Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Chuck Love: Toward a Better Understanding of the Kingdom

A Good Proposal follows:

From this day forward, all people shall wear laminated statements of faith that shall bear witness to their doctrines, distinctives, and practices. They shall wear them tightly about their necks. And when they meet another person of faith, they shall immediately read his Sheet. And so shall each one perfectly judge the other's share in the Kingdom.

(Context: There has been an ongoing argument, though not really, over homosexuality, though not really, that inspired this piece. If you have several free days, you can read the original articles and the extensive comments for yourself. The latest is here.)

Sunday, January 29, 2006

On Catholicism

As I've mentioned before, I would describe my current faith as being most closely reflected in the activity and beliefs of the group that calls itself emerging - on the conservative end of things, to be sure, but emergent. I've never had anyone approach me about this statement negatively. Maybe it's because of your fear of offending. Maybe it's because you couldn't care less. Maybe it's because you don't really understand what being emerging means. (Maybe it's because you don't read my blog - he he he.) Maybe it's because you know me and you understand my passion for the Lord and are, therefore, content with my movements/adjustments within my faith. I hope your reason is the last in my overwrought list.

But I want to be engaged. I want to be asked questions. So please don't ever feel badly about bringing up a faith issue with me.

With this in mind, I'd like to directly ask you a question about faith, practice, and unity. It follows.

How would you respond if I told you I was deliberating over whether I should join the Roman Catholic Church (RCC)? Would you respond positively? Negatively? What are your arguments in favor of my consideration or against it? How would you respond to me personally, religion aside - in other words, would our relationship change if I became Catholic? Does it even matter to you?

Now, what I'm looking for is detailed (though not necessarily lengthy), rational arguments rather than stereotypical statements like "Pope worship," "Maryolatry," or some such nonsense. I give these examples because I know the majority of my handful of readers are Protestants as I am. I want specifics. If you are Protestant, why are you not Catholic? If you are Catholic, why are you Catholic? (Remember, I'm asking this question based on my deliberation - a Protestant's deliberation - over Catholicism.)

Some of you, I know, feel like you have vested interest in this decision because you are family. I don't mind the expression of those feelings. I welcome them. But I would also like to hear your arguments against or for such a decision rather than some heated, regrettable lashing-out.

I have been up-front about how I feel about unity within the body of Christ on this blog. It is extremely important to me because I believe that it is the heart of God as well as the heart of our being a missional people. In that light, what prevents our unity with the RCC? Is the RCC apostate? Is it a cult? Or is it walking in truth?

I desire for each of you to examine what you believe and why you believe it. So I ask that you take the post seriously. And a thank-you to those of you willing to engage me here.

Now excuse me, but I've got to get to church.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The French Do It Better

On Jamie Dawn's blog she recently asked about movies that we, her readers, enjoy watching over and over again. Of course Star Wars came up. I'm a big fan of Star Wars myself, though I was somewhat disappointed by the writing in the prequels. I do, however, own all the Star Wars movies, and I recently discovered an excellent way to watch the prequels: In French. I don't speak French, and my ignorance of the language increases the entertainment value of these movies (If you are fluent in both Spanish and French, then this method will not work for you.) In French, I can appreciate the movies without getting entangled in all the silly dialogue. After all, I already know what's going on - why be distracted by anachronistic one-liners? Also, the French voices are far more pleasant to listen to than the whining that takes place with many of the English-speaking actors.

I still enjoy the original Star Wars movies in English, but watching the prequels in French is an excellent alternative to dispensing with them altogether. The French just do it better.

Disclaimer: Jar-Jar is annoying as hell in every language.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Too Near

I want to be this man of steel she sees in me. But I am just flesh, just blood, just sinew, just bone. I want to be more.

My voice is shaky. My hands stutter. My heart is double- and triple-minded. My face is cracked. My eyes melt.

My words are arbitrary and violent. Feverish, they wander. They reel and rend and wreck. They lie. They want to be more.

What can I take for my pain? What can I take for hers?

I want to be this steel she sees in me. But I am a child like her. My child is my sister and, Sister, I do not know what to do. Birgitte lies here, silver bow in her hair, breathing raggedly. Diana pursues her. She bends her bow.

