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.