Wednesday, September 24, 2008


I don’t know about you, but Jamie and I don’t have green thumbs. In fact, they’re not even a shade of green. Our house is where plants, of any kind, come to die. (except trees which destroy the foundations of houses, which seem to absolutely thrive under our watch)

The problem is that we wish we had green thumbs. We both love nature and love beautiful gardens. We’ve always wished we had the gift. And, on a number of occasions, we’ve talked about “planting a vegetable garden next summer”. It’s never worked out…….

Until this summer, that is. Many of you know that the lovely Becca has been living with us for two years now. Becca moved in with us to help with child care. I hope that it’s been equally beneficial, but I definitely speak for Jamie and myself when I say that our lives would not have been the same without Becca. She has truly become a part of our family and I don’t know how we would have kept two ministries alive and kicking over the past couple of years without her help. She’s been amazing. So, sometimes we indulge her “latest craze”.

Becca’s latest crazes have included everything from an espresso maker (Neither Jamie or I really drink coffee), to trying out to be on a game show (at a gay bar….I skipped that one). Becca is young, free, and slightly off balance and we’ve strived to make sure that our house was her house with all of the freedoms associated with it. So this spring, when she started talking “vegetable garden”, we figured it might be a mutually beneficial agreement. Becca could grow the vegetables, we would pay for the supplies, and we’d feel just slightly more a part of the organic chic community. And that’s always cool.

It’s hard to know when to plant a garden in England. In the States, at least where we’re from, you plant it when the weather starts getting warm. But that’s very hard to determine here. After all, “warm” is relative. But we finally got our start in June (mind you, my mother is already picking her tomatoes in June). We went down to the garden centre, picked out a few pots (£15), invested in several bags of “dirt” (£20), and picked out the finest sprouts we could find which included a couple of tomato plants(£7), several varieties of herbs (£5), a small green house starter kit (£10), and several different kinds of seeds (£4), including some form of chilli pepper. From the start things were working out beautifully. Becca was doing all the work, we were watching plants grow (especially the seedlings in the mini green house), people coming over for barbecues were commenting on our vegetable growing “prowess”, and we were taking all of the credit (kind of like raising Olyvia, actually). It was perfect.

Then came our summer holiday. Up to this point, we were pouring all manner of vegetable health care in the direction of our little garden. Everything from special “dirt”, to plant food (£10), to daily watering and pampering. I think Becca may have even been singing to the plants (do plants like death metal?) And they were growing with gumption. But after two weeks in France, we came home to a very different story. Though the weeds, flowers, trees, grass and every other manner of “plant” was growing like gang busters, the plants that we actually cared about hadn’t fared so well. In fact, several of them appeared to be making a steady pace towards “the light”. It was clear that several of them would not make it. Apparently these were house plants and could not be left outdoors to fend for themselves. But a few had managed to hold on and Becca began a valiant effort to nurse them back to health all with the hope that, in just a few short weeks, we’d be walking into our back garden for dinner. It was a glorious thought. I was prepared to get myself some kind of a “green” or “I’m organic” t-shirt and to look down my nose at all those still frequenting the local grocery story for their produce. Peasants.

Here’s where the false hopes lied (excuse the pun). Though we weren’t actually getting any tomatoes or peppers, the plants were indeed flowering. And, according to the garden centre guy, those flowers would one day turn into glorious, home grown, organic “we’re better than you” vegetables!

Finally, they started to turn. First one, then two, and pretty soon we had three or four little buds that would one day be peppers and tomatoes. I was already feeling superior to everybody else. Things were turning out just as I’d hoped. Everyday we would walk out to the back garden and attempt to wish our vegetables into ripeness. We were nearly there!

Then came the storm. The first thing that happened is that our tomato plants were blown from their perch. We examined them closely, however, and nothing seemed to be the matter. Hearty little suckers (and considering the amount of money we’d spent on “dirt” and plant food, they’d better be!) But, in a move that will, apparently, forever be referred to as “proof that Tim is an idiot”, I decided to try and offer our tomato plants some physical support in the way of some tent stakes. I gently pushed the stakes into the ground and tied the tomato plants to those stakes using our special green twisty (£5) bought from the garden centre. An hour later the wind blew and our tomato plants began snapping at exactly the point that those stakes ended. What we later realized was that, instead of those plants having complete flexibility to bend and sway with the wind, the first six inches of those plants were kept perfectly stable by the stakes, but the rest of the plant was left to continue bending and swaying in said wind. The combination of the two caused said plants to snap off at the point where they were no longer flexible. Who knew?

Becca was away on this particular weekend, however, so I did my best to make it look like the wind’s fault. I also did my best to “bandage” the tomato plants in an attempt to somehow keep them alive. After all, by this time we actually had some green tomatoes tempting (read “mocking) us and I was bound and determined to eat those things!

