Monday, October 31, 2005

The Gospel that unifies

Brad @ Broken Messenger has an excellent post on the Gospel and its unifying qualities: Too much harping, not enough focusing on the most important thing we, as Evangelicals, have in common.

In honor of that spirit, I present to you an old Emo Philips tale that was recently voted as the "funniest religion joke ever told" by the Ship of Fools:
Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, "Don't do it!" He said, "Nobody loves me." I said, "God loves you. Do you believe in God?"

He said, "Yes." I said, "Are you a Christian or a Jew?" He said, "A Christian." I said, "Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?" He said, "Protestant." I said, "Me, too! What franchise?" He said, "Baptist." I said, "Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?" He said, "Northern Baptist." I said, "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?"

He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist." I said, "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?" He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region." I said, "Me, too!"

Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?" He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912." I said, "Die, heretic!" And I pushed him over.
Other important works of Phillips' include:

  • When I was a kid, I used to pray every night for a new bike. Then I realised, the Lord doesn't work that way. So I just stole one and asked Him to forgive me ... and I got it!

  • So I'm at the wailing wall, standing there like a moron, with my harpoon ...

  • A Mormon told me that they don't drink coffee. I said, "A cup of coffee every day gives you wonderful benefits." He said, "Like what?" I said, "Well, it keeps you from being Mormon ..."

  • I'm not Catholic, but I gave up picking my belly button for lint.

  • When I was a kid my dad would say, "Emo, do you believe in the Lord?" I'd say, "Yes!" He'd say, "Then stand up and shout Hallelujah!" So I would ... and I'd fall out of the roller coaster
  • Friday, October 28, 2005

    Inflicting funky pain on another generation

    Brian Colmery at Sycamore is really brave. He has asked me to introduce him to the hip world of jazz, funk, and fusion.

    In a related story, recent college graduates are looking to Bill Gates for style tips.

    Brian doesn't quite understand listening to such high-minded music will neither help him make friends nor influence people. Prolonged exposure to such a culture will alter one's perception of music so drastically, you will find it difficult to respect anyone who owns any music purposefully recorded for a radio audience.

    Since he asked, I'm going to go one step further into music geekiness. I'm going to avoid classic references to Miles Davis' recordings or any mini-Moog-related works. I'm going to go totally eclectic and pick stuff I think he'll relate to:

  • John Scofield, Uberjam and Up All Night. Sco has never released a bad recording. Shoot, he's never played a bad note. He's a genius guitarist, a jazz pioneer on par with Miles Davis, and he has an intuitive ability to find new, underappreciated talent to support him. These two discs are part of Sco's new breed funk that so influenced Medeski, Martin and Wood and the whole new Village scene. Innovative yet still imminently listenable from start to finish.

  • Incongito, Positivity. Tower of Power on a more personal blue note. Less jagged funk, more insatiable groove. Heavy, heavy bass lines. A little cheezy at times, but it still hits you in the gut. Further proof that funk bands should really pay someone else to write their lyrics.

  • Mike Stern, Play. Not as charismatic as Sco, but still equally talented. In fact, this guitarist's debut release features guest performances from Sco and Bill Frissel. Sco veteran drummer Dennis Chambers plays a few tracks. Fun to listen to, but equally valuable as background noise.

  • Sting, All This Time .... Sting probably would've been an accomplished upright bassist if nobody had ever invented yoga or the spikey haircut. This is one of the better live albums I've ever heard. Intimate setting allows for Sting's jazz arrangement skills to bleed through. Not funky per se, but it's one of those discs I can really enjoy in the car.

  • Chick Corea, Live at the Blue Note. If this would be your first introduction into traditional small group jazz, it would be like being introduced to pyrotechnics by witnessing a nuclear explosion at close distance. Chick, virtuoso John Patitucci on upright, and Vinnie Colaiuta simmering on the drums. Patty and Vinnie being born-again, they trump Chick's Scientology, although all three play at science fiction levels.

    That's it for now. I don't want to frighten the young man.
  • New worship, original God

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    Amos 5:21 I hate, I despise your religious feasts;
           I cannot stand your assemblies.

     22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
           I will not accept them.
           Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, [b]
           I will have no regard for them.

     23 Away with the noise of your songs!
           I will not listen to the music of your harps.

     24 But let justice roll on like a river,
           righteousness like a never-failing stream!
    Fellow worship drummer Dan has found inspiration in a new essay from Michael Spencer.

    Spencer, probably better known as iMonk, rails on one of his favorite whipping horses, big churches and new music. Spencer is not so critical of new music as he is concerned about its influence on the "Church on the Corner." He rightfully notes not every church has skilled modern musicians to pull off the pop/rock sounds of modern worship music.

    To boil it down, Spencer wonders where the organist, pianist, and church choir went in the small church.

    Dan joins Spencer with concern for how some "new worship" churches go too far, falling into that trap Spencer fears where young, immature worship leaders lead congregations to perform the hand signals to the latest Third Day song. Dan correctly points out that few churches actually employ worship leaders these days, instead relying on the best available acoustic guitarist to volunteer his or her services.

    Dan was raised on Larry Norman, so he has his perspective. I was raised on Bill Gaither and the church hymnal. When I was a kid, Larry Norman was the pied piper leading the Church astray. When my parents attended my church for the first five years in its existence, we had to convince my father the new Vineyard songs we sang were ghost written by "Spike" Gaither.

    My father was not amused. He couldn't complain about the "heathen" beat, though, since his eldest son was the drummer.

    When we first started we had a guitarist/worship leader, a pianist (my mother), and an organist. Then I was asked to join on drums and, I suppose from Spencer's point of view, it all went downhill from there. I wasn't just a drummer. I was a funky drummer, and, in my immaturity, thought nothing of employing beat displacement, active bass drum licks, and linear, non-traditional patterns to songs that were otherwise written to be funk-free.

    To the white suburbanites in our congregation, I was mostly viewed as the "special" young man who attempted to make a contribution in spite of my disabilities.

    We were definitely that "Church on the Corner," though. We met in hotels and leased space in an industrial park until finally constructing our own building in 1995. OK, maybe not that "Church on the Corner," but certainly that "Church With the Continental Breakfast" or the "Church Next To the Chemical Mixing Station."

