Thursday, January 31, 2008

YouTube Thursday: Carry Organ My Wayward Daughter

Japanese girl rocks out to Carry On My Wayward Son on an ORGAN!

H/T: Scott

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Teaching Strategies: The Pan Dance and a Bloody Leg

Once again, through the magic of Facebook, I've been reconnecting with some former students who have been reminding me about some of my more innovative strategies in teaching them. Innovative meaning that I didn't know what the crap I was doing, because it was my first year.

For instance, the Pan dance.

I love Greek mythology. I have since elementary school. I loved reading the stories from Robert Graves' Greek Gods and Heroes. And one of the units I taught to the 9th graders that first year was on Greek mythology. But I didn't want to lecture them. I didn't want it to bore them to tears. So I made it storytime, much like the ancient Greeks would have had. I told them the stories of the gods and their interaction with the humans. Nothing on the board, just pulling out a chair and telling them. The kids loved the stories about Zeus doing whatever he could to get with a human woman, because they were 9th graders and they're hormones on legs. But one god they could never get their heads around was Pan. Even when I described him as a half goat half man who danced around with Pan pipes, there was still difficulty. So in a flash of genius and/or lack of pride, I jumped up out of my chair and putting my fingers to my head like horns, proceeded to leap about my classroom, making what can only be described as noises like a dying goat in an imitation of pan pipes. I think the kids understood, even if they could never get the image of Mr. Wilson's Pan Dance out of their heads.

One more first year teacher first day story. As a first year teacher, you have NO idea how long it will take to say something and generally when I'm nervous I talk really fast. So my first day of teaching, I have what's called a creative writing rotation for 7th graders and then 8th graders. In an attempt to round out their education as much as possible the kids went to certain classes for 4 or 6 weeks and then moved to another one; hence rotation. In my school day I had 7th grade first, then 8th grade. Well, for the 7th grade, I gave my opening schpeil and we had about 5 minutes left in the period, so I could let them talk quietly, which 7th graders are so scared out of their minds that first day that they're almost petrified. 8th graders are not. They've been at MLK for a year and they know the ropes and they can get at young teachers. Add to that that the rotation period was longer and there were more of them than the 7th graders and it was a recipe for disaster. I finished my opening schpeil with them and there were 15 MINUTES left in the period. Oh crap what now... Well, since this was a creative writing class, I could have them write, but what? What could I do?

So in another flash of desperation I went to a standup cabinet that the previous teacher had left, looking for anything that would inspire me. And in it were a worn down leather basketball, a rusty steak knife, and what must have been an old mannequin leg with fake blood and a sock on it (I later learned it had been used in a drunk driving set up the previous year). And so, I brought them out and said over the rising cacophony, "OK, get out a piece of paper. For the rest of the time today, you are to write a story and this rusty steak knife, beat up basketball, and bloody leg must appear in it somewhere." As you might imagine, some of the stories that came out of that session were very... um, interesting, and creative. Sometimes the leg stayed a mannequin's leg, sometimes it was real. Sometimes it had a life of its own. And with that, another legend was born. I must have heard about that basketball, steak knife, and leg until I quit teaching, and I think Sheryl and I gave that leg as a Dirty Santa gift at some point.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Verbal Perception

Last night, we had our good friend Jenn over for dinner. She's a part of our small group and our kids have just grown to love her very much. Kinsey just gravitated to her when she came over and the two of them played balloon volleyball for a while which was fun to watch. At one point in the dinner Jenn was listening to Connor do his babbling that he does and she mentioned that she can't wait until she can understand his babbling.

I was thinking about that as I was putting him to bed and it's so interesting how kids' verbal skills develop. Right now, Connor knows quite a few words: Mama and Dada for certain. He says "Anks" for Thanks. He can pretty clearly say "Here you go" when he's giving you something and is picking up things very quickly. Now, when I say he says stuff clearly, that means Sheryl and I can understand what he's saying, but others might need translation. This is honestly one of my favorite times for a child because you can almost watch the brain developing. He's picking up concepts and words and developing his communication skills almost everyday. And he's just such a sweet fun little boy. Just a joy.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Empty Gas Can

On Saturday, I was at the Kroger near my house. I had just finished getting gas there and was getting ready to do a little shopping. As I opened my door, a man carrying a gas can approached me and asked to have a little money for a gallon of gas. Having worked downtown, it was not an unusual circumstance to have someone ask me for money and sometimes I give, sometimes I don't. On this day, I decided to go a little extra. I said, "Sure thing. Let's go fill up." So we took his gas can and I filled up a couple of gallons. He took it, thanked me, and walked off.

