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