You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘religion’ category.

During the course of the past seven years, my wife, Erika, and I (along with our kids) have made certain sacrifices in order that I might pursue full time ministry in a local church setting. As we have counted the cost of this life change, we have been, for the most part, happy – and, we are incredibly grateful. I work from home and take care of the kids and dogs, while Erika excels at her work as a Process Improvement Consultant at Group Health. I stay at home and my wife has a career outside of the house (where she makes way more money than the current zero dollars an hour I get paid for planting a church). There, I said it. That took some guts – cuz, I’m actually more than a little afraid that Mark Driscoll and his wife are going to storm my front door and Mark will scream “Infidel!!!” at me as his wife kicks my ass. But, I digress.

This familial arrangement of ours has one incredible drawback: I am in charge of dinner. The problem? I hate to cook. This problem is compounded by the facts that my wife loves to cook and my kids hate all food. Plus, I have the nutritional intelligence of a public school lunch lady (insert comment about pizza being a vegetable here). But, alas, Erika loves her work and she is incredibly gifted for this specific type of work and there is no way in hell she is going to quit. So, for the foreseeable future, I am in charge of dinner. And, I hate to cook.

that burger is bigger than his mouth!

Last night, I outdid my self. Feeling incredibly ambitious and energetic, I attempted to make a “complete” meal. By “complete,” I mean it consists of at least three items and one or more of them is a vegetable-like substance. Not only did I pursue the ever allusive “complete” meal, but I also tried to make it healthy. I passed on the frozen burger patties from Costco and made my own turkey burgers – complete with oats, raw egg, and seasoning. And, ya know, what? That meat tasted DAMN good. However…

My kids have gotten into that Food Network show Chopped! with Ted Allen. Andddd, cue Ione!

Ione: “Chef Jim. What have you made for us tonight?”

Me: “Turkey burgers, french fries, and corn.”

Erika: “Judges, what do you think of Chef Jim’s dish?”

Thelonious: “Chef Jim, I can feel the oats in my burger. And, it’s way too big. I can’t get my mouth around it.”

Ione: “Chef Jim, the french fries are nice in the middle, but the ends are a bit too… crispy. My burger is over done on the bottom. The “carmelization” is gross.”

Erika: “Judges, what do you like about Chef Jim’s dish?”

Ione: “Chef Jim, the burger is seasoned very well! It’s delicious!”

Thelonious: “Chef Jim, the burger is very moist and seasoned very well. But, I can feel the oats in my mouth.”

At this point, Ione took a commercial break. Then, Thelonious covered his plate with a napkin and asked rhetorically, “Who’s dish is on the chopping block?!?!… Chef Jim, you have been chopped!”

Always the optimist, Erika asked me what I learned from tonight’s meal.

  1. It is not possible to have all items in a complete meal be the same temperature at the same time. (Personally, I don’t mind cold corn, lukewarm fries, and scalding hot burgers)
  2. Johnny’s Seasoning Salt contains no MSG and kids love it.
  3. 1/2 pound burgers are way too big for most humans, especially children (unless you are Ione who ate the whole thing).
  4. I hate to cook.

Yesterday I received an email from my son’s teacher. It said something to the affect of:

“Thelonious asked a very good question during our Bible lesson yesterday that takes a higher level of questioning than I usually see in a 5th grader. He asked how we know God is real. And, how do we know the Bible is real and not just some thing the authors made up. These questions are a little beyond what the other 5th graders are asking, so I couldn’t get into it with him very much. I thought you might like to give it a go.”

Well, as a matter of fact, it just so happens that I do hold a masters degree in theology. So, I guess I’m actually fairly qualified to broach this topic.

As Thelonious and I lounged around last night, wasting a few minutes before bed, I laid down on his bed and we had a little conversation. “Your teacher says you’re asking annoying questions in Bible class. Stop it.” I kid. “I hear you’re having some pretty serious questions in Bible class. Want to talk about them?” See, sometimes, my kids bring up life altering issues at school but they don’t really care about the answers all that much. Questions of existence can simply be a passing fancy in the Fox household. But, he remembered the questions. How do we know God is real? And, how do we know the Bible just isn’t made up?