    For the first five years we ranged anywhere between 75 to 125 (mostly) warm bodies, depending on what was splitting the church that week. The one thing that unified us was a commitment to worship -- seriously worship, not to make the rafters ring. Unlike other "new worship" churches, the opening "praise" tune was lightly regarded as we all anxiously awaited the deep, sober expressions of the final worship songs.

    Sometimes it would be a new one, like "Change My Heart Oh God." Sometimes it would be "How Great Thou Art." It didn't really matter. It wasn't the music we played that made it special, it was the intent of our hearts to worship God together. We specifically chose songs for this segment of worship that expressed His infinite value and our need to recognize it. It was the focus of our church and, if I can say so without being labeled a heretic, the real draw for newcomers.

    It is now 16 years into the church plant. We have our own building, three services, three worship leaders, and our sound system no longer requires a weekly exorcism. We count about 600 among our regular Sunday attendance. We have three keyboardists, four lead guitarists, five acoustic/rhythm guitarists, eight backup singers, three bassists, seven drummers/percussionists.

    We've yet to identify that killer alto sax player who can hit the high note, but we're still seeking God for that blessing.

    What hasn't changed is our agenda. We are not interested in ringing rafters. We are only interested in honoring and exalting God in our worship, with music, with the teaching and preaching of God's word, with the proclamation of the essential Gospel, in our ministry to each other and the World, in our obedience. No hand motions and nary a Third Day song here.

    I'm not quite sure how other "new worship" churches have been led to confuse "new worship" with "a total break from original intent." It is not a new way to worship God, because there is only one way, and that starts in your heart. The notes may change -- the volume is definitely increased -- but the method of worshipping God has never been altered.

    Thursday, October 27, 2005

    Throwing down with Tim Challies

    Tim Challies is one of the preeminent GodBloggers on the planet. He's very well read and a good communicator. I think he's Canadian, which means he holds a God-given right to hold a grudge against Americans for ruining the sport of hockey.

    However, Tim has entered into my arena of mundane humor, and I don't want anyone to think I'm going to surrender my monopoly on this blogging niche without a fight.

    Tim tells a story about his aggravation with "convenience" stores, paying extra attention to his difficulty to communicate with the new East Indian ownership.

    This, of course, is pre-approved comedy because it's one of the longest running gags on television.

    Way to take a chance there, Tim.

    A couple of things bothered me about this story. Back in 1988 I was one of those annoying, aimless teenage clerks Tim stereotypes. I never had any tattoos. Sure, I may have had a Cracker Jacks rub-on or two, but no permanently inked names of ex-girlfriends or special forces references.

    My store was not owned by an East Indian. The franchisee was a guy named Bill, a 54-year-old lottery winner (old-fashioned lottery -- married into money) with an unhealthy obsession with baseball cards and bad stock market picks.

    Bill's brother Albert was a sycophant who gambled all his money away in an attempt to impress a Vegas show girl, so Bill hired Albert to "manage" one of his three 7-11's. I worked for Albert and filled in occasionally at Bill's store.

    I was a newly minted high school dropout in 1988, which meant I had vast career opportunities: I could work at the secular 7-11 or the Mormon-owned Quick Stop. I could never work at Circle K, which preferred to hire recent parolees and the almost homeless. I received an extra quarter per hour for working the graveyard shift -- their idea of hazard pay, I guess -- so I quickly jumped on the opportunity.

    In that era, $6.25 an hour for a full-time job was quite literally enough to buy a small house or a large condo with a reasonable down payment and a little discipline. In Arizona these units were going for between $40K and $80K. Now they're selling for $150K to $200K, but I don't wish to air all of my bitterness here.

    I also could've taken some of that money for a health insurance policy, at about $25 a month. Or perhaps I could have had saved up my money and a moved to LA, where I might have actually become a gainfully employed musician. I was a somewhat successful working drummer in Phoenix, which meant I lost less then $5,000 a year in gear and travel expenses.

    Instead, I did what any right-minded 19-year-old high school dropout convenience store clerk does: I bought a Trans-Am. 1982, like Knight Rider. Black. 5-speed. With T-tops.

    It wasn't so much the $198 monthly payment that would do me in. It was the $190 monthly insurance that would hurt. And then it would be the never-ending need for new tranny mounts, power steering unit, air conditioning unit, forced-injection unit, rebuilt transmission, new interior, new steering column, new T-tops to replace stolen ones, new stereo, new T-tops to replace stolen ones, new stereo, new T-tops to replace stolen ones, new stereo, new T-tops to replace stolen ones, new stereo ...

    I think you get the picture. As you can imagine, my parents were so proud.

    I lived at home, about a 1/2-mile from where I worked for nearly 18 mos. A bike would've been the healthy choice for a man entering an early adult phase of poor diets and excess weight. It also might have put $10,000 in my pocket for something -- anything -- that could have made my life better. Hair plugs for my protruding forehead would have been a better choice. Tacky, but still a less offensive outlay of my limited income.

    Eventually I got tired of working to maintain the car. I had lived the "dream," and was ready for the "good life."

    To use a driving metaphor, this is what you might call an "over correction."

    Towards the end of my stay at 7-11, I began to have deep philosophical questions about life and the way I was living it. I began to consume that font of spiritual enrichment, talk radio. I began to read books. You know, the good kind -- Christian conspiracy theories.

    In a related story and event, I came into a new understanding of God and His purpose for my life. I cut my hair and joined the Republican Party. I finally quit my job at the "convenience" store and joined my father in a truly Christian career, real estate. I sold off my remaining drum gear to help pay off a speeding ticket.

    At age 20 I cut off that last vestige of teenage rebellion. I traded in my Trans-Am -- almost quite literally had to push it into the dealership's parking lot because of a failing carburetor. My uncle, a car salesmen, helped me into a new "adult" car, a brand new 1990 Ford Tempo.

    Some might suggest this was really my transformation into becoming a square, but it's really not. It was just another phase that I would eventually ditch, as well.

    When I think about this era of my life, I recall being most content at 2 a.m. sitting on the side of the building at this 7-11 talking to the paper delivery people. It led me to an introduction to a Christian lay minister who would become the catalyst for my spiritual renewal. We would spend hours each morning talking about the Bible and our faith as he folded papers for his paper route. It was like a daily interactive sermon. This led to the both of us leading his two paper-route companions to Christ. I don't think I've ever had this kind of intense and fulfilling fellowship since then.

