Friday, December 30, 2005

Predictions for 2006

I'm not a prophet, so hold your stones. I'm a perceiver. By that, I mean I rush to assumptions based on sketchy, arbitrary obversations.

In another life, I'd be an economist.

Here are my projections for America (and the blogosphere) in 2006:

  • USC will pound Texas in the Rose Bowl, causing hundreds of thousands of Texans to question their ridiculous obsession with football. President Bush declares a state of emergency in Austin. UT president Larry R. Faulkner declares UT-Austin, "is really a film school, anyway."

  • Interest rates begin a moderate decline, fueling more fire to the real estate boom. The Guvenator sells off all state land holdings for $2 trillion to keep California's welfare state afloat for another year. State spending promptly triples. Former governor Jerry Brown pitches the idea of toll roads at every stop light. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom pitches the idea of a heterosexual marriage tax. Former Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates offers to "crack a few heads" in Sacramento -- free of charge. Actor William Baldwin threatens to leave California forever if the budget is cut, prompting the state police to offer free escort to the Nevada border. Nevada protests.

  • The cost of a barrel of oil will continue to decline. Millions of Americans will continue to complain about the cost of a gallon of gas on their way to the local SUV dealer.

  • Heath Ledger will win the Academy Award for his role in Brokeback Mountain, because nothing is more Hollywood than a gay cowboy. However, it does not receive support from the gay community because cowboy fashion is "so 1994."

  • The Minutemen on the Arizona border lose their talk radio signal in a moment of panic and turn their guns on each other. Hundreds of illegal aliens turn south, vowing never to raise families in such a violent country. Dozens of Scottsdale lawn care companies file for bankruptcy due to the lack of cheap, tax-free labor.

  • Apple launches their OSX platform on Intel's X86 architecture. Apple fanatics rave about a leveled playing field, industry experts predict global domination, and millions of Americans admit they didn't know Apple made anything else besides the iPod. Apple improves their share of the world's OS market from 3.5% to 4%, causing their stock value to triple. One ardent Apple user, an avant garde artist in Eugene, Ore., discovers the spreadsheet. His brain explodes 30 seconds later.

  • Microsoft changes little, continues to ignore glaring security weaknesses, still makes a gazillion dollars for essentially the same OS they stole from Apple over 20 years ago.

  • The Pirates of the Carribean sequel races to record returns as the summer's hit movie, thanks to more of the swishy swashbuckler played by Johnny Depp. Hollywood insiders praise the movie for promoting gay piracy.

  • CBS News breaks the story that President George W. Bush actually voted for Mickey Mouse in the last presidential election. In response, Bush shrugs and confesses a belief presidential policy doesn't really affect him.

  • The Hollywood Actor's Guild bans the use of phone answering machines by guild members, "because we're really tired of being embarassed."

  • When approached for a sequel to "The Passion," actor/director/producer/theologian Mel Gibson is stunned to learn there's more to the story after Christ dies on the cross. "I guess I should have really finished the book before picking up the camera," he will say through a press release.

  • U.S. Sen. John McCain, the self-appointed American Sports Czar, declares bowling a dangerous sport in need of federal regulation.

    In the blogosphere ...

  • The Pyromaniac, Phillip Johnson, continues with his more mellow writing style. Bored hordes of readers fishing for a reason to become indignant stop reading altogether. The U.S. Surgeon General gives Johnson a special award for lowering blogger blood pressure across the globe.

  • Adrian Warnock continues his search for angry, battle-ready cessationists. The Gad(d)about makes a glib -- but very friendly (and charismatic) -- reference to Don Quixote.

  • The Thinklings continue to humor themselves with dignity and class. Dan at Cerulean Sanctum is offered to be "Thinkled," only to see it rescinded because he doesn't speak the foreign language of Texas. An investigation uncovers the reality Texans speak plain English, just at 2/3 the rate of normal Americans, and often conjoining words not often considered phonetically possible. UT fans blame the incident on biased California voters.

  • Brad at Broken Messenger continues to write the best theoblog in the blogosphere.

  • One prominent Republican blogger will express concern over a minor White House policy, causing him to lose his rightwingrepublicanelite credentials and is ridiculed by the Real Republican Club. (OK, this happens pretty much every day).
  • Wednesday, December 28, 2005

    The importance of comedy relief

    Every writer knows you cannot recreate Romeo and Juliet without Mercutio.

    Comedic interludes relieve tension in a story. They are the distractions that keep the drama boiling without boiling over. They sustain catharsis when our more dour emotions would otherwise become too much to bear in one sitting.

    I've always related to the Mercutios of the world because I see so much emphasis on the serious things of this world as if God were not in control. I love to make people laugh because it distracts them from the sorrow that is our sinful state, and hopefully reminds them how silly this world is.

    People -- even Christians -- spend so much time dwelling on things they could never possibly understand. This is why I think Douglas Adams is a genius.
    There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.
    - Douglas Adams
    I do not mean to confuse laughter with the joy of the Lord. The joy God gives us is a welling-up of the soul, and is not something we can create or manipulate. It comes from knowing things are settled and our responsibilities are much less than they appear to be, because God carries our otherwise enormous burden for us.

