Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas!

There won't be much posting around here for a little while...

Have a blessed time with friends and family this Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Like a Mockingbird, Part I: Introduction

This is the first of a three-part series I hope to publish over the next week or so. Originally, it was one huge post which has subsequently been broken apart, reassembled, and is slowly being built back up again.

Since I quote at length from multiple authors during this series (always linking to the original post or article), I have titled it "Like a Mockingbird," since I am really only elaborating or refining my thoughts on what others have already said. This comes from the chorus of the title track from Derek Webb's new album, which I have been enjoying over the past week or so (thanks to an early shipment available at AP's Nashville Behold the Lamb of God show):

'Cause I can't afford to pay
For most of what I say
So its a lucky thing
That the truth's public domain...

And I am like a Mockingbird,
I've got no new song to sing.
I am like an amplifier,
I just tell you what I've heard.
I'm like a Mockingbird.

Part I
The news that some churches will not be holding services on Christmas Day has gotten plenty of action around the blogosphere, so I won't add to the discussion with more of the same. Instead, I'd like to focus on some thoughts that have arisen on "how we do church" from the comments of an insightful post concerning the aforementioned issue.

John Muether cemented several thoughts that have beem simmering in my brain over the last several weeks:

...I believe that American Protestants have not given sufficient attention to the question of the appropriate scale for "doing church." If church means ambitious age-segregated programing, worship bands, drama teams, food courts after services, etc., then of course the bigger the better. But if church is the ministry of the Word and Sacrament, and pastoral oversight where ministers really get to know their flock, then it is hard to imagine doing that well when membership exceeds 250.

I envision these posts less a discussion about quantity (megachurch vs. church-around-the-corner, etc.) as much as it is about quality. Although, as Muether mentioned above, he imagines it difficult to do church well in a large congregation, I would think it might be possible to have pastoral oversight in a large church if there was a strong, accountable, communicative group of elders. However, I agree that scale, as he says, does matter, so the suggestions I propose might be easier to implement in a smaller church, though not impossible in a larger congregation.

The spark: A few weeks ago, I first came across a post from Real Live Preacher called "If We Could Do Church." He muses on a hypothetical "ideal church situation." Though I disagree with several things mentioned in that article, I do find two of his ideas very striking, and in light of Muether's point above, I will consider these issues over the next two posts: community and image.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

It's a Lark

How could I forget about Lark News? I finally read the December 2005 edition, and it's pretty good!

I especially liked the articles on "Most Relevant Pastor in America" and "Youth Groups Forget Meaning of Names."


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Forbes Fictional 15

This list of the Forbes Fictional 15 is mildly amusing. It's good to see Mr. Burns get the recognition he deserves, and his more detailed profile is, in a word, excellent.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Plundered again

Our office "Holiday Luncheon" was today, and we had a white elephant gift swap (after a tremendously tasty meal, I might add). This year, the white elephant rules limited gifts to new or used DVD's. (Appropriately, I was able to re-gift the same DVD I won in last year's not-limited-to-DVDs office swap). There were some decent films, including Monty Python's Meaning of Life and Spaceballs (the latter of which we already have), and then there were some real stinkers (I've never even heard of Mel Gibson's Tim!). After some treachery, I was able to steal a brand new copy of Pirates of the Caribbean -- from my boss, no less! But, it was not meant to be. Another co-worker wrangled the film from me just a few minutes later. Arrr.

I did end up with a copy of Elf, which isn't too bad, I guess. At least it wasn't A Gumby Christmas.

Glad to be at work!

Because at least the office has power.

(And I even made it to work wearing matching clothes.)

Friday, December 09, 2005

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like ...

... calories. Christmas treats (cookies, brownies, other sugar-filled dainties) are omnipresent at work, home, church, etc these days. And it's just going to keep getting better, by which I mean worse, over the next few weeks. I wonder if Santa can fit a treadmill down our chimney.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

For Your Listening Ears

Music to listen to as you trim the tree or make Christmas treats.

I know there are probably thousands of holiday CD's to choose from. I'd like to suggest three of my favorites (Gaines might add both volumes of Merry Axemas: A Guitar Christmas, but sadly, they don't quite make my top picks. Though they are certainly rockin'.)

1. Andrew Peterson's Behold the Lamb of God: The True Tall Tale of the Coming of Christ.

Ever since I heard the beginnings of this album in the form of a few original songs pieced together with some classic Christmas tunes played by Andrew and his friends from Silers Bald back in December of 2000, I've been in awe. It never really feels like the Christmas season is upon us until I experience this performance (I usually try to ignore the store displays). The CD itself cannot capture the symphonic goodness of twenty something instrumentalists and vocalists performing together live at the Ryman, but it comes pretty close. Naming a favorite song? Nigh impossible. "Behold the Lamb" is a complete musical, and should be listened to as such, from start to finish. Whenever we see it performed live, I almost cringe when people clap between songs because of how well it flows from one to the next. Trekking up to Nashville for AP's Christmas Concert has become an annual Redd family tradition. Highlights: "Labor of Love, "Matthew's Begats," and epsecially "So Long, Moses," because of the thrilling list of OT prophecies fulfilled by Christ's coming.

2. Sufjan Steven's Hark! Songs for Christmas Volumes 1, 2, and 3

I include these as one album because they are actually 3 EP's that Sufjan made for friends and family and released on the internet, and the songs all fit on one CD. It inclides a mix of reworked carols and hymns as well as some wacky and wonderful original tunes. Gaines' especially enjoys "Come On! Let's Boogie to the Elf Dance!"

3. Your King Has Come

This is a compilation by some of my favorite artists, including, but not limited to: Sandra McCracken, Derek Webb, Jill Phillips, Matthew Perryman Jones, and Andrew Osenga. My favorite song on this collection is the first track, "Come Thou Long Expected Jesus." Sandra's and Derek's voices bring out the anticipation of advent beautifully. Many of the featured artists also have worked together on the Indelible Grace albums in which they rework old hymns. Indelible Grace IV: Beams of Heaven, which was released a few weeks ago, includes a song that I would consider appropriate to the season, and so I include it here as an honorable mention: "Who is This?"

Album Honorable Mention: Handel's Messiah. I only have a tape of this, but it stirs my heart every time hear it. My freshman roommate in college took me to a symphony performance of this once and it was the highlight of that Christmas season. (This was before Andrew began performing his musical, of course!)

Happy Listening!

Monday, December 05, 2005


Worthy reads for a rainy Monday:

Travis is working on a series about "Christian theology as Story-Telling," and his latest installment has some good points on the pitfalls of typical methods of Biblical interpretation.

Ben Witherington takes aim at churches who are closing their doors on Christmas Sunday.

And, finally, "You Might Be Emerging If ..." -- even though it has been making the rounds, it is still pretty funny. (Courtesy of mark or Alastair or wherever I saw it first.)

UPDATE: The iMonk has posted his thoughts on Witherington's post, as well as on some subsequent discussion at the BHT and elsewhere. Be sure to check out "How the MegaChurch Stole Christmas (Day Worship)."

Friday, December 02, 2005

Advent II

Check out this entire blog devoted to Advent, courtesy of the folks at the Boar's Head Tavern.

They posted this wonderful explanation by Doug Wilson of why we should celebrate the season with the stuff of earth-- holly and ivy, candles and cinnamon sticks, stockings, peppermint stick houses, pumpkin pies and Christmas lights. He strikes a Biblical balance between spiritualizing the season and getting caught up in the materialism so prevalent in our society.

Speaking of materialism...

Though this post was inspired by Thanksgiving, the questions she asks are a good reminder to me that I do not need everything I want for Christmas, though I very much might like it. Hence, my consumeristic post below is appropriately titled. I need nothing.

So many people are in need around the world and here in the U.S. If you wish to opt out of buying presents this year, by all means give to some worthy organizations on behalf of someone you love. Some of my favorites are Compassion International (the letters you write will mean so much more than the few dollars every month, and the ones you receive are even better!) and Desire Street Ministries.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Don Miller Double Shot

Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughs on Christian SpiritualityI've heard a lot of noise over the last year or so about Don Miller's Blue Like Jazz, and I've seen quite a diverse range of opinions. Some have hailed it as one of the best books they've ever read. Others have praised Miller's ability to raise important questions that Christians might often fail to address. On the flipside, many critics have vilified the book's lack of theological precision, often by employing that catch-all smear (in certain circles, at least) "Emergent." The author's frequent criticism of Republican politics have certainly not endeared him to ultra-conservative Christians, either. Now, I've learned the hard way not to accept a critique of an author without actually reading primary sources. And, I had actually read and enjoyed Miller's Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance a few years back. So, I decided to pick up a copy of Blue Like Jazz to see what was really going on.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. Miller writes well, his prose being both engaging and conversational. I also enjoyed his sometimes-sarcastic and usually-bizarre sense of humor (that probably says a lot about me). As other reviews have noted, by the end of the book I felt like Don is someone with whom I'd like to sit and talk about various and sundry topics. Not that we'd agree on everything, but we'd probably have a good time. The book is hard to categorize, but it's basically a memoir of Miller's developing understanding of his Christian faith. At times the flow of the book is disjointed, but then again, this keeps with the tone of the book: I doubt Don would give his life story in a single narrative if we were talking at the pub/coffeehouse/IHOP. If there is a single underlying theme of the book, it is probably the realization that Christianity is an active and multi-faceted relationship with God, not to be confused with a mere external legalism.