    Change was abundant after that. I went back and completed the requirements for my high school diploma. I went to college and discovered a love for writing. I found a career in journalism. I became a lay leader in my church.

    God has blessed me, and it all began with a brief diversion as a 7-11 clerk. The evidence suggests it was His diversion, whether I, my parents, or the rest of the world approved of it at the time.

    Now that was convenient.

    Wednesday, October 26, 2005

    Famous Last Words

    "We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out."
    - Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962

    "Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau."
    - Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929.

    "Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value."
    - Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre.

    "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." 
    - Ken Olson, president, chairman & founder of Digital Equipment Co, 1977

    "Stormtroopers can't hit a Wampa at this dist..."
    - Star Wars Rebel soldier, right before his untimely death

    "640K ought to be enough for anybody."
    - Bill Gates, 1981.

    "Apple ... What a dumb name for a computer company."
    - Glen A. Williamson, deciding between a Sol-20 computer kit & an Apple II, 1979

    "This is funny. People will understand not to take me seriously."
    - The Gad(d)about, earlier today, to himself before posting this.

    Where all men (should) fear to tread

    Brian Colmery is brave. He takes on the issue of the sexes in church and challenges Christian men to regain their masculinity -- to save women in your church from the indignity of dating non-Christian men.

    Baring his own chest hair, Dan Edelen at Cerulean Sanctum challenges Brian's view of culture, suggesting we (meaning the Church) do a poor job of educating youngsters about marriage and relationships, and ignore their naivete' once they become adults.

    I feel I have a keen insight into the topic since I was a college and career/young singles leader for many years during the 90s. You remember, back when it was cool to be 20 and single. We all sat around the coffee table and pretended to quote (with arresting vanity) German philosophers when we were really quoting a page from Bartlett's we read that morning.
    Me: "Lo! I am weary of my wisdom, like the bee that hath gathered too much honey; I need hands outstretched to take it."
    Polo-wearing hippie: "Whoa, that's deep ... which movie was that from? Anyone have a quarter so I can get an extra shot of espresso in my frappamochaalpacino?"
    The truth, as I see it, is simple: There just aren't enough attractive singles in Church today.

    I was an adult member of a church body for 14 years before I met my gorgeous wife, and she didn't even live in my state. The problem is I was the only attractive single person my age in that church -- and probably in that entire region of Christianity.

    Sure, I could have gone to one of those single meat-market uptown churches to find a babealicious God-fearing woman (and probably a rich one with a Corvette), but I was committed to my meager suburban church body, even if I could barely look at them without cringing.

    This is why I am not worried about the Maxim article which allegedly educates pagan men how to pick up church girls. When they go to church and find out just how unattractive our women are, there won't be a problem.

    Gaddabout, signing out because this rush of testosterone has given me a headache. I need a Perrier and a manicure.

    Tuesday, October 25, 2005

    Don't poke the rabid dogs

    Phillip Johnson has finally found an issue on which I am uncomfortable discussing with him. The Pyromaniac takes on the fringe element of spiritual warfare in his post entitled, Real Spiritual Warfare is Not Like A Round of Doom.

    Johnson's glib view of charismata should surprise no one. He is the director for Grace To You, a tape and radio ministry by John MacArthur. Those who know of the pastor will recall his popular book of criticism, Charismatic Chaos. It only makes sense that Johnson's and MacArthur's views of charismatic organizations would line up.

    I have been blessed by MacArthur's radio ministry, and I consider him a leading voice for prudence for a worldwide Church chasing after things that do not build God's kingdom. I also agreed with a host of concerns he expressed in Charismatic Chaos. However, I feel MacArthur's book lacked a measure of charity, unintentionally I believe, by lumping a lot of unrelated things together just because they fall under a charismatic title. For example, I am a charismatic and I believe in the authority of Scripture. My affiliation, Vineyard USA, does so. Other charismatic/Pentecostal organizations such as Assemblies of God, Foursquare Churches, Calvary Chapel, and many others as part of the mainstream of the movement do so and practice so. For whatever reason, I felt MacArthur -- in general -- refused to let to the mainstream speak to his charges, instead sometimes lumping all of us in with "health and wealth" practitioners and other harmful ideologies -- including Scientology!

    That said, I'm more than satisfied to leave my disagreement with MacArthur and his organization on the side because we agree on the main and plain, and his general concerns about the charismatic movement match my own. Furthermore, I believe MacArthur's ministry is vital to the modern Church. Since Johnson brought up the issue, however, I'm going to engage him from a distance and offer my own point of view on spiritual warfare.

    In Johnson's post, he references the ministry of Dr. Charles Kraft, a man I have actually met and witnessed his work in ministry. Johnson links to an article by Dr. Kraft.

    Dr. Kraft is not a holy roller. In fact, he's fairly meek, quiet man with a self-effacing sense of humor. He is not a theologian. He is an anthropologist and linguist who, unless things have changed recently, is on staff at both Biola and Fuller.

    Dr. Kraft's deliverance theology is born much out of the experiential, based on testimonies from missionaries in the third world. There, he says, unprepared Christians without a theology of angels and demons are confronted with the spiritual world in a very real way. He has developed a ministry model based on a wholesale acknowledgment of those missionaries' tales and his understanding of Scripture.

    One thing I do not want to be perceived here is that I am some sort of apologist for Dr. Kraft. I'm not. Frankly, I don't understand much of his ministry, and I can understand criticisms that his worldview is out of balance with Scripture. However, I think there's some value in what he has to say, because I've seen it in practice.

    I recall my own experience watching him at work. As he began deconstructing a woman's physical pain by asking her questions about its history, she started -- out of nowhere -- discussing horrific details of her rape by her doctor. She was a member of our church. No one knew about this, not even her husband. As Dr. Kraft began to ask her spiritual questions about her experience, such as her ability to forgive this doctor, something manifested in her. Something evil. And she/it refused to forgive, cursing the doctor at every turn.