I went up to the front of the store and the manager and assistant manager were there watching the man. Apparently they had received several complaints about him and were watching to see what he did. I told them that I'd filled up his tank and basically that if he was legit, then now he had some gas to get where he's going and if he wasn't, then now he's not carrying an empty gas can to try and scam people with. And I went in to do my shopping.

It wasn't until last night on the way home from the prison that I realized what I'd done. Back when I read Shane Claiborne's The Irresistible Revolution, I noted that he included a quote from Dorothy Day about how the rich use charity as a buffer between them and the poor. About how the rich give away their money to prevent from having to get to know the poor.

And that's not to say that it's not a good thing to help people in need, but when I filled the guy's can up, I didn't ask his name. I didn't ask why he needed the gas, where he was trying to get to. I filled up his can as a service to him, to me and my self-satisfaction, and to my parking lot neighbors so that they wouldn't have to be bothered. And as much as I would like to convince myself, I'm not sure I did it out of love for him.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Bible Tells Me So: The New Testament

Last week, I looked at some of the problems I have with the Old Testament and asking what, for me, are some hard questions about Scripture. I definitely appreciate the dialogue that resulted and the gentleness and kindness with which it was handled.

This week, I want to think about the New Testament. As a member of a Church of Christ, most of my adult life has been focused around the NT. Heck, sometimes we're called "New Testament Christians," which seems a little redundant in some ways, but ok. I mentioned last week that I'm more inclined to take the NT more literally than the Old. Why is that? I will freely admit that one reason is that I probably just like it more. It fits more within my sensitivities. The way that Jesus is written about and talked about works more strongly for me.

People will naturally bring up inconsistencies between the Gospels, but my friend Adam Ellis had some interesting thoughts about that. If you asked me and Sheryl to tell the stories about the births of our children, we are going to tell those stories about the same subject from very different perspectives. We'll remember different details and aspects and perhaps emphasize different things, but we're telling the same stories. Now, that might offend Biblical literalists because it allows human frailty of memory into the discussion, but I believe that that is how God works, through human frailty.

What about Paul, the great writer and evangelist? I tend to view Paul through the lens of the culture he was writing from the culture he was writing to. Some of his writings might seem homophobic and misogynistic and condoning of slavery. And the truth is that his culture was all of those things, but Paul was trying to help create a reality where differences were put aside for the cause of Christ. But that also means that perhaps some of his commands were limited to the churches to whom he was speaking and not necessarily to us.

I'm not sure if that helps explain my thoughts on the New Testament very well, but it is why I take it more literally than the Old. Next week, I want to think about what the implications for this way of thinking about Scripture are, because there are some serious ones, obviously.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

YouTube Thursday: Christians Are Jerks?

Some numbers about what people think of Christians.

HT: Scott Freeman

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Justice Served

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been reading John Grisham's nonfiction work, The Innocent Man. It's a legal thriller in the style of his other works, but since it's nonfiction, it has a lot more immediacy. It's a fascinating read about two men wrongly convicted in a brutal killing in 1982 who are eventually released. Grisham paints the District Attorney in the case as the 'bad guy," but the DA has started his own web site refuting much of Grisham's contentions about him. I haven't read through that site yet, but I plan to.

The reason I bring it up is because I was struck by the plight of ANOTHER innocent man apparently railroaded by police in Colorado. Tim Masters was convicted on the flimsiest of circumstantial evidence and no physical evidence. The thing that struck me about these two cases is that I wonder how much of the convictions of the men were based on a sense of closure for the communities. When something brutal or horrific happens, as a society we want some sense of closure, and law enforcement wants that closure as well.

What seems like happens in these cases is that the pursuit of closure gets into way of the pursuit of real justice. And what seems scary is that while it's not common, it also doesn't seem as rare as it should be.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Ordinariness of Life

After the hustle and bustle and craziness of the holidays, things have settled down for the Wilson family. I'm back at work, Kinsey's back in school, and Sheryl is doing her outstanding job of taking care of the house and Connor and keeping things in general order.

It's very soothing on one level right now. At this point, we are sliding into a basic rhythm of life. It's always interesting with a 20-month-old who is starting to express himself vocally and trying to figure out his limits, but already having gone through this once with Kinsey, I'm finding myself more patient with Connor and the things he's going through. He's still not eating very well, but if we put something in front of him that he doesn't like, he either throws it to the dog or just plays with it, so the struggle continues.

