Saturday, April 29, 2006

I'm Easy

I'm not sure I agree with the results, but for now I'll fire up the bike!

A tip of the ol' ballcap to Kim at Upward Call.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Sitting by the Heater

The minute the words left my lips I knew I should remember them.

My kids have developed a habit over the years. Near the door leading to the driveway is a small electric heater mounted in the wall. On cold mornings, they like to turn the heater on and sit there with warm air blowing directly on them. Usually I have to chase them away and turn the heater back down, all the while muttering about the high electric bills like the stereotypical dad.

This morning was a bit chilly. I had to be at a meeting at 9:00 and drop my 4 year old off at a babysitter's house at 8:30. In typical 4 year old fashion, time meant nothing to her. It was a struggle to get her out of her bed because it was so cozy and warm under the blankets, but finally she got up. I got her dressed and fixed her a bowl of cereal while I got things together for my meeting. It was time to leave and I walked back into the dining room to find that she wasn't there. But the hum of the heater near the door told me where she had gone.

I knew if I didn't get her in a pair of shoes and a jacket in the next 30 seconds, I'd probably be late for my meeting. So I told her she had to turn off the heater and get up.

"But Daddy, I'm cold and it's soooo warm and cozy here."

"Honey, we really need to go right now."

"But I'm so cozy."

Then the words just popped out. I wasn't sure if she would understand what I was saying or not, but reflex had taken over.

"Honey, sometimes we have to do the things we're supposed to do even if we're really cozy where we are now."

"Boy ain't that the truth," I thought to myself. There have been so many times when I didn't want to get out of bed, but I knew I had to be at work that day. There have been so many times when I was sitting so comfortably that the only way I would get off the couch was to be pulled by some heavy equipment. And there have been the times when I knew about things I needed to do, but I was just too cozy not doing them.

But I know I'm not alone. There are many people who would go to church on Sunday morning if it wasn't so comfortable using that one day to sleep in. There are people who won't stand for Christ because it's too cozy just hanging back in the shadows. There are churches who won't reach out to people because it's comfortable doing things they way they've always been done -- and nothing more.

We each have our little heaters to sit by. They make us so cozy and comfortable. But the thing is, we each have things we are supposed to be doing. We just get too cozy sitting by the heater. And when that happens we fail... we fail ourselves and we fail our God.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Dept. of Redundancy Dept.

I attended a banquet tonight. It wasn't a religious-themed banquet, but one of those present was asked to offer an invocation and blessing for the meal. I'm sure he was a well-meaning man with a well-meaning prayer, but he had one of those habits that tends to annoy me just a little. And I don't mean to pick on him or anyone else with this habit. Hey, I even find myself doing it too on occasion.

But the speaker began his prayer, "Heavenly Father..." and then proceded to use the words "Heavenly Father" no fewer than 468 times during the 60 second prayer.

Why do we do this? Are we afraid that God will forget that we're talking to Him? Or are we reminding ourselves that we're praying so we don't forget?

I've noticed that I tend to do this more often when I'm praying aloud than silently. Perhaps that means that I'm trying to keep everybody with me in the attitude of prayer also. But I really don't know.

I've heard people keep mentioning"oh, Lord" or "precious Lord" or "Almighty God" or "dear Jesus" again and again. You know how it goes...

"Dear Jesus, I thank you for all you have done, dear Jesus. And dear Jesus I ask you to please bless the missionaries, dear Jesus, and the people at church, dear Jesus... I pray dear Jesus that You would be with them, dear Jesus. And dear Jesus..."

Imagine if someone was talking to you and repeating your name at least twice in each sentence. How long would it be before you would reach out, grab him by the throat and fling him against the nearest wall? While the speaker was mentioning "Heavenly Father" this evening, I admit that my mind started to wonder if our heavenly Father was yelling back "I know, I know, you're talking to Me... get on with it, would ya'?" Sorry for not being too spiritual.

It's amazing how habits take over even the most meaningful things that we do. Beautiful ceremonies can become mere rote repetition if we are not careful. When simply "doing" becomes more important than "what we are doing", we have problems. When the main reason we worship in a certain way is because "that's the way we've always done it" we just may have sucked all the meaning and heart out of worship.

"Lord, may my prayers, my worship, my Bible study, my walk never become mere repetition. Instead, let me experience You anew with each step and each word."

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Sirius Snobbery

While I'm on the topic of music, and since Douglas brought it up, let me take you on a tour of my Sirius Satellite Radio system. I've alluded to it before, but here's the lowdown of what I live with.
First of all, don't ask me how much it costs, what equipment to get, etc. The 17 year old pimple-faced salesguy will fill you in on all that. I have a boombox for home, and a unit for my truck which broadcasts a low power signal which is then picked up by the stereo in the vehicle. Just slip it from one receiver to another. Pretty easy stuff, really. Oh, and the vehicle unit can be picked up by cars parked within a couple of parking spaces, so be advised! I can also access the music channels online for times like now when I am away from the boombox.

I'll also warn you that satellite radio will spoil you quickly. It's tough to sit and listen to earth-bound radio unless I'm looking for local news, sports or weather. For music, it's a whole 'nother world. It's all I can do to fight the radio snobbery impulse to look down my nose at the commoners with the quaint old-fashioned radio.

Do not take this post as a commercial advertisement, endorsement, or condemnation of Sirius or of satellite radio in general. We would all live just fine if all the radio airwaves dried up. This is just fun stuff, OK?

If you're a music lover, Sirius is paradise. If you listen to nothing but the current hits, current country, or even basic classic rock you're better off not investing. That stuff gets played everywhere. Where satellite radio pays off is the stuff nobody else is playing. I'll take you on a spin down the dial.

The pop music section includes variations of the same theme -- stuff you hear on the radio now or for the past 50 years. You get a station for the 50's, the 60's, 70's and so on. There is a love songs station and a few that only play songs which annoy me. Sirius also has an all-Elvis station and currently has an all Rolling Stones channel. My favorite in this section is channel 12 which they call Sirius Super Shuffle which takes songs from most different types of music and plays them at random. At least that's what it's supposed to sound like. Often it does.

There is a section for rock with the basic classic rock stations: Classic Vinyl for 60's and 70's and Classic Rewind for some of the newer stuff. There is old punk/new wave, hair bands, garage bands, and every flavor of rock station you can think of. My current favorite here is channel 18, the Spectrum, which is more eclectic off beat stuff.

The dance/hip-hop/soul section is a mystery to me. Some of the older stuff I like, but this section really makes me feel old. Especially the all-disco channel The Strobe, channel 37. I find myself thinking, "Wow! I really hated this song in high school and it's no better now!"