    Mind you, the goal of this particular day of ministry was to help people recognize the bitter roots in their lives. The point was to seek forgiveness and to let go of our bitterness. We didn't go in with expectations with deliverance, particularly since none of us were aware of Dr. Kraft's type of ministry.

    The woman was eventually delivered of her bitterness -- and whatever that manifestation was -- and continued to receive ministry for it.

    Now I know this opens the door for a lot of other questions, none of them I care to respond to right now. Another day. What I want to draw your attention to is Dr. Kraft ministered to someone, and I know that event has led to the person producing good fruit today. Her life has been changed forever.

    I write all this because I believe there is a balance to spiritual warfare. Yes, some of it I'm not afraid to classify it as downright wacko. On the other hand, there is a very real nature to the things we cannot see, and criticism should not be born out of a total denial.

    In the interest of fairness, I want to point out that Johnson did not deny the importance of spiritual warfare. He simply disagreed with the emphasis on geography -- territorial demons and what not. On this issue, I think there's a more important point my Sunday School teacher once taught me:

    Don't throw rocks at rabid dogs.

    The point: There are real dark principalities out there. Without God's discernment, and outside the will of God, praying against something rather than for the advancement of the kingdom of God only serves rile up dark forces against us. It would be like David deciding he was going to conquer the world when God just wanted him to unify Israel. It would be like Abraham deciding he needed to raise up a Hebrew army against the Egyptians, rather than following God and leading the Israelites to flee Egypt.

    I think my pastor explained it best. He said when we focus on fighting dark things, our focus is off God, and the enemy probably receives that as worship. The enemy's only goal, he said, is to take our eyes off of God.

    For further insight into my opinions on the topic, read this archived take.

    Asian revival

    I am fascinated by the Asian revival, where millions have been gathered by extensive missionary work over the last 40 years. This revival rivals any in the West in all of protestant history.

    In doing some research on something entirely different (I'm composing an essay on Christian revival and its impact on an economy of scale), I stumbled across this story in the Asian Times. Read and be encouraged to pray!

    Monday, October 24, 2005

    Evidence that God loves irony

    I joked recently about not being among Dr. Andy Jackson's (Smart Christian) regular reads. I intimated the less visibility I have, the less trouble into which I can get.

    Then Dr. Jackson found me. And then he called me. Turns out he's a good guy who happens to be on staff at my parent's church. He also lives within my paper's coverage area, so he likely receives my work on a weekly basis.

    The blogging world is suddenly very small from my perspective.

    On habitual sin

    Brad at Broken Messenger has been blogging about habitual sin recently here and here.

    Habitual sin as it relates to both salvation and spiritual maturity is a difficult issue for me because not only have I counseled people who struggled with habitual sin, I had my own struggles with it for years. It took a lot of work from God in me to overcome my sin, and I confess that it has remained a constant temptation for me.

    First, I feel much more comfortable blogging about this with Brad, with whom I've developed a friendship that transcends normal blogging relationships. There is an implied grace there because we have a history of it between each other. This relationship is one of the reasons I continue blogging. It contradicts any arguments of negative spiritual value people might make of the practice of blogging. I have never met Brad in person, yet he continually lifts me up and encourages me in the spirit Colossians 2:1-3.

    My habitual sin is not unusual for a man in this era of technology. I have struggled with pornography since I first signed onto the Internet over 11 years ago. I would struggle, fall, and seek redemption. At no time did I ever justify my sin, but after several years there was a notion of helplessness. At one point I unplugged from all of my responsibilities at church and ministry because I felt condemned by my sin -- even though my spirit was contrite ... and even self-condemning.

    God's work in me was three-fold:

  • Continued transformation
  • Gentle, consistent conviction
  • Continued blessing of Godly people stragetically placed in my life

    I am married now, but I can tell you marriage is not a solution to this problem, because it is not an issue of lust -- although that is the result. It is an issue of powerlessness and a need to feel in control of one's world. When God showed me this, that was the beginning of some great healing in my life, and I began to slowly abandon this world of internet pornography. I began to put my trust in God to be in control, and let go of my shame and lack of self-worth. I began to put more and more of my personal value in the hands of God.

    If at any time someone had told me to question my salvation, I probably would have given up, stopped pursuing God in the matter. Why? I didn't want to fall into this sin, but it definitely wasn't something so easily shaken. Like Paul, I did the things I did not want to do. My spirit craved one thing and my flesh another, and it was a consistently fierce battle. The evidence of faith was there, but if I was asked to question the evidence of my sinful nature in spite of the good work of God in me, my faith might have been deflated.

    I know I'm not alone, either, because I've counseled many who struggle with this -- and not just men. This is a human problem, and has led me to conclude the primary battle for our souls has to do with us fighting our own delusions of control and finally confessing that God is in control whether we acknowledge that our not. More so, we are not to place our own personal value in the world. What we are told to crave in this world -- success, power, independence -- is spiritually damaging to us. When the world ultimately denies us of our cravings, it can lead to a fantasy world where we do not submit to God and we live out our sin in our hearts, if not our flesh.

    This is important to note, because although I was not sexually pure as a teenager, I remained celibate by choice throughout my walk with God as an adult. I fled that kind of real fleshly temptation many times, being in full aware of both God's commandments and His spirit's guidance in my life. Frankly, that was the easy part. I would never allow the darkness of my heart bring down someone else, nor did I want to further complicate what was already a major issue in my life. You can call this what you want, but I remain convinced this was the work of God in my life.

    It is with this experiential understanding of sin that I asked Brad to further diversify his definition of "habitual sin that condemns" to habitual sin that is willful and unrepentant. Any "Christian" who is caught up in habitual sin and neither recognizes this sin nor sees the need to repent of it should surely question God's presence in his life. Furthermore, I would ask them why they even bother with faith.

    On the other hand, there are Christians who struggle with a particular sin all their lives. While we are being transformed, we will never be fully rid of our offensive flesh until God returns. As the snake was condemned to the dirt in the garden, we are continually sifted in this life of flesh and bones, and our nature of greed and depravity is only trumped by the blood of Christ. Even Christians struggling with habitual sin understand this. There is a difference between fighting compulsion ingrained by years of habit and taking license to sin.

