Friday, December 30, 2005

Friday's Random Ten- Comin' Out of the Closet

I have a confession to make - I've been cheating on my shuffles. I've been excluding the classical category. I did it for two reasons - 1) classical music is not meant to be listened to on shuffle and 2) folks who listen to classical music are supposed to be smart and cultured but I'm not. Why am I coming out of the closet now? Because I've started using i-tunes instead of my old media player and I'm too lazy to go through and divide everything up. Here you have it, a true shuffle:

  1. Coming Back - Delirious? (The Cutting Edge)
  2. Tempest - Vigilantes of Love (V.O.L.)
  3. Pride - Delirious? (In the Name of Love)
  4. Rex Tremendae - Mozart (Requiem)
  5. Sweet Marie - Hothouse Flowers (Home)
  6. Concerto in A minor - Robert Schumann (Schumann: London Symphony)
  7. I Turn Everything Over - Switchfoot (New Way to be Human)
  8. Bad Time - Jayhawks (Tomorrow the Green Grass)
  9. Adagio Molto E Cantibile - Beethoven (Symphony No 9)
  10. You are the Sun - Sara Groves (Add to the Beauty)
  • Song I Owned in Bootleg Form Back in my Wilder Days - #1. Yup. It was '96 or '97 and Delerious? wasn't available in the US but my suitemate's boyfriend knew I loved U2 and sent a copy for me while he was on a mission trip in the UK. (How would you like that mission trip!?)
  • Best Van Morrison Impersonation - #5. Except for the lyrics - they are seriously awful!
  • Best Song - #2. And not just because it's the only Bill Mallonee on the list! It's a powder keg of a song.

Friday, December 23, 2005

More Bono Controversy!

Thanks to Scott for letting me know about this discussion going on at

How to Dismantle an Idolized Bono

Discussion of the article in Podcast form (scroll down to the podcast section of the front page.)

Friday's Random Ten

  1. Wonderful - Annie Lennox (Bare)
  2. Don't Stand so Close to Me - The Police (Every Breath You Take)
  3. Fly - Sara Groves (All Right Here)
  4. Think About It - Jayhawks (Sound of Lies)
  5. Until the End of the World - U2 (Elevation Live in Boston)
  6. All Bow Down - Christ Tomlin (Arriving)
  7. Breathe Deep - Lost Dogs (Green Room Serenade)
  8. Kingdom Come - Sara Groves (Add to the Beauty)
  9. Little Darlin' - Buddy and Julie Miller (Buddy and Julie Miller)
  10. So. Central Rain - REM (Eponymous)
  • Catchiest Tune - #7
  • Sexiest Song - #1
  • Most Annoying Use of an Apologetic Phrase - #10
  • Best Song - #9

Closed for Christmas: Part MIV

World News Tonight presents Holy Doors Closed: Megachurches are criticized for not scheduling Mass on Christmas.
(Well, close enough.)

ABC doesn't really add anything to this story (How could they? It's already been covered from every possible angle, non-stop, for nearly two weeks!) but they do roll some pretty footage, including the cool globe backdrop from the Christmas on Location series and a bit of the much anticipated Christmas DVD. Sweet.

NBC ran a similar story on the Nightly News but the footage wasn't as cool and the writing was a little annoying so...NO LINK FOR YOU!

By the way, I went to the Christmas service last night and it was beautiful! It was toned down a bit from previous years (no orchestra or elaborate drama) but still packed an emotional punch with some really beautiful videos and one of the best dances I've seen on a Willow stage (think more ballet and less rolling about on the floor in rags.)

Malachy Portrait: WIP II

Hi everyone. I managed to squeeze a little more painting into these busy times yesterday and thought I would put the updated image on the blog.

As a refresher, I've got the previous three versions here, starting with the sketch.
I'm gradually getting the gray covered. I'm a little nervous about the uneven flesh tones. I have this nightmare of just covering it with layer after layer and never being satisfied with it. I'll just try not to think about that.

What I did do differently on this one was use a glaze to warm up his face, especially along the borders of the shadow. I've never done that with acrylic human portraits before and it worked better than I expected it. I'll try using it earlier on in the process next time because layering may be slow but it is much easier than trying to mix the right color before hand.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Nice to See Christianity Still Scares

If you are not watching The Situation with Tucker Carlson on MSNBC you are really missing out. I know, I know, it airs at the same time as Futurama on Adult Swim, but Futurama is available on DVD, The Situation is not.

Anyway, I found this on the show blog and liked it enough to steal it and put it on my blog.

People often make jokes about Episcopalians being boring, and unfortunately they're usually right. I know this because on most Sundays I sit through an Episcopal Church service with my wife and children. It's a reassuringly predictable experience, always exactly an hour long. And you'll never meet nicer people. If you needed someone to hold your wallet, or if you were lost in an unfamiliar neighborhood and had to duck into a stranger's house to use the bathroom, you could do a whole lot worse than to meet up with an Episcopalian. No one has better manners.

And that may be the problem. There's a notable lack of urgency in most Episcopal churches. Jesus may have promised he'd come back someday, but in the Episcopal Church you don't get the feeling he really meant it. Nor do you hear a lot about sin. Lust, hatred, gluttony, pride, envy -- those are dramatic emotions. Drama makes Episcopalians uncomfortable. The typical sermon leaves the impression that all would be well in this world if only people could manage to be reasonable with each other. Gentlemanly. Thoughtful.

There's nothing necessarily bad about any of this. (I remain an Episcopalian, with no plans to change.) But every once in a while, as I shift in my pew listening to one of our unusually well-educated preachers expand on the Aramaic understanding of discipleship, I do wish Jesus would come back, preferably in a massive ball of fire through the ceiling of the church. Spiritually, I'm nowhere near ready to face something like that. But it'd be worth it for the shock value.

All of which is to say, I welcome the controversies this season over Christmas. Every time a school district bans Christmas carols, every time the ACLU dispatches a busload of lawyers to fight a nativity scene, every time the ADL declares the Christian Right "dangerous," it's a reaffirmation that the faith is not dead. Dead religions don't give people the creeps. They don't make atheists mad. They don't keep Alan Dershowitz up at night. But Christianity still does. What a relief. It's nice to see that our faith still scares people.

I especially like the fireball part..reminded me of my favorite Annie Dillard quote:
"It is madness to wear ladies' straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews."

Intelligent Design

From "Top Questions" at Discovery Institute:

Questions about Intelligent Design

1. What is the theory of intelligent design?

The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.

2. Is intelligent design theory incompatible with evolution?

It depends on what one means by the word "evolution." If one simply means "change over time," or even that living things are related by common ancestry, then there is no inherent conflict between evolutionary theory and intelligent design theory. However, the dominant theory of evolution today is neo-Darwinism, which contends that evolution is driven by natural selection acting on random mutations, an unpredictable and purposeless process that "has no discernable direction or goal, including survival of a species." (NABT Statement on Teaching Evolution). It is this specific claim made by neo-Darwinism that intelligent design theory directly challenges.

3. Is intelligent design based on the Bible?

No. The intellectual roots of intelligent design theory are varied. Plato and Aristotle both articulated early versions of design theory, as did virtually all of the founders of modern science. Indeed, most scientists until the latter part of the nineteenth century accepted some form of intelligent design. The scientific community largely rejected design in the early twentieth century after neo-Darwinism claimed to be able to explain the emergence of biological complexity through the unintelligent process of natural selection acting on random mutations. During the past decade, however, new research and discoveries in such fields as physics, cosmology, biochemistry, genetics, and paleontology have caused a growing number of scientists and science theorists to question neo-Darwinism and propose design as the best explanation for the existence of specified complexity in the natural world.

