Monthly Archives: July 2007


Labels Can Be Libel

A recent conversation resulted in a brother telling me that: “Labels are libel.” I fear there is more truth in this aphorism that most of us would care to admit.

Technically libel is: “A published false statement damaging to a person’s reputation.” It is very difficult to prove in a court of law and rarely is a person successful in a case regarding libel. Free speech is a valued liberty in our society and rightly so.

But a secondary definition says libel is “a false or defamatory oral or written statement; a thing that brings discredit by misrepresentation.” This definition carries with it the idea of accusing falsely and/or maliciously.

So, are labels sometimes a form of libel? To my mind it depends entirely upon the context. If I am called a Calvinist, for example, it could be a form of libel or it could be an accurate statement. It depends entirely on the person using the label and what they intend by using it. Often this label does turn out to be libel in terms of personal

By |July 30th, 2007|Categories: Postmodernity|

A Relational Covenant

I spent some time at Glen Eyrie this last week, the lovely location of the Navigators, a well-known international discipleship ministry. Glen Eyrie is a gorgeous place in the mountains just outside Colorado Springs. There I shared time with ten authors discussing a new line of books published by NavPress, Deliberate. Caleb Seeling, the editor of Deliberate, is one of the sharpest and most creative young editors that I’ve met. Caleb is way outside the box but he is equally concerned for real orthodoxy and the ancient faith at one and the same time. I love what he is dreaming about and pray that what he undertakes will succeed beyond his wildest dreams. I was honored beyond words to be there and to share in this really fun discussion. Thanks Caleb and thanks NavPress! I’m not ready to sign a contract but I am very seriously open to working with you guys. I love your vision and believe in you as my friends.

Caleb convened this group to be a kind of informal "editorial advisory board." He wanted a community of

By |July 28th, 2007|Categories: Personal|

Akeelah and the Bee

Akeelah and the Bee (PG) is a widely acclaimed family-friendly film that everyone can enjoy. It is not only entertaining, in the very best sense of the word, it is a first-rate true story that should not be missed. How I missed it until now reveals that I didn’t think such a film would actually appeal to me, which probably tells you more about me than I should admit. But I was proven wrong, dead wrong!

This is an absorbing and happy story. An eleven-year old black girl, Akeelah Anderson (Keke Palmer), an average and unmotivated student from Crenshaw Middle School in Los Angeles, learns to believe in her herself and to value genuine intelligence through a series of touching events that will move the viewer on a deeply personal level. Akeelah’s father was killed by a shooting when she was only six and she has been deeply scared by the trials that follow as her mother (Angela Bassett) seeks to hold the family together. Akeelah seems to fear peer rejection profoundly, as do most children, thus she runs away from appearing to

By |July 27th, 2007|Categories: Film|

Nowhere in Africa

The story of the Holocaust has been told from many many perspectives. Told from any angle, however, the human tragedy never changes. The 2002 Academy Award winning film for foreign language was Nowhere in Africa, a critically acclaimed classic. This film is the real story of a young Jewish family that fled Germany for Africa in 1938, just before Hitler and the Reich made it impossible for Jewish emigres to leave.

The narrative is one of love and family but it is deeply rooted in class, prejudice and the experience of a little girl growing up away from home who easily and quickly learns to love a remote farm in Kenya and her new African friends and culture. In contrast her parents struggle for nearly nine years to make sense of their lives and this new home. Their marriage is strained by loneliness, deep doubt, bitterness and even by at least one instance of adultery. But their love, stretched and almost destroyed, keeps drawing them back to forgiveness and the very real desire to somehow make this all work in the end.

By |July 26th, 2007|Categories: Film|

Expresso and Books

I am in Colorado Springs for an authors dialog with Nav Press. Yesterday I had lunch with the editor of Discipleship Journal in norder to chat about contributing work to the magazine. On the way back to Glen Eyrie we passed a house that was a bookstore. My editor friend said that this was the place for good books, coffee and fine food and snacks. It was an old house and thus had the decor and feeling of a "home." I said, "Please turn around, if you do not mind, and take me back. I have to go in and see it."

