Sunday, June 30, 2002

Here's a short article from World magazine, profiling John Perkins, a man for whom I have great admiration. The article primarily focuses on a few of the ministries that he has founded. In reality though this only scratches the surface -- as his influence through the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA), which he founded, has had a profound impact on ministries throughout the United States. Perkins is a remarkable figure and a real gift to the church.

Saturday, June 29, 2002


I enjoyed Barlow's customization so here's my own hybrid list...

Name: Chris Smith

Age: 34.

Birthplace: Abington, PA - same as Joel.

Longest Toe: Big toe...I'm no freak!

Number of entries in this "get to know me" list: Way too many.

What I plan to shout at the top of my lungs right as I get off the plane if I ever go to Germany: Heilsgeschichte!!

Number of push-ups I did today: 25

Recurring dream: I'm told that the Indiana High School Athletic Association has discovered that I have about 3 games of high school football eligibility left. I never believe it at first, but am finally persuaded. I move back home, rejoin the team, go to practices and finally get dressed for the game on Friday night. The dream always ends with my coach coming to me right before the starting lineups are announced to tell me that there's been a mistake, I don't have any eligibility left, and therefore, I cannot play.

What I would give $500 for: The opportunity to strap on the helmet and pads again and play middle linebacker for a day. I've got a problem, don't I?!

Have you ever gone skinny dipping? Yep.

One thing I wish I could do: In the words of John Cougar Mellencamp..."play guitar" or in the words of short, rotund, white guys everywhere..."dunk."

Favorite Blog: Often depends on the frequency of posting: Jon, Joel, & Jim are definitely up there.

Favorite movie: Braveheart, Ladyhawke (needs to be reissued with a different soundtrack), The Game, Raising Arizona, What About Bob?

Favorite alcohol: Leinenkugel's Big Butt Beer & Guinness.

Favorite sport to watch: Football. College Football. Purdue Football. Purdue Football when the Boilermakers have a decent team.

Favorite sport to play: Basketball.

Recent Favorite Quote: "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness—all foes to real understanding. Likewise tolerance or broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in our little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime." Mark Twain

Favorite ice cream: It's all good.

Favorite color: Purple - all shades - particularly in nature.

What's your bedtime: Never before 11pm.

Famous person you have met: My best famous person story is that I used to wake up Axl Rose's brother once a week when I was a pledge in my fraternity AND I had a history class in which Axl Rose's dad was one of my classmates. Over the last two years I've had the opportunity to sit and talk with Dick & Lynne Cheney (when campaigning for the White House), I've met John Ashcroft (when he was campaigning for the US Senate), sat in the dugout and talked with Cardinals Skipper Tony LaRussa, and had dinner and attended church with Rams QB Kurt Warner, Brenda & the kids. OK, last encounter, as a 16 year old I waited 30 minutes after a B.B. King concert and got to go back stage and meet him, get his autograph and even eat off of the green room deli tray. Oh, I almost forgot I live next door to Jon Barlow!!!

Do you attend church: You betcha...I even preach sometimes.

Single or attached: Married.

Laser or Ink Jet: I ain't got no money, ink jet.

How many times paddled in school: Twice. First time, told my teacher to "Shut Up" after he called me Christina. Second time, pulled a chair out from under a girl that I liked and she hit her head on the desk behind her...then I denied doing it.

What would you like to change about your pre-resurrection body: Wish I didn't have washboard abs.

What haven't you done for awhile: Snorted jello squares or flossed my nasal cavity with a spaghetti noodle.

How far do you have pi memorized: 3.14

Two Favorite Seinfeld Episodes: 1) Low Talker/Puffy Shirt/Hand model, 2) Mentor/Frank Costanza cooks for Jewish Singles Event.

Baseline or Serve and Volley: Serve and Volley

Favorite Book: Calvin's Institutes aren't too shabby!

Favorite Book You've Never Heard Of: Robert Lupton's Return Flight: Community Development Through Reneighborhing Our Cities.

Book that looks really good on my shelf that I hope doesn't let me down: Frank Senn's The Witness of the Worshiping Community: Liturgy and the Practice of Evangelism.

Favorite Comedian: Heywood Banks.

Crime: In 5th grade I snagged "The Cross and the Switchblade" and "Kids Say the Darndest Things"

Best time in the 400: 52.19

What I did after every 400 I ever ran: Puked like a champ, even when I wasn't one.

Boxers or Briefs: Boxers

Favorite Guitar Solos: Jeff Beck's instrumental "Cause We've Ended as Lovers", Boston - "Hitch a Ride", Stevie Ray Vaughn - all of 'em.

Can you balance a Redox Equation: Uh, yeah...right.

