Perpetual Dissatisfaction

I realize that I am always complaining about things and I don't yet know if it is because I am too cynical (I certainly was in college) or if there really is as much dumb stuff in the world as I think (probably a combo...a delicious cheddar cheese with pretzel outside combo. I haven't had combos in years. Maybe I'll get some later).

Working as a receiver in the bookstore, I see all the new books that come in. If a book is going to be a big deal, we get a lot of it. This trend has led me to much exasperation lately. Here is a tasty sampling of what is big in Christian circles (or at least is predicted to be)...
The Purpose Driven Life Collector's Edition in Leather
Healing is a Choise by Stephen Arterburn (co-author of all 2,539 books in the "Every Man" series)
Living the Extraordinary Life by Charles Stanley
The Convenient Pocketsize version of The Treasure Principle by Andy Stanley

I guess these things aren't necessarily bad in themselves, but meanwhile, there is some great material that is coming out that gets completely over-looked because people are too busy marking up their Leather Purpose Driven Life. Some people say that at least people are reading something. But is that really the most we can ask of each other? Maybe if we looked beyond Christianity's imitation of secular pop culture, we could move into some real spiritual formation instead of simply aquiring trite snipets that give us a shot of self-confidence and half-heartedly challenge us for the one hour it takes to read them.

In an effort to not simply be negative, here are some alternative recent releases that seem to offer some real insight...
Theological Aesthetics ed. Gelsa Thiessen
Contours of Christology ed. Richard Longenecker
Does Human Rights Need God? Eds. Elizabeth Bucar and Barbra Barnett
Renewing the City by Robert Lupton
Saving Power by Schmiechen

I will admit that not everybody is into Biblical Studies or Theology, but I think I'm trying to say that they should be. Obviously we need balance, but why say that nobody needs to think or care about modern discussions in these realms. It makes us seem stupid. If a teacher wants to be excellent, of course she will spend a lot of time in the classroom, working with the students, but she will also take the time to educate herself on the newest methods in teaching, and what discussions and arguments are taking place, while also informing herself of what has happened historically. If following Jesus is really the highest priority for us, we should do the same in Biblical Studies and Theology, and all the more so, because it is not simply our source of income, it is the foundation of our lives.

One of the janitors at Erika's school became a Christian about 8 months ago. Since then he has started learning Koine Greek and reads theology all the time. Every time he sees me asks me all kinds of questions based on what he has been reading lately (he knows I'm in Seminary, although I think that he thinks I am training to be a pastor, even though I've told him otherwise a few times). One time he asked me what Greek lexicon I would recommend. The point is, this guy is a janitor, and he has no plans to go to Seminary or anything like that. He simply sees it as part of what it means to follow Jesus to learn as much as he can from whatever sources he can find. I know what some may think, "Isn't that dangerous? What if he starts reading Tillich and thinks God is simply the Ground of Being?" This is why it is great for such things to be shared by the Christian community. Then we can discuss and help each other. Plus, he doesn't just try to learn all the time. He serves the poor, tells everyone he meets about Jesus, and is an all-around great person to serve as inspiration to all of us what it means to follow Jesus.

I'm not saying everyone needs to learn Greek or anything, but why can't we seek to deepen our understanding more? I guess I should wrap this up. Ultimately, read more (although I don't really think anyone who reads this will need to be particlarly convicted by my rantings here), and read more broadly. John Piper and Rick Warren are not the mouth of God. Try some real material, and you might be surprised how fruitful it is.

P.S. I don't hate John Piper. Even though I think he is wrong almost every time he puts his pen to paper or opens his mouth, and I think he is really mean, I still work at loving him. I will certainly hang out with him in heaven and give him a hug, although only after shouting "I told you so." To which God will confirm, "Word, broseph."


Podcasting Trickery

I keep hearing all this hubub about podcasting. Well, not so much hearing as I downloaded the new version of iTunes a few weeks ago and everytime I open it the "podcasts" thing is on the side and I keep looking at it. So I thought I would check it out.

I went to the music portion (naturally), since people I don't know, talking about things I generally don't care much about sounds like about as good of a use of the downloading time and space of my computer as me giving my computer the job of finding any time anyone has used the phrase "you can't stop this train" on any messageboard in the history of the internet (including when it was called the Information Superhighway and Candace Bergren did MCI commercials advertising it on breaks from the hilarious hit show "Murphy Brown"). So I subscribed to about ten podcasts that sounded pretty good. I listened to a couple of them and they were nice and all, but not the best. Then I came to a couple that I was pretty pumped about listening to. The first one was a BritRock podcast. I started listening, and it started off with a Decemberists song, so I was excited to the max.

Then to my eternal horror and utmost dismay, there was twenty minutes of the host talking about video games (for my thoughts on radio talk-shows, c.f. above). Then the show wrapped up, and I was left, feeling like some sort of rabbit had entered the room, become friends with me, we spent two years together and then decided to start a small business fixing shoes and giving haircuts for lawyers (of course I did the shoe-fixing and the rabbit (whose name is obviously Gregory) did the haircuts), and eventually I introduced him to his wife and I was their best man, and then suddenly he tells me he hated me all along and he was working for a program that helps rabbits get over their hatred of people like me and it didn't work at all so he's moving back to Lebanon.