    For Christians who struggle and struggle and struggle, the last thing they need to hear is of their own condemnation, because many of them are already condemning themselves. I hear this a lot: "God cannot save me because I am not worthy." I can't name a theological school who would consider this a truthful statement. Furthermore, I would hope a true servant of God would point out that holiness is not something we achieve, it is something we are given freely because we could never earn in on our own. Holiness is something God cloaks us in because we would not be fit to fellowship with him, otherwise.

    This is not to excuse sin of any kind. We are never justified to engage in sin, nor is there ever any moment when we can rest easy and assume sanctification is not without a heart that abhors our sinful nature. I am just more careful to where I place the burden of sin and how I do it. Yes, some need correction. To say your are a Christian and then willfully violate God's nature is blasphemy. Then there are some who are forever weakened because they do those things they wish they do not do, and to them I want to remind them of God's forgiveness, and it is not their job to carry His Cross. That is not their burden. They are simply to submit, seek the work of the cross, get up, and go on confidently that they are children born of God's spirit.
  • Friday, October 21, 2005

    Funny blog alert

    I Drank What?

    I've been checking out this site for awhile and I feel bad because I've never mentioned it before. He's going to be added to the Big List of Blogs (when I actually get it done). I admit I'm a little jealous. It's way more entertaining, on a regular basis, than this blog.

    The author, "Pecadillo," has a semi-famous father.

    No, it's not Darth Vader, but you're getting warmer.

    Arizona storm damage

    Image hosted by While the world blog storms away about hurricanes and earthquakes, I wanted to show what an Arizona odd-season storm can do to the area.

    Oddly, FEMA hasn't been knocking on anyone's door.

    Voice of a post-modern generation

    If you've read this blog much at all, you know I am most fond of Canadian author Douglas Coupland, author of the very misunderstood Generation X.

    I do not admire Coupland for his point of view, which is based in a mysterio quasi-theistic worldview that only nibbles at Christian themes. He is not a philosopher, although his writing may inspire his readers to reflect in such a way. He is, for my money, the most fluid writer of my generation and -- if he can avoid the pitfalls of his retro obsessions -- will join a handful as one of the greatest writers of the modern (and post-modern) age.

    What I find endearing about Coupland's work is an ability to communicate a cultural shift on the fly. He does not speak for an entire generation, but then, he is quick to point out the homogenized group-thought that identified previous 20th Century first-world generations expired with us. We are now all armies of one.

    It's difficult to convince anyone to pick up a book by an author they are not familiar with, particularly if the author does not write courtroom drama page-turners using lowest common denominator English. However, I want to offer an excerpt from Life After God because I think revelatory about what kind of writer Douglas Coupland is and what's going through the mind of a real-life post-modernist who doesn't know Jesus:
    Life was charmed but without politics or religion. it was the life of children of the children of the pioneers--life after God--a life of earthly salvation on the edge of heaven. Perhaps this is the finest thing to which we may aspire, the life of peace, the blurring between dream life and real life--and yet I find myself speaking these words with a sense of doubt. I think there was a trade-off somewhere along the line.

    I think the price we paid for our golden life was an inability to fully believe in love; instead we gained an irony that scorched everything it touched. And I wonder if this irony is the price we paid for the loss of God.

    But then I must remind myself we are living creatures--we have religious impulses--we must --and yet into what cracks do these impulses flow in a world without religion? It is something I think about every day. Sometimes I think it is the only thing I should be thinking about.

    Some facts about me: I think I am a broken person. I seriously question the road my life has taken and I endlessly rehash the compromises I have made in my life. I have an unsecure and vaguely crappy job with an amoral corporation so that I don't have to worry about money. I put up with halfway relationships so as not to have to worry about loneliness. I have lost the ability to recapture the purer feelings of my younger years in exchange for a streamlined narrow-mindedness that I assumed would propel me to "the top." What a joke.

    Compromise is said to be the way of the world and yet I find myself feeling sick trying to accept what it has done to me:the little yellow pills, the lost sleep. But I don't think this is anything new in the world.

    This is not to say my life is bad. I know it isn't...but my life is not what I expected it might have been when I was younger. Maybe you yourself deal with this issue better than me. Maybe you have been lucky enough to never have inner voices question you about your own path--or maybe you answered the questioning and came out on the other side. I don't feel sorry for myself in any way. I am merely coming to grips with what I know the world is truly like.

    Thursday, October 20, 2005

    The Pyro returns

    Phillip Johnson the PyroManiac returns to my relief.

    I can't decide if PJ is the person I most want to hang out with at a pub or least likely person from which I would want to be sitting across in case I needed to be corrected.

    I take that back. James White is the least likely person from which I would want to be sitting across in the case I needed to be corrected. I never want to be on the wrong end of Dr. White's argument, although I'm sure it could inspire another book for his growing list of titles: Conversations with a Semi-Pelagian Poopyhead. Or perhaps What's With the Boob in the Browser? (What can I say? I love the guy's books!)

    And this guy, this guy, this guy, and this guy (in no particular order, fellas) would probably come before PJ in my pub-greeting order. No offense, Mr. Johnson. These guys actually think I'm funny on occasion.

    I'd much prefer PJ sitting in front of his computer writing dazzling blog prose to entertain me each morning. He was definitely missed. It's been a dry two weeks, and the Pyro's not something you can easily quit cold turkey.

    Digital fire and brimstone

    Living Waters Publications has brought an old-school evangelism technique to new media: They are confronting readers with their own mortality to lead into a Gospel "test" to determine whether they'd go to heaven or hell.

    It's slick and savvy, even if I felt I had returned to Youth Camp Ablaze '76. Oh man, I was certain at 7-years-old that "my time" was right around the corner, and in my denomination you really could never be certain about salvation. Better respond to that altar call ... just in case.

    (Yes, I dang near felt compelled to do it again after taking this test).

    Another thing I remember about this technique is you don't really talk about how great it will be in heaven. It's really about avoiding hell. Whatever works, I guess, but I have a feeling some people are going to show up at the pearly gates with poor expectations of eternity. And they'll be disappointed to learn all eschatology charts rule out the singing of "Come As You Are" when Jesus returns.

    Wednesday, October 19, 2005

    Runaway Christendom

    It seems like the last time one of God's people tried this, he was served up as an unsatisfactory appetizer to a whale.