Miller brings out many good things throughout the book, including a strong emphasis on God's grace. The book begins with his understanding that life is often hard and full of bad stuff, and Don quickly realizes that he is part of the problem. This affirmation of the world's fallen state leads into explorations of how Christians can mistakenly identify the Christian subculture as God's solution to creation's problems, and here Miller offers his own experiences growing up in a quasi-legalistic church environment. Ultimately, he struggles under the weight of his convictions (many of them self-imposed) and awakens to the reality of God's grace in spite of man's imperfection. Miller is very candid about his shortcomings, and this makes grace shine all the more. Of course, his spiritual journey doesn't end here, and the book relates a great number of other good observations on Christian faith, such as the need for a sense of wonder in our worship of God, as well as the absolute necessity for believers to live in community with each other.

I did have a few quibbles, though. As mentioned, the book tends to ramble at times. Also, Miller can sometimes overplay his criticisms of the Christian subculture. There is certainly a need for critical examination at times. But on occasion, Miller's slams (especially his political ones) seem incongruous with the immediate context of the story. In a few places, he focuses on instances where his non-Christian friends have treated him in a much more "loving" manner than those within the church, and he makes some good points about how God's common grace is manifested in believers and non-believers alike. Granted, these anecdotes should definitely serve as an exhortation for Christians to examine whether we are really loving others, especially our brothers and sisters in the faith (and there's always room for improvement). But I think Miller downplays (he does acknowledge it, though) the serious repercussions of unbelief, even among those who show love better than believers do. There are probably some other gripes, but overall, they would not prevent me from recommending the book to others. My friend's pastor often gives this book to college students to read, if only to "stir the pot" and get them thinking about the issues Miller raises. I think that's probably the book's greatest strength: Miller may not have the best answers (I'm sure he wouldn't claim to), but the questions he raises along his journey are ones worth discussing.

Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen MaintenanceAfter finishing Blue Like Jazz, I felt compelled to re-read Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance as a refresher. As I had remembered, this is a pretty good book, and overall, I like it a bit more than BLJ. PATAOVM details Don's roadtrip with his friend Paul as they journey from Texas to Oregon. The narrative of the book is much more structured than BLJ, as it gives a linear re-telling of their trip interspersed with Don's philosophical musings on the people and places they encounter along the way. I think Don has some really good insights on the importance of truly knowing God and seeing Him at work in all circumstances. Plus, a major part of their trip is a visit to the Grand Canyon, and that's always pretty cool. Miller has released a re-edited version of the book under the title Through Painted Deserts, which I have not read. My understanding is that the revision contains some additional reflections on the trip, as well as some prose and anecdotes that are less "sanitized" than the original. Maybe I'll have time to read the new one. Some day.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Good post by Jeff Meyers on the meaning of Advent, and how churches can better celebrate it (and Christmas). Great stuff.

Monday, November 28, 2005

All I Want for Christmas

On a lighter note...

Whenever someone asks me for a list, I usually have a poor track record of knowing what I want for Christmas. Gone are the times when I could sit down and flip through the HUGE Sears Holiday Catalog and pick out a long list of things for Santa.

To alleviate this problem this year, I've been storing items away in my memory (and on this post) in the hopes that it will help some weary family member with ideas for this year's holiday. (Friends are always welcome to buy things for us, but certainly not obligated.)

1. Anything from my Amazon Wish List. (A cop-out, totally, but it keeps growing every year so it never hurts to plug the books, CDs, and DVDs. Besides, shopping online is so much better than going to the mall...)

2. A double-duty cake plate/punch bowl. I've wanted one for a while, and know they are out there because a freind recently received one at a wedding shower. This one is by Williams-Sonoma.

3. A blue teapot. For the practical purpose of having hot water for tea/hot chocolate on the stove without having to heat it up in the microwave. Also for making Russian tea so the house will smell all Christmas-y. And I like the whistle. Oxo Good Grips Uplift in Dark Blue is one option, other brands with similar styles can be found almost anywhere.

4. Dansko shoes. So far, my favorite are the Professional Style Clogs in Cafe Embroidered Felt (pictured to the right). For casual Fridays and weekends, mostly. I like the feminine details combined with comfort. I've heard how addictive these shoes are, so I'll probably eventually want a second pair, like the Fran in Green Suede Leather.

5. Independent Music. Buy straight from the artist! I've wanted these for a while: Sandra McCracken's Best Laid Plans, Jill Phillips' Kingdom Come, Andrew Osenga's Photographs, and David Wilcox's Into the Mystery.

5. (On the pricier and harder to get side...) A pretty teapot-- to put the tea in when I have company over for a tea party (it has happened!). It's Wedgewood Strawberry & Vine, and was our "casual china" pattern. Why I never put this on my wedding registry I'll never know... I just discovered S&V was discontinued this past January, so I'm glad I have extra place settings! If you can find this, I'd be grateful! (I don't think I have the cream/sugar, vegetable bowls, or coffeepot in this either...just a heads up.)

6. Another pricier item, which is really for both of us but is something I'm very eager to have -- a digital camera. I like this one, but wouldn't mind the opportunity to shop around a bit more...

7. And as always, gift certificates for clothes and accessories from J.Jill, Talbots Petite, TJMaxx or Target, are also nice.
(My usual favorite, Petite Sophisticate, is closing. So sad!)

Well, I hope this has helped someone out there...I think shopping would be so much easier if everyone had online wishlists. God bless their inventor, whoever he (or she) may be!

The Legacy of a Saint

I began writing this reflection as soon as I heard the news; however, I waited to put it on the blog. Gaines' much more eloquent post rightly appears (and should be read) first.

In our kitchen sits a small, sturdy, rectangular wooden stool. It is crafted well. It has survived three years of our standing on it to reach things from the top shelf, of holding heavy sacks of groceries, and of being used as a support for oversize boxes filled with food and supplies for numerous Apartment Life events. No matter what its use or location in our home, I will never be able to look at it without remembering its maker.

There are quite a few kitchens in the Atlanta area (and in parts beyond) that contain one of these stools. Mr. Tommy built them for perhaps a hundred or more couples as a wedding gift. I always smile when I see one in a friend or acquantance's house, because it is a tangible reminder that they, too, have been touched by his love.

His obituary tells me that his battle with cancer began long before I knew him (9 and 1/2 years ago), but the active lifestyle he and his wife led until shortly before his death told me otherwise. My history with them only extends about four years, since I only got to know them after Gaines and I began dating. However, I distinctly remember meeting them at the very first WMBC Fall retreat I attended, in 2000. Then, when I began visiting Gaines on the weekends not long after that, I remember being impressed both with their generosity and kindness to me, a virtual stranger, and with their stamina. For an older couple, they always seemed to stay up late! He and his wife used to walk 3+ miles a day in their hilly neighborhood and had a perpetually busy schedule, often visiting friends and family, as well as elderly members of the church who were too ill to attend. He always seemed healthy for his age, defying the best doctors' predictions, and continued to share Christ's word through his faithful service to our little church and with the Gideons. He even helped out with church renovation projects--the most recent in my memory being the heavy labor of tearing down a wall sometime last year. I have fond memories of dinners with them, even in these last few months, where Tommy insisted that we clear the table to play dominoes, even when he was feeling weak. In short, he was a walking miracle.

For a while now, our small group from church has used our Thursday night meeting time to visit with them at their home. One thing Tommy loved to do was sing, and so each week we would gather with some tattered blue hymnals to sing songs of praise to our Lord, many of which were unfamiliar to us young folks. No matter how many times we stumbled over the words or went off-key, their joy at hearing the old gospel songs sung again erased any lack of experience, skill or talent we might posess. Those hymn-singings became the highlight of my weeks. Though we were attempting to share some inkling of the generosity which they have shown to us, we were overcome with the hospitaliy and joy they displayed in the face of death. We weren't ministering to him, he was ministering to us!

A month ago, we thought we would be having his funeral, but when he bounced back the next week, we were greeted by a veritable feast of buttered biscuits and his wife's joyful exclamation, "There's no sick person in this house!" In the midst of his pain, Tommy had prayed to go Home, but if it was his Father's will he would like to stay on just a little longer to minister to others. And minister he did. Doctors, nurses, relatives and visitors could all share some way God has touched their lives through him, especially in the weeks before his death. Our friends wrote beautiful posts about his legacy.

The plethora of young couples at our church has meant that Tommy spent hundreds of hours in his workshop crafting each stool. However, these pieces of lacquered wood are not his real legacy. His example of a Christ-like life and his constant proclamation of the Gospel story as a preacher, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and surrogate grandparent to so many will survive long after his wooden stools turn to dust. I'd like to think, though, that on the day in which all things in earth and heaven will be redeemed, Tommy's wooden stools will be among those works of art displayed. Not necessarily for their craftsmanship or intrinsic, simplistic beauty, but because each was made for the glory of the Creator.

