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Happy 250th Birthday, Mozart! Today I will celebrate by listening to the Kyrie from your C-Minor mass, going on a date with my wife, who like Constanze, makes me more responsible, profitable and tolerable than I'd be on my own, and informing my small audience about your exceptional life:

Mozart, an ugly child with one eye noticeably larger than the other, was raised by his father Leopold, a musician bent on making Mozart a success. It's hard to say whether Mozart was a prodigy by nature or by nurture. What is certain is that Mozart grew up in a sort of home school music boot camp that gave him such advanced skills in harpsichord/piano performance and composition that he was rocking for royalty and high society as a grade schooler - like a trained monkey on parade, one of my professors once said.

Unfortunately, like the Michael Jackson of his day, unable to have a "normal" childhood full of whimsy and play, Mozart lacked social graces as an adult and often chose goofing off or pulling pranks over the serious work of composing and self-promoting. Was Mozart aching for a childhood he never had? Among his favorite past times was a game some think he invented called musical dice and bowling, a lowbrow pastime then in its infancy.

Mozart wrote church music, masses for the wealthy Catholic Church which along with government was the primary patron of the arts until popular secular music forms like comic opera funded by business men and ticket sales brought Mozart's music to the masses - something he always wanted more than the restrictive and pious worlds of sacred music and government sanctioned safely scripted "serious" opera. We modern Christians sometimes look back on this period of Church-funded art as the good ole days and fail to see the whole dismal picture: restricted themes and forms and lengths and ranges etc, character and acceptance of set beliefs were not requirements for the job of Church composer - only skill and acceptance of pay, the inability for Church composers often to accept contracts from outside the Church once working for her. This was a stifling existence for an artist of great ambition with many varied interests artistically and thematically - and even more stifling for an often immoral and brash man like Mozart.

Frustrating for Mozart as well because he could write, it seemed, anything he wanted, quickly and in one draft, and was therefore limited only by what he could find a market for, what he could be paid to compose since there was little time after composing for pay to compose for fun. The comedic opera for the common man The Magic Flute is one of the few examples of what Mozart composed for his own amusement - not that he didn't enjoy composing other pieces but this humorous and whimsical opera composed for pennies gives us a glimpse at what Mozart was willing to compose simply for his love of the music itself. It might reveal what Mozart would have written had money been no object. And *cough* it was pop music.

Unlike Beethoven and other great composers, Mozart's scores are eerily clean. No scratch outs. No rough drafts. He was said to be taking dictation, simply writing down what he heard playing in his mind, composing constantly inside his mind until a piece was completed, then transcribing it onto paper with pen. All the drafts and revisions took place in his imagination.

Mozart, despite this rare gifting, popularity with both the commoners and royalty (though he wasn't their favorite because he broke the composition rules of the day for length, form and range often), and his more than 600 compositions, Mozart died in relative poverty. Buried in an unmarked grave. His wife outlived him by fifty years and in those years sold many of his manuscripts, returned to his birth place in Salzburg and promoted Mozart and the city as his home. Her tireless efforts created the Mozart tourism industry, expanded his fame and the reach of his music and birthed the Mozart "brand" worth over six billion dollars today.

Proof that greatness is not always rewarded but always rewarding, Mozart reminds the artist that art is what we make because we can't help ourselves, not something we do just for money but something we do when there is none. It's who we are. And he reminds us that beauty and divinity can, and often do, force their way into the world through the most ugly and irreverent of people. So look for them - beauty and God - where you least expect them.

Happy Birthday, Mozart.



Google claims it has mastered the search engine and is now able to eliminate time-consuming and irritating false results caused by blog pages and other websites listing frequently searched for words in order to attract visits. Let's see.

SHLOG.COM CONTAINS NO INFORMATION ABOUT THESE TOP QUERIES: anna benson, zac efron, kate beckinsale, miss america, jenna elfman, leif garrett, barrett jackson, american idol, tanith belbin, australian open, martina hingis, jill carroll, maria sharapova, seahawks, steelers, Janet Jackson, Hurricane Katrina, tsunami, xbox 360, Brad Pitt, Michael Jackson, American Idol, Britney Spears, Angelina Jolie, Harry Potter, ipod, digital camera, mp3 player, ipod mini, psp, laptop, xbox, ipod shuffle, computer desk, ipod nano, free porn, on-line poker, myspace, or burnlounge. DID YOU GET HERE BY GOOGLING ANY OF THEM?

If so, I apologize if this test has been time-consuming or irritating to you.



Don't like how department store t-shirts snuggle your torso? Try Threadless.com, a company utilizing the increasingly popular open-source method of production to clothe the finicky fashion-forward consumer like you. Threadless puts YOU the consumer in charge of the t-shirt production process in which you submit a t-shirt design on-line, the plans are posted, commented on, blogged about and voted upon. Designs with the most votes "win" are put into production. And you get the t-shirt you've always wanted to wear, the joy of creating something everyone else wants to wear and a chunk of change for helping Threadless make a buck or two along the way. Everyone's happy. Amazing!

The LINUX operating system constantly being tweaked and updated by its users is another example of open-source production, as is the popular and always accurate Wikipedia on-line encyclopedia.

Of course Luther may be the father of open-source production theory. He advanced an idea called "priesthood of the believer" - the belief that God is equally accessible to all individual Christians. This idea coupled with rampant consumerism (I want it my way) and individualism (I can do it by myself) have brought open-source theology to us all. That's right, it's finally here, open-source theology. For an example of this marvelous theology formation technique at work visit your local "Sunday school" class where the teacher will lead you and your classmates in the exciting creation of your very own customized theology. The tools? One verse of scripture and one question: What do YOU think this means?

