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!