4. Is intelligent design theory the same as creationism?

No. Intelligent design theory is simply an effort to empirically detect whether the "apparent design" in nature acknowledged by virtually all biologists is genuine design (the product of an intelligent cause) or is simply the product of an undirected process such as natural selection acting on random variations. Creationism is focused on defending a literal reading of the Genesis account, usually including the creation of the earth by the Biblical God a few thousand years ago. Unlike creationism, the scientific theory of intelligent design is agnostic regarding the source of design and has no commitment to defending Genesis, the Bible or any other sacred text. Honest critics of intelligent design acknowledge the difference between intelligent design and creationism. University of Wisconsin historian of science Ronald Numbers is critical of intelligent design, yet according to the Associated Press, he "agrees the creationist label is inaccurate when it comes to the ID [intelligent design] movement."

Why, then, do some Darwinists keep trying to conflate intelligent design with creationism? According to Dr. Numbers, it is because they think such claims are "the easiest way to discredit intelligent design." In other words, the charge that intelligent design is "creationism" is a rhetorical strategy on the part of Darwinists who wish to delegitimize design theory without actually addressing the merits of its case.

5. Are there established scholars in the scientific community who support intelligent design theory?

Yes. Intelligent design theory is supported by doctoral scientists, researchers and theorists at a number of universities, colleges, and research institutes around the world. These scholars include biochemist Michael Behe at Lehigh University, microbiologist Scott Minnich at the University of Idaho, biologist Paul Chien at the University of San Francisco, emeritus biologist Dean Kenyon at San Francisco State University, mathematician William Dembski at Baylor University, and quantum chemist Henry Schaefer at the University of Georgia.

For more information about the ID theory check out The Discovery Institute.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Malachy Portrait: WIP

Yesterday I posted a sketch I had done in preperation of a new acrylic portrait I am doing of my nephew, Malachy.

In the past I've had a lot of frustration with doing human portraits in acrylic because you can't see your drawing under the paint like you can with the transparent watercolors and because the paint dries so quickly that blending is difficult.

So this time I made a dark, charcoal drawing and sprayed it with a fixative so that it wouldn't disappear the moment I touched paint to canvas.

As you can see, I'm trying to work around the drawing at this point, but by the end I don't want any charcoal to be showing. The gray base coat should also be almost completely covered.

Willow Creek Community Church in the News

Christian Post has a positive story on Willow's Christmas on Location series.

Chicago's Willow Creek Church is spending "Christmas On Location" in three needy places – Zambia, Gulf Coast, and Mexico – to see where the congregation back home can help with cash and kind donations.

The megachurch, known as a model for seeker-sensitive services, has been in the lead as an evangelical church committed to social concerns, such as AIDS (Zambia), natural disasters (Gulf Coast), and outreach to the Latino community (Mexico).
"Many world leaders have called the global HIV/AIDS pandemic the greatest humanitarian crisis in history,” according to a statement published online by Willow Creek. "It is, without question, the greatest widow and orphan-maker in history."

Nearly 40 million people are infected with AIDS worldwide, 25 million of them in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Hybels hopes that the church will help, and plans to make his church a model for others.

“The church is the hope of the world," he said previously.
Willow Creek is also interested in transferring the creative outreaches from Latin America to their own Latino ministry in Greater Chicago, now home to 1.6 million Latinos, the largest minority in greater Chicago.
Last year, Global Connection's work in Africa and Latin America received $710,000 from Willow Creek's congregants.

For the entire story, click on the link in the title. To read more about Global Connections and to find out how last year's donations were spent, click here.

cursed cat painting

This is the one that is moving along at a snail's pace. Since this photo was taken I've done more work on it, but it still is far from done.

I'll put up the updated version soon.

When it is done it is supposed to look like a calico cat resting on a sun dappled deck.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Malachy Sketch

I've been working on the same cat painting for nearly a month and I'm just not into it, so I thought I ought to do something a little different for a while. I'm going to try to do a large (16x24) acrylic portrait of my nephew, Malachy. This is the practice sketch I did last night to try to get a feel for the subject and composition. Since then I've done a charcoal rendering onto the gessoed canvas and, after I'm sure that I'm happy with the way that looks, I'll start painting over it. I've had very little success so far at painting good skin with acrylic, so this ought to be a great learning experience for me.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Bono named a Person of the Year by TIME

"For being shrewd about doing good, for rewiring politics and re-engineering justice, for making mercy smarter and hope strategic and then daring the rest of us to follow, Bill and Melinda Gates and Bono are TIME's Persons of the Year."

There's no question that Bono's meeting with Lynne Hybels was a major turning point in our church's involvement with Africa. To me this is unequivocally a positive change. It needed to happen. But lately I've heard a small number of folks complaining about Bono's impact on the leadership of the church. After all, the man did drop the "F" bomb on national television, what right does he have to tell a pastor how to do ministry? See below for two different perspectives on this question.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Christmas on Location

Bill Hybels has been in Africa all week preparing his Christmas on Location message. Yesterday he sent out an e-news letter about his time there. It included this poignant story.
One night I was invited to have dinner with some of the leaders of a coalition of churches that Willow is partnering with for AIDS orphan care. (You will hear more about this at the weekend service) The fellowship could not have been warmer or the gratefulness for the generosity of Willow higher. When we were serving ourselves at the little buffet dinner set up in a dark corner of this mud-bricked house, I saw a plate of chicken centrally displayed but decided to take a pass for no particular reason. Several of the people around me at the table kept trying to put a piece of chicken on my plate but I kept politely declining saying that I wanted to try the other delightful foods that were so colorfully displayed. When we all finished dinner, the discussion went to how grateful these church leaders are that Willow buys food and school uniforms for over 500 AIDS orphans in the village. That led to a discussion about malnutrition which finally led me to ask the question and the answer would hit me like a Mack truck. "How many times a week do the AIDS orphans eat meat of any kind?" Silence. "Well", I continued, trying to ease the quietness, "How many times a week would you adults eat meat?" Deeper silence. Then one of the leaders said quietly, "Most of us eat meat once a year because that is all we can afford." This time the utter silence was all mine...and it took all of my Dutch self discipline to fight off a major crying spell. The leading adults in the village can only afford to eat meat once a year??? And there was meat on the table tonight??? And I blew it off??? As I was to learn later, these leaders were so honored that the pastor of Willow would visit their problem-wracked town that they all decided this would be the one night of the entire year to splurge and provide one small piece of chicken for everyone at the dinner. I was the only idiot that didn't put that all together until it was too late. Of course when the truth came out I apologized a dozen times and they knew I was sincere, but still....It was a long time before I got to sleep that night.
I'm really looking forward to this service. Last year Bill and Lynne did Christmas on Location in South Africa and after that service we raised $600,000 for Africa. I'm hoping that will happen again this year.

Part I and Part II of this series are available to watch at this link. Or, to sign up for the enews mailings go to and go to the third item in the third column under the banners.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Willow Creek Community Church in the News

Last night on the local Fox news they ran a story on Bill Hybels and Willow Creek. The most surprising part of the broadcast was Mark Suppelsa's bizarre comparison of Bill Hybels to Kanye West - he even included the clip of Kanye West's stiffly delivered announcement that "George Bush hates black people." I guess that's what happens when the media encounters an evangelical pastor who doesn't see "mouth piece for the Republican party" as part of his job description.

For the entire transcript click here.

Here's an interesting portion:

Suppelsa: "You're a helluva recruiter and marketer. Right?"
Hybels: "We don't market Jesus Christ."

As Hybels tells it, he wanted to make religion relevant. He wanted a church he could bring his friends to. Willow creek has no stained glass windows. No crucifix. In fact, the song and dance routines seem more Broadway than Bible Belt.

Hybels: "In God's house, I think there should be excellent music, excellent drama. We want people to listen with attentiveness. But it's so that they will come into a relationship with God, through Christ, at some point up the road. So yeah, we make no apologies for putting a lot of effort into our facilities, into our organization, into what we do on the stage."

Suppelsa: "How do you convince people that you're the real deal? That you're not Jim Bakker?"
Hybels: "What I've tried to do at Willow and what we've tried to train pastors around the country and around the world to do is be open. Completely open. With the books, with your schedule, with your salaries. With everything."