May the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace and rise in glory.

In Memoriam

The Sunday before Thanksgiving, we went to a funeral for a dear old man from our church. I wanted to write out a few more thoughts, for posterity or something, but I realized that these reflections would need to be framed by a fair amount of context. So, again, at the risk of being autobiographical ...

I started at Georgia Tech in the Fall of 1995. Having grown up in church, I knew that I needed to find a place to worship. New to Atlanta, I had no idea where to start. After a fairly uncomfortable experience with a cult-like group my first week at school, I ran into some folks from First Baptist Atlanta (they were much nicer than the cult guys). Around the same time, the college pastor back home put me in touch with Campus Crusade, and the first people I met from that group happened to worship at First Baptist. So, the first church I visited in Atlanta was FBA, which was conveniently located mere blocks from Georgia Tech.

Attending a Baptist church was fairly uncharted territory to me. I grew up in the United Methodist Church. (As a sidenote: I discovered in college that the UMC has a reputation for being a bunch of flaming liberals. Amazingly, I never knew this while growing up! I think my ignorance is due to the fact that my parents' church is part of the conservative Confessing Movement within the UMC.) I had visited a few Baptist churches before, and Dad grew up Baptist, but mostly, all I really knew about Baptists was what I heard in jokes told from Methodist pulpits. But, the unknown turned out to be pretty cool. The college department at FBA was really big and very diverse -- now, they truly did have a good program going, but the walking-distance proximity to campus certainly didn't hurt! Charles Stanley's preaching was pretty good, and there were plenty of great things going on within the life of the church (including a vibrant outreach to internationals). Somehow, I managed to get involved playing guitar with the college worship team, which was also a good experience. So maybe this Baptist thing wasn't such a big deal.

Then it happened. By the time I arrived, FBA had already opened a campus in the northern suburbs of Atlanta. Dr. Stanley began splitting his time between the two locations, and then he began preaching exclusively up north. Like most urban areas, the population of Atlanta had shifted away from downtown, and FBA ultimately decided to abandon the downtown location during my sophomore year. Although the new site made more sense for most of the congregation, the college ministry was left in a crunch. We had always realized that the closeness to Tech (as well as other nearby campuses) provided a great opportunity, and leaving did not seem like the best option. Unbeknownst to me, key folks within the college group were already scouting out the area in search of a potential new church home.

One morning, the college department had a special guest from a nearby church. His name was Tommy, and immediately, he seemed like a pretty interesting guy. He recounted his experiences from the Navy during WWII, and how they led to his conversion to Christ. His church had stayed downtown in the midst of the exodus to the suburbs, and he had a tremendous passion to see a Christian presence at Georgia Tech and the surrounding area. His church was also dying out, quite literally. He extended an invitation to the college students to become part of his church once the doors of FBA's downtown location closed for the last time. Most of us took him up on the offer.

West Merritts Baptist Church was like nothing I had experienced before. Despite the denominational differences, First Baptist Atlanta was very much like my parents' church: it was a megachurch, complete with a semi-famous preacher, televised services, and no shortage of activities, ministries and outreaches. WMBC, however, was tiny and traditional. I'm not even sure where to start in describing it. Maybe with the name, which didn't make any sense, as the church was on State Street. (I later found out that the previous building was a couple of miles away, on Merritts Avenue.) Just prior to the influx of the college group, the congregation consisted of a couple dozen or so elderly individuals, with a handful of younger folks thrown in the mix. Worship music was accompanied by either the organ or piano. The entire building was fairly simple, and the sanctuary was sparsely-adorned, although a copy of the old-school "Church Covenant" was prominently displayed. The existing congregation had unwavering commitments to several Baptist distinctives (official or otherwise), including baptism by full immersion only and total abstinence from drinking. Any form of dancing was also viewed with suspicion, if not complete disapproval. Talk about culture shock.

However, my initial impression to WMBC was immensely positive. Tommy and his wife Marlene were just two of the many surrogate grandparents who warmly received our ragtag group of college students. To ease the transition, our college ministry director stepped up as the interim pastor of WMBC, and the director of international ministries joined the staff of WMBC to continue outreach to the campuses. First Baptist blessed the transition and provided a great deal of resources to help us get started. These were not without peril, though. I very distinctly remember how scandalous the introduction of a drum kit to the sanctuary was. But overall, the existing WMBC congregation was willing to adapt to many of the changes that we brought into the mix. And to our credit (at the risk of bragging), the worship leaders tried to strike a balance by keeping many of the older hymns beloved by the congregation, while still playing songs for college students. We were doing "blended worship" way before it became trendy!

I am still impressed by how willing Tommy and Marlene (and others, too) were to accommodate us. Not only did they tolerate these new guitar-driven songs, they learned them and sang them with gusto. They truly supported the mission of the church, even when it challenged their preferences. Out of their love for the students, they embraced many changes. Yet, and I appreciate this more and more now, they were steadfast on certain issues of utmost importance. The Gospel of Jesus was the core thing around which everything else must revolve, and the Bible provided the standard by which all things must be evaluated. These foundational tenets were not up for debate. Tommy supported evangelistic efforts in countless ways, and one of his sons is a missionary to places as remote as Tanzania and the Ukraine. Tommy was also a longtime member of the Gideons, driven by a desire to get God's word into as many hands as possible. Even in areas where he drew the line differently than others, it was refreshing to see a man willing to stand firm on principles rather than surrender to a fuzzy form of "tolerance." Tommy knew how to distinguish between beliefs that were open for discussion and ones that were necessarily inflexible.

Tommy loved his church. When the church moved from Merritts Avenue back in the 60's, Tommy was part of the planning and construction of the new building. He had over 40 years of PERFECT Sunday School attendance. He served as a deacon (which, in Baptist-speak, really means "elder") for over fifty years, as chairman for almost all of them. Pretty much every time the church doors were open, Tommy was there. He and Marlene also faithfully visited the infirmed and shut-in from our congregation, often planning their vacations to incorporate visitations into the itinerary. For a few years in the recent past, we referred to our church as "West Marrieds," and Tommy and Marlene certainly went to a lot of weddings in that span. Countless activities in the life of the church were graced by Tommy and Marlene's attendance.

There are many other aspects of Tommy's life that I could recount. Like the many church work days (before his health really began to decline) where he worked so hard that he made the college kids look like lazy bums. Or the way he and Marlene would keep you at their house until midnight, playing dominoes after dinner. Or how he would always proclaim that "the good guys won yesterday" during Sunday morning announcements following a Tech football victory. Or the hand-made stools that he built for each couple from our church as a wedding gift. Or how he loved to play golf (even in his declining health, he managed to play a round when he and Marlene came down to south Alabama for our wedding three years ago). Or how he loved to sing about his Savior, with visits to Tommy and Marlene's frequently involving the breaking-out of their old set of hymnals.

The list of my own recollections could keep going, and that would not even scrape the surface of the memories held by the great number of folks who knew Tommy much longer and more intimately than I. His funeral truly was the celebration of a life well-lived in God's service, and the ceremony was overflowing with family and friends who have been deeply impacted through the years. It was also a proclamation of the Gospel that Tommy so deeply believed and lived. (Tommy had even expressed his wishes that his funeral take place on a Sunday, and in God's providence, it did.) As our pastor remarked, part of our mourning at Tommy's passing comes from the knowledge that we can no longer make new memories with him. However, we do not grieve as those without hope, and instead, we entrust his soul to his Creator, who will one day make all things new. Until then, our memories of Tommy serve to encourage us and provide us with an example of someone who truly sought to honor his Lord in every aspect of life.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Mr. Zubble

Like something out of the wizarding world, a persistent U.S. toy inventor has created disappearing colored bubbles. The story of his 11-year quest is the most compelling science-related article I've read in a while. It seems like such a simple concept, and yet, a whole new form of dyes needed to be created for his concept to be realized.

Hat tip to Amy Loves Books for the link.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Cool Sufjan interview

This is terrible ...

Burlap to Cashmere guitarist brutally beaten

Addendum: According to cousin Steven Delopoulos, Johnny seems to be recovering well, and so far, doctors are hopeful that he will not have permanent damage to his brain.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Weekend of Busy-ness (yet again)

Where to even start recounting all the events of the weekend?

I already mentioned the amazing GT victory over No. 3 Miami. Also on Saturday, Auburn claimed yet another Iron Bowl win after soundly throttling Alabama. It was a good weekend for college football. (If only Kentucky could have pulled out a surprise against the Dawgs ... yeah, right.)

While I was watching football, Allison was serving as team sponsor at a high school academic team competition.

Friday night we went with a big group to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. We had a lot of fun, of course. The jury is still out as to whether this installment was better than the previous one, but it certainly was fantastic and worthy of another viewing (hopefully in IMAX this time!). Expect more thoughts on this.

I finished reading Blue Like Jazz, and overall, I enjoyed it. I guess you can expect some more thoughts on that, too.