Yes, thanks to the open-source production method you can create your own apparel, your own facts, your own computer software and now your very own God. Songwriters, authors, preachers, publishers, record companies and radio stations are just some of the few prolific theology manufacturers who've discovered this powerful market-pleasing production method. Now it's your turn! Join the open-source revolution.

Who do YOU think God should be? Have it Yaweh!


We all worship something I guess. Here's a sample of one man's praise of Chuck:

  • Forget Wikipedia, if Chuck Norris wants you know something, he will tell you.
  • Chuck Norris' tears cure cancer. But he has never cried. Ever.
  • Chuck Norris is currently suing NBC, claiming Law and Order are trademarked names for his left and right legs.
  • Chuck Norris has counted to infinity. Twice.
  • Chuck Norris does not hunt because the word hunting infers the probability of failure. Chuck Norris goes killing.
  • In fine print on the last page of the Guinness Book of World Records it notes that all world records are held by Chuck Norris, and those listed in the book are simply the closest anyone else has ever gotten.
  • There is no chin behind Chuck Norris' beard. There is only another fist.
  • The Great Wall of China was originally created to keep Chuck Norris out. It failed misserably.
  • There is no theory of evolution, just a list of creatures Chuck Norris allows to live.
  • When Chuck Norris sends in his taxes, he sends blank forms and includes only a picture of himself, crouched and ready to attack. Chuck Norris has not had to pay taxes ever.
  • A Handicap parking sign does not signify that this spot is for handicapped people. It is actually in fact a warning, that the spot belongs to Chuck Norris and that you will be handicapped if you park there.
  • Chuck Norris will attain statehood in 2009. His state flower will be the Magnolia.
  • Contrary to popular belief, America is not a democracy, it is a Chucktatorship.
  • In an average living room there are 1,242 objects Chuck Norris could use to kill you, including the room itself.
  • Chuck Norris can touch MC Hammer.
  • Chuck Norris doesn't read books. He stares them down until he gets the information he wants.

    Worship further - and buy a t-shirt - here. (Warning: As is the case with most religions, parts of this one are offensive to some and may contain references and lingo understood and meaningful only to it's followers. Read at your own risk.)

    HT: Jordan Cooper

  • 1/23/2006


    It gnawed one grandmother's nose from her face. It consumed my other grandmother's pancreas. It melted my grandfather's organs so quickly we're not sure which one it began feasting on first.


    Cancer from smoking. From inhaling smoke. From inhaling the smoke exhaled by others.

    Every eight seconds someone in the United States - a mother, father, friend, child - dies using as directed a legally manufactured product. They often die of cancer. From cigarettes.

    Stupid people die. Stupid smokers - I've thought before.

    I don't easily understand why an adult with a radio, a television, a newspaper, common sense, with any information from the last twenty years concerning the fatal effects of tobacco would raise a cigarette to their lips, set it on fire and inhale their venom into their lungs and bloodstream. I don't easily understand, but I understand. I do now. I understand why David smokes at least.

    No such poll has been conducted to my knowledge but nine out of ten doctors I'm sure would agree that cigarettes are a healthier alternative to heroin. I've never lost a grandparent to heroin yet I know from stories like David's its hooks are longer and sharper and it's death more gruesome than Marlboro's.

    David smokes so he won't shoot up. That's progress. I met David tonight at a homeless program, and as is the case with many jubilant recovering addicts I've met over the years, David was eager to tell me his story of regret and redemption.

    Pot. Acid. Mushrooms. Cocaine.


    Lost job. Lost house. Lost hope.


    Lost drugs. Found smoking.

    Then church. Church - a place where David felt like a stupid smoker and not a healed heroin addict.

    David has me looking past my dead grandparents tonight, past the burning paper/failed IQ test in his hands, past tonight to his past. I'm seeing the mountain of progress through the smoke. I'm seeing myself more clearly.

    I'm reminded that there are more than a few warm vices in my own hands these days, unhealthy alternatives to the more dangerous poisons of my yesterdays. I hope someone doesn't write me off as stupid because I stumble over these. After all it was only yesterday I couldn't get up to stumble. That's progress.

    Be patient with me and David. Be patient with yourself. We're all getting well, one addiction at a time.



    I found this interesting in a nerdy sort of way. Excerpts from Wikipedia's entry for Celsus, a voice against Christianity under the Roman Empire. I stumbled onto Celsus while studying why it was that Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:24-25 that Christianity was rejected by the Greeks. You can tell a lot about a thing by it's enemies' taunts can't you? As you read, remember this is the era Christ was born into and in which the early Church was raised:

    Celsus was a 2nd century opponent of Christianity, known to us mainly through the reputation of his literary work, The True Word (or Account), almost entirely reproduced in excerpts by Origen in his counter-polemic Contra Celsum of 248, seventy years after Celsus wrote. In that year...the atmosphere was full of conflict. Rome was celebrating the 1000th anniversary of its founding...Over against the state and the worship of the Caesar stood as usual the Christian ideal of A RULE AND A CITIZENSHIP NOT OF THIS WORLD (emphasis mine), to which a thousand years were but as a day. A supernatural pride was blended with a natural anxiety, and it was at this juncture that Origen brought to light again a book written in the days of Marcus Aurelius. Sometimes quoting, sometimes paraphrasing, sometimes merely referring, Origen reproduces and replies to all Celsus' arguments.

