Thursday, August 29, 2013

Book #7 - Mere Christianity

I'll be honest, CS Lewis is one of my absolute favorite authors; but before this year, I had never read what many people consider to be his best book. My friend Daniel gave me this book a few years ago, and I never got the chance to read it. I made sure that I added it to my list of 30 books to read before my 30th birthday, because I wanted to read one of the pinnacles of 20th century Christian literature.

Before I talk about the book, I'd like to mention something. I have tons and tons and tons of respect and love for teachers. I originally went to college to be a math teacher. With that said, my favorite teacher through 13 years of non-college schooling was my 4th grade teacher. Mr. Kirker started reading The Chronicles of Narnia to us right at the beginning of school. We read through the entire series together. I still have that original set of those books, as you can notice, with our kitty, "Lucy the Valiant."

Once I became a Christian, I already knew of CS Lewis since I was such a fan of the Chronicles of Narnia. I ended up taking a long while to read through Mere Christianity just because of everything happening in our personal lives. We moved and I had a lot going on in the job front.

That said, it was an absolutely fantastic book and I'm so happy to have read it. Lewis basically runs through a logical explanation of Christianity starting with the basic premise that there is a moral code that exists apart from individual and even cultural bias. He calls it "The Law of Human Nature."

At any rate, I heartily recommend this book for anyone. It's a very manageable entry into the thoughts behind Christian principles.

One of my favorite passages, from later in the book has Lewis' thoughts on marriage from a Christian perspective:

"Before leaving the question of divorce, I should like to distinguish two things which are often very confused. The Christian conception of marriage is one: the other us quite the different question-how far Christians, if they are voters of Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them in the divorce laws. A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for every one. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the Mohammedans tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine. My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognise that the majority of the British people are not Christians, and therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not."

Have you read it? What were your thoughts?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


At the end of August, every year, is a holiday of sorts for gamers and football fans. The new edition of Madden comes out, and people celebrate by playing the new version non-stop.

I actually started playing Madden in 1994 on the Sega Genesis. My little brother and I would play. He would constantly run backwards when he got the ball so that I could win. I genuinely don't think we ever finished a single game. We'd get frustrated and/or bored with the game and just turn the Sega off. It wasn't until about 5 years later that I actually started to play the game and really enjoy it. I'd always pick the Dolphins and lead them to the Super Bowl because I couldn't play on a higher difficulty than "Easy" without getting my butt kicked. I'd run the score up to 70 or 80 to 0 and just stomp on teams. It sure was fun.

My fondest Madden memories come from the year I worked at UPS. My best friend Marc and I would come home from working in the early early mornings and run simulations of Madden. We simulated a 30-year dynasty without playing a single game. We wrote all of our team's stats down in books/binders. We used complete randomness to choose teams, so I had the Dallas Cowboys. I ended up leading them to 5 different Super Bowl titles. Marc started with the Broncos (I think), but they actually ended up as the Boston Flags... don't ask.

I still have the binder with 30 years worth of stats from the AMFL (Alex-Marc Football League). It always makes me laugh.

So, in honor of Madden 25 coming out today, I'm starting a new dynasty! But, I'm too cheap to buy the new Madden, so I'll be playing on Madden '11.

I did a Fantasy Draft with the Miami Dolphins and I ended up with an amazing offense. Here are the highlights of the roster:

Quarterback - Aaron Rodgers
Wide Receivers - Calvin Johnson, Percy Harvin
Running Back - Ray Rice

That's pretty much the cream of the crop on the roster as far as skill positions go. I drafted a great offense at the expense of a great defense. It is what it is.

In light of the long intro, the recap for Week 1 will be shorter than what I'll do from here on out.

Week 1
Dolphins @ Bills

It was a back and forth game, Aaron Rodgers actually threw 2 interceptions along with one TD to Calvin Johnson. Shayne Graham added 2 FGs, including a 51 yarder.

The Bills missed a late field goal attempt (WIDE RIGHT!) that would've tied the game and the Dolphins were able to come away with a 13-10 win to start the season.

Week 2 will see the Dolphins travel to Minnesota to face Ben Roethlisberger, Knowshon Moreno and the rest of the Vikings!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Showing love...

One of the most awesome things about the church where I'm ministering is that we do a Wednesday night outreach ministry. Our community has a lot of needs, and one of those is food. So, every Wednesday night we prepare a meal for the people of our neighborhood.

Last night, they came in droves! In the youth ministry alone we had 40 people (about 10 more than usual). Counting everyone, I think we had 100 people in our outreach program.

It was also the first day of school, which meant that every single student was totally wired. I knew it was going to be a rough night, I knew they'd be quite antsy and, being honest, even on their best day, they're not the best group of listeners in the world.

Last night was rough.

I spent more than half of my time just quietly waiting for the students to be quiet enough that I could speak. I threw about half of my plan out the window since I spent so much time quietly standing there.

The children's group didn't fare any better.

The ladies who prepare the food were down as well. Everyone was quite defeated. This morning, I stumbled upon a quote from someone I've connected very minimally with through facebook. Brannon said:

"I'm glad our fumbling attempts to be instruments of grace don't impede God's redemptive work."

He wasn't really speaking about my issue, he was talking about serving the Eucharist, but his words spoke deep to my heart.