Finally the day came. One single tomato finally ripened. It is picture above from several different angles. I cut the tomato into fours and we each had a sliver of the most expensive tomato any of us had ever eaten. Whole Foods, eat your heart out! You think you sell expensive tomatoes? Try £67 a tomato! That’s $142 if you’re keeping up with the market.

Since that day we’ve managed one other ripe tomato, but it fell from the plant, split open, and was immediately attacked by pigeons before we’d even had our espresso for the morning. Today five green tomatoes mock us from their perch atop our tomato plants, and we’ve picked one tiny pepper (literally smaller than your smallest finger nail) which was so hot that Jamie and Becca spent the next two days trying to figure out ways to get me to try it. We’re still waiting on the rest of them to ripen.

Next year we’re considering chickens which will be dropped off at a local dog spa and raised for the low, low cost of £20 a day. In three short months they should be ready to eat. Can’t wait!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

rules for future suitors

Rule One: If you pull into my driveway and honk you'd better be delivering a package, because you're sure not picking anything up.

Rule Two: You do not touch my daughter in front of me. You may glance at her, so long as you do not peer at anything below her neck. If you cannot keep your eyes or hands off of my daughter's body, I will remove them.

Rule Three: I am aware that it is considered fashionable for boys of your age to wear their trousers so loosely that they appear to be falling off their hips. Please don't take this as an insult, but you and all of your friends are complete idiots. Still, I want to be fair and open minded about this issue, so I propose this compromise: You may come to the door with your underwear showing and your pants ten sizes to big, and I will not object. However, in order to ensure that your clothes do not, in fact come off during the course of you date with my daughter, I will take my electric nail gun and fasten your trousers securely in place to your waist.

Rule Four: I'm sure you've been told that in today's world, sex without utilizing a "Barrier method" of some kind can kill you. Let me elaborate, when it comes to sex, I am the barrier, and I will kill you.

Rule Five: It is usually understood that in order for us to get to know each other, we should talk about sports, politics, and other issues of the day. Please do not do this. The only information I require from you is an indication of when you expect to have my daughter safely back at my house, and the only word I need from you on this subject is: "early"

Rule Six: I have no doubt you are a popular fellow, with many opportunities to date other girls. This is fine with me as long as it is okay with my daughter. Otherwise, once you have gone out with my little girl, you will continue to date no one but her until she is finished with you. If you make her cry, I will make you cry.

Rule Seven: As you stand in my front hallway, waiting for my daughter to appear, and more than an hour goes by, do not sigh and fidget. If you want to be on time for the movie, you should not be dating. My daughter is putting on her makeup, a process than can take longer than painting the Golden Gate Bridge . Instead of just standing there, why don't you do something useful, like changing the oil in my car?

Rule Eight: The following places are not appropriate for a date with my daughter: Places where there are beds, sofas, or anything softer than a wooden stool. Places where there is darkness. Places where there is dancing, holding hands, or happiness. Places where the ambient temperature is warm enough to introduce my daughter to wear shorts, tank tops, midriff T-shirts, or anything other than overalls, a sweater, and a goose down parka -- zipped up to her throat. Movies with a strong romantic or sexual theme are to be avoided; movies which features chain saws are okay. Hockey games are okay. Old folks homes are better.

Rule Nine: Do not lie to me. I may appear to be a potbellied, balding, middle-aged, dimwitted has-been. But on issues relating to my daughter, I am the all-knowing, merciless God of your universe. If I ask you where you are going and with whom, you have one chance to tell me the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I have a shotgun, a shovel, and five acres behind the house. Do not trifle with me.

Rule Ten: Be afraid. Be very afraid. It takes very little for me to mistake the sound of your car in the driveway for a chopper coming in over a rice paddy near Hanoi . When my Agent Orange starts acting up, the voices in my head frequently tell me to clean the guns as I wait for you to bring my daughter home. As soon as you pull into the driveway you should exit the car with both hands in plain sight. Speak the perimeter password, announce in a clear voice that you have brought my daughter home safely and early, then return to your car -- there is no need for you to come inside. The camouflaged face at the window is mine.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Today I spent about fifteen minutes talking to an orthodox Jewish woman. She was a no-nonsense sort of gal and really gave me some great insight as to where all of the “anti-Semitism paranoia” comes from concerning Jewish perceptions of the church. It seems that, while many Jews see American Christians as allies, the same can’t necessarily be said of European Christians. Through some recent study, I’ve come to recognize a little of the church’s anti-Semitic past. Still, it was interesting to hear it from her perspective and also a good chat in general.

In other news, this past weekend, while teaching a couple of sessions at a retreat, I was approached by a thirteen year old Dutch girl who asked me simply; “Have you ever heard of The Beatles?”

