Friday, January 30, 2009


Within Church of Christ circles recently, there has been much sturm und drang about a recent report by the Christian Chronicle (a Church of Christ publication) about the decline of numbers within Churches of Christ (80,000 within the last 6 years). I'm not going to rehash what others have said; you yourself can read John Dobbs, Matt Dabbs, and Mike Cope. Those three and several others have had good thoughts and perspectives on this.

What I will say is that while a focus on numbers of adherents/attendees/whatever is something that every church thinks about, it really does miss the point. Sure, on one hand, having a lot of people attend your church can make you feel better about the "popularity" of your congregation, but the truth is that all of that is just a facade. Just because a congregation might have a lot of attendees doesn't mean it has a lot of people trying to be like Jesus. It might just mean that people have found the new "cool" church (and I say that as someone who attended a "cool" church in my teen years).

What should be the judge and what is much harder to objectively quantify is how much people are looking like Jesus, whether in a congregation of 1300 or 30. And it's hard because we can't judge a person's heart. We can only be the people that prod and poke and encourage and pray that people come to exemplify the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. And that they come to exemplify Christ.

Worry about numbers doesn't do us any good, in my mind. What should worry us is if we have huge numbers of people in our congregations, but very few of them look like followers of Jesus. That would be a much more significant problem.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

YouTube Thursday: The WTF Blanket (Snuggie Parody)

Every now and then, I have these moments, just before I do something that I think, "I might regret that, but I'm going to do it anyway." This is one of those moments. Warning: This video contains adult language, a spoiler for the 6th Harry Potter book, and humor. Lots and lots of humor.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Upside of a Recession/Zombie War

I've been reading a book called World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War recently as a fun book. I'm not typically a fan of the horror or zombie genre, so this was an odd choice for me, but it doesn't get into the typical gore or viscera that I associate with zombies, so that's something in the plus column. I won't go into the plot of it, but one of the outcomes is that the survivors of the onslaught are forced to do what they have to to survive. In some cases, this involves very hard choices, but in others, people who are in places of power are forced to abandon those to do what's best for society to survive. Lawyers, movie executives, politicians are forced to learn trades and skills from their former gardeners and carpenters. They have to choose to do things they consider beneath them. But it also forces the community together and people (mostly) stop worrying about their petty concerns and take care of each other.

It got me thinking about this recession that we're experiencing now. For so long, we've been deluded by the idea that we are what we have from 401(k)'s to cars and houses and toys. But as those things get taken from us, we realize that we have to be more than that. And it's easy for me to say that probably, since I haven't lost a job or a car or a house. But I have been unemployed. I've had to scrape to provide for my family, and I've had to learn that what I have is not who I am. What I have are entertainments for my downtimes or tools to use for tasks. It's why I don't really care about the car I drive. I want it functional and I want it safe. Admittedly, I'm worse about gadgets and tech stuff, but I also don't let the fact that I won't be watching the Super Bowl on a super hi-def 72" inch screen drive me into a depression.

I'm not defined by stuff. I'm defined by being an imperfect follower of Jesus, trying daily to be better at it, resting in God's grace provided through Christ. The other stuff is just window dressing. And maybe the upside of a recession is to stop defining ourselves by the window dressing.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Separation Anxiety

A funny thing has happened with Connor over the last two months or so. He has developed an almost pathological need to be around me or Sheryl, mainly Sheryl. We used to be able to drop him off in class at church and he'd rush in to play; last Sunday, though, he went into a crying and clutching fit in my attempt to drop him off. A couple of weeks ago, at the Y, when we dropped him off in childcare, he got himself so upset that he made himself throw up. And last night, when Kinsey and Sheryl went to a PTO meeting, he laid down in front of the door gate and cried for "Mom-ma! Mom-ma!" for 30 minutes until I was finally able to distract him.

It's weird because we didn't really have to deal with this with Kinsey, but we were also in a slightly different situation with Kinsey. At this age, Sheryl was working 3-5 days a week outside the house and my parents and Sheryl's parents were watching her regularly, so we were dropping her off somewhere all the time. With Connor, we're fortunate that Sheryl's able to be at home with him everyday and so they get a lot more time together.

