks fluent Hebrew. Cool teacher.

But my point is the number of Christians in the class that are openly hostile to him because of his approach to Scripture. Because (surprise!) in a secular university, in a class in the Judaic Studies program, he doesn't treat it like God pooped it out on a silver platter on Mt. Sinai. As a follower of Jesus, I believe all Scripture is God-breathed, & useful for teaching, etc. But I recognize that that doesn't have a place in the classroom. In the classroom I can talk about the metaphors in the Bible and the poetry and the history of the Jewish people. I can be (and am) open about my beliefs, but that doesn't mean I get to preach.

I was talking to somebody in the class about a week ago, and we were talking about what we thought of the professor. I said he's really interesting and I've learned a lot from him. This guy (a Christian) said, "He just hates Jesus Christ, man." Why? Because he doesn't have an altar call in the middle of class? Did you ever consider that he may have been mistreated by some jerkass Christian somewhere? Oh, right, that never happens. I forgot.

Why am I so annoyed by so many Christians. Don't get me wrong, I know many wonderful and loving followers of Christ, but I know just as many phonies and judgmental hypocrites. Or am I being a judgmental hypocrite right now? I'm just extremely bothered by the assumptions Christians make, by our post-Constinian hangover of thinking we deserve to be the favored religion of the empire. We don't want to compete in the marketplace of ideas. Guess what, Christendom: if we really think we have the answers people are looking for, we shouldn't be afraid to present our story alongside the stories of other religions/philosophies. Or do we just not think God is in what we say about Him, whether we "win" a debate or not? I, for one, don't mind losing an argument, or looking human and real in a dialogue, whether I convince anybody of anything, as long as I can show that not all Christians are dicks, that the Bible can be relevant to our lives, that God gives a crap what happens to us.

Why do I prefer the company of some people whose philosophies I totally disagree with, while I can't stand many church people? And how often am I the kind of church person that I'm sick of?

Monday, September 12, 2005

When God was an Atheist

"At noon the sky became extremely dark. The darkness lasted three hours. At three o'clock, Jesus groaned out of the depths, crying loudly, 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?' which means, 'My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?'"
Mark 15:33-34, The Message Remix by Eugene Peterson

"Christianity is the only religion on earth that has felt omnipotence made God imcomplete. Christianity alone has felt that God, to be wholly God, must have been a rebel as well as a king. Alone of all creeds, Christianity has added courage to the virtues of the Creator. For the only courage worth calling courage must necessarily mean that the soul passes a breaking point--and does not break...let the atheists themselves choose a god. THey will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist."
G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

The biggest objection to the existence of God seems to be this: that life is, at best, monstrously unfair. Forget about proof and logic and faith and science. Convincing cases can be made on both sides about God's existence. People don't really look at that sort of evidence when deciding whether God is or is not. We look at life, and a great many intelligent and compassionate people see the world as hopeless and savage, and decide that if babies can be born HIV-positive and addicted to cocaine, if natural disasters can strike without warning and wipe out the lives and livelihoods of people who were already at the bottom of the totem pole, then all this talk about a big Invisible Man in the Sky who cares about us is just crap. Something to make us feel better. People object that even if God is real, he's apparently kind of a dick. Life is unfair and we don't need the opiate of the masses telling us about heaven when we need to make the best of life on earth. This is the objection I hear most of all, and it is not to be ignored.

For there is much truth to it. Life, frequently, sucks. Ask anybody in New Orleans. It's not fair. And every time some disaster happens you hear the same claptrap from religious people: they deserved it. Usually it's some Christian preacher with a hard-on for blaming the victim, but the other night I saw the Dalai Lama explain that the Buddhist point of view is that bad things happen because of karma from a past life. I admit to knowing little of Buddhism, but that seemed to be what he was saying. Apparently a major rabbi in Jerusalem has also blamed Katrina on human guilt. People tend to look at natural disasters (or just the presence of evil and pain in the world) and conclude either that Life is unfair, so God doesn't exist, or that God does exist, so life must be fair, so bad things happen to bad people.