The country section has a current station, an 80's and 90's station, a traditional country station and Outlaw Country, which is always good for a laugh. It's always fun to roll down the truck windows at a stop light with Tennessee Ernie Ford blaring out of the speakers! The bluegrass station is nice sometimes too.

The Christian section has expanded from two to three stations since I originally signed on to Sirius. There is now a basic channel, Spirit 66, for the Michael W. Smith and Casting Crowns stuff, then Revolution on channel 67 for the harder edge stuff. Revolution plays a lot of Disciple, Jonah 33, Hawk Nelson and a bunch of bands I've never heard of before. I'm about 50/50 on Revolution. Some of it is just too much for me. Other songs are great. The other Christian station is for Gospel recordings, and it seems I rarely get in the mood for that stuff anymore.

Next comes the Jazz (3 channels), New Age, Blues, Big Band and Standards, classical (3 channels) and international stations. The Jazz stations are great for when I'm writing, and there are always days I want to turn up Sirius Blues to around the decibel level of a small aircraft. The international stuff can be fun sometimes too, but unless I'm having a fiesta I don't usually turn on Universo Latino channel 90.

Mostly the three-digit channel numbers are sports and talk channels. Right at channel 100 and 101 are the two (yes, two) Howard Stern channels. Like it or not, the self-proclaimed King of All Media comes with a Sirius subscription. For folks like me, it's really easy to avoid him as he doesn't stray from his two frequencies. Same thing for some of the other less-than-wholesome programming which is bounced off the Big Dog's satellite. I can skip past the Maxim magazine station, the homosexual station, the unrestricted comedy channel and the new Playboy channel. I'm sad that my money helps go to support these things, but I do my voting with my tuner. I'm willing to bet that there is some way to measure how often each individual station is tuned in on my receiver.

There is a "clean" comedy channel which isn't bad and something called Blue Collar Comedy which seems to be trying to do some clean and some not as clean. It's not the station to listen to with the little kids in the backseat. Too many surprises.

There are a host of news options, from CNN to NPR to Fox News to BBC to Radio Korea. The talk radio options are a bit weak on Sirius right now after they picked up Fox Talk Radio which features Tony Snow and a bunch of folks I don't know. The right wing talk station is pretty worthless as is the left wing station. I used to be able to hear Laura Ingraham and Tammy Bruce, but they pulled that whole channel to put Fox on. Air America used to be on Sirius, but that only lasted a few months. I believe that network is still operational, so I'm not sure of the whole decision-making process on that one.

Then there are the traffic stations -- great if you live in one of the top 20 cities in the country. I don't live in one of those, so they are worthless. There is a Christian Talk station that I haven't quite figured out in the two months it has been on. EWTN is there for Catholic programming. There are a couple of kids' music channels too.

Sports is fantastic on Sirius, as every NFL game is found on the dial somewhere. I also find a lot of NBA, NHL and college sports on the air too. Of course there's ESPN Radio and ESPN News, but also NFL Network's radio channel is always on and there are other sports events broadcast live.

Sirius seems to invest a lot in getting some "name" personalities to attract listeners. As the number two satellite radio provider, they continue to look for a promotional edge. So it's not shocking to know that all of the five original MTV veejays pop up on Sirius music channels. Aside from Stern, Sirius also has Martha Stewart (how that sounds on radio, I don't know), Barry "Greg Brady" Williams, Jimmy Buffet, Bode Miller, Eminem and assorted other celebrity voices working on the air.

My favorite part is simply having the musical choices. I can go from a traditional jazz mood to an 80's music mood at the drop of a hat, but it's an easy transition with Sirius. My least favorite part is having to avoid all the stuff which really needs to be avoided, or stuff which will never pique my interest.

Is turning up the Sirius better than spending an hour in prayer? Of course not. But as I discussed yesterday, music is a language of the heart. On many of the channels I have my desire to speak that language fulfilled. It may not be huge in the Grand Scheme of Things, but it's an extra joy in a life already flooded by joys.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Musical Snobbery

I'm guilty. I admit it. It was 1987 and all I knew about country music were the words, "Yee Haw!" I believed the stereotype, and so I had managed to look down upon the country music folks, if indeed I would ever meet one.

I met one.

That person ended up becoming my wife. She opened up a whole new kind of music to me. Before that I had experimented with various music -- jazz, acoustic, big band, electronic -- but mostly I was a rock guy. It had been tough growing up a rock guy in the late 70's in an ocean of Donna Summer and the BeeGees, but I had managed just fine. Ironically after learning the basics of country music, the next job I took was as a disc jockey on a country music station! Ya gotta love God's sense of humor sometimes.

I learned all about country music, from Haggard and Jones to Garth and Reba. More than just learning, I began to appreciate it... even like it. All it had really taken was a period of time to learn the language. By that I mean learning who the important artists were and which were the landmark songs. Once I had the framework of the country community, it was really pretty easy to understand. I could appreciate the sly humor of a George Strait song, the bitterness in a Tanya Tucker lyric, or the outright outrageousness of ol' Bocephus. It once had been beneath me. I wouldn't give it the benefit of my time. What had once been seen as strangely foreign became fresh and familiar. I was a musical snob no longer.

There are still plenty of snobs across the world. Usually if a person can't understand a type of music, it must be because its not worth his time. I've met all types. I've met the classical music afficianado who will listen to nothing besides orchestral recordings and the occasional chamber music piece. I've seen plenty of people with bumper stickers on the pickup reading, "If it ain't country, it ain't music!" also. Snobbery knows no strangers. We all think our favorite style is superior than that other stuff. But truth be told, it's just a matter of different ways to express the feelings of the heart.

Like all art, music is something which is very expressive. I attended a seminar with Pastor Gene Wood last week, and he said something similar to what I've always tried to express. He said that music is a language of expression. Those who speak Spanish are not comfortable with Mandarin. So too, those who speak Gregorian Chant have a tough time with 50's Rockabilly. It only makes sense.

A couple of weeks ago, the Christian Blogosphere got a start from a renewal of the whole "worship wars" dispute. In his Christianity Today column, Chuck Colson had a fit about his congregation singing "Draw Me Close To You" and used it as a springboard for a rant about contemporary Christian music sung in worship service. Then Sam Storms wrote a beautiful rebuttal, pointing out that the lyrics Colson was railing against were quite similar to some of the Psalms. From there, the debate spread like a runny nose at a daycare center. Dan at Cerulean Sanctum even tied it to Myers-Briggs personality types. I don't think it's all that complicated. Colson is simply speaking a different language than his worship leader.

I'm happy to be multi-lingual. I speak Fanny Crosby. I also speak Chris Tomlin. That may make me unique, I don't know. But I'm tired of the musical snobbery displayed by both sides in the "worship wars" debate. I'm sick of the claims of hymn-singers that there is no theological content in praise choruses. I'd like to sentence these folks to a year of doing nothing but reading and studying the Psalter. Sure there is a lot of great theology in some of the great old hymns, but I've got to be honest -- very few people these days learn anything from the third verse of anything in the hymnal. I wish that wasn't true, but it is. The concern is avoiding the unintentional solo during the service, not learning about Ebenezers or fetters.