So, like any properly trained pastor, I asked him, “what makes you think that God isn’t real?” His answer was simple: if God is real, bad things wouldn’t happen. Great. 10 years old and I have to deal with issues of theodicy (the first of many vocab words he learned during this conversation). So, like any properly trained pastor, I asked probing questions that steered the conversation towards issues of choice. But, apparently, free will isn’t very important to Thelonious.” Why doesn’t God stop me from doing bad things?”  “Why doesn’t God stop me from being mean to Ione?” Pretty soon the conversation degraded into “why don’t you stop me? why doesn’t mom stop me? why doesn’t the playground monitor stop me?” Apparently, there is only one person who is not responsible for Thelonious’ personal choices – and, that person is Thelonious.

Our conversation went on and on. It was pretty fun to get inside his head and mess it all up and see how he thinks. The dialogue was far reaching and bounced back and forth from one corner of his cynical little mind to the other corner of his agnostic little mind. Every time I looked over at him, his little face was all twisted up and distorted. It was (literally) a look of pain. A look of deep, deep thought. His brain was working so hard that it actually couldn’t send messages to his face telling it to keep it looking the way it is supposed to look. I won’t bore you with all the details, just the conclusion…

“Dude, let me tell you about the only philosopher that really matters: Søren Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard said that when it is all said and done, we just don’t know for sure. You can’t know for sure. And, nothing anyone says can make you know for sure. Kierkegaard called it “the leap of faith.” Sooner or later, you’re just gonna have to take a leap of faith.”

I may have been a little too esoteric (another vocab word he learned last night). I may have been a little too ambiguous and non-committal. I may have been lacking in anything that could actually be called an answer. I may have been way too comfortable in the grey world of “I dunno.” But one thing is for sure. I kissed him good night and said, “I love you.” And, for the first time in a year and a half, he replied with, “I love you.” See, he gave up that little kid gesture of verbally communicated affection long ago. But, apparently, a parent who will sit with you in the unknown (and introduce you to the depressed Dane) is irresistibly lovable.

As I got up from his bed and started to leave the room, Thelonious wanted to ask me one final question… After the conversation at school, the teacher asked the rest of class: “class, what do you think of these questions?” One little girl raised her hand and said that she knew the Bible was true because what it contained was so amazing and wonderful that it was beyond human ability to imagine or make up any of  it. (Anselm… that line of reasoning is so 5th grade.) Thelonious continued: “but, ya know what? I think that doesn’t make any sense. I mean, the stories in the Bible really aren’t  all that amazing.” Letting him read comic books was a very bad idea.

I’ve lost my creative edge. First, there was that damned election and, quite seriously, that thing sucked all the energy out of my life. I just wanted to die when it was over. Instead, we got a new puppy. Then the snow came and vacation and winter malaise. I don’t wanna blog anymore, but I know how disappointed you will be if I don’t. SO! I’ve made a short list of things that I was going to write about during the past two months if I had had enough energy.

1. In high school, I was surrounded by hessians. They were everywhere. We got along but I hated their music and they hated mine. I really hate metal. But, due to lunchtime ghetto blaster wars and riding in Bobby Randles’ Duster, I know at least one line to every heavy metal song written between 1982 and 1988. Something took over my decision making faculties on November 7th and I downloaded 19 songs by Stryper and their nemeses: Maiden, Crüe, and Priest. For over a week I listened to those songs over and over and over again. I listened to nothing else. And, I hated every second of it.

2. I had an extremely profound thought about “core values.”

3. Thelonious, Ione and I were driving in the car. Thelonious said, “Hey dad, I learned some new words to a Christmas carol: Deck the hall with balls of money, fa lala la lalalala, tis the season to be greedy, fa lala la lalalala.” Ione immediately interrupted him and scolded, “Stop singing that! Your Lord would not appreciate it!”

4. A quote from The Shaping of Things to Come
“An incarnational ministry draws not-yet-Christians toward God by exciting curiosity through storytelling, by provoking a sense of wonder and awe, by showing extraordinary love, by exploring how God has touched our lives, and by focusing on Jesus.”