    Celsus opens the way for his own attack by rehearsing the taunts levelled at the Christians by the Jews. Jesus was born in adultery, and nurtured on the wisdom of Egypt. His assertion of divine dignity is disproved by his poverty and his miserable end. Christians have no standing in the Old Testament prophecies, and their talk of a resurrection that was only revealed to some of their own adherents is foolishness. Celsus indeed says that the Jews are almost as ridiculous as the foes they attack; the latter said the saviour from Heaven had come, the former still looked for his coming. However, the Jews have the advantage of being an ancient nation with an ancient faith. The idea of an Incarnation of God is absurd; why should the human race think itself so superior to bees, ants and elephants as to be put in this unique relation to its maker? And why should God choose to come to men as a Jew? The Christian idea of a special providence is nonsense, an insult to the deity. Christians are like a council of frogs in a marsh or a synod of worms on a dunghill, croaking and squeaking, "For our sakes was the world created".

    [In the end Celsus makes a final appeal to Christians in Rome] Come, he says, don't hold aloof from the common regime. Take your place by the emperor's side. Don't claim for yourselves another empire, or any special position. It is an overture for peace. If all were to follow your example and abstain from politics, the affairs of the world would fall into the hands of wild and lawless barbarians (viii.68). [Where've I heard that argument before?] Conceding that Christians are not without success in business (infructuosi in negotiis), he wants them to be good citizens, to retain their own belief but conform to the state religion. It is an earnest and striking appeal on behalf of the Empire, which was clearly in great danger, and it shows the terms offered to the Church, as well as the importance of the Church at the time.

    WHAT STRUCK ME: It's interesting - not proof of any wrong thinking on it's own but just interesting for now - how similar the modern American evangelical view of proper church and state relations is to Celsus' view (his final plea for Christian involvement) and how dissimilar that view is to the early church's. To put it more bluntly, Pat Robertson and many Christian friends of mine sound more like Roman atheists serving Caesar 2000 years ago than early Christians following a Christ crucified for sedition against the Empire. Why is that? Is it a bad thing? What do you think?



    It looked like all was lost. There seemed to be no way this backward group of people called "Christians" could possibly thrive in the fashion forward culturally throttled city of Corinth. How'd a group of totally "irrelevant" losers pull it off, and why didn't God choose people who were, well, not them? We're looking deeper into 1 Corinthians 1:11-2:5 this week at IKON for some answers.

    Check out ikoncommunity.com or call 615.794.2812 if you live in the Nashville area and would like directions or more info about IKON. Click over to IKON's blog afterwards to join the discussion about this and more.


    I saw new independent film End Of The Spear last night - the true story of a missionary's journey into the dense Amazon basin of Ecuador in hopes of making contact with a violent tribe of pagan warriors. The images of vast rain forest and stone age tribal living are beautiful and worth seeing on the big screen. The soundtrack is the only glaring weakness of the film for me, the formulaic orchestrations and CCM sounding closing credits song were distractions for me as a musician - actually causing me not to feel as much as I would have watching with no soundtrack at all. But if you see the film strain to listen beyond the Back To School Special music bed and you'll hear, even see in action, a powerful argument for Christian non-violence against pagan enemies. (Pacifism, some might call it).

    As the missionary at the center of the story prepares to embark on a trip into the savage jungles of Ecuador his son hugs him goodbye and asks if his father will shoot the notoriously brutal natives if they attack him. His dad quickly answers in profound simplicity, "We can't shoot them. They're not ready for Heaven yet...and we are."

    Amazing how this film spoke to me more potently the core principles and priorities of Christianity than sermons, theology books and hours of debate often do.



    "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:3)

    Jesus lowers his body to the grassy hillside, his disciples squatting around him and leaning in. Splitting his gaze between them and the crowd of curiosity seeking Jews just over their shoulders, he crosses his legs and announces, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,”

    How strange. How insensitive to any Jewish seekers of the Messiah on the mountain. This is his first opportunity after all to make a good impression, to win them over to his revolution, to persuade them into becoming citizens of his kingdom. Such an enormous number of potential converts too, a multitude of Jews seeking a Messiah to fall in step behind. Why start like this, with poverty? He might as well have said, “My empire is only for the weak, the helpless losers, for the worthless and powerless.”

    And well, that’s what He meant.

    There are two words for “poor” Jesus could have used in his first blessing here in Mathew 5:3. Pen¯es describes a man who works for a living but has nothing more than he needs, nothing left over once he’s fed, housed and clothed himself. He’s not rich but he’s not in need either. He has just enough but most of us with more than enough would still call him poor. Pt¯ochos, on the other hand, the word spoken by Jesus here instead, is a more brutal picture of poverty. Beggars are Pt¯ochos. Abject poverty. Nothing to their name. No skill or opportunity to change their situation either. Empty belly and no way to fill it. Naked body and nothing to sew for it. Crippled flesh and no hope of medicine. Pt¯ochos comes from the word pt¯ossein literally meaning to crouch or cower like a beggar, so debilitated and inept that survival comes only by pleading on their knees for the crumbs and coins of a benevolent stranger.

    Many Jews would have grimaced at this would-be Messiah’s declaration. The true Messiah was prophesied as a king from the family of David. He would be the strongest warrior, part man and part God. His sword would be swift and swung at their Roman oppressors. His empire would be the greatest the planet had ever seen. And when it was established God’s chosen glorious pure people the Jews would rule at his right hand and judge their enemies. He certainly wouldn’t let in the beggars. The Messiah wouldn’t surround himself with fishermen and sinners. His kingdom would be for people like them, the one’s who kept the law, knew their family tree, the respected and faithful, the spiritually superior and pious. They’d earned it.