I'm also tired of those who run hymnals through the shredder, claiming those songs have no value. There is still a sizable generation who worships God better through singing "The Matchless Grace of Jesus" in 5-part harmony. It's been a blessing to see some current choruses integrate hymns into the arrangements. Todd Agnew gave a refreshing breath to Amazing Grace when he recorded Grace Like Rain. Chris Tomlin incorporated When I Survey the Wondrous Cross into The Wonderful Cross and the result was a song which enabled people to worship in two languages. Why is it so hard for the two sides to exist without the obligitory casting of stones?

It's true that songs are sometimes misused. Choruses have taken on the moniker "7-11 songs" because critics will tell you the arrangements consist of seven words sung eleven times. I won't deny that some choruses are repeated to the point of manipulation in some congregations, but that's hardly reason to claim they have no theological value. In truth we have people speaking different worship languages and saying the same things. Yet, using our typical unchristian reflexes, we tend to not only divide but to look down our noses at the folks at that other church or those attending that other service. What a bunch of idiots we are.

Just as Dr. Storms related in his piece, I also have the utmost respect for Chuck Colson. I respect many who have similar but opposing viewpoints within the Christian community. But instead of criticizing the other side, why can't we brush up on our own language skills? How about putting away our snobbish attitudes and putting that same effort into becoming more fluent in our own language of worship? I'm not one of those Rodney King "Can't we all just get along" kind of guys if there is a legitimate reason for debate. In this case, there isn't one.

The thing is, those people who worship with that "other kind" of music aren't just yelling, "Yee Haw!" They're worshiping too. So let's get over it and represent Christ as servants, not as snobs.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

How To Get Here - 4-22-06

Since I hosted Christian Carnival this week, I didn't have an excuse for posting How To Get Here. So, I've decided that I need no reason this week. Besides, they're really starting to pile up. So without further ado, these are actual search strings which brought actual computer-savvy people to Attention Span:

leave nobody behind scripture - Nobody?? But what will Tim LaHaye have to write about??

"kristen's cookie company" - First Kristen gets these searches, now I get them. Guard your computers everyone, this may be a virus...

cracker jack doggy - The one on the box or the big fat hound who ate his way through a case of Cracker Jack when he was left alone in the house?

nascar race during pregnancy - Um... I hate to break it to you, but there's bound to be more than one NASCAR race during your pregnancy unless you are some kind of insect. Just paint a "3" on your belly and enjoy!

science obstacle course - OK, run around the electron microscope, weave through the row of bunsen burners and then jump over the barrel of potassium nitrate.

5 year old does not pay attention - Well, duh. First time around kids?

whinny 4 year old - Well duh. Second search today, huh?

jo cross super nanny daily routine - Finally! Someone to take care of the distracted 5 year old and the "whinny" 4 year old!

it's all about t-shirts - Would someone please get this searcher a pair of pants!!!

duct tape wallets - Easy to make, but it's tough to pull your money out of one.

brain span of a dog - I believe that a dog's brain span reaches from the cookie in your left hand to the other cookie in your right hand.

Happy searching, everyone!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Simple Pleasures

I was tagged with this meme by Kim and since it consists of only one question, I felt capable of completing the task.

Name 10 of life's simple pleasures:
1. Driving on a warm Spring day with the windows down and the music turned WAY up. Sometimes it's the Beach Boys. Today it was Albert Collins on Sirius Blues.
2. Jim Nabors singing Back Home Again in Indiana just before the call of "Lady and Gentlemen Start Your Engines" at the Indianapolis 500.
3. A hot shower after a long day.
4. A clear night sky with a full moon and about a ka-jillion stars.
5. A soft, tender kiss from the woman I love. (OK, so I'm dropping hints in case my wife actually still reads this blog... )
6. Having someone come up to me and ask me about Jesus. I'm constantly amazed by people's spiritual hunger and their reluctance to taste.
7. One of my kids needing Daddy.
8. The sound of a referee's whistle on a crisp fall day.
9. The first good snowfall of the season.
10. Ice cream.

As most of you should know by now, I don't do tags. However in this case, I'll tag everyone who has the letter "R" in his or her first name. Check your birth certificate...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Christian Carnival Cruise - Edition CXVIII

Welcome to Christian Carnival CXVIII. It's the week after Easter (or Resurrection Sunday, if you prefer) and it's time for us to have a little vacation. Maybe take in a little fresh air out on the open sea. So, climb aboard. We're expecting you. Here's hoping that you've set a course for adventure and your heart on a new romance.

Posted by Picasa
That's right, it's the Love Boat Edition of Christian Carnival, with posts assigned one member of your ship's crew for supervision (in case we have to man the lifeboats). So why not begin at the top? Introducing your ship's captain:

Posted by Picasa
That's Captain Merrill Stubing. He's an old hand on board this ship. Making sure of a safe journey is his number one priority. He will be our guide through a series of posts about the event which enables us a safe journey to heaven -- Christ's passion, crucifixion and resurrection.

Lyn from Forward Thoughts starts us off with an Easter sermon/meditation entitled, With a Word.

Given the assignment of sharing about one of the seven "words" of Christ, Brendt of Musings from Two-Sheds Gomer examines, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise,” in a few thoughts on one of the "words".

From Ruth of Ruthlace, comes this meditation called, Do You Know About Easter?

At Brain Cramps for God, John takes on Hope and Knowledge for Easter.

In What Brilliant Darkness, Dr. Bob from The Doctor Is In reflects on the death and resurrection of Christ in poetry.

At dokeo kago grapho soi kratistos theophilos, Richard state discusses the disappearance of Satan in Matthew and Mark and his role in Luke's Passion story in The Ruin of Satan.

Dadmanly posts An Easter Message from a MILBLOGGER returned from Iraq since an Easter celebrated in Mesopotamia. Read New Beginnings (Again).

At Adam's Blog, Adam applies the Easter event to other parts of life in Even So, Come Lord Jesus.

From Under the Acacias, What convinced the disciples of Jesus was not the empty tomb, but meeting the risen Christ. Keith Smith has worked as a missionary for 15 years in Burkina Faso, and considers the life-changing impact of such a world-changing event in The Empty Tomb Doesn't Convince Me.

And A Penitant Blogger brings this section to a close with Knew Not That It Was Jesus -- a reflection on Mary Magdalene’s encounter in the garden and on the encounters of our everyday life.

Posted by Picasa
Your cruise director Julie McCoy heads up the next group. And since it's the Love Boat, let's talk love... and worship... and related issues.

