Saturday, April 30, 2011

Soup Day

In the movie The Tale of Despereaux, the first Sunday in May is Soup Day.

Mulligatawny Soup, from Life's Ambrosia
It's an annual celebration of soup, in a kingdom known for soup. There's a parade, and everyone wears a hat depicting a favorite soup ingredient.

People wear hats that look like onions, and tomatoes, and mushrooms, and so many things. The scene passes quickly, but, like the rest of the movie, it's visually captivating.

So, tomorrow is the first Sunday in May. Soup Day. I'm making Mulligatawny based on this recipe, making a few little changes, like swapping out the chicken stock for lamb stock — my Easter leg of lamb, resurrected.

And we'll probably watch The Tale of Despereaux.

If we had a parade in honor of Soup Day, what kind of hat would you wear?


Friday, April 29, 2011

7 Quick Takes: Volume 39

The idea of 7 Quick Takes Friday comes from blogger Jennifer Fulwiler, who hosts it weekly at her site, Conversion Diary.


While other people file their taxes in February or March, I choose to annually renew my membership in the American Society of Procrastinators. (Yes, the ASP. Our motto is "Just as deadly as an Egyptian cobra.")

Any guesses as to what I was doing weekend before last?

"Is that in the nature of a question? There's a nickel question tax..."


So, evidently there's a big wedding today that people are all giddy about.

But last week, it was announced that my favorite Oklahoman, Pioneer Woman, is getting her own show on Food Network.

Now that, to me, is a marriage worth getting worked up over.


From our Why Can't WE Do That?! department, Mason Slater draws attention to the cooperative relationship between England's institutional church and the emergent movement in that country.

Mason's thoughtful post includes a video of Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, telling the story and sharing his hopes for the movement. To quote Mason, "It’s well worth a watch, plus he’s got a great accent so, win-win."

(And if you liked that short video of the Archbishop of Canterbury, His Grace shows up in the BBC documentary Does Christianity Have a Future?, which touches on the same theme. You can see that video in another of Mason's posts. (Oh, and I guess the A. of C. featured prominently in that little event alluded to in take #2, but we're not really talking about that.))

Mason has written several grace-filled posts about some of the recent antagonisms within the Evangelical community. And he's not afraid to open a post with a quote from The Lord of the Rings.


On a lighter note, blogger Knox McCoy gives us The Hierarchy of Easter Candy. (And in reading the comments, it's evident that people take their Easter candy very, very seriously.)


Jenny Simmons of Addison Road wrote a great tongue-in-cheek post about how to get people to comment on your blog.


And evidently Shakespeare had a few things to say about blogging too.


And finally, Cookie the penguin from the Cincinnati Zoo:

It gets really adorable after the one-minute mark.

Happy Friday, friends!


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Review: A Collection of Wednesdays

A Collection of Wednesdays: Creating a Whole from the Parts
by Amy Gaither Hayes
(Zondervan, 2011)

Publisher's synopsis:
Through story, poetry, and song lyrics, Amy Gaither Hayes contemplates the Divine design in the seemingly random aspects of her life. Gain a fresh, simpler perspective on the structure and purpose of your own life, and insights into the heart and ways of the Creator who designed you as his masterpiece.

Available in hardcover and ebook formats.

I love emerging from a book as from a particularly satisfying and eye-opening dream, shaking myself off and realizing I'm not exactly the same person who started reading the book.
Amy Gaither Hayes, A Collection of Wednesdays (p. 116)


A whim. That's all it was.

Several weeks ago, I was looking for something to review. This book was available, and I thought "why not?"

I had no idea what the book was about, but I could tell from the description that it was a departure from my usual fare.

Most everything I've been reading lately relates to either theology or counseling. And then there's this book.

A Collection of Wednesdays is:

  • Honest and thoughtful
  • Beautifully written
  • Reflective without being preachy
  • Artistically designed (none of my theology books have aqua endpapers!)