    But even laughter is God-ordained. In Ecc. 3:4, He has set aside time for both weeping and laughter.

    Neither is this to say all laughter is spiritually clean. There is a perversity of laughter that mocks the things of God, that takes license with God's nature and revels in the things of this world.

    But laughter by itself is not against the nature of God. Even Jesus took delight in children and condemned the actions of the apostles who attempted to scurry them away.

    There is no record of a court jester in the Kingdom of God, but in this world, I'd like to think that is part of my role as servant of man. I do not wish to take your eyes off God, but if they are already averted to an elsewhere gaze, allow me to shake you out of your trance and remind you that you are under no obligation to bear the weight of this world.

    Allow me to remind you that you are not God and it's generally in bad form to immitate Him in that manner.

    Tuesday, December 27, 2005

    One quote to define The Gad(d)about, 2005 ed.

    I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.
    - Douglas Adams

    Post-game wrap with Santa

    Klaus feeling weight of change

    By Gil Gadabout
    Disassociated Press

    THE NORTH POLE (DP) -- A little confused but mostly relieved to be headed for a short vacation, Kris Kringle -- aka Santa Claus -- loosened his belt before sitting at the press table.

    "The 'missus' keeps threatening to enforce an Atkins Diet around the house," he joked to terse laughter from the gathered press horde. "I guess I've moved beyond 'jolly' to 'wobbly.' "

    That Kringle can still crack jokes at 350 years of age is a medical marvel few care to attempt to explain. Kringle said carrying the burden of Christmas giving is not getting any easier, and humor is his only recourse.

    "I probably have the only sleigh in the world with missile radar, but even that doesn't protect us against some whack job with a ground-to-air portable missile launcher," he said.

    North Pole officials hinted Rudolph was off the reindeer lineup this year out of fear his nose might create a signature over Middle Eastern skies. One senior elf insider believes reindeer will eventually be phased out because of the potential for harm.

    No official from Kringle's inner circle would confirm or deny the rumor.

    When asked about the best of the good and worst of the bad, Kringle would only shake his head.

    "There are men with no shame out there, but I know you're more interested in celebrities and politicians," he said with a finger wag at the hundred or so in the audience.

    Elf Iben Isen, Naught List adviser, said a sliding scale for people in the media has always been part of the process.

    "We can't really penalize actors and athletes for public indiscretions," he said. "They're already doubly punished by media scrutiny. And, let's face it, these are not among the brighter professionals. Santa has a big heart for the mentally challenged."

    Gift tracker Ollie Oxenfree said gifts for the ultra-rich are quite a bit different than standard fare.

    "We wish we could give out things like a charitable heart or good sense, but those gifts even exceed our unlimited budget," he said. "So we stick with things like out-of-season fish or a good pair of shoes."

    Kringle expressed concern about the growing North Pole compound, with high-tech taking over, and the concern about the condition of the nearby water plume.

    "Wooden dolls aren't even a novelty these days. It's getting to the point where maybe kids would prefer Santa was robot and the sleigh was a drone."

    - 30 -

    Friday, December 23, 2005

    In Memoriam: Curtis "Cowbell" Jones

    Curtis "Cowbell" Jones

    We have lost many beloved entertainers this year, but perhaps none more influential than Curtis "Cowbell" Jones, the underappreciated but oft-imitated drummer of the early 20th century.

    The date and place of the first "trap" set is debatable, but pinpointing the first inclusion of the mounted cowbell is without question. Jones pioneered this modern staple of drumming on the 1934 recording of "Scataroo To You" on Hambone Wilson's Jamboree Jungle.

    Jones' career spanned nearly a century, and was probably the first session drummer -- a career that became known for his raucously tinny bell ride sounds. He has been credited as the first American to include Caribbean rhythms in American popular music, previously considered undanceable.

    Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen, once a student of Jones, found it difficult to quantify the elder drummer's impact.

    "I remember struggling how to count off 'Pyromania,' then I put on 'Scataroo To You' and inspiration came like a rush," Allen said. "I doubt that song would ever have been a hit if I had not found such a brilliant muse."

    Allen lost his arm in an automobile accident in the 1980s, but continues to utilize a cowbell sound by triggering an electronic pedal with his left foot.

    "Curtis could play a fast cascara pattern against a rhumba clave on the cowbell with a stick in his mouth. He really was a cowbell master," Allen added.

    Use of the cowbell has taken a hit in recent years, particularly after one Saturday Night Live episode panned the use of the bovine rattle in the Blue Oyster Cult song "Don't Fear the Reaper."

    However, the cowbell has been integral in dozens of hit songs from diverse genres, including:

  • Guns N Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle"
  • Motley Crue's "Dr. Feelgood"
  • Loverboy's "Working for the Weekend"
  • Sir Mix A Lot's "Baby Got Back"
  • Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music"
  • The Bangles' "Hazy Shade of Winter"

    It all points back to cowbell innovator Jones, said former Twisted Sister drummer AJ Pero.