Catez begins with March of the Penguins, posted at Allthings2all. Filmed in Antarctica during the icy blizzards of winter and the later warmth of spring, March of the Penguins tells two stories - that of the Emperor Penguins and that of ourselves. It's an epic journey that mirrors human experiences of loss and love, and tells of a timeless quest to create and sustain life in the beauty of God's design.

silas jones examines the lack of correct teaching in today's Christian music in Sound Doctrine and Musical Worship.

Such a Worm! Rebecca of Rebecca Writes looks at possible reasons behind a change that is often made to the words of the hymn, "Alas and Did My Savior Bleed?"

Posted by Picasa
Feeling a little seasick? Doc Bricker will fix you up. And while he's at it, he will usher in a group of posts which touch on current events and cultural debates.

At Northern 'Burbs Blog, Ron completes his "untouchable" series examining the Dalits of India with Free the Dalits: So What Can I Do?

Why did crime go down in the mid-'90's...and what does the answer teach Christians about how to argue for truth? You'll wince at the answer to the first question, but maybe learn from the answer to the second when Byron from the No Kool-Aid Zone presents, Roe v. Wade v... Crime? A Lesson in Making the RIGHT Argument.

With Should Moussaoui Die? Professor Bainbridge Uses Avery Cardinal Dulles' theses on the morality of the death penalty, to ponder the question of whether Zacharias Moussaoui should be executed.

Posted by Picasa
Tote that barge. Lift that bale. Fetch me another pillow and bring it to the Lido Deck, would you? Nah, never mind... Gopher will do it! Your ship's purser brings us a set of posts about that everyday trudge through life.

The Bible gives our language many expressions. The post, Cultural Literacy and the Bible, part 1, at Daddy's Roses examines a few of these.

Here's a look at the downward spiral that single Christians often take towards the bar scene from David at all kinds of time. Why Christian Singles Quit Going Out.

This Is Not Life! What does a cyborg killing machine know about human existence? More than you might think, according to the post from Light Along the Journey.

The bloke in the outer poses the dilemma that fearing God appears to be contradictory to the Christian gospel of love, grace and forgiveness. So, what does it mean? Read The Paradox of Fearing God and hopefully you can help!

Posted by Picasa
Everybody knows that the best theological discussions take place in a place where the drinks flow freely. At least that's what they tell me. And if we're going to have that discussion, who better than Isaac the Bartender to serve up the posts?

At Parableman, Jeremy talks atonement, sin, peace and deliverance in his thought-provoking Deliverance From Transgressions.

Micah Girl has been teaching her students about the connection between God's love and eternity in "Eternity in Their Hearts."

Following the hoopla around the public unveiling of the so-called Gospel of Judas, Derek from P.I.D. Radio presents an audio post, the beginning of a three-part interview with Craig A. Evans, a member of the advisory board assembled by the National Geographic Society to analyze the document. Craig, a university professor of New Testament studies who has authored and edited over 50 books, brings some sanity to a story that's been blown out of proportion by a credulous news media.

Diane of crossroads: where faith and inquiry meet asks What Would Happen If... our churches were organized just like the First Century Church. Would more people would have more balanced teaching, feel more taken care of, have less control and abuse, and get more out of church? Judge for yourselves.

Finally, movies, television shows... are these good examples of morality? Chris at Welcome to the Fallout says "yes and no" in his post 24, Rainbow Six and Utilitarianism.

Posted by Picasa
Finally, everybody needs a little coochie-coochie. Ladies and Gentlemen.... Charo! With posts just for fun.

A comic with a point? You be the judge as kneon transitt should not be allowed to blog presents, "The Evangelists".

Martin has a little bit of everything in Sunspots 52 posted at Sun and Shield.

What's the relationship between taxes, the scripture, and soggy bread? OK, Katy at hasn't found one, but this is a fun post anyway. It's called They Got Some Crazy Little Scriptures There, And I'm Gonna Get Me One!

Here's an odd question. But you need to visit Wayne's World 2005 and read it for yourself. It's included in Minus 52 Days - Generating Traffic After Easter.

Posted by Picasa

That will bring our little cruise to an end. And so we bid you a fond farewell. My thank you to all the participants and to all of you passengers. I hope your love for your Savior is always exciting and new.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Good Reads - Post Easter

Gotta plug these posts which really touched me.

Teresa at Restoration Station reminds us that God speaks to us in ways we don't expect, and when we do expect it, we often miss it. "Are We Listening?"

Over at A Preacher's Journey, John examines the uproar over Wal-Mart selling copies of Brokeback Mountain in it's stores, and asks, "Is Cleaning Up Wal-Mart Our Job?"

Tim of Callmeteem fame gives a beautiful illustration of how we can glorify God. "Luke and the Glory of God."

Then Lorna at see-through-faith awakes late on Friday and recalls a Maunday Thursday service -- my favorite night of Holy Week. "Good Friday"

More good stuff is coming on Wednesday at Attention Span hosts Christian Carnival CXVIII, which is either #118 or Vanna put all the vowels at the end. Submissions to ChristianCarnival at GMail dot com are due at Midnight Tuesday night (EDT).

Friday, April 14, 2006

Why It Matters - The Cross

It is worn as an ornament from a chain around the neck. It adorns church walls and sits atop steeples. Some believers make hand motions to outline its shape. It is the subject of some of the Church's best loved hymns.

Aside from the way it fulfilled prophecy, it could have just as easily been a noose, a spear or a sword. But it was a cross -- a crosspiece mounted to an upright -- which was the instrument of death for my Savior. Commentators have remarked that because Christ was put to death on a cross, He had been killed in a kosher manner; the blood being drained from His body. Others have stated that the cross provided a public, shameful death, fitting for One who "made Himself nothing" by coming to earth. It was a horrible way to die. Nails through the hands and feet. The inner organs being compacted so that the victim can no longer breathe.

It's not so much the cross that matters, of course, but the event which happened upon it. A death which ended the only life lived without sin. The sacrifice of One whose divine nature was necessary to take on the punishment for the sins of the world.

I've read various theories about Jesus not actually dying, but only fainting upon the cross. Another posits that it wasn't Jesus at all on the cross, but a stand-in -- Judas, perhaps. Men and women have sought to deny and discredit the crucifixion, saying it didn't happen or that it doesn't matter. But it happened. And it matters.

The cross matters because we are sinners. If we were able to live perfectly as Jesus did, we would have no need of the cross. But we cannot. None of us. So Christ willingly, (let us not ever forget that part) voluntarily took our death sentence. The requirement of living a perfect life to enter heaven is met only by wrapping ourselves in the brilliant white righteousness of Christ Jesus.