For part of each Wednesday, Amy Gaither Hayes takes time to reflect and write. This book contains some of the products of those times — it is, quite literally, a collection of Wednesdays.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Other: reflections on an NA meeting

In The Blue Parakeet, Scot McKnight writes about how "otherness" entered the world at the Fall, and expanded at the Tower of Babel. Now, we can see and feel the resulting alienation everywhere we go.

A few weeks ago, I attended a meeting of Narcotics Anonymous (NA).

(I'm just going to leave that statement there without explanation and let you think what you will.)

One of the speakers that evening talked about the experience of walking into a 12-step meeting for the first time and finding it "full of people who didn't look like me, talk like me, or dress like me." Another said his first 12-step meeting was full of bikers in their 50s and 60s, and he figured he had at least 30 years more partying ahead of him. The same theme came up again in the talk of a speaker at another NA meeting — these people are not like me, and I'm not like them.

The three speakers' words reflected the discomfort and intimidation of an alien environment — a 12-step meeting — and how that strangeness was magnified by things like the age, dress, and drug of choice of others in the room.

The speakers were very different from each other. The first was male, white, under 30; the second, male, African American, upper 30s; the third, female, African American, early 40s.

Yet they all spoke of feeling like outsiders. They felt "other."

During a break, a young woman leaned over to me and asked if it was my first NA meeting. I said I'd been to AA meetings, but this was my first time to NA. She told me she liked NA better — though the steps and the traditions are the same, she said she felt more comfortable at NA. Her words surprised me, because I honestly hadn't noticed a difference.

Later, as I thought about it, I realized something: to me, because I don't battle an addiction to alcohol or other drugs, AA and NA seem pretty similar — equally strange, equally intimidating — and those in attendance seem equally "other" from me. (Or maybe it's better to say I felt equally "other" from them.)

But I realized that even among those "others," there can be a sense of "otherness" when in the midst of people who are in a different phase of life, or who represent a different race or ethnic group, or whose substance of choice is a different one.

As an outsider (albeit a supportive one) to the experience of addiction recovery, it was easy for me to see the commonalities between the people in the room. To me, their chief "otherness" was the addiction that had led them to this place in their lives.

But as I tried to enter the experience from the perspective of a participant, I saw how every facet of "otherness" that can separate us as humans — skin color, age, lifestyle, etc. — can be a real barrier to people getting better.

And that's in an environment that welcomes struggling people. How much more is this true in the church, where congregational discomfort can send struggling people further into hiding?

How do we lower the barrier?

I think maybe the answer lies in our focus. If we're focused on how we're different from someone else, and how they're different from us, the "otherness" is all we can see. We're living as if the Fall and the Tower of Babel hadn't been overcome by the Kingdom of Heaven.

But if we can focus on our commonalities, on the fact that we are all created by God in His image, maybe we can live in light of the Kingdom rather than in the darkness of the Fall.

My friend Steve Argue words it this way: “There's a difference between a Genesis 1 or Genesis 3 theological starting point. Where you start shapes your youth ministry practices.” (And, I would argue, Steve, this is true of every other ministry practice as well.)

Between you and me, I think everyone should attend a 12-step group once in a while. It might make us a little more compassionate toward people who battle addictions, and a little less smug about our own less obvious battles.

Search here for a local NA meeting, and here for a local AA meeting.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Resurrection Sunday

"The resurrection was God’s way of stamping PAID IN FULL right across history so that nobody could miss it."
Tim Keller on the Resurrection

The Maker of the Universe
words by F.W. Pitt; music by Phil Keaggy

The Maker of the universe,
As Man for man was made a curse.
The claims of Law which He had made,
Unto the uttermost He paid.
His holy fingers made the bough,
Which grew the thorns that crowned His brow.
The nails that pierced His hands were mined
In secret places He designed.

He made the forest whence there sprung
The tree on which His body hung.
He died upon a cross of wood,
Yet made the hill on which it stood.
The sky that darkened o'er His head,
By Him above the earth was spread.
The sun that hid from Him its face
By His decree was poised in space.

The spear which spilled His precious blood
Was tempered in the fires of God.
The grave in which His form was laid
Was hewn in rocks His hands had made.
The throne on which He now appears
Was His for everlasting years.
But a new glory crowns His brow
And every knee to Him shall bow.