Hybels: "I go to Africa at least once or twice a year and I see a continent ravaged by AIDS. Our defense spending, our space spending, a lot of what we're spending our money on, I think, would be better invested in human lives. I'm not trying to be critical of an administration, I'm just saying that Jesus taught 'Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.' What you care about, you fund."

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Desperate Measures

My Fibromyalgia is giving me hell this week and it's got me considering desperate up Diet Coke and fast food! I'm open to being talked down off this ledge...if anyone has any reasons why I shouldn't give this a shot, I'd love to hear it.

Here are a couple of the things I found on line today that got me seriously considering this:
By Dr. Grant La Farge
November 21, 2005

The recent letter defending aspartame by Paul R. Block, the Merisant Co.'s chief executive officer, should not be left to stand without comment. The thrust of the company's defense of their product aspartame is that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved it and, therefore, its safety is beyond question. This comes at a time when faith in the FDA's ability to make decisions that protect average citizens from products that cause harm is at an all-time low. Consider the recent withdrawal and litigation surrounding Vioxx as well the withdrawal of the anti-inflammatory medication Bextra, and you'll know the FDA frequently makes mistakes that cost lives. Block asserts, "Aspartame's safety has been borne out in more than 200 toxicological and clinical studies of the product over the past 30 years." Yet for every industry-funded study, which "proves" aspartame's safety, there are several corporate-neutral studies showing harm. In 1998, when Ralph G. Walton, professor of clinical psychology at Northeastern Ohio Universities compared the results of aspartame "safety" studies according to who funded the study, he found that nearly 100 percent of independent research shows aspartame is toxic -- while 100 percent of industry-funded research shows it to be harmless. Guess which research gets submitted to regulatory authorities? A swift perusal of the process of aspartame's approval by the FDA is enough to enlighten even the most skeptical as to the way this artificial sweetener has been strong-armed through the approval process by corporate pressure rather than good science. According to the FDA's own consumer-complaint data, adverse effects from aspartame include chronic headaches, stomach upsets and skin rashes, memory loss, depression, mood swings, seizures, damaged vision or, in extreme cases, fatality. Aspartame has three main constituents: the amino acids aspartic acid and phenylalanine, and methanol. In liquids, when exposed to heat and in the body, it quickly breaks down into these constituents, and these then are further broken down into other toxic substances such as formalin. Research by Dr. H. J. Roberts -- an eminent Florida physician and author of Aspartame Disease: An Ignored Epidemic -- shows that the health problems caused by aspartame's breakdown products can mimic or worsen several devastating diseases including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, fibromyalgia, arthritis, lupus, chronic-fatigue syndrome, attention-deficit disorder, depression, diabetes, Lyme disease and hypothyroidism. Others, including Walton and Dr. Russell Blaylock, neuro-scientist and author of Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills, have confirmed his data. Such findings are significant. Many diseases fall into the category of medicine's "mystery diseases" -- conditions with no clear cause and few effective cures. How many people diagnosed with, for example, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's or chronic-fatigue syndrome might end up on a regimen of drugs that could have been avoided if they stopped consuming aspartame-containing products? We ingest food additives daily, yet their approval does not require the same scientific thoroughness as drug approval. Approval does not involve looking at what people are already eating and whether the proposed substance will interact with other additives. It doesn't take into account whether the additive exacerbates damage caused by other aspects of the modern lifestyle, like pesticide ingestion. Nor does it look for subtle chronic effects -- for instance, the gradual buildup of methanol in the body with regular aspartame ingestion. It doesn't take into account the unique vulnerability of children who, pound for pound, absorb more concentrated amounts of any substance than an adult does and whose developing bodies are more sensitive to such assaults by toxins. We rely on regulatory agencies to make decisions about what is not safe. Many of these agencies are merely extensions of big business; we can no longer trust that their decisions are in our best interests. Average people must, therefore, become experts in chemistry and toxicology in order to make reasonable choices in the supermarket, which is unacceptable. When decisions taken at the federal level can no longer be counted on to provide adequate protection, it is incumbent upon all of us to educate state agencies and boards and to be proactive in seeking exclusion of such substances as aspartame from human consumption. Grant La Farge, MD, FACC is a pediatric cardiologist in practice in Santa Fe.

Fibromyalgia and MSG and Aspartame

CASE SUMMARY: Four patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia syndrome for two to 17 years are described. All had undergone multiple treatment modalities with limited success. All had complete, or nearly complete, resolution of their symptoms within months after eliminating monosodium glutamate (MSG) or MSG plus aspartame from their diet.

All patients were women with multiple comorbidities prior to elimination of MSG. All have had recurrence of symptoms whenever MSG is ingested.

DISCUSSION: Excitotoxins are molecules, such as MSG and aspartate, that act as excitatory neurotransmitters, and can lead to neurotoxicity when used in excess.

We propose that these four patients may represent a subset of fibromyalgia syndrome that is induced or exacerbated by excitotoxins or, alternatively, may comprise an excitotoxin syndrome that is similar to fibromyalgia.

We suggest that identification of similar patients and research with larger numbers of patients must be performed before definitive conclusions can be made.

CONCLUSIONS: The elimination of MSG and other excitotoxins from the diets of patients with fibromyalgia offers a benign treatment option that has the potential for dramatic results in a subset of patients.

For the full report click on the link in "case summary."

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Willow Creek Community Church in the News: Building Bridges

Cathleen Falsani (who by now probably knows Willow Creek as well as anybody) of the Chicago Sun-Times has followed up the "closed for Christmas" hullabaloo with this positive little story:

Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington may be closed on Dec. 25, but the megachurch's pastor has decided to preach on Christmas morning anyway.

Bill Hybels, senior pastor of Willow Creek, the largest predominantly white church in the Chicago area, will share preaching duties with the Rev. James Meeks in the pulpit of his Salem Baptist Church, the area's largest predominantly black congregation
For several years now, Meeks and Hybels have been getting to know each other as colleagues and friends. But they would like their congregations to know one another better as well, to build a bridge between the often segregated white and black evangelical Christian communities. Toward that end, in June, 50 church members -- half from Willow, half from Salem -- spent a week riding a bus through the Deep South visiting historical civil rights-era sites. They called it a "Justice Journey."

This Christmas morning, as Meeks and Hybels share a pulpit for the first time, will be another step on that journey toward racial reconciliation in the evangelical church, Meeks said.

"To see us come together," Meeks said, "I think it speaks volumes."

Cathleen Falsani, who did such a great job covering Bono's tour of the Midwest to raise awareness of AIDS and poverty in Africa a few years ago, includes a little plug for our "Christmas on Location" series:

On Friday afternoon, Hybels, who was at O'Hare Airport waiting for a flight bound for Zambia in Africa, where he will spend this week at an AIDS clinic filming a pre-holiday sermon that will be beamed back to Willow next weekend -- they call it "Christmas on Location" -- e-mailed Meeks at the airport in Washington to say he'd be at Salem Christmas morning, with bells on, as it were.

This is a fabulous series and I'll post about this morning's installment (Christmas on Location in Mexico) later.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Rehearsal of a Dream

I've had rituals on my mind after all this talk about what is and isn't appropriate worship on Christmas Sunday and I found this beautiful quote from Frederick Buechner:
A wedding. A handshake. A kiss. A coronation. A parade. A dance. A meal. A graduation. A Mass. A ritual is the performance of an intuition, the rehearsal of a dream, the playing of a game.

A sacrament is the breaking through of the sacred into the profane; a ritual is the ceremonial acting out of the profane in order to show forth its sacredness.

A sacrament is God offering his holiness to men; a ritual is men raising up the holiness of their humanity to God.

Christianity Today Feels the Illinoise

Christianity Today has put Sufjan Stevens' Illinois on the honorable mention list for Best Christian Albums of 2005. When I saw this I had two happy thoughts - "wow, evangelicals have really broadened their definition of Christian art since I was in college (I clearly remember an editorial in the school paper claiming DC Talk was too edgy for Christian ears) and the other was a mental picture of Sufjan Stevens performing Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois to a bewildered audience at the Dove awards. We can only hope and pray.