    "Nothing rocks like a cowbell," Pero said. "Ping rides are fine for sissy ballad bands like Journey, but in Twisted Sister, you needed a cowbell to cut through the guitars. I owe my career to Curtis Jones."

    The cowbell continues to influence a new generation of drummers, and Jones' use appears to be timeless.

    Alien Ant Farm drummer Mike Cosgrove credited an eclectic Jones track -- the odd meter "Mama Rhumba" on Dinky Brolo's Slow Boat to Cuba -- as the inspiration for the challenging beat to the band's song "Rubber Mallet."

    "I had just bought a cowbell, which I attached right between my hi-hat, snare drum, and first rack tom. Then I started messing with this (Jones) feel. It felt stiff at first, but as I played it in practice, it started to flow."

    Jones is survived by his wife, Tambora, and two children, daughter Maracas and son Curtis "Kazoo" Jones Jr.

    Donations will be accepted in lieu of services to: More Cowbell Foundation, 1234 Countdown St., New York, NY 12341.
  • Santa Pre-Game

    John Carney over at Lake Neuron posted a link to his Christmas pre-game chat with Santa.

    This is going to work out well, since I traditionally get the official North Pole press invite to the post-Christmas interview. We provide full coverage here at The Gad(d)about.

    Wednesday, December 21, 2005

    What does Godly obedience look like?

    There were some interesting comments to my post about obedience to God reflected in my dietary habits. The primary concern was associating such a fleshly (and often times vain) practice to matters of the heart. If approached the wrong way, it could very well become an issue of legalism.

    I certainly did not mean to endorse diet and exercise as a means to grow closer to God. If anything, I see my gluttony as one example of how I've been short on discipline my entire life. This is not about my will, but about my heart's sinful intent to indulge when I should be fasting -- in the spirit. It's a metaphor for the reality of my often straying heart, cheating on God with desire for the things of this world. Being overweight by itself doesn't mean anything spiritually.

    Brian Colmery responded on his own blog by noting how he would like to establish patterns of discipline in his life at a young age. I wish I had this kind of foresight at 25.

    This New Years millions of empty resolutions will be made to better oneself, often in the midst of recovery from a night of hedonistic indulgence. I don't know if this is a statement about the wayward attitudes of America or the fact we have so much of the pleasurable things of the world to entice us.

    One thing I know is God does not want our empty promises, nor does He want us to better ourselves in vacuous methods. We can beat our flesh all we want, but if God does not have our hearts it is all vanity. When we try to obtain Godliness on our own will, we are fighting against the singular message of the Gospel: We cannot make the first step towards Godliness on our own.

    However, God's commandment to obey did not fade away with Christ's victory over death. It is still better to obey in good conscience, though ultimately only Christ's sacrifice is our sanctification.

    It is a paradox that has confounded men for 2000 years. Worse, hyperfocusing on obedience on one side and grace on the other has had the Church out of balance the majority of this Church Age.

    When I think of examples of true obedience in the Bible, they span across all generations, and there is one simple theme: A genuine love of God. God calls, His people hear His voice, and they show up. It is simply responding to God's call.

    Showing up, as the wisdom of Woody Allen declares, is 88 percent of life. In God's Kingdom, showing up is 100 percent of life. This is pretty much all God requires of us, particularly in this Church Age where we have the revealed Christ and a path of grace to heaven.

    When I think of my own disobedience, I think of my daily faults of not showing up: not showing up for prayer, not showing up to read or hear His word, not showing up (with a heart of thankfulness) every time God's providence leads me to His waters, not showing up when God has work for me to do.

    I do not think of my disobedience in terms of my fleshly sin, because the sin of my flesh is a merely reflection of what's already going on in my heart. Fleshly sin should come as no surprise to me because my heart has already decided not to show up at the feet of God when I awake in the morning.

    But freedom from fleshly sin is easy to come by. The Spirit convicts me and turns my heart repentant. The bigger problem is the closed eyes of my heart, that darkness that has lurked in me since I took my first breath in this world.

    So here we begin to see a better picture of my spiritual immaturity, which is an element of taking license with God's grace. Grace is my only path to heaven, but if my heart is not intent on obeying His commands, I am dishonoring Christ's sacrifice.

    There is no easy path to Godly obedience, because nothing of God's nature is natural to man. Sometimes we might imitate it, but the kind of obedience God requires comes first from a heart that longs for God's perfect rule in our lives, that daily kneeling at the foot of the throne declaring He is the Lord of our lives. It is the difference between taking what God has given us freely and giving to God because we desire to please Him.

    Monday, December 19, 2005

    Try! this CD

    The newly released John Mayer Trio's Try! is a CD I did not anticipate. Upon brief listening, I should have.

