Monday, December 5, 2011

The Start-up Hint

I am not ready to fully reveal what our website will do.  However, I can give you a huge hint.  We have launched a logo-less blog to start gaining traction with search engines.  The idea is that we will slowly build the website and adjust with the feedback that we get.  The "thing" that will distinguish us from our competitors is currently being developed.  Meanwhile, we will write good articles to generate interest.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On the Death Penalty - to a Christian Audience

(I had to write this for my Christian Ethics class.  It had to be less than 500 words.  I concede that my non-Christian friends may think that parts of my reasoning are silly.  Just act like you are eating Thanksgiving with me and I am debating with Uncle Ted.)

Since Rick Perry became governor of Texas in December of 2000, 237 individuals have been put to death by the state judicial system.[1] Of the 46 individuals put to death by capital punishment in 2010 in the U.S., 17 were executed in Texas. Currently capital punishment is illegal in 16 states.[2] This is obviously a divisive issue. Should Christians be supportive of the death penalty? Let us begin with scripture.

Biblical support of capital punishment is prevalent in the O.T. In Genesis 9:6 God said, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made Man.” Exodus 21 commands that capital punishment be used for the following offenses: if a person deliberately kills another (21:14), if a person attacks his/her father or mother (21:15), if a person kidnaps another (21:16), if a person curses his/her father or mother (21:17), if a person is fighting an kills a pregnant woman or her child (21:23), and if a person owns an aggressive bull but refuses to pen up the bull and the bull kills a person (21:29). 

Christian proponents of the death penalty often quote Genesis 9:6 and the parts of Exodus 21 that make sense. However, they conveniently leave out the verses in Exodus 21 like kidnapping, cursing one’s parents, and allowing an aggressive bull to be put in a situation where the bull kills a person. 

The most difficult task of a theologian is determining when a section of scripture is timeless truth and when the section is simply a specific message to a specific group of people at a specific time. Nobody who participates in these arguments sees Exodus 21 as a complete timeless truth, which means there are two camps. There are those who see Exodus 21 as completely written to a specific culture at a specific time and there are those who think that parts of it are timeless truths. All of this begs the question, who treats scripture with more respect? 

I would contend that those who argue in favor of the death penalty using Exodus 21 but who do not even mention the ridiculous verses are committing a lackadaisical and dangerous form exegetics. Why is it dangerous? Because they wholeheartedly embrace a principle based on half thought through biblical passages without thinking through the individuals influenced by the principles. The startling reality is, our judicial system does not only put to death guilty people. At times, people are put to death even though there is evidence that they are innocent. [3]   Moreover, only 5% of criminologists think that this form of punishment deters people from crime (a non-biblical argument for capital punishment). [4]  With such biblical uncertainty combined with the statistical uncertainty, should we not give people the benefit of the doubt and allow them more time to heal, grow, and surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ?

 [1] The Dallas Morning News, “ Prediction: Politics Will Be Hank Skinner’s Lifeline,” (accessed November 7, 2011).
 [2]  The Death Penalty Information Center, “Facts About the Death Penalty, ” (accessed November 7, 2011).
 [3] “Georgia Executes Troy Davis After His Last Plea Fails,” (accessed November 7, 2011).
 [4] The Death Penalty Information Center, “ Facts About the Death Penalty, ” (accessed November 7, 2011).

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Startup - Post one

A few years ago I blogged about business ideas. Here is the blog of the ideas I have that I probably will never do.  A few weeks ago a buddy asked me if I'd be interested in working with him on a startup.  I said, "Heck ya!"  The big difference this time is my friend actually has experience in the field.  He has already taken a company like this one and helped it grow it's revenue by over 800 percent.  That does not mean we will be successful.  But that does mean we have a higher chance of being successful with this venture than I do when I blog but do nothing (did you follow that).

So here I am, working on Articles of Organization and an Operational Agreement for our budding L.L.C.  My goal is to finalize these documents in the next two weeks and file them with the Secretary of State by December 1.  I finally get to put my undergrad degree to work!  If this works I will be the CFO.  If it does not work, I will be the friend who looks at numbers and legal documents.  Let's be honest, I can't call myself the CFO until we make at least $5.

