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.