a request

My grandmother called me yesterday to let me know that my greataunt Bebe had passed away. Aunt Bebe has had significant health issues in the past ten years or so, but even with her health problems her death comes as a shock. Aunt Bebe was a fun and fun loving person. Even in the last few years when life must have been difficult for her she tried to remain positive. It was always a pleasure to see her at family gatherings and to enjoy her sweet smile. She will be greatly missed. Death is never easy and it shouldn't be accepted stoically. Throughout Scripture death is portrayed as an alien invader in this world and the New Testament teaches that death is the last enemy to be defeated when Jesus finishes history.

For those of you who pray, I ask that you pray for my family in this time of grief and mourning. Please pray that they would they would find refuge and solace in the arms of the One who has promised to destroy death.


l'abri conference

The conference this weekend went very well. It was a great time of being encouraged to live faithfully in the midst of a changing culture and world. I think there were somewhere around 700 people who attended. One of the exciting things was the number of younger people at this year's conference. I recognixed several college students from last year and many of these students brought friends along with them this year. I say this is exciting because I'm sure there were plenty of other things these young Christians could have been doing this weekend and yet they chose to to attend a conference. It's also exciting because there are plenty of conferences out there with, uh... not so good teaching, and they chose to come to a place where they could hear balanced and biblically solid teaching.

In addition to the plenary sessions there were tons of workshops for attendees to chose from. On Friday morning I led a workshop with Denis Haack on the subject of popular music. We did a similar workshop last year discussing how music funtions as a form of cultural dialogue. This year we focused on how musicians express deep yearnings and longings of the heart. Our goal was to keep the the time fairly informal and discussion oriented. We played several songs and had the audience share what they thought of the songs. The songs were ones that expressed a longing for purpose, hope, meaning and truth. It seems to me that good musicians have the ability to communicate in ways more profound and moving than mere words.

We played songs by Snow Patrol, Zero 7, The Avett Brothers, and Beck. It was a privilege to share our thoughts on these songs and how they may unintentionally mirror a biblical worldview. It was also very interesting to listen to some of the thoughts of those who chose to come to our workshop. Many people shared their insights on the songs as well as their own personal life experience. Overall, I think the workshop went well. If you'd like to get a copy of the workshop (or of last year's) you can order one at this site: http://www.soundword.com/haackdscottt.html. Sound Word also has the other workshops and plenary sessions most of which are worth listening to if you're interested.

One of the things I appreciate about doing this workshop with Denis is the opportunity to demonstrate intergenerational interaction. I think it's a sad fact that this type of interaction is so rare in our culture and in the church. It seems to me that many in the older generations aren't willing to listen to the thoughts of the younger ones thinking that they are all just kinda whiny. The younger generations in turn tend to dismiss the older ones assuming that anything they might say is completely irrelevant to the real world. Denis and I are able to stand in front of people from these various generations and show them that we can talk and learn from one another with respect. It's not like we do this perfectly but I wish there were more people in the church having these kind of conversations that cross age barriers.


the wintry north

Yesterday we drove up to Rochester Minnesota to stay with our friends Denis and Margie. This morning I walked to the the coffee shop at the end or their street to get a latte and noticed that it was a bit chilly outside. Actually the temperature was right around 0 (that's about -17 for those of you reading in new zealand), so yeah, chilly is a fitting description.

Anyway, we've come to Rochester for the annual L'abri conference. Denis and I will be giving a workshop on yearning and the longing of the heart in popular music. We did a similar workshop at last year's conference and it went well. We had a good turn out as well as good discussion and participation from those who attended. Even though it went well last year I'm a bit anxious about it. I always get a bit nervous before I do any sort of public speaking. It's nothing like weak-in-the-knees-feel-like-I'm-gonna-puke nervousness, just a bit of discomfort and anxiety. Most of this nervousness comes from extreme self-awareness. I know that apart from God's grace nothing I say will be of any help or encouragement to those listening. For this particular workshop I have a bit of additional anxiety due to the fact that I feel like a fraud. I feel like I don't have anything to say about this subject that people don't already know. I'm not a musician, I don't have an exhaustive knowledge of music or anything close to it. All I have is my personal experience with music as an average thirty-something guy. In the end I hope my experience will be relatable to other average people trying to make sense of their experience of music.