I sweep away her yellow hair. I kiss her forehead and my soul is singed. Me, not her. Me for her. Me for her.

She is all softness and silence. He is all fire and stone. All these many years and I do not understand this swan from stone.

Flower from clay.

Juliet from Capulet.

I kiss her forehead and my soul sings out its dirge. It reaches for something wild; it hopes for something tame. Soul and spirit are out of tune. But they play. They play. My face is cracked with the dissonance.

And still she burns. And still she breathes ragged, half-formed breaths. And still she sleeps. She is beautiful - sanctified angel. She is three. She is only three. Let her be. Let her be.

My soul is fire. My spirit is forged. I am steel. Unbending. Unforgiving. Tempered. I want to be more. Just let her be. Oh God, let her be. Look away. Be there and not here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A Prank, Soured

In seventh grade, the year I was homeschooled, we went to Chuck E. Cheese's as a celebration for some accomplishment that I've forgotten. But I remember the Skee-ball and the tickets and the prize that I redeemed with my tickets. You've seen the fake arrows that you can wear on your head, as if your skull has been shot through? This prize was a nail that you could wear on your finger so that it looked as if your finger had been run through. It had some red, token-blood paint on either side of the nail nearest your finger.

When I was redeeming my tickets and I saw this prize, my imagination began to repeatedly puncture my common sense with its wild, thorny possibilities. I held the little prize in its little plastic bag, rubbed it tenderly, muttered, "Precious," under my breath, and hid it in my pocket.

When I got home, I was determined to try out the prank on my sister and my mom. I'd set up a semi-believable, junior-high-school scenario in my head, and so I told my sister that I was going to work on a project out in the garage. Now, I never worked on projects out in the garage, but I didn't give my sister any time to ask questions. I was out the door and into the garage and had a hammer pounding on a board lickety-split. I took the fake nail out of my pocket. I put it on my finger. I hammered several more times. Then with one final strike of the hammer, I screamed loudly and ran inside.

My sister was in the kitchen and she immediately appeared in the kitchen doorway wondering what had happened. I ran up the stairs with a look of abject horror on my face, screaming something about a nail. I waved my hand in front of my sister and she panicked. She screamed and called for my mom. We screamed together.

And then my prank soured. All my imaginings of what might be were crushed under the single, never-before-seen reality of what was. At the moment of near junior-high prank perfection, my mom rushed out of the bedroom wearing only her pants and a bra. My jaw dropped open, my hands came up to shield my eyes from the brassiered juggernaut of motherhood's approach, and the screams of pain became pleads of, "No, no, no! Wait! Wait! It's just fake! It's just fake!"

My mother and my sister were not amused. I was no longer amused. Frankly, I was more than a little disturbed. And the nail, as far as I know, went into the trash, its pranking days over before they had ever really begun.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Oh Well.

Congratulations, Seahawks.

Oh, and congratulations, Steelers.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Queer News

Chad Allen is starring in a movie about missionaries. One of the people he portrays, Steve Saint (a Christian missionary), defends the casting of this homosexual actor for the movie.

End of the Spear, which opens in theaters [today] (Friday, January 20), tells the story of five young Christian missionaries, pilot Nate Saint among them, who were brutally murdered in the jungles of Ecuador 50 years ago by members of the fiercely violent Waodani people. The film goes on to depict how the martyred pilot's son, Steve Saint, who was five years old when his father and friends were slain, returns to the Waodani as an adult and befriends them, even becoming a good friend to one of those involved in the murder of his father and the other missionaries.

Playing the role of both Saints, father and son, in the film is Chad Allen, an openly homosexual stage and screen star who has spoken publicly on same-sex marriage and other 'gay civil rights' issues. In an interview with In L.A. magazine, the actor noted that he has a Catholic Christian background but now embraces a spirituality that encompasses Buddhist, Hindu, and Native American influences as well.

Ack! Surely we're in the last days! The next thing you know they'll be making movies about queer cowboys. Thank goodness Lord of the Rings has already been made, otherwise they'd be casting a queer in the role of Gandalf or an elf or something.

(Forgive the sarcasm. But, personally, the outcry against Allen is unmerited. Agree? Disagree? Why?)