Although I understand both these answers, I find them both totally unsatisfying. I dislike the first one because I have to wonder where people got the idea that the innocent shouldn't suffer. If there's no God or Higher Power or morality or something, if life is just random, then where the heck did we ever get the idea that it was not? Where did we get this dream for a time/place that is fair, that is right? For there is power in dreams. Ask Ghandi or Dr. King. Without the dreams of these men (and great men and women like them) the world would be a great deal worse. The idea of a totally random, chaotic, morally indifferent world just doesn't seem to fit with the power of dreams, with the effectiveness (with the very existence) of hope.

And yet the Bible is quite sympathetic to the atheistic viewpoint. Many of the Psalms, the entire book of Job, Habakkuk, and the words of Jesus himself on the cross demonstrate the very real feelings of hopelessness and despair that are all too often a part of life. What does it mean when Jesus asks God why he has abandoned, forsaken him? Left alone, to die. His friends gone, his mission an apparent failure. Skip for a moment the Christian idea that somehow Jesus was God, just think about the Man, dying, alone, and hopeless. Even if you think of Jesus as simply a great moral teacher, for him to look into the heavens and say to God, "Where the hell are You?" is an astonishingly brave thing for the Bible to portray.

It is a cry I understand and sympathize with more than I do with those who claim to have God all figured out and stuffed and mounted on a wall. I think the Bible understands and sympathizes with it more as well. In Job, there are 3 characters who represent the traditional religious viewpoint of blaming the victim. This view is understandable too, at least. To let go of the idea that only bad people have bad things happen to them requires more faith than some seem to have. To accept both chaos (the randomness of evil) and order (karma, sowing and reaping) as part of life is to walk a narrow path between two pits. But then Jesus did say something about the path being narrow.

At the end of Job, the 3 friends are told to repent, for they have wrongly tried to defend God with bad arguments. So I'm trying to defend God less. I don't know why bad things happen to good people. I have a feeling it has to do with the idea that, if this world is to be real, if it is to count, there must be an element of danger and chaos. But I do not agree that chaos is all there is. Nor do I want some grey, watered down blend of chaos and order. I accept both. Life both sucks and is wonderful. The world is fair and just and cruel and barbarous.

But only for awhile. Here's where my faith comes in, because it is a dream. It is the dream of a place that will be fair, and right. And if the dreams of man can change the course of a nation's history (as Ghandi did in India and Dr. King in America) what can the dreams of God accomplish?

When Jesus cried to the sky, Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani, he was repeating the opening line of Psalm 22:

My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?
Why do you remain so distant?
Why do you ignore my cries for help?
Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief.

Yet you are holy. The praises of Israel surround your throne.
Our ancestors trusted in you, and you rescued them.
You heard their cries for help and saved them.
They put their trust in you and were never disapointed.

But I am a worm and not a man.
I am scorned and despised by all!
My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay.
My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead.

It goes on in that fashion for awhile, alternately complaining of being abandoned and speaking of God's faithfulness in the past. But toward the end, the dream awakes. A vision for the future replaces the pessimism of the present.

Rescue me from a violent death;
spare my precious life from these dogs.
Then I will declare the wonder of your name to my brother and sisters.
The poor will eat and be satisfied.
All who seek the Lord will praise him.
Their hearts will rejoice with an everlasting joy.

There is a pattern that begins to build in the Bible. It's there in the Psalms, it's definitely there in the prophets, and it's there in the teachings of Jesus. There's an honesty about life's apparent hopelessness and evil and yet a dream of a better place, where swords are bent into plowshares and the poor are not oppressed. And my conviction is that the way to that better place is by following Jesus. I believe the objection people have (usually found among the most just, the most compassionate, the most Christlike) that the world just isn't right, is a valid objection. But the way to fix the world is not to conclude that life is unfair and God's not real. I think without the dream of the world being right and fair and good, it never will be. I think that's God's dream.

I guess my point is, yeah, life sucks ass.

For now.

Monday, September 5, 2005


So I've been reading what Jesus has to say about anger. I'm in the middle of Dallas Willard's The Divine Conspiracy, which basically explores the Sermon on the Mount in the context of the Kingdom of God available through Jesus. It's kind of a heavy book (literally and figuratively) but it's so far been rewarding.

