Friday, December 28, 2007

progress and the electric toothbrush

For Christmas I got an insulated USB coffee mug. This is a picture of it plugged into one of my laptops.

USB 2.0 Coffee

It cracks me up. But I'm sure a lot of my people would call it the perfect gift for me. It's hard to think about me apart from coffee or computers. And if the people who gave it to me are reading this, thank you. I will use it. And to be fair it also has an adapter to plug it into your car cigarette lighter.

But here's what I'm wondering. I'm wondering how valuable progress really is, and where it's taking us.

If you don't know of Tim Hawkins, you may not appreciate the humor of an electric toothbrush (below). It's all about laziness. But now there's something for the more disciplined among us, or more fearful—the wireless toothbrush. The wireless toothbrush streams data to a remote display, prompting you how long and how hard to brush. I'll bet Wireless Toothbrush 2.0 will include an accelerometer based on the iPhone's to determine exactly which tooth you're brushing and at what angle. But then where does it go?

I know better than to make a slippery slope argument. But I do wonder what the slope might look like with the likes of a wireless toothbrush. Maybe the insurance companies will get ahold of this and give discounts to anyone who promises they have bought a wireless toothbrush, and that they brush their teeth 3 times a day for 2 minutes (hey, it could happen—they give me one if I promise I bought an alarm system for my home, and that it’s monitored). But then, men like control, don’t they? If those insurance companies could figure out a way to monitor my tooth brushing themselves, they wouldn’t need to trust my promise (kind of like the way the state dials my car’s computer into their computer when I get a mandatory yearly car inspection). I doubt the insurance companies would pass a law requiring me to submit tooth brushing data. But they don’t have to. If it costs $25/month with a wireless toothbrush and $150/month without, it’s law enough. There’s written laws and there’s unwritten laws. Ask anyone who doesn’t go to church.

When you think about it, the promise of progress is exaltation. Whether it's in technology or in the church or wherever, it's about me escaping the common human plight, setting me apart from the less fortunate, and making me feel like a god. It sounds great up front, but the side effects are hell.

Friday, December 21, 2007

to see through not with the eye

I wonder what God is up to? It must be one of the most important questions that can ever be asked. I love Blake's poem. And I'm pierced by the term “practical agnosticism”. Thank God for Brent Curtis, God rest his soul.

I Wonder What God Is Up To?


Several years ago I went through one of the most painful trials of my professional life. The story involves a colleague whom I will call Dave, a man I hired and with whom I had labored several years in ministry. We spent many hours on the road together, speaking to churches about the Christian life. A point came when I needed to confront Dave about some issues in his life that were hurting his own ministry and the larger purposes of our team. In all fairness, I think I handled it poorly, but I was totally unprepared for what happened next. Dave turned on me with the ferocity of a cornered animal. He fabricated lies and spread rumors in an attempt to destroy my career. His actions were so out of proportion it was hard to believe we were reacting to the same events. He went to the head pastor in an attempt to have me dismissed. The attempt failed, but our friendship was lost, and several others were hurt in the process.

In the midst of the crisis, I spoke with Brent one afternoon about the turn of events and the awful pain of betrayal. He said, “I wonder what God is up to in all this?”

“God?” I said. “What’s he got to do with it?” My practical agnosticism was revealed. I was caught up in the sociodrama, the smaller story, completely blind to the true story at that point in my life. Brent’s question arrested my attention and brought it to a higher level. In fact, the process of our sanctification, our journey, rests entirely on our ability to see life from the basis of that question. As the poet William Blake warned long ago, “Life’s dim window of the soul distorts the heavens from pole to pole, and leads you to believe a lie, when you see with, not through, the eye.”

(The Sacred Romance, 146–47)

From The Ransomed Heart, by John Eldredge, reading 354 Ransomed Heart Ministries

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

do you see what I see? part ii

Yeah, if there was another verse (which there wouldn't be), it would have to go something like this:

Said the people to the passers-by
“It is time to obey!
Look no further now, passers-by,
It is time to obey!
Your knees, your knees, you must surely bow
And confess like we tell you how,
And confess like we tell you how!”