North Point Community Church Speaks Up on "Closed for Christmas"

Andy Stanley of NorthPoint Community Church showed up at today to explain why his church won't be open on Christmas.

To begin with, we have called off church on the Sunday following Christmas since we started the church ten years ago. So we have been guilty of whatever sin you call this for a decade.

Every year I encourage our attenders to attend church somewhere else on that Sunday, or stay home and worship as a family , or gather with people from their small group. The reason we shut everything down on the Sunday following Christmas is to honor our volunteers. It takes several hundred volunteers to make Sunday happen for us. The interesting thing is, we’ve never taken any heat for shutting down on a Sunday. I guess nobody was paying any attention.

When I made the decision to shut things down on Christmas day I was wearing my employer hat. To open on Christmas morning would require a hundred or so people to come to work on Christmas morning. I would never do that.

Now, the readers of this blog are sophisticated enough to know that we are messing with a tradition not a Scriptural command. Nobody knows exactly when Jesus was born. The celebration of his birth began long after everyone who had any first hand information about it was dead. That’s why we don’t know exactly when He was born.
The way I read it, the spirituality of an individual or a group should be judged by their track record in two areas – love for one another and generosity with resources.

Bottom line, I may not be a very good Christian or pastor, but this Christmas season there are several hundred people who think I’m a good boss.

Merry Christmas.

As I've said before, I believe that this is a decision every church has a right to make for itself. By pleading "no comment" when this story broke many pastors created the impression that the decision was embarrassing or indefensible. I'm glad Andy Stanley is speaking out and I hope that other churchs will stop letting themselves be intimidated by the hystrionics of the critics.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Time Magazine presents "The Fight Before Christmas"

Who needs Nativity plays with this kind of drama?
Christian blogs are full of unseasonably vitriolic postings, full of Scriptural references, theological arguments and appeals to common sense. Evangelicals are attacking other Evangelicals in the media. And the debate within the Evangelical community is giving the rest of America a rare look at the divisions that do exist, usually quietly and below the surface, of the 65-million-strong Evangelical community. It is a reminder that this group, so often labeled the "religious right", is diverse both in theology and methodology. The church is in fact many churches, this bloc is no monolith, and this argument, says Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, "shows we're still all very human."
Ben Witherington III reprises his roll as "Prophet to a Wicked and Depraved Generation."

"The church is supposed to be brothers and sisters in Christ—the primary family. These churches are putting the wants and needs of the physical family first, not that spiritual family," says Ben Witherington, a theologian at Asbury Seminary in Kentucky. "Our society is narcissistic enough. We don't need to encourage more me-focused behavior."

Bill Hybels arrises to defend his church!
The last time Christmas fell on a Sunday was in 1994. Leaders at Willow Creek Community Church, a congregation in the affluent Chicago suburbs where about 15,000 people worship each weekend, said that attendance wasn't great. This year, they decided to try "an experiment in decentralizing the congregation on Christmas morning," says senior pastor Bill Hybels...."In our community, people—particularly seekers who may not normally attend church—are more like to go to Christmas services in the days preceding Christmas with their friends who invite them," says Hybels. This strategy leaves them "free to celebrate Christmas day as they so choose."
These congregations have not canceled Christmas. Willow Creek will have eight services in the five days before Christmas Sunday, with up to 60,000 expected to attend. According to Hybels, worshippers at those services will receive DVDs, which they will be encouraged to watch on Christmas Day with their families. The message: "God is with us everywhere."
""The central point is not what hour of what day the congregation gathers corporately to celebrate the birth of Christ," says Willow Creek's Hybels, "but rather that in our hearts and lives we allow the coming of Christ to transform us."

Ted Haggart steps in as "Wise and Kindly Peacemaker."

his church "would never not have church on a Sunday. Christians have been doing it for 2,000 years." At the same time, he says, Willow Creek is showing the creativity and innovation for which it and Hybels have long been known. "Willow Creek is communicating that we're in an era when the church meets in a variety of ways," Haggard says. "This is what makes American Evangelicalism so great. We're so diverse. The meaning of Christmas is more important than the church service itself. The message is more important than the method."

and the Rev. Louie Marsh just shakes his head as "Humble Witness."
"I do know [that] this isn't something we should be fighting about," Marsh
blogged. "Let's just focus on serving God the best we can."

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Friday's Random Ten

  1. Jupiter Rising - Emmylou Harris (Stumble Into Grace)
  2. I'd Run Away - Jayhawks (Tomorrow the Green Grass)
  3. How Can I Tell - Sara Groves (Add to the Beauty)
  4. In My Place - Coldplay (A Rush of Blood to the Head)
  5. Telephone Road - Steve Earle (El Corazon)
  6. Tomorrow - James (The Best of James)
  7. Innocent - Third Day (Wire)
  8. Radio Free Europe - REM (Eponymous)
  9. Beautiful Sound - Newsboys (Love, Liberty, Disco)
  10. Any Side of Anywhere - Vigilantes of Love (Audible Sigh)
  • Best Song to Drive To - #5 Telephone Road by Steve Earle
  • Sexiest Song - #1 Jupiter Rising by Emmylou Harris
  • Most Frightening Album Title - #9 Love, Liberty, Disco by the Newsboys
  • Best Lyrics - #10 Any Side of Anywhere by Vigilantes of Love
  • Saddest Song - #2 I'd Run Away by the Jayhawks

Willow Creek Community Church in the News

How well do you know your suburbs? Test your knowledge! Which Willow Creek campus is most likely to put on a Handel's Messiah sing along?
  • South Barrington
  • Wheaton
  • McHenry
  • North Shore
What's lost is nothing to what's found, and all the death that ever was, set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup.
-F. Buechner

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Just Saying Howdy

Hey everybody, I'm getting ready for bed and had a sudden desire to stop by the blog and say 'hi.' Not much else to say. Let's see, gotta be something to talk about...

Oh, Steph, Mom and Mark saved an inebriated homeless woman from (almost) certain death yesterday. I did my rotation at Promiseland over the weekend. Dad's gonna start a blog. Willow Creek has been in the news a few times, mostly for not being open on Christmas Sunday (Yikes! Is that one of the signs of the end times?) Saw Walk the Line and thought Howdyaspellit Phoenix was the cutest Johnny Cash EVER. And the movie was great too. And found out Howard Bahr is NOT dead and will be releasing a new novel in July. Thank you LORD!!! That's news worthy of a separate post but not tonight.

ps Big thanks to those of you who have been praying for my Nano. It's doing much better and sends you its love.

pps I saw your little grammatical error Dad, were you doing that to make me feel better or was it karma?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Friday's Random Ten...NANO-FIED!

  1. I Can See For Miles - The Who (Greatest Hits)
  2. World's Apart - Jars of Clay (Furthermore - From the Stage)
  3. Just Going Blind - Vigilantes of Love (Driving the Nails)
  4. Loving a Person - Sara Groves (Add to the Beauty)
  5. Driving the Nails - Vigilantes of Love (Driving the Nails)
  6. Cheating On You - Franz Ferdinand (Franz Ferdinand)
  7. Walking On the Moon - The Police (Every Breath You Take)
  8. Sailing To Philidelphia - Mark Knopfler (Sailing to Philidelphia)
  9. Pulling Mussels - Squeeze (Picadilly Collection)
  10. The River's Gonna Run - Buddy and Julie Miller (Buddy and Julie Miller)

Hmmm, I'm already on my second Nano (click wheel died on the first one) and now the thing is skipping all the time. What the hay?

If I wasn't so annoyed about the skipping I'd be pretty enthusiastic about this list. Driving the Nails (#3 and #5) has got some of the most memorable lyrics in all Malloneedom. (#3 - "I will try not to drown you with what lies behind my kiss/But honey I should warn you, you swim at your own risk" and #5 - "Now ladies and gentleman, I used to be a notorious killer/then I became the world's greatest dancer.") And I can't get enough of The River's Gonna Run (#10). Okay, I'm headed over to the Apple site to see what they have to say for themselves. Peace out.