Friday, April 22, 2011

An atheist's journey toward the cross

I live in a very church-heavy part of the world.

Most of my friends here grew up going to church every Sunday and hearing Bible stories the rest of the week. When they hear me talk about my faith journey, they react with stunned amazement — as if I had just told them I was from Fiji. Or Atlantis. Or Alderaan.


The truth is, I may as well have been.

In my little world, the cross — which some have called "the centerpiece of human history" — was a complete unknown.

I mean, I had seen crucifixes, but I didn't know what they were about. I knew it was Jesus hanging on that cross, but I had no idea why he was there. And I'd heard words like "salvation," but they meant nothing to me. (Seriously, nothing. For those words, the English-to-Alderaan dictionary was blank.)

Until The Chronicles of Narnia, The Robe, and Jesus Christ Superstar.

(Some of you just recoiled in horror at the third item on that list. That's OK. This post is for you, too.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Review: Health, Wealth & Happiness

Health, Wealth & Happiness:
Has the Prosperity Gospel Overshadowed the Gospel of Christ?

by David W. Jones & Russell S. Woodbridge
(Kregel Publications, 2010)

Publisher's Description:
The desire for a thriving, healthy, and productive life is as strong as ever, especially in tough economic times. As people become more disillusioned at the state of the economy, they also become more susceptible to the lure of the prosperity gospel and its teachings of health, wealth, and happiness for the faithful. But what happens when the promise of prosperity overshadows the promise of the real gospel — the gospel of Christ?

Believing that the prosperity gospel is constructed upon faulty theology, authors David Jones and Russell Woodbridge take a closer look at five crucial areas of error relating to the teaching of wealth. In a fair but firm tone, the authors discuss the history and theology of the prosperity gospel movement to reveal its fraudulent core biblical teachings that have been historically and popularly misinterpreted, even by today’s most well-known pastors, including T. D. Jakes, Joel Osteen, and Kenneth Copeland. After an introduction and assessment of the movement, readers are invited to take a look at Scripture to understand what the Bible really says about wealth, poverty, suffering, and giving.

Theologically sound but accessible to all readers, Health, Wealth & Happiness is sure to become a trusted resource for laypersons, pastors, and Christian leaders.


Last November, Buffalo Bills receiver Stevie Johnson dropped a touchdown pass in overtime, costing his team the game. Afterward, he tweeted an angry message, blaming God for the drop:


I don't follow football, and I don't know anything about this player or his theology. (Well, I do know a little about his theology based on the tweet, but haven't most of us felt that way at one time or another, even for just a second? I mean, I have. It's one of many reasons I'm not on Twitter.)

But the big thing I notice about that tweet is this: underneath, there seems to be a belief that, more than anything, God is all about my personal earthly flourishing. More to the point, health, wealth and success are God's reward for my faith.

The problem is, when something goes wrong — professionally, relationally, financially, physically — such faith crumbles.

To me, that's the biggest danger of the so-called "prosperity gospel": if my faith is based on God coming through for me, what happens to that faith when I get sick, or slip on the ice, or lose a job, or lose a loved one? When misfortune or disaster strikes, I'm left to assume God hates me, or that He doesn't exist.

Or there's the alternative to blaming God: blaming my own lack of faith. And as a counselor, I can't help but hurt for those who see suffering as evidence of a lack of faith, adding a layer of self-blame to the pain they're already in.

Either way, when stuff happens (and it will), we're left with nothing but despair. And that runs counter to biblical teaching.

In Health, Wealth & Happiness, authors David Jones and Russell Woodbridge discuss the prosperity gospel's recent rise in popularity, not only in the United States, but also in developing countries around the world, where followers connect American wealth with Christian faith.

The authors endeavor to show how the prosperity gospel came about, demonstrate how prosperity teaching is based on ideas outside the Bible, and offer solid biblical correction to prosperity doctrine's claims.