Thus I visited the bookshop, Agia Sophia. It is a ministry connected to an Orthodox Church in the city. The inside of the place was tasteful, aesthetically enriching and relaxing. It made me want to sit down, read and just take in the whole place with all my senses. Yes, I bought two books! (I hardly ever pass up such an opportunity.) I met several other authors at the shop as well as the editor who is leading our event

By |July 25th, 2007|Categories: Books|

College Football, Bear Bryant and "Roll Tide"

My friends know that I am a die-hard Alabama Crimson Tide fan. I attended the University of Alabama before I transferred to Wheaton College in 1969, where I have spent the remainder of my adult life. But Crimson Tide fever has never left my system. Each fall I try to find a way to see the Tide play football in person. (I also find a way to see every game on television or record it so I see it later.) This year I will be on campus for homecoming weekend, October 6, for a game versus Houston. I have four tickets and will enjoy a weekend like few others. With Nick Saban as the new Tide coach better days are most likely ahead for my Big Red Elephants.

One of the problems at Alabama, since Bear Bryant died, provides a parallel lesson for churches and similar groups that seek to work as a family or team. After the departure of the famous Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant no one could follow the legend, no one. Fans could not get over Bryant and coaches

By |July 24th, 2007|Categories: Personal|

A Weekend Emergent Village Experience

This weekend’s Midwest Emergent Gathering, held July 20-21 in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, was an event that I enjoyed participating in immensely. I was invited, by my friend Mike Clawson of up/rooted (Chicago), to answer several questions in a plenary session. I was billed as a friendly “outsider.” We laughed about this designation since many of my critics now assume that I am a “heretical insider” to Emergent. The truth is that neither is totally true. I am not so much a part of this movement, at least not in any recognizable or formal way, as I am a real friend of all things missional that sincerely address the basic questions that I feel very strongly must be faced by Christians within Western culture.

It is a basic fact that the church regularly reduces the gospel, to something less or other than than the gospel, in its various attempts to translate the good news into a faithful witness within any culture. This is true in Asia, Latin America and Africa as well. (Witness the cover story of the current Christianity Today on

By |July 23rd, 2007|Categories: Emergent Church|

Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome: My Struggle with a Strange Illness

Some readers of this blog, and my closest friends, are well aware that I have struggled for nine years with a mysterious ailment that is often misdiagnosed and routinely misunderstood by the wider public. Almost everyone I know feels tired, sometimes extremely tired. It is the nature of living in the modern world, or so it seems. If you lead a busy life and you are over fifty you sometimes feel very tired. But being tired and having Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS) are simply not the same thing. There are times that I wish we had a different (better) name for this illness since so few people understand me when I try to explain the life I try to live in coping daily with CFIDS. Yesterday’s edition of The New York Times had a wonderful article on CFIDS. I share the link to that article so that all who pray for me can understand better what you are praying for as you remember me before God’s throne of mercy. I also share this because many of you who read this either have

By |July 19th, 2007|Categories: Personal|

Reflections on the Real Reason the Fans Do Not Like Barry Bonds

Barry Bonds is in Chicago this week. His batting numbers are down, his legs are clearly hurting and he shows his age, 43, with every swing. But, unless something very strange happens he will break Hank Aaron’s record for all-time home runs sometime this summer. He only needs four more homers to tie the record of 755 and thus five to break it. For those of us who grew up watching Henry Aaron, Willie Mays and Stan Musial play the great game Barry is a huge disappointment. This is not a case of old people not liking to see a sacred record broken by a new player. As the saying goes, "All records are made to be broken." Generally, such feats are celebrated even by those who previously held the record. But Bonds is different.

Yes, there is the steroid controversy. Did he or didn’t he? I am willing to say that he has not been convicted, not yet at least. Accusations have never been proven, though circumstantial evidence abounds. In one sense, I don’t care if he did drugs or not since

By |July 18th, 2007|Categories: Baseball|

Presidential Optimism is Not Called for at the Moment

Presidential optimism is generally a good quality. Leaders need to project hope and a positive outlook. It is best, I think, that our commander-in-chief believes that what he is doing in the world militarily is both good and necessary, even though evil is often done while pursuing the good. Confusion, doubt and pessimism do not breed success. President Bush seems to be the most optimistic leader that we have had in my lifetime, at least from all we can see in public. He seems to never have a serious doubt regarding his plans and how things will end up if we follow his leadership. Some of this seems to be rooted in his love for our country and sense of personal peace. Some is obviously a part of his unique personality. The rest I will leave to others, and finally to God, to decide. He “stands or falls to his own master” just as you and I do. The difference is that we are a republic of the people and we must make judgments that do have an impact upon how we view our

By |July 17th, 2007|Categories: Politics|

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