You Say Yes With Your Fingers Crossed

F. Buechner from Dec 2nd, Listening to Your Life:

It was thousands of years ago and thousands of miles away, but it is a visit that for all our madness and cynicism and indifference and despair we have never quite forgotten. The oxen in their stalls. The smell of hay. The shepherds standing around. That child and that place are somehow the closest of all close encounters, the one we are closest to, the one that brings us closest to something that cannot be told in any other way. This story that faith tells in the fairytale language of faith is not just that God is, which God knows is a lot to swallow in itself much of the time, but that God comes. Comes here. "In great humility." There is nothing much humbler than being born: naked, totally helpless, not much bigger than a loaf of bread. But with righteousness and faithfulness the girdle of his loins. And to us came. For us came. Is it true - not just the way fairytales are true but as the truest of all truths? Almighty God, are you true?

When you are standing up to your neck in darkness, how do you say yes to that question? You say yes, I suppose, the only way faith can ever say it if it is honest with itself. You say yes with your fingers crossed. You say it with your heart in your mouth. Maybe that way we can say yes. He visited us. The world has never been quite the same since. It is still a very dark world, in some ways darker than ever before, but the darkness is different because he keeps getting born into it. The threat of holocaust. The threat of poisoning the earth and sea and air. The threat of our own deaths. The broken marriage. The child in pain. The lost chance. Anyone who has ever known him has known him perhaps better in the dark than anywhere else because it is in the dark where he seems to visit most often.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

AIDS - 93 million dead by 2010

Megachurch Pastors Express Regret

“Willow would be on the list of churches to get it too late,” reflected Hybels. “As I look back, I take full responsibility for this. Our church just celebrated its 30th anniversary last month. I have to live with that. I confess it. I believe it is covered with the cross but it is a mystery to me why I didn’t get it.”
More on AIDS conference.

John Singer Sargent's Fumee D'Ambre Gris

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Darkness is Where We Are

F. Buechner in Listening to Your Life, Dec 1st.
"Give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which thy son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility: that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty, to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal."

All the paradoxical themes of Advent are compressed into that handful of words: Christ coming at Christmas time in great humility and again at the end of time in glorious majesty - Christ coming as a child to save us and as a king to judge us - mortal life, immortal life. They clatter against each other like shutters in the wind with all their points and counterpoints. They all but deafen us with their message at one and the same time of sin and grace, justice and mercy, comfort and challenge. "Cast away the works of darkness," they say, and put on the "armor of light." Maybe those are the words that best sum up the paradox of who we are and where we are. Somewhere between the darkness and the light. That is where we are as Christians. And not just at Advent time, but at all times. Somewhere between the fact of darkness and the hope of light. That is who we are.

"Advent" means "coming" of course, and the promise of Advent is that what is coming is an unimaginable invasion. The mythology of our age has to do with flying suacers and invasions from outer space, and that is unimaginable enough. But what is upon us now is even more so - a close encounter not of the third kind but of a different kind altogether. An invasion of holiness. That is what Advent is about.

What is coming upon the world is the Light of the World. It is Christ. That is the comfort of it. The challenge of it is that it has not come yet. Only the hope for it has come, only the longing for it. In the meantime we are in the dark, and the dark, God knows, is also in us. We watch and wait for a holiness to heal us and hallow us, to liberate us from the dark. Advent is like the hush in a theater just before the curtain rises. It is like the hazy ring around the winter moon that means the coming of snow which will turn the night to silver. Soon. But for the time being, our time, darkness is where we are.

"Disturbing Voices" AIDS Conference Underway

For a great blog report from the conference visit Eric Swanson.

For news coverage check out Google news.

Sketches after Sargent

I have a tendency to accidently chop of the bottoms of the paintings I'm copying. In this one, called Fumee D'Ambre Gris, there's supposed to be an incense burner at the girl's feet.

In the painting, called Carolus-Duran, the subject is seated and bracing his right arm on his right leg. But, once again, I ran out of room. If you think the the hair-do and neck tie are a blast from the past you should have seem the shirt cuffs!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Inside Out has Wrapped Up

I was there for What a Ride (the 15th), Life by Life (the 20th), Chapter 2 (the 25th) but none of those compare to the 30th anniversary celebration, Inside Out. The United Center wouldn't even have fit this party! 30 days of neighborhood service to celebrate 30 years of Willow Creek Community Church. Four major serving blitzes (for each of the four areas around the South Barrington campus) with 347 additional local serving projects.

Last week was Elgin's blitz and we found out today how it went -
  • 700 Elgin area families participated
  • 310 bags of groceries were donated
  • 690 care packages for incarcerated youth were donated

I think everyone has loved this experience and I bet we're going to see a lot more of these things in the future.

So let's go outside, where Jesus is, where the action is - not trying to be privileged insiders, but taking our share in the abuse of Jesus. This "insider world" is not our home. We have our eyes peeled for the City about to come. Let's take our place outside with Jesus, no longer pouring out the sacrificial blood of animals but pouring out sacrificial praises from our lips to God in Jesus' name. Make sure you don't take things for granted and go slack in working for the common good; share what you have with others. God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship - a different kind of "sacrifice" - that take place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets.

-Hebrews 13:13-16 (The Message)

Friday, November 18, 2005

Friday's Random Ten (iTunes version)

  1. You Do All Things Well - Chris Tomlin (arriving)
  2. Undignified/You Alone - David Crowder Band (Can You Hear Us?)
  3. The Bird That I Held in my Hand - T Bone Burnett (T Bone Burnett)
  4. O Evangeline - Emmylou Harris (Stumble Into Grace)
  5. Don't Let It Bring You Down - Annie Lennox (Medusa)
  6. The Long and Winding Road - The Beatles (1)
  7. No Love at All - T Bone Burnett (T Bone Burnett)
  8. Child of the Wind - Bruce Cockburn (Nothing But a Burning Light)
  9. By Your Side - Ben Harper (Fight for your Mind)
  10. Circle of Error - Sixpence None the Richer (This Beautiful Mess).

This list is dedicated to the Nano that has not yet arrived. Come home to me. I love you.

Fibromyalgia in the News

There is a new study out showing that a drug approved for treating Narcolepsy is effective at treating pain and sleeplessness caused by Fibromyalgia. All the recent studies, from the brain studies to the Parkinson drug study and now this, seem to be supporting the new theory that Fibromyalgia is not a rheumatolgical disorder (as it has been treated for years) but actually a nuerological disorder. I hope this shift in thinking will help get the folks in the lab coats more interested in studying, and thus finding the best treatment for, a disease that seriously impacts the quality of life of MILLIONS of Americans.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

An American Priest in Lundwood

What do you get when you mix an American Vicar, a Yorky mining town, a marketing firm and a camera crew? The BBC's new reality tv show, Priest Idol.

Christianity Today has a great interview with James McCaskill about the experience.

And what do you know, Willow even pops up in the conversation:
The filmmakers brought in a marketing firm to help you sell the church to the town. Was this a positive experience?

It really was. The marketers—a firm called Propaganda—were very respectful and sensitive. They brought a fresh perspective from the world. I don't think it was selling out to the world. I think it was a way of learning what is going on in the culture, what does the immediate society want, how do they view church? I don't know the story very well, but I wonder if Bill Hybels used a similar approach when he went knocking on the doors around Willow Creek, asking what folks would like to see in a church. The most positive thing this did was to raise the profile of the parish in the community, to say, "We're here and open and alive."

What would you say to those who argue that the church does not need to market itself?

I would say that we did not take a secular approach and put the label 'Christian' on it and therefore redeem it. What I would say is that we used a tool available in Western society and used it in such a way to produce something that is worthy of the church. For instance, the marketers challenged us to say, "What is special about the Christian faith?" It was a challenge for us to articulate it; in fact, the congregation was not able to articulate it. By taking a sales point of view and asking, "How are you are you going sell this place, if you can't tell people what's great about it?" the marketers weren't asking us to make things up; they were asking us to genuinely examine ourselves. It sounds pathetic that the congregation was not able to articulate those things already—this is our faith we're talking about, after all—but obviously it wasn't happening.