5. My facial hair has grown into an homage to Castro’s Revolution

6. I called our new puppy “the pooper.” Ione asked why I called her that and I said it was because she (the puppy, not Ione) looked like poop. Ione thought that was ridiculous because the puppy is black and white. I asked her, “Haven’t you ever pooped black and white?” She looked incredulous and answered, “No! You only poop black and white in Canada!”

7. I made Thelonious sit at the dinner table for an hour and fifteen minutes and then go straight to bed because he wouldn’t eat three green beans. I think Erika was more angry at me than he was.

Now that I have all that out of my system, I might start writing more.

Erika left early this morning to go to her sister’s baby shower in Southern California. That means it’s the Saturday after Halloween alone with dad – this can not turn out well.

Ione cried for 27 minutes because she wanted me to go get her donuts for breakfast. I finally convinced them both to eat some waffles and sausages. The difficult part was convincing them that they did not need chocolate chips on the waffles or powdered sugar to dip the sausage in.

After breakfast, the kids were counting their candy and Thelonious said, “Hey, Dad, I got a joke book while trick or treating. Check it out… Why do gorillas have big noses?”

“I dunno.”

“Because they have big fingers. ha ha ha. What is the laziest mountain in the world?”

“Hmmm, I dunno.” 

“Mount Ever-rest!!! ha ha hee hee ha. Dad, dad, listen to this one… Who will everyone meet someday?”

(this is a weird set up for a joke) “I dunno, Thelonious. Who?”

“God’s son, the Lord Jesus Christ! Hey, here’s another… Will everyone go to heaven?”

“Wellllll…different people believe different things. Some people think everyone will go to heaven. Ya see, Jesus loves everyone –

“Nope! Says here: The Bible, God’s book says, ‘those who don’t believe and obey him shall never see heaven!'”

Ione laughs hysterically.

Thelonious continues, “Will the bad things I have done (sins) keep me from going to heaven?”

“Well, geez, son, these are kinda complex -”

“It says here: ‘YES! God hates sin! He will not allow sin into heaven! That means I’m in a lot of trouble!'”

Now I know why people think Halloween is evil.

Thelonious finishes with, “I’ve been wearing the same underwear since Wednesday.”

Why am I wasting all this time and money on grad school? Apparently, all truth can be learned by trick or treating.

Erika: Thelonious, you’re so smart, funny, handsome, creative, and fun. Who do you think you get that from – me or daddy?

Thelonious: (pause) Neither. I got them from that cool dude who’s name is spelled G – O – D.

Until just a few days ago, I believed dentists were agents of good who only wanted to make the world an easier place to chew. Now, I know better. Now, I know, dentists exist simply to be used as sermon illustrations. Seriously. If you don’t have the Lord on your side I suggest passing on the next “routine checkup” you have scheduled.

I (used to) have pretty good teeth. In fact, I didn’t get my first cavity until my twenties, and that was in one of my wisdom teeth which was pulled 6 years later. So, I really didn’t think it was that big of a deal to go a year, two years, maybe eight between dental visits. I mean, it’s not like Erika and I had dental insurance or anything. Well, Erika has a good job now and we get dental insurance. So, after waiting 14 months, I scheduled an appointment when one of my molars chipped twice in one week. And, according to the x-rays, all those years of 2 packs a day and surviving off the sweet chemical nourishment of Diet Coke had an impact on my teeth.

The dentist of my first appointment only spoke broken English, so I left the office not knowing exactly what was going on in my mouth. All I was sure of was I required to schedule three follow up “emergency” appointments in a 9 day period. In the last two weeks, it seems as if I have gone to see Dr. Yung every other day. Most of the women working there and I are on a first name basis (in fact, I even have a new nickname: “becky” – don’t ask, don’t tell). One unique feature of my mouth is that it doesn’t react well to novacaine. This results in one shot, some drilling, and me leaping out of the chair with tears running down my cheek. Dr. Yung, always so polite, says, “did that one get ya, Becky? Well, let’s give ya another shot.” This additional shot results in my face being numb for (no kidding) four or more hours. The dental assistants kibitz about what a great patient I am, never complaining. They joke about the tough guy with all the tattoos. If I wasn’t busy trying to swallow my own tongue to end the pain once and for all, I would let them know that I am crying on the inside.