It's just a funky phase that he's going through, but one that Sheryl and I agree that we hope will pass very quickly.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Another Sermon Recommendation

When I told a friend of mine that David Rubio was speaking at Otter Creek after John York's two weeks, he said, "You guys have the best substitutes!" I don't know about the "best" but both of York's were great and David Rubio's yesterday continued that string of excellent, excellent sermons, particularly as he talked about a way that we as Christians should deal with homosexuals.

What did he say? I guess you'll have to listen to it and find out...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Know-It-All Phil

In a Facebook exchange last night, I was called a newshound and I mentioned that I just liked to be informed, but as I was going through my night time process, I started to think about that.

I do like to be well-informed and I read a lot of different news sites through the course of the day, FoxNews, MSNBC, CNN, and even sometimes WorldNetDaily and the Nation. I like to know what people are thinking and why they are thinking it. I don't know how this started but I always liked being the smartest/best-informed guy in the room. I was reading at a fairly early age and people were always coming to me with questions about what was in the book or what an answer was and that was how I derived a lot of my identity. This was even true in Sunday school, as I was always one of the first to get to a particular book of the Bible, or knowing that Jael was the woman that put the tent stake through Sisera's head in Judges (I didn't remember that one today, thanks Google).

This continued into high school, but to a lesser extent as I was going to an academic magnet school and was no longer the smartest guy in the room. In fact, at my high school, I was the lower third of my class and so started compensating by remembering minutiae of pop culture: people in movies, directors, years of release, song lyrics, movie lines, TV Shows, how to pull of the 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon, etc etc (all bits of knowledge useful for Scene It: Box Office Smash).

And it's continued today. I like it when people ask me questions and I know the answer to it. It's a good feeling to be able to explain things that can help people out and it puffs up my ego some as well.

"So, Phil," you might ask, "what's the purpose of this besides a little self-ego stroking on your blog for all of us to see?"

Well, here's the answer. I like some level of certainty in life. I like knowing things. Which makes God extremely frustrating. For most of my life, I've been a part of a movement that exults in having what amounts to complete, rational knowledge of God. The Bible is God's Word and His complete revelation and anything outside of that is not of God. But one of the things that we see as we read Scripture is that God doesn't usually stay in the boxes that we like. He brings in Gentiles when people don't think they should be involved. Uses women as judges and queens to save people. Uses a heathen Samaritan as the hero of a story about love.

I wonder if while God was wants His children to know Him, He doesn't want us to know EVERYTHING about Him. That we have to wonder things about God. Why certain things happen, why He chooses to act in certain ways. Things we have to take on faith. And faith flies in the face of the rational explanation and understanding.

And it requires a know-it-all like me to say that there are things that I'm not going to understand or have the answers for, and I have to continue to learn to be ok with that.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Caption This Picture

Be Funny, because really, there's a lot of opportunity with this one.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bush Rhetoric From Obama

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I don't think the Daily Show will lose any of its humor with Bush now out of office.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New Beginnings

Kinsey supported Obama in the election. She didn't really know why, of course (not unlike people who support candidates from both sides of the aisle), but she knew that she liked him.

I know that there are a lot of people who either dislike Obama or Democrats or whoever, people who are more than ready for the inauguration to be over so that they can get on with criticizing him and his decisions or whatever.

As for me, I'll laud Obama when I think he does well, and criticize when I disagree. I can't predict one way or another which one I'll do more of than the other.

What I can say is that I'm tremendously grateful that my kids are going to grow up in a world where a member of a minority has achieved the highest office in this land, where being of a certain color doesn't present an automatic barrier, that they'll have no excuses to accomplish anything they want to dream. Is Obama the culmination of Dr. Martin Luther King's dream? To some extent, but I think that dream was for all Americans, not just the ones of African descent.

But I'm glad for this new beginning, and while I'm positive that Obama will not be as good as his most fervent supporters seem to think nor as bad as his most vociferous detractors think, I'm looking forward to see how he does.