Now listen, in case you don’t know me well, I’m a little sarcastic. As a friend recently commented a couple of posts down, a “sarcasm key” would come in very handy for me. You know, somewhere right below the “Shift” key. Just something to make it clear that “I’m being sarcastic right now!”

Sarcasm is something that I use throughout the day and, to my own detriment, something that I often think translates over the internet. In fact, a few months ago I posted an article on what I dubbed “Canadian Rage” and set off a windstorm that eventually landed me in the head cheese’s office trying to explain why a Christian leader would condemn an entire Country. It took me several minutes to convince “the cheese” that it was, in fact, a joke written specifically to several very dear Canadian friends of mine. (though, for the record, the fact that I even had to have this meeting sort of proved the point of my “Canadian Rage” claim, but I digress).

All that to say that it was every thing I could do to bite my tongue and simply say, “Um yeah, I’ve heard of them” without any sort of follow up and without stressing the “YEAH” and making it come out as more of a “YAH”. It was painful, I admit.

In another Random happening, I met a girl named “Jade” yesterday. She was a waitress. To give a little bit of background, there’s a slightly infamous B celebrity over here by the name of Jade Goodey. She became famous by appearing on Big Brother (“reality” show) and making a racist remark towards an Asian girl. So I see this waitress named Jade (who happens to be black) and I say to her, “Wow! You’re name is Jade? Did you put up with any flack when that Jade girl made that racist remark on Big Brother?” To which she replied, “No.”. Then silence.


My problem is that, when I get in an awkward situation like that, I believe that I can somehow keep pushing and turn the situation from being awkward into being funny. It’s only a theory, however, as I’ve never actually been able to accomplish it. It’s like nuclear fusion. Scientists “know” that it’s possible, but nobody’s ever been able to prove it. The same goes with my “keep pushing and offending and eventually it will become humorous” theory. To my wife’s horror, however, I always keep trying. The things I sacrifice in the name of science (in this case, my pride and my wife’s respect for me)! Anyway, you’ll be glad to know that, in this case, I decided not to try and prove my theory true.

In other news, I was speaking to a friend this week about her newly divorced daughter. My friend is a Calvinist and the divorce didn’t go down well at all. It was a tough conversation.

It’s strange the things that sit before our very eyes when it comes to religion/faith/Christ, yet go unnoticed. I think one of the major themes has to be grace. Jesus was pretty harsh with religious leaders, but for the most part, Jesus never condemned and never seemed to be short on grace. Consider a few examples:

- a prostitute is brought to Jesus for stoning. Jesus invites any sinless person to step forward and get the festivities rolling. Nobody does. Jesus then looks at the woman and states that He too has no condemnation in his heart for her. Pretty big deal.
- After travelling with Jesus for three years, and after once suggesting that he should sit at Jesus’ right hand in glory, Peter then goes on to not only deny any affiliation with Jesus, but also to denounce him outright. Jesus even predicts that Peter will do this! Yet the first thing Jesus tells Mary and Martha to do after He rises from the dead is to go and tell Peter “it’s cool”. What the…!!!
- A Samaritan woman (reviled among the Jews as dirty pagans…and they were indeed, pagans) asks Jesus which temple and on which mountain she should worship. Jesus’ reply? The time has come where that no longer matters. God has come to live among you and no longer resides in a building. You are now free to commune with God on your own behalf, any time, and any place.
- And then of course, there’s the ultimate act of grace. An act so ridiculous that it largely goes misunderstood and overlooked. I know that we talk about it and sing about it, but let’s face it, few of us really have any understanding of the act. It’s like trying to understand the horrors of war when you’ve never been to war. You can’t. In fact, when you’ve never been to war, war can actually seem rather glorious. The same is true of the crucifixion. We simply don’t understand. And yet Jesus went through it for the sole purpose of redeeming us. He even offered that same redemption to the very people who carried out the physical act of the crucifixion. And yet we condemn our brother. We’re dumb.

All that and yet my friend is quite certain that her daughter is going to be condemned for her divorce. Jesus forgives prostitutes, eats lunch with bullies, befriends those who crucify Him, forgives those who murder his people, and lays down his life for all of mankind, including pagans, but for some reason He may not be able to forgive my friend’s daughter. ???

That isn’t to say that divorce is no big deal. I’m sure it breaks the Father’s heart. But I’m also sure that it mostly breaks the Father’s heart because of how it breaks ours. Our Father hates to see us broken and hates the things that often leave us broken. In this case, I have no doubt that the Father’s heart is broken for my friend’s daughter. But, as I’ve mentioned before, His plan is to pour out His grace on her daughter through us. And I’m sure that the mother is part of that plan.

Why do we find grace so difficult?