    The people of Christian Exodus are drop-dead serious about "retaking" America one blue state at a time. They are appealing to conservative Christian Republicans around the country to move to two select northern South Carolina counties to begin a Christian political revival.

    Once in power, the Christian Exodus group intends to:

  • Make abortion illegal
  • Ban sodomy and gay marriage
  • Reinstitute Bible study, teach creationism, and promote Christian prayer in public schools
  • Publically display the 10 commandments

    Sound enticing? I'm pretty sure I've seen this group before. They run my former HOA.

    I'm quite sure the FBI is now keeping tabs on a group that is, although lacking in direct challenges, essentially forming a coup of the current American government. If they could take over South Carolina, would they secede if the Supreme Court shot down their legal experiments? Would they form an army to fight against the inevitable border formation of U.S. Army troops?

    Attempts at organize Christians such as this one always start out as well-meaning. Quite often they dissolve before they ever begin, and I consider that a merciful act of God. If allowed to carry out such a seclusionist tract, they end up with people drinking Kool-Aid in Jonestown.

    If you think that's a rash comparison, consider that the People's Temple in San Francisco in the 70s was a thriving mainline denomination community with major political clout. It didn't start out as a militant rebellion. But when you choose to infuse the radical nature of Christianity with radical politics and culture, you don't usually get anything looking like the Body of Christ.

    This kind of movement doesn't surprise me at all. Christians feel they can no longer affect the world they live in because they've been promised something that I don't think God ever promises: Political power. And that is exactly what this group is seeking to "regain." It's disappointing.

    Nowhere do I see in this organization's message an attempt to trumpet the Gospel. They are really carrying the banner for Adam Smith and George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

    Those were great men with fine ideas, but they were not prophets of God.

    Five families -- about a dozen people -- have become early adopters of this agenda and moved to South Carolina. The CE leaders are hoping for 2,500 by Sept. 2006, just in time to be registered for an election. If they ever get a major public figurehead to promote their cause -- Pat Robertson, for example -- they should be able to exceed these numbers.

    Whether they will succeed or not, it is a sad commentary on a Church that continues to ignore the real transformational power of God. He did not leave us here on earth to reach pacts and broker political contracts. Whose kingdom are we pursuing?

    The power of the Kingdom of God is at our fingertips if we would focus on His agenda, not ours. We are to be led by the Spirit, not of the wisdom of men.
  • Reflections on six months of wasted bandwidth

    When I started blogging regularly back in April, I thought to myself, "This is never going to be something I do on a regular basis." I could not find a niche. I could not think of something new I could bring to the 'sphere:

  • I read general blogs and thought, "Some of these people actually know something about the world." The rest do a great job pretending they do.

  • I read the God blogs and realized there are more techno-savvy Southern Baptists with computers than should be allowed.

  • I read the political blogs and fell asleep trying to figure out why so many conservative bloggers believe they are the only conservative blogger on the planet in a day when non-conservative bloggers are a novelty. Nixon had the "Silent Majority." Reagan had the "Moral Majority." Bush has the blogging "Martyrdom Majority," and I don't think some of them will be satisfied until they're shot dead by a leading Democrat in front of a live feed for Fox News.

  • I read diary blogs and decided the drama u xprncd bcuz u cud not rch Dru and Lexie on thr cl phns lst nite just does not translate to catharsis for the other 6 billion people who aren't intimately involved in your life.

  • I read the media blogs and found it ironic the "MSM" could draw so much criticism from people who are desperately attached to the notion of a 24-hour mainstream media culture.

  • I read the moblogs and did not doubt the veracity of that genre's title. When you witness people with honored titles such as "doctor" and "pastor" be reduced to tossing out disparaging names, the term "mob" is fitting. (Dan's assessment of this situation and subsequent offering "semi-pelagian poopyhead" will forever be honored here as profoundly funny).

    So I decided my role as the self-appointed blogging Gad(d)about would be class clown, court jester, sit-down comedian, pride jouster, bubble burster and general not-so-serious dead end on the highway of serious-minded self-publishers.

    It's not clear whether I've succeeded with my agenda.

    I once compared my writing and this website to Balaam's donkey. I'm not a theologian. I've never been to seminary. I didn't graduate from college. I've never had a book published. I'm just not qualified to speak on much of anything. I don't even come with the donkey's superior credentials. He is, afterall, essentially an OT prophet, and if he were here today he'd have a book deal and speaking tour lined up. But my hope is God speaks through this blog, anyway.

    Once stricken with concern whether I crossed the line of attacking God's chosen, Rob Darden, editor of the Wittenburg Door, assured me that Christian humor -- particularly the kind that pokes fun at mass-media Christianity -- is well within the purview of a Christian's Biblically-ordered goals and objectives.

    I'm not quite sure what Rob's credentials are to justify my work, other than being a very funny guy who happens to know way too much about Gospel music, but I'm going to run with it for now and continue with the original objective.

    God's jokester. Surely there will be a need for one in heaven.
  • Tuesday, October 18, 2005

    No thrill in being a weenie

    Tim Challies takes on -- and defends in some sense -- the practice of children participating in Halloween's trick-or-treating.

    It's a bold move in the face of such strong opposition from conservative Christian camps. By the modern Christian definition, if your little girl dresses up as a ballerina and begs for candy with the rest of the kids on her block, you might as well buy her a first-class ticket to hell.

    If your little boy dresses up as a ballerina, I suspect that falls under a weightier concern, but let's not get off topic.

    I have never personally gone trick-or-treating. This had little to do with my father's objection to it, and more to do with the fact in my household's worldview, demons and dark things were a very tangible reality. I recall being very aware at a very early age of the Biblical understanding of the things not of this world.

    It was especially difficult in explaining to my friends why I could not go to the latest horror film with them. Movies like Amityville Horror and Poltergeist weren't tantalizing to me because they represented a reality (however skewed by Hollywood to titillate and thrill) that could never be conceived by my friends.

    This led my friends to consider me a "weenie," meaning I was irrationally fearful of things that were not real.

    I have learned to revel in my weenieness because it has kept me out of a lot of trouble. This also translates to a general objection to Halloween. People joke about things that I recognize as being very real. They make light of things I find offensive.