Finally, I'll say this. I still believe that politics is an imperfect way to achieve the goals of the Kingdom of God. As Jesus himself said in John 18:36, His Kingdom is not achieved in the ways that the kingdoms of this world achieve power ("My Kingdom is not of this world"). And so while I'll admire Obama and his journey to the presidency, I'll still expect him to be a politician and use the tools that politicians use to achieve their goals. And I'll work with my family and community in the way of Jesus to achieve His Kingdom and His will on earth as it is in heaven. Can government help in some of those things? To some extent, maybe. But I know it's best achieved in little pockets of the Kingdom where neighbor cares for neighbor and friend for friend and not by executive fiat.

So congratulations to President Obama and his family. I hope the best for them and pray for their safety. I pray for this country that God would bless us, even if we don't always like what that blessing looks like, but I also pray more importantly that God would bless His world with His presence.

Friday, January 16, 2009

"Miracle on the Hudson"

Yesterday, the term "miracle" got thrown around a lot as we read and listen to and watched the stories of the US Air flight that landed in the Hudson River. Maybe it's because 9/11 is still such a prominent scar on the American psyche, that to see a plane crashing in NYC brings back the flood of emotions that we dealt with that day.

Was what happened yesterday a miracle? Perhaps it wasn't. Perhaps it was "just luck" that allowed the pilot to land on the water just right.

But perhaps it was. Perhaps God orchestrated the conditions so that even if the crash with the geese happened, the pilot was the right man to be flying that day on that flight, the weather conditions were just right, and landing in the river was infinitely preferable to landing in the ocean. Of course, that leads to questions about why God would protect these people and not people in the Gaza Strip or people who might have died of AIDS or starvation around the world or those who died of exposure last night in the cold. But we also don't know the people still alive that might have died throughout the world. We just don't know.

I don't have any answers to those questions and outside a strict predeterminism/predestination mindset, I don't think we can. What I can do is thank God for the lives of those who were spared and mourn those who were lost, and even question God about those who weren't. Whether or not we get the answers we seek, I believe that God is big enough for our questions.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

YouTube Thursday: Battlestar Galactica - The Final Episodes

For the last three years, I've been extolling the virtues of Battlestar Galactica. I won't go through all those reasons; you can click the link to read those.

The final episodes of Battlestar Galactica are starting up tomorrow. And it will be the end of one of the most literary, well-written shows, not just sci-fi of this decade. There is a great place for pop sci fi, like Lost and Heroes, but I'm also glad there's been a place for sci-fi like Battlestar Galactica as well, especially this re-imagining. Here is a preview of the upcoming season, continuing from last season where they landed on Earth, but it wasn't quite what they expected.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Willing Participant in Madness

Connor is getting ready to start preschool, in six months. And so we started investigating the ones we would like him go into and discovered that the one associated with our church was accepting applications today, starting at 9 am. And then in talking with some other of our friends, we discovered that people wanting to apply started getting there the night before to ensure that their kids got a spot.

Now then, we want Connor to go to the school, but we're not just DYING to have him there. But we were also committed enough to get there a little early. So, last night, I went to bed at 10pm to get up at 4am to get to the building at 5am. And even getting there at 5am, on the sign-in sheet, I was #10. Ten people had gotten there before me. Three were there before 9pm the night before, two others were there at midnight.

Naturally, I had some time to think about this. Was I becoming one the people I used to laugh at for standing in line for something? The last time I stood in line for something like this was to see Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace (yes, I did, unfortunately). But what was ultimately driving it was the idea that we did want Connor to be in the school and knowing that there were people ahead of us, and that that would lessen Connor's ability to get in, we wanted to be there. As a part of this too, we want to support our church and one of its most important ministries. But is it also becoming like a Black Friday kind of thing where we just get there earlier and earlier and earlier.

I honestly don't know the answers to that. All I do know is that this morning, I became a willing participant in the madness. And while I think Connor would do very well at the school, I feel a little weird about it...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Another Lost Tooth

I can't believe that it's really been a year since Kinsey lost her first tooth.

Several of her teeth have been loose for a while, but yesterday at lunch, one of her front teeth got very loose. So loose that it was barely hanging on. So I wanted to get one last full mouthed picture.

And then today, during art class, she wiggled it right out and here she is with her adoring Mommy.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

John York at Otter Creek

A lot going on today so not much time to post, but I would highly recommend listening to John York's sermon that he preached at Otter Creek yesterday entitled Revival Begins in the Wilderness. Very, very good stuff.