We cannot atone for our own sin. If I make a mistake and hurt or disappoint someone, I try my best to make things right. But nothing I do can make up for the sins I commit. I cannot make things right. Only what Christ has done will make it right.

I cannot earn that salvation. But it is freely given.

All of my good works combined will never make me good enough. I cannot save. Only Christ saves. If you are counting on your own good works to save you, give it up now. It doesn't work. Salvation comes only through the grace of God in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

And when I survey that wondrous cross, I cannot help but feel loved. My Savior paid the price that I could never pay. And it hurt. Jesus was physically ripped and beaten. My guilt was placed upon Him. His tongue swelled. His lungs gasped for breath. The soldiers and bystanders laughed and mocked. Even one hanging beside Him made fun of Him. Then finally it was over. The thrust of a spear made sure it was finished. The price of my forgiveness had been paid.

The cross matters because without it, I would be without hope. It matters because it made us able to be with the Creator who loves us. Forever. But only if we rely on Him for our salvation and not on ourselves. The cross matters because it shows just how far God was willing to go to make sure I was coming home.

It matters.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Why It Matters - Biblical Inerrancy

Since the Jesus Seminar seems to be on an extended vacation, Bart Ehrman stepped up this Easter season and trotted out the so-called Gospel of Judas. In his continuing campaign to deconstruct (and thus destroy) the word of God, he touts an old Gnostic piece of propaganda designed to lure people toward their teaching -- the need for a secret knowledge. Anybody with a little bit of investigation can see that the document is not a historical account, and it most certainly wasn't written by Judas in that time between kissing Jesus in the garden and hanging himself from a tree in the potter's field. But it's the attack that matters. The idea is to get people -- especially Christians -- to doubt that what the Bible says is true and accurate. Ehrman and many others want to take down biblical inerrancy.

This is nothing new. People have been trying to disprove the Bible for centuries. Any strand of hope has been clung to in order to cast doubt on the reliability of what has been handed down to us as God's word. I've dealt with many people who have tried to claim that the Bible is just a book translated from one language to another to another to another until today it looks nothing like what was originally written. Their ignorance of the fact that our Bible is translated from the original language shoots their argument before it falls off the tongue.

But most assaults on the Bible's reliability come in two forms: the Church changed the texts to make them say what the Church wanted them to say, or the original authors were unreliable. The first charge reads like a wild conspiracy theory. Many unorthodox teachers make this claim to try to prove their own anti-biblical theories. And then there are the Dan Browns of the world who flesh out a conspiracy theory about Mary Magdalene, Leonardo daVinci, et. al., call it a "code" and make bucketfuls of cash from it.

Those who claim that the authors could not have correctly transmitted God's word onto paper often point to some of the apparent contradictions in the text and claim that there are mistakes. Jennifer was discussing one of those this week. However upon further study, those apparent contradictions are not contradictions at all. They can all be harmonized with one another. At least I've never found one which wasn't easily harmonized.

People have argued with me that the Old Testament writers thought pi=3 and that different authors reported different figures for war injuries and for populations, refusing to understand that giving a rounded number instead of an exact number is not a distorting of the text. They point to differing accounts in the four Gospels, ignoring the basic human fact that different people notice different things. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were all different types of people, writing to different audiences for different reasons. If the four wrote all identical texts, the charges of collusion would be rampant. And let's not forget that Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and even Jonah had no problem getting God's message accurately. Why should we think that God wouldn't make sure Peter, Paul, James and John got it right too?

Please note that holding to biblical inerrancy holds for the original documents and not necessarily the translations, which is where our conspiracy theorists pounce. Yet as great as the number of biblical manuscripts that we have, there is little doubt as to their overall accuracy.

But why does it matter? Why can't we just toss out biblical inerrancy and not worry about it? Because the Bible is our standard. Sure we have the revelation of creation around us and we have the revelation of conscience within us, but beyond that we have no way to determine whether a teaching is accurate outside of the Bible. There is no esoteric "feeling" which is not so subjective to make a true determination. If the accuracy of the Bible is in question in one place, how do you place confidence in it's accuracy in another? If Jesus' miracles are all just myth, then what is really true and how do you know? Certainly we can't be stupid enough to think that our own reason with no further revelation from God will lead us directly to Him.

If Jesus didn't walk on water, then how do we know we are saved by grace and not by works?

The fact that man argues over interpretation is irrelevent. Man will argue over the color of the sky, even if it came with a big label reading, "BLUE". Our troubles in understanding all of it is only natural for pea-brained humans trying to comprehend an infinite God. Our problem believing it is a matter of faith, or the lack thereof. But none of these compromise the truth of the Bible, nor do they undercut in any way the doctrine of biblical inerrancy.

Biblical inerrancy matters because once the accuracy of any part is called into question, the accuracy of all of it is then in question. It matters because Scripture is the revelation God gives of Himself. It matters because the Bible is the foundation for knowing the truth of our faith.

It matters.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

How To Get Here - 4/12/06

It almost gets weirder every week 'round these parts. The paths to Attention Span are too numerous to mention. But that doesn't mean I won't mention a few. Among the roads travelled this week:

blather and musings blog - I don't like to brag, but I was the number one result for blather! I guess Google knows me pretty well.

what does abednego mean? - a-bed-ne-go n. 1. A being occasionally impervious to flames.

Famous Christian Germans - No, scratch that... I'll take Mediocre Mormon Cubans for $400, Alex.

life span of a jamaica fruit eating bat - I suppose it all depends on the amount of fruit served.

ventilator picture person - I'll bet it's hard being a photographer, dragging a breathing machine around...

how to deal with attention hungry ponies - Give 'em attention?

we believe in god and think that puppies are cute - and we'd be happy to ride the attention hungry ponies!

Of course you can always follow the avenue leading from my post at Christian Carnival CXVII now posted at Cadmusings.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Marks

I have a weird cat. Now I realize what is running through your mind -- all cats are weird. True enough. But this cat is weird, even for a cat. Some days, it's like he is involved in his very own role-playing adventure, or at least playing some kind of telekinetic round of paintball. But I've learned to deal with him, and I actually like him. He's only lived with us for about three months now, and we adopted him from another family, so I know he arrived with his own built-in idiosyncrasies.

Last week I noticed something else about him. This cat is mostly white with a few black splotches, but there is now a spot of rusty-tan on the top of his head. It wasn't there before. It bothered me for a few minutes, wondering what kind of feline disease this cat had picked up. Then it hit me. One of this cat's idiosyncrasies is that he loves to play in the water. He will spend an hour sitting in the bathtub playing with the water which drips from the leaky faucet. Half the time I bend down to give his head a rub, he is wet between the ears -- not behind, but literally between. What I finally determined is that this crazy cat has sat under the leaky faucet playing submarine (or whatever he calls the game) so much, he is developing a rust stain from the hard water in our well! Instead of having a bathtub ring he has a bathtub large dot on the top of his head! His head fur is scarred due to the lifestyle he leads.