Monday, September 15, 2008

all of my days

Ok, here’s my disclaimer. I recorded it in my garage with a microphone, guitar, and a laptop. I recorded the guitar and vocals separately and, for some reason, can’t get the timing of the two tracks to line up properly. It’s annoying the heck out of me, but I’m about to pull my hair out trying to fix it, so whatever, you’ll just have to imagine perfect timing. While you’re at it, imagine some amazing toms pounding in the background, a heavy bass synth, and a girl who can wale on the alto part. Then imagine Rick Rueben has produced it, there are nine other great songs surrounding it, and that the cover art has been designed by Dan Mumford who’s decided to rip off Pink Floyd and stage a photo with a big pink blow up version of me floating over the Battersea Power Station.

Now how does it sound? Btw, you'll probably want to pause the music to the right before you press play below. Then again, maybe not...

Your browser does not support ActiveX controls or the Windows Media Player.

    I know a Spirit that lives in my soul
    I know a God who’s wherever I go
    I know a Saviour whose blood covers me

    I know a fount that makes dirt white as snow
    I know forgiveness like I’ve never known
    I know redemption that changes my heart and my soul

    And I know a faithfulness that never ends
    A God so devoted he loved me while still in my sin

    I know a promise to never let go
    No matter the storms or the trials or how hard the wind blows
    I’m deep in His hold

    And I’ll hold to these things no matter what may
    I’ll hold to these things for all of my days
    Hold to the promise that one day my soul He will raise

    And I’ll love the One who first came to me
    And offered His life so that I might go free!

    All of my days
    I’ll sing your praise
    My hands I will raise
    For I am amazed
    The extent of your grace
    Causes me to embrace
    And sing out your praise
    All of my days

    I know a healer whose breath gives me life
    Who binds up my wounds and gives sight to the blind
    Whose death changes hearts and whose life changes minds

    And I serve a God with a purpose for me
    A plan that I might prosper and I might be free
    So I stand and believe

    Believe in the One who breathed life into me
    Life not just here on this earth but eternally

    Saturday, September 13, 2008

    a white kanye west?

    It’s pronounced boofey (buffet) here. I wasn’t aware of that. However, they don’t pronounce fillet with the same “ey” on the end. They pronounce it with an “et”. Fillet. I’ve mentioned several times that it’s a French word, that France, is the next state below us, and that there’s really no excuse on this one, but they’re going with it anyway. And so I still call it football, despite the fact that we don’t play it with our feet.

    I’m on a train this evening coming back from York…or somewhere up north. I’m never quite sure where I’m at on this trip. I was asked to speak at this retreat last year and had no idea where I was. In the span of a year I’ve still not bothered to look it up. All I know is that the views are magnanimous (I do not think that means what you think it means). The retreat centre itself is made out of an old church. Beautiful. Incidentally, why are British trains so hot? Are they familiar with the green house effect? A building, with lots of windows, but no ventilation, equals the kind of environment where plants mass produce in a matter of hours, but where mammals die of heat exhaustion. That’s this train.

    This week a friend called to tell me that, after watching the VMA’s, she and her husband had come to the conclusion that I looked like a white Kanye West. Not in the way I dressed. And not in the way I rapped, or even in my stage presence. But literally from the neck up. I’m thinking about sending she and her husband money because they’re apparently too poor to afford glasses. And that is sad.

    I just finished up two 90 minute sessions. The first was on the story of the Bible. The second was on what it means to be a disciple. Pretty easy stuff really. Hopefully they’ll ask me back next year to do a short session on Revelations-the prophecies fulfilled and yet to be fulfilled. The thing about both of those topics is that you either only need thirty-seconds, or you need a week.

    In thirty seconds I can tell you that the Bible is the story of God trying to re-commune with the human race. That the so-called “Old Testament” is not just the story of the Jewish people, but that it’s an allegory meant to represent what sin leads to and our need for a savior. The so-called “New Testament” is the climax of the overall story. I’ll get back to that in a second.

    On being a disciple, I can tell you that it really comes down to two questions. If the goal of a Biblical disciple was to “be like” their Rabbi, then all you have to figure out is what that Rabbi spent his time doing and saying. Then do and say those things. The same is true for Jesus. Jesus narrowed down the entire “Old Testament” by telling us to love God and love our neighbour. So do that.

    Ok, I actually need less than twenty seconds to cover both of those topics. Or again, I need a couple of weeks.

