The Power of Singing

Sunday at Tapestry I spoke about the songs of Mary and Zechariah (Luke 1:46-80) and considered what we could learn from them in light of the hatred that was shown in Charlottesville over the weekend.

Specifically I said that the beauty of the songs of the Christian faith is that they often do two things very well:

  1. Remind us of Who God is (i.e. the One who does great thing for and through His people)
  2. Remind us os who we are (i.e. the ones for whom God has done great things and through whom He wants to do more)

When we remember Who He is and who we are we do a great job of standing against evil. When we forget those two things we don’t do such a good job. So we sing and when we sing we remind each other and remember.

Tonight people at UVA are showing that the songs of true Christian faith are powerful in combating evil. Sing, remember, and act in love.

HT Pamela.

Don’t be a Sucker

The U.S. War Department thought it was pretty important in 1943 for U.S. Citizens to be able to spot fascism when they saw it. So they created this film to remind people not to be a sucker. Seems pertinent today.

We human beings are not born with prejudices. Always they are made for us. Made by someone who wants something. Remember that when you hear this kind of talk. Somebody is going to get something out of it. And it isn’t going to be you.

Don’t be a sucker.

Happy Birthday Dr. Barth

Today is the birthday of Dr. Karl Barth, the brilliant Swiss Theologian. He would have been 131 years old today. I would encourage you to to read or listen to something Barthian today. You can read the Barmen Confession here (statement from evangelical churches in German against the Nazi control church of the state in 1934), any of a number of his works can be found to read for free at Tyndale seminary’s Karl Barth reading room (a public domain version of The Humanity of God can be found there and it is wonderful), and you can listen to the 1962 Warfield Lectures at Princeton (I love the question and answer section primarily because it reminds me that seminarians have apparently always been kiss ups).

To quote Dr. Barth:

Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.

I personally am joyful for how Dr. Barth has helped me to connected with the God Who desires to be known.

May I Recognize That God Is Here

This past Sunday I encouraged those that make up Tapestry to join me in a modified “liturgy of the hours“. The hours (or Divine Office, Divine Hours, or any number of other names) are prayers and scripture readings that are said every three hours in certain Christian traditions. They start at midnight and then happen every three hours after. Their purpose is to continually direct our attention toward God. For as Methodist missionary E. Stanley Jones wrote:

Whatever we focus on determines what we become.

So the hours help us to focus on Christ and hopefully become more like Jesus. I encouraged everyone to pick some moments during their day to stop and recognize that God is near. For me those times are 9 am, noon, 3 pm, 6 pm, and 9 pm. I have various alarms set to remind me of the time. When I feel the alarm (I have my phone set to vibrate for these alarms), I take a moment out of whatever I am doing, or whoever I am with, and simply pray “Father, help me to see and know that you are here. In my circumstances right now you are here. Help me to see where you are.” That’s it.

It has been great and difficult at the same time. It has definitely redirected my thoughts a few times. I wasn’t thinking the best at a few moments and I had to change that because I was reminded that God was there. I have also discovered that if I am not focused on the hours happening it becomes easy for me to float right on through them. I have become aware of the time and how close the next hour is.

I’m trying this for a couple of weeks to see what happens. I’ve encouraged “threads” to join me and we’ll talk about it one Sunday.

SIDE NOTE – I took Montana out for her first ride with the top down in Buddy the Mustang today. She was pretty thrilled. Here’s a picture of my old gal of a basset hound to brighten your day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I didn’t take this photo while driving. We had just stopped at Belt’s for Montana to get a pup cup with Pamela, who was already there.

240 Wagon

I can’t really say why but around 5 years ago I developed a fascination with Volvo 240 wagons, quite possibly the most stereotyped suburban vehicle ever. Take the stereotype of a minivan and turn it into a wagon and you will have a Volvo 240. They aren’t flashy. They aren’t fast1 . They are just boringly awesome. I think they are spiffy as all get out.

I want one as my winter beater. I picture driving around with my fishing equipment and duck hunting gear in the back. My canoe on the top. Ah, that’s living.

One day I will have one of these fine automobiles and drive it during the Winter when I am scared of the salt on the roads hurting Buddy the Mustang. Pam will be by my side, Montana in the back seat, and a Diet Coke in my hand. We’ll leave the cat at home. It will be a wonderful day.

SIDE NOTE – Since the Point area is a small area there is a decent chance that someone i know actually knows the person that owns the 240. If you do please pass on to them my respect. Whoever it is has a wonderful vehicle.