I only have one scar. It's barely visible anymore. As a kid, I was playing with an overturned bicycle, spinning the wheel as fast as I could. Then as I tried to spin it a little faster, my finger was sliced by the skinny little fender which stretched over part of the tire. The blood poured. I didn't get stitches, but I probably should have. My mother basically taped the wound together, which left a three-inch, worm-like scar on the middle finger of my right hand. It used to be much more visible, but it's faded away to the point where I really have to study my hand to find the scar.

Other people have all kinds of scars. Some are surgical and give the resemblance of a skin zipper to the naked eye. Other scars are from injuries like mine, only worse. Still others have scars from a fight or from sports. A few people have bragged that their scars make them look dangerous. Others have been more forthright in saying that the scars look like they were stupid on a previous occasion.

In Galatians 6:17, Paul writes that he bears on his body the marks of Jesus. Scholars can debate exactly what he meant by that. Certainly Paul was beaten around for preaching Christ in inhospitable villages, so he could have been talking about physical scars -- the souveniers of persecution. But he also could have been talking about being touched by Christ. Physically, Paul was temporarily blinded by Jesus on the Damascus Road. It is believed Paul had eye problems thereafter, perhaps a reminder of what had happened. But spiritually, Paul had been touched as well. He was a different man as an apostle than he was studying under Gamaliel as a youth. The marks of Christ on Paul's life were not simply physical, but they affected his entire being to the point where Paul could say, "Follow me, as I follow Christ."

I, too, bear the marks of Jesus. But mine are not physical. It isn't always as obvious as a rust spot on the head of a black and white cat. But it affects me just the same. My life is different because of Him. It's not an easy thing to explain, but I experience His guidance. I feel the strength that is not my own. I am led in my teaching and preaching such that sometimes I almost feel possessed by the Holy Spirit, realizing that the previous five minutes the sermon were not something that I wrote or even planned to say.

The marks of Jesus Christ are emotional as well. I know where to turn when I am weak and tempted. I understand that even if my prayer is answered differently that I asked, that He knows my pain and what is best. And I see how He has used the pains and heartaches of my life to mold me more into the the image of Christ Jesus.

Perhaps there are those who think I live in my own little world. As I watch my cat, there are people watching me, thinking, "What in the world is going through that guy's bald head?" But that's alright. It's just because I bear the marks.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Revisiting "The Enthusiasm"

Life has kept me from doing much writing this week. For that I apologize. I know how frustrating it is to stop into a blog and not see anything new. But as I said before, this blog is for me and I won't sacrifice what I have to do to blog. The interesting thing is that I have two or three posts half-finished, but duty is calling. I'll get them up sometime soon. But in the meantime, I was going through some of the thoughts I had last year as we approached Holy Week. It has always been my favorite time. And with Palm Sunday barely 26 hours away, I'd like to share these words I wrote last year as I thought about the people who waved palm branches before the prophet on a donkey -- those people who, for a few minutes at least, had enthusiasm.

There's nothing like a new hobby that really is fun and exciting. I've had many in my life -- some of which are still passions, while others faded away. As a kid, I had a huge black superball. Actually it wasn't a superball because it was some sort of tough black rubber which was slightly smaller than a baseball. But had a great bounce. In the summer when I had a chance, I would play my own baseball games. With a mitt on one hand and the ball in the other, I played out games featuring real major leaguers, a few of my friends and any other names which came to mind. I'd often do play-by-play, although quietly so that anybody happening by wouldn't hear me.

My house had a large brick section at the front. There were no windows in the brick; just a sidewalk which ran almost next to the wall. The game was simple. To pitch, I would throw the ball hitting the sidewalk first, then caroming off the brick back toward me. If I caught it in the air, it was an out. If it came off the wall as a grounder, then I had to field the ball like an infielder and throw it off the wall on the fly and catch it for the out at first base. Runs were only scored when I couldn't catch something or if I couldn't hit the sidewalk on the pitch.

I must have played that game for at least half my waking sunny-day hours for three or four summers. Then something must have happened. Maybe the ball got lost. (There was no replacing that black super ball.) Or maybe it was the added responsibilities of my life -- more baseball, more chores, more helping at the family store. Maybe my voice was worn out from so much play-by-play. Whatever it was, my enthusiasm for the game just wasn't there anymore. I'd love to have that enthusiasm back. Shoot, I'd love to have that black super ball back.

I often wonder about the people who spread their cloaks and palm branches before Jesus that Sunday. Why were they so happy? What were they expecting from Him? Were they just waiting for Jesus to begin the long-awaited uprising to drive the Romans from the land of Israel? Were they celebrating the arrival of a new king? A prophet? A celebrity? Were they simply caught up in excitement and joined in? I wish I knew. I wonder what happened to those people. Did the same people who shouted "Hosanna!" also shout "Crucify!"?

I've always been fascinated by Acts 14. The people of Lystra had received Paul and Barnabas with great pomp and circumstance. After Paul had healed a man who had been crippled since birth, the Lystrans try to worship the two evangelists as Greek gods. The text says that even after explaining everything to the people, many still wanted to sacrifice to them. Paul and Barnabas were stars! But then some of Paul and Barnabas' enemies showed up and whipped up the crowds to the point where they got a hold of Paul and stoned him, drug him out of the city and left him for dead! We're not told exactly how long a span of time it was between worshipping and stoning, but the text seems to imply that it wasn't very long at all. The people who had to be held back from worshipping Paul and Barnabas had in short order became those who tried to kill them. Why? Were they too easily led? Were they disappointed by Paul and Barnabas' refusal to be worshipped? How can a person go from wanting to worship to wanting to kill in such a short period of time?

There are times when we move from one extreme to the other as well. We can flow through the process of infatuation with another person until it finally dies out. We can rush headlong into a hobby for a while until we get burned out. It can happen spiritually too. Our desire for prayer and closeness with God can move from hot and heavy to "when I get around to it." The Bible, which once called to us, begging to be read, can turn into a silent, dusty decorative item on the bedside table. Our enthusiasm can wane. Our relationship with our Creator can grow cold.