Finally, the entire weekend was overshadowed by the passing of a dear old gentleman from our church. Although we had been expecting it for quite some time, that anticipation does little to ease the hurt of the actual loss. The funeral was yesterday, and it was a powerful time of tears and laughter, reflections on the life of a remarkable saint, and the proclamation of the hope that we have in Christ. I'll definitely have some more to add on this, as well.

So, I guess this post is really more of a placeholder for things to come. I'd better get blogging!

How to Beat the No. 3 Team in the Nation

1. Sack their QB seven (7!) times.
2. Allow them only 1 of 14 attempted 3rd-down conversions.
3. Hold their offense to only 30 yards rushing.
4. Connect with Calvin Johnson for some RIDICULOUS pass completions. (Photos not yet available.)

Read more:

Yellow Jackets Stun No. 3 Hurricanes, 14-10

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Pop Quiz

Question: What's almost as good as Wednesday Division-wide Thanksgiving Lunch?

Answer: Casual Thursday and Thanksgiving Leftovers! Mmm, leftovers. Interview with Derek Webb

Part II

(And don't miss Part I.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Oh Illinois, Illinois, Illi- has released its various "Best of 2005" lists, including the Top 100 Editors' Picks for albums released this year. So what do the folks at Amazon think was the best album released in 2005?

Illinois, by Sufjan Stevens, of course.

I agree 100%.

Tim Challies Interviews Derek Webb

Part One (of Two)

Very interesting stuff. In this installment, Derek talks about his new album and its emphasis on issues of social justice and the like -- issues that he believes are far too often ignored by conservative Christian folks.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

sdrawkcaB gniyarP

Praying BackwardsSeveral months ago, I picked up a copy of Bryan Chapell's Praying Backwards, largely due to a glowing review by Tim Challies, who endorsed it as one of his best reads of the year. At the risk of being autobiographical, I must admit that disciplined prayer has never been one of my strong suits. So I bumped this book up to the top of my ever-fluctuating reading list, and I certainly have not regretted it!

Subtitled "Transform Your Prayer Life By Beginning In Jesus' Name," the book offers the simple-sounding premise that our prayers should start with Jesus, instead of merely tacking His name onto the end as a sort of rubber stamp that legitimizes our petitions (regardless of what they are). Unlike many books on prayer, Praying Backwards does not rely on a gimmick or pattern. Although Chapell uses the "backwards" motif to grab the reader's attention, he makes it clear early in the book that a mere re-ordering of words is not what he is advancing. Rather, he offers a study of many of the Scriptural teachings on prayer, specifically on what it means to pray "in Jesus' name." Chapell, who currently serves as President of Covenant Theological Seminary, writes in clear-yet-challenging prose, teaching through several key passages on prayer. He also brings in a great deal of personal application, drawing from his years of pastoral experience.

I really enjoyed the book. Chapell does a great job of explaining that "praying in Jesus' name" ultimately entails a desire to see Christ magnified in all things. This necessarily means that our own desires are subordinated to the greater glory of Christ. Yet, Chapell also makes it clear that Christians are encouraged to bring their petitions before the LORD persistently without fear or doubt, because our Father really and truly cares for His children. Even when we don't know what to ask for or how to articulate our prayers, the Spirit meets us in our weakness to help us pray, as He conforms us more and more into God's will. The chapters on discernment of God's will are excellent, as well, and Chapell teaches that our prayers on the matter should be "fenced in" by two main principles, that of righteousness and of Christian prudence. Obviously, we should never pray for that which God has condemned in His Word, and our discernment of God's will in a given situation should reflect this. But wisdom, Chapell maintains, also dictates how we should discern God's will. An action may be permissible (i.e., not condemned as unrighteous) yet unwise. Our prayers for discernment should apprehend how our potential actions will impact ourselves, effect others, and ultimately, how they will glorify Christ. These chapters were very good food for thought, and definitely a welcome change from the popular teachings on "knowing God's will" that are too-often steeped in superstition or pure subjectivism.

Again, this is a great book, and a valuable resource on prayer. I read the book alone, but Chapell has structured it such that it is easily adapted to a group Bible Study setting, with each chapter containing summary of its key point as well as questions for further discussion. Regardless of how you read it, the book will surely be a great encouragement.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Gridiron Weekend

Since Allison and I were both pretty sick this weekend, I ended up vegetating and watching more college football than usual on Saturday.

Unfortunately, Tech couldn't pull out the win against Virginia. After a miserable opening quarter, the Jackets actually managed to build up some momentum heading into and out of half-time. But it would not be enough. Even worse, our remaining schedule has us facing off against both Miami and Georgia. Well, at least we're already bowl eligible ...

On the other hand, Auburn eeked out a win over the University [sic] of Georgia. It is an indisputable fact that a Dawg loss is almost as good as a Tech win, so the weekend wasn't a total bust, especially since Auburn was the one who beat them.

And rounding out the action, Alabama lost to LSU. Normally, an Alabama loss would be the cause of celebration. However, in a rare occurence, Auburn fans were actually cheering for the Tide this weekend, to help their chances of playing for the SEC Championship.

Appropriately, this weekend we also watched Friday Night Lights, a decent flick about high school football in Texas. Not too shabby. Although, I think I need about a week off from football now.

Friday, November 11, 2005


The trunk capcity of a 2001 Honda Civic = 100+ Krispy Kreme Fundraiser Dozen Boxes

I had a delicious aroma in my car this morning as I travelled very early to deliver 1200 doughnuts for a school fundraiser for the Freshman Class. Of course, I had to buy one of my own. The "Hot Doughnuts Now" sign was on-- how could I have refused? If not, the 35 minute traffic-filled drive to school would've been even more torturous.

However, I cannot say it would be any worse than the situation I am in now. The class officers are selling them both before and after school, so there are quite a few left over. Currently, I have 37 dozen in a cart in front of my desk, and we're technically not supposed to sell them during the day. Ah, the agony. At least my classroom has a uniquely enjoyable odor today of fried dough and sugar (as opposed to the usual musk of mildew and gym socks).

Update: Due to a rash of near-doughnut thefts, the boxes have been securely locked in my cabinet (after a bit of rearranging.) Sadly, the smell no longer lingers in the room. But their magnetic presence did distract from both teaching and learning, so now they have been put out of sight all shall be well.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


As Allison mentioned, my birthday was Saturday. And what a whirlwind of activity ensued! Never a stranger to procrastination, I waited until the last possible date to renew my auto tag without fear of late fees. Plus, I had the added bonus of renewing my drivers license this year. So I spent most of Saturday morning in various lines. The lesson to be learned: when the state sends you multiple letters encouraging the use of their online renewal services, TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THEM! I barely got back home in time to change for the wedding we attended at noon.

That evening, we caught the late show at Eddie's Attic. As a search of our archives will reveal, Team Redd absolutely loves heading down to Decatur to visit this great little music venue. Saturday evening was no exception, as Eddie's had Glen Phillips and Bill Mallonee in an amazing double bill. The opener, Craig Cardiff, was not bad either, but he did a very brief set to make way for the onslaught of amazing acoustic music.

I really love Toad the Wet Sprocket, and I've also enjoyed Glen's post-Toad endeavors, but this was the first time I've actually seen him in concert. I was actually a little worried about being able to see him, since there were some tall people standing in front of us (we were sitting at the bar), and Glen is somewhat of a wee man (prior to adopting the Toad moniker, the band played under the name "Three Young Studs and Glen."). Fortunately, our view was not terribly obstructed and fun was had by all. Glen threw a few Toad songs ("Dam Would Break," "All I Want," "Walk on the Ocean") into the mix for his set. Winter Pays for SummerWith his solo stuff, he ran the gamut from political ("Gather") to lighthearted ("Drive By") to hopeful ("Darkest Hour"). And of course, the satirical "Fred Meyers" is, as Glen explains, his own contribution to the very narrow genre of post-apocalyptic folk music. He also played one or two cover songs as well as a work in progress (he tried out an alternate chorus on us). Glen is a funny guy, as evidenced by his between-song quips and stories, although he might have pressed his political commentary and Buddhist sympathies a bit too far at times. Nevertheless, it was a great set, and after the show I picked up a copy of his latest CD, Winters Pays for Summer, which is a fine album and worthy of its own review. Someday.

How do I even begin to describe Bill Mallonee? To my shame, I actually have a couple of Vigilantes of Love CDs, but I just never got into them or Bill's solo work. Certainly to my loss, as well, because Bill is such a terrific performer. He seemed pretty tired, which I understand is common for him these days, but I'm sure playing two back-to-back shows on Saturday didn't help. Despite his fatigue, he delivered a captivating set, pausing between songs to switch guitars and harmonicas, as well as share stories about the songs. I'm not well-acquainted with his work, so I didn't know all the songs he played. Thanks to the magic of the internet, I can acknowledge that he played "Solar System," "Flowers," "Friendly Fire," "High...and Lonesome," "The Kidz on Drugz (or Life), "Welcome to Struggleville," "America" and a Dylan cover/sing-a-long. Despite my lack of familiarity, I was enthralled by Bill's set from start to finish.

And that was just Saturday! After church on Sunday, we drove to Alabama to spend the day with family on both sides. There was fun, food and presents for me. I won't give a complete rundown, but I have to mention the awesome clock that my sisters got me. Woo hoo! And it talks, too!