Friday, April 15, 2011

7 Quick Takes: Volume 38

The idea of 7 Quick Takes Friday comes from blogger Jennifer Fulwiler, who hosts it weekly at her site, Conversion Diary.


Last week's 7 Quick Takes featured a picture of a house by a well-known architect who prided himself on matching a building to its environment.

On that score, I think this house in Wales outdoes that one:

If only the door were round...

If I lived here, I think I'd always be half-expecting Samwise, Merry and Pippin to show up asking for second breakfast. Or elevensies.

(Be sure to check out the designer/builder/owner's website, with lots more pictures and more of the story behind this incredible home.)


Blogstats news! This week, for no reason I know of, the pageviews of a post I wrote last year suddenly started spiking. I'm no expert on this, but in my (very limited) experience, when a post suddenly gets a lot of traffic, I can usually trace it back to a link on someone else's blog or a popular search.

Not this one. There was one search, and then the thing took off like a rocket.

Or, in this case, like a flying car.

If you're here because of that post, welcome! Please say hello in the comments.


Beginning this Sunday, Zondervan is launching a daily series for Holy Week, from Palm Sunday through Easter, including audio clips from their The Bible Experience audio Bible:

Starting Sunday, April 17, Zondervan will launch a seven-part blog series that will let you hear the Easter story like never before.

Sign up for the series, and from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday you'll receive a new and exciting part of the Easter story told in dramatic audio. The audio clips, taken from The Bible Experience audio Bible, feature a full cast of actors, sound effects and a musical score. You will be immersed into the Easter events as if they're happening for the first time, in real time.

On Palm Sunday listen to the cheers at Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Later in the week hear Jesus kick the moneylenders out of the Temple. Then join the disciples at the Last Supper and in the Garden of Gethsemane. Be there for Christ's passion on Good Friday, the disciples' fear on Holy Saturday, and God's triumph on Resurrection Sunday.


Elizabeth showcased the work of artist Bernie Casey on her blog last week. His work is colorful, creative, and packed with meaning. Click over and check out Elizabeth's photos of Bernie Casey's work when it was on display at ArtPrize.

Susie Hewer, the knitting marathon runner

Need inspiration? Or just plain astonishment?

Check out this story of a 53-year-old British marathon runner who knits as she runs.

Just this week, she ran a marathon in 5:21.

And she runs to raise money for Alzheimer's research.

(If reading that made you fly right past "inspiration" and land on "shame," turn around.)


Last week Jennifer Fulwiler posted a link to an online version of the AP styleguide. And the journalism major that still lives within me rejoiced!

Yes, I am just that geeky.


Related to that, my final take this week is a great What You Ought to Know video by The Brothers Winn entitled Spelling Matters:

Happy Friday, everyone!


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lifting the veil on victim-blaming*

* Disclaimer: This post is not in any way a comment on France's ban on full face veils.

photo credit:
A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times ran an article about a 14-year-old Bangladeshi girl named Hena Akhter, who was severely punished for being raped:

"An imam at a local mosque issued a fatwa saying that Hena was guilty of adultery and must be punished, and a village makeshift court sentenced Hena to 100 lashes in a public whipping."

The rapist was also sentenced to a public whipping, but he escaped after the first few lashes.

Hena later died of her injuries, and doctors recorded her death as a suicide.

As I posted the link to the article on Facebook, I thought about what a horror it is that such things still happen in other parts of the world, and how the community of faith needs to work to stop them.

Last Friday, 20/20 ran a story about an American woman named Tina Anderson who endured molestation and rape as a child and young teenager. When, at 15, she discovered she was pregnant by the rapist, she was treated as an adulterer by her pastor. She quotes him as saying, "You're lucky you don't live in Old Testament times," and tells of him pointing to the passage in Deuteronomy that instructs public stoning "because I didn't cry out."

Tina was forced to confess her pregnancy in front of her church, and she was banished to another state for the remainder of her pregnancy. Her rapist, after a confession of adultery (set up as an incident unrelated to Tina's pregnancy), continued to serve as a deacon in the church.

Years later, Tina still lives with the grief and pain of betrayal upon betrayal.