Things I have learned this week:
1.  Sabbaths are still important
2.  Startups are tough...especially when you do not quit your real job (and when you are still in school and have a baby at the same time)
3.  L.L.C.'s sound sound kind of sketchy
4.  I have a lot of good friends who are willing to give me free advice
5.  Most of our idea breaks no "intellectual property" laws

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Memorable Quotes While Playing Mario Kart

I just finished playing Mario Kart Double Dash with my three year old.  Here are a few memorable interactions.

Q: What is mamma wee-a?
C: Quinn, we've been over this.
Q: No we not.
C:  "Mamma mia" is an expression.

Q: What's that?
C: Quinn, you know what that is.  How many times have we played this game?  Give me a figure.
Q: give me a figure.

C: Good game Quinn.  That was fun.
Q: No we not.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Pursuit of Happiness

Today I met with my spiritual director.  If you do not have one stop what you are doing and find one.  He said a few things that deeply resonated with me.  I will incorporate them into this blog post.

He told me a story:

This guy went to Thomas Merton for spiritual direction.   Merton asked, "How are things?"  The guys said, "Things are horrible.  I can't seem to get anything right."  Merton responded, "This will pass.  Things will change."  A few weeks later the guy returned to visit with Merton.  This time his news was much more positive.  "Things are going very well," the man reported.  "I see the face of God all around me."  Merton responded, "This will pass.  Things will change."

I thought that story was brilliant.  After the laughter settled, the director asked, "Are you pursuing happiness or peace?"

I want us all to think about this.  If the feeling of happiness is our only goal we end up making decisions that have no bearing on the long term health and wellness of our spirituality and our interaction with others.  Sure, pursuing happiness could lead to good, but it can also lead to bad.  The pursuit of happiness is what leads people to start successful businesses and what causes company execs to take unethical shortcuts to pad numbers.  The pursuit of happiness gives a young man incentive to pursue a woman, but it can also cause that same man to pursue a mistress.  Pursuing happiness is an unsteady way to make decisions.  It is like building a mansion on an unsteady foundation.  All looks good for a week, but it will come crashing down.  However, if we pursue peace then we will consistently make decisions that are best for the long term health and wellbeing of us and those whom we love.

We will always have seasons of discomfort.  There will always be pain.  If the pain is dysfunctional then yes, perhaps you should make a change.  But if you are experiencing pain because your ego is dying, then lean into that pain.  That is the path to surrendering to the living God.  That is the path to true liberty and justice for all.

John 16:33
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Q Moments

These are some of my favorite moments with my son the past few weeks.
It's not my fault if he wants to play football when he gets older.

"But dad,  I don't need a rag."  BTW, this had nothing to do with football.

Quinn loves joining me for kids' games.

That night he did not want to leave the field.

This is at our favorite hiking spot - Friedrich Wilderness Park.

Baby Mae

Last Wednesday (9/21) Tammie and I went to the midwife to check her progress.  The midwife said Tammie had at least 3 or 4 more days before Mae would be ready.  About 12 hours later we were back at the San Antonio Birth Center ready to go to work.  While labor kicked in around 2pm, we did not go back until 10:30pm.  Since we went the natural route the only thing we could do to sooth the pains was to get into the large tub.  Once Tammie got in, there was not getting out.  Mae was born at 1:33am on 9/22.  All went very well.  We got home by 8:30am...just in time to get Quinn to school.  
Words cannot describe how excited the Q man is. 

He is a great big brother.

Here is a shot from our room at the Birthing Center.

Here is where Mae was born.

Just minutes after entering the world.