Homer Simpson Talking Clock

New Lost Tonight!

Finally! I didn't think I could wait much longer ...

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Camp Connections

During the summers of '99 and 2000, I worked full-time at Riverview Camp for Girls in Mentone. The owners and directors are like extended family, and I have many fond memories of Louisiana-style shrimp boils, late-night Sonic runs for a banana-split-in-a-cup, and plenty of long, hard, hot, fun days spent climbing trees and corraling campers at the ropes course and in the cabins. I also made some lasting friendships.

That first summer I remember being a bit intimidated by my now best bud, Jen. Probably because of our height difference (my mom referred to us at Mutt and Jeff), but mostly because of how she knew EVERYONE, and I was, well, new. It wasn't until we spent time together back in Birmingham (she went to Samford, me-- BSC) that we got to know each other better and we realized how much we have in common-- musical tastes, movies, books, and at the time, boy troubles. After spending a summer sharing the duties of Head Counselors as well as the confined space of a small, cramped cabin our friendship was permanently sealed, and she served as maid of honor at our wedding. Lately, she's been travelling back and forth to and from Brazil every six months as a pharmacist/missionary, and recently found out she'll be going back for two years as a Journeyman. I'm excited for her! She's coming back to the U.S. soon and I can't wait to see her.

What brought up all these memories? Well, Saturday night's show.

Not only did we see a great concert, I also got to hang out with my friend Mary Louise for the first time in about 4 years. She worked with me at Riverview during the summer of '99. That first day, when I saw the plethora of stickers on her guitar case, I knew we'd get along just fine. During that summer we shared many things, including a boat on the Ocoee and a near-death experience in a car on a dark, rainy road in Tennessee. She's the first person I met who really liked Vigilantes of Love, so it was fitting we met up at a Bill Mallonee show. Mels has just returned from three years in Moscow (she's from Atlanta, but left about the time I arrived), so we had a lot to catch up on. She's about to go to GSU to get a degree to teach ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages), which I highly endorsed and encouraged. Woo-hoo! I loved hearing about her trip to a local Russian-speaking church. Bilingualism is cool.

Also, while at the show Saturday night, I noticed a waitress who looked incredibly familiar. Sure enough, I called her name as she passed and it was none other than Emily Kate Boyd, who was a counselor at the Riverview ropes course with Jen and me in 2000. While at camp, she either had a sketch pad or a guitar at all times, and I vividly remember watching her jam with Jen, playing Indigo girls' tunes or an original song. For some reason, anytime I see Toulouse-Lautrec sketches I still think of her. When she had a quick break and we got to talk, I was glad to hear she's doing well, though I'm a bit envious that she's living in a house in Grant Park, one of the neatest renovated historic areas of Eastside Atlanta. She's a talented artist and musician, and I think all her practicing has paid off. She's working at Eddie's now and actually gets to play there quite a bit (including this Sunday for a benefit). Emily has been recording her first EP, which should be available soon. This connection is just one more reason to visit Eddie's more often.

Saturday night just proved it is a small, small world after all.

Monday, November 07, 2005


Tech Bowl Eligible After 30-17 Win over Wake

This win makes the Jackets eligible for their ninth straight bowl game. It also brings us back into the AP Top 25, landing at No. 24 on the poll.

The rest of the season is going to be a challenge, though, with games against Virginia, Miami (rescheduled thanks to Hurricane Wilma), and the University [sic] of Georgia.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Happy Birthday, Gaines!

I cannot let this day pass without taking a moment to publicly proclaim the wonderful awesomeness that is my husband. Today marks Gaines' 28th year.

Tonight, we're going to celebrate by having dinner at the Brick Store (while sampling one of their fine international beers) and then rockin' out at the Glen Phillips/Bill Mallonee show at Eddie's Attic.

Happy Birthday to my favorite person in the world!

Friday, November 04, 2005

The Works of the Law

What Are 'The Works of the Law'?

Good post by Alastair sketching out Paul's usage of the term 'works of the Law,' among other related issues. Also, I especially appreciated the preliminary comments on the great need for Christians to grasp the Old Testament in order to understand the New.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

For All the Saints?

For All the Saints?Providentially, I received an early birthday present on yesterday, All Saints Day: Allison's parents had sent me a copy of For All the Saints?: Remembering the Christian Departed by N.T. Wright, the Anglican Bishop of Durham. Overwhelmed by the timeliness, I bumped it to the top of my ever-growing pile of books-to-read. The combination of the book's short length and Wright's characteristically-stimulating writing made it a quick and pleasant read. Wright specifically addresses issues related to Christian death from an Anglican perspective, often focusing on specific liturgical problems within that framework. (For instance, the question mark in the title refers to Wright's concern that having an All Souls' Day separate from All Saints' Day creates an unnecessary hierarchy among the Christian dead.) However, the material (much of it condensed from more full treatments in books such as The Resurrection of the Son of God) is beneficial for Christians of all traditions.

Critics of Wright's "ecumenical tendencies" will be interested to read the Bishop's straightforward rejections of distinctively Roman Catholic beliefs such as Purgatory, the exalted status of Saints (and Mary), and the practice of petitioning the Saints in prayer. He argues that the Biblical teaching on the finality of Christ's death and the impact of the believer's incorporation into Christ rule out any notion that additional cleansing/punishment is required or that certain believers receive a higher "status" after death (i.e., because of their piety, martyrdom, etc). All those "in Christ" are there on equal footing.

Wright also discusses the prevalent misconceptions about "heaven" as a disembodied state beyond death; rather, he argues, the true Christian hope is found in resurrection, when Christ returns to complete the New Creation already begun on the cross. There is a restful state of existence after death for the Christian ("life after death"), but it is merely an intermediate state prior to the resurrection ("life after life after death"). As Wright frequently argues, Christian teaching and liturgy need revision to correct mistaken concepts of death and "heaven."

Being so short, the book raises some questions without answering them completely. Very early on, Wright states that the fate of the non-Christian dead is outside the scope of the book. He briefly touches on the subject of hell, both in the traditional understanding as well as various re-thinkings of it. He adamantly denies any form of universalism, stating that such views fail to account for the very severe Biblical warnings against sin and God's wrath. Yet he also indicates that the traditional view of eternal conscious torment leaves much to be desired. His own view remains unspecified. On a more interesting note, Wright indicates that he sees no problem with Christians praying for the departed faithful. He reminds the reader that these prayers cannot be to lessen their punishment (since he has previously rejected purgatory) nor to gain an advocate with the Father (since he has already stated that all believers have intimate access through Christ). However, he notes that prayer is a natural outworking of love. If our love for persons does not end at the grave, he asks, why should our prayers? Could not our prayers for the rest and peace of the departed simply be an outflow of our love for them? Admittedly, I have never thought about it this way, and will need to do some more thinking. But at first glance, I can't really find anything objectionable about this line of thought.

All in all, For All the Saints? is a fine little book, and as with so much of Wright's work, manages to teach while also delivering a great deal of food for thought.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

For All the Saints

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Allelu…

Thou wast their rock, their fortress and their might;
Thou, Lord, their captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia, Allelu…

O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia, Allelu…

The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Allelu…

But lo! There breaks, a yet more glorious day
The saints triumphant rise in bright array
The King of glory passes on His way.
Alleluia, Allelu…

From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
And singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Monday, October 31, 2005

The Devil in the White City

Having been inspired by Sufjan Stevens to "Come On! Feel the Illinoise!", I have been digging (sporadically) into the historical backdrop of the album. Of particular interest is "The World's Columbian Exposition," the Chicago World's Fair of 1893, and conveniently, I found on my very bookshelf a copy of Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America. (Thanks for the loaner, Jen. I only wish I had been aware of the loan earlier!) The book is a popular history of this fascinating segment of America's past. Larson does a fine job of giving an accessible and engaging chronicle of the Fair, with great attention to painting a detailed picture of American society at the end of the 19th century. Larson's narrative juxtaposes two very different men, both vitally connected to the fair.

Architect Daniel Burnham was the director of Works for the Fair and was ultimately responsible for its construction. In the latter half of the 19th century, Chicagoans became increasingly desperate to establish their home as a great American city, and the Fair provided the opportunity to do just that. But even moreso, the ante had already been raised by the spectacular 1889 Paris Fair, most famous for the unveiling of the Eiffel Tower. Burnham faced enormous pressure to deliver something the world had never before seen for the 400th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of the Americas, and many (especially in New York, which had lobbied to be the venue of the fair) predicted a colossal failure. Although Burnham's vision of the fair was lofty and majestic, the shortened timetable appear insufficient to turn his dream into a vast array of impressive structures and lush landscaping that would capture the hearts and minds of the world.