  1. I heard someone describe the take off speed of a 240 wagon as “zero to sixty eventually 

A High-Flow Toilet

Though i will readily admit that my writing is often crappy I wouldn’t normally post a video of a toilet on my blog. I ran across this toilet today and was surprised by how long the flush takes. Whatever the opposite of a low-flow toilet is called (I assume a high-flow toilet) is what this toilet is. If you care to

Also this has got to be the first toilet I have ever seen where the inside of the basin is a gray color.

The Yellow Christ

When Jürgen Moltmann wrote “The Crucified God” he had a copy of Gauguin‘s “Yellow Christ” behind his desk. I can’t remember where I read or heard this but I believe he placed it there because it reminded him of the viciousness of the death of God in a world that pretends to be so pastoral and bucolic. It’s calm, beautiful, and life continues going on in a painting that is depicting the most tragic and meaningful event in history. It is a huge contrast.

I now have a post of the “Yellow Christ” behind me with the addition of a signed poster from Steve Taylor & The Perfect Foil. This should be even better, right? So if I don’t write a ground breaking work of theology in the next 5 years I’m blaming Taylor. Pull your weight Steve!

Quote from Rutledge’s “The Crucifixion” – Scripture

To understand the nature of gospel preaching, we need to understand the nature of the Scripture itself. There is a fundamental syntactical distinction between saying “we question the Bible” and “the Bible questions us.” It is common, in congregations, to hear of subjects like “Using the Bible in Small Groups.” But we do not “use” the Bible; if we attempt to do so, it will slip away from us, leaving something opaque and very much less dynamic in its place. Contrary to the story line in many “spiritual” journals, the biblical narrative does not tell of our journey toward God; it is the other way around. The right approach is not “What questions do I have to ask of the Bible?” but “What questions does the Bible have to ask of me?” God does not wait for Adam to start looking for him; it is God who comes looking with the question, “Adam where are you?” – the first words spoken to fallen humanity. God says to Job, “Gird up your loins like a man; I will question you, and you will answer me.” God is the one who says, “i will shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jer. 33:3 KJV)

Fleming Rutledge, The Crucifixion, pp. 19-20

I remember Boo Helfin1 , my Old Testament professor at Southwestern Seminary, stewing when he heard someone say “I teach the Bible.” He was far to kind to call someone out in public for such an unintentional slip, but he would definitely rant to us, his students, so that we would learn that the Bible doesn’t need us to teach it anything, instead it is we who need to be taught by the scripture.


  1. Dr. Heflin was also one of the toughest and most amazing teachers I have ever experienced. I made two Bs during my Masters of Divinity and OT 2 was one of those Bs. He is also the reason that I love the book of Amos 

Kicking To the Middle

I really enjoy reading and listening to Malcolm Gladwell. “Insight porn” is the name I have heard used regarding his genre of writing, since the thrill of similar books seems to be the “aha” moments that happen through such books. Gladwell references in several of his works a study1 studying what area of the goal a penalty kick is most effective and where most soccer or football players will kick a penalty kick or which area goalkeepers will dive to attempt the block. This study indicates that the most likely chance of success for a penalty kick is kicking the ball to the middle of the goal rather than to either one of the sides. Want to guess where most players kick the ball or guess where the goalkeepers usually go for the block? If you said “not the middle” then you are correct and you win the prize((sorry to tell you that there is no prize)).  Gladwell speculates that the cost of looking like you aren’t trying as hard or looking foolish is greater to the players than the reward of the increased likelihood of a goal. Therefore the players kick to the sides rather than the middle where they are more likely to score and thus do a better job.

I bring this up because I struggle with the same thing every now and then.  Sometimes I am more concerned with looking like I am working hard than actually working hard. The current specific instance occurs within one of the companies that I chaplain for, but I could also list pastoring and other situations if I felt the urge.

The best and most meaningful conversations I have in one of my companies consistently happen in the break room. I’m not sure what it is about the physical structure of the building, the culture of the company, or my own behavior but every time I take a book and sit in the break room really meaningful conversations about serious needs happens. I joked with the head of the company that I should just announce my presence and go straight to the break room instead of doing my rounds. So why don’t I do this?

Well because of my own fear of looking like I’m not doing anything. I know that I am a more effective chaplain when I sit in the break room, but I believe I look like a more effective chaplain when I am walking around the company. If I were in a signalling mindset at the moment I would say that I was more concerned with signalling that I am an busy than I was actually being effective. That’s why I am posting this here and I have discussed this with the head of the company. I am trying to be more concerned with being effective than I am with looking effective. The plan is set. All I need to do now is pick a book and go to the break room. I am going to be more concerned with being effective, than looking effective.


  1. This study is from Steven Levitt of Freakonomics fame – you can hear the Freakonmics episode on this study here