    But Jesus doesn’t welcome into his empire the spiritually pen¯es who believe the only thing they need from the Messiah is His muscle. His empire is for the spiritually pt¯ochos – the hopeless helpless spiritual beggars on all fours convinced they need everything from Jesus. The spiritually destitute - tried it all and got nowhere, at the end of their tattered rope, panhandlers at the gates of heaven – the mountainside Messiah hands the keys to his empire to these.


    Brian taught on Tuesday from 1 Corinthians chapter 1 where Paul is first kind (almost swarmy) and then spanks the church in Corinth heavily for being divided and divisive. He doesn't argue against their fighting on the grounds that it's bad for THEM, but because their fighting confused the message of Christ, misrepresented the character of Christ on the cross which was forgiveness, grace and mercy. How do we know today if our words are causing division that misrepresents God? Seems like something anyone who doesn't like our words could claim against us doesn't it?

    One thing's for sure, it's OK to upset each other sometimes. Paul certainly is upsetting, threatening to bring a whip with him on his next visit to Corinith if they don't start behaving. He certainly got upset with Peter when he griped him out publicly for being two-faced. Jesus called religious people names like blood sucking snakes (vipers) and rotten graves painted over to look better than they are. That's certainly upsetting. So where's the line? Is it drawn by motive and our internal condition? Is it drawn by a set of rules and regulations governing the exact vocabulary, place and time of our confrontations? Is it determined by how our words are perceived by those they're spoken to? Is it measured by the end result only, whether or not the message or image of Christ is hurt by our words and conflicts?

    I've been taught, "Before you speak ask yourself if it's true, if it's kind and if it's necessary." That's the formula answer, one that will definitely err on the side of caution and probably keep us all out of trouble, but it just doesn't hold up to scripture does it? If Jesus followed this axiom he wouldn't have been nailed to a cross would He? People who don't upset, who are always perceived as speaking kindly, aren't crucified. Yes, Jesus and Paul seem to have frequently said what was perceived as unkind by the sometimes sensitive religious types like us? So when is it OK to upset and confront and when isn't it? I don't have an answer yet, but I got closer this morning reading these words:

    JAMES 3:13-17 Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.

     14But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.

     15This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic.

     16For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.

     17But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.



    This from an older wiser pastor I don't know but would like to...

    "Did you ever notice how people in churches seem to be like eggs in a carton? People come and sit in nice neat rows, not touching each other in the styrofoam environment of Christian individualism and "right to spiritual privacy." The eggs might be Methodist eggs or Presbyterian or Baptist eggs or those generic eggs in the independent, non-denominational churches. It is important to know the label on the carton. No one likes "a bad egg."

    And one thing you must do (and I learned this from Julie) when buying eggs in a carton is open it and make sure no egg is broken. If they are all unbroken, carefully put them in the grocery cart and make your way to the cashier. Broken eggs are messy and a chore to clean up. Nice, neat, white shells (Oh, the safety of a shell), unbroken eggs---what a delight and pleasure."

    Read the rest here.



    I'm not going to try to be eloquent or clever here. I'm just going to vomit out something I've been thinking about a lot lately: Church. Not my church; church in general. A certain way of doing church actually. My thinking about this kind of church peaked this past weekend when I spent time with a small denomination Seventh Day Adventists. It was a youth event. Something I rarely do, especially alone with my acoustic guitar. But these kids were so different from other kids I've spent time with. They listened. And afterwards they talked with me for over an hour - about Napoleon Dynamite, Mormonism, favorite classes etc. But they also asked great questions and, without being show offs at all, could incorporate scripture and and life experience into the conversations about their beliefs and how they differ from other denominations. They spoke naturally about community service and volunteering at church. I can't describe it well; they were just mature, more mature than most youth I meet and definitely more mature than I was at their age - maybe even at my age today.

    One pastor explained how they do church, how they've always placed training above entertaining. And how the fun still happens but it's just not the center of their youth ministry and it's not all a kid remembers when she grows up. This is different - he said - from event driven churches. What's an event driven church?

    Event driven churches supposedly think of church as that thing that happens on the Sabbath. Event driven church staffs put the bulk of their time, thought, money and people into Sunday morning - into those three or four hours when members and "seekers" are on the church premises together in one room singing and listening. The event is "big church". The church service is a well done concert, is entertaining, is engaging, is articulate and excellent in every way, it's everything the church has to "attract" people. It is an attraction, a spectacle. It's the front lines of doing church. That room, those few hours on Sabbath. That's the focus of the church. The main thing.

    Seekers, it's reasoned, will accept Jesus if we can get them to come to and accept church, and they won't come to church unless it's cool, simple, perfect/excellent and makes scripture instantly applicable in four easy steps beginning with the letter P.

    Everything else - more detailed bible study in smaller groups (Sunday School or cell groups), one on one discipleship (if it exists at all), service to the community (ditto), evangelism, mercy showing, peace making, counseling, global missions, teaching of any kind outside of "big church" - these things come second, a distant second sometimes, to the event of Sunday morning's largest gathering or, for many youth groups, the event of Wednesday night church services - their largest gathering.

