Thursday, August 31, 2006

Redemption as Partying?

Anthony Bradley asks why Christians aren't partying more:
So if the kingdom is real, if creation is all good, if life is not suppose to suck, if God is renewing all things to himself through Christ, if you are united to Jesus and standing before God forgiven, then why is your social life so boring? Why are you not either at a party or throwing a party every weekend? Why are you not inviting people into your community of celebration?

I think this directly connects to the prophetic wisdom: "Be excellent to each other. And, PARTY ON, DUDES!"

(H/T to the BHT)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Katrina Cottages

Yesterday, I wondered out loud to my husband if the New Urbanists had taken over New Orleans yet. (I meant this in a good way-- I hope it comes true!) The nightly news had broadcast a story on "Musician's Row" and the rainbow-colored houses seemed very New-Urbanist to me. (New Urbanism is an architectural and city planning movement that seeks to create walkable, livable, affordable communities.) In the past, they brought you such high-end spots as Seaside, Florida, and our very own Atlantic Station in Atlanta, Georgia. However, thankfully, the trend is now on to more affordable housing, of which I will be even more grateful if we ever get to live in such a community. Our internet-friend Trevor is about to move into a New Urbanist community in St. Louis. Lucky.

If the New Urbanists haven't taken over New Orleans yet, they've certainly made their mark on Mississippi. This evening, in the wake of the one-year anniversary of hurricane Katrina, I spotted the last few minutes of a television segment on the now famous "little yellow house" whose descendants are popping up all over the storm-ravaged coast. Check out this article about the original Katrina Cottage that has now expanded to 23 designs and is being adapted for hurricane victims from Louisiana to North Carolina. I also found this Cottage Living feature to be both touching and informative. I am encouraged by efforts to not just rebuild communities, but to make them new-- to renew the sense of ownership and pride and neighborliness in the victims of such a horrible tragedy. It's nice to know architecture can make such a huge impact on people's lives. As the architect of the little yellow house, Cuasto, said, the Katrina Cottage could "lead the nation in what could be a revolution in affordable housing." I sincerly hope that's true.

Celebrity Pastors and Church Polity

David Wayne (aka "The Jollyblogger") has some good comments on the disastrous results (as evidenced by a couple of recent cases in the SBC) that can arise when pastors, especially renowned ones, are ministering in environments where there is no effective church polity (whether local or denominational) to provide oversight and accountability.

Conan at the Emmys

We didn't watch the Emmy Awards this weekend, but after seeing host Conan O'Brien's opening sequence, I actually regret not tuning in! Funny, funny stuff.

Monday, August 28, 2006

News For Nickel Creek Fans

From nickelcreek.com:

Dearest Listener,

After seven years of extensive touring in support of three records (seventeen years as a band), we've decided to take a break of indefinite length at the end of 2007 to preserve the environment we've sought so hard to create and to pursue other interests. It has been a pleasure to write, record, and perform for you through the years and we'd like to heartily thank you for your invaluable contribution to our musical lives.

Yours,

Nickel Creek
(Sean, Sara, and Chris)

Friday, August 25, 2006

Fine Art Friday

South West Nave, Chartres Cathedral
Chartres, France
This portion built c. 1194-1230
Image from Pitt Image Library

(Notice how small the people are...I remember feeling dwarfed by the grandeur and scale of such sacred space. It's the only "gift shop book" I ever bought on either of my trips to France, though pictures cannot do justice to the beauty of the building. We here in twenty-first century America cannot imagine the suffering and sacrifice and unfinished toil behind a church that took centuries to build. To me, the construction of a cathedral is a metaphor for the Christian life: significant changes take more than one lifetime, someone else will always finish the work that you started, and the end result of many people working together is always much better than anything one individual could produce.)

Sandra McCracken Interview

Enjoyable Radiant Magazine interview with Sandra McCracken.

(H/T to squarepegalliance.net)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A Taste of Things to Come

"The Eucharist, finally, also teaches that our present experience of God's presence and blessing is incomplete. We have tasted that the Lord is good, sampled a bit of the heavenly gift; we have entered into the sanctuary (Heb. 6:4-6). But we are not yet filled. Like eating popcorn, the Supper just makes us want more. The taste makes us long all the more for the consummation of the promise, when we shall see God face-to-face, know even as we are known, and sit with Him at His table in the eternal kingdom of heaven."