By the way, if you are looking for a place to give birth and you live in the San Anotnio area, you have got to look into the San Antonio Birth Center.  Tammie's midwife was Alisa Voss.  She runs the birth center.  The midwives are amazing and the facilities are top notch.  Our experience going natural was a billion times better than last time.  That's right, a billion times.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Home Brew

About a year ago I tried to roast my own coffee beans.  I failed miserably.  Yesterday I tried my hand at brewing beer.  I have two kits: one that is labor intensive because it uses raw materials and another that is made from some sketchy concentrate (Mr. Beer).  They are both Hefeweizens. I will do a taste test.  I will say, the beer that took me 4 hours to prepare was much more fulfilling than the Mr. Beer kit.  The taste test will happen in 4 weeks when the beer is finished.  Meanwhile, feel free to send me empty beer bottles that do not utilize twist off caps.

a bag of wheat and a gallon jug

heat the water to 170

cook the wheat at 150 for an hour

strain the wheat and pour bowling water over it

bowl the "wort" for an hour, add hops and yeast, and let it sit for a few weeks

Monday, September 26, 2011

Preaching 2 Samuel 23:1-7

Back in August I was given and opportunity to preach at my church. The text was 2 Samuel 23:1-7. I only get to preach about once a year. There are four pastors that are in line a head of me on the preaching rotation because of my position as a director. This particular service was the 8:30 a.m. traditional service. Later I preached the contemporary service.

Here is a picture of the sanctuary. I preached from the elevated pulpit located on the right side of the photo. I'm not going to lie, every time I get up there I feel a bit like Jonathan Edwards.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

An Intruder

I do not know about women, but every man has played this scenario through a million times in his head. Every new location creates the possibility of at least a dozen new scenarios. I am not talking about hitting a grand-slam in the bottom of the 9th of the World Series or making an unlikely tackle to save the Super Bowl. I am talking about something a bit more serious. What would I do if somebody tried to break into my house?

Tonight I kind of got my chance. For once, my dog proved to be worth something when he started barking around 12:30 a.m. As usual, I ignored the barks and responded like Napolian Dynamite - "Shut up Frodo! Gosh." When I got up to get water I noticed some voices outside of my bedroom window...then I saw flash lights.


I did not really think. I ran to the window, banged as loud as I could, and yelled. The men were about six inches from where my wife and I were sleeping. We were separated by single plane glass from the 1920's. They started running towards the backyard. I ran to my son's room who has windows facing the backyard and repeated my banging, yelling combo. Then I noticed something...they were cops...and there were at least 4 of them.

I ran to the backdoor and cracked it open - which I now realize was dumb. The cop yelled, "Shut up guy!" He was talking to me. In that very moment I thought, "Well, we are not going to be any safer than we are in this moment." So I started enjoying the show. Tammie urged me to call the police office to see what was going on. Apparently "four perpetrators were on the loose". They happened to head to my backyard.

I walked around in the darkness and quietness of my house from window to window. At one point I saw a cop run by with a police dog. The dog found a dude under our van. I cheered him on in my head. The cops left my house around 1:15 but returned from time to time during the night. The helicopters stopped flying around 1:45.

In reflecting upon my response I realized that my football instincts are still intact. My first reaction was to run as closely to the quarterback as possible to disrupt the play. And it worked. I guess it is time to fix my porch light that has been busted for a year or two.

UPDATE: I was about to click "PUBLISH POST" when I saw another cop car pull up to my house. I watched the guy search my yard with his flashlight. He noticed me and came to the front door. He apologized for the commotion. He told me they were chasing four taggers. You heard me correctly...TAGGERS! I nearly took out somebody who turned out to be a cop simply because four teenagers thought it would be cool to spray paint somebody's house. If San Antonio police send in the dogs and helicopters for graffiti artists I'd wonder how they respond to dangerous crimes. The dress rehearsal is over so I can put away my knife. I'm going back to bed.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Relinquishing Power

I just finished reading White Privilege by Paula Rothenberg for my American Church History class. My prof asked us to pick something that stood out to us and write a brief essay on it. This is what I came up with.