Although much of the work was completed by Opening Day in 1893, there was still a good deal left to complete, including George Ferris' giant wheel, an imposing structure intended to "out-Eiffel the Eiffel Tower." The lingering public perception that the fair was largely unfinished, combined with economic troubles across the nation, threatened to make the fair the ruinous disaster predicted by detractors. However, the ethereal allure of "the White City," the nickname for the impressive and classically-architectured buildings surrounding the fair's Court of Honor, combined with a blitz of savvy advertising, ultimately succeeded in bringing visitors to Chicago in record numbers. As Larson notes, the White City was characterized by clean and orderly streets, lit by abundant alternating-current lamps and surrounded by pleasant parks and gardens. Combined with the magnificent buildings, the showcases of new inventions and the entertainment opportunities from around the world, the White City offered a stark contrast to the grime, odor, danger and despair characteristic of American urban areas like "the Black City" of Chicago. The Chicago Fair would leave an impression on city planning in America for years to come.

The book's other focus is on Dr. H. H. Holmes, a sociopath and serial killer who used the Fair as a steady source of victims. Although Larson avoids the grisliest of details, Holmes' story is nonetheless chilling. Handsome and possessing preternatural powers of charm, Holmes began his criminal escapades with forgeries and fraud; however, his interest in faking deaths as part of life insurance swindles quickly turned his energies towards far darker pursuits. Holmes moved to Chicago and acquired a pharmacy, where his charms made him quite successful, particularly with the steady stream of young female customers. Acquiring more property, Holmes set out to build "The Castle," an entire city block's worth of rental spaces, shops and dwellings. Due to the proximity to the upcoming Columbian Exposition, Holmes opened "The World's Fair Hotel." Over the course of three years, Holmes would prey on an unknown number of victims, disposing of them in the soundproof vaults he had secretly constructed below the building. The exact number is unknown, although most estimates place it at a minimum of fifty. (Holmes' own confessions list twenty-seven, although as many as two hundred disappearances were traced in some degree to Holmes and "The Castle.") Ironically, Holmes' penchant for fraud (and "Holmes" was not even his given name) ultimately led to his capture, as investigations by angry creditors began to reveal something much more sinister.

I was struck by many of the similarities between Burnham and Holmes. Both were driven by relentless ambition, albeit to vastly different ends. But even more profound is how both exemplified "the Gilded Age" in which they lived. Holmes, of course, projected a charming persona -- kind, genial and caring. History, of course, would reveal that the doctor's warm facade masked cold, unparalleled cruelty bent on controlling, torturing and killing. Burnham's story also has a twist, although not so much with the architect as with his creation. The White City itself was not meant to be permanent and most of the buildings were little more than "decorated sheds" (to quote detractors) with a plaster/hemp facade instead of actual stone. Many leading designers of the day believed that the classical architecture of the fair severely stunted the growth of American development of the field. Moreover, the sheer splendor of the White City was a marked contrast to the grime, sickness and poverty that visitors to the Fair briefly left at home. This would be especially apparent when the scores of workers drawn to the temporary employment boom caused by the Fair soon found themselves jobless and forced to return to the despair of "the Black City." The Fair itself ended on a somber note, when the epic closing ceremonies were cancelled in favor of funeral proceedings for Chicago's mayor, assassinated three days prior to the closing. Prophetically, many of the Fair's creators and attendees opined that they could not bear the thought of such a magnificent spectacle falling into disuse and ruin after the fair, and Burnham even remarked that seeing it disappear in a blaze of glory would be preferable. In spring of 1894, at which time many of the abandoned Exposition structures were being used for shelter by unemployed workers, many buildings of the Court of Honor were destroyed by fires set during the Pullman Strike. The bright promise of the White City ultimately crumbled into rubble.

All in all, The Devil in the White City is a fascinating book. Although Larson has packed it with detail (and he includes a great number of anecdotes of the Fair experiences of noted Americans, including Buffalo Bill Cody, Jane Addams, and a young Walt Disney, just to name a few), his narrative is captivating and easy-to-read. Recommended reading for anyone interested -- even moderately -- in American history.

Sunday, October 30, 2005


Georgia Tech Holds Off Clemson For 10-9 Win

A tense and often frustrating four quarters, but it's still a win.

EDIT: I would be remiss if I failed to mention that Georgia lost this weekend (to Florida). How 'bout them Dawgs?

Friday, October 28, 2005

Pre-order the New Eric Peters CD

Eric Peters is now taking pre-orders for his new album, scheduled for release in February 2006. Why pre-order so far in advance, you might ask? Well, for starters, the pre-order cost is a mere $10, quite a deal for such high quality tunes (TUNES!). Secondly, your early investment will help ensure that all the costs are covered to keep the release on-schedule.

Pre-orders available at the EP web store (STORE!).

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Catching up with the Boys

My tenth graders are reading A Separate Peace, and last week I read it for what I think was the second time. (If I have read it before, I didn't remember any of it.)

If you've ever read this famed coming-of-age novel about two friends at a private boys' boarding school during WWII, then you might appreciate this site.

The link above includes quotes from the book interspersed with pictures from Exeter, the prestigious school that Knowles attended and used as the model for Devon. I've had a copy since high school, but I don't think I ever actually finished it back then. We never had to read it for class, and I didn't appreciate it then since it was about boys (ew, gross). I wish I had. It's a beautiful story about friendship and betrayal at a school deeply affected by war, and it shows clearly that the enemy we are all fighting is really only ourselves.

I've also begun reading Chaim Potok's novel The Chosen. Interestingly, it, too, takes place during WWII. Sadly, it's also another high school staple that I never actually finished, but (for some reason) have retained a paperback copy of since my freshman year. I found a turned-down page last night somewhere in the first chapter.

It's sad how much good American fiction I've missed out on because I was so obsessed with Austen and other authors from across the Big Pond. Not that I think either is necessarily superior, but I've always been partial to Brit Lit, and Faulkner and Steinbeck and Cooper never really interested me. Somehow, from high school to undergrad and even up until last year in my graduate English classes, I just "skipped over" much of American lit. It wasn't until a seminar class my senior year at BSC devoted entirely to Hemingway and Fitzgerald that I began to appreciate that Yankees writers have something worthwhile to say. (I know, I know...I'm a sorry excuse for a high school English teacher. At least they didn't ask me to teach 11th Grade!) I'm slowly attempting to remedy my egregious defenciency in American classics. And I'm enjoying it immensely.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Megachurch and the Church on the Corner

The iMonk has a provocative and solid post on the harmful impact that megachurches often have on smaller churches seeking to emulate them.

"That Flushing Sound: Evangelicals Worship Till There’s Nothing Left"

Monday, October 24, 2005

No Comment

Uh oh. It looks like Haloscan is having some issues today.

UPDATE: Well, it looks like I've got comments working again, although the counter isn't updating very fast.

Friday, October 21, 2005


It's never too late to jump on the bandwagon. Check out the 8-bit majesty!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

While on the subject of all things Potter, Travis has launched his new Sword of Gryffindor site. Be sure to check it out.

Voldemort Can't Stop The Rock!

Image hosted by
How can I even begin describing last night's Harry and the Potters concert? I'm not sure, either, but I have to try.

The concert was definitely the loudest show I've ever seen at Eddie's Attic, which is known primarily as a "listening room" for acoustic guitar-oriented folks like Pierce Pettis, Glen Phillips and Bill Mallonee (the latter two are playing together at the Attic in November -- woo hoo!). However, Harry and the Potters stormed into Decatur in a dark cloud of wizard rock and left a trail of awesomeness in their wake. Team Redd looked a little out-of-place amidst the crowd of teens, pre-teens, pre-pre-teens and pre-schoolers, mainly since we came straight from work and were still dressed in our Muggle clothes. But we managed to rock with the best of them.

From the show-opening dance party stylings of "Voldemort Can't Stop The Rock" to the anthemic closer "The Weapon," Harry (Year Four) and Harry (Year Seven) put on quite an entertaining show. Any lack of vocal talent was more than compensated by their sheer energy and impressive stage presence. And admittedly, it appears that months of live performances have really helped to hone their singing. I can only assume that their drummer failed to receive permission to leave Hogwarts for this tour, since they had to rely on a drum machine -- but I don't think this detracted much from the experience. The crowd was really into the show and sang most enthusiastically, especially on favorites like "Wizard Chess" and "Save Ginny Weasley." They also played a couple of new songs, including a Christmas tune and a love song for Ginny which includes the line "My wizard scar still burns for you." Genius. (Sorry mark, they didn't play "These Days Are Dark.") I guess the only downside about the evening was that, because their songs are so short, the actual concert wasn't very long.

But it did leave an indelible impression on us both, like a scar or magic quill marks on the backs of our hands -- but much more pleasant.

PS Allison wanted to add some photographic documentation of the show. Thankfully, a kind soul sitting behind us sent us her pics. In this picture, Harry (Year Seven) is clambering through the audience and has decided to swipe a beverage from one of our fellow patrons. How brash!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Back in the Saddle

Tech Wrecks Duke 35-10 ...

Sure, Duke is the perennial whipping boy for ACC football, but after back-to-back losses (and a fairly miserable first half against the Blue Devils), it's nice to get another 'W' for the books.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Canticle of the Plains

Joel Garver had a good post on St. Francis the other day. About the same time, I heard a track from Canticle of the Plains while shuffling the old iPod. This convergence of events prompted me to dust off (metaphorically, of course, although the cover on my iPod does tend to attract debris) the album and give it a listen.