    John Mayer, previously known for writing lighter, adult-contemporary versions of Dave Matthews Band's frat-boy funk, has shifted gears with his new group. He has shed some of the spotlight to share it with two fine musicians, bassist Pino Paladino and drummer Steve Jordan. These two session musicians with jazz chops come with rock credibility. Paladino was The Who's replacement for John Entwhistle. Jordan, the Late Show Band's original drummer and 70s jazz-fusion notable, has played with legends such as Keith Richards and Neil Young. Those of you who aren't musician geeks might remember Jordan's stint as house band drummer for the Blues Brothers.

    While the rhythm section brings credibility to the music, there's no mistaking this group is about John Mayer -- less as a songwriter and more as a player. What stands out to me is Mayer is indeed a fine guitarist who could have had a quiet but very successful session career. His chops are considerable, but he brings much more sensitivity and personality to otherwise standard blues stylings. He's not Jimi Hendrix or Buddy Guy and he's certainly not in the elevated air of Scofield, but he's not trying so hard to imitate them as he attempts to honor these types of players with his own voice.

    The music itself is representative of a different era, the power trio. If comparisons to Cream or Jimi are obvious, the JMT players do not seem opposed. They revel in it. This is not your ordinary jam band. There are no signs of excess, no 15 minute journeys into self-absorbed anti-melodies. In another day, these would be under-five-minutes radio-friendly tunes with no small amount of airplay. Two covers, one of Jimi and one of Ray Charles, are personalized on an otherwise original lineup up songs. There are identifiable melodies and hooks -- elements typically missing from "jam band" albums.

    There's a sense of recklessness about this live disc that is part of its appeal. The music is very tight, don't misunderstand, but the sound mixing is not going to make audiophiles very happy. The crowd does not respond at appropriate times -- and responds and inappropriate times. Falsetto background vocals at one point crack off-key through properly tuned instruments. Frankly, it's a real live album, and not the compilation of best performances one finds on more corporate releases. It's all the charm and intimacy of a club gig.

    Try! pays homage to great power trios of the past, but it is more like a mass audience-friendly version of Jing Chi, the charmless blues trio from Robben Ford. But where Ford, Jimmy Haslip, and Vinnie Colaiuta indulge themsleves in exotic directions, JMT attempts to engage an audience not well versed in jazz theory and playing over the bar. Considering the impeccable choice of talented musicians who cater to simplified rock, JMT makes Try! accessible to the masses without dumbing down the music.

    In another day, that was considered genius.

    Friday, December 16, 2005

    The joy of pastoral secrets

    I used to think I was avoiding an early heart attack by not working with my father. After three years under his wing in my early 20s, I "escaped" to the "less demanding" field of journalism.

    Over a decade later I'm discovering a couple nice things:

  • My father has mellowed a great deal
  • My father is in much better position to pay me and teach me
  • I enjoy having a lot of work and working at my own pace.

    Daily and weekly deadlines aren't really a part of my normal schedule any more. If I want to take a two-hour lunch to hang out with the pastoral staff at their secret hideway, I can do that now.

    That last part is a location to which I have been sworn to secrecy. There, a Chinese buffet which might as well have a little First Century fish carved into its decaying wall paper, the religious movers and shakers of Gilbert, Ariz., meet to gripe, joke, and generally behave without fear some busy body will be organizing the next church split.

    I am privy to this location because I know so many dark secrets about my pastor, it's pointless not to include me. He probably fears blackmail.

    I had lunch at this place not long ago. I was supposed to be meeting with the senior assistant pastor. The worship leader came along. Not long after that the senior pastor showed up. Then our friendly Lutheran pastor stepped to a back table to read a book that's probably not favorable for Lutheran pastors to read.

    It was a slow day at the buffet, but at any given time you could probably crash into one of several dozen pastors. The things they say never leave the doors.

    My blogging friend Brian is learning a little about this. If you are a pastor, you are privy to what the "sixth C" is, and in a place like this Chinese buffet, you can laugh about it without fear of judgement.

    I once read a faux letter of resignation (written by one pastor for another pastor going through a very rocky time in his church) that read as if it were written by secular comedian. Nothing foul, but a little blue, which only made it funnier.

    Pastors do gripe some, but they know they're not going to get much sympathy from other pastors. It comes with the job.

    If you are in a church, and I hope you are, you would bless your pastor by going up to him after Sunday's sermon and say this:

    "Pastor, I know I haven't always been the best servant of this church. My tithes are inconsistent, and I'm usually "busy" when stuff needs to be done. When you asked for Sunday School teachers, I said I would do it, then I came down with a rare form of laryngitis that allowed me to scream at the youth pastor for showing a PG movie over the weekend, but I could not speak to teach the children myself. That was something of a white lie. When you asked for help to deliver food for our ministry to the poor, I couldn't do it because I was playing a Doom marathon. But all of that is in the past now. I just want you to know I'm in your circle now. I've got your back -- and I'm not carrying a knife. Promise. Let's build God's kingdom together."