On page 123 Peggy McIntosh writes, "[Men] may say that they will work to improve women's status, in the society, the university, or the curriculum, but they can't or won't support the idea of lessening men's." I thought about two books that have been very influential in my understanding of the church: Body Politics and The Dangerous Act of Worship. This quote and these books talk about the power struggle in humanity. We know that in Christ there is no male or female, Greek or Jew, slave or free (Gal. 3:28). The Christian baptism should create a new social reality where power is not used to abuse, manipulate, control or force. In this reality, power is used to empower. And the only way those in power can allow for those who do not have power to be empowered is for those without power to have the ability to empower themselves. This only can come with creating space by having those in power relinquish power. Relinquishing power is the ultimate act of selflessness.

Friday, May 13, 2011

An Original Song

One night a few weeks ago I started strumming on the guitar right before it was time for my son to go to bed. He walked in the room, sat down, and started reading. It was a sweet evening. This song came out of my time sitting there with my son. I wrote it to be simple enough for a 3 year old to understand yet profound enough for him to keep learning from it as he grows up. I plan to record it officially in a few months. For now, you have to deal with a computer microphone and a video where my lips do not match the words.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Love Your Neighbor (aka Egg Ministry)

When Hurricane Ike blew through Houston a few years ago my mom lost power for a little over a week. I remember talking to her a few days after her power returned. I asked her if she was happy to have AC and TV again. She said she was, but that she kind of missed the way things were during that week without power. Without AC she was forced to spend time outside with all of the neighbors who also did not have AC. People started sharing food and water because the stores were not fully functioning. As soon as the power came back on people moved on with their busy lives and stopped talking to one another. It's weird that a natural disaster had to happen to show people how their lives were intended to be lived. As soon as the natural disaster cleared people forgot and moved on.

I am always looking for ways to love my neighbors well just for the sake of loving them well. Tragically, I am often too tired from church ministry that I do not have energy to spend building relationships with my neighbors. However, raising chickens has given me an excuse to get out and talk to people. We get about 6 eggs a day from our chickens. If we eat eggs, we only eat about 3 a day. We end up with an extra dozen eggs ever few days. I love the community I am building with a simple gesture of giving away a dozen eggs to somebody I see daily but never talk to. I hope that I realign my priorities so that I can continue to build relationships with the people around me. I encourage you to look for ways you can get out and get to know and love your neighbors. Bake them cookies. Invite them over for dinner. Buy a bunch of chickens and give them eggs. Let's not wait for a natural disaster to occur to give us the motivation to love and to love well.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

An Idea for a Worship Gathering

One of the requirements of my worship class is that I design a worship service that is meaningful for me. This is what I have so far.

1. Share a Meal – There is no more authentic way to get to know another person than to eat with him or her. Furthermore, this part of the service could help welcome those with little to no resources.

2. Interactive Celebration/Testimonies – I want to create space in the service where we celebrate things like birthdays and where people can talk about where they saw God at work during their week.

3. Guided Prayer Time – This would be a time to get centered. We would use this time to pray for one another as well.

4. Scripture Reading/Sermon I believe God uses others to help proclaim his good news and to explain the Bible. This is an essential part of the service.

5. Song – I imagine this time to be prayerful and reflective. This may be a solo, a choral piece, or an “all sing” number.

6. Prayer of ConfessionIn order for us to live into the fullness of life we must be aware of our depravity. When we confess, we own up to our junk and we ask to be freed from it.

7. Eucharist – In John Yoder’s book, Body Politics, he writes that the Lord’s Supper was originally a natural part of the early Christians' shared life together. They would conclude regular meals by remembering Jesus through breaking bread and drinking wine. While some might think that this view of the Eucharist diminishes its holiness into something common like a meal, I think it elevates sharing a meal to something holy like worshipping.

8. Prayer of ThanksgivingThis prayer would be a response to the previous element of the service as well as a response to all that God is doing and has done.

9. Dessert CelebrationThis element would be a continuation of the Prayer of Thanksgiving.


Update: 4/28/11

Some people have emailed me some great feedback. I thought I would include one of my responses to a person who asked me my theological motivation for a couple of the elements.

First I need to let you know that I would not choose this service in all contexts. I have a pastoral motivation. I am called to help people recognize and follow the voice of God. I interpret that to mean that I need to help share the good news in a way that the people can understand it.

