Thursday, June 30, 2005

William Willimon

Boy, am I behind. While looking around for some friends from my alma mater, (which is connected with the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church) I discovered that William Willimon was ordained as the new Bishop last September. They have a collection of his weekly messages on the conference website. I've heard only good things about him while he was Dean of the Chapel at Duke-- and I've seen him described as "paleo-orthodox" along with the likes of Packer and others, as well as a proponent of "narrative theology." I'm interested in reading some of his books-- I've had the one on Baptism on my wish list for over a year.

Anyway, this quote from the sermon he preached last fall at his ordination knocks my socks off:

Sometimes, in popular, American, evangelical Christianity, we get this wrong. We say things like, “Since I took Jesus into my heart…,” or “Since I gave my life to Jesus…,” or “Since I decided to follow Christ….” That’s not the story! The story – Moses, Samuel, Mary, Paul, Peter, you and me – is more that you don’t take Jesus anywhere – he takes you places. You can’t “give you life to Christ.” He takes it! It’s not all that important that you decided to follow Christ; the Bible says that in Jesus Christ God has decided for you!

And this, from a message dated May 9th of this year:
Give me The Lutheran Hymnal any day over most of those tasteless “praise choruses” of some of my evangelicals.

I never thought I'd hear any of that from a Methodist. Maybe some of Willimon's beliefs will rub off on BSC's chaplain. Despite some of the Chaplain's inclusivist tendencies (enhanced after 9/11) and his love of some pretty awful cheesy 60's type-praise songs, I am very thankful for the liturgic chapel services with regular communion and the ecumenical Bible study, both of which he and the former chaplain helped lead while I was there. Their broader perspective helped me develop my stance on Scripture and theology. And I will admit, they did introduce me to David Wilcox's music, which is pretty cool.

As a somewhat-related aside, I heard a fellow IV/BSC alumni is starting an RUF chapter there, though he's met some opposition and will only be on campus half-time. It's a start! And he's using the rest of his time to develop an RUF ministry at UAB. Praise God!

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Flame Warriors

This site is really funny.

Via Jason, via the Derek Webb Message Board (the main arena for some of these warriors, I think).

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Does this guy know how to party or what?

Recently, I learned that contemporary Reformed theology icon R.C. Sproul plays golf with shock-rocker/semi-recent Christian convert Alice Cooper.

Tonight, I noticed that Dr. Sproul is listed in the liner note "Thanks To" section of Van Halen 3 (which is, sad to say, one of their most disappointing albums).

To top it off, I remembered hearing that Sproul is quoted by some philosophizing vampires in the arthouse horror film The Addiction.

So my question is, does R.C. have a crazy side that not many people know about? That'd be kind of cool, I guess.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Breakfast on the Go

I used to make strange breakfast concoctions in high school and college. I guess technically I'm still in that stage, since I'm finishing up grad school, but lately I've been skipping breakfast altogether in the mornings (bad!) or just eating yogurt (not as filling as you'd think). So, this morning I broke out an old favorite-- quick, portable, semi-healthy, and tasty homemade fast food.
Eggo Sandwich

2 Low-Fat NutriGrain Whole Wheat Eggo waffles
1-2 tbsp. low-fat cream cheese
syrup or assorted berries

Toast the waffles. Spread the cream cheese over the waffles. Add some syrup. Smash together like a sandwich (with the cream cheese in the middle), wrap in a paper towel, and enjoy during the morning commute.

If you have them, and this might be preferred, add blueberries or sliced strawberries instead of syrup. It's more nutitious, and the cream cheese keeps the berries from falling out. I was out of fruit this morning. I wonder how bananas would taste?

I usually wash it down with a nice cup of OJ for extra fiber and vitamin C. The nutri-grain adds fiber and carbs, and the cream cheese has some protein. (Of course, substituting cottage cheese would be much better nutritionally, but not taste-wise. If you like that stuff, though, you could just eat a cup of cottage cheese and berries, but then you lose the portability and ease of handling factors.)

Well, none of this holds a candle to the homemade Belgian waffles we make for our residents one Saturday morning a month. I'm getting hungry just thinking about them. "Mmmm... Fattening..."

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

License Plates

I always get a laugh out of vanity license plates, although sometimes I'm actually laughing AT them and their owners. Here are a couple of good ones:

1. My sister was telling me about her co-worker who loves the Dave Matthews Band. Additionally, the co-worker has recently become a mom, so she decided to get a vanity plate that combines the two: DMB MOM

Unfortunately, many people misinterpret it as "Dumb Mom." D'oh!