It doesn't particularly stir me to anything. I'm not really tripping over myself to join up.

Monday, December 10, 2007


I went room by room, flipping switches, turning off incandescents and fluorescents one by one and ten by ten. It was getting darker at every turn. But there are so many lights, and there is so much power being used. I could smell the aroma, so I knew it was somewhere, even if it was so faint and dim that the slightest slipped breath would have put it out. But for some reason I could not see it. I wanted to find it. I desperately wanted to find itthe candle, the light of the world. I would have this flame over all the wizardry of modern man, and against whatever perils crouch in the aegis of darkness. The lights had to go out.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

do you see what I see?

I've always liked this Christmas song, but I just noticed something new when I listened to it on the radio last week.

Said the night wind to the little lamb,
"Do you see what I see?
Way up in the sky, little lamb,
Do you see what I see?
A star, a star, dancing in the night,
With a tail as big as a kite,
With a tail as big as a kite."

Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy,
"Do you hear what I hear?
Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy,
Do you hear what I hear?
A song, a song high above the trees,
With a voice as big as the sea,
With a voice as big as the sea."

Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king,
"Do you know what I know?
In your palace warm, mighty king,
Do you know what I know?
A Child, a Child shivers in the cold.
Let us bring him silver and gold,
Let us bring him silver and gold."

Said the king to the people everywhere,
"Listen to what I say!
Pray for peace, people, everywhere,
Listen to what I say!
The Child, the Child sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light,
He will bring us goodness and light."

What I just noticed is this. Every character in this tale asks a question except one. The king makes a statement, and then it's over. When you think about it, isn't that what all statements do?

And when you think about it, isn't that what Christianity has largely become?


Really, the only thing there's room for at the end of a statement is an argument or an amen. There's no invitation, no wonder, no longing, no cast of characters, no story, no awe.

Thinking back to my childhood, I always liked this song, but it wasn't my favorite. I think it was because it left me feeling flat. I didn't know why until now. It just ends so abruptly. It so quickly flatlines.

Do you see what I see?
Do you hear what I hear?
Do you know what I know?
Listen to what I say!

I think I'll go join the night wind, the little lamb, the shepherd boy, and stay away from the king. I was liking the story.

Friday, December 07, 2007

when technology works's a beautiful thing.

I got a call from a former client who was in bad shape. From the airport in Atlanta, in 15 minutes I was able to fire up my Lenovo Thinkpad, connect to the net with my Sprint EVDOrA cell phone modem, tunnel into their network with the Cisco VPN client, run Windows XP's Remote Desktop, diagnose the problem, and tell them how to fix it. All the while, the client was sharing the session, so he could see everything I did. And we were on the cell phone together the whole time, talking busines, and sharing a few laughs.

It's a beautiful thing.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


It truly is remarkable the kind of man Jesus was. From baby to adult, there was something about him that was unmistakable: confident but humble, fully connected but disentangled, compassionate but not suckered, longing but not needy, a servant but not a debtor, a king but not a dictator, worshipped but not spongy.

I got a day behind on my Advent readings, so I just read this today. In The Miraculous Journey, Marty Bullis contrasts Herod with Jesus out of one little phrase. When the wise men came from the east, Herod “was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him”.

He comes into the world having accomplished nothing yet He is worshiped. He exits the world having brought salvation yet is scorned. He walks the entire way, from incarnation to crucifixion, needing no affirmation. He is content to simply be and do what He is.

…He [entered] the world through a broken family, in a city regarded as insignificant, and in the form of a helpless child. Yet in this we see the ways of God, where the least are greatest, where the poor are rich, where the meek inherit the earth. This Christ child is a King who can lead His people, not merely lord them, and who does not force them to mirror His emotional state. He is a babe who does not require our worship but evokes it as only an un-needy God can.


Now there’s a great yuletide word if there ever was one.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

a thrill of hope

a thrill of hope...
the weary world rejoices...

Are there any words in all of language as beautiful as these? Someday.

This song is resonating with me. It's in my heart and has found my voice. I admit to being a Christina Perry fan. I've been known to...