(Jeff Meyers, The Lord's Service, p 226)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Symphonic Theology

In approaching the Scriptures, many Christians (for whatever reasons) end up with an insulated view of theology informed by a single tradition or outlook. In more extreme cases, any view differing in even the most minute detail is automatically rejected. But even in less extreme cases, there can be a reluctance to look to differing perspectives (or even to realize that other viewpoints exist in the first place!). Symphonic Theology, by Vern Poythress, is an insightful look at the benefits of using multiple theological perspectives in order to gain a better grasp of the truth. Poythress uses the analogy of a symphony, in which multiple instruments are blended together, to describe an approach to theology that seeks to incorporate the strengths of various perspectives to better understand the Scriptural teachings on any given subject. Poythress is quick to argue that this approach should not be confused with a relativistic "all perspectives are equally acceptable" view. Rather, he argues that truth is often like a multi-faceted jewel, where the view from different facets gives a different view of the whole. Poythress explains that combining these multiple viewing perspectives can lead to a more complete appreciation of the whole.

Poythress makes many great observations, especially about the nature of language and its limitations. For instance, he cautions that superimposing systematic theological language back onto the Scriptures (especially in the case of a shared term like "faith" or "salvation") can often lead to poor understanding of the actual text. Additionally, he notes that the Bible makes use of the flexibility of language in the same ways that we use everyday language: with great versatility in being able to incorporate a broader scope of meaning, as well as to focus with greater precision. Awareness of these factors will help us become better readers of the Bible.

The only real complaint I have about the book is its relatively short length (~120 pages). Although it is intended as a brief introduction to the idea of "symphonic theology," it might have been improved by including more test cases, especially since Poythress notes that this approach is best illustrated using examples. Nonetheless, the book is a great read and is an encouragement to better understand the broader issues of language and perspective in approaching the Scriptures and theology.

By the way, the full-text of the book can be found here (posted on the internet with the permission of the publisher).

Friday, August 18, 2006

Fine Art Friday

Le Berceau (The Cradle)
Berthe Morisot
1872; Oil on canvas
Musee d'Orsay, Paris

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Reform and Resurge

Last week I finished listening to all the sessions from the 2006 Reform and Resurge conference, held earlier this year at Mars Hill Church in Seattle. This three-day conference focused on many of the issues involved with bringing the Gospel to an ever-changing culture. Although the conference was largely geared towards pastors and church leadership, there is much material that is profitable for everyone. Audio and video of the sessions are available at the link above.

Overall, I thought the sessions were very good, with Tim Keller's easily being the best of the bunch. During the course of his three talks, he addressed how the Christian faith enters into specific cultural contexts, how the Gospel should be preached to engage Christians and non-Christians alike, and how ideas of justice can be better integrated into the worship and life of churches. Highly recommended.

I also enjoyed the talk by Eric Mason, an African-American church planter in urban Philadelphia. Typically, words like "Reformed" and "missional" are only spoken in a predominantly middle-class white context; however, Mason (along with fellow speaker Anthony Bradley, also an African-American) is a great example of the multi-ethnic diversity that can arise from a solid Gospel foundation.

Mark Driscoll's concluding talk (sermon, really) on the Cross was very encouraging, as well, since he stressed the importance of keeping the Cross at the center of ministry and life in general.

These are just some highlights, but again, the entire conference is definitely worth a listen or two. So download away.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

For All (Any?) Readers Across the Big Pond

Last year, the public high school where I teach became the subject of a BBC Documentary on high school proms. (Don't ask me how it won that distinction-- I think it may be some connection with the filmmaker, but I imagine the high school is now VERY different from the way she remembers it.)
26 years after graduating, Lisa Teasley, an author from Los Angeles, goes back to high school in Atlanta to follow several teenagers in the run-up to the prom. She meets Kelvin, a popular black football player who is involved in a love triangle with Katherine and Laura, who are both white. This is the American South, and Lisa explores the issues of race as well as sexuality. ....

The programme gives an insight to the world of American teens and looks at their hopes, dreams and aspirations as they leave behind the sheltered world of high school and embark on their journey into adulthood.
If you live in the UK and would like to see what all the fuss is about (apparently you don't have proms?!? You mean you never had to endure the agony?), then watch BBC4 Wednesday night, August 16th, at 10:00 p.m. (I imagine it repeats if you miss it.)

Thankfully, I made myself scarce when the cameras came by, but I would like to know how it turned out. I believe one of my students was featured. Also, apparently there are no school buses in England, so the crew had to stage a scene in which students exit from a county school bus. Fun. I do have to admit it was quite neat that the school held it's Senior Prom in the box at Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves. It might be worth watching just for that.

The filmmaker promises to send us DVD's once it becomes available on BBC World, but I'm just impatient...and curious! If anyone watches this, please let me know!

Lost Grand Theory

Lost fans, if you're like me, you gave up on "The Lost Experience" game some time ago. Don't get me wrong! In principle, the idea of discovering the backstory for the show is appealing, especially considering the level of detail to which the show's creators have imagined. But the weekly search for cryptic clues and links to over-trafficked websites soon became too tedious.