Anyway, in my experience the church tends to dismiss or explain away or just plain ignore the teachings of Jesus, particularly the ones we don't get. Especially the ones that don't fit into our pre-conceived idea that Jesus was only concerned about the individual salvation of souls after death. (I'm not saying he wasn't concerned about this, but if you read the biblical accounts, such a narrow interpretation of the "Gospel" just doesn't stand up to who Jesus was.)

Anyhoo, as I was reading that and looking at Jesus' words, like "If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the high council. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell." Now as for the particulars, what the Greek really says is not to say to someone, "Raca!" which is an Aramaic expression of contempt, and not to call someone a fool. Easy enough, right? I can call someone all kinds of nasty hateful things without using the word fool. And it never occurred to me to diss someone with 1st century Palestinian Aramaic slang. I've got this anger thing handled.

Wait. No. I don't.

Because I get angry all the time. At crappy drivers, at all the bullcrap I see going on in the church, at people who simply annoy me. And at this moment I hear the gentle but firm voice of Jesus saying, "You've got to drop that crap. That bird won't fly." Willard goes into detail exploring how contempt, how anger and rage destroy us, and devalue the people around us. But it's not that hard to see how showing contempt for someone is totally incompatible with loving them the way Jesus does. Which is, of course, how I'm called to live.

How 'bout this? In the Kingdom of God (which I like to call God's Revolution) there will not be malice. There will not be contempt. There may perhaps be anger at injustice, but then there won't be any injustice, so there won't be a need for anger. In the Kingdom of God we will all be inspired and taught by Jesus to truly love our neighbor, our enemy, and everyone we meet (including ourselves).

So, if I don't let go of the anger I carry, if I don't learn to love in the way of Jesus rather than hate in the way of the world, I'll be hopelessly out of date in the Kingdom. I mean I'll just be totally behind the times. In the Kingdom, anger, lust, greed, and selfishness will be looked upon (rightfully) as incredibly backwards and destructive. Kind of how we look at medical leechings today. Or perhaps more accurately, how we see slavery. It's hard to imagine today how people who kept other people under subjugation could possibly think they were on the right track. Same thing with anger. We will look back and see this time in history and think we were totally blind.

I'd appreciate any prayers as God deals with this sin in my life. It's one of many, but I feel that the time to deal with this one is now.

Saturday, September 3, 2005

Genesis 32

I keep thinking there's something deep to this story of Jacob wrestling with God that I'm missing. The story is as follows (somewhat modified) in the New Living Translation:

...Jacob [was] all along in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until dawn. When the man saw that he couldn't win the match, he struck Jacob's hip and knocked it out of joint at the socket. then the man said, "Let me go, for it is dawn." But Jacob panted, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."
"What is your name?" the man asked.
He replied, "Jacob."
"Your name will no longer be Jacob," the man told him. "It is now Israel, because you have struggled with both God and men and have won."
"What is your name?" Jacob asked him.
"Why do you ask?" the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there.
Jacob named the place Peniel--"face of God"-- for he said, "I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared."

I'm fascinated by his account. Name changes are always significant in the Bible, from Abraham to Peter. They represent a change in one's life. Jacob becomes Israel, moving from being "a deceiver" to "one who struggles with God." What is most interesting to me is that God (or the angel, or pre-incarnate Jesus, or whatever) seems kind of impressed with Jacob's struggling. My professor in the Judaic Studies classes I'm taking would say that this is a very Hebrew scene. The Hebrew mindset is one of argument and debate, even with the Almighty. Moses bargains with God, Jacob wrestles with Him, several of the Psalms are quite severe with Him.

In the Book of Job, the main character is rewarded, in a kind of roundabout way, for daring to ask tough questions of God. God gets right in Job's grill with tough questions of His own, and Job eventually repents, but he's not the one in danger of punishment. The three friends, with their easy moral platitudes and cliches are the ones in need of intercession by Job.