I'm not suggesting that what happened to Tina Anderson compares to what happened to Hena Akhter.

But the similarities are chilling.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Music for a Monday: Beati Quorum Via

I hope you're enjoying this series as much as I am!

This week, we continue with selections from February's concert. This piece is breathtaking, and the ensemble featured in the video performs it beautifully.


Beati Quorum Via
Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924)
Performed by the Brussels Chamber Choir conducted by Helen Cassano

Beati quorum via integra est: qui ambulant in lege Domini.

Blessed are they whose way is pure: who walk in the law of the Lord.


Friday, April 08, 2011

7 Quick Takes: Volume 37

The idea of 7 Quick Takes Friday comes from blogger Jennifer Fulwiler, who hosts it weekly at her site, Conversion Diary.

Welcome to this week's Roundup of Random — Happy Friday, everyone!


Meyer May House, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Last weekend, I took a group of women to tour our local Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house. During the tour, our very informative guide... er, docent... kept referring to "Mr. Wright."

"Mr. Wright was 5'8", which he felt was the ideal height, so he designed buildings with that in mind."

"Mr. Wright was contracted to design a house for the Ambergs, the parents of Meyer May's wife, but he left for Europe before beginning the design." (Uh, yeah... I remember this story...)

"Mr. Wright didn't want homeowners to hang art in his houses. He felt the house was all the art you needed."

Something about being with a group of single women and hearing "Mr. Right" spoken of over and over made me chuckle quietly to myself.

And in reflecting on the personality that came along with his creative talent, it seems Mr. Wright may also have heard his name without the W.


I've mentioned Sarah at Emerging Mummy before (see take #1 here).

This post is so beautiful.


Earlier this week, my friend Suzanne posted a great review of Half the Church. And she's giving a copy away — there's still time to enter, if you hurry!

It's a book I've been looking forward to reading since I first saw the promotional video:


My friend Meredith takes beautiful pictures, including this series she took of Chicago. (I believe I have mentioned my love of that city once or twice.)

The composition of this one makes me think of the Sydney Opera House:


This week, Rachel Held Evans invited her father Peter Held to write a guest post, For the Parents of Doubting Children.

Here's an excerpt:

Know what’s essential to the Christian faith and leave plenty of room for diversity. This may be the most important advice to follow. I have been surprised to see how many parents have bundled their faith inseparably with a particular political view, economic philosophy, worship style, or the latest social issues.

True Christianity is not about politics, political parties, or personal preferences. Do you really want to lose your child because of differing political views? Does it really matter if they are for big government or less government, universal health care or private health care? If these issues seem to be too emotional for either of you, don’t even discuss them. The Kingdom of Our Lord is not limited to one political system or philosophy.

The essentials of the Christian faith are not dependent on certain doctrinal systems or denominations (Calvinism, Arminianism, dispensationalism, covenant theology, election, predestination, free will, and so on). I make my living studying and teaching these important doctrines and I have convictions about them. But godly Christians throughout the ages have real disagreements in all these areas. Keep your convictions but make sure you’re not making everything an essential. Remember, Christians across the theological spectrum have far more in common than we have disagreement. Again, if these issues seem to stir up too much emotion, avoid discussing them. Given what the Bible says about the deceitfulness of the human heart, humbly acknowledge your own bias and limitations.

Here's an amazing video — an ad for a Japanese cellphone, featuring Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, as performed by a ball rolling down a wooden staircase:


And on a slightly different note...

The Rock & Worship Roadshow 2011 presents "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" featuring MercyMe, Jars Of Clay, Matt Maher, Thousand Foot Krutch, The Afters & Lecrae.


Thursday, April 07, 2011

Review: The Blue Parakeet

The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible
by Scot McKnight
(Zondervan, 2008)

Publisher's synopsis:
The Blue Parakeet is author Scot McKnight’s deeply reasoned, compelling statement of how to read the Bible in a new evangelical generation. In reexamining the Bible, McKnight provides an exciting “Third Way” that appeals to the millions in today’s church who long to be authentic Christians, but don’t consider themselves theologically conservative or liberal.

