Saturday, July 29, 2006

Who is Fran Snyder?

Our fates seem intertwined somehow, but we can't manage to get on the same timeline.

Fran was a high school friend -- a fellow sax player -- that graduated a year ahead of me. The night before I left for college, I went to a party at Fran's that I'll never forget. I learned several new card games, including one that involved wishing ill upon one's neighbor. We reveled until the wee hours, at which point we terrorized a local Dunkin Donuts. It was quite a send off.

A few years later, completely out of the blue, Fran called me for a little sax. He had taken up the guitar, was recording a CD and needed a saxophone player. I was in San Francisco at the time, but I remember getting together with him later that year and trying to "jam" a little with him. For some reason, I didn't hear from him about any more recording sessions.

A year or so later, I ran into Fran again. His music career was sailing along and he had quite a following in Tampa. I went to a benefit concert he was doing and it was outstanding. A few months later, it was off to Atlanta for me, but I kept in touch with him. Then, about the time I was moving out of Hotlanta, he was moving in. I think he wanted to get in on the burgeoning music scene in Buckhead. Sadly, I never saw him play there.

I've lived mostly in Kansas since then, until my very recent transition to Missouri. Then, like a 3-point basket after the buzzer, Fran emails me. "Hey, I'm moving to Lawrence!" Great. Late again. Or was I early?

I've really enjoyed his music over the years. He has a lively, energetic acoustic style (with some blues and jazz thrown in) and isn't afraid to make his music personal -- even the funny songs. It is well worth a visit to his website where you can listen for free and buy his CD. He's also on itunes. If your married, or have ever had a sister complain about your toilet etiquette, be sure to listen to "I Left the Seat Up."

So is there a spiritual or philosophical message in this story? You tell me.
Friday, July 28, 2006

Lewis' Lucid Locution

Again, such nourishing comments. Melissa shared this tremendous quote by C.S. Lewis from The Four Loves:

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will
certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping
it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it
carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock
it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket —
safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will
become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or
at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven
where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love
is Hell.

I am constantly flabbergasted at Lewis' word-wizardry. Thank you God, for your servant C.S. Lewis. Help me to gaze only briefly at his artistry, then walk away, and do what he says.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Fear and Friendship

My last post generated some keenly insightful comments that have in turn stirred up my thoughts on the subject. Of course, the irony of all ironies is that I sit here, behind the veil of a computer screen, opining about friendship while having virtual communication with my on-line buddies. What is wrong with this picture?

I confess that I have fears in friendship. Fears of being fully known (God help me), because we all know that if anyone really knew me, they wouldn't want to be my friend. (I've got all my current friends fooled, though.) I also fear being hurt or rejected. This drives me either to reveal only my false self, the mask that I think others will like, or to shy away from any invitation to intimacy. It seems easier to simply rely on myself.

Both of these fears, however, are false. They are lies that I buy into, that cripple me and keep me in slavery and bondage. They isolate me and ultimately make me weak and sick with an ever-deepening neurosis of self-deception. I become like Gollum -- alone, diseased, perhaps wiry and resilient, but lost in an inner-world of misery and illusion. In the end, Gollum was left with only himself for companionship.

Love must open itself to pain. There cannot be one without the other. We can avoid pain, but only at the cost of both. If we do not risk the threshing-floor of heartache, our lives become shadows of real human existence. We will laugh, but not all of our laughter, we will cry, but not all of our tears.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Friendship in LOTR

I just watched the extended version of The Two Towers for the first time. Wow.

Friendship is a major recurring motif in these films. When the elves show up at Helm's Deep, I get chills. Other chill-inducing scenes: when Sam tackles Frodo, rescuing him from the clutches of the Nazgul; when Gimli and Legolas stand with Aragron in battle, knowing they are hopelessly out-numbered; when Brego the horse, who had been set free by Aragorn, later rescues the Grey Ranger from death; when Gandalf, Eomer and the Rhorirrim show up as the dawn breaks to save their countrymen and friends; and when Merry and Pippin repeatedly urge one another on in the face of danger.