Busy times are coming up. I'll be doing a little more freelance stuff here soon, church work is still busy and with the spring it'll be even moreso (interesting development on that later, not related to the worship ministry), so right now, I'm enjoying coming home, playing with my kids, and spending time with my wife.

Thoreau once wrote in Walden that "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation." I don't know if he would describe my life as that, but what I call it is contentment. I'm happy with who we are as a family and this is a time of life that I will probably look back on with great fondness. And I'm grateful for it.

Monday, January 21, 2008


"I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.'

"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

"I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

"I have a dream today.

"I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

"I have a dream today.

"I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

"This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day."


Friday, January 18, 2008

The Bible Tells Me So: The Old Testament

Last week, I wrote about trying to find a spiritually mature way to take the Bible seriously without taking it completely literally.

So, let's think about what this could possibly mean for the Old Testament. Wait, before we do that, a few disclaimers. I am not a Biblical scholar. I took Bible classes everyday in college at Lipscomb University for 4 years, but things like this weren't really discussed. I'm a neophyte who's thinking off the top of my head and I could be way off base here.

Ok. Let's start at the beginning. I talked last year about how when someone asks you how old the earth is, they're really asking what you think of the Bible. But let's just take for a second that the Biblical account of creation is mythical and the current scientific understandings about the beginning of life and the universe is closer to correct. What does that mean for a Christian? Well for some, it means that the rest of the Bible isn't trustworthy. If that one part is wrong or incorrect, it means that the whole thing collapses. For someone else, what it could mean is that the author of Genesis was reflecting the understandings of his (or her) time and assuming God's action in that. Did they believe it? Probably, but that doesn't preclude it from being scientifically incorrect. Now, should we put our complete "faith" in scientific understanding? No, but one thing that science does is allow the possibility of saying, "I don't know." Scientists don't know what caused the presumed "Big Bang;" they don't know what sparked proteins to come together to start the cycle of life. And to me, that leaves open the possibility of God's action in that.

That one is one that a lot of people have thought about. But another piece of the OT that I've thought a lot about are God's commands to Joshua in the same named book to completely annihilate the Canaanites. He tells them to utterly destroy them: men, women, and children (Joshua 8). I really have two issues with this: 1) it seems to go against the God is Love declarative in 1 John; 2) it makes God seem like a racist and "bad." Why would he direct the destruction of children? So, what if what we're reading is the writing of someone who is inserting God and an understanding of His word into their actions. Basically giving His sanction to the actions that they're doing. Telling history from their perspective. Someone once said, "You can be sure that you've created God in your own image when He hates the same people that you do." Was that going on here with the Israelites?

Now what that opens me up to is someone saying, "But Phil, aren't you just trying to explain away the parts that you don't understand or don't agree with to fit into your understanding?" Well, maybe, but the alternative is taking a view of a God inconsistent from the New Testament God, and that's a dangerous road to consider, in my mind.

Yes, I realize I'm opening a can of worms, playing with fire, insert cliche here. But if I'm being honest with my thoughts and my faith, this is what I have to do and questions I have to ask and try to come to some resolution on.

Next Friday, the New Testament and why I tend to take it quite a bit more literally than the Old.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

YouTube Thursday: Sesame Street Theme Song

Man, I loved both of the opening and closing theme songs to Sesame Street.

Opening Theme from the mid 70s, I think.

Long Closing Theme. I loved the harmonica on this one.

Here's another one, with the funky 70's music starting about 2:05.

Good times

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Do Churches Value Married People Over Singles?

Some of you know that for the last 3 years or so, Sheryl and I have had a lot of dealings with the singles at Otter Creek. It started with our England mission trip back in 2005, but thankfully, hasn't been limited to that. Since that time, our relationship with the singles has grown to such an extent that we're now in a small group with several and count them among our closest friends. As a result, Sheryl and I have begun to see things through their eyes and think about how they perceive things.

One of the ways that that has really hit me is how churches focus on marriages and families. Now... let me say from the outset that I obviously think this is a positive thing. The marriage bond is one that is strongly attacked and when it is broken, it's one of the most devastating things that can happen, not just to a couple but also to their friends and community. So I understand and appreciate how much churches focus on that.