What do you think the airing of Priest Idol can accomplish?

It tells a really positive story about our particular church and about the church in general. That was one of the concerns of the bishop. He thought that if this was a success, it would be a success not just for Lundwood, but for the Christian church in the UK. It shows hope, it shows excitement, it shows people rallying around a church. It shows a church willing to take risks. It raises a lot of issues for churches to think about how, why, and to what extent they can reconnect with their communities.

Sounds like fascinating TV, maybe it will make its way across the big pond some day!

Favorite Things Continued!

Guess what came out today!? We haven't finished it yet, but so far the Electric Co performance and the awesome Chicagoans have already made it better than the Elevation Tour in Boston DVD of a few years ago.

Monday, November 14, 2005

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things!

Brand new NB 658 walking in puffy white clouds!

We'll be there with all the kiddies on Friday!

It's in the mail, and when it arrives the earbuds are going in and staying in!

"Love" -F. Buechner

One of my favorite books is Listening to your Life by Frederick Buechner. It features some of the Buechner's best writings in handy little daily increments.

The entry for November 15th is called "love."

The love for equals is a human thing - of friend for friend, brother for brother. It is to love what is loving and lovely. The world smiles.

The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing - the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world.

The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing - to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man. The world is always bewildered by its saints.

And then there is the love for the enemy - love for the one who does not love you but mocks, thereatens, and inflicts pain. The tortured's love for the torturer. This is God's love. It conquers the world.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Pride and Prejudice cont.

We saw Pride and Prejudice last night and I'm still smiling. With all the glowing reviews out there I hardly need to throw in my two cents, but I will tell you that if you're trying to decide whether to see it now or wait for the DVD, go now! It's not everyday that you can sit in a room with 200 strangers and all sigh and giggle at the same wonderful things. The book, despite its uncomfortable observations of human behavior, makes you feel closer to the rest of the human race, so being able to experience the story with a large group of people is a rare treat.

As for the '95 vs '05 debate...I'd say that this film replaces the '40 version and complements the '95 version and that is good news for all Austen fans!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Friday's Random Ten (on time for once!)

Thanks to my lovely brother-in-law I've got dsl in my room now - this changes EVERYTHING, mu-ha-ha!

  1. It's Alright Doctor - Vigilantes of Love (Driving the Nails)
  2. Bass Player - Justin Dillon Stevens (Hotel Melodramatica)
  3. Listen for the Laughter - Bruce Cockburn (Anything Anytime Anywhere)
  4. The Only One - Caedmon's Call (Long Line of Leavers)
  5. I Will Always - The Cranberries (Everybody Else is Doing It...)
  6. The Tourist - Radiohead (OK Computer)
  7. Fire and Water - Buddy Miller (Universal United House of Prayer)
  8. Here Comes the Night - Van Morrison (Best of...)
  9. Hardstone City - Hothouse Flowers (Home)
  10. Squabs on the Forty Fab - Squeeze (Picadilly Collection)

    Picadilly always reminds me of Lord Peter Wimsey. Did you know that in her very first Wimsey mystery, on the very first page, Sayers describes Peter like this - "His long, amiable face looked as if it had generated spontaneously from his top hat, as white maggots breed from Gorgonzola." Um, what?

Willow Creek Community Church in the News

"I can't imagine losing everything," Zeiss said. "I've been to African refugee camps; (Waveland) had the same kind of feeling."

Monday, November 07, 2005

Pride and Prejudice

So the new Pride and Prejudice movie comes out on Friday. When I first heard about this movie I was outraged. How could someone try to remake Pride and Prejudice while Colin Firth is still alive? I mean, if they wanted him to reprise the roll as a forty year old Darcy I think we'd all be game, but to have some sniveling little Alan-Rickman-wannabe try to fill those shoes just ten years after Firth ... the hubris!

But it's been a couple months since I first received the shocking news, and I've calmed down enough to admit that I'm genuinely curious to see Knightly as Elizabeth (I was never too impressed with Jennifer Ehle's performance) and Judy Dench as Lady Catherine. Plus, I'm always up for a little Jane Austen, no matter what the form.

So far the reviews aren't bad. I hope I can see it this week and I'll let you know what I think.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Twenty Random Things

I've been tagged. Twenty things about moi coming right up...
  1. No amount of cajoling, crying or cursing from my mother could keep me from playing in the Fox River.
  2. I haven't painted in a month and I feel like I'm going nuts.
  3. I had a dream once in which Bono and the Edge were a crime fighting duo and I helped them rescue a kidnapped girl. That was pretty cool.
  4. "Lost the Plot" by the Newsboys always makes me weepy.
  5. I'm peeved that Jane Austen and Dorothy Sayers won't be publishing any more novels.
  6. I believe in ghosts.
  7. If I could learn any new skill, I would learn to play the piano.
  8. I chop off all my hair about once every three years. I can't help it, it's like a law of nature.
  9. Physics is my favorite science. Torque is an awesome word.
  10. Reading is my favorite escape.
  11. I would love to tour civil war battlefields. And someday I will.
  12. I'm tickled pink that I managed to be descended from the likes of Pocahontas and Governor William Bradford.
  13. I hate my Traynor nearsightedness and lisp.
  14. But I hate my Sherman Fibromyalgia even more.
  15. Love the canines and moles, though. Wouldn't trade them for the world.
  16. When I was born the sun was in Cancer, the moon was in Leo, and Virgo was ascending, so that explains it all.
  17. I've delivered many, many kittens.
  18. If I could, I'd eat breakfast three times a day.
  19. I love people, but I love being alone. What's a girl to do?
  20. The move is over. Let the good times roll!

Fridays Random Ten

So I think I beat everybody again for latest entry of Friday's Random Ten. Go me.
  1. Free Falling - Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Greatest Hits)
  2. Little Daughter - T. Bone Burnett (T. Bone Burnett)
  3. Sing - Jars of Clay (Who We Are Instead)
  4. Tempted - Squeeze (Picadilly Collection)
  5. Jacqueline - Franz Ferdinand (Franz Ferdinand)
  6. Home - Hothouse Flowers (Home)
  7. Til The Day I Die - Third Day (Wire)
  8. Tornado - Sara Groves (All Right Here)
  9. All Creatures of Our God and King - David Crowder Band (Can You Hear Us?)
  10. Thing Called Love - John Hiatt (Bring the Family)

One of the bright spots of last week (week of the closing from HELL) was discovering that my old Hothouse Flowers CDs (which look like they've spent a wild night with a brillo pad) play in my desktop's disc player. So I got all nostalgic loading them into the computer and pulled out a box of old CD's to see what other treasures lay forgotten in the closet. Stroke 9? Eve 6? Creed? Savage Garden? What the....!?

It was like listening to old mix tapes - that's always a revelation.