We all long for friends like these. David-and-Jonathan-type friendships. People for whom we would lay down our lives.

To often, we settle for mere acquaintances or friendships of pleasure and utility. We have allowed our vision of masculine "friendship" in particular to be deformed by Hollywood, where it is almost always either superficial or eroticized. To make things worse, we fear being known. We desperately want a friend, and yet we are too consumed with our neediness to be a friend. Friendship is indeed a lost art in our age. And so we are consigned to fighting our battles alone.

On a lighter note, we can always turn for wisdom to that sagacious bard of friendship, Michael W. Smith.
Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Fad-Driven Church

(This is a post from July of last year -- one worth repeating. I'm more convinced of the truth of this than I was last year.)

Reading some great posts by Joe Carter and Pyromaniac have inspired me. Joe and Pyro have pinpointed a nasty problem in evangelicalism today, and have skillfully played the role of critic. Here is an insightful quote from Pyromaniac lamenting the ubiquity of Christian fads :
Not one of those movements or programs even existed 35 years ago. Most of them
would not have been dreamed of by evangelicals merely a generation ago. And,
frankly, most of them will not last another generation. Some will last a few
short months (like the Jabez phenomenon did); others may seem to dominate for
several years but then die lingering deaths (like Bill Gothard's movement is
doing). But they will all eventually fade and fall from significance. And some
poor wholesale distributor will be left with warehouses full of Jabez junk,
Weigh-Down Workshop paraphernalia, "What Would Jesus Do?" bracelets,
Purpose-Driven® merchandise, and stacks and stacks of "emerging church"
resources. . . Most of the stuff you are currently being told you must read and
implement will soon seem as hopelessly out of date as it currently seems
well-suited to the fashions of the day.

Amen. But, when the diatribe is done and the dust clouds have settled, what do we do?

Read old books.
Read old books?
That's it?
Yup. If you want to fortify yourself from the onslaught and allure of Christian fads, then read old books.
You mean like from the 80's?
The 1780's, maybe.
Oh. But those are hard to read.
Steak takes more work to eat than twinkies, too.
This is not original to me. Here are some choice nuggets from C.S. Lewis' essay "On the Reading of Old Books":
"A new book [or fad] is still on its trial and the amateur is not in a position
to judge it. It has to be tested against the great body of Christian thought
down the ages, and all its hidden implications (often unsuspected by the author
himself) have to be brought to light."
"Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths
and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books
thatwill correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means
the old books."
"None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall
certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern
[current] books. . . The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze
of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading
old books."
Lewis even recommends that for every new book you read, you should read one old book. I think that prescription is expired. I recommend two old for every new book. That's what I usually try to do. Don't worry about staying "current." There are more "Christian" books published each month than there are people to read them. Ignore them. If you must read a new book, look for authors who have nourished themselves on the classics -- Dallas Willard, J.P. Moreland, Peter Kreeft, Os Guiness, R.C. Sproul, D.A. Carson, etc.Maybe I'll post a "recommended reading" list sometime. Anyone interested? (Update: the reading list can be found here.)
("On the Reading of Old Books" is found in God in the Dock, 1970.)
Thursday, July 20, 2006

Mr. Mister and Other Lost Treasures

Remember when Mtv actually played music videos? I'm old enough to remember when Mtv launched and I even know what the first video ever played was. Do you?

This site was an unbelievable find -- a stroll down amnesia lane. If you want to reminisce the music of the 80's, be sure to visit.

(Note: the link to "Broken Wings" is broken -- ironically -- but once you get to YouTube, there's an alternate link to it, and even "Kyrie Eleison".)

Defending Biblical Inerrancy

John DePoe has a brief, but helpful post dealing with the problem of inerrancy here. He is responding to another post by Maverick Philosopher, who has serious reservations about the idea. Some readers may scoff, but I have to take sides with DePoe. My view would be that the autographs are without error in whatever they assert. (That is a key phrase.) I haven't taken the time to delve into the briar patch that surrounds inerrancy, but I suspect that I'm probably a little naive when it comes to this subject, especially after reading some of the discussion that followed Valicella's post. The arguments get pretty thorny, and I still need to sort through them.