However, sometimes I wonder if it becomes very easy to focus on that and marginalize the groups outside of that. For instance, one Sunday morning, two of my very good friends led a "ministry moment" on the Men's Ministry at Otter Creek (You can read more about it at OC Brotherhood). The guys had four points that they brought out about the goals of the ministry. Things like forming a community, encouraging involvement, things like that. One of the points was also to help and encourage men in their relationships with their wives and children, which again are noble and right things to have as goals. But what that immediately made me think was, "How would a single guy feel about that?" I talked to a friend that day about the point and he said that what that did was make him feel like it wasn't something for him. If one of the goals was about that as a focus and he didn't have a wife or kids, where would he fit in?

My thought as I read that would be that it would have been very easy to add a statement that said something like, "and encourage our single men, both in their relationship with God, and in pursuing honorable relationships with women" and even as I write that I think, "What about the guys that DON'T want to be in relationships, whether now or in the future?" It's a slippery slope, but one that at least should be considered.

What I don't want to happen is that a church, in this case Otter Creek, to become so focused on marriage and families and the like that the single people, our friends, feel marginalized or somehow separate from the church at large. I want singles to feel as much a part of the congregation and its life as marrieds. And part of that has to come from how we do ministry. We have to show that singles are not valued less than marrieds, and I really think that has to be shown explicitly and implicitly, in how we speak and in how we form our relationships and friendships.

I know from experience that it can only benefit both groups.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Student & Athlete

Kinsey got her second report card yesterday and is doing very well at school. She's reading on a 2nd grade level which is great and doing equally well in Math. We're very proud of her.


Connor got a basketball goal for Christmas. He's played with one like it at church before and has taken to it like he's been doing it forever. The following video is for when the scouts come, they can see that he's been doing it for a while.

Our joke is that it'll be funny if he's a great shot, but can't dribble at all.

Monday, January 14, 2008


How to get many comments on a blogpost:
So, this week's topics will be
  • homeschooling vs. public vs. private
  • Why Women should be elders in the church
  • Why Mitt Romney will build a Mormon temple in place of the Washington Monument
Just kidding, everyone. Just kidding.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Universal Healthcare

My friend Scott Freeman has a daughter Cassie. She has a mild case of arthritis. She can't get healthcare. Because of her arthritis, she cannot get healthcare coverage. Because it will cost more to care for her than the insurance companies can make by covering her, they won't cover her.

Cassie is one of 47 million people in America without healthcare; 16% of the population of the United States. And this isn't a victimless or faceless situation. Cassie is the face of this.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Bible Tells Me So

I was planning today to write a piece about reading the Bible and if there is a mature way to come to be able to take the Bible seriously, but not completely literally. And then I realized that I'd already basically done that last June.

I don't know why I'm having so much trouble with Scripture these days. If you search for Bible on my blog, you can see how much I've been struggling with it. Just in the last couple of years, I've been digging and thinking and pondering about the nature of Scripture and our relationship to it. I'm getting to the point where I believe that the Bible is part of God's work in our world, but not the only part. I'm getting to the point where I believe that the Bible is from God, but not inerrant. I've been at the point for awhile where I believe that God inspired the Bible, but that didn't preclude people's tendency to inject personal issues, foibles, and perspectives.

I guess what I'm wrestling with the most is what is the place of Scripture in the life of a Christian who believes that God inspired it, but doesn't believe that it is inerrant, infallible, or whatever other theological words we come up with. And the big question even in that is, how do we decide which parts to follow? Do we cherry pick the parts we like and ignore the parts we don't (not that most Christians don't already do that)?

I'm trying to come to a position of respect and honoring of the Scriptures, but not deifying them, not creating them as a new god to be worshipped, as I and others have probably unintentionally done. And I hope and pray that that leads me to a greater respect for them, the people that wrote them, and the God I believe inspired them.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Christian Maturity

Our preacher at Otter Creek is going to be beginning a new series on maturity here in the next couple of weeks, with the main thesis being that one of the primary jobs of the church is to bring her members to maturity.

So here are the questions of the day: What does a mature Christian look like? What are some of the characteristics of a mature Christian? And if you are consider yourself a Christian or follower of Jesus, how do you go about pursuing maturity?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Feeding the Ducks

Last week, Sheryl and I took the kids down to Centennial Park for a Wilson family tradition: feeding the ducks. It's something that I did when I was a little boy, so it was cool to be able to do it with my kids. Here are the pics.

Me and my boy.

Good throw by Kinsey.

Good action shot by Sheryl.

My dear family.

I had to climb over the wall to get this shot with the Parthenon behind them, but it was worth it.