    If I put up a Nazi flag in my front yard and played loud-speaker recordings people screaming in anguish for Halloween, I would be facing harsh judgment on many fronts. Why? Because people have an understanding of the real evil of fascism and bigotry -- as well as the genocide committed in the name of that flag. Play that same scene with cobwebs and faces of demons with glowing eyes, and I'm just "in the spirit" of the event.

    I don't really know how I would treat this day if I had children. It's not enough for kids to get a load of candy, which is easy enough to provide without all the fanfare. They would want to participate in the creativity of dressing up, and the thrill of not knowing what you're going to get as you go door to door.

    I suppose, though, I will raise my kids in their family heritage of weenieness. Better them to have a fear of the things not of this world than the fear of peer alienation.

    Charismata or Arcachnophobia?

    C-Train comments on his duel with a black widow spider during the early service at Grace Community Church.
    As the song was coming to an end I looked down at the hymnal as I was getting ready to close it, just as I looked down I saw a very large black widow spider crawling from the hymnal to my left wrist. This caused me to get the last few words of the hymn wrong, “Still be my Vision, O Ruler of – WHOA MAANN!!”
    C-Train won the battle and killed the spider.

    He also correctly notes the "spider dance" will suspiciously look like "being filled with the Spirit." I guess both kinds of dancing are prohibited at GCC. However, I think this kind of event might inspire a new bumpersticker:
    Pray or Be Prey

    Monday, October 17, 2005

    Props to the people

    Quite a few new people are sending traffic my way and I want everyone to know I'm still working on the new and improved Big List of Blogs. It's expanding beyond the God Blogs, so it's taking some time. I'm definitely working to provide some link backs.

    In the meantime, some people need some extra attention because either they're new or I've just decided they're way too cool to ignore:

    - Brian Colmery needs prayer. He's going to be preaching at one of those big churches on Sunday. My suggestion for Brian: Stick with Luke. You can never go wrong with Luke. It's the book of action, so the Star Wars metaphor factor is greater than 10. However, stay away from the CGI-heavy projecter images.

    - Dr. Andrew Jackson at Smart Christian lists me among the large collection of God blogs. I'm not among his regular reads, though, so I suppose I'm safe from highly visible criticism. I hope this blog is never so popular as that one!

    - John at Blogotional gave props to my post entry about spiritual maturity. John has one of those blogs you really need to check in on a daily basis. It's interesting, fun, and accessible.

    - The anonymous HumbledMan has entered the blogging fray. Being a journalist, anonymity is very rarely positive for me. In the case of a blog about internal struggles, it might be very interesting if the author finds a way to relate to his audience.

    - Mike Frizzell at A Pilgrim's Progress has some interesting insight into his departure from the IFB. I'm also fascinated (and honored) to be included among his links. Seeing my name among those other heavy weights ... I feel like the small, community newspaper being listed next to the New York Times and Washington Post.

    - Jim Verger is on my new list of daily sites to check. Good stuff there to feed the mind, heart, and soul.

    She-bearing the burden of baldness

    A lurker writes (edited for length):

    Where'd your picture go? Confident bald men are a rarity, and your picture was an inspiration to my husband. He feels so self-conscious about his baldness. His friends give him a real hard time about it. It's all I can do to keep him from buying a toupee.

    Mrs. Lurker,

    My former web space has been cancelled since I moved across country. I haven't had a good moment to resolve the issue, but I hope to do so next month. Hopefully I'll have a new mug shot to go with it.

    And let me say there is nothing wrong with baldness. Should anyone feel so bold to mock me, allow me a moment to offer this Biblical rebuke of such an act:
    2 Kings 2: 23 He went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, "Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!" 24And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys.
    So there. Everyone can keep their bald jokes to themselves, and I'll keep the she-bears in their cages.

    Thursday, October 13, 2005

    On spiritual maturity

    I was very late to adulthood. Sure, my birthdays passed at the same rate as anyone else's, but I did not "act my age," something which caused my father great consternation.

    Things I did which brought judgment from my father when I was 19:

    - Kept a messy room
    - Did not pay my bills on time
    - Constantly procrastinated
    - Was not overly concerned with getting to work on time
    - Drove recklessly
    - Stayed out late and entertained less than spiritual activity
    - Kept friends who had a similar slacker attitude

    Abandoning this youthful shortsightedness is considered part of being a mature adult. I'm nearly twice that age now and I find myself still dogged by similar problems, although public pressures such as the need to maintain good credit and the desire to sustain gainful employment has cured me somewhat. Also, reaping what I sowed early in life proved to be a powerful natural corrective measure.

    The biggest behavior-changing influence came as God began to pursue me in unusual ways. A great burden was placed on my heart at that same age to submit. In pain from the results of my idle youthfulness, stripped of my pride, the word I received from the Lord was not about changing my behavior. The word I received was much more direct: Surrender.

    I had asked Jesus into my heart at age 7, yet at 19, there I was on my knees as a sinner who had only begun to recognize his total depravity. It was God's revelation to me. It was such a release to unburden myself, to recognize that I was unable to perform in the role of Christ. It was real freedom to know it was God's work in me -- not my work for God -- that would lead me into His favor.

    While this supernatural event had a healthy impact on my personal and professional life, it was one large step towards something greater: spiritual maturity. It was then I learned spiritual maturity trumps all other forms. Through time and experience, I've learned we can become more spiritually mature, but at no time should ever consider ourselves to have arrived at a place where can rest as a completed work of God.

    What are the signs of Christian spiritual maturity? It is when the Spirit begins to manifest in us the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

    None of these are anything we can acquire for ourselves. We might be able to imitate them to a degree, but when a Christian is swept up in the maturing process, it is evidence of the supernatural nature of the Spirit of God. These are manifested even when we are most severely tested.

    Paul describes this transformation as taking place when we behold God, when we gaze upon him, our eyes -- our very soul -- focused on His worth and value as the lone King of heaven and earth.
    "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Cor 3:18)
    Things Paul does not say:

    - But as we become obedient to the Law ... we are being transformed
    - But as we give more money to the Church ... we are being transformed
    - But as we do more good deeds ... we are being transformed

    However, implicit throughout all of Paul's writings is the direct relationship between the Spirit transforming us and us becoming more obedient, desiring to give more, and doing more good deeds. These are the evidences of faith, the result of the process, not the process itself.