I still have a couple of the podcasts I initially downloaded left to listen to, but I think it suffices to say that I no longer have any type of excitement remaining for the unheard casts. I guess I should have listened to the little guy in my mind that was saying, "Broseph, You hate the radio picking your music for you. That's why the pod is an excellent buddy. Why do you think it will be any different with podcasting?" But then I said, "podcasting is different because anyone can put stuff on there, so it is not just popular music. I'm sure there is some good music on here." Then the little guy said, "Don't count on it. Even if there is good music, there will be something wrong with podcasting." And I said, "I don't care. I wanna listen to it no matter what you say." Then, though the little guy in my mind knew podcasting would let me down, he loved me and knew that I had to learn some lessons on my own, the hard way. So he stopped arguing and made a delicious mug of Dazbog Hermitage House Blend coffee (check out www.dazbog.com).

I should have listened to him. Now I am only left to sit here and wallow in misery over the time I wasted downloading those podcasts and listening to them, resulting in more wasted time. Good gravy. At least I can enjoy some soothing comfort from Mr. Yann Tiersen before I lay my weary head to rest.


Plan to Enjoy (ha ha)

Last Tuesday I snagged the new Death Cab album. I was a bit nervous, mostly because here in Denver, they're fairly popular among people who don't care very much about music. I figured that would probably make their music worse. Incidentally, I was wrong. Perhaps this is premature, but I'm enjoying the album so much that I daresay I enjoy it more than any other. This is hard to say, because We Have the Facts has been a tried and true favorite for many a year.

This is why I probably shouldn't be saying such things, but I can't help myself. I'm like a 43-year old H&R Block employee with a nice wife, three great kids (one of whom is going to start at Harvard this year as a lit major), a golden retriever, a two-story house, and a 2003 Toyota Camry. But for some reason, it's not enough. I feel like my life doesn't have any meaning even though I go to church every week and help lead the men's ministry. Every day I drive by the BMW dealer and look at the new Z4s on the lot. If I get off work early I even test drive them once in a while. I can't really afford it, but my oldest is at Harvard on scholarship and I don't have to feed him anymore. Maybe if we refinanced and traded in the Toyota, I could swing it. I know my wife would never approve, but it handles so well. And Clive Owen looks so sweet in the BMW films. Maybe I could look that sweet. Then one day, I drive by, and there's a big sale. The forest green car I've been coveting for the last six months is 5,000 off. I go in and realize that if I trade in the Toyota, the payments will only be $200 more per month. I'm sure we spent that much on Riley when he lived at home. "I'll take it." What a day. The wind is blowing in my hair with the top down with some Journey cranking on the Monsoon sound system. Sweeeeet. But then I get home, and my wife is on the couch crying. "What's wrong?" "Riley lost his scholarship." "What? He's brilliant. What happened?" "He's been dating this environmentalist (no offense to environmentalists, I'm quite fond of taking care of the earth) girl, and I guess he's been neglecting his studies to save some trees and make hummus." "Crap." "Jeff, how are we going to pay for his college. Harvard is really expensive." The conversation goes on. The result is, I signed a weird new contract where I can't take the car back, so we sell the house and live in the car (which is really small for a family of four (since Riley's in college) and a dog). Then, after a year, the car isn't even exciting anymore and having the top down all the time makes me go bald.

The Dog-Eyed Wafer

Here in Denver, I'm working at the Seminary's bookstore, which turns out to be a pretty great job. Most of the time, I do things in the back, away from people. I was sort of reflecting on this, and how I'm glad I don't have to talk to people often. That's pretty sad, and I wasn't really the same way when I worked at the theater in Huntington. Obviously there were customers I didn't want to deal with, but the feeling is so much more intense now.

The point is, I realized that Christians are much less pleasant to work with in Customer Service than other people. Obviously this is not always the case, but they are more likely to be rude, demanding, and generally unpleasant. The worst is when people call from a church and need some books. These people are often more demanding than any other people I have served. I don't know the cause of this, but that's ridiculous.

The same was true when I worked at Applebee's. No one wanted to work Sunday brunch because Christians would come in after church. They would tip poorly, be really demanding, and their kids would make a huge mess. I was talking to a friend who works at a coffee shop, and the same rings true with his Christian customers.

I don't want to simply be destructive with this, but I wonder why this is the case and what the solution might be. The people who are called to give up their rights cling to them more desperately than the world around them. We are called to place others before ourselves, yet we demand that others serve us without gratitude.

So here's my proposal. Everyone who decides to follow Jesus has to work in some sort of customer service for at least a year, preferably in the food service industry. That's the new rule. I'm going to call the Pope and see if he can issue a statement to the Catholic church. I guess for the Protestants I'll call Rick Warren since he seems to be the Protestant Pope. Hopefully this will create a new community that is sweet.


Intro to Ryan's Mind

So I tend to be skeptical things such as these (blogs, that is). But since everything my brother does eventually seems like a good idea, I'm starting this thing. I don't really know if this will be of any value, but when I think of crap I'll write about it. That's how this works, right? I guess this makes me a slave to popular culture in addition to being narcissistic (you have to be to assume that what you have to say is worth enough to share it with others, right?)

In the end, the biggest reason for this is that in college, I had some great buddies with whom to chat Theology and Philosophy. Dig? I don't have that anymore. Actually, now I have Trevor to fill the place of five chat-buddies. In addition to the difficult task of becoming five people, Trevor tends to think along most of the same lines as me, so we mosly get together and agree with each other a lot. Maybe now, everyone can disagree with me and I can regain the joy of disdain for my ideas that was so greatly applied in college.