    When the pastor catches his breath from laughing, I guarantee he will appreciate your show of support.
  • Wednesday, December 14, 2005

    The Re-Emerging (and Receding) Creech

    Rick Creech has re-emerged with a blog about weight loss.

    I think this is a fascinating blog topic because someone's weight loss can inspire so many others. I wish I had this blog a few years ago. Between August 2001 and April 2002 I lost 97 lbs. Then I got married and put on about 110.

    I wish I were kidding.

    About the weight gain, I mean.

    My weight loss experience was a story unto itself. It came at a time when God was changing me in rapid ways. He was teaching me discipline, and my weight loss was more of a 10-month sermon than anything. There was one fundamental rule I learned about discipline -- how to acquire it:

  • Discipline comes in short, daily steps.

    This lesson has come in handy in practically every area of my life. In years past I would "porpoise," going from committed to something to falling out to committed to burning out in anything that mattered ... school, relationships, work. And diets.

    So I started this diet in Aug. 2001 under the inspiration of this principle. Instead of jumping into another fad diet, I decided I would start working out. I used to be something of an athlete, so working up a sweat was never the problem. The problem was getting off the sofa and doing something about it.

    I knew my limitations and my tendency to be flaky, so I gave my self one simple rule: Get to the gym. There was no other rule. If I got to the gym, looked inside the doors, and went home, it was still more exercise than I would have received otherwise.

    I did that once or twice, but my conscience eventually got the better of me and I decided to walk on the treadmill for 10 minutes. I did this three times a week for six weeks.

    This is where I think God uses our human nature for our best interest.

    I lost 18 lbs. in six weeks doing the most minimal exercise. I did not change my diet in any meaningful way, other than becoming conscience of portions. I still ate fast food, etc. Just the fact that I put my body in motion melted away some of the fat on my body.

    Then I got excited and decided to implement a diet, but I absolutely abhor diet systems. As is my nature, I conjured up my own. The first thing that had to go was Coke, of which I could easily consume a 12-pack a day. But I was also aware of my limitations, so I adopted water -- not diet drinks -- as my supplement and created rules of when I could not drink Coke:

  • Not in front of the TV
  • Not in front of the home computer
  • Not at work
  • Not in the car

    I could still have a Coke at a restaurant, I just couldn't take one for the road. I could still have a Coke at a friend's party or church function, I just had to leave it there whether I was finished or not.

    I lost 14 lbs. the next four weeks, and my weight loss enthusiasm was overflowing. I created my own low-carb diet -- I grilled seven or eight chicken breasts each Sunday night and at them for lunch. I had protein bars and a piece of fruit for breakfast, and another protein bar and piece of fruit for an afternoon snack. I was so full by the end of the day, I stopped eating dinner ... once my Coke intake was so limited, my caffiene-fuled late nights were over and I was usually in bed by 10 p.m.

    I averaged about 10 lbs. lost each month, and eliminated eight inches on my waste. I went through two belts because there weren't enough holes in them. My XXXL t-shirts looked like dresses on me by February.

    Where I erred is when I got caught up in my own weight loss and forget about the still small voice in my head that led me into this to begin with. Instead of keeping it simple, I ended up going to the gym six times a day, 90 minutes at a time, pulling "total body workouts" in addition to my floor exercises and treadmill routines. By the time I met my wife-to-be, I had burned out on the gym and stopped going. Eating out became a regular thing, and I began drinking Coke like an old habit.

    The rule of gaining discipline still rings true to me, though. Now that I'm 324, Rick's new blog has got me thinking about that lesson and how everything else in my life -- financial discipline, spiritual discipline -- has become unraveled since I wrestled my weight loss plan from God and found no strength to complete it. Not that God needs a nanosecond of my effort to change me, but I do believe He desires our obedience more than he desires to give us forgiveness.

    I'm not a very obedient person these days. I suppose to outward appearances, I'm not the worst Christian, but I know in my heart there are things I can do to better honor God with my life. Like that song, I want my life to be a song to honor God.

    God does not need an army of skinny Christians. That's not my point. But for me, I can see elements of a disobedient heart in my diet. It's a small picture of a big problem.

    So I think I'm going to join Rick in the weight loss plan. I need some more time to think about what's reasonable with my new schedule, but expect to see something soon. My hope is it will be more about the goodness of God than about me fitting in 32-inch Levi's.
  • Tuesday, December 13, 2005

    When artsy writers go bad

    Selling out has been remarkably easy. I was expecting a cosmic struggle between good and evil -- you know, Perretti style. Instead I said the magic words "I want to make a decent living!" and my heart quickly caved.

    OK, so I'm not exactly building Trump Towers yet. But I am learning the finer points of property management. For example, tenants have a sense of humor. Some tenants think it's funny to write a personal check for rent, and then claim ignorance when it bounces. The money was there, they say, and it's still there right now, even though they are incapable of getting a cashier's check from the bank. This is hilarious to a property manager, let me tell you. This is especially funny when the tenant does it every month ... and then calls and leaves nasty comments on voice mail because he's being evicted. What is downright laugh-out-loud funny is when the same tenant hires a lawyer in an attempt to get his security deposit back. What a hoot.

