Monday, February 26, 2007

Race, Entertainment and Spor\ts



I do not watch awards shows. They are boring, and watching the Oscars is about as masculine as dancing around the room listening to show tunes. However, as I watched the movie "Goodfellas" with Jen I also kept track of the academy awards on the computer (This seemed a little bit more manly than actually watching the show--and I did not have to watch all the foo-foo-a-roo waiting to watch the show)





One of the things that impressed me about the choices was that the racial diversity of the winners was not an issue, which makes it seem to me that we are making a little bit of progress. Forrest Whitaker is one of my favorite actors, so it was great to see him win for a movie I plan to see this week.



Even more, I thought it was interesting to see a book review on ESPN about the book BLACK ICE, which is about the black role in the development of modern hockey. It seems the hidden truth is that black folk may have been a part of the invention of hockey (part of an interracial group of people who was playing in the first game), and more clearly inventors of many modern innovations in the game (such as the slap shot) in Nova Scotia.

How cool!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

More Thinking on the Issue of Homosexuality




I have recently completed two books on the subject of homosexuality. One is edited by Walter Wink, and is called HOMOSEXUALITY AND THE CHRISTIAN FAITH. The other is called WELCOMING BUT NOT AFFIRMING and is written by the late Stanley Grenz.





Wink's book is affirming of homosexual behavior in the Christian community as an ethical lifestyle. Grenz seeks to have the church be as welcoming as possible without affiming that homosexual behavior is ethical according to biblical standards.
Wink's book had a few excellent points that I will have to give serious consideration to, however, I tend to lean more toward Grenz's book as the one that is more faithful to Scripture.
The affirming book tended to have a lot of good sentiment, but not a lot of strong theological foundation. It too easily skimmed over the writings of Paul on the matter, and then made an argument based on the silence of the gospels on homosexuality.
The welcoming book was well-written with cogent arguments, but needs a revision that speaks a little more to recent developments in historical scholarship on the issue of same-sex marriage.
All and all, the books when put together give a good picture of the issue as a whole.

On Custormer Service

Although there are several ways that I strive to be progressive, there are many other ways that I am simply an old fashioned guy. One of those is that I am a stickler for customer service. Lately, however, my standards for customer service have been lagging far behind those I seem to owe money too.

The other day, I was checking on an error on my American Express Credit Card. And it turned out that they had a crash on their computer, which they were working on, and that somehow my payment was registered under "payments" but not credited to my account. Needless to say, I was a little frustrated. But, because I try to be kind to customer service representatives, I was trying to be patient. Then, while we were discussing reversing late charges because of their error, I was told that my late fee would be "pardoned". This did not sit well with me. A pardon is something that one offers to a guilty person so they will not have to pay a penalty for their crime, not something that is offered to a person who is wrongly penalized for a wrongdoing. What they were offering, and rightly so, was eventual restitution, not pardon. I corrected them on this in a calm yet firm vocal cadence, and the Customer Service Person's mood immediately became more cooperative. I suppose this is partly because I prefaced my statement with "I know you are just reading from a customer service script and trying to do your job but..." Nevertheless, I began to wonder who was exactly training these folks.

Then I went into the office at my apartment complex to renew my lease. They informed me that if I decided to stay that my rent would go up but they would generously grant me a $30 "concession" if I chose to stay. I had to make a double-take as he used the word "concession". The previous ownership had used the words "discount" or "bonus", but now they are conceding me something. What a poor word to use in their customer service, especially as they are moving in thousands of dollars of fancy furniture at the expense of my raised rent? What ever happened to kindness, to customer service, to caring? Now I am left with a "concession"...like they are conscending to even offer me anything. I was so angry!

What trends have you noticed about customer service? Where have you been treated poorly? What has made you angry?

On Custormer Service

Although there are several ways that I strive to be progressive, there are many other ways that I am simply an old fashioned guy. One of those is that I am a stickler for customer service. Lately, however, my standards for customer service have been lagging far behind those I seem to owe money too.