Canticle of the Plains is a somewhat hard-to-find album released by Rich Mullins back in 1997, the year of his tragic demise. Described as "a musical based on the life of St. Francis of Assisi by the Kid Brothers of St. Frank," the album is the brainchild of Mullins, who co-wrote all the songs with Mitch McVicker and longtime collaborator Beaker. Incidentally, Mullins is barely present on the recording, limited to sparse background vocals only. The songs were written as part of a larger musical, based roughly on the life of St. Francis (transposed to the post-Civil War Western U.S). As such, the songs are sung by different characters, and the album enlists the aid of several vocalists, including McVicker, Michael Tait and Kevin Smith of dc Talk fame, and Leigh Nash of Sixpence None the Richer. Rich was never able to perform the musical in full, although I understand that it was performed posthumously on a few occasions. Either way, the album is fantastic and comprised of some of Rich's best writing.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Musical Baton!

(received from richard - better late than never!)

I always have trouble with these type of "rate your favorite music/book/movie" questions, so these are subject to change at a whim. In fact, I was thinking about them a little too much, so I decided to go ahead and post it.

Amount of music on your computer?
Which one? I don't have any on my work computer, but that's a pretty boring answer. My iTunes folder at home is up to ~15.45 MB (though a lot of that isn't exactly "music," since I listen to a lot of lectures, sermons and the like).

Currently listening to?
Sufjan Stevens, Michigan

Five songs that mean a lot to you?
Uh ... this is tough.

"Big Mistake" - David Wilcox
"Time Stand Still" - Rush
"Close of the Day" - Sandra McCracken
"Gather 'Round, Ye Children, Come" - Andrew Peterson
"Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing"

Top five albums?
Again, I always have a problem with questions like these. How to choose? For some of these, I'll list a favorite band and a great album of theirs. But even then, it's so hard to choose ...

(In no particular order)

Rush, Presto: Easily my favorite rock band. Though I've grown to appreciate all kinds of acoustic, singer/songwriter-driven music over the last several years, I still have a deep-rooted love of heavy guitars and vocal wailing. Plus, Neil Peart (though writing from a decidely humanistic perspective) is one of the most intelligent and insightful songwriters around. It's hard to pick a specific album, since they have three decades of material, with notable evolution over the years. I picked Presto because it has some great songs, like the title track, "Chain Lightning" and the cleverly goofy "Anagram (For Mongo)."

Caedmon's Call, 40 Acres: Definitely one of my biggest musical influences. I didn't listen to a lot of "Christian" music before discovering them in college. (I tried to make myself listen to popular CCM, but I just couldn't handle it.) Caedmon's helped me realize that Christians could make quality music, even if the radio didn't give them much coverage. Again, it's hard to pick a specific album. Their indie stuff, like My Calm//Your Storm, makes up for its lack of production quality with an abundance of raw awesomeness. Their latest, Share the Well, is an amazing and ambitious effort in its own right. But 40 Acres is the high water mark, I think. The album is well-produced and sounds great, with songwriters Aaron Tate and Derek Webb shining on every track. (The only low spot is a cover, and even it is fairly decent.) It was also the last album before the band started going through significant lineup changes.

Andrew Peterson, Love and Thunder: Andy is an excellent songwriter and an all-around great guy. I've seen him in concert more times (far more times) than any other artist or band, mainly because his shows always manage to make me think and to make me laugh a lot -- often within the span of a few breaths! Similar to Richard, I had a tough time choosing between this album and Carried Along, but I think the overall cohesion of L&T as an album gives it an edge.

Rich Mullins, A Liturgy, A Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band: The two previous artists list Rich as one of their major influences, and rightfully so. This album is simply beautiful, with Mullins' songwriting complemented by a host of talented musicians. What more can be said?

Joe Satriani, Surfing With the Alien: Remember above, when I professed my love of heavy guitars? Satch may not have the heaviest, but he certainly plays his with the best of them. I realize that not everyone appreciates rock guitar instrumentals, but it's their loss. Although Satriani possesses superhuman technical skills, he also has a great ear for creating songs with memorable melodies (instead of just recording a bunch of guitar speed drills). Surfing With the Alien is Satch at the top of his game. Strange beautiful music, indeed.

And that's five already! If I had more space, I'd probably find a way to sneak in Eric Peters (Land of the Living), derek webb (i see things upside down), Van Halen (either the self-titled debut, or 5150 from the Van Hagar era), Randall Goodgame (Arkadelphia) and Spin Doctors (Pocket Full of Kryptonite).

Last album bought?
Sufjan Stevens, Michigan

Recent discoveries?
Harry and the Potters
Sufjan Stevens

Okay, the baton is now being passed on to:

Monday, October 10, 2005

Quarantining A Generation

Good article from Boundless about the dangers of age segregation within churches, misguided attempts at "relevance," and the fracturing effect they have on churches.

(Thanks to the BHT.)


A co-worker told me that I made an appearance in a dream she had this weekend. If that wasn't strange enough, it turns out that I showed up at a dream-land club she was visiting. Apparently, I was a rapper, secretly pursuing my dreams of rapstar-dom by night, while my co-workers and friends were oblivious. Naturally, I asked her the most obvious question: was I any good as I rapper? Yes, I was.

Maybe this is a sign for a change in career paths?

Friday, October 07, 2005

I've Got Nothing To Say

Man, I haven't had much to write about lately. I know there's been plenty of stuff going on, but I guess I haven't had much time to assemble coherent thoughts. (I could post something about the awesome Andrew Peterson show we attended last weekend at New City Cafe, but that would be way too obvious.)

Maybe I'll have more to say after the Georgia Tech - N.C. State game tonight. We're going, and there's an 80% chance of rain tonight. If that's not a recipe for fun, I don't know what is!

Nope, nothing to say. At least the rain was limited to a steady mist/drizzle throughout the evening.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Moving right along

Alastair Roberts has retired his excellent blog 40 Bicycles.

But, rising from its ashes comes alastair.adversaria, which promises to be a worthy successor. Be sure to check it out.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

How Rad!

Harry and the Potters will be playing at Eddie's Attic in Decatur, GA on October 17. And in Athens, GA the next night.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Bill Gates Goes To College

I had heard about Microsoft recruiting Napoleon Dynamite for a video, but I finally got around to viewing it. The video and audio quality aren't the best, but it's kind of funny. Especially Bill Gates' Pedro hair.

Monday, September 26, 2005

LOST and the Periodic Table

Calling all science geeks and fans of LOST. I have a question.

We re-watched the first few minutes of the LOST season premiere last night and I noticed that the bottle of liquid the guy in the opening montage injected himself with had the numbers 4-8-15-16-23-42 on the label.

Here's my thought-- what if they stand for elements on the Periodic Table? What if the solution is made up of those 6 elements? So, my question to all who are much more knowledgable than me about these things is: what would happen if you put all these elements together? Here they are in order:

4 -- Beryllium
8 -- Oxygen
15 -- Phosphorus
16 -- Sulfur
23 -- Vanadium
42 -- Molybdenum

(Molybdenum was always my favorite element name to say. I used to remember to spell it correctly by thinking of "Moly B. Denum")

I know all LOST theories are far-fetched. I thought I'd just throw mine into the mix. Maybe there is some sort of crazy scientific experiment where they test this formula on people and the remaining 45 survivors are going to be new subjects? Or already have been? We know that these numbers have been circulated since at least as far back as WWII, when those army guys first picked up the signal before they went insane. What would these elements create? What would it do to someone if there were large amounts in your bloodstream?

I don't read the messageboards or anything so I haven't seen this idea or theory before, but if it has already been shot down please let me know. Or feel free to shoot it down yourself. It's all in good fun, anyway. I'm not obsessed, I tell you! ;)

"Snow Days" in September?

Well, if your Governor calls for statewide "precautionary" school closings due to rising gas prices after Katrina and the threat of even more damage to the Gulf refineries from Rita...then you might be in my shoes.

I admit, when our principal came over the intercom with the announcement at 4 p.m. on Friday I thought it might be a joke. I attempted to calm down the six screaming freshman girls who were in my room until two fellow teachers arrived in my door jumping up and down like overly-excited Labrador puppies. Then I gave up and gave in. Woo-hoo! Two days off!

If you didn't realize the inefficiency of large, government-run education, this should be your wake-up call. Of course, most or all of the private schools in Metro Atlanta are closed today and tomorrow as well. I bet the homeschoolers have to be just a bit envious. ;)

So that leaves me here at home today. Though it throws my lesson planning schedule off a bit, I'm excited about my "snow days." I plan to use my time (wisely--I hope) to tackle the mounds of grading that has piled up-- mainly essays and projects turned in within the last week or so. I also get to do some much-needed housecleaning-- and I'm looking forward to it!

Friday, September 23, 2005

What Is The Church?