Thursday, January 19, 2006


I'm not much a fan of the indie scene, but Sufjan has caught my ear. Maybe it's the fact that much of his music is "faith-themed" without the didacticism. Perhaps it's that his home state is my home state and he's written an album about it. Possibly it's the sheer artistry. I don't know. But I love Sufjan Stevens. The complexity and audacity of his music - its melancholy, its joy, and its being all things in between - are entrapment.

To be honest, it took a few listens for me to first get into the music (It's that different). But three albums later and I haven't looked back. Curse iTunes for not having his Seven Swans album! Curse iTunes for making it so easy for me to spend the children's food and clothes money on music!

Sufjan is sheer artistry. So if you get a chance, give a listen. (Then again my dad has this illuminating simile concerning opinions and how everyone has one . . .)

. . . . .

Three of my favorite tracks from each of the two albums in his 50 States project:

Greetings from Michigan: The Great Lake State

  • "The Upper Peninsula"
  • "Romulus"
  • "Vito's Ordination Song"

Illinois: Come On Feel the Illinoise

  • "John Wayne Gacy, Jr."
  • "Casimir Pulaski Day"
  • "The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out to Get Us"

And there are so many others. Rock on, Sufjan! Indie on? Whatever.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

She Could Not

Anna is five years old today. Five. I do not want to believe it, but it is true. I wrote a poem about her when she was only three months old. She was only a baby: She could not race around the house like a horse or prowl like a lion. She could not draw so purely, so passionately. She could not sing songs praising the beauty of the evening or of the One who sowed the moon and the stars in the black, fertile soil of Night. She could not tell me, with tears, how she missed her grandparents. She could not gently remind me about the apology I owed her for yelling. She could not swing so riotously, scraping the clouds with her toes. She could not love pizza. She could not play in the bay window, wrapping herself and her sisters in story. She could not reach her arms about me as she would a too-wide tree and say, I love you, Daddy. She could not do any of these things.

But she was Anna - full, even then, of grace.

She watches me write; I watch her be.
Peace newly born,
Clumsy-handed grace,
Bright-eyed, we watch together.

I'm still watching, Anna. I'm still amazed. I'm still in love.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Excreta! Excreta! Read All About It!

As a stay-at-home dad, one of the things I hate is messes. Why? Because I am naturally lazy and it makes work. Because I'd rather be sailing. Because it is the instant interruption of anything I'm doing (blogging, writing, freelancing, cleaning, napping, being fed grapes while being fanned, placing bets, getting pedicures, etc.). It makes me boil. So I get anxious around mealtimes, knowing (the absolute knowledge kind of knowing) that I will have to clean up a spill: cheesy pasta, sugary milk and soggy cereal squishies, juice, peanut butter smears, jelly glops, bread crusts, crumbs, SpaghettiOs, or whatever may be on the menu.

It's so . . . out of control.

Recently my little raccoon has taken to biting. He mainly bites the yellow-haired child - who takes things from him or tries to enforce her queenly rule over him - so my concern is not all that great at this point. All the same, I may lay off reading the Thomas Harris novels to him at bedtime.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

To Be

To breathe a life, to live a breath,
Inhale, in deep, and put off death.
To be, to think, a being thought,
A light and salt, and seeing, sought.

To move in rhythm with the stars,
To dance with Venus and pierce Mars.
To laugh, to play, to be a song,
To do justice, to right what's wrong.

To write a poem poetically,
To run a race heroically.

But I am lost and helpless too,
Though found, though loved, though graced by you.
And I cry, and I hurt (I live).
And I'm breath, and I'm dirt (I live).

Monday, January 09, 2006


It's 70 degrees here today - beautiful. Say Yes! to North Carolina.

On Becoming Different

2005 was a year of spiritual change for me. Changes, for the most part, precipitated by 2004's changes: Losing a semi-lucrative job, gaining a sans-filthy-lucre job (stay-at-home dad), and the ensuing struggle with my identity.

But instead of boring you with all of those sordid details, let me bore you with my ecclesial history instead. I was born and briefly raised Catholic. I left the church due to the many transgressions that I saw within it at the age of 10 (or thereabouts). I joined a non-denominational church, a house church of sorts, that over the course of several years evolved into an Eastern Orthodox church. I left again, and at the age of 13 or 14 began attending another non-/inter-denominational church. The pastor of that church was Dr. Emerson Eggerich - of rising marriage-counseling fame. Rob Bell attended the same church, but as I didn't attend Sunday School, alas, the two of us never met. Our common genius is more plainly seen and understood, I assume, however, at this point. (I so often brush against impending fame and miss it completely - what's up with that? Good news for those of you who almost know me. Bad news for those of you who know me well.)