    The event model of church isn't bad in and of itself. I love how well event driven churches do Sunday morning services. Incredible creativity and professionalism. It's not what they're doing wrong in their church service that I'm pondering today (that's just methodology), it's what they might not be doing that leaves me wanting something more (I think this has something more to do with theology: what Jesus cares about beyond the church service.) What happens, for instance, when a young person graduates from high school and moves off to college where they're unable to find a church that provides the same level of excellence their home church provided on sunday morning? What if the church service was all the ever knew of church, because that's what was emphasized the most by the church? What happens when that college church - taking in lower offerings because of the lower incomes of their college congregation - is fresh out of jumbo trons, smoke machines and strobe lights? What happens when church is boring by comparison there or in the smaller town that student moves to for their first job? What happens when all their faith consists of is a people called church (not an event) and a book called the bible (and not a power point presentation) and sermons named for chapter and verse (not named for the latest blockbuster movie or TV show) and opportunities to serve (not opportunities to sit and hear and see)? What happens when the preacher wears a suit or the band is replaced by an organ or a guy with a guitar struggling to get through the four chords he knows?

    What happens is 90% of evangelical young people leave church when they graduate from high school, perhaps in part because it's hard to find a church outside the big city willing to bend over backwards to please the crowd while teaching the crowd. They grow up and get bored with anything less than the entertainment level and excellence of home. That - I was told - doesn't happen to the same degree in Adventist churches. People leave, but there's no mass exodus after graduation, perhaps because their faith goes deeper than a Sabbath event and seeker preaching.

    I'm pretty convinced, after five years of travel and church services across the country, that we do event church services not because they "reach" the non-Christian better than other kinds of church but because they retain the Christian. They retain me. And I'm convinced as well that event churches in general - the one's I've been to - don't do a good job of taking "seekers" deeper and farther in their understanding of Christianity after they've prayed the sinner's prayer. These churches instead offer simple surface teaching in "big church", Sunday school, midweek bible study, small groups and in the requisite on campus book store. This is especially odd since these churches often attract professionals with degrees, sometimes even advanced degrees. It's as if we pastors think folks can design a building or perform surgery but are too stupid to understand scripture. It's as if we think a fifteen year old can learn Algebra and build a web site but can't moved beyond Daniel and the Lion's den in his faith. So we have churches full of believers taught like seekers. Don't we?

    We've got some pastors coming here to SHLOG.COM who work in such churches. I'm not attacking you. I do things this way in fact. But I'm wondering if I should and I want you to help me think through this. Think about this with me. Honestly. Your Sunday morning is packed, but how hard is it to get nursery volunteers? Your people love the video clips you run but how involved in the drama of those hurting around them are they? You put your best and brightest, your largest staff and financial appropriations, the bulk of your care and attention and planning into Sunday morning services and you do it very well but how much are you investing in teaching Sunday school teachers how to teach, in making sure what is taught is true and well presented, in discipling the next generation of pastors? You can tell what a church loves buy how it spends people and money and time can't you? Where is yours spent? In meeting physical and spiritual needs of people around the world, in creating disciples who follow Christ and have a deep and thorough understanding of scripture and are able to talk about it and reason as Paul did outside church walls? In connecting people to needs inside and outside the church, in being the solution and the hope of the world? In bringing Heaven's perfection here now to our relationships and communities? Or in creating an event in your building designed to get people signed up for Heaven SOMEDAY when they die? What do you honestly worry most about: the number of people coming to your church or the number of people leaving your church more like Jesus? One pays the bills and the other might not right? Or is it more about philosophy than economy? Not sure it is for me.

    I'm not irritated with anyone in particular. I hate print because motivations are so often communicated by eyebrows and hand gestures aren't they? I just admire denominations like Adventists who, as uncool as they may seem, do discipleship and service very well in spite of their less entertaining Sabbaths. And I was an evangelist for the event church model for years,, fought with "old" guys with words like "relevant" and "cutting edge" and now I feel very wrong for having done so, and I see more and more the downsides to drinking that Kool-Aid, the damage it's done to me and others. I'm for a moment wanting more boring church services or less time put into them, but I'm wondering if we can put the same amount of care into what's taught (not just how it's taught) and into other purposes of church like missions, service, justice, mercy, community etc. I'm thinking a lot about the things we/I care about most and the things Jesus seems to have cared about most. I wonder if He would spend $250,000 on a big screen, $100,000 on a catwalk and intelligent lighting, thousands more on plush interiors or would he build a housing project for low income families or spend more on mission work, start cottage industries in unused church space, buy sonogram machines for crisis pregnancy centers, train the unemployed, pay people's bills, start a free medical clinic, provide free counseling for members, give scholarships, fund the underground churches of the world, train foreign pastors in theology etc etc.

    Would he demand that members of his church volunteer to work in the nursery as parts of the "body" of Christ or would he pay outsiders to do that for them and essentially let them off and teach them that they have no responsibility to each other? I wonder if he would sign any warm body up to teach Sunday school and then let them say and teach whatever they felt like without ever checking in or would he train teachers as Paul trained Timothy even if it meant there were fewer of them? Would he start a baby church that watches taped sermons every week from the mother church's pastor (man, this is happening a lot now) or would he invest in discipling a pastor to teach there instead? Would he insist on music from a band in every service or insist on service to the community from every Christian? What would matter most to him? Would he so over-stress the importance of entertainment in church that his youth group would walk out on Toby Mac for being boring (ours did a few years back) or would they be respectful, eager to learn and listen even to an old guy with a guitar - though of course they'd/we'd all appreciate entertainment - just not demand it? Would his youth be cool or disinterested in cool, above and beyond cool? Or could even Jesus get teen agers to stop caring what people think about them?

    These aren't rhetorical questions for me. I don't have the answers to most of them but I'm asking because I don't like some of what doing church the event way has done to me and to so many of us? Do you? IKON is full of young people who've given up on church but for whatever come to IKON because it's not emphasizing the same things. Is that good? I'm not sure. Is there a different way? What's that look like? Can we make Sunday services important and excellent but not the top priority or at the very least make other aspects of church a priority as well? What do you think?