Height: 5'9"

Weight: 220 lbs

Words missed in Spelling Bees: 4th grade - aisle (isle); 5th grade - committee (commitee); 6th grade - won on "assent"; 8th grade - tension (tention, I was thinking of de-tention, which I had just received that day.

Progeny? Yes, three.

Thursday, June 27, 2002

Here's a really wild veggie tale. A group of British researchers believes that they may have demonstrated that the nutrients that come from eating your vegetables could significantly reduce criminal and antisocial behavior. That's why Mom always made you eat your make you behave!!

I preached from Mark 10:35-45 a few weeks ago and ever since I've been wondering if Jesus' statement to the brothers, James & John, in Mark 10:39, "You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with..." can be taken sacramentally a la John 6:53, 56 (supper) and Colossians 2:12 (baptism). In other words, could part of what Jesus is saying to the brothers be, "in order to have a part in me, you will indeed have to be united to me -- to my death in baptism, to my life-giving flesh in the Lords' Supper." I'm not necessarily denying that Jesus had in mind here the baptism and cup of suffering that James (put to death by the sword) and John (died in exile b/c of his faith), like Jesus, would drink, but I'm wondering if the sacramental connection is possible and even warranted. Any thoughts?

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

We had a surprise visit from Mark and Jennifer and their kids tonight. They were in town on the way home from the PCA's General Assembly and stopped in to see us for a moment. We spent thirty minutes or so catching up and letting our kids play together. It was a real treat to see them again.

One tremendous advantage to getting older and fatter is that I'm getting better value for each push-up.

Sunday, June 23, 2002

Mom's most valuable laundry tip -- when you don't have the time or desire to iron, throw the wrinkled item in the dryer along with a damp towel or washcloth. Five to ten minutes later most wrinkled garments will be presentable.

Friday, June 21, 2002

Another quote from the goat-spider transgenic article:

Four hundred million years ago, he begins excitedly, spiders were doing just fine as ground hunters until one day bugs started flying. ''The spider's evolution comes out of a kind of arms race between spiders and bugs. The bugs start flying to get away from the spiders, so the spiders have to come up with a new weapon.'' Most spider species died out, but a few developed a new talent, namely, spinning webs. The silk had to both be invisible to a bug's vision and virtually indestructible. Only spiders capable of making superfine, powerful silk survived -- a perfect example of evolutionary pressure.

Now, I'm no scientist, and I really would like to be corrected or enlightened if my thinking is muddled or uninformed here, but this seems to be a preposterous idea. Spider species were dying out because recently evolved flying bugs were dominating so, "a few (spiders) developed a new talent, namely, spinning webs...(o)nly spiders capable of making superfine, powerful silk survived -- a perfect example of evolutionary pressure."

Just how did these spiders develop this new talent for spinning webs? Were there spider scientists who developed transgenic methods of their own? Pretty amazing, considering that 21st century human scientists developing a goat silk product called BioSteel still haven't been able to reproduce the complexity of arachnid silk.

Or maybe the spiders "developed this new talent" by just trying really, really hard. Kind of like Wilbur in Charlotte's Web when he tries to spin a web like his newfound spider friend. Maybe if we grunt and squeeze real hard we can develop new talents on the order of a complex biological web spinning apparatus. If those goats that these scientists are working with to produce goat silk were just motivated by some advanced flying goats, maybe they, too, would develop a new talent like spinning webs.

We're not talking about the fastest animals surviving because they're the fittest, we're talking about creatures intentionally and radically altering their own biological make-up, just because they "needed" to develop a new talent to compete with flying bugs. Hogwash!!

As soon as I walk into the humid goat shed in my Tyvex suit and sterilized boots, a dozen Nubians run up to the fence and begin sniffing at me, their Roman noses dilated with fervent curiosity. ''They're a little frisky,'' a technician explains, shooing them back toward their playpen toys. ''It's artificial insemination time, you know.''

So begins a fascinating article on transgenics. Through genetic manipulation, goats, for instance, will be spinning silk along with giving milk. Not just as sideshow spider goats, though -- firms like Nexia Biotechnologies plan to use goat silk to produce stronger fishing lines, strings for tennis rackets, maybe even body armor, as in a vest that would only be slightly thicker than nylon, but would stop a bullet. Free registration is required to access the NY Times site.

Link via Breakpoint's Elsewhere on the Web by Kim Robbins

Monday, June 17, 2002

Here's a fascinating article that reports on the scientific advances that may eventually allow for the recovery of sight for the blind. We spent part of the afternoon with a good friend ours who is blind, how I would love for him to be able to benefit from these technologies.