    Back to the topic of the so-called “Old Testament”. I was thinking the other day, while preparing for this session, that if nothing after the gospel of John had been written, surely there wouldn’t be an Old and New Testament? And surely there’d be no page in our Bible separating the two. Instead of seeing the “Old Testament” as an obscure book full of crazy stories about death, war, slavery, and the wrath of God, we’d see the entire Bible as the story of God trying to reconnect with mankind. The gospels wouldn’t be something “new”, but would simply be understood as the climax of the story, which is what they are. Mankind was separated from God (because of women), God put a plan into motion to reconnect with mankind, and the plan was ultimately achieved through Jesus. Instead we have this strange separation where the “Old” Testament is seen as this collection of stories, with some spiritual and personal significance, but as being old, dated, and over. Too bad. We miss out on a lot when we understand the Bible from that disjoined perspective.

    (good grief, I had one small bag of chips – crisps- and I’ve got heartburn.)

    I was also thinking about the misunderstanding that exists concerning the story of the flood. It’s a hard one to share with my daughter at her age. “And then God wiped out the entire planet, except Noah and his family. Goodnight Olyvia, and remember, God loves you!” Without a little more thought, you end up with a God who absolutely hates the human race. But consider this…

    God could have simply wiped out the human race. Clearly he felt no guilt in doing so. After all, he wiped out all but eight people. But He didn’t. For some reason, as disgusted as He was by our “wickedness”, he still really wanted to save the human race. So He did. Pretty remarkable when you think about it from that perspective. And quite a different understanding from the one where God simply destroys the planet. We were awful. But God - for some reason! - really wanted to heal us, redeem us, and then reconnect with us.


    (disclaimer: the “because of women” comment was “sarcasm” which, I’ve discovered, is often mistranslated over the internet. It was a joke, Palin supporters. It was a joke.)

    (disclaimer: the “Palin supporters” comment was also “sarcasm”.)

    I’ve been offered “cheap sandwiches” five times now. I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing more enticing than the phrase “cheap sandwiches”. I only have a few pounds with me tonight, though, so I’m holding out for the stale Coke. Hopefully it will be offered soon.

    Finally, if you find out that I was arrested today, it’s because I punched the guy behind me for talking on his mobile phone too loudly. Unfortunately, and since I typed out my intent on this blog ahead of time, I was also found guilty of “premeditated assault”, which means that this will be the last you’ll be hearing from me for a long time. Just know that it’s all politics, he had it coming, my British lawyer screwed me, and the judge had it in for me from the very beginning for making fun of his white wig. What can I say, it looked stupid!

    (almost as dumb as that guy in the bow tie............I can’t let it go.)

    Friday, September 12, 2008


    It’s been a while since I’ve updated the links in my blog. Some have fallen out of date while a few have needed adding for quite some time. If you’ll check out the right hand column I’d like to point out several new and old links of note;

    We’re two short months away from the U.S. Presidential elections. Many of us have come to the conclusion that there is not one party that represents God or the church. However, as a response, many of us have automatically jumped to the other party. Think about that for a minute. Does that make any sense at all? If there is no one party that represents God or the church, then why would we automatically jump to the other party? The truth is that we need to be educated and aware of who we support as Christians. To the right you’ll notice a link for a site called “Vote The Issues”. A quick quiz will let you know which candidate (for any of the elections) that you most closely agree with. Sadly the candidate I most closely agree with agrees with me on only 44% of the issues still, it’s important to know the facts. Incidentally, many will look at the quiz and think to themselves, “I don’t really know much about that issue”. Their next move will be to move on but what this should really tell you is that you need to educate yourself. You’ve got two months to do it! Get started today!

    As always the spiritual gift assessment and description sheets are linked and I’m thrilled to say that I get regular letters from people who are accessing this information and discovering their spiritual gifts. Hopefully you’re then putting them into practice!

    Next is the “Get Involved” section of my blog. I’m always on the look out for websites that give practical information on ways that you can personally get involved. You’ll notice a new link to a site called “Kiva”. Kiva describes itself as a site that “lets you lend (money) to a specific entrepreneur in the developing world-empowering them to lift themselves out of poverty.” I don’t normally plug ministries/agencies looking for financial gifts. Mostly because I personally find it difficult to actively engage in mission and social action if all I’m doing is writing a check (a check???). But Kiva is different and, I believe, will end up being as addictive as Ebay. Sign up for an account and look through the different people throughout the developing world who are trying to start a business in an attempt to lift themselves, their families, and often their communities up out of the ashes. Each will have a financial figure that they’re trying to raise, and you are welcome to give everything from $1 to the full amount! Once you become a partner you have regular contact and updates from the person you’re funding and who knows where those conversations might lead. This is basically micro financing only on a scale that makes it possible for people, other than millionaires, to get involved. 97% of the loans that have been made through Kiva have been paid back by the people who originally got the loan. That’s a staggering figure. Once the loan is paid back, it goes back into your account where it is then available for you to loan back out again to another entrepreneur from the developing world or, if you should choose, to withdraw back into your own bank account. The site even keeps track of your “portfolio” which is very motivating to see. Imagine, after a few years of giving and getting repaid, you could actually have a pretty large lump sum collected to give out. Again, though this is a financial way of getting involved, it is rather engaging and, through the process, really educates people on the realities of life in the developing world as well as just how blessed so many of us are to have been born in the West. I can also see this being an amazing tool for the family. A good way to educate kids and a great thing for families to do together. Why not create a family portfolio! (btw, I don’t work for Kivo. It just sounds like I do.)