    Here's just some of what Brian will be teaching from this Tuesday at IKON. Even the first churches fought - before electric guitars replaced organs and the color of the sanctuary had to be changed to either blue or cream. Before all the silliness we "Christians" fight over today. Because humans fight. And churches are full of them.

    1 CORINTHIANS 1:10-12 I have a serious concern to bring up with you, my friends, using the authority of Jesus, our Master. I'll put it as urgently as I can: You must get along with each other. You must learn to be considerate of one another, cultivating a life in common. 11I bring this up because some from Chloe's family brought a most disturbing report to my attention--that you're fighting among yourselves! 12I'll tell you exactly what I was told: You're all picking sides, going around saying, "I'm on Paul's side," or "I'm for Apollos," or "Peter is my man," or "I'm in the Messiah group."

    1 CORINTHIANS 1:22-35 While Jews clamor for miraculous demonstrations and Greeks go in for philosophical wisdom, 23we go right on proclaiming Christ, the Crucified. Jews treat this like an anti-miracle--and Greeks pass it off as absurd. 24But to us who are personally called by God himself--both Jews and Greeks--Christ is God's ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one. 25Human wisdom is so tiny, so impotent, next to the seeming absurdity of God. Human strength can't begin to compete with God's "weakness." 26Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don't see many of "the brightest and the best" among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. 27Isn't it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, 28chose these "nobodies" to expose the hollow pretensions of the "somebodies"? 29That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. 30Everything that we have--right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start--comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. 31That's why we have the saying, "If you're going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God."

    [From THE MESSAGE translation of the bible]



    It's finished. There's a new home on the web for all things IKON: ikoncommunity.com. And a blog to go with it, where Brian (IKON's other pastor) will be blogging for the first time. If you're in the Nashville area - or in the mood for a road trip - stick your head in and say hey.

    Thanks to Brain Wave Studios and specifically Rob Solberg for the many hours of work on our new web digs. I've never met a funnier geek or had a better time "working" on something. Thanks for making a long scary process enjoyable.



    What happens when a Baptist plays for a Seventh Day Adventist convention in the Land of Mormonism, Salt Lake City, Utah? We'll find out. Brian and I are headed to Utah this weekend, one of the few states I've never played in. We'll probably have some vegetarian dinner (Seventh Day Adventists are generally not meat eaters) and hopefully get to swing by the Mormon Temple for a look see before soft rocking with veggie might.

    Pictures and hopefully good story coming afterward. See you Monday if not sooner.



    Yes, Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong is longer than necessary. Or as one critic whined, "Peter Jackson may have lost weight, but he hasn't lost his gluttony. There is no excuse for the 3 hour and 7 minute running time of King Kong. Hollywood needs an enema, and Peter Jackson needs an editor." (Someone's cranky because his Ritalin just ran out.) And yes, the story is old and therefore predictable. Yes, it's mindless pop culture with no real deeper meaning, message or point, nothing profound.

    Wait a minute. Not so fast. Nothing profound? I don't think so. Here's some of the meaning and message I saw on the screen with Kong:

    1) De Vitoria would have liked Jackson's Kong. A gargantuan monkey held captive and worshipped in a primitive land where he's the biggest thing in the skyline is infringed upon by visitors with loud weapons who take him to a strange kingdom where he's dwarfed by concrete pillars and confused by frozen streets and a cacophony of urban noises. He feels attacked and justified in fighting back. A group of humans encounter Kong, who eats people and peels back flesh with his screams. He's wagging a beautiful blonde one of them around like a rag doll while smashing trees and then street cars. The humans feel attacked and justified in fighting back. A conflict ending in death results from the reasonable perception by both sides that they are the victim. De Vitoria in metaphor.

    2) How many movies have been made in which the human race is portrayed as hateful. We've been portrayed in music, literature, painting and film as a species that kills what it fears and fears what it cannot control or understand. Yet we continue to dismiss this portrayal by artists as fiction. The original King Kong was made before the race riots of the 60s, for instance. As were thousands of other pieces of art laden with this simple message: love and try to understand what you fear before you kill it. Yet the killing of "negroes" still happened. This must mean that our hostility and stupidity are a deep central part of what it means to be human - the way we are born. It also points to the need for a solution art alone cannot bring - a solution that will have to go deeper.

    3) We're all in trouble if perception is reality. Peter Jackson took a repulsive man-eating orangutan and made us cry when he was killed by people just like us, people reacting as we would: freaking out and opening a can of smack down on his hairy butt. How'd he do that? Are we so gullible that our loyalty can be so easily swayed from our own frail species to mighty mean Kong in only three hours? Wow, that's power. Scary power if applied to reality and not fiction.

    4) It's beauty that killed the beast. How true is this? How many artists have been madmen? How many madmen ended their lives because of their obsession with a woman or an aria or a thrill in a bottle? It's the beauty of life, the pleasure and goodness that so often trips me, acts as the bait on the Devil's hook. It's a lie we tell youth groups that sin is a horrible experience isn't it? A lie. Hate to admit this but sex, even in the back seat at sixteen, feels pretty amazing...beautiful even. Drugs? They don't call it a high for nothing. That small lie that let's you keep participating in the conversation about the book you actually never heard of? Feels good to be included doesn't it? If the devil always had a forked tail he'd probably never get a date. As he is, beautiful and all, he's never home on Friday night.