If you have deep concerns about the doctrine, you can gnaw on this meaty essay by J.P. Moreland (also linked at John's site). It's more philosophically oriented, addressing the question of whether it is rational to believe in inerrancy, rather than simply asking if the doctrine is true or false. These are two very different questions, since it is fairly easy to approximate an answer to the former one, but much more arduous for the latter.

People have asked me, from time to time, what it means to be an evangelical. I would say that inerrancy is a distinctive feature of evangelical thought, and often demarcates "us" from "them." ("Them," of course, refers to the set of any and all bad people.)
Wednesday, July 19, 2006

For Brent

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Pie Jesu Domine,
dona eis requiem,
requiem sempiternam.

Agnus Dei,
qui tollis peccata mundi,
dona eis requiem,
requiem sempiternam.

Kyrie eleison,
Christe eleison,
Kyrie eleison.

Trust In vs. Trust That

Pablo, this one's for you. A previous post that I thought was worth a recycle.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006

My Karma Ran Over My Dogma

The hair on the back of my neck stands up when I sense the tunneling eye of stereotyping bearing down on me. We visited a local PCA church this past Sunday (not to be confused with the other PCA), and I had hoped that the Reformed dogmatism would be only mildly present. Still not sure. I'm closer to them than they realize, but I fear they may not take the time to discover this.

Imagine a continuum. <--------------------:--------------------> OK, forget imagining, just look at the stinkin' diagram. Those on the left would be of one ideological persuasion, and those on the right would be of its opposite. Those persons occupying the far right or left would see the two sides of the line as fundamentally incompatible. Similarly, to those in the extreme positions, anyone who stands near the center is perceived as "wishy-washy, " or a "fence-sitter." Now, we must allow the possibility that they are right. There are some issues that are black and white. Sometimes the best location on the line is on the furthest point East (or West).

Now, step closer to the Real World. When it comes to torturing babies for fun, I would have to be as far on the "that's-necessarily-evil" side as I can scoot. In the Reformed vs. Arminian debate, I think the center is a warm, cozy place. But one man's moderated wisdom is another man's wishy-washy maneuvering. (Am I wishy-washy?!) I respect both sides, and enjoy those who are close enough to me to carry on polite conversation. When they get too far away, however, yelling ensues and sometimes you can't hear each other at all across the distance.

I fear two tragedies in the company of Reformedogmatists: first, that they will reject me for being hopelessly lost on the God-forsaken end of the continuum (a stereotype due to my affiliations), and second, that they will fail to even discover how close to them I really am.

(Oh my God! He's sounding like Brian McLaren! Quick, nurse, administer 100cc's of Calvin's Institutes! We're losing him! Code blue! Code Blue!)
Sunday, July 16, 2006


Sometimes, the messenger is as important as the message. And sometimes, that messenger is a monkey.
Saturday, July 15, 2006

America: The Nanny State

Luke and I were quaffing a brew in a small pub in Kesthely, Hungary. The World Cup was on (1998), and we were having a fine time. Then something unusual happened. A man approached us and asked if he could join us. Now, that in itself is not unusual, except that he spoke English. "I haven't had good English conversation in months," he said, in a mild South African accent.

We talked, but mostly listened, to the fascinating account of this man's travels abroad for the last year. He'd been everywhere, it seemed, even the USA. "America is a nanny state. Don't do this, stay off of that. In other places, people just use common sense instead of fences and railings."

I thought his insight was quite lucid. I've had that phrase -- "nanny state" -- in my consciousness ever since. It pops into my mind whenever I see people so afraid of litigation that they stomp all the fun and adventure and risk right out of life. The pool I took my kids to today had no less than a dozen rules posted in huge letters in multiple locations.