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Monday, January 07, 2008

Commentary on Comments

Up to this point, I haven't responded to the comments that are going on from Friday's post for a couple of reasons. 1) I've been involved in many of those conversations over the years, in particular a message board confrontation with the editor of Firm Foundation, back in the mid 90s. 2) I recognize Chris' type from many experiences of listening to conservative Church of Christ lectureships and occasionally reading from such publications as Seek the Old Paths, and the truth is that she is very convinced of her position and doesn't see any valid reason to give it up. And I can appreciate that.

Now, I might disagree with her interpretations of Scripture. I might even think that she is ripping Scripture completely out of context to make it support a position that she already thinks is the right one. If that's what I think (and I do), that's my opinion. I might even agree with Thomas+ and DB about their interpretations of Scripture.

Where I get weary is the continued focus and focus on the minutiae of this issue. Look, if someone wants to worship acapella completely, that's fine. I don't have an issue with that. I appreciate and love that part of my tradition and history. But just as convinced as Chris is that this is a spiritual "salvation" issue, I'm convinced that it's not. And I don't think that I would convince Chris otherwise and that she's not going to convince me otherwise. So I'm perfectly happy to allow her to think that I and people who agree with me are going to Hell, and I'll hope very much to see her with Christ in the afterlife.

And one other point: I think that if a nonChristian peeked in on this conversation, he or she would be VERY confused about why so much time has been spent on it.

Which actually gets to the underlying issue, that I'll start discussing later this week, which is the idea of Biblical authority and how we wrestle with that and respond to it. But that's for later.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Future Faith

I was sitting in a creative planning meeting at church on Wednesday, discussing some things that we're thinking about in the wake of BST's departure. One of the questions, of course, was people who would lead in his stead, and a particular name came up and it's someone who typically leads instrumental worship. The natural joke that we made was that sure he could lead, but he'd have to leave the instrument at home. We all had a nice laugh and continued the discussion.

While the meeting continued, the lady I was sitting next to leaned over to me and said that she'd had the exact same conversation with her early teenage daughter, and when the lady had said the same thing about the instrument, her daughter looked at her as though she were speaking German. In our children's worship and youth group, we use a lot of song tracks and instrumental worship. Even outside of the Sunday morning service, we do a lot of instrumental stuff.

And when my friend told me about this, I just started thinking about all the "blood" that has been spilled over this issue and how it seems that however churches end up dealing with this, whether sticking with acapella out of a sense of tradition or even out of hewing to the literal interpretation of the Scripture, for most people even within the church, it's going to become a non-issue theologically. In fact, I would think that 15-20 years from now, it's going to be a non-issue, period. Not that we won't find others to "spill blood" about. The next one most likely being women's public roles in worship. Not that there hasn't already been a lot of wrangling over that one too.


Thursday, January 03, 2008

YouTube Thursday: Scrub Sadness

I've talked before about my love for Scrubs. I make no secret that some of the episodes of the show are among the best, funniest, and most poignant I've ever seen.

The one today is among the saddest.

To set this up, Dr. Cox has given organ transplants to three different patients. What he didn't know was that the organ donor had rabies. And that brings this.

John C. McGinley is an amazing actor and the work he does in these scenes is staggering.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Rock Band

Seriously. This game is so much fun, even without the drums.

Perhaps I should explain. Back in August, I got a nice bonus from work and used part of it to get an Xbox 360 and also Guitar Hero 2 on which I had so much fun and got to (kind of) live out that teenage guy dream of playing lead guitar on some songs I loved like "Carry On My Wayward Son" and "Sweet Child O' Mine." For Christmas, Sheryl got me Guitar Hero 3 with the new wireless guitar controller and with gift cards I got the game only version of Rock Band and a USB mic. Now, I might have lost most of you by this point, but the real version of Rock Band comes with a mic and guitar controller and drumset. So I've got the game and the guitars and mic, but no drums. And I start playing.

And gang, this game is so much fun. When playing by yourself, it's basically Guitar Hero, or even Karaoke Hero with the mic. But with others? Best party game ever. For a bunch of people just in front of the TV, jamming on guitars or screaming their lungs out to Faith No More's Epic... there are no words, but there might be video somewhere.

My personal favorites are Boston's Foreplay/Long Time and Bon Jovi's Wanted Dead or Alive, although when I sang the latter, Kinsey said I sounded like a girl. Even Sheryl's gotten into playing bass with me, while I shred on lead guitar. And that's the sign of a great, great game.
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