The other day, I was checking on an error on my American Express Credit Card. And it turned out that they had a crash on their computer, which they were working on, and that somehow my payment was registered under "payments" but not credited to my account. Needless to say, I was a little frustrated. But, because I try to be kind to customer service representatives, I was trying to be patient. Then, while we were discussing reversing late charges because of their error, I was told that my late fee would be "pardoned". This did not sit well with me. A pardon is something that one offers to a guilty person so they will not have to pay a penalty for their crime, not something that is offered to a person who is wrongly penalized for a wrongdoing. What they were offering, and rightly so, was eventual restitution, not pardon. I corrected them on this in a calm yet firm vocal cadence, and the Customer Service Person's mood immediately became more cooperative. I suppose this is partly because I prefaced my statement with "I know you are just reading from a customer service script and trying to do your job but..." Nevertheless, I began to wonder who was exactly training these folks.

Then I went into the office at my apartment complex to renew my lease. They informed me that if I decided to stay that my rent would go up but they would generously grant me a $30 "concession" if I chose to stay. I had to make a double-take as he used the word "concession". The previous ownership had used the words "discount" or "bonus", but now they are conceding me something. What a poor word to use in their customer service, especially as they are moving in thousands of dollars of fancy furniture at the expense of my raised rent? What ever happened to kindness, to customer service, to caring? Now I am left with a "concession"...like they are conscending to even offer me anything. I was so angry!

What trends have you noticed about customer service? Where have you been treated poorly? What has made you angry?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

NT Wright Quotes from Evil and the Justice of God


the relentless quest for sexual pleasure--and sex, of course, is a way of laughing in the face of death (26)


the self-contradictory state of affairs--increased demands for truth and increased difficulty in discerning it--is the result of a slow-growing but now all-pervasive culture of suspicion. (31)


The more imperitive left over from low-grade existentialism (that one should be true to one's deepest self) collides with the postmodern claim that one's deepest self is a fluid, unstable thing (31)


you can't escape evil in postmodernity (as opposed to modernity), but you cannot find anyone to blame either. (32)


It is possible for humans to be taken over by evil, to believe a lie and then live by it, to forget that it is a lie and make it the foundation of one's being.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Something that Feels INSANELY good right now


Shredding a high interest credit card

Amazon Associate

I have registered to be an Amazon Associate. What this means is that if you order a book from Amazon through my site, I get a commission. Please order as much as you can from Amazon through here to feed my book buying and music purchasing addictions.

Top 5 Technology

I have been thinking lately about how the nature of technology has changed our lives. I began to wonder, what are the top 5 technological inventions that have changed our world since 1850. Here is my list. Tell me what you think...

1. Birth Control Pill (dhanged nature of family in Western world, economics etc.)
2. Internet (ecomonic, social impacts)
3. Modern Transportation (jet plane, auto)
4. Modern Farm Implementation
5. Refrigeration (for food but also air-conditioning for homes)

What would you add? What would you remove?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Reluctant Saint: St. Francis of Assisi

I have been doing a little freelance writing again, which has kept me away from writing as much on my blog. I am currently working on writing theological reflections on movies that pastors can use in sermons. Here is my first example, from a documentary called Reluctant Saint, which is also a book that I own:

LOOK AROUND YOU

Have you ever been driving down a road and saw a beautiful sunset over a field of winter wheat, and you had to simply pull off of the side of the road and watch as the sun slips under the horizon? Have you ever been driving toward the hills, turned around a corner, and been amazed by the beauty that you see? Do you remember climbing a tree as a child and looking down on everything around you and feeling like you perceived the world in a whole new way? I hope you have.

I remember being a young man taking a number of children on a camping trip as a reward for good behavior in our summer outreach program. One of our tents did not have all the equipment it needed, so the boys slept in their cabins and I slept out under the stars. As I did this I noticed the world in a whole new way. I started hearing things I had not heard and seeing things happen that I had previously ignored. And somehow, alone, under the stars, God seemed strangely present. It made me want to sing a song, but I did not know what song to sing.