    5) Jackson said in an interview I read, I believe in Rolling Stone or Wired, that he didn't want "anatomically correct" dinosaurs a la Jurassic Park in Kong. He wanted them to be cool instead. And that would be cheaper as it turned out. There's something inspiring about Jackson's ability to recognize what his audience cares about and what they don't. They want cool. A story full of it. And if the story is thrilling enough the audience will be so pleased they'll never analyze the length of that big fella's tail anyway. Jackson could have forgotten that the story is what I came for and obsessed over details I don't understand or care about as much as Spielberg, but he didn't. Inspiring. How often have I obsessed over the inversion of a chord when all my audience wants is the line and melody sung on top of it? How many times have I been in a church that chooses to be anatomically correct at the expense of just telling the story? Why do pastors, for instance, not talk like people? Why complete sentences read from a lecturn? Because the anthropologists of the church - the seminary professors - told us too? Does the audience care? Is the audience focussed at all on what we're most focussed on getting right? How about the countless Boomer churches (what I call the Willow Creek Association churches) I've been to with their service producers, usually on head sets, vibrating from Starbucks, holding spreadsheets showing that the service will start with 13:23 of music followed by 2:13 of prayer followed by 1:45 of welcome followed by...And they're seriously distressed when the lighting cue, written on their spreadsheet in a different color ink, is missed by ten seconds or the lapel microphone cuts out once. I've seen these type A's flipping out like someone just went to hell because Spence the volunteer hit play on the DVD a second too late. And they have weekly meetings just to talk about how such details were blown the Sunday before. And I'm in the audience waiting to be awed by the adventure, wanting the story and I don't care if the dinosaurs wrestling the big monkey have too many toes or blink incorrectly. The story is too cool to care. The lesson to me then is: Think like an audience, not an accountant - like a storyteller, not a scientist. Invest in what people truly came for, what they need, the Story.


    Nothing but meetings today. But I saw the Kong last night. Thoughts/review coming soon. If I live through the meetings. Oh, how I love meetings.




    Stumbled across a new painter:Deborah Woodall. No commentary here; just struck me as beautiful. Here's a sampling:

    [HT:William Guice]



    I've been working hard on the new site for IKON (that bible study community I co-lead on Tuesday nights) and we've hit a snag. The site seems to work only on certain machines running certain versions of certain browsers when accessed by people with a certain blood type living in a certain time zone. Seriously, we're trying to figure out what the trend is, what the folks it doesn't work for have in common, so we can get it fixed. That's where you come in.

    If you have the time please help us out by:

    1. Going to ikoncommunity,com
    You should see the image above. (You can click it to enlarge.) You should see a background image of an overpass, a middle image of circles (just a test pattern) and a foreground with text and navigation buttons stacked at the upper left of the screen. All this should load within two seconds. And the movie in the bottom left should play steadily, no jerking or slow motion.

    2. Come back here and post a comment about anything that went wrong, was missing, etc. And please note your operating system (mac, windows) and the version (v3.1.9 etc), the browser (Firefox, Safari, Explorer) and the version, the ram of your computer (128MB, 1Gb etc).

    Thank you. This would be a tremendous help to have a large sampling of you guys do this for us. I promise I'll never use you again.



    Here are twenty of Rolling Stone magazine's Fifty Best Albums of 2005 list. Did your favorite make the cut?

    1. Kanye West, Late Registration
    2. The Rolling Stones, A Bigger Bang
    3. White Stripes, Get Behind Me Satan
    4. Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine
    5. Bruce Springsteen, Devils and Dust
    6. My Morning Jacket, Z
    7. Beck, Guero
    8. Bright Eyes, I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
    9. Sufjan Stevens, Illinois
    10. 50 Cent, The Massacre
    11. M.I.A., Arular
    12. Sleater-Kinney, The Woods
    13. Various Artists, Run the Road
    14. Thelonious Monk Quartet With John Coltrane, At Carnegie Hall
    15. Gorillaz, Demon Days
    16. John Legend, Get Lifted
    17. Van Morrison, Magic Time
    18. Kings of Leon, Aha Shake Heartbreak
    19. The Magic Numbers, The Magic Numbers
    20. System of a Down, Mezmerize/Hypnotize

    Here's what's interesting to me. First, go to iTunes Music Shop and sample a couple songs from all of these albums. Get the gist of what music folks under thirty are listening to. Then go to any Christian radio station on-line or on the dial that makes it their goal to be "reaching young people" with their programming (eg, Air1 or WAY-FM) and listen. (These stations are often labeled "CHR" or "ROCK") Now compare what you've heard. Does one sound anything like the other? Why is that? Is this difference, assuming you heard one, good or bad? Is that difference intentional? Does it serve a purpose? Does an eighteen year-old Christian have different ears than an eighteen year-old agnostic? Are these questions unfair or off base? Do they matter at all? Why or why not? You tell me. I'm just thinking out loud.



    Elizabeth Hickok, like any artist, creates unique interpretations of reality. Except hers jiggle. Some say there's no place for her frivolous gelatinous sculptures in the serious art world but, hey, there's always room for J-E-L-L-O. Art or not Hickok's photographs of the City In Jello series depicting San Francisco are beautiful to me, even if in a creepy Salvador Dali meets Martha Stewart sort of way. Check out the one minute video zen of a Jellocisco earthquake or visit Hickok's site for more stills and information/inspiration.



    I'm getting a tremendous number of hits on the Burnlounge piece I posted a while back. In fact it's been co-opted by marketers for the site plastering their sales pitch in the comments section. (My delete button can't keep up.) But their fervent defense of the site has caused me to spend more time there, researching, poking around, pondering and finally concluding: Burnlounge sucks. For now.