    Finally are several new blogs added to the list of blogs that I regularly keep up with and that you too might find interesting.

    The first two are of my lovely daughter and wife.

    The next two are written by Christian activists and are full of good information and education for the Christian community in relation to social justice.

    Urban Army is written by the guy who actually got me started in the blog world. A good guy with a real heart for the lost.

    The next is written by a friend who, like me, is pretty passionate about music and rock history. He spends a lot of time discussing the spiritual search that often takes place through artists and their music.

    Hoodlum Pastor is written by a pastor in Tennessee. He’s actually my parent’s new pastor and is pretty radical yet sound in his theology. He writes some really challenging posts.

    The next is written by an activist friend of mine here in London. We don’t see eye to eye on everything but she is constantly challenging me on what it means to be a Christian and so deserves a place on that list.

    Questionable Content is written by a guy I’ve known since I was ten years old. He is a former Pentecostal professor who has recently become a Methodist worship leader and is undergoing the process of ordination through the Methodist church. Besides being a dear and very old friend, his story is a fascinating one to read as her tries to come to terms with where God is leading him. His struggle to find balance with the doctrine of his youth verses the doctrine of his current ministry is one that I identify with. I appreciate his openness and think his struggle is one that every Christian should work through.

    The next five belong to personal friends who are all asking similar questions; the church I grew up with isn’t all that relevant so how do we once again become relevant and still stay grounded? Relevant Magazine’s site continues this theme.

    The final two are websites, written by Christians, which tend to have rather biting commentaries on the church. The first is called Asbo Jesus and has a lot of cartoons which reference the state of the church. The cartoon featured above comes from that website. The other is called Ship of Fools and is a lot like The Onion only written specifically to the church. It describes itself as “The Magazine of Christian Unrest” and tends to address a lot of the issues surrounding politics and the church. It also features a section called “Mystery Worshipper” where people actually write in and review different churches they’ve visited. More than one of my friends’ churches have featured in this section; some good, some not so good.

    At some point I need to update my books list but this will have to come at a later date. Until then, if you click on one of those links, you will be taken to a site that allows you to read the first chapter of that book online. I love this because it’s like going to the bookstore, looking over a book, but never ever having to get up off your couch or have any human interaction whatsoever! I’m so thankful for the internet. Now if somebody would just create a way to use the bathroom without having to leave the living room. Come to think of it, I think somebody has. It think it’s called an “efficiency apartment”. Shaun, can you give us any insight?

    Incidentally, I realized this week that I have three close friends named Shaun, Sean, Shawn, and none of them spell their name the same. If I ever have a son, I’m definitely naming him Timm.

    Thursday, September 11, 2008

    listen to the sound

    If you’re a reader of my blog at all, you’ll know that one of my soap box topics is the church’s need to listen to rather than protest the world’s resistance to the church and God. You’ll know that I believe the world’s resistance to God to be largely related to the actions of the church. And you’ll know that I believe the best form of action to be to listen to what they have to say, see if there’s any truth in it, and then act accordingly. In my opinion, there often is a lot of truth to it. Consider the following lyrics from a Marilyn Manson song;

    The beautiful people, the beautiful people
    It’s all relative to the size of your steeple
    You can’t see the forest for the trees
    You can’t smell your own sh** on your knees

    When this came out many in the church reacted. For some reason they felt they had a right to be angry. I never quite understand this. What we should have done was listen. From a practical standpoint, if the church’s reaction had been to ask Marilyn why he felt that way, it would have all been over. Can you imagine? If the church’s leaders had said to the media something along the lines of, “We’re heartbroken that Marilyn feels this way”, and left it at that, it would have been over. I mean, do you think Manson would have kept writing songs about how much he hates the church? No way! There’d be no controversy in that. Instead, our actions have helped to sell millions of Marilyn Manson albums. That’s how controversy works. But more importantly, and from a spiritual perspective, it was a very ignorant and Peter like reaction. Peter also believed that it was his job to defend Jesus. What a ridiculous notion. Peter was going to defend the Son of God. What’s mind blowing to me is that the same people who react this way to a lost world, never manage to connect the dots when a Muslim does the same thing concerning cartoons of the prophet Mohammed. Both are wrong. Both are arrogant. And both are ignorant, in my opinion. But more importantly, both miss a huge opportunity to change the perception of the world around them. And if we change the world’s perception of the church, then we make great strides in changing the world’s perception of God. After all, and for many people, their perception of God is tied to their perception of the church. And that’s the biggest problem.