I agree with your definition of worship. There are plenty of passages of scripture that support that definition (her definition of worship is giving praise to a holy God). However, I think worship goes beyond that as well. Romans 12:1 seems to imply that true worship is sacrificial living. In Amos 5 God rejects the Israelites' precise worship because they are not living lives of justice and righteousness. These passages (along with ones like Matthew 5:23-24 and more indirect passages like 1 Corinthians 13 and Matthew 25:39-41) lead me to believe that the purity of our worship of the living God is very much tied to how well we are loving each other.

A more anecdotal response:
Has any of the following happened to you?
- Walked away from a conversation thinking, "Wow, I just experienced God while talking with that person."
- Climbed to the top of a peak and thought, "I am experiencing the fullness of God in this very moment."
If you have, then you at least recognize that worship goes much further beyond songs, organized prayer, and a sermon.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

To My Coffee Bean Angel

Sometimes I just need a reminder. Well, let's just say I often need a reminder. I need encouragement that one day we will overcome this gargantuan mound of student loan debt and rise triumphantly to live life debt free. With debt free living comes more generous living. In an effort to be even more efficient we have recently moved to the "cash envelope system" made famous by Dave Ramsey. We ran out of our grocery cash on day one of the week. We have more than enough food. However, we also ran out of coffee...and I need coffee almost as much as I need oxygen. So I did what comes natural to me...I began to internally whine and wonder if we'd ever make it. In spite of all of the ways God has provided for us the past two years through generous people I was still uneasy about the future.

To give you an idea of how ridiculous my uneasiness is/was, the cheapest thing somebody did for us was pay $300 to get our car fixed...that is the CHEAPEST. One might think that I would actually trust that God will provide by now...

Today when I walked into the office there was a glorious pound of whole coffee beans waiting to greet me at my door. I just needed a subtle reminder that I am being too dramatic and that things are going to be ok. I am seriously blown away by the timeliness of this generous act. So, thanks for the beans whoever you are. God sent you to me today.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

On Worship

(I wrote this for a class blog. We were given the task of reading 100 pages of any book on worship.)

I chose to begin reading The Dangerous Act of Worship: Living God’s Call to Justice by Mark Labberton. Initially, I was simply looking for a book on Kindle because I do not have any of my books on worship with me at home. Most of the books I saw had to do with things we have already covered in class. This book’s title stood out from the others. This book takes Best’s concept unceasing worship to the next level. Not only do we worship constantly but worship causes us to go out and seek to end injustice.

Labberton dives in deep right away. He defines worship as human beings reflecting God’s glory by embodying God’s character in life and seeking righteousness and justice.[1] Notice that he said nothing about Sunday mornings, sermons, or music. He continues by saying that worship does happen on Sunday mornings but that it also includes how we treat others, how we use our money, and how we love the lost and oppressed.[2]

He devotes much time in the introductory chapters attempting to gracefully point out problematic aspects of things that occur when churches gather on Sunday mornings. For example, he boldly points out that sermons that “play to culture” without “critiquing and engaging it” are a part of the problem.[3] Other times he calls out “worship directors” who are egocentric worshipers as well as flashy worship programs that entertain rather than challenge people to be transformed. He believes that true worship is dangerous because it “is meant to produce lives fully attentive to the reality as God sees it, and that’s more than most of us want to deal with.”[4]

This book is confirming some of the things about which I have already been thinking. Worship is not egocentric. Worship transforms us into people who live justly, walk humbly, and love mercy. As I consider church planting in the Bible belt in the distant future, I am seriously considering only having one Sunday a month that includes music. Music has become the focal point in many churches in western evangelical churches. It has started to overshadow Jesus and his call to be people who love him and love others.

[1] Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship, (Downers Grove: InerVarsity Press, 2007), Kindle Electronic Edition: Chapter 1, Location 104.

[2] Ibid. Chapter 1, Location 108.

[3] Ibid. Chapter 2, Location 175.

[4] Ibid. Chapter 3, Location 184.