    Another clever comedic rouse is when a tenant calls to complain something is broken. Normal people call when the sink is stopped up or when the shower won't work. Tenants call when their cable is out, even though we have nothing to do with cable. This leads to a 45-minute conversation about obligations of a landlord with the tenant. Apparently, somewhere in the constitution or the Landlord/Tenant Act, tenants are led to believe they have a right to free HBO. "Well, we just plugged it in and we got it for free when we got here, and now it's not working, so we assumed you provided that. Get it turned on again or we'll call a lawyer!"

    Tenants threaten to call their lawyer every day. It really hits the funny bone.

    So I've just been yucking it up for the last 10 working days, learning about this new comedy troupe called The Tenants. They will be right up there with The Groundlings some day soon, I'm sure.

    Thursday, December 08, 2005

    How to criticize a Christian leader

    By following these guidelines, you, too, can join the growing market of ANTI-CULT LITERATURE. These guidelines will help you form strong arguments to blow away the ministry of anyone who even remotely disagrees with you. Grace be damned!


    Idenitfying Target A should be simple enough. Just find someone who's enjoying some recently acquired notoriety as an original thinker. This is ideal, because not only can you capitalize on people's instinctive fear of something new, it's easier to get published because you can ride on the coattails of your target's notoriety.


    You need to immediately redirect their words through the prism or grid of your system of theology. Presuppositions of their system of theology, no matter how accepted or allowable in the mainstream of evangelical thought, are critical before you begin writing. Acrostics utilzing inflammatory and misrepresentative wordplay are usually the best place to start. For example, when criticizing a five-point Calvinist, try a play on "TULIP" by characterizing them as a heartless Judaizer with the word "THORN." You will get extra humor credits among those who agree with you.


    Target A may be a hard target because he or she may be mostly orthodox, and may even preach an orthodox Gospel. However, we cannot let disagreements over methodology get in the way of sound doctrine. Turning Target A into a heretic takes a simple argumentation technique:

    Target A quoted Suspect B;
    Suspect B quoted Supsect C;
    Suspect C was discipled in the camp of Heretic D;
    Therefore Target A, Suspect B, and Suspect C are all heretics, since they obviously are in line with Heretic D.

    Now you can dismiss anything else Target A says, because they are a heretic and their sanctification has been shown devoid. This technique is especially helpful when you can take quotes out of their original context.

    4. Ignore Matt 18:15-22

    First, if Target A is published, you are simply responding to a heretic in the same medium he or she chose to air their bad doctrine. Secondly, they did not first consult you before they aired their offensive material. They didn't even mention you or quote your good doctrine, so you are not bound to this order by Jesus.

    Obviously, Jesus did not have the opportunity to speak to the Anti-Cult Ministry, since it did not exist in his age, so the Bible is silent on the subject.

    Putting Christmas in its proper place

    I get irritated this time of year, and it has nothing to do with commercialization or crass advertising or even ridiculously bad Christmas music.

    Mostly, I am uncomfortable with the exaltation of Christmas as a religious holiday, though it is a Christmas cultural tradition, and not something carrying Biblical endorsement.

    Do I think it's good to honor of the birth of Christ? Of course. It also carries weighty doctrinal concern, specifically acknowledging the virgin birth and divine appointment of the Son of God.

    What I think is wrong is when we get carried away with the spiritual significance of the day. In America, Christmas is the Christian holiday, while Easter is downplayed. Biblically speaking, the four Spring Festivals in the Jewish Calendar proved prophetic, and I am baffled how these have lost their weight in the Hellenized and Latinized Christian Church. (And, yes, I would love to see us return to our Jewish heritage for Spring Festivals, as well as some kind of corporate recognition of the Fall Festivals).

    Christmas, short for Christ Mass, is essentially a Catholic tradition. I can think of few other non-Biblical Catholic traditions we Protestants have carried over. I suppose because the Bible is silent on such a celebration, we've decided not to offend tradition.

    I think of the season in cultural terms, and I'm happy any time true Christian faith is expressed in any serious terms in a secular forum. But I refuse to belabor this day to complain about any missed meaning or lack of spiritual importance in our culture. At least in American, Christmas in its most pure form of celebration still looks like something out of Walt Disney's imagination. So much of its tradition is pagan, wrapped in shiny colors and bright designs.

    Absent Biblical guidance, corporate celebration of Christmas is purely subjective, in my opinion, and to criticize churches who do not is a shaky position.

    It just so happens that Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, and some churches are cancelling regular services to return the day to families who wish to celebrate Christmas privately. If someone wants to criticize the corporate Church for allowing too much emphasis on individualism and not enough emphasis on community, I'm right there with you.

    However, keep in mind this day has become so family-oriented because we've made it that way, and it's a message that's reinforced in thousands of pulpits -- even in those churches with a corporate Christmas celebration.