This bravery about difficult moral problems and philosophical questions is one of my favorite things about the Bible. Religious churchy people may think there are simple answers to life's questions, but the Bible sure doesn't. God rarely gives what we would consider satisfactory answers. In fact, He usually just answers questions with more questions. In the immortal words of Stephanie Tanner, how rude.

Jesus picks up this rudeness in the New Testament. He almost never answers a question directly. It can be extremely annoying if a straight answer is what you want, but maybe answers aren't really what we need. Don't mistake me, I think the Bible has all the answers we need, but certainly not all the answers we want.

Maybe we don't need answers, maybe we need to ask the right questions. Or maybe we wouldn't understand the answers if we heard them. Maybe the answer is the one Jesus gives Peter when ol' Pete asks what will happen to John. "What do you care? Just follow Me." (That's very roughly paraphrased.)

I've been a Christian since I was 7, and I'm sure of less now than I ever have been. But I'm more sure than ever that whatever the answers ( or questions) are, Jesus knows. Jesus is.

Thursday, September 1, 2005


Faith is a mystery. In the tradition I grew up in, faith is often regarded as a very reasonable thing. Truth was declared foundational and absolute. It was reduced to fact. I'm tired of that, but it's not that I don't believe in truth. I believe in it, in Truth more than ever. But Truth is mysterious. It's mystical. It's deep and poetic and confusing and wonderful. It is not what I expected. God is leading me somewhere where I don't know what's going on and have to rely on Him, and that's scary and exciting.

More and more I think of Jacob wrestling with God. Wrestling with him. I don't think he was fighting against God, I think he was just grappling, trying to figure stuff out. And I don't want to stop wrestling. I think when you've stopped that, when you think you've arrived, your faith is dead.

I hope I can trust God enough to admit that I understand little, and I don't usually act on what I do understand. I hope I remember to be satisfied getting my head into the heavens, and don't try to get the heavens into my head. I'm confused and uneasy, but then I think I was meant to be.

I think God keeps us just enough in the dark that we'll keep looking for his light.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


Wesley rocks. It's a campus ministry that meets at the local Methodist church and it rocks. Church people are normally much less friendly and cool than these folks. I've made a ton of friends already and I hope to be able to contribute there. God does crazy crap. I've really been looking for somewhere to fit in, to be able to socialize and worship with a group of people. I go to a church now, and I like it, but there's not really my own age, or at least in my life-stage, or whatever.

I think Wesley has totally nailed how to make people feel like part of a group. That rocks.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Schoolyard Blues

Whew! Back from DC and back in school. Haven't had time to think this week. Oh, yeah, DC rocked. Mostly. I did manage to fart at all three branches of the federal government. I think that should be a new form of tourism.
My classes are shaping up pretty nicely. Except for astronomy, which is in a crappy huge lecture hall and has 500 students and a brand-new professor. Astronomy kinda blows. But once I'm done with it I'll have all my basic everybody-take-this credits out of the way.
Went to Wesley this week for the first time. It's a student ministry at the Methodist church right by campus. It's pretty cool. Met some neat people. Friendliest church thing I've been to in quite awhile, maybe ever. Most church people are kind of cold. Or at least, they tend to ignore visitors, and anybody they don't recognize. That's been my experience anyway. But at Wesley, like 15 people walked up to be and introduced themselves. Which is cool, since I'm pretty introverted and don't easily "mingle". Oh, and speaking of apples, which I wasn't, they had apples there. I forgot how much I like apples.

Go apples.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

District of Columbia

I'm posting from D.C. this week. Vacation. Unfortunately it's very much on the cheap. I like the city so far, but I'm finding the mass transit a little overcomplex. Anyway, the Leadership Summit was awesome, but I had like no time to decompress, since I had to get on the road right away. I'd not seen Bill Hybels speak before, and to be honest, I had a little bit of a pre-conception in the back of my mind, but he ended up being really cool. And several of the speakers said really powerful things about the AIDS crisis and other things going on the world that evangelicals are by and large ignoring. So although I'm drawn toward (and being enriched by) Brian McLaren and the so-called "emergent" movement (for lack of a better word) rather than the Hybels/Warren megachurch set, I'm realizing that the Kingdom needs all kinds. Some people need the Willow Creek type experience. I feel led toward something that, as McLaren writes, "maximizes discontinuity". In other words, I don't think it's enough (for me) to just bring in drums and punch up the usual church service a bit. I want an overhaul. I want a new thing entirely, or maybe something ancient rather than modern. But Paul talks about members of the body and if I'm the appendix or whatever, I should criticize noone else.