(Amy, feel free to correct any mistaken details on that one.)

2. The best one I've seen recently was a litte red sportscar with the license plate PRIME 8. That alone might be amusing, but it was greatly accentuated by the fact that the driver had a real live monkey (a rhesus monkey or something similar) sitting on his lap! I did a double take. I thought it was pretty awesome -- until I realized that the guy and his monkey were taking advantage of the HOV (i.e., carpool) lane! That just doesn't seem right.

Monday, June 20, 2005

An Eight-Part Test

Good thoughts from about evaluating songs for use in worship services.

Birthdays, Batman, and Bruster's

June must be the month for birthdays in our local church family-- in the last week alone there were five other folks (besides me) who celebrated the day they emerged into the world.

Celebrations were multifaceted and took place over two days:

1. On Friday afternoon, a few of the girls with June birthdays (including the sweetest 78-year old lady in our church) went to All Fired Up to paint pottery and eat homemade butter pecan cake. Yummy and relaxing! I painted a 6" by 6" tile to match my fun yellow/blue/green "tree" plates from TJ Maxx. I painted it freehand, from memory, and was worried about the resemblance, but a friend reminded me that it would be "my artistic representation" of the design and therefore even more original. It'll be back from the kiln on Tuesday, so hopefully we'll get to see how it matches up.

2. Later that evening, a huge group of over 16 of our friends from church (both past and present incarnations of our church family) met at one of the best Chinese restaurants on Buford Highway (and that's saying a lot!)-- Little Schezuan. It's one of my favorite places to go with groups because they serve the food family style and it ends up being a lot cheaper that way. With tax and tip I think our table's meal came out to $9 a person, and that included potstickers, two kinds of soup, and our choice of four entrees. It was delicious.

3. Most of the folks from the dinner group (plus a few newcomers) traveled up to the Mall of Georgia to watch Batman: Begins -- the IMAX experience. Whatever anyone might think of the other incarnations of the winged crime-fighter in film, this blows it all away. Especially with the overwheling sensory experience of watching it on an eight-story IMAX screen. The story itself was fascinatingly captured in Christopher Nolan's gritty style-- he rendered the journey from man to legend, from boy to batman in a completely realistic fashion. One almost expects Batman to emerge from one of our modern metropolises in the near future. I think this is the best comic book character I've ever seen realized in film.

Some other things I appreciated about Batman: Begins:

The sequence and pacing was so well done that I don't think I took my eyes off the screen for the entire 2 and a half hours we were in the theater-- I actually found myself wanting the film to continue just because it was so much darn fun. Also, there was no noticeable language, and the film was devoid of the "Batman as sex object" motif that permeated the others. Of course, I've admired Christian Bale for years, and he did a superb job showing the appropriate "masked" personalities-- with the addition of a much-needed sense of humor! More importantly, Nolan made the character of Batman frightening, downright scary-- as he should be. As Gaines commented after the film, it was never supposed to be about a man in a batsuit fighting crime, it was always about the fear the very presence of Batman instilled in his enemies.

If this is the only time Nolan/Bale team up to portray the Batman series, it will be enough. I came from the film completely satisfied that I had experienced the power of myth. Someone should sit George Lucas down and say, "See? This is what a real film should be." It had none of the drawbacks of some other films in this comic/fantasty/sci-fi genre-- the dialogue was never too cheesy, the special effects were done without all that crazy overdone CGI stuff, and the villains were never too over-the-top. It also set up the city of Gotham, the later villians, and the "Batman" figure in a way that one longs to see where Nolan might take the series in the future. I, having only seen the earlier films when forced, knew just enough details to see where Nolan was alluding in his references to characters and what they would become. Overall, I give this my highest reccommendation. However, I would probably not take any kids under 12 to see this, because it definitely was an intense film, but I also thought the violence was not as gory or brutal as I have seen elsewhere or in others rated PG-13. Also, Batman refuses to kill outright.

4. And you thought that was the end of our adventures? Not so-- Saturday was my actual 25th birthday, and my parents stopped by for lunch. We ate with a large group at Slope's BBQ (you always know it's good if there is a cannibalistic pig with knife and fork on the restaurant sign) and then returned to our apartment so I could open presents and cards from family. I received mostly gift cards and money for shopping-- which is just what I needed. I can't wait to improve and organized our apartment with my gift cards from Target and the Container Store!