Thankfully, there are always obsessive fans out there, and they usually have websites, such as The Lost Grand Theory, which purportedly assembles all the various information revealed through the game. I can't vouch for its accuracy, but it makes for an interesting read!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Election Regrets

Kind readers, I hope you will pardon a politically-focused post, which aren't too common around these parts.

Georgia just had runoff elections for several recent primaries, and my biggest regret is that I did not get to vote against Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, from Georgia's 4th Congressional District. Even non-Georgians are probably familiar with McKinney's proclivity for public controversy, from her allegations of government improprieties surrounding 9/11 and the Iraq War to her recent scuffle with U.S. Capitol law enforcement. In the 2004 election, I happily voted against her, albeit to no avail due to the overwhelming blue-ness of my district. Imagine my disappointment, just weeks before the 2006 primary, when I discovered that recent gerrymandering re-districting has moved us into a different Congressional district. So sad.

Thankfully, the citizens of District 4 have had enough of McKinney's shenanigans, and she was defeated in a landslide by challenger Hank Johnson, who will almost certainly win in November. Some have argued that it would have been better to stick with a known incompetent than to elect someone who might actually be effective in implementing an objectionable platform. Perhaps. But McKinney is an embarassment to the state of Georgia, and to the U.S. in general, even in defeat:

  • Even in her concession speech, she still managed to take swipes at the President, allege voter fraud and media bias, and laud the leadership of Cuba and Venezuela.
  • The evening of the election, her personal bodyguard got into an altercation with a local news crew.
  • After the election, her staffers allegedly attributed her loss to "the Jews."

    Classy. The irony is, this is the exact sort of behavior that cost her the election in the first place. My only hope is that she is unable to reclaim her seat in the next election cycle, like she did after being ousted in 2002. Only time will tell.

    Fun facts I learned about McKinney:
    - In Congress, she sponsored a bill to release governments records pertaining to the death of Tupac.
    - Her bodyguard (the one involved in the scuffle mentioned above) had a small role in Enter the Dragon.
  • Friday, August 04, 2006

    One Book (Allison)

    Like Gaines mentioned, Travis tagged us with this meme a few days ago. The same rules apply here.

    Just one for each? You know that's torture for an English major/teacher, don't you?!

    1. One book that changed your life:
    Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

    Honestly. I picked this book out of a Weekly Reader catalog (of all things-- remember those?) at age 12, when I was still reading Babysitter's Club books. I first fell in love with the story, then the humor, and soon became enchanted with Elizabeth Bennet. From then on, I've read it countless times, probably at least once a year. P&P heightened my taste for all things great about British literature, weaned me away from young adult novels, and helped me appreciate a good satire. The influence of this book also steered me away from a biology/pre-med major back to my first love-- English, and I cited it as a factor as to why I wanted to be a teacher of literature in a graduate school essay.

    2. One book that you’ve read more than once:
    Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

    Actually, I think I've read every book L.M. Montgomery ever wrote more than once-- especially the Anne and Emily series. Even her collections of short stories. Yes, I even have her collected journals that my parents got for me on our trip to Montreal when I was 14 (You can only find them in Canada, and there was no such thing as Amazon.com back then!). Sometimes I used to wish I had been born a century earlier, but then I remember modern conveniences like washing machines and the internet. One day, though, I do hope to visit Prince Edward Island and see her beloved landscape in person.

    3. One book you’d want on a desert island:
    The Complete Works of William Shakespeare

    It has everything-- comedy, history, tragedy, romance, and a mixture of all four! Why would I need anything else? Besides, it would finally give me the time to put in the time and study his plays deserve.

    4. One book that made you laugh:
    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

    I've volunteered to work with autistic children and teenagers in the past, and this book gave a lighthearted first-person perspective of someone with Asperger's. It makes the reader appreciate a different point of view-- and the laughter the author evokes is not derisive or mocking, but understanding. A fun, quick read.

    5. One book that made you cry:
    The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

    I remember I was reading this at the beach (of all places to read a bleak turn-of-the century American classic) and I just started crying at the end because Lily's death was so pointless and could've been prevented so easily. She did have a place in the world, she just didn't know it. House of Mirth reminds me that in a society without the one true Hope, life becomes meaningless. The recent film version didn't come close to being as powerful as the novel--I'd suggest reading the book.