In my imagination, I can see the face of Jesus looking out at the crowd of people calling for Barabbas instead of for Him. And I see Him recognize a face; the face of a man with hatred etched in the wrinkles of his skin. But Jesus remembers him from another day. On that day, he wore a smile and threw down his cloak for His donkey to walk across. And a tear runs down Jesus' cheek. The same kind of tear which ran down His cheek on that Sunday as He was reminded of the rejection of His own people. And He looks at the man who is shouting "Crucify Him!" Then suddenly the man sees he has been recognized and he runs back to his home. There he sits, wondering why the enthusiasm he had felt for this arriving prophet had faded and been replaced by hatred.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

How to Get Here - April Fools

My one-time experiment is now a much-heralded and highly-anticipated weekly feature. (At least at some of the higher-class Homes for the Easily Amused.) You know the way to get here. It seems there are fewer and fewer ways not to get here. Here's how a few adventurous souls stumbled into Attention Span in the first week of April:

life span of the boiled egg - Life span? Boiled eggs are ALIVE??!! ARGH!

teenager exact attention span - Exactly 0.0386 seconds. Unless you are handing out money.

swerving to miss hitting a deer during pregnancy - Out of curiosity, how are you supposed to tell if the deer is pregnant?

biracial skin color photos - I'm guessing one-color photography is all that's needed for this?

smelling something that isn't there - Like a Phantom Fragrance? Or a Ghost Stink? Don't worry about that stuff. It's the stuff that is there that really stinks.

xena's lesbian kiss - Sorry, pal. Plenty of other places on the web to find that kind of stuff.

redheads and anger - love and marriage, peanut butter and jelly, church potlucks and Sunday afternoon naps... it's all good.

And as an added bonus, this search got someone to my Bible study blog, Clearing My Head:
Joseph being sold to the Israelites - picture - I'm not sure which I'm most alarmed about... that someone is so confused that he thinks Joseph's brothers bought him back for some reason, or that he expected a photographer to be there to capture the event.

Of course you can always follow the avenue leading from my post at Christian Carnival CXVI now posted at the outer...

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

More Nudity? What a Shame.

I am constantly amazed how the blogosphere works. All I have to do is mention briefly a story about a Christian nudist camp, and I become a haven for people looking for more information! So before I pick up a nickname like "The Naked Blogger" I figure I'd better address the whole issue in more detail.

In the other post I mentioned that nakedness is not necessarily lustful. To a certain degree I believe that's accurate. The secret of sexiness is in not showing everything. The erotic thoughts are born in the imagination. A naked person leaves nothing to the imagination. So there is a sense in which nudity and lust are not tied directly together. And if the stereotype of naturists (the preferred name for nudists) is correct, most of these people aren't all that physically attractive in the first place. Let's face it, there are many people whom you do not want to see in the buff. Nudity and lust do not go hand in hand in every occasion.

And that's the point that so-called Christian naturists are trying to point out, or exploit, as the case may be. Witness this open letter published on the Fig Leaf Forum. (I'm not making this stuff up, friends.) This was written by a person who read the transcript of a debate between Mark Roberts and John Kundert, who is apparently a naturist spokesperson of some kind. The focus for the writer was whether or not social nudity is a sin. According to the letter, this man claimed that:
...if I can be convinced that my practice of nudism is a sin, and therefore a hindrance to my sharing eternity with God, I will gladly walk away from it.
Well, my anonymous brother or sister, let me try to convince you.

I will gladly leave aside the whole lust argument. Even though there is truth to it, and the claims that Mark Roberts made are true, I will acknowledge that not every bit of nudity brings thoughts of lust. But the point that you seemed to be so impressed with from Mr. Kundert is flawed. You wrote:
John quoted several examples of nudity in the Bible, including God's command to Isaiah to publicly [sic] preach nude. I was hoping you would use references showing where God condemned nudity.
Realistically, Mr. Roberts didn't have to show you Bible references condemning nudity. You see every example of social nudity that I can think of in Scripture also carries another connotation. It's a word that seems to have fallen out of fashion in today's world, but it still applies. That word is shame.

The passage you mention of Isaiah being told to preach nude in public is found in Isaiah 20. In that same passage you find out why Isaiah was commanded to do this. It is a message that the Egyptians will be put to shame (v. 4). That was the whole point. It wasn't an opportunity for Isaiah to let it all hang out. It was shameful for the prophet to have to expose himself in this manner. If it wasn't shameful, then God's point isn't made.

Go back to the Garden of Eden after the first couple ate the fruit. What is the first thing they do once their "eyes are opened"? They make coverings to put over the private parts. When God comes calling, Adam explains that he was afraid and hid because he was naked. Now he had been naked all along, but when sin entered the world, Adam and Eve immediately knew that those parts needed to be covered up. Why? Shame.

Read about Noah's sons after the flood who have to try to cover their drunken father's nakedness without looking at it. It's right there in Genesis 9. Turn back to Isaiah 47:2-3 and God's word against Egypt:
Lift up your skirts, bare your legs, and wade through the streams. Your nakedness will be exposed and your shame uncovered.

That doesn't sound like social nudity is acceptable, does it? Neither do the passages in Ezekiel 16:35-42 or Micah 1:11 or Nahum 3:5 or Habakkuk 2:15-16 or Revelation 3:18. The apostle Paul even goes to the extent of calling our private parts "unpresentable" and reminds us that we treat those parts with "special modesty." I don't have a list of these convincing passages which Mr. Kundert quoted, but when I see any Biblical reference to nudity it carries with it the idea of shame. Even in those passages which speak of nakedness because of severe poverty, there is an overriding context of shame for the naked people. To read these passages otherwise is being intellectually dishonest with the text.

So why do some people see no conflict between a Biblical worldview and a naturist worldview? Simple. They choose not to see the conflict. By telling oneself that there is no shame in nudity, a person tries to deny what conscience clearly says. One must convince oneself that what one knows to be wrong is actually right, or at least acceptable. But brainwashing oneself doesn't change what the Bible clearly teaches: your nakedness is not to be shared in public.

I have no way of knowing if the letter I have referenced is current or a few years old. I also have no idea of the identity of its author. So perhaps this post will never reach the person who will actually walk away from nudism if given Biblical reasoning. But that's not the point. If even a fraction of those googling "nude wife" will understand the truth of what God's Word actually says, it will have the desired impact. And if we would all remember the concept of shame, we will all be better off.

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Times They Are A-changin'

I live in an interesting place. I live and interact with people from two different states -- Indiana and Ohio. Ordinarily this would be no big deal, but something happened last weekend for the first time in over 30 years: Daylight Savings Time in Indiana. The Hoosier state is One of three ostates which had stubbornly refused to reset their clocks twice each year. This year the state legislature finally adopted the measure at the insistence of their governor. And speaking as someone on the Ohio side of the state line, I've heard a ton of whining and complaining about it from the rank and file Hoosier. I find that fascinating.

Most of us know the drill. Spring forward, fall back. One hour difference. The only thing noticeable the next morning is the amount of daylight present when the alarm goes off. Then for some odd reason on Sunday evening we wait until dark to realize that it's hour later than we thought. No big deal. We get through it. But the fine folks are just getting into the swing of it, and a few are having tantrums about it. The conversations go like this:

"I hate it."

"Really? Why do you hate it?"

"Because it's stupid."