Available in hardcover, softcover, and ebook formats.


I'll admit, I'm hesitant to include the publisher's synopsis (above) in my review. It seems to confine the book's appeal to a group of Christians that finds itself caught between two extremes.

I'm no expert on book promotion, but I think this book would appeal to any person who wants to understand the Bible better. Is that you? Awesome. Read this book.

Having dispensed with the disclaimer portion of our program, on with the review...


Chance encounters sometimes lead us deeper into thought.... When we encounter blue parakeets in the Bible or in the questions of others, whether we think of something as simple as the Sabbath or foot washing or as complex and emotional as women in church ministries or homosexuality, we have to stop and think. Is this passage for today or not? Sometimes we hope the blue parakeets will go away.... Or perhaps we shoo them away. Or perhaps we try to catch them and return them to their cage.... When chance encounters with blue parakeet passages in the Bible happen to come our way, we are given the opportunity to observe and learn. In such cases, we really do open ourselves to the thrill of learning how to read the Bible. But... we have to get over our fears and learn to adjust to the squawks of the Bible's blue parakeets. We dare not tame them.
— Scot McKnight, The Blue Parakeet, p. 24-25

Anyone who has read the Bible is aware of passages that are difficult to understand, passages that are difficult to put into practice, passages that can raise issues when one group declares a passage to be culturally limited and another insists it is not.

For those who wish to understand the Bible and apply its truths to everyday life, these difficult passages must be dealt with. But how?


Monday, April 04, 2011

Music for a Monday: At the End of the Day

If you've never seen or read Les Misérables, the Music for a Monday post from two weeks ago — I Dreamed a Dream — probably left you at least a little curious how Fantine was left destitute.

This song, which comes just before that one in the musical, explains what happened.

This video is from the 10th anniversary concert. As is typical in concert versions of musicals, the cast members are in costume, the set and lighting resemble the actual stage production, but the action is minimal. Just so you know.


Friday, April 01, 2011

7 Quick Takes: Volume 36

The idea of 7 Quick Takes Friday comes from blogger Jennifer Fulwiler, who hosts it weekly at her site, Conversion Diary.

I've been reading and processing some heavy stuff lately.

Now you know why I posted the funny-but-makes-a-point video on Wednesday — I really needed something to lighten the mood. (Evidently, so did a lot of other people — I think that post got more views in a day than anything else I've written... more, even, than the controversial posts.)

And now, it's April Fool's Day. Time for some silliness!


It's a little late in the season for this (even in my area!), but it's still great:

The Beard Beanie. HOT. Order yours here. (ht: Bryan Lopez)

Jon Acuff wrote a post about favorite apps. He started this way:

Last Saturday I tweeted this:

Just saw 1st blue bird of spring. Thought, “I bet I could slingshot that thing into a ton of pigs.” #toomuchangrybirds


Speaking of Angry Birds... here's a cakey homage to the über-popular app:

Angry Birds cake by Laura Finlay, featured on Cake Wrecks


Actually, the irritated avians seem to lend themselves to edible interpretations. Cute Food for Kids did a feature, leading off with this one made of a Babybel:

He looks cheesed off.
(And yet, delicious.)


Speaking of animals wreaking havoc... evidently the Bronx Zoo is missing an Egyptian cobra. (Yes, this is the same type of snake, according to legend, that was Cleopatra's chosen method for ending her life. The jokes are all over the place, but I won't be making them.)

And that's not the worst of it. The snake is on Twitter.

Update: the snake was found last night. I wonder... would the zookeeper allow an iPhone in the reptile house?


You know how you can ask Google anything (for example, "Where are my keys?"), but sometimes the results are less-than-stellar?

The name of this website reminds me of those questions, except it actually works:

I think this video has gone viral. (It's had over 3 million views in less than 7 weeks on YouTube.)

But in case you missed it:

My friend Mike thinks the twins appear to be having "an intense, intelligent, yet friendly debate about the pros and cons of nuclear energy."

I'm pretty sure they're talking about socks.

Happy Friday, friends!