5. The rest of my birthday was extremely relaxing. Days where we sleep past 7 a.m. and don't have an Apartment Life event later in the day are very rare in the Redd household, so it was an especially nice treat to have a clear calendar. After all the social outings we enjoyed just staying home and doing nothing. After my parents left, Gaines and I watched To Kill a Mockingbird. Then we topped off our day with a trip to Bruster's ice cream. In the spirit of celebration, I got a waffle cone with chocolate chip cookie dough AND birthday cake ice cream. Mmmmmmm. Ice cream, cookie dough, and icing. The perfect sweet end to a perfectly sweet birthday weekend.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Exegeting the Stop Sign

Wow. Someone posted this on the Wrightsaid list, and I thought it was pretty funny!

Hermeneutics in Everyday Life

I thought this one was pretty good:

"A scholar from Jesus seminar concludes that the passage "STOP" undoubtedly was never uttered by Jesus himself, but belongs entirely to stage III of the gospel tradition, when the church was first confronted by traffic in its parking lot."

Weekend Adventures

This past Sunday we drove through lots of rain to Birmingham for Gaines' family reunion (on his mom's side). It's always a good chance to see extended family, including some that we run into only rarely from lands to the north (i.e. above Kentucky). On the second Sunday every year, this group of relatives descended from four Civil War-era brothers gathers at the family cemetery (well, across the street) for a service and celebration-- which in the South, of course, means lots of good home-cooked food! Thankfully, this year the sun came out just long enough for us to sit outside and enjoy fried chicken, potato salad, caramel cake, and all the other yummy treats cooked up just for the occasion. I still haven't decided if it is beneficial or not that all of the important gatherings in our lives involve food.

Here's a fantastic picture from the '91 reunion. I'm so thankful fashions change. (To be fair, I should probably post a picture from a family reunion of mine from about the same time-- Mary Lou Retton had nothing on my haircut back then. If I find it, I will post it someday.)

On the way back, we stopped at a new theater in Birmingham to watch Episode III in all its digital glory. We both enjoyed the movie even more the second time, perhaps due to the fact that it was a matinee and not midnight on opening day.

Monday, June 13, 2005

It's funny because it's true

Entire Napoleon Dynamite Plot Pieced Together Through Friend's Quotes

(Thanks to Mike for the heads up!)

Hello, old friend

I noticed that I have been squinting a lot this morning, especially while driving and walking outside. Then it dawned on me that there has been a strange illumination today that has not been present for the past couple of weeks (especially amidst the constant precipitation).

I call it: THE SUN.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Soundtrack of My Life?

Recently, my friend Peter was telling me that Japanese scientists and engineers are performing serious studies on the way that "chi" interacts with technology. That is, they are trying to find a correlation between people's moods/mental states and functionality of machines and devices. It sounds kind of crazy, but then again, I'm sure we can all think of anecdotal evidence of a car that would only crank for its owner, or maybe that copier at work that always seems to jam when you use it (although no one else in the office seems to have any problems). Maybe it's just imagined. Or maybe there's some latent resistentialism. I guess we'll have to wait until they finish those studies. (Hopefully it will distract them from trying to disturb the peaceful existence of our underwater ally.)

Anyway, I have dinner with some guys from church on Monday nights. During the course of last night's dinner, someone mentioned "summer nights," and I made a reference to the old-school Van Halen song by that name. Later in the conversation, a John Mayer song came up, and someone else made reference to the fact that his song lyrics often demonstrate his Atlanta roots.

What does this have to do with anything? After dinner, I got in the car to drive home, and I selected "Shuffle" on my iPod. What were the very first two songs that it played (out of the 2000+ that I've loaded onto it)?

"Summer Nights" - Van Halen
"Why Georgia" - John Mayer


Monday, June 06, 2005

mmm, nachos

We had a great time seeing Andrew Peterson in concert on Friday night. As with all AP shows, it was a mixture of wonderful songs, excellent musicians and hearty laughter (sometimes caused by forgotten lyrics). Picking a single highlight would be quite a feat, especially since Andy and gang played a few songs from his forthcoming album (due out in August). But if I had to narrow it down, one of the shining moments would be Andy's ode to his favorite Mexican restaurant. (Unless you've heard it before, you'll have to imagine that he is singing in a really high voice for the italicized parts. If you have heard it, then tap into your memory banks.)