    Anyway, I didn’t sign on to talk about Marilyn Manson this morning, I signed on to share a few lyrics from Oasis’ latest single. I’ve become a big fan of this band, despite their rock star attitudes and the infighting they are known for. They make great classic rock and, more than any other musical discovery I’ve made since arriving in the UK, they’ve provided me with a wealth of back catalogued music. Great music. I have no idea why they’re not more popular in the States.

    Their latest single is called Falling Down and includes the following lyrics;

    A dying scream
    It makes no sound
    Calling out to all that I've ever known
    Here am, lost and found
    Calling out to all

    We live a dying dream
    If you know what I mean
    All that I've ever known
    It's all that I've ever known

    Catch the wind that breaks the butterfly
    I cried the rain that fills the ocean wide
    I tried to talk with God to no avail
    Calling my name from out of nowhere
    I said "If you won't save me, please don't waste my time"


    The world is constantly sharing its deep desire for communion with God. Put down your picket signs and listen to the sound of the world calling out and asking God if He’s really there.

    John Wesley believed in a doctrine he called “Means of Grace”. The Means of Grace are the ways in which God pours out grace on mankind. Wesley believed there were two; Jesus’ death and resurrection, and what he called “acts of piety”. “Acts of piety” were any way in which a believer actively loved and served someone else. Through these acts of piety, John Wesley believed that God’s grace was, quite literally, poured out on mankind. Mind you, neither John Wesley nor I am suggesting a salvation by works. What he was suggesting, however, is that if mankind is to physically see God’s grace in the present day, then it is up to believers to show it. That is our job and that is God’s plan until His first means of grace, Christ, returns.

    It’s a heart warming doctrine but also a heart breaking one because, if it is true, it puts an awful lot of responsibility into the hands of a church that, in the last several decades, has largely shown nothing but anger and contempt towards the very people we’ve been charged to actively show love and grace to. We must change that.

    Listen to the sound of the world calling out and asking God if He is really there…….

    ……….and then act accordingly.

    Wednesday, September 03, 2008

    spiritual gifts 2

    Does it bother me that, though more than twenty-five people a day read this blog, only one person responded to my post on spiritual gifts? Yes. It does. It concerns me a great deal and confirms my biggest fears but also what I know about a large portion of the church. People don’t even know that they’re UNAWARE of their spiritual gifts!
    I’ve been preaching this sermon a lot over the past year or so. In fact, in one case, I preached the identical sermon twice, within the same church, within the course of the same year! It’s something that I’ve never done before. In fact, though I’ve been touching on this same theme a lot over the past year or so, I’ve never even preached the same sermon in two separate churches before. But in this case I really felt led to do it. It’s a church full of people who should be great leaders, but hardly any of them are actually involved in the ministry of the church. After the first time I preached it, the pastor came up to me and asked me why I didn’t stick to the subject he had given me to preach on (for the record, I thought I had). After the second time, he came up to me and suggested that it was exactly what the congregation needed to hear, with no mention of the fact that I had already preached the same exact sermon there less than a year before.

    What is it about spiritual gifts that have us all jumpy and/or apathetic? I’ve heard many stories about modern non-charismatic churches who once enthusiastically embraced spiritual gifts, even the “crazy ones”. I’ve heard these stories about the Salvation Army AND the Baptist church, for the record. So what happened? When did these gifts cease to be recognized in our churches and for what reason?

    This is one of those topics where people nod along and think to themselves, “yes, that is exactly right”, all while they sit there not having any idea what their gifts are and, it goes without saying, not putting any of their gifts into practice.

    I think a lot of people think of “talents” when the word “gifts” comes up. Some people sit there thinking, “I sing. Therefore I use my spiritual gift.” But singing isn’t actually listed among the spiritual gifts. So WHAT DO YOU DO??? WHAT ARE YOUR GIFTS??? AND HOW DO YOU USE THEM IN YOUR LOCAL CHURCH???

    I ask the question again; does it bother you that so many of our churches seem completely void of so many of the gifts? Does it bother you that many of us NEVER see the gift of tongues, or interpretation, or prophecy in our churches? Do you believe that these gifts have gone away? (and if you do, can you in any way back that up with scripture?) And if you don’t believe they’ve gone away, then what is your explanation for their absence in your congregation?