My first set of fillings, last Tuesday resulted in a root canal. Thank God, they were able to schedule it for the following day. My tooth was special. It had an extra canal. This resulted in a four hour procedure. By the end of the 3rd hour, Verenda the dental assistant was rubbing my arm, a look of worry in her eye, muttering, “ohhhhh Jesus, let him be ok, just let him be ok.”

Yesterday was my final appointment. Honestly, I’m not sure how many fillings they gave me. It was three appointments of two or more fillings per cavity plus the root canal. I think I ended up with nine; but, after all that drilling into my skull I have lost the ability to count from 1 to 10. My kids now like to play Treasure Chest with all the new “shinies” in my mouth. I look like Jaws from Moonraker. My upper lip on the right side is still tingling. I’ve averaged 12 advil a day for 9 days straight. Sometimes, I cry myself to sleep. But, this will all make a great sermon illustration one day, I’m sure. And what will the lesson be?

The Calvinists were right: God hates you.

I am loving this clip and can’t wait to see the whole movie. Why? “Being anti postmodern IS postmodern.” This may be the best definition of postmodernism I have ever experienced.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking this week about being a Christ follower. Unfortunately, a lot of this thought was triggered by some unpleasant blog exchanges about whether or not Rob Bell is a heretic. My more conservative brothers and sisters pushed me to a place where I had to ask myself what I consider the very basics (as far as doctrine or theology) and what I consider to be “electives” (not “elected” – I don’t believe in that crap). For instance – can one follow Christ and not believe in Hell? If you answer that question “no” then my question becomes, “what saves – the acts and words of Jesus or belief in Hell?” Then, I ran across this cute lil quote…

There are two views concerning the Gospel of Jesus Christ. First, there is what we call Calvinism. Then, there are varying degrees of unbelief.

In the end, my answer was that one only need believe that Jesus is both God and human and that He died for our sins.

Does our salvation depend on anything else?

Read the whole story here

An Oklahoma church canceled a controversial gun giveaway for teenagers at a weekend youth conference. Windsor Hills Baptist had planned to give away a semiautomatic assault rifle until one of the event’s organizers was unable to attend. The church’s youth pastor, Bob Ross, said it’s a way of trying to encourage young people to attend the event. The church expected hundreds of teenagers from as far away as Canada.

A video on the church Web site shows the shooting competition from last year’s conference. A gun giveaway was part of the event last year. This year, organizers included it in their marketing.

Ross said the conference isn’t all about guns, but rather about teens finding faith.

I guess its easier to hate smokin’, drinkin’ and dancin’ when you’ve got a semiautomatic assault rifle at your side. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that, no matter what our constitution says, I think Jesus is anti-gun.

This week, I am preaching on the healing of the bent-over woman and the parable of the mustard seed from Luke 13 as we continue a series on the Kingdom of God. So, I’m in the middle of my typical process of preparation – obsessively mulling thoughts over (and over and over) until they are beat into a pulpy mush which has the possibility of producing a semi-tasty and semi-nutritious drink.

Prompted by a post from Jeff Keuss, I am considering using stage diving to shed light on what this text is saying to us. Now, here’s my quandary. I know a large percentage of the congregation will not have the same personal connection with “stage diving” that I do. But, I think that it will work on multiple levels because it is also an object lesson: “the good stuff of the Kingdom is for the people – it’s not meant to be locked up behind cultural norms and religious sanctimony. It’s not to be kept safe from the messy masses and only used by and for the powerful elite .”

So, the big question is: should I? Will it A) have value, B) just be lame, or C) distract from the larger point? And, if I do, should I also show this video? Warning: turn your volume off, there is offensive language coming your way. But, this clip gets realllly good about 12 seconds in.

Tell me what you think…