Even on our bad nights, God is still doing a redemptive work through us. May we continue to believe in His power, even when we feel weak.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Book #6 - The Shame and the Sacrifice

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of those characters in history that I wanted to read more about. I'll be honest, biographies are generally my least favorite genre of book to read. The problem isn't the historical significance, it's the inane amount of fluff that seems to be present in them. It took a while to get through this because there was a lot of fluff that I found to be uninteresting, and therefore picking the book up to read it was a chore at times.

It didn't help that this reading fell over the job transition into Hillside, so it was a pretty busy time in my life.

Anyway, this biography on Bonhoeffer was full of the fluff that I find frivolous, but it did have some definite gems and some major points to make about the way Christians reacted and were treated in the growth of the Nazi movement throughout Germany.

The insight into the German psyche following World War I helps a reader who is 70 years removed from the Second World War to understand a little more of how it was possible that a man like Hitler ever came into such a dangerously powerful role. As I read this, I remembered learning some of it in high school history.

But the impact on the church was relatively impactful for me, since the church is my vocational setting and primary concern when reading a book like this.

How did the Christians of Germany allow themselves to get so taken by the horrible Nazi movement? How did they so quickly and easily lose sight of Christ, the Prince of Peace?

One word. Nationalism.

There are some incredible parallels to be made between the German church of the 1920's and 30's along with the American church of the early 2000's. I'm afraid the nationalistic tendencies are running rather deep here, too, with many "American Christians" identifying first as Americans then as Christians, similar to their German predecessors.

We should all be quick, I think, to learn a lesson from these German Christians and understand that our Kingdom is not of this world. We are dual citizens, but our primary citizenship is in Heaven and because of this, we should allow heavenly thought to impact each of our decisions, regardless of our American citizenship.

I feel obligated to make a clear point of what I am not saying. I'm not suggesting that we burn our flags. I'm not suggesting that we move to another country. I'm not suggesting that America sucks. I'm not suggesting that Christians shouldn't feel blessed to have a freedom of worship guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.

It is most assuredly a blessing to live in America, but it's a far greater blessing to be a citizen of Heaven. Let us never lose sight of that.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Farmer Alex?

A little background is necessary to understand the scope of where I'm heading with today's thoughts. I grew up in Columbus, in apartments and rentals. The most formative of those years were spent in apartments where we didn't have room to grow plants or do things like that.

Holly and I recently moved out onto a farm. Full disclosure, we are not operating the farm, it's operated by other people, but we do have a significant amount of land with which to "play." So, I've decided that I want to get some chickens and start a garden.

This week, I've begun the planning phase. It's obviously too late to start planting my garden, but I can definitely start planning on it. Here's the problem, though, I don't know anything about gardening! My thumbs aren't green!

I'm wanting to start composting, but I have no idea where to begin. I've looked up some resources online, but I feel like I'm trying to drink from a fire hose! Anyone have any helpful tips?

The chickens are another thing I'm attempting to learn about. We already have a large chicken house on the property. It hasn't been used for chickens in years (more than 20 years, I think). So, I'm going to work on it to get it ready for the hens, but that's the easy part!

What type of chicken is best for Ohio? I'll be honest, I always thought chickens were chickens, didn't realize there were different types. What are the pros and cons of having a rooster?

So, dear friend, who has some farming experience!? Who wants to dole out some advice? Leave any tips in the comment section!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

REVIEW: Evening: Morning - The Digital Age

I don't consider myself to be nearly "snooty" enough to be a decent music critic. I don't know chords, and I can't really talk about the scientific dynamics of musical theory. I know what I like in music, and I can't always put into words exactly what I like about a certain album.

If you've known me for any length of time, you know I had a major man crush on David Crowder and the entire David Crowder* Band. I practically worshiped at the altar of his discography and I would continue to rank "A Collision" as one of my favorite albums of all time, possibly even my all time favorite over Jesus Freak by dc Talk, which probably just holds more sentimental value for me than anything, but I still love it and am totally willing to rock out to it whenever.

A couple summers ago,  while at NYC in Louisville, KY; my good friend Kevin got a pair of tickets for a meet and greet with the dcb. His wife wasn't feeling well, so she graciously allowed me to take her place, I was as giddy as a school girl to meet David Crowder, and the whole band!

They released their final album not too long after I saw them in Louisville and stopped touring not too long after. I was heartbroken at the loss of my favorite group. David Crowder formed a new band called Crowder. Four of the other guys, including drummer B-Wack, who I'm standing next to in this picture formed a new band called The Digital Age and released an EP called Rehearsals last summer.

Their first full length album came out today. I'll put the cart before the horse and say, it's fantastic!

I expect nothing less than greatness from these guys because they're unbelievable creative and doing things that you don't hear very often in Christian music. The music has a heavy electronic/digital feel (go figure) with some complex drumming by B-Wack.

Captured was released a single a few months ago and starts the album off on a great note, it's a seriously great track (you can find it on youtube here).

They also redid "All the Poor and Powerless" for this album, it was one of my favorite tracks off of Rehearsals.

My favorite tracks, though are "Overcome" and "Believe." Believe is a song rendition of some of our most cherished ancient creedal statements. Overcome is just an out and out awesome song.

All in all, check this album out, it's fantastic!