    6. One book that you wish had been written:
    The Stone Camellia and the Cajun Belle: Collected Anecdotes from my Grandmothers' Lives by Me

    Before they passed away, I wish I had thought to interview both my maternal grandmother, Dixie Dozier, and my paternal grandmother, Helen Lee. (Sadly, my grandfathers passed away before I could know them well-- one before I was born and one when I turned three.) I learned more funny incidents about my grandmother Dozier at her funeral than I think anyone ever told me in her lifetime. I wish I'd paid more attention to their stories, asked them more questions, and written it all down before they died. I've heard snippets of family history here and there from my parents, but I'd like to know about Helen's childhood in New Orleans in her own words, and I long to hear from Grandmother Dozier about the uncle I never knew who passed away when he was only 6. I hope that one day, when we all get new bodies, I can sit at their feet and listen to their stories of life on this broken, beaten earth and laugh at what foolish children we all were.

    7. One book you wish had never been written:
    Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins

    Yes, I read it, back in high school. I think I got to number 4 in the series before I wised up.

    8. One book you’re currently reading:
    BabyCatcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife by Peggy Vincent

    I found this book in my friend Sarah's home (she's a labor/delivery nurse so she has interesting books like that) while I was babysitting another friend's adorable little seven-month old girl. I've been intrigued by all the birth stories, from the thrilling to the scary to the seemingly easy. How do those Christian Science women stay silent and composed? The author includes quotes from Scripture and the Book of Common Prayer at the beginning of each section, and she writes with such joy that it's a delight to read about even the most harrowing of events. I wonder if she is a Christian. Anyone know?

    9. One book you’ve been meaning to read:
    Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey

    Ever since this was mentioned during one of the breakout sessions at the first JEI conference we went to in 2005, it's been near the top of my wish list. I've heard about it from multiple sources as a twenty-first century instant classic. Then, Gaines won a copy of it from a Challies drawing, but it's been sitting sadly on our crowded shelf of unread books. I thought this summer would be my chance, but perhaps I may be able to get to it over Christmas break.

    10. Now tag five people:
    Jennifer
    Mary
    Lane
    Courtney
    Kristen

    Fine Art Friday


    The Wait, Oil on canvas
    Jean BĂ©raud (1848-1935)
    Musee D'Orsay, Paris

    Thursday, August 03, 2006

    Matthew Smith on "Evangelistic Worship"

    Matthew Smith has a good post on the subject of whether worship services should be intentionally structured to connect with non-believers, or focused on believers only. Quoting from Tim Keller, Matthew notes that such discussions often miss the larger point:
    If the Sunday service and sermon aim primarily at evangelism, it will bore the saints. If they aim primarily at education, they’ll bore and confuse unbelievers. If they aim at praising the God who saves by grace they’ll both instruct insiders and challenge outsiders.

    Summarizes Smith:
    If God's free grace given to us in Jesus isn't the focus of a worship service (the singing, the preaching, etc.), then "worship" is merely another worthless religious self-delusion.

    Tuesday, August 01, 2006

    One Book (Gaines)

    Travis has seen fit to tag us with another book meme, and Jason has joined in a pincer-manuever. So here is my humble contribution.

    Note: The standard disclaimer "other than the Bible" applies.

    1. One book that changed your life:
    The Greatest Book on Dispensational Truth in the World, Larkin

    I list this humbly-titled book for two reasons: One, it was as a college freshman that I was first seriously challenged to delve into my Christian faith, by some ardent Larkin/Scofield enthusiasts. And two, I think I now disagree with almost everything in this book (especially the chapter on "The Dispensational Teaching of the Great Pyramid").

    2. One book that you’ve read more than once:
    The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien

    Sure, it's a popular answer, but it really is that good. (And it really does count as one book, too.)

    3. One book you’d want on a desert island:
    Robinson Crusoe, Defoe

    Seems pretty applicable.

    4. One book that made you laugh:
    The Inimitable Jeeves, Wodehouse

    The first Jeeves novel I read. Subsequent ones have also made me laugh out loud with remarkable consistency.

    5. One book that made you cry:
    Where the Red Fern Grows, Rawls

    I swear I'm not a robot, but the print medium just doesn't seem to evoke those kinds of responses in me. But I do remember this one being pretty sad.

    6. One book that you wish had been written:
    Can't We All Just Get Along? - The Reformed Faith as the Basis For Christian Unity

    It could happen ...

    7. One book you wish had never been written:
    See number #1.

    8. One book you’re currently reading:
    Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin

    I swear I'm going to finish this one by the end of the year. (Note: I didn't specify which year.)

    9. One book you’ve been meaning to read:
    Brave New World, Huxley

    Somehow I made it through high school without reading this. (Of course, I read 1984 for the first time just a couple of years ago.)

    10. Now tag five people:
    Kennan and Chandra
    Trevor
    Eric (if he still reads us ...)
    Patricia (Or Jamil, if he still remembers how to post on that thing ...)

    Mars Hill Audio Podcast

    Ken Myers and the fine folks at Mars Hill Audio now have a podcast.

    w00t!

    (Tip o' the hat to the BHT)