Peter Leithart's brief observations on "What Is The Church?" have resonated with some thoughts I've had lately. Instead of viewing biblical descriptions of the church as metaphors that serve as "raw material for theological reflection," Leithart states that these descriptions are actually the fundamental descriptions of the church. This seems to tie directly into Leithart's view of the church as "an alternate polis," but I'll probably have to mull this over some more.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Tech Talk

Team Redd has deep roots at Auburn University, with innumerable family members (including both sets of parents) being alumni of that fine institution. This has proven interesting in recent years, when Auburn has played football against Georgia Tech, my alma mater. Obviously, my loyalties have remained true to my own school (and my pettier side has enjoyed gloating over Tech's 2-0 record against the Tigers since their long-standing football rivalry was rekindled in 2003, after a 15-year hiatus).

That being said, this news is pretty delightful.

Tech Adds [University of] Alabama to Future Schedules

(If you don't understand why that's delightful, you probably aren't familiar with the rivalry-laden world of SEC football.)

In more pressing news, Tech QB Reggie Ball, recently hospitalized for a few days due to viral menengitis, is still questionable for this weekend's big game against No.4 Virginia Tech. Should be interesting.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


I've been hearing lots of good things about Sufjan Stevens for a few months now, but initially, I just didn't get into his music. I think I even rated him as "Never Play Again" on my Launchcast station. Thank goodness for second chances for foolish me!

Even though I had previously listened to a few of his songs, nothing really grabbed me. A few weeks ago, I overheard one of his albums playing in the background at a pub (a personal favorite, The Brick Store in Decatur, GA). During another visit to the same pub, I noticed a stack of music/arts newspapers, one which featured Mr. Stevens on the cover. This, combined with more favorable comments from music-lovers, drove me to give Sufjan another try. I downloaded several free tracks, and I moderately enjoyed them at the time. But, the songs really stick with you. I found myself unable to rid my brain of "The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts" and "Casimir Pulaski Day." At this point, resistance was futile, so I made a trip to Borders.

I decided to start with Illinois, which features the two songs mentioned above. This album is the second in Sufjan Stevens' ambitious plan to write an ALBUM dedicated to each of the 50 States (he started with Michigan). I'm not exactly sure how to describe Steven's sound. He is certainly competent enough to carry a song with just a guitar and his haunting tenor, and maybe a banjo here and there. However, much of his music is considerably more ambitious, featuring piano, horns (of the high-school band variety), strings and a chorus of vocals. Illinois is definitely an album for the active listener, as Sufjan offers a variegated collection of songs inspired by the Prairie State, stringing together a UFO sighting, a serial killer, Carl Sandburg, the Windy City and the Columbian Exposition of 1893, just to name a few. But Illinois is more than just a collection of songs; rather, it is a true album, meant to be appreciated as such, with Sufjan weaving the tracks together with repeated musical and lyrical motifs, as well as instrumental interludes featuring some of the most audacious titles imaginable (e.g, "Riffs And Variations On A Single Note For Jelly Roll, Earl Hines, Louis Armstrong, Baby Dodds, And The King Of Swing, To Name A Few"). Although it takes a few complete listenings to really "get it", the album certainly sticks with you in a good way.

Highly recommended.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The iMonk is worred about the new Narnia film

And perhaps not without reason.

Theology On Fire

Covenant Seminary has a stockpile of great resources, including a ton of mp3s. I have recently enjoyed listening to the set of recordings from the 2005 Sacrifice of Praise Worship Conference, held at the seminary at the beginning of the year. Each of the posted sessions was very good, covering a variety of topics related to worship and the planning worship services.

"Worship as Gospel Re-Presentation," Bryan Chapell's general session talk, was especially good. Chapell begins by tracing the development of Protestant liturgy, from Luther to Calvin to the Puritans and beyond. Although he notes many of the differences between each, his stated goal is to examine their commonalities. The thrust of his session is that a worship service should be structured as a re-presentation of the Gospel. Many different components can be used, but the overall contour of the service is a corporate-level retelling of the work of the Gospel in an individual's life. Chapell uses Isaiah 6 to flesh out this pattern: the prophet comes before God and apprehends His absolute holiness. This sight immediately overwhelms Isaiah with a sense of his own sinfulness. God then makes provision for Isaiah's cleansing, which results in instruction and equipping for service. Similarly, Chapell argues, our worship services should flow from a proclamation of God's greatness into recognition of our own sin, then into assurance over our pardon which comes through the cross of Christ, and finally into instruction in holy living, both as individuals and as a corporate body. From his survey of liturgical forms, Chapell notes that a wide variety of components can be used while still maintaining this basic Gospel contour.

Kevin Twit's talk on "Theology on Fire: The Transformational Power of Hymns" is exceptionally good, as is Reggie Kidd's discussion of "Bach, Bubba, and the Blues Brothers: The Singing Savior's Many Voices." And, as I mentioned, the other sessions provide a great deal of valuable and insightful reflection on corporate worship. The entire set of conference recordings is a great resource to anyone involved in leading and planning worship services, as well as anyone seeking to more clearly define a theology of corporate worship.

(One minor complaint about the site: navigating through the resource library could be a little easier. To find the Sacrifice of Praise conference recordings, you can go first to the topic index page and then to the "View all titles" option. The Sacrifice of Praise Worship Renewal Conference recordings are towards the bottom of the list. Or just use "sacrifice" as a term for the "by title" search function.)

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Jackets Remain Unbeaten

Georgia Tech defeats Connecticut, 28-13.

With QB Reggie Ball in the hospital, Tech had to rely on freshman Taylor Bennett, who turned in a decent performance in his first collegiate football game. Interestingly enough, his very first play in a college game was a touchdown pass. Although the rest of his game was not nearly as stellar, he still did okay. Hopefully, Ball will be back in action for next week's game against Virginia Tech.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Far Country and the Not-So-Far Concert

It should come as no surprise to regular (or even semi-frequent) readers of this blog that Team Redd highly endorses The Far Country, the latest CD from Andrew Peterson. Andrew is one of our favorite musicians, so it took all of 5 seconds to decide whether we should make the 1.5 hour drive down to Macon, GA to see Andrew play this past Sunday night. Although we had originally planned to see the show with a couple of friends, by Sunday we ended up leaving Atlanta with a mighty contingent of 13 souls (plus the original two rendezvousing with us in Macon) intent on hearing quality acoustic music.

The concert, as expected, was fantastic. In addition to usual musical compadre Ben Shive, Andrew brought along a bass player (who had apparently played with Counting Crows at some point) and a drummer (who had played on the new album) to play with him. Afterwards, both Andy and Ben separately confessed their concerns about how fans would react to the addition of bass and drums, but personally, I thought it really filled out the songs in a good way. I did have one minor gripe about the rhythm section obscuring Andy's vocals on some of the more up-tempo songs, but that was more an issue with the venue's sound system than with the band. But, sonic muddiness aside, the concert was quite excellent. Andy, as is his custom, interspersed the set list with stories about the songs, about his family, and ultimately, about the Gospel. He played a good mix of songs from most of his albums, as well as (by request) his ode to Mexican food. I was especially pleased to hear him perform an upbeat version of "Isn't It Love," of which he had been playing a much slower version in recent years. Not that the slow version is bad, but the poppy, up-tempo rendition sounded great with a band. I also think this is the first Andrew concert (out of the many, many, many I have attended) where he didn't play "Nothing To Say," his big radio single. Which is fine by me. It's a great song, but I like hearing other stuff, too!

Allison and I are really enjoying The Far Country, and Andy played several selections from it. Some fans have seen this album as a marked departure from previous albums, but I'm not so sure that's the case. Yeah, there are distorted electric guitars in places and more drums than in the past, but the songwriting is still just as solid. Andrew has never been afraid to use a variety of instrumentation, so I just consider these additions as more choices on his musical palette.

My only lingering quibble about The Far Country is not actually about the album, but about some tangential discussions stemming from it. The title comes from a quote which tells us that "God is at home. We are in a far country." The title track alludes to Hebrews, especially in comparing our Christian status as pilgrims in this world to Abraham's sojourn to an unknown land of promise. At the outset, I must make it clear that I don't find anything objectionable in Andrew's longings for heaven, either in this song or others. However, it seems like Christian discussions of death and heaven (like those sparked by the album) usually veer into sub-Christian views on the subject. These discussions are correct to focus on sin and death as deviations from God's ultimate design, and the appropriate human response should be a deep longing for a holy God to make things right. However, the sub-Christian view usually sees the "solution" as God removing the Christian from the world of pain and suffering into eternal heavenly bliss. Death is an escape from a fallen world. I believe that the Bible does not present this solution.

Instead, the Christian hope is that God will act to make all things right: sin and death will ultimately be defeated. Although the Bible speaks of an intermediate state where believers go to be with Christ after death, it speaks far more loudly of a final state of new creation, where God completely redeems His universe. Our resurrection to dwell in a new heaven and a new earth is the content of our ultimate hope that God will finally triumph over sin and death. This fact should be our consolation as we achingly make our way through this fallen world. Because God will redeem and restore the current creation, "heaven" is not a location completely removed from our current experience. Rather, the new heaven and earth are the final state of God's plan of redemption, to be consummated at the return of Jesus. I've found that it is far more useful to think of the distance between "the far country" and our ultimate home with God, between the current and final states of things, in terms of time and not of space.

And thankfully, Andrew's latest album does a great job of capturing that honest longing for God to make right all that is currently wrong with the world.