And I know you didn't ask, but if you were to ask, I would think some kind of regular rotation between David Rubio and John York would be a pretty amazing combination in Otter Creek's pulpit for the next few years.

If anyone were to ask...

Friday, January 09, 2009

Living Like Jesus

One of the interesting things about watching the video I posted yesterday is that I'm also reading The Shack right now. I'm finding it an interesting read on many levels and I can definitely understand some more "orthodox" Christians issues with it.

However, one of the most interesting things about it is one of the things that the author has Jesus say: "Seriously, my life was not meant to be an example to copy, being my follower is not trying to ‘be like Jesus,’ it means for your independence to be killed." - The Jesus character, pg149 One of Young's ideologies that he espouses in this book is that our desire for independence from God is what causes our greatest separation from God when God gives us the independence we desire.

But I disagree with what the Jesus character says there and that's why I admire what Dr. Dobson did. I don't think Dr. Dobson became an itinerant homeless preacher but what it appears he did was try to have the mind of Christ and took some physical steps to help him get into that mindset. I truly believe as followers of Jesus, we are to imitate Jesus what Jesus does, trying to live out the life of Christ in 21st century America. And I think that can look different for different people. Some people may feel called like Shane Claiborne to live in the forgotten corners of the empire. Others might do ministry in the suburbs.

The truth of the matter is that when we give ourselves permission to not imitate Christ that opens the door to many other issues of greed and selfishness and then we become fans of Jesus and not his followers and these days, he needs more followers/imitators, not more fans.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

YouTube Thursday: Year of Living Like Jesus

Former pastor Ed Dobson spent 2008 trying live like Jesus and was interviewed by ABC News this last weekend.

What surprised you the most about the interview? Just curious.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Is Your Refrigerator Running? Better Go Catch It!

You know, it's always the unexpected things that bite you in the behind. For the last month or so, the freezer in our refrigerator has been incrementally not freezing things, to the point where it wasn't making ice or freezing stuff in the door. This was in addition to our dryer spitting oil and/or grease all over our clothes, necessitating weekly trips to the laundromat.

So yesterday we had a repairman come out to look at our ailing machines. And it turns out that both of them are shot. For the frig, it was a condenser and compressor and several other things that would cost as much as a new frig to fix, and the dryer had issues with seals and gaskets and enough other things that would cost as much as a new dryer to fix. They'd both had good long lives. The frig came from my parents' house, which they'd bought when they gave us their other refrigerator when we moved into our house, so it was over 10 years old. The dryer had been purchased at the Sears Outlet (because that's how we roll) at least 7 or 8 years ago, so it was getting older as well.

So at lunch yesterday, Sheryl and I met at the Sears Outlet once again and picked out a new (slightly banged up) refrigerator. We'll stick with the laundromat for the time being or see if someone at church has one they want to sell inexpensively, or we might check Craigslist or even Freecycle.

The nice thing was that we had some money saved up to be able to do the frig without dipping into our savings. The bad thing was that it was Christmas money and money that I'd been saving to get a hi-def TV. However, while being an adult is definitely not always as cool as I thought it would when I was a kid (with all the bills and responsibility and such), this is what I signed up for. And I would much rather have the new frig paid for free and clear, rather than have the money and do payments. Which means that I'll just have to start from scratch to save for the TV again.

So that's the appliance saga. Hopefully we'll be in a long ride with few or no problems with the new frig.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Christmas Pics

Here are some pics of the kids from Christmas Day.

Kinsey finding the Harry Potter dolls Santa left for her.

Connor finding his Thomas the Tank Engine playset.

Kinsey opening a Barbie cruise ship of some sort.

Connor opening his Diego set.

Thomas and Diego

The kids were very happy with what they got and they were even willing to give away some of their old toys to Goodwill.

Monday, January 05, 2009


Well, I'm back.

After taking a 2 week break from both work and blogging, I've rejoined the world. It was definitely good to take a break and get away for a while to be with my family and just kind of be. As crazy as the holiday season is, I really enjoyed it and getting to see everyone that I did. I'll be getting back to a somewhat normal blogging schedule, perhaps a little lighter than in past years. Of course I've said that before and just gotten sucked back in like always so we'll see what happens this time.

I hope you had a good Christmas and a Happy New Year. Peace to you.
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