Link via Breakpoint's Elsewhere on the Web by Kim Robbins

My six year old has started losing her baby teeth, and when she lost her first one, we told her that she might get a visit from the tooth fairy. She looked at us and rolled her eyes slightly, saying, "I know you guys are the tooth fairy, Mom & Dad." About thirty minutes later, in an unrelated conversation, my four year old, who had obviously been puzzling over the "Mom & Dad are the tooth fairy" thing, said, "Mommy how do you guys fly into our room? Do you have outifits with little wings?" My wife, who, as a mother of three youngins, had probably performed about 578 tasks since the previous tooth fairy conversation, had about a five second pause as she tried to make sense of the question, then burst into laughter and finally tried to regain composure to explain that Mommy & Daddy didn't actually dress up as tooth fairies and fly into their room at night, but that we simply walked in "in our jammies" and made the switch whiel they were sleeping.

My four year old is preparing to publish a new scientific hypothesis regarding lightning bugs. When looking at a jar full of lightning bugs that we had captured, none of which were lighting up, she said:

Maybe they need air in their tails to make the magic come out.

Thursday, June 13, 2002

Here's a much needed perspective on formality vs. informality in worship. Doug Wilson writes:

Americans are a breezy lot; we like to go casual. Whether we are flipping burgers in the back yard or approaching the throne of the Almighty, we want to wear shorts and flipflops. The problem is nearly universal; the only thing that varies from church to church is the extent of the damage.

Wilson skewers errors on both sides of the fence:

Either we are right out there on the cutting edge with worship teams, a thumpin' band and all the rest of it, or we are content with our lazy afternoon orthodusty.

You ought to read the whole article, and here's one more quote to get you to go do so:

Like our word solemn, solempne represents the opposite of casual, but unlike solemn, it carries no connotations of austerity, moroseness, or gloom. We moderns have come to associate spontaneity with innocence and virtue, fresh and unsullied...But solempne is out of reach because we simply assume that formality is dead...Too often we act as though our differences over liturgy were simply differences over decoration, instead of differences over effective strategy in the midst of a fearful war.

Hopefully, like a good movie trailer, I've enticed you to go see for yourself the whole cotton pickin' thing without giving away the very best parts and leaving you with disappointing leftovers.

Below I quoted Rev. Randy Nabors from his address at the 1992 Church and Welfare Symposium. Nabors closed his address with a number of recommendations for addressing poverty by aiming at systemic solutions that would help to alleviate poverty and visit mercy on those suffering in it. Among his proposed recommendations, I found these particularly interesting (remember this is four years before the 1996 Welfare Reform Act):

* Radical policies for breaking up the "reservationing" of poor people.
* Voucher system for education.
* Uniforms for inner city school children.
* Enterprise zones.
* Welfare that has a death plan -- that is death to welfare.
* Churches make it a priority to get all of their members off of the welfare rolls.
* Encourage church members to protect their own capitalization by making sure they have an inheritance, ownership of property.

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Rev. Randy Nabors speaking at the 1992 Church and Welfare Symposium in an address entitled The Role of the Family, the Church & the State in Welfare, says the following about the criminal culture which thrives in poor inner-city neighborhoods like the one I work in:

A criminal culture subverts children from the values of their parents and endorses laziness, selfishness, exploitation, and hinders communities or families from being able to respond the needs of their own members.

Here we have what seems to be a circular problem. Poverty's often brought about in our country by teenage girls becoming pregnant out of marriage. Their children are most prone to be poor. When their children live in a context of an area of many fatherless children, their value system is disproportionately effected by the inadequate value system of their peer group. This in turn creates an environment of need -- emotional needs of instant gratification, the faddishness of adolescence, the rage of hormonal changes and sexual urges. A community made up of people with little impulse control helps to create a criminal environment.

Well put and tragically right on target.

At the wedding feast in Cana, Jesus took 180 gallons of water and turned them into wine. So it seems a little strange and curious that if he did this on Church of Scotland premises today, he would be asked to take it outside.

This quote from Rev. Alan Sorenson is lifted from an article about the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland's dealing with a 1969 recommendation that alcohol not be served on Kirk properties. There was a resolution from Mr. Sorenson to overturn the recommendation, but it was soundly defeated. For many, however, the resolution clarified that the Church of Scotland didn't ban alcohol on the Kirk premises, but merely advised against drinking on Kirk grounds. I like Mr. Sorenson's reasoning in the quote above and I think he's right on target. His reaction to the resolution's defeat was:

I showed that there was no law against drinking on church premises, it's simply a recommendation. Now I'm going to go and tell the members of my congregation the good news that if they want to have a tipple in the church it has been approved by the assembly.

link via Razormouth

Monday, June 10, 2002

For the first time in nearly three months, I got up this morning and ran. On March 16th I ran the St. Patrick's Day 5 miler here in St. Louis, and tore my feet up. I felt great during the race, but I could barely walk for the next week and a half. I suspected that the problem was with my "cheapest pair of Shoe Carnival Nikes I could find" running shoes. So I visited the Running Center, a place that caters exclusively to runners. I wore my "race shoes" into the store and showed them to the salesperson explaining that I had seriously injured my feet and wondered if I needed a different pair of shoes.