In the Bible, we find several places where the natural world around us proclaims God’s glory, and teaches more about how awesome and wonderful God’s world is. Several passages from Scripture like this are found in the Psalms.

Psalm 148 says this:
1 Praise the LORD. Praise the LORD from the heavens, praise him in the heights above.
2 Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
3 Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars.
4 Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies.
5 Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created.
6 He set them in place for ever and ever; he gave a decree that will never pass away.
7 Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
8 lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding,
9 you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars,
10 wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds,
11 kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth,
12 young men and maidens, old men and children.
13 Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
14 He has raised up for his people a horn, the praise of all his saints, of Israel, the people close to his heart Praise the LORD.
(New International Version)


The Bible, from beginning to end, points to nature as giving evidence to God the Creator. In the Old Testament Law, we are to take times after planting and after harvest to remember God’s goodness (Leviticus 25). We are told to consider the lilies of the field when we are tempted to worry (Matthew 6:25-34). When Jesus wants to teach something, he is always talking about a field or calming some waves. We are encouraged to think of God as our Rock (Psalm 19:14), or look at our own spiritual lives as like a tree planted by a good water source (Psalm 1).
The problem throughout history is that it becomes easy to go from seeing God’s presence all around us through what he is doing in nature, and worshipping the natural world itself. This has certainly been an issue with friends of mine, who say that spending a morning on a hike in the woods is as much church as they will ever need. It was also a challenge throughout history, including Bible times. The apostle Paul said in the book of Romans that we can often move from worshipping the Creator to worshipping the creation (Romans 1:18-32). How do we find the balance of seeing God at work in creation, without going to the point of worshipping what God made?

One of my personal heroes from church history helps a lot in this matter. His name is Francis of Assisi. And recently, I just watched a documentary about him called “The Reluctant Saint”, which is loosely based upon a book with the same title by Donald Spoto.

Francis was a social activist and an itinerant preacher in the 1400s in a small town in the northern part of Italy. After living a wild life in his teen years, he felt called to give up everything to follow Jesus. He spent a lot of his time caring for lepers. But he also spent a lot of his time preaching along the countryside to people about Jesus.

His most famous creation is what we know as the nativity scene or the crèche, which he created to help people understand more about the birth of Jesus. So he gathered up farm animals, dressed up some of his disciples, and talked about the love God had for us by sending us Jesus as a little child born in a manger.

As he was dying, he decided to create one final song of praise to God for his goodness. And like many Psalmists before and songwriters after, he chose to describe the goodness of God through what he saw in nature. The movie “Reluctant Saint” shows this poem, called “Canticle to the Sun” in video form as it recounts the life of Francis. Look up to the screen as we hear Francis of Assisi’s final prayer (Go to special features, and show the “Canticle to the Sun” excerpt. It should last about 2 minutes).

Do you notice how he thanks God for “Brother Sun” and “Sister Moon” without lifting them up to be worshipped? He thanks God for how the things in nature have blessed him and served him, and reminded him of God’s goodness to all of us.

A lot of us sometimes wonder where God is, and why he does not seem to be as present as we want him to be in difficult times. And, we wonder if he is even there at all. Yet, the Scripture says that we can learn a lot about God simply by looking at the world around us. We can see his power. We can see his beauty. We can see how creative he is. And, occasionally when seeking God in the midst of his creation we can see his sense of humor (if you disagree, consider the duckbilled platypus).

Romans says it this way, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what was made, so that people are without excuse.” (TNIV).

So, as you go through your week the next week, don’t fall down and worship a pretty flower. There is no need to hug a tree. However, it is important that you do take time to go to a place away from people in a park, or out in the woods, and just look around. As you are sitting or walking in that place, take time to give God thanks and praise. He deserves it! Then, let the things that he has made all around you be your prompts to remind you of things to be thankful and praise-filled about.