There is a reason, you see
That I’m thicker in the middle
I could blame it on a bad knee
Maybe just a little

I could blame it on my blue jeans
Or that my wife is such a fine chef
My metabolism’s changing
But I haven’t told you why yet

It’s a magical, mysterious
Hispanically ambiguous glaze

What is that white stuff on my nachos?
It’s too thick for melted cheese
It’s too thin to be just milk so
Won’t somebody tell me please
What is that white stuff I’m consuming
Beause it’s so consuming me

You know they’ll never tell you
‘Cause then they’d have to kill you
There’s a mother lode of cheese juice
They found at Maccu Picchu

In the temple of the Incas
There’s a fountain flowing cheese dip
And they smuggle it to Texas
And they trick us with the free chips

It’s mind control in a salsa bowl
Well, I’m not even sure I remember how I got here


So this is sort of a love song
It’s a kind of confession
As for me, you see I’m long gone
So consider this a lesson

They wanna make us into zombies
Lurching to La Hacienda
To gobble up the chimichangis
That isn’t how you wanna end up

I can tell you that Mexico remembers the Alamo
And the ghost of Montezuma’s on the move

He’s taking over with the white stuff on my nachos
It’s too thin for melted cheese
It’s too thick to be just milk
In its sublime consistency
What is that white stuff I’m consuming
Because it’s so consuming me
What is that white stuff, won’t somebody tell me please
What is that white stuff? I don’t care, just pass the cheese

Friday, June 03, 2005

There I Am!

This past Sunday, our pastor used an analogy that ties in very nicely with some of the issues raised by Marva Dawn in Unfettered Hope (which I will one day finish reviewing!). Dawn notes that one instance of how the church is negatively impacted by misplaced cultural "values" occurs in how Christians approach the Bible. Rather than being those who read the Bible for all its worth, many Christians have been shaped by our society into being "consumerist readers" -- that is, they read the Bible solely to pluck out principles, lessons or applications that apply directly to them and their situation (a practice which often results in reading their own lives and situations into the text).

Our pastor, describing how we often ignore the bigger picture of the Bible in favor of such self-focused readings, used the analogy of our typical reaction to our grade school yearbooks. What did we typically do first when we received our yearbooks each year? We usually spent our initial look scanning the pages in search of ourselves.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Ugly Calvinism

Phil Johnson's blog post on "Quick-And-Dirty Calvinism" is a pretty good read, with a number of great observations. I think he is very much correct in noting that much of the backlash against Calvinism, especially from those who have in previous times embraced that label, is actually directed against a certain species of "Internet Calvinism" and not against actual, historic Calvinism. His closing advice is pretty apt:
And meanwhile, my advice to young Calvinists is to learn your theology from the historic mainstream Calvinist authors, not from blogs and discussion forums on the Internet. Some of the forums may be helpful in pointing you to helpful resources. But if you think of them as a surrogate for seminary, you're probably going to become an ugly Calvinist—and if you get hit in the face with a rotten egg, you probably deserve it.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005


Reading over two recent reviews from Decent Films, I noticed a spot-on ability of the author to duplicate the tone and feel of the books (from which the films are based) in his writing.

For example, this introduction from his review of the Lemony Snicket movie:
If you prefer movie reviews about pleasant and uplifting films in which goodness is suitably rewarded, evil is suitably punished, and children are not placed in excessive peril or disagreeable circumstances, you may wish to read some other review.

While it is my duty to review Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, loosely based on the first three volumes of the best-selling series of books for intermediate readers, you might be happier not reading this review and never learning about the dreadful events that befall the three Baudelaire children — very quickly the Baudelaire orphans — in this film.

And this, a charming example from his review of Hitchiker's Guide:

Likewise, one of the film’s more inventive images involves a literally slapstick sequence in which Arthur, Ford and Zaphod must run a punishing gauntlet of thought-sensitive booby traps. It’s the kind of thing Adams might have come up with, but in the books he would have told us (a) who built the traps and why, (b) how they work, (c) what unforeseen consequences their deployment has had, and, most crucially, (d) what thought-suppressing expedient ultimately enabled Arthur, Ford and/or Zaphod to thwart them (a constant stream of small talk? singing sitcom theme songs? listening to broadcast presidential debates?).

Although I appreciate most of his comments on both films, I entirely disagree with his thoughts on the literary quality of Harry Potter vs. the Lemony Snicket series, despite his creative attempt at Snicket mimcry (see this book for some of my reasons why):

Still, it can easily be said that these books are far superior literarily to that other wildly popular series of dark-themed stories for young readers, the Harry Potter stories. And, with eleven of a projected thirteen volumes published so far, each thirteen chapters long and none more than double the length of the 175-page first entry, A Series of Unfortunate Events also exhibits commendable consistency and literary self-discipline. This also is in marked contrast to the Harry Potter books, which over time have become alarmingly tumid — the word “tumid” is related to “tumor,” and here means “swollen” or “bloated,” as well as “badly in need of editing.”

All that to say, it's nice to read film reviews from someone who appears to actually enjoy his job.