    The process begins with surrender, a spiritual white flag that sends notice to heaven and hell that you are submitted to the will of God and the purposes of God's kingdom. While the rest of the world views surrender as a sign of weakness, in heaven it is the priority order because God is at war with our sin. He is at war with our sin because He values us to the point of blood sacrifice. It puts us in the position of not only proclaiming Jesus as our Savior, but our Lord.

    If you find yourself struggling with sin, sapped of your ability to do the work of God, I know the place of return, where a rejuvenating hope exists. It begins on the knees, not in seeking God's action against our enemies or the trials of our life, but in seeking God's work in our lives. This world will never change its nature, but God transforming us means we are better equipped to live in it.

    Monday, October 10, 2005

    The real retro/metro meme

    Marla Swoffer started this whole thing by pointing what she perceived to be the fine line of distinction between the two theological extremes. She coined these two sides as "retro" and "metro." She seems a bit dismayed that some might use this as a jumping point for humor. I'm with her. I don't know why anyone would find such comparisons as humorous. They're downright funny.

    Dan, in all seriousness, responded by meme-ing Swoffer's list and highlighted where he felt he fell in the gaps. I consider Dan worthy of mimicking, but I just don't have the brain power or the energy to reply so completely, so I give you the Our Favorite Stereotypes Retro/Metro meme. I tag everyone in the whole wide world.

    Hard Pews Cushy chairs
    God's spoken WordWhatever
    Original textSlogans
    Leno/LettermanJon Stewart
    Grape JuiceMad Dog 20/20
    MicrobrewMalt liquor
    OpusGet Fuzzy
    ApologeticsStar Trek metaphors
    Holy TrinityMorpheus, Trinity, Neo
    Heavily-armed compoundsThe coffee house
    Ancient pastTime/Space Continuum
    Hymn booksProjector screens
    Big wordsMade-up words
    Criminal JusticeFashion Justice
    Women"Honored matrons"
    Josh McDowellJosh Whedon
    Absolute truthAbsolutely Fabulous
    SermonSome things my father once told me
    The TruthThe Exception
    Minor chordsPower chords

    Random musings

    Just a few things I've been meaning to get to while I was on a blog vacation:

    - I have very real daily and weekly deadlines as part of my career. Phillip Johnson is a guy that sits around reading comic books and talking about Spurgeon with John McArthur. His excuse to take a blogging break seems flimsy. This is a guy who narrowly avoided getting bombed in London and is brave enough to take on pomos and pacifists on two separate fronts. That's right, he's basically the Winston Churchill of the God blogs, and I don't recall Churchill taking a day off, although he had no qualms with drinking on the job. My suggestion for Phillip is to take two shots of bourbon, mail in whatever "deadline" work he has, and get back to his real job: entertaining me fee gratis.

    - How we measure the change of the seasons in Arizona: It's the time of year when the grass turns green and the rattlesnakes head for hibernation. I still haven't figured out how to make friends with the coyote pups roaming the outer rim of my parents' hillside property, but I'm thinking a trip to the Costco butcher might win me an alliance. These guys are so cute ... except when I have to witness them ripping the heads off the cottontail rabbits my mother feeds. Talk about x-rated. Oof.

    - My laptop is still down and I still don't have web space for the redesign, so the new look is probably delayed until November. It's a shame, because Brad did an outstanding job. I think it will be worth the wait.

    - On two separate occasions, we've found baby scorpions in our shower. I lived in Arizona for 30 years without finding scorpions. That's because we lived in the city. Now I'm a desert rat and I'm becoming reacquainted with the local "wildlife." All things considered, I'm less concerned about the scorpions and more concerned with the beer-swilling militia crazies a mile or two down the street. If New York is the "melting pot," Phoenix is the omelet on the frying pan. We're talking free-style, whatever's-in-the-refrigerator omelet.

    - No place is the Mormon vs. Christian debate more heated than this place. Phoenix attracts people from all over the country. Indeed, 1000 times more people have moved here in the last 50 years than people who lived here from the start. However, the highest growth populations are originally Mormon establishments, and we are beginning to see a real theological and cultural clash. I've actually heard of people asking their real estate agents to not relocate them to traditionally Mormon areas, because of institutional alienation. Then, of course, these same people are the ones who leaflet entire subdivisions with some very harsh and not-at-all "Christian" messages against Mormonism. I'm no Mormon, but there's a peaceful way to discuss theology with people in a pluralistic society that doesn't incite a mob (for or against). Somehow, this thoughtful method alludes many of the would-be proselytizers. Also, if you are coming to this area, please make sure you've sought sources beyond the firmly errant "Godmakers," because you discredit Christians everywhere.

    - Saw the Firefly movie Serenity this weekend. If you've liked any of Josh Whedon's work, this is an excellent representation of his best stuff. It's a science fiction movie that has Christian characters in it -- not Christian themes, just recognition that you don't have to reconstruct an entire culture to make good sci-fi. On solely secular grounds, it's a strong story with well-developed characters. The heroes are actually required to make sacrifices, and one of them dies doing so. Whedon has always had an awareness of Christian themes in his work ... he never goes directly to the source, though, so we are left to think in metaphors. *shrug* It's not for everyone. I don't think Dan would like it because the primary heroes are clearly anti-heroes, but they don't revel in their badness, either. They seem painfully aware of it, and they're not at all murky on the ethics of their wrong decisions. This is not a glorification of phlegmatic morality.

    Sunday's message

    Jack finished up teaching on the Lord's prayer yesterday. You can listen to it here.

    I've heard Jack teach on these themes for years, but I thought this sermon best captured what we are about as a church. Yes, the prayer serves as a good model, but there is also explicit construction about the things we should value, how we should minister, and how and why we worship.

    Gosh, I'm important

    As if this blog needed any validation, it's official: I'm published in the current issue of the Wittenburg Door. I'm the envy of seminarians everywhere.

    I'm now a household name in at least 15 homes.

    In case you missed it, you can find my submission here.

    I got a nice little check and a lot of ego boost. I also got an e-mail from hipster/editor Rob, who wrote (to paraphrase): "So what have you done for me lately?"