Christianity: paradox & Paradise, fall & Fall

I had the privilege of spending a long weekend these past few days in western Pennsylvania under the kindness and hospitality of my girlfriend and her family. It’s a place that is hard to describe without falling into cliches of big sky, clear air, and bright stars. It’s near the area that Johann Jacob Burkhardt, my first ancestor in America, settled in 1754 after sailing from Germany and landing in Philadelphia exactly a week ago today. I made almost the exact same trek as Johann and his family, from the rivers of Philly to the rural countryside of unsettled Pennsylvania.

Strangely, in the rest of Pennsylvania that I have seen, the trees are still mostly green and just starting to turn for the Fall. But here, this weekend marked the peak of that beautiful transition. The pictures above and below should testify to this (click them for larger versions). They were taken only a couple of days ago–with my phone (fun fact: the picture directly above this text was taken from Mt. David, the highest point in Pennsylvania).

I can’t express to you the beauty my eyes and soul were able to behold.
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My Most Awkward Dance Ever (RIP Donna Summer) [casual fri]

Believe it or not, there was a time that I did not have sweet dance moves like this and this.

This is the story about my first slow-dance.

Anyone that grew up in a middle-school setting where the seasons and holidays were marked by school dances knows that to “slow dance” was a rite-of-passage experienced by a precious few. Primarily reserved for nerdy kids that “dated” each other and the “cool kids” that hooked up and “dated” each other, the “slow dance” was a beast that eluded me for most all of my middle school career.

I had spent 6th- and 7th-grades going to most of the dances, but not actually dancing. While reveling in the glory of Third Eye Blind, NSync, Creed, Jewel, Boys II Men and Savage Garden, I’d hang out with my friends, “make fun of” (read: jealously wish I was part of) those that had someone to slow dance with, and join in the chorus of yelling middle-schoolers that would enthusiastically supply the edited-out curse word in “Pretty Fly for a White Guy“.

I was the quintessential “that guy” in those situations: an awkward wallflower, terrified of girls and wearing bad Christian t-shirts, who would (no joke) stand next to and carry on conversations with my slow-dancing friends–while they were slow dancing (once, a teacher had to tell me to give the dancing couple some space).

Yes, like I said, I was that guy.

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The Nature & Narrative of the Bible [a teaching I did at liberti church] {AUDIO}

This summer, my church has been doing a series of seminars/discussions called “Summer Conversations“. I was asked to teach at two of them. I am providing the manuscript and audio from the first night here. The second one I’ll post next week. This first “seminar” was on The Nature & Narrative of Scripture. The night went really well. The audio, on the other hand, did not. This recording is really tough to listen to. Fortunately, for this particular talk, I wrote everything out in manuscript form and stuck pretty closely to it (especially Part 1). So, feel free to download/preview these in whatever way/format is most convenient for you and may they enhance your understanding of our God and how He has revealed himself.

[Also check out the other talk I gave at liberti on Prayer and the Christian Life (much better audio)]

Audio | download
Manuscript | download: pdf, Word, Kindle, ebook read: Google DocsScribd
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Pain, Suffering, & the Story of God

[Update: this post inspired a comment (below), that I ended up responding to. The commenter responded to that, then I gave my final response, and then he gave his. Lastly, a friend posted her thoughts on the discussion as well. Follow the links to get in on the discussion.]

You know that proverbial flu bug that is perpetually in existence all over the country all at once on snowy days?  Yeah, well I’ve got it.  Starting yesterday, the back of my head and the top of my neck were struck by a throbbing pain, pulsating with every heartbeat; my body temperature playing the role of ping-pong ball between the paddles of heat and cold; my body aching with every move.

I went to sleep last night, tossing and turning for a long while hoping for the pain to subside by the time I woke.  I woke and felt great.  That is, while I was laying in my bed.  The moment I stood up and the blood rushed throughout my body, the pain, dizziness, and energy-sapping delirium of flu raged against me.  And then I went to work. Continue reading