    Wednesday, December 07, 2005

    Seven sevens meme

    John at Blogotional has tagged me for the Seven Seven memes. This one looks pretty easy ...

    1. Seven things to do before I die
    1. Have at least one kid.
    2. Play drums with Tower of Power.
    3. Learn Spanish.
    4. Drive a convertible Corvette from San Diego to North Carolina.
    5. Hit a Major League fastball.
    6. Beat my brothers in a game of driveway basketball.
    7. Make the perfect batch of chili that my father will have to (finally) confess mine is better than his.
    2. Seven things I cannot do

    1. Draw. Not even stick figures.
    2. Stay organized.
    3. Remember names.
    4. Write with the precision and beauty of a Page 1 WSJ feature reporter.
    5. Run a mile. I'm really out of shape.
    6. Eat Krispy Kreme donuts. They make me ill. Dunkin Donuts, on the other hand ...
    7. Understand quantum mechanics.
    3. Seven things that attract me to my spouse.

    1. She laughs at my jokes.
    2. Even when I'm caught up in the world, she's alert to the need to pray.
    3. She's really fun to just stare it.
    4. She calls me on my stupidity, but she does it gracefully.
    5. She doesn't get uptight when I want to play the occasional video game.
    6. She cracks me up, even when I try to be angry with her.
    7. She treats others with more care and respect than she is returned.
    4. Seven things I say most often

    1. There's no such thing as "fair."
    2. Oh, that's acceptable ... NOT.
    3. I'm a doctor, not a pack mule.
    4. I'm a doctor, not a bus boy.
    5. I'm a doctor, not a garbage truck.
    6. [nodding head yes] Noooo.
    7. How does my hair look?
    5. Seven books I love (American Lit. category)

    1. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    2. For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
    3. Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon
    4. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
    5. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
    6. Generation X by Douglas Coupland
    7. Life After God by Douglas Coupland
    6. Seven movies I watch over and over again (or would watch over and over if I had the time)

    1. Shawshank Redemption
    2. Memento
    3. The Game
    4. The Big Lebowski
    5. The Princess Bride
    6. Usual Suspects
    7. American History X
    7. Seven people I want to join in, too
    I've learned my lesson in passing memes, but here are a few people who might not complain:
  • Brad at Broken Messenger
  • Brian at Sycamore
  • Teem at Totem to Temple

    I'd lay this at the feet of Jared and Dan, but they're attempting to overcome procastination deadlines for their books.
  • I have NOT left the building

    I am currently a real estate mogul-in-training, so my father hasn't released me to have my own computer and desk yet. Maybe sometime next week. In the meantime, my brother has loaned me a 1-year-old laptop that has more viruses than a refugee camp. I'm debugging, defragging, and generally deleting junk I didn't even know existed. My early diagnosis is its terminal. This is par for the course for any machine my brother touches. If you ever wonder who's brave enough to download that malware cursor icon program, I know the most common victim.

    Posting should pick up more next week. I also owe John @ Blogotional a "Seven Sevens" meme. That's in my que, it's just not finished yet.

    I also owe my good friends, Rob and John A., an e-mail. Apologies, fellas. Lots of personal updates not fit for print on my blog. Lots of changes around here. I hope to get it to you by this weekend.

    Friday, December 02, 2005

    Honest observations from a former journalist

    Today is my last day as a journalist. This marks the end of a 12-year career that, if I hadn't told you about it in this blog, you would never have known about it.

    If things go as planned and I become a real estate mogul, I promise to never sully the carpets of a newsroom ever again. I can't wait to finally have the chance to air all of my petty grievances (without consideration for editorial policy) in what will likely prove to be a daily routine of epic letters to the editor.

    In honor of this day, I offer to you a few pithy quotes on things I learned about journalism and being a professional writer:

    - If you are on deadline and are facing a blank page, just about any kind of distraction seems interesting. Even the guy in the next cubicle, whose moronic stock markets tips would bring about another market crash if ever put into practice, seems fascinating.

    - If you want to write a book but can't come up with ideas, pretend there's yardwork waiting for you and a wife who thinks it needs to be done immediately.

    - If Watergate happened today, Woodward and Bernstein's editor would spike the story because of the unlikelihood they could land good art.

    - Unless they could think of a way to compile the thousands of inches of copy to produce something less than 15 inches, and then tell most of the story in a snappy 3-column color graphic.

    - News reporters know sports. Sports reporters know gambling. Feature reporters are just waiting for the next government PIO job to open up.

    - In the Hall of Dumb Questions, asking the survivor of a tragedy, "So what does it feel like to be alive?" is the benchmark for obtuse displays of human indignity.

    - Journalism Rule #1 you won't find in the AP Style Guide ... You cannot write a tornado story wtihout this quote from a witness: "It sounded like a train."

    - No government or business story is complete without finding a fringe academic to lend credibility to the most remote minority opinion. This is called "providing balance."

    - If you're not finding any news at city hall, you're not trying very hard.