You ran in these?!
How long have you had these?
Oh, about five years.
Have you used them exclusively for running?, I wear them all over the place, to the zoo, playing tennis, hiking...everywhere.

That conversation was mostly sufficient to diagnose the problem. I ended up with a $70 pair of Adidas (twice what I paid for my Shoe Carnival Nikes), but I think I'd have paid $170 to keep from tearing up my feet like I did in March.

Anyway, I ran two miles, and though I felt fine physically, the run was grueling mentally. Thirty seconds into the run I wanted to quit, and several times more over the next twenty minutes...but I hung in there. The pace wasn't brisk by any means (M1-9:25, M2-9:33), but was better than I expected. As always, pushing through the mental barriers and completing the run always beats having to walk home, defeated, having been conquered by whatever was ailing me.

I really don't like to run, but it's the cheapest and quickest form of exercise for me right now. I do it because it's good for me. And I have to admit it felt good to get over the hump and get back out there again.

Friday, June 07, 2002

Clergy are thus fated to be nice. We hope that nobody will get hurt doing that. Of course, few may get saved either. Nobody will get to be a saint.

William Willimon contends that the above will be the result if pastors focus more on being real persons and less on being pastors . Willimon's writing is always provocative and grows as much out of real world pastoral ministry (he's the chaplain at Duke University) as out of academic theological reflection. The thrust of Willimon's article, entitled, "Why a Pastor Should Not be a 'Person'" is nicely summed up here:

The notion that we are most fully ourselves, most fully ethical, when we have freed ourselves from the demands of Scripture, tradition, and church merely demonstrates the power of the socially-sanctioned story that holds us captive. As George Lindbeck has shown, we are all liberals. That is, the individual is the basic unit of reality, the sole center of our meaning. We are all children of modernity, that story which holds that each of us has a right, a duty, to be free of all stories save the ones we have individually chosen. We all live under the modern presupposition that none of us should be held to commitments we have not freely chosen. Our morality has thus made freedom of choice an absolute necessity, for we believe that we have no destiny other than that which we personally choose.

If I explain my actions on the basis of tradition, community standards, my parents' beliefs, Scripture, I have obviously not decided for myself, have not been true to myself, have not rebelled against the external imposition of a role, so I have not been moral, I am less than a person.

The irony is that we have merely exchanged narrative masters. We jettison the older, traditional story that it is my duty as an ordained leader of the church to bear the church's tradition before the congregation for a more socially acceptable one-my duty is to my individual feelings and standards in order to free my parishioners to be dutiful to their individual feelings and standards.

Willimon rightly exalts the role of the pastor, while being well aware of the frailty of those who fill that office. He recognizes for instance the huge potential for the abuse of power that has been the pitfall of many pastors. What will keep us in check so that we don't abuse the power afforded us, however, is not the attempt to rebel against the ordained role in order to express the real person, but, in fact, the role shapes and determines who we are in a way that is quite freeing. The role, however, imposes on pastors tremendous responsibilities and often demands of them substantial sacrifices. I fear, as does Willimon, that if pastors don't feel the weight of being a shepherd and all that that office requires, then their ministries will be blunted and ineffective -- worse than that, they'll be flawed because of the idolatrous pursuit of individual personhood over scripturally founded, corporately bound, tradition-informed, Spirit-empowered pastoral ministry. It's late...I'm rambling.

Wednesday, June 05, 2002

Hey Dawn & Jason, are you ready for this?

Trying a new beer tonight it's Abbey Belgian Style Ale from New Belgium Brewing Company, Inc. from Fort Collins, Colorado. It's excellent -- guess I need to learn the technical beer tasting lingo, don't I -- here's the description from the website:

The color of just-polished mahogany crowned with a tightly laced-mousselike head, our Abbey Belgian Style Ale raises eyebrows just on sight alone. An ethereal swirl of banana, spice and smoky aromas compels further study. Cross the liquid threshold and discover intertwined flavors evoking ripe fig, caramel, coffee bean and cloves.

Monday, June 03, 2002

One of my posts from May 29th mentioned Marva Collins. I'm linking here to her bio, which I hadn't read for a couple of years. I forgot how impressive it was!! Her accomplishments are incredible and she has been recognized for her accomplishments, as evidenced by her 42 honorary doctorates...that's 42 more than I have received (or ever will receive). In my three minute scan of her site, I was unable to confirm or refute what I said about her use of Shakespeare as part of her educational program.

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