When I left for college, I attended Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana. It was the home of Larry Crabb (well, not by the time I got there). I did, however, have the privilege of sitting under Ted Hildebrandt who has done some excellent work in the book of Proverbs and Hebrew poetry (Ted is no longer at Grace, but now teaches at Gordon College). I met and married my wife who is the daughter of a Grace Brethren pastor and so my stint with the Grace Brethren Fellowship began. The Grace Brethren distinctives include trine immersion (triple dunking) and three-fold communion (foot washing, eucharist, and love feast).

My wife and I moved to a city without a Grace Brethren church and so we attended Southern Baptist churches for the next 9 years. We then joined and are now a part of an Evangelical Free Church (not, by the way, free of evangelicals) - grace rather than dogmatism - a good place, but not without its faults.

I grew up with a very ecumenical perspective. I understood, and understand, the value of different theological perspectives. I understand some of their strengths and many of their weaknesses. I remain frustrated with their inability to see one another as brothers and sisters in Christ with whom they can have communion.

2005, however, was my discovery of this renegade group of truthless megalomaniacs who called themselves emergent. People who asked questions of my certainties. Hell, people who asked questions just to ask questions - incessant questioning. People who talked of walking as an explication of their doctrine. People who I felt inexorably drawn toward. I sensed a grace about them. I sensed a love for Jesus in their hearts. And so, I stepped tip-toe onto the shore of this Island of Misfits with all of the natives' uncertainties, all of their quirks, and all of their graces. I stepped so lightly that the natives are mostly unaware of my presence.

Just before I was fired, I joined up with four other families to start a church plant. The pastor, a good friend, has shared my journey into emergent-hoodlum-dom, I believe. He was actually three or four steps ahead of me the entire time, but was patient and a good sounding board for some of my uncertainties and questions. He introduced me to Blue Like Jazz.

And finally, I discovered, by others' recommendations, N.T. Wright, who has explained a thing or two to me. I'm exceedingly grateful for the Lord Bishop's work and witness. I have yet to read anything by Brian McLaren, though I have listened to some mp3's. I only know a little about this emerging conversation, quite honestly, but I'm learning.

So I don't fit in with the family as well as I used to. So I'm a little more different in how I think about things. It's not as if I'm a non-conformist or something. I'm just trying to do my best to follow Christ. And while the emerging conversation is probably not my final destination, it's where I find myself today.

That's the generalized and boring version of my journey and it leaves out some of the more intimate details. But if you have any questions about it, let me know. I'll probably not have any answers, probably just an incessant string of annoying questions, but I'll do my best.

Christ the Lord

I finished Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt by Anne Rice on Saturday. Anne Rice is the author who brought us Interview with a Vampire and a myriad of other books that do not often find their way into Christian libraries (though some of them made their way into mine). However, she has returned to her Catholic faith and her newness is beautiful. She remains a talented and poetic writer who has, through this project, garnered even greater respect from me for her and for her obvious talents.

In Out of Egypt, Rice explores the childhood of Jesus. The books opens in Egypt with a seven-year-old Jesus narrating to us the story of himself.

I was moved by Rice's portrayal of Yeshua's humanity. I have grown up viewing Jesus as God. Certainly I knew he was also fully man, but just as certainly I rarely imagined him as such. I have heard Tom Wright discuss Jesus' self-awareness and humanity. Rice, a great fan of Wright's, is accomplishing this re-humanization of Jesus for us through art.

I found Out of Egypt to be an excellent book that was deeply moving.

(For a more in-depth review of this book, see Jamie Arpin-Ricci's review at Emergent Voyageurs.)

Friday, January 06, 2006

There's a Difference

There's a difference between seeking to follow Holy God and seeking to be holy. Isn't there?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Theological Play: Deus ex Machina

Two of my daughters got angel Barbie dolls for Christmas. The daughter who did not receive an angel Barbie, Annie, has been making some fascinating play with them. The other day, She held the angel Barbie high above her head and she shouted over one of her horses, "Angel of God, make her better!" And this morning, while playing with the yellow-haired child, she yelled over a plastic horse that needed to be euthanized, "Fear of God, make her better!"