    Believe me, I’m including myself in that question. Tongues, for example, isn’t a gift that’s been looked upon too kindly in most of the congregations that I’ve been a part of. Admittedly, I tend to stick to “non-charismatic congregations” when it comes to leadership. And I don’t profess to have the gift of tongues myself. But it does bother me that I’ve served in so many churches where spiritual gifts are barely touched upon. Shouldn’t spiritual gifts pretty much be a monthly topic? Whether it be through the sermon, Sunday school, or some other Bible study? Don’t spiritual gifts pretty much sit near top the priority list of topics??? Somewhere just below “salvation”? Yet when is the last time you heard it spoke on? And when is the last time that speaker touched on specific gifts and included tongues and prophecy?

    I’m beginning to sound charismatic. Let me be clear. Like Paul, I believe that tongues is the least of the gifts. But I do believe it exists! Yet I rarely ever see it used and hardly ever in the congregations where I serve? Why is that? How can that be???

    Tuesday, September 02, 2008

    all the reasons we're fat

    Ok, below I outlined my problem with “RENT ME” limos. Among them was the girl hanging out the window, who is desperate to be seen. Today, while watching Fox News, I noticed the male equivalent of the limo girl. He’s the guy who rocks the bow tie. Bow ties aren’t cool and it’s going to take a major celebrity to ever make them cool again. Right now I’m looking at some fat, white, Republican, 30 something year old, wearing a plaid shirt and a polka dotted bow tie. The fact that the word “polka” is in there should probably tip you off that something here’s not cool. It’s your tie. Take it off.

    In other news, I wish the newscasters would move on to other news. I’m not a particularly big fan of Sarah Palin for VP, but I wish the newscasters would move on about her pregnant 17 year old daughter. Nobody wants to talk about it, not even the Democrats. Are people tuning in to see this? This isn’t like the OJ thing where everybody was sick of it, but kept watching is it? People don’t really care about this do they? We got it all already. Her 17 year old daughter is pregnant, is keeping the baby, and nobody wants to talk about it! Not even the Democrats! So why are you still talking about it?!

    Why too must I look at the empty convention center where the Republicans WERE going to hold a several day convention? For three days they’ve been showing it and for three days there’s been nothing to see but ten or twenty people mingling around. There’s nothing going on! It’s like watching a webcam or Big Brother at 5:00 a.m. Go back to the guy in the bow tie at least!

    Finally, I took this photo while I was in the U.S. for my grandmother’s funeral a few months ago. Notice the white house on the left, and the blue truck on the right. They belong to the same person. Everyday that lady gets in her blue truck, and drives to work…………right across the road there. I’m not kidding. She drives thirty yards to work! As I’ve said before, Americans aren’t fat because of our food. Americans are fat because our portions are too large and we drive everywhere! And I mean EVERYWHERE!!!

    Monday, September 01, 2008

    observations from Camden

    Doesn’t it kind of destroy the “limo vibe” when it says “1-800-2RENT-ME” on the side of it? I guess I’ve always thought that a limo was supposed to give the impression that you were either so filthy rich, or so unbelievably popular, that you either owned your own limo or were provided one by the people you’ve graced with your presence. When I see one with “RENT ME” on the side of it, the only thing I can ever think is; “You spent $500 to rent a limo for the night? That’s a HUGE waste of money!” And also, in case you’re actually considering a limo rental in the near future, when you hang out the window, everybody knows you’re looking to be “seen in a limo”. ??? Am I the only one who thinks limos have become tacky? Were they always tacky and I just didn’t know it? It seems to me that limos are for prom kids and even then, they’re tacky.

    Having just gone back and read over that paragraph, I can see that I’m really just coming off as somebody who’s bitter that he’s not getting to ride in the limo. Sigh. It isn’t true.

    Yesterday I attended a fantasy football draft in Camden. In case you’re not familiar, Camden is where the punks hang out……and also where Amy Whinehouse lives. To live or hang out in Camden, you must have at least two of the following: face and/or neck tattoos, coloured hair, a non-traditional hair cut, at least one leather article of clothing, multiple piercings (earlobes don’t count), boots, florescent accessories, and/or several visible scars.

    So as I’m walking through Camden yesterday in my number twenty-six, Rod Woodson, Steelers Jersey, I’m feeling like I have a sign on my chest, back, and forehead, that reads “please kick my *&%”. In my normal job setting, I have to admit that I usually feel like the coolest person in the room. By far. I’m just being honest. And it’s been that way for quite a few years. But there are days when that suddenly and dramatically changes in an instant. I get on the train, feeling good, headphones firmly planted in my ears and pounding out a great soundtrack, and then come up out of another tube station and feel like I just put on twenty-years, forty-pounds, and any article of clothing from my father’s closet. It isn’t a good feeling. I keep telling myself that it has nothing to do with getting older; that I wasn’t cool in high school either. Still, one has to wonder; when is it officially safe to call it a mid-life crises? I’ll never be able to afford a Vet, so this may be as good as it gets. Anyway, I should really wrap up this post. I think the peroxide has probably set by now.