    There is hope. After all the thing looks great and we all know that shine wins out over substance in the music marketplace more often than not. Even so, if Burnlounge is ever going to dethrone iTunes - as it says it wants to - it needs to increase its catalog. And stop alphabetizing by artist first name...unless that's all the artist has. My suggestion would be that Burnlounge begin by beefing up the "Sh" section and, after re-alphabetizing by last name, continue by filling in the holes in the "Gr" section. Just a suggestion. Don't look surprised when your new company tanks. It's unwise to underestimate the demand for "Sh" and "Gr" artists.



    As the sun set on the middle ages a new generation of Just War thinkers rose to prominence, seeing the world through a new lens their predecessors never accounted for: colonialism. It was the sixteenth century and Columbus sailed the ocean blue, bringing Mother Spain's armed conquistadors with him and firmly wedging Just War proponents (which was the entire Catholic Church) between a proverbial rock and hard place. Or, more fitting, between a spear and a sword.

    "More than any other individual [Francisco de Vitoria] served to recast the medieval just-war consensus for the dawning of the modern age."(1) De Vitoria thought beyond mere rules for engagement and "set forth foundations for international law not only for Christendom but for the whole world."(2)

    de Vitoria revised Just War thinking by admitting there are ties in warfare. He didn't call them that but that's what he meant. In the case of the conquistadors versus the natives, for instance, he wrote that the world is a human community with certain rights given to all people. Among those rights is the ability to go anywhere one wishes, trade anywhere one wishes, as long as one does not intend to harm anyone in the process. So the Spanish had a right to settle in the New World.

    But he also reasoned that even IF the conquistadors were innocent travelers (I doubt it) the unsophisticated inhabitants of the New World may not perceive them as such. The natives could view any visit by different looking folks as hostile, as something to fight against - justifiably - especially if they're carrying sharp pointy things. So the natives were right in defending themselves against what they saw as an attack, thought de Vitoria. And the Spaniards were then right to fight back in defense of themselves.

    Like I said, it's a tie.

    Basically, two sides of a conflict could view the conflict differently and, when applying the Just War theory, each could rightly (given their perception of things) reach the conclusion that they are the good guy and are just in waging war against the bad guy - who also thinks he's the good guy.

    So what's a Just War theorist to do in a world where good and bad guys are not so easily sorted out any more? De Vitoria decided that instead of weighing jus ad bellum (WHY we're going to war) and jus in bello (HOW we war) equally in such instances, nations should place more emphasis on jus in bello (HOW we war). In doing so de Vitoria shifted the primary ethical problem away from whether or not we have definitive justification for going to war and towards the rules of engagement, how we will win now that we are at war.

    And that's how half of the Just War theory became more important than the other. In time wars could be justified AFTER they began instead of before. Justified by HOW they were fought and not WHY they were fought. Wars would sometimes be called "just" not because the cause of war was determined to be so but because the scope of violence was limited, the enemy was not tortured, property was not damaged unnecessarily and innocent citizens were not slaughtered.

    1. James Turner Johnson, Can Modern War Be Just? (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1984), p.76
    2. James Brown Scott, The Spanish Origins of International Law (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1934), p.9



    WARNING: This video is not upbeat and positive. But is it true?

    HT: Chad Jarnagin


    It's one thing for Christians to love a film or product so much that they want to tell others about it - and do. It's quite another for a corporation to put the church on it's payroll as a marketing tool.

    My friend and worship arts pastor Randy Elrod , for instance, posted about nothing but Narnia on his blog for what seemed like months (and apparently still is), and his artfully doing so convinced me I had to see the film for myself. (He's about to run the Disney marathon though so the timing smells of conspiracy.) What Randy did not do, thankfully, was see to it that we sang obviously Narnia related songs to God as a congregation for weeks because of his love of the film and Disney's promising him a win in their upcoming marathon.

    According to the Philadelphia Inquirer Disney's marketing folks hosted (or are hosting) a Narnia sermon contest with a prize of $1000. The overseeing of the contest is being outsourced to SermonCentral.com where it is called "The Narnia Sermon Sweepstakes" and is promising not only cash but also a trip to London, the "Land of C.S. Lewis." All of this is the mind spam of Outreach Media, an advertiser with Sermon Central and hired by Disney to market Narnia to Christians.

    Outreach Media's mission statement is: "To create a network of churches and ministries working together to love and serve people with the goal of inviting every person in America to a local Bible believing church and, ultimately, into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ." But is being paid by Disney to promote a product to Christians by turning the communication of a pastor about God to his church (a sermon) into a marketing tool more about "inviting" people to church and into a "personal relationship with Christ" or more about getting a heaping helping of Turkish Delight?

    The mixture of commerce and communication about God to God's people, as I know very well, can be a complex thing. Is this example of church as marketing tool just more complexity as usual or is it corrupt? I don't know. But I'm asking. So is Christianity Today and other bloggers. What do you think?



    I'm still on a break from the real world - no e-mail, little internet access, no desire to do much of anything, especially anything resembling work, painting, fixing, unpacking or thinking. So, no blogging, at least for now. I just wanted to stick my head in here at SHLOG.COM to say, "Happy New Year" and "I'm still alive, just purposefully absent...and extremely lazy." Feels good.

    Now a quick note to IKON folks. I don't have acces to my e-mail right now so this is the closest to a mass reminder I can send out this week about IKON. Spread the word: There is NO IKON this Tuesday, January 3rd. We'll meet again and begin a new book study (1 Corinthians: A Letter To Sin City) January 10. See you there.

    Wow, that felt a little like work. I'm exhausted. I think I'll take a nap.