After the conference Brooke and I will be spending some down-time with Denis and Margie. They are some of our favorite people in the world aand we are elated that we can get some alone time with them. Brooke will be leaving on Tuesday or Wednesday of next week and I will be hanging out in Rochester until March 1. Over the next few weeks I'm looking forward to listening to some good music, watching some good movies, sipping some good wine, and wrestling with issues of faith and life with good friends


nouveau black

Here's a clip from The Colbert Report with Stephen Colbert. If you've seen Colbert before then you know what your about to get. For those who aren't familiar with him Colbert is a satirist who acts like a conservative journalist (think of Bill O'Reilly). Colbert can often go overboard in his satire and critique of individuals. This got him into trouble last year when he roasted George W. Bush (who was sitting two feet away) at the White House Correspondents Dinner. The thing I appreciate about Colbert (and his cohort Jon Stewart) is that he critiques everyone. Left, Right, Republican, Democrat, Christian, Atheist. No one is safe in his presence.

Anyway, this clip is from an interview last Thursday with Debra Dickerson, author of "The End of Blackness." At the beginning of the interview Colbert seems to be playing nicely but by the end he completely strips away all the layers of political correctness and reveals how predjudice Dickerson's position really is. Check it out for yourself:

Before I say anything more let me point out that I don't know anything about Debra Dickerson. You can find an interesting interview with her at this link: http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=12273
From the interview it sounds like she does make some very valid points in her book. I haven't read the book yet but I think I may. This is all to say that I'm not trying to attack her but I do think that the position she expounds on the Colbert Report is ridiculous. To Dickerson's credit she does handle the "interview" well and with a good sense of humor. She also seems to understand some of the weaknesses of her position.

Barack Obama may not have descended from black slaves but this doesn't make him less black. He has grown up in the U.S. as a man of color and has been subjected to the ugly predjudice and latent racism present in our country. It's not like the average bigot is going to walk by Obama on the street and go, "Wait a minute. Is he really black? Should I or shouldn't I discriminate against him?" The phrase African-American should be broad enough to cover a wide variety of folks. To be African or of African descent could literally mean hundreds of different things due to the diversity of culture and ethnicity on the African continent. Barack Obama's mother is American and he was born in America. Therefore, he's American. Obama's father is from Kenya and therefore Barack is an African descendant. Does this not make him African-American or at least American-African. To my eyes the color of his skin seems to be the same color as that which is usually called "black" so why all the fuss.

If you know me then you know that the last thing I'm trying to do is come across as racist. However, it seems to that there is an inherent reverse-racism within the black community. For starters my guess is that if a white pundit made the statement "Barack Obama is not black." he would have been lambasted and many within the black community would have been shouting "Racism!" When this statement is made from within the black community it is then acceptable. This seems backward and counter-intuitive to me. The other problem is that this type of labeling excludes blacks within the black community. The definition of what is "black" is becoming narrower and narrower and in some cases just as exclusive and derogatory as any white predjudice. I know people who have been told they're "acting white" or that they're Oreos (Black on the outside but White on the inside) because they dress a certain way, talk in a specific manner or whatever else. Is this not exclusion based on racist notions of blackness? I think I agree with Colbert on this one, for many people Dr. King's dream has been realized in a very "special" way.


back in the saddle again

Just when I thought the ride was over I have begun a new degree program at Covenant Seminary. On Friday and Saturday I attended a one credit course on Muslim-Christian Relations. This is my first class towards a ThM in Pastoral Theology. The ThM (Master of Theology) is a slightly more advanced degree than the MDiv (which is what I received back in May). This is a thirty-hour degree but only twleve hours need to be completed on campus. My goal is to complete the twelve hours before we head back to New Zealand. After that I can finish one course at a time from Auckland until it's all done.

I've been wrestling with whether or not to pursue this degree for quite some time. One of the personal reasons I have decided to go through with this program is that I have a lot more questions now than I did four years ago. In essence I have learned how much more I have to learn. I'm hoping that these additional studies, with the guidance of wise and helpful professors, will help me find some answers to my questions so that I can better help others to find answers to their questions. This degree will also help me in my future teaching role at Grace Theological College. The hope here is that when I finish this degree I will be better equipped to equip my future students.

The Pastoral Theology ThM is somewhat flexible when it comes to the specific area of study. I plan to focus on Apologetics and Practical Theology since this is the field I'll be teaching in. I also hope to focus some of my studies on church planting since I have a ton of learning to do in this area before we get back to Auckland. Of course this is all just hope and speculation right now. Reality has a way of changing our best plans and there is a lot of hard work and money that needs to be expended before I actually finish the ThM. I was pretty certain last May that I was done with school but the last eight months have shown me that more preparation is not a bad thing. However, it was pretty weird sitting in class again last weekend. I also felt like I was being demoted when I registered for the class and went from alumnus back to student.