No Vigilantes on this list...otherwise it's pretty good. I love John Hiatt...Jars of Clay's Who We Are Instead is their best since the debut... "Home" is perfect for those blue days.
Now my spinning head is slowly slowing down
At least my lonely bed is in my favourite town

I guess that would be Elgin. We do have have a kick ass library (currenlty filled to overflowing with plaster dinosaurs.) I checked out some John Hiatt, Steve Earle, Buddy Miller, and Sufjan Stevens CDs today. And bought a used copy of Presumption of Death.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Bono in Rolling Stone Magazine

If you're a U2 fan you gotta get yourself a copy of the new Rolling Stone. Here's a little taste:
Rolling Stone: What is your religious belief today? What is your concept of God?
Bono: If I could put it simply, I would say that I believe there's a force of love and logic in the world, a force of love and logic behind the universe. And I believe in the poetic genius of a creator who would choose to express such unfathomable power as a child born in "straw poverty"; i.e., the story of Christ makes sense to me.
Rolling Stone: How does it make sense?
Bono: As an artist, I see the poetry of it. It's so brilliant. That this scale of creation, and the unfathomable universe, should describe itself in such vulnerability, as a child. That is mind-blowing to me. I guess that would make me a Christian. Although I don't use the label, because it is so very hard to live up to. I feel like I'm the worst example of it, so I just kinda keep my mouth shut.
Rolling Stone: Do you pray or have any religious practices?
Bono: I try to take time out of every day, in prayer and meditation. I feel as at home in a Catholic cathedral as in a revival tent. I also have enormous respect for my friends who are atheists, most of whom are, and the courage it takes not to believe.
Rolling Stone: How big an influence is the Bible on your songwriting? How much do you draw on its imagery, its ideas?
Bono: It sustains me.
Rolling Stone: As a belief, or as a literary thing?
Bono: As a belief. These are hard subjects to talk about because you can sound like such a dickhead. I'm the sort of character who's got to have an anchor. I want to be around immovable objects. I want to build my house on a rock, because even if the waters are not high around the house, I'm going to bring back a storm. I have that in me. So it's sort of underpinning for me. I don't read it as a historical book. I don't read it as, "Well, that's good advice." I let it speak to me in other ways. They call it the rhema. It's a hard word to translate from Greek, but it sort of means it changes in the moment you're in. It seems to do that for me.

Ain't that the truth? I heard Kierkegaard used to sleep with a copy of Job in his bed. I love that image, and it kinda makes sense to me.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Cathleen Falsani of the Sun-Times interviews Bill Hybels - Willow Creek Community Church in the News

The Chicago Sun-Times ran a two part interview with Bill Hybels this weekend.

Here's a bit for your reading pleasure:

Q. Did you imagine that Willow Creek would be what it is today?

A. "Truthfully, we were seven days away from extinction every week for
five years. There were so many times when we said, "Well, this is probably going
to be the last service we're ever going to be able to do." So in terms of having
grandiose thoughts of how this would develop, it was blocking and tackling and
trying to survive week after week after week.

Virtually every day that I drive on our campus I think, "Who would have ever thought?"

Q. Is today's most pressing spiritual need the same as it was 30 years ago?

A. No. Thirty years ago, we argued about what was true. Was there physical evidence for the resurrection of Christ? Or whether or not there was reason to believe the Bible is a valid truth source --there was arguing about what is true. These days people seem to be asking, what's real? What's powerful in my life? What will work? Because the alternatives to religion are getting exposed for what they
really are, which is certainly less than the real thing.

There's an escalating hunger for that which is real and powerful and transforming.

Q. So the search has shifted from the head to the heart?

A. Absolutely. I am so convinced of the biblical truth of Christianity,
and convinced of its power, that when people feel its power, they will
eventually be convinced of its truth. So, I really don't spend any sleepless
nights wondering if someone powerfully touched by Jesus Christ is going to wind
up with their head on straight about the absolute truths associated with it. I
believe they will.

Twenty-five years ago or so -- in that era, when Easter came around . . . people came [to church] and said, "Do you expect me to believe that a 33-year-old carpenter who was killed came back to life? Persuade me. Convince me. Show me your evidence." And if I delivered on that, hundreds of people were affected enough to continue to investigate Christianity.

Now people come on Easter Sunday and they're hoping against hope that something will touch them deeply, and they're wide open to whatever it is. They're just hoping
this [world] is not all there is. Because if this is all there is, then that
just leads to despair.

Q: Will Willow Creek alter its aesthetic to appeal to a new generation of seekers, like the coffee-house-style worship services with candles and couches that are growing in popularity?

A: "I have seen so many . . . variations, flavors or styles of gathering places. I was in a church recently filled with people in their 20s and it was wooden pews and
stained glass, and they thought it was retro and cool. Thirty years ago, we were
in a movie theater and thought it was so cool because we were finally delivered
from the horrors of stained glass and wooden pews.

"So I see churches these days in bowling alleys, in warehouses, in storefronts, in aging cathedrals that were given to them for a dollar lease. More than anything, people want the reality of the discussion at hand. If what is going on in that building is the real thing, if the transforming love and power of Jesus Christ is being experienced, you can sit on a metal folding chair or in a plush theater seat.

"The real deal is always going to win in the end."

There's also a side bar on Mars Hill and the Emergent movement, some stuff about AIDS and activism, and Bill's reflections on cultural relevance in churches yesterday and today.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

"Sharing Faith Closer to Home" - Willow Creek Community Church in the News

The Chicago Tribune has this great article about the McHenry site and Willow's recent emphasis on neighborhood ministry.
Long famous for the orange-vested traffic guides ushering thousands into its parking lot on Sundays, Willow Creek celebrates its 30th anniversary this weekend with a new focus on local--smaller--services and neighborhood volunteer projects.

The emphasis marks a shift for a church that a decade ago rented the United Center for an anniversary celebration and last year expanded its auditorium to seat 7,200.

Church leaders say the approach still reflects its original goal of making Christianity relevant and attractive to the unchurched.

Willow Creek's research on the needs of Generation X showed that young people aren't content to simply sit back and watch the live music, drama and high-tech services that put the church on the map.

"There's a desire to experience religion rather than sit and listen," said Sue Dunn, one of a dozen community pastors. "The new generation coming up wants to experience the service, stand up, sing, communicate--which means being in the neighborhood."

A Story of Two Churches

That WCA church's anniversary celebration that Bill spoke at is the topic of A Story of Two Churches over at the very interesting Church Marketing Sucks.

Friday's Random Ten

  1. La Cienega Just Smiled - Ryan Adams (Gold)
  2. No Surprises - Radiohead (OK Computer)
  3. Mistake of My Life - Caedmon's Call (Long Line of Leavers)
  4. Look Away - Big Country (Best of...)
  5. Not Sorry - The Cranberries (Everybody Else is Doing It, So Why Can't We?)
  6. Healed - Nicole Nordeman (Woven and Spun)
  7. Chameleon Me - Bill Mallonee (Dear Life)
  8. All Bow Down - Chris Tomlin (Arriving)
  9. Cleaning Windows - Van Morrison (Best of...)
  10. Junkie Doll - Mark Knopfler (Sailing to Philidelphia)

Most Beautiful Song - #6
Best Workin' Song - #9

Nice Girls Don't Change the World

The Chicago Sun-Times has a review of Lynne Hybels' book, Nice Girls Don't Change the World. I think it's supposed to be available through Zondervan soon, but until then you can get it at the WCA site.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Happy Anniversary

I don't care what Slate says, I think it's beautiful.

Willow Creek Community Church is 30 years old this month! Thirty years ago the term Megachurch didn't exist, and now it's the subject of jeopardy questions and Daily Show reports;

[one megachurch] "begins in Georgia, goes up through the Carolinas and then just
touches on Eastern Kentucky. It's huge, Jon, towers of glass and steel,
thousands of seats, a food court. It even has its own red-light district."
Apart from the jokes and the controversy, Willow is home. I'm so grateful for all the memories, the relationships, and for all the men and women who have sacrificed so much to make it happen.

Some anniversary links:
Furr Journey
A WCA church celebrates it's own anniversary
Every Day People Finding God
Inside Out

Feel free to share your favorite memories!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

By this time next week Mom and Dad will be in their new apartment, Steph and Mark will be in their new house, and I'll have three times the space for my "studio."

I can almost see it now - bright overhead lighting, a huge table for workspace, and all my books in one room. Heaven. I plan on painting the walls dark, dark brown, and painting all the trim and furniture a very pale cream. Steph's a little nervous about it, but the room is so big I think it can handle the color.

But first we're going to do new floors in the living room, dining room and master bedroom. And we've got to paint the entire first floor because it's covered in wall paper. I'll try to get pictures of the before and after for the blog.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Katrina Update

The Daily Herald has done a pretty in-depth look at the Willow and Heartland efforts in Waveland, Mississippi.