    - The best investigative reporting starts with diligent beat reporting.

    - And for my wise old J-school professor ... I don't plan on being around to provide the only justifiable slammer in newspaper headlines: "Jesus returns!"

    Thursday, December 01, 2005

    What is a Reformed Charismatic?

    Apologies for digging out my archives again, but I've been struggling to answer Adrian Warnock's challenge to explain what a Reformed Charismatic is.

    I keep coming back to a single issue: The one defining line between a Reformed Charismatic and the type of Charismatic whose theology brings criticism from those within traditional orthodoxy is the status of their doctrine of suffering.

    Now, I do not want to put a burden on all Reformed Charismatics. There are some that believe physical healing was included in the atonement, and there are some that don't. I remain undecided, and I tend to side with those who argue healing in the atonement would have to provide an absolute guarantee of physical healing in this age, since Christ's atonement was the perfect sealing for the wound we caused in the fall of man. Healing in the atonement offends my understanding of the doctrine of suffering, but I leave room for argument for those who believe otherwise.

    That said, I do believe all power given to the Church today takes us back the Cross. It is the source of our power, and I believe all charismatic practices come with a mandate to make central the Cross. Any charismatic practice that downplays the core message of the Gospel -- faith in Christ, through the grace of God, redeems us for eternal life in heaven after physical death on earth -- is out of character with the very intent of the work of Christ. Any charismatic practice that places more importance on the flesh is in conflict with the Gospel message, which is explicitly a guarantee for future hope, and no guarantee of an easy life in this age.

    I don't want to rehash how I understand Biblical suffering, because I've already written on it. Here is an essay I wrote in May, entitled "My grounding: The doctrine of suffering" ...
    Acceptance or denial of charismata has never defined Evangelicalism. It is probably one of the most misunderstood elements of Christianity today. What does separate some Charismatics from the mainstream is specific doctrines relating to the methodology of charismata, and I'm not talking about "tongues."

    The greatest weakness of the categoric Charismatic churches I'm familiar with is the lack of emphasis on the doctrine of suffering. Simply put: When God does not heal or even offer a relief of pain the person they pray for, the temptation is to blame the person for whom they are praying as lacking in faith. Without discernment that is the case (and it does fall under a possibility - Matt 13:58), I find this an especially unloving practice.

    If the person was brave enough to seek prayer for that ailment in the first place, I have a hard time believing God would not accept that faith as sufficient in most cases. God's requirement for sufficient faith is not stringent. (Matt 17:20)

    No Christian can always offer healing, but we can always offer love. If we have a proper understanding of the doctrine of suffering, we might also offer understanding to those who do not receive healing:

  • Our flesh is condemned to pain, suffering and death the moment we are born. This is product of Original Sin and God's judgment. (Gen. 3:17-19)

  • We may suffer because God loves us, and uses our suffering to conform us. (Heb. 12)

  • We may put ourselves in harm's way because of our sin. (Gal. 6:7-12)

  • In some cases, we may even be persecuted because of our faith. (Just read the New Testament from Matthew to Revelations).

    To deny this doctrine is to put the greatest burden on those that are already afflicted, which is all of us (but some more than others). One would have to assume we possess the power of healing, that God has somehow surrendered his authority in this matter, which is stopping just short of saying that we are also gods. It denies the very purpose of our existence on earth, which was defined for us the moment Adam and Even fell in the Garden of Eden.

    Some Charismatics like to point out that Jesus had a perfect record when it came to healing, and so should we, we just need to "claim it." I see a much different model in Jesus' ministry. Jesus, as God in the flesh, also had perfect discernment. I believe God the Father was already doing the healing, and God as Man saw what God the Father was doing before He prayed for people.
    In John 5, Jesus says:

    19 Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these.

    I infer several distinctions from Jesus' explanation on His view of His own miraculous works:

  • The miraculous starts with God the Father.

  • Jesus can only work in the miraculous when the Father begins it.

  • Jesus performed 100 percent accurate signs and wonders because He had perfect discernment what the Father was doing.

  • Discernment what God is doing is an essential tool for a healing ministry.

  • Without discernment, praying for a miracle it is a hit-and-miss (and likely miss-miss-miss-miss ...) tactic.

    I would not expect perfect discernment from anyone who is not Jesus any more than I would expect a perfect record of healing. Lack of discernment would not stop me for praying for healing for anyone who asked me to do so (or where I see a need), but I would not put impossible expectations on my prayer, either. I have faith that God can heal someone of any affliction we ask Him to heal, but I know, by reading His Word, that God loves us whether He heals us in this age or not, and we will have the universe's greatest health care plan after death. The latter is the only message I wish to convey to anyone I pray for, whether or not they receive healing.

    Ultimately, Jesus did not come to heal our flesh. Jesus came to deliver us from the fate of our flesh, which begins the process of death at birth. Healing is a part of the ministry that reflects on God's dominion on earth. He is in control, and any display of His perfect power should point back to the Cross.