I truly don't know where she's picking up the Angel-of-God/Fear-of-God language, but it makes me smile. Sure the play's too god-from-a-machine for my taste, but she's young yet.

(By the way, for you doubters out there, both horses were miraculously healed.)

About the Boy

Last night the boy and I went shopping for some personal items (diapers and butt wipes - you know, the stuff we don't want little girls to know about). While at the store, I saw a POOF football and bought it for him. He'd gotten one for Christmas, but it was lost in my parents' house before we left. The boy is, after all, surrounded by pink and Barbie paraphernalia and purses. I almost cheer when he picks up a plastic bat and starts beating his siblings, or me, or the TV - it just seems a relief is all I'm saying. Anyway, this morning the football is lying on the floor, unloved, and the boy is sitting quietly in the living room with his blanket watching Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus with the yellow-haired child. I know, I know, I ought to count my blessings. At least this Barbie movie has swords and griffins and trolls and magic (though it's all still ver pink).

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

It's a New Year, Charlie Brown

I will be blogging less in the coming weeks. I know, I know, grab the tissue box. I've got freelance work that I have to attend to and I am also trying to be more intentional, more serious, about my non-blog writing.

My family and I met with Alison (I went to school with her and her husband) and her family on Christmas Eve and had an excellent time catching up and talking and eating. We talked about vocations and writing and how important it is to take seriously the tasks we believe are God-prods. I've been chewing on it since, mostly because I've been chewing on it for some time. Then, hearing a friend verbalize her feelings - some of the same thoughts of my own heart - was, well, confirmation, for lack of a better word. All that to say that I want to buckle down and write more.

Speaking of writing and writers, I just finished two Donald Miller books, Searching for God Knows What and Through Painted Deserts, that I've been reading over the past few days. Both are signed books my brother picked up at a Donald Miller sighting/signing in the Akron area. My brother is giving one to me, but I'm not sure which one I want to keep. I have Don's Blue Like Jazz as well (though not signed) and I believe it still remains my favorite. I love the language in Deserts, however, as well as the theologizing of Searching. But I think I love the language of Deserts more than the theologizing of Searching. I'll have to try to get out of my brother which book he prefers and then take that one. (He he he.) I mean "take the other" of course.

Miller's a year younger than me and so, obviously, I hate him as he has published three popular books. Only kidding, of course, Don. No hard feelings, man. Keep up the great work.

It's late again and here I am blogging. It's a love-hate thing. I'm going to be hard-pressed to keep pace with the pride tomorrow. Laura has a work day and so I have the distinct privilege of having all four kids with me. Life is grand. Can you feel it?

Any resolutions you'd like to share with a zeros-and-ones friend? Here are a few of mine:

  1. Lose weight, of course: Re-instituting the walking habit and eating healthier. (For some reason, I thought the psi on this tire was less than it is. My bad.) We're vacationing with my family at Nag's Head in July and it would be nice to be able to lie on the beach without a troop of granolas trying to roll me back into the ocean.
  2. Write, write, write. And write. I want to get past the fear and do the good, hard work this year.
  3. Become more industrious around the house. (Don't share this one with my wife, please.) I want to enjoy the satisfaction of winning the fight against house-entropy by actually beginning to fight.
  4. Love more, do more, be more. North Carolina's state motto is "To be rather than to seem." I want that to be true of me, and I want that truth to be displayed in ever-increasing love of God and people and creation. Sounds sappy, but it's true. It starts (and most days it ends) with wiping runny noses, powdering monkey butts, and doing laundry.

Grace and peace to the posse. And to auld lang syne, this one's for you. Cheers.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Sugar and Spice

This morning, Laura was writing some school notes in her notebook when Sophie, our oldest, came up to her and asked, "Mommy, are you writing in your diarrhea?"

Meanwhile, I was run out of our bathroom by the yellow-haired child in her footed, Hello Kitty pajamas. As she peeled off the warm, powder-blue pj's, she demanded that I Get Out so she could use her toilet.