Thursday, August 11, 2005

Willow Creek Leadership Summit

First day of the Leadership Summit. The little church I go to is part of the Willow Creek Association. Now to be honest, I dislike and distrust megachurches. But both Bill Hybels and Rick Warren were really good. A lot of food for thought. I still am of the opinion that churches ought to divide up at about 400, but I guess having the resources of Willow Creek and Saddleback has a lot of advantages. There's all kinds of local expressions of the Church. (Note the capital C.) So I guess I need to get over my problem with big churches.

They're still not where I belong, though.

Sunday, August 7, 2005


Went to a black church tonight. It was cool. Not only is it always interesting seeing how different folks worship God, it's also heartening to see how (relatively) quickly the American church is overcoming its segregationist past. Not that we don't have a really long way to go, but fifty years ago, not long at all by historical standards, a white congregation visiting a black congregation in the South would have been out of the question. So I'm encouraged. And I praised God in a different way than I usually do.

I hope that whatever churches (or bodies or communities or whatever) I am involved with in the future will try hard to bridge cultures and heal some of the wounds our ancestors created. If I'm at all involved in leadership it will. And I think one of the major ways to be sure that historically ignored people-groups are welcomed and considered is to have that group reflected in leadership. Nobody is going to be able to make Hispanic people feel welcome better than someone of that heritage in a leadership position. So I pray God will lead me to the people he wants me to build a church with, regardless of cultural barriers.

Saturday, August 6, 2005

The Story We Find Ourselves In

Just finished the second book in Brian McLaren's trilogy. Awesome. Don't read any of his books unless you want to have your intellect and faith totally stretched. Stretch Armstrong stretched. I have reservations about some of what he says, but that isn't the point. The point is that he makes you think about what being a follower of Christ really means. And he couches everything in the middle of a narrative, so it's not all abstract theory. I highly recommend it. But seriously, if you're the kind of Christian that can't stand new ideas or anything outside the accepted American Evangelical Christian belief system, don't read this book. Honor God with what you know. If you want to think in a new (or perhaps truly ancient) way about God and following Jesus, pick it up. Actually, start with the first one, A New Kind of Christian. Going to sleep now. Church tomorrow.

Oh, I had Communion tonight with a Hawaiian roll and a glass of Smirnoff Ice. Close enough to wine, I think.

Friday, August 5, 2005


I had a couple of encounters with people in the past week that leave me really struggling with what it means to love your neighbor, as Jesus teaches. One was late at night as I was driving home from a friend's house. I had stopped at a gas station to fuel up and a tired-looking woman approached me asking for gas money. She also asked if I smoked, and was disappointed when I told her I didn't. One thing I noticed was that right away I started making assumptions about this person. She's poor, I thought, as if that mattered. She's low-class white trash. All that should have mattered was that here was someone with a need. But like any good American, I qualify who deserves help based on stereotypes and assumptions. I gave her a few bucks. But I went away wondering if that was enough. Is that what she really needed? Is that all God wanted me to do?

The next day I was in OfficeMax looking for a Bible to put on my PalmPilot. This attracted the attention of a rather talkative gentleman who had already roped in three employees. He asked me what church I went to, and whether my pastor preaches topically or expositorily. I thought that was an entirely odd question, but I answered that it was probably some mix of both. We discussed kind of a wide range of topics, including repentance, the Gospel, Pentecostalism, speaking in tongues, what love really is, what the Holy Spirit really is. I didn't fundamentally disagree with much of what he had to say, but his whole delivery and attitude made me embarrassed to be a Christian. He has a very fundamentalist, narrow understanding of what the Good News is. He questioned whether I was truly saved, apparently because when I talk about Jesus I'm not an ass. I really struggled with being civil and representing my point of view without wanting to totally punch him in the face, because he talked about Jesus with no love. I don't think we should hide from repentance, and hell, and judgment, but it shouldn't be all we talk about. Somewhere C.S. Lewis says that repentance isn't a pre-requisite to going back to God, it is simply a description of what going back is like.