"But why are you so upset about it? How are you being hurt by it?"

"We've gotten along without it for 30 years, why should we change now?"

"Maybe you'll like it..."

"NO! I HATE IT! It's just plain stupid..."

It's a short conversation. But it's amazing that these conversations took place BEFORE the first clock was set back. So it's no surprise that the conversations since the time change haven't changed. The people who hated it before they tried it still hate it. It's not a matter of wait and see. It's a matter of not considering anything that has been successfully avoided for the past 30 years.

Now I have no agenda in the whole Indiana Daylight Savings Time debate. I do think it's a little ridiculous to avoid DST when most of the rest of the country uses it, but beyond that I'm willing to let it go. But the whole attitude seems remarkably familiar to me. Maybe it's because I've been a part of or have heard the stories of too many churches who refuse to try anything that isn't the same as the practiced routine of the past three decades (or more).

There is a battle waged between being worldly and using some of the world's methods to the glory of God. While I understand the hesistancy in looking too much like the world, to ignore things like video or websites or music that doesn't come in a hymnal on the assertion that it's too much like the world seems foolish at best. Too easily we become attached to our traditions. The Pharisees had that problem too, and we remember what the Master had to say to them about it.

Traditions in and of themselves are not bad. Neither are drum kits in a church sanctuary. But the problem lies in the attitudes of our hearts. If we become convinced that God is only honored by singing hymns 112-388 in the red hymnal or that worship is only done while sitting in pews, we begin to confuse the role of tradition in our lives and in our Christian walk. Traditions can quickly become the modern equivalent of the Ashtoreth pole. Our adoration often becomes stronger for our man-made idols than for the Man-maker Himself. Yet some refuse to see a problem with this. After all, "God doesn't change so why should we?!"

Giving up a good ol' tradition is like getting some Hoosiers to move their clocks ahead an hour.

"Lord, please help me to see tradition simply as tradition. Give me the strength not to be bound by my past and other's past in my pure pursuit of you."

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Living on the Edge After Someone Has Slipped

Posted by Picasa

As some of you know, I'm a big fan of the Indy Racing League. Sure, NASCAR races are OK, but what really excites me is to see open wheel cars running at 220 miles per hour with mere inches separating the tires of one car and the tires of another. I grew up in Indiana, so my interest began with the Indianapolis 500 when I was a small boy. Since that time, I've been blessed to not only attend races, but also to get to meet some of these people who drive these ground-based rocket ships. These people are usually young and brash, often egotistical and always ready to go racing. It takes a special kind of human being to risk their lives day after day, all in pursuit of a race win.

One of those guys was killed last weekend in a crash during morning practice at Homestead Speedway, near Miami, Florida. His name was Paul Dana.

Posted by Picasa

I never met Paul Dana. He was fairly new to the series. He began his rookie year last season, only to be injured in a crash at Indianapolis and to be forced to sit out the rest of the schedule with a broken back. The team he drove for last year was not a fast one. But over the winter, Paul and his sponsor agreed to switch teams to drive for Rahal Letterman Racing. This was the chance of a lifetime for Paul. Big name owners 1985 Indy 500 winner Bobby Rahal and TV talk show host David Letterman. A first-rate team with plenty of resources and lots of speed. Two high profile teammates in 2004 Indy 500 champ Buddy Rice and media darling Danica Patrick. This was Paul's chance to show everyone what he was made of.

The final practice before Sunday's race was only a few minutes old when another car spun, hit the wall and slid back down across the racetrack. As it was slowly coming to a stop, there was a horrific collision. Dana's car was coming too fast. It hit a piece of debris on the track, momentarily disabling the steering, taking away any last chance for Paul Dana to miss the car sitting on the straightaway. Remarkably, Ed Carpenter, the driver of the car which had spun came away from the wreck with mostly bruises. Paul Dana was extracted from what remained of his race car, but was pronounced dead once he reached the local hospital. He was 30.

I first saw the video footage of the crash after I had heard the outcome. I've seen many crashes, but even I wasn't prepared for the sheer violence of the impact. It was shockingly brutal.

Paul, it was joked, had held every job in racing except announcer. He began as a mechanic before becoming a journalist, covering motor racing for various publications. He was smart. He was well-liked. He adored his wife, Tonya, who was pulled out of a church service in Indianapolis to be told of her husband's death.

Paul's death served as a reminder to race fans that the sport that we love is rife with danger. We get used to seeing spectacular crashes with drivers stepping from the wreckage with hardly a scratch. Some foolish NASCAR fans are often seen cheering for accidents and nudges into the wall, but these poor people have forgotten that death always seems to hang around racetracks.

Drivers also put the oh-so-real danger of their profession out of their minds, or at least in the farthest back compartment. Some have wondered why the race went on as scheduled just over three hours after a man had lost his life on that very track, and the best answer I can give is that the drivers needed to race. But at the same time, racers know that any time they venture out onto the track could be their last. Most have lost friends to accidents. Older racers can tell many stories of losing brothers and best friends because something happened on the track. The improvements in car construction have lessened the serious injuries, but scenes like the one below are not as uncommon as we would like.

Posted by Picasa

So how does one carry on after being reminded just how dangerous the situation really is? Not by hiding out in a closet and refusing to continue. These drivers wanted to race. Then they wanted to get home and leave the place where tragedy had struck, and if things had been a little different, could have struck them also.

While that may not make sense to some, to me it simply reminds me of life. We will occasionally drive by the scene of an accident, but that rarely keeps us from getting behind the wheel again. The odd case of food poisoning doesn't keep us away from restaurants. We are used to the fact that bad things can happen. We simply choose to go on in the belief that it will never happen to us, or if it does we will deal with it at that time. But we can learn from the things which go wrong. When we sin, it becomes easy to see our weaknesses. When others sin, we can learn from their mistakes and not repeat them.

When tragedy strikes, we find something else is true also. We find that God's love is constant. A grieving widow may not always see God's love just before the funeral, but later on it becomes more apparent how God works to comfort and strengthen His children. God does not hide from us in our time of need. He works through family, friends and well-wishers. And He works supernaturally, providing strength we didn't know we could access. I know this first-hand.

My heart goes out to Paul Dana's widow and family, as well as his crew and teammates and all those he touched in his brief thirty years. I am comforted by the fact that I know God is in the midst of the tragedy, bringing strength, comfort and the peace which passes all understanding to all who feel a bit emptier this week. I am reminded that we can continue on in our lives after tragedy more easily when we know that God remains on the Throne. He allows the evils of a sinful world to afflict us now, but He provides the way for us to come through it a stronger and better person if we choose to allow Him to do so. Even though someone is gone or has been hurt, we can be confident that God will remain with us, seeing us through in any situation.

Posted by Picasa

Paul Dana 1975-2006