T.S. Eliot once remarked that we dream of creating a society (i.e., a set of laws/rules) so perfect, no one will have to be good.
Friday, July 14, 2006


Have you ever noticed that the more technology we have and the more safety/security measures we put into place, the more flummoxed and flabbergasted we are by injury and illness? We are safer, and yet more fearful now than ever, I think.

Why is this?


Enter the

(I linked to the one episode I've seen, and it is hilarious.)

HT: evangelical outpost
Thursday, July 13, 2006

Zidane's Head Butt, and more

If you haven't seen it yet, check it out here.

For another (maybe better) angle, go here. You can see that Materazzi is saying something that sets Zidane off.

Check out a French spoof on the whole thing here.

No Mere House

As we turned our shoulder away from our old home in our old town, my mind was flooded with memories of happy times within those walls. We left something in that house that isn't physical -- a part of us that we possess now only in our recollections.

Some will say that place doesn't matter -- one is just as good as another, it doesn't matter where you are. I emphatically disagree. Places are made holy by the presence of God and his children, and the time that passes for us in them. We are not disembodied spirits, floating about in empty, vacuuous space. We "who are bone and spittle and muscle and sweat" -- we are rooted to place, to earth, the place God has created for us.

Good-byes are a part of the Edenic Fall. Being torn away from people and places, these are evils that we must endure -- pains that press us ever closer to the breast of God. They remind us that this world is broken, and that deep, lasting happiness is not to be found by it. But place does matter, and when this age comes to an end, God won't do away with place, he will redeem and recreate it.

(The picture is not our new home, by the way.)
Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Crazy, Creedal Colbert

Check out this clip from the Colbert Report. Fuuh-neee. Yes, sireebob.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Les Bleus vs. Azzurri

Well, the World Cup final left me feeling a little blue. France was the better team overall, but Italy's defense was more solid than Carrera marble. Their goal was more impenetrable than Vatican security. Buffon (the goalkeeper) was more brilliant than a Renaissance artist. My analogies are more clever than a one-liner in a Mafia movie.

Sadly, Zidane's temper erupted more inauspiciously than Vesuvius, and the French side was left buried in ash when all was said and done. What in the bleep was he thinking? Something really horrible must have been said to him, but nothing could have warranted such a flame-out. A soiled end to a stellar career. One of the best ever. I felt a little ashamed to be wearing my Zidane jersey after the game, but I'll stand by him -- True Bleu.

Honestly, I was a little torn as to who to root for, but seeing as how I've been to visit both the Frogs and the Romans, and how the French were far friendlier (surprisingly), I cheered on Les Bleus instead of the Azzurri. Okay, the De Rossi elbow to McBride's nose may have influenced me a little.

If you want to see a video of Zidane's head butt, go here and click on video highlights, then watch the Italy v. France reel.
Monday, July 10, 2006

Simply Sublime

Well, we finally have our internet access hooked up. I'll be rambling & ranting at full-speed in no time.

I took my family to see Godspell the other night -- it was my first time. Even though I was familiar with the music, I was not prepared for the play's unsophisticated-yet-profound portrayal of the teachings of Christ. It was almost irreverent at times, which I liked, but in it's vulgarity and slapstick-style comedy, it conveyed more truth and more of the character of Jesus than many sermons or books I have come across. (Granted, the script has some significant problems theologically, but let's set that aside for now.)

For instance, while singing the popular tune, Day By Day, the characters were scattered around the stage, pantomiming a variety of occupations and pass-times. Shoveling, painting, talking on the phone -- they were all engaged in common, everyday life, all the while singing,

Day by day, day by day
Oh, dear Lord, three things I pray
To see Thee more clearly
To love Thee more dearly
To Follow Thee more nearly
Day by day

Note: none of the characters were portraying ministry-type tasks. Chew on that for a while.
Also note: the song was famously used by Ben Stiller in Meet the Parents as a impromptu prayer.
Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Out of Touch

Sorry for the hiatus -- we've been in the process of moving. No crazy stories this time. Maybe next I'll recount the tale of two Las Vegases (or would that we Las Vega?) from a previous move.