Friday's Random Ten

This is a no-frills Random Ten this week. We're hoping to get the closing done as early as Friday, so it's work, work, work. Hope y'all are doing well and, fear not, I plan to waste just as much time on blogging as I used to once we get things settled.
  1. Time - T. Bone Burnett (T. Bone Burnett)
  2. Crazy Times - Jars of Clay (Much Afraid)
  3. After All This Dust Settles Down- Bill Mallonee (Dear Life)
  4. Don't Think of Me - Dido (No Angel)
  5. I Dare You to Move - Switchfoot (Learning to Breathe)
  6. Sailing to Philidelphia - Mark Knopfler (Sailing to Philidelphia)
  7. How Great - David Crowder Band (Illuminate)
  8. And It Stoned Me - Van Morrison (Best of...)
  9. Andersonville - Vigilantes of Love (Killing Floor)
  10. Fall On Me - REM (Eponymous)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


I somehow managed to get sick AGAIN! How stupid! So this week has been incredibly unproductive, but I did get a couple of sketches done. The little boy picking out a pumpkin with grandma is from Better Homes and Gardens and the little girl is a variation on a picture in an old O magazine.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Friday's Random Ten

  1. Coldest Night of the Year - Bruce Cockburn (Anything, Anytime, Anywhere)
  2. Sweet Work of Love - Lost Dogs (Green Room Serenade)
  3. Twisted Logic - Coldplay (X&Y)
  4. Glory and the Dream - Vigilantes of Love (V.O.L.)
  5. Heartland - U2 (Rattle and Hum)
  6. Wonder - Natalie Merchant (Tigerlily)
  7. Erosion - Switchfoot (Learning to Breathe)
  8. People Lead - Ben Harper (Fight for your Mind)
  9. Never Loved You More - Nicole Nordeman (Woven and Spun)
  10. On to Bethlehem - Vigilantes of Love (Cross the Big Pond)

Best Album to Sleep To - X&Y. On Best Week Ever one guy said to the other guy "I'm gonna get that new coldplay album," and the other guy said "why, you havin' trouble sleeping?" Don't get me wrong, it's a great album, but especially great for sleeping to.

Hardest to Find - Cross the Big Pond You'd have to pay almost $50 to get this one at Amazon!

Friday, September 30, 2005

survey says

Snagged this survey from Drew's blog.

10 years ago I was:
...reading Pride and Prejudice for the first of many times and trying to adapt to Dundee Crown High School with no Crystal.

5 years ago I was:
...sharing a tiny little apartment above Francesca's Campagne with Steph and Gracey. Our kitchen consisted of a fridge, sink and hotplate, and we shared a bathroom with our recently parolled neighbor, Billy.

1 year ago I was:
...painting my head off and eagerly awaiting the birth of my nephew, Malachy.

Yesterday I:
...babysat Malachy, went insane from Diet Coke withdrawl, watched Survivor, spackled in the living room, went to bed. Welcome to my exciting life.

5 songs I know all the words to:

  1. Odious - Viglantes of Love
  2. Take me to Your Leader - Newsboys
  3. Strike While the Iron is Hot - Vigilantes of Love
  4. A Sort of Homecoming - u2
  5. Solar System - Vigilantes of Love

5 things I would do with 100 million dollars:

  1. Move the heck south!
  2. Pay off family's debt (boring and obvious, I know.)
  3. Start a llama farm.
  4. Study art.
  5. Build myself a decent studio.

5 places I would run away to:

  1. Arizona
  2. Texas
  3. New Mexico
  4. Ireland
  5. England

5 things I would never wear:

  1. Stiletto heels
  2. Suspenders
  3. Cone bra
  4. Fake rolex
  5. Assless pants

5 favorite TV shows:

  1. X-Files
  2. Lost
  3. Survivor
  4. Futurama
  5. Felicity

5 bad habits:

  1. Brushing my teeth in the shower (I've been told it's a gross thing to do.)
  2. Chewing on my lip.
  3. Falling asleep with my glasses on.
  4. Not putting CDs back in the right cases.
  5. Driving with the heat on and the windows down.

5 biggest joys:

  1. Malachy's birth on October 21st, 2005.
  2. All the kitties I've known (and some of the dogs too.)
  3. Calvin College
  4. Painting
  5. God

5 fictional characters I would date:

  1. Peter Wimsey (Can a skinny, rabbit faced, middle aged man with a penchant for bubble baths and silk pajamas be sexy? If he's rich and funny, heck yeah!)
  2. Gawain Harper (Gentle and introspective, the kind of guy you could sit with for hours and not have to say a word.)
  3. Will Hewitt (Leave it to former romance novelist P.B. Ryan to create such an endearing bad boy.)
  4. Noel Crane (Poor, poor Noel. The sweetest guy in the history of all WB television.)
  5. Fox Mulder (Probably not god boyfriend material, but those soulful eyes!)

from the sketch book

I'm getting the house ready for Steph and Mark to move in and haven't had much time for painting, but here are a couple from the sketchbook.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

25 Ways U2 Changed the World

Thunderstruck never ceases to delight me. In addition to a link to the new Franz Ferdinand album (it sounds great) they've linked to this little gem of an article.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Five Cleaning Products I'm Currently Loving

I've been tagged in Is that what their called? Anyway, here's what it says to do:
THE RULES: List five songs that you are currently loving. It doesn't matter what genre they are from, whether they have words, or even if they're any good, but they must be songs you're really enjoying right now. Post these instructions, the artists, and the songs in your blog. Then tag five other friends to see what they're listening to.

At any other time I might kinda dig this, but right now I'm busting my butt to get the house ready for the move, and music hasn't really been on my mind. So instead I'm gonna substitute "songs" with "cleaning products." Here goes...

  1. Magic Eraser by Mr. Clean
  2. Pine Sol by Clorox
  3. Orange Glo by Oxi Clean
  4. Febreeze by Proctor & Gamble
  5. Grab It by Pledge

Okay, now your turn. I tag Crystal, Sara, Steph, Lauren and Clint.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Friday's Random Ten

  1. Subtarranean Homesick Alien - Radiohead (OK Computer)
  2. Take Me Out - Franz Ferdinand (Franz Ferdinand)
  3. Downtown Lights - Annie Lennox (Medusa)
  4. How it is Between Us - Sara Groves (Conversations)
  5. Kit Carson - Bruce Cockburn (Nothing But a Burning Light)
  6. Lonestar - Norah Jones (Come Away With Me)
  7. I Can Wait - Steve Earle (Transcendental Blues)
  8. Sick of it All - Vigilantes of Love (Killing Floor)
  9. Climb On - Caedmon's Call (40 Acres)
  10. Full Force Gale - Van Morrison (The Best of..)
  • Best Song to Paint To - #1, Subtarranean Homesick Alien (When I was at Calvin I didn't take any art classes, but I did clean the bathrooms in the art department five days a week, and this album was ALWAYS playing down there, so I know I'm not the only one that feels this way.)
  • Song That is So Good it Makes You Drool - Take Me Out (Mark your calendars, new Franz Ferdinand coming out Oct. 4th!)
  • Best Album - Killing Floor (Motel Room, Earth Has No Sorrow, Strike While The Iron is Hot, River of head's gonna splode just thinking about how awesome that album is!)
  • Artist Who Talks Like My Sister Val - Sara Groves. Minnesota accents are so cute!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Katrina Update

The Hurricane Katrina: A Call to Action is being updated all the time. There is some useful information and some interesting things under "stories" (including a heart wrenching letter from a New Orleans book seller and fund raising announcement from Ben Greeno of Alive and Redwalls fame.)

Piper's Kids III

Piper had a very unpleasant visit to the vet's yesterday so, to make her feel better, I'm posting some new pictures of her babies.

This one is Tutters. He lives in St. Louis with Meghan.

He apparently enjoys destroying things. He has that in common with Piper.

This is Shadow who lives here in IL with Teresa and Stephen.

This is Whisper who lives with Teresa's parents. Whisper is Piper's Grandbaby. Beautiful eyes!

Thanks for being such a good mama and a good kitty, Piper. We love you!