I believe that repentance is only possible after a true encounter with God. Look at the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus. I am fascinated by this account. Jesus basically invites himself over to Zacchaeus' house. It is only after this that Zacchaeus has a change of heart, and Jesus declares, "Today salvation has come to this house..."

So the question is, how does repentance work? The way my buddy at OfficeMax, with whom I eventually parted amicably, described it, repentance is something you have to do to get God's love, a set of standards you have to meet. When I asked him about grace, he said no, of course it's not works-based salvation, blah blah blah. But the way he talked about not going to hell (another emphasis I think is totally misplaced) it sure sounded like works. And I wonder how to love someone who I think is trying to follow Jesus but is completely missing the point. When he talked to (presumably lost) employees about Jesus, he didn't sound at all happy to be His follower. He sounded like God barely tolerates us, and wants us to hate ourselves, and that once you're saved then you'll start being an douchebag too. How do you love someone who thinks that you're lost because you try to influence people toward Jesus Christ through love, and gentleness, and earning the right to speak to people about spiritual things. How do I love someone who thinks the Christian life is about not going to hell, when I myself have had to outgrow that mindset?

How do I love my neighbor as myself? I pray for God to teach me how.


So a couple weeks ago I preached my first sermon. Actually, that sounds really churchy. I delivered my first message. I don't much care for that either, but I'll develop a new lingo later. Anyway, I got the CD back from that service, and it's totally weird listening to your own voice. You don't sound like yourself in your head, you know? And I think I need to take elocution classes or something because I noticed a distinct lack of clarity. Also it was a bit monotone. Not too bad, but I really need to work on finding my voice. But all in all I'm quite encouraged. I thought I would be totally nervous, but I actually sounded like I knew what I was talking about. Whether I did or no, I got a lot of supportive and positive feedback. And I'm excited about the future. I don't know what the crap God's doing, but I figure He knows what's up.

On a totally different note, my roommate and I just coined an awesome new phrase that everyone needs to start using. The word is "dickname", and it's a nickname that someone gives themselves, or when they just add "-ster" to the end of their name or other dumb things like that. I'll give you some examples. When someone's name is Ron and they refer to themselves in the third person as "The Ronster" then that is a dickname. It's a nickname that makes them look and sound like a dick.


Thursday, August 4, 2005

Wedding Crashers

Oh, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, your witty banter is hilarious. Though not as funny as Anchorman, this flick doesn't suck. In a big way. And yes, Christians go to movies. We can't all be as holy as James Dobson. Bonus appearance by Will Ferrell. Check it out. But not if you're offended by boobies and coarse language. And sexual themes. Don't say I didn't warn you, church people. James Dobson, this means you.

Here we go

Right. Blogging. Thoughts. Ok, so God shows up in funny ways. Like today, I was really pissed. I wanted to smash something into my own face, or (if i was thinking clearer) maybe against a wall. I was on my way to worship planning, which is way across town, and the AC in my car doesn't work and I live in effing Orlando and the temperature was about 512 degrees. Celsius. Or Fahrenheit, whichever one makes that a hotter temperature.
Anyway, I'm super pissed because there was nothing to eat for miles somehow, and by the time I got there I was just going to have some lame excuse and book it. But I didn't. We started planning worship and somehow I got really into it and my mood totally changed. Because I'm starting to realize that church, as much as it totally blows and I hate it, is what I really want to do with my life. Not crappy come to church out of guilt and daydream for an hour so you can go to lunch, but really coming together as a community of faith to talk about God stuff, and give Him some well-earned props.
And I realize this is my first blog and I'm talking like everyone knows me (as if anybody is actually going to read this) but I figure, hey. Screw it.