Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Thanksgiving to Remember

First, Happy Thanksgiving! Second, Happy seasonal shopping where the parking lots are packed, the lines are long and the elevator like Christmas music blaring through mall speakers begins to wear on you...

As for me on this Thanksgiving, it won't be like the rest. I didn't think what I am about to describe is a big deal, but the more I talk of it, the more I see the horror in the eyes of the listener and thus a little bit of concern jumps in my heart as well. This Thanksgiving my family has decided to skip the whole home-made aspect of Thanksgiving and instead let a nice eatery do the cooking and serving.

The advantages are obvious: Apparently it ends up cheaper (despite it being around 20 bucks a head), and the time for preparation, serving, and cleaning immediately turns to zero.

But the bigger picture....Usually Thanksgiving is a 4-6 hour affair complete with all the semi-masculine males hovering around the television to watch my faithful Lions get massacred in a game of football, then comes the overly crowded kitchen with people offering to help but only a few actually doing anything. And then comes the food and the journey that entails....and then the complements, and then the coffee to wake us from the tiring effects of the tryptophan. There is such a tradition about the whole mess, and it's lovely....

And this year we are throwing it all to the wind in order to not be so busy and to save a few bucks...We are selling our dearest holidays now to the monster of capitalism which promises more time and relaxation for us, but for the price of money  and our endearing souls....

And while I complain and complain about how some tradition is not what it used to be and how Thanksgiving will never be the same, and I lament the loss of a certain nostalgic mood of the dinner, I quickly's not even the dinner. It's the family...and we still have the family. We still have the money to afford this dinner. We still have the faithful losing Lions to watch on the television.

 My Goodness, if there is one downfall about the cynicism of my generation (myself included), it's that we don't realize and appreciate how good we have it. So on that note, whatever the circumstances tomorrow, let's enter the evening with a violent joy excited about what we do have and be quick to remember to not lament what we may have lost. Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Perfect For Christmas

Jonny Lang's new CD is out! It's a live concert, which if you've ever attended one of his concerts, you know is a treat.

He's one of the most remarkable guitarists in the world. So if you like contemporary blues, don't miss it.

Plus, you might be surprised at the lyrics in some of his songs. They might fit into your local church service.

Tour schedule here.

Preview the CD here!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Baton Rouge Covers Bernard

The Advocate in Baton Rouge has a meaty article on the UPCI's recently elected General Superintendent David K. Bernard:

“I’m proud of my French and Cajun and Louisiana roots,” Bernard said during a recent telephone interview. “I hope (Baton Rouge area friends) pray for me and hope they can support someone who has their values and can lead in this office.”


Bernard said he will also have to curtail some of his writing, but he is still focused on a doctoral dissertation in New Testament from the University of South Africa. Its short title, he said, is “The Monotheistic Deification of Jesus.”

“I’m examining, ‘How did the early Jewish Christians see Jesus as God when they were so monotheistic?’” Bernard said. “They wouldn’t believe in a different God, so how did they come up with this concept that Jesus was more than just a man in the context of their strong, monotheistic beliefs?"

Photo used from the excellent CarlosHernandezPhotography.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

God's Miracles - Part One

My dear mather and I have been co-writing on Collideoscope over a subject near and dear to us, and that is the subject of Atlanta West Pentecostal Church winning the Verizon-sponsored How Sweet the Sound competition for 2009. It is a competition to find "the best church choir in America." Go here if you would like to hear a great run-down of this amazing story and simultaneously understand the rest of my post.

And Now, The Rest of the Story
I did, in fact, hitch a ride with some of the members of my church to Detroit, MI, for the Nationals Competition. It was held on Saturday, November 7th; we arrived at [straggled into] our lodging at a modest 4 o'clock in the morning that same Saturday.We left at four in the afternoon to meet with dozens of family members and some of their personal friends whom they'd invited to come with us to HSTS.

The Atmosphere
When we first alit into the arena at 6:30 pm, we were met with a very energetic atmosphere. People were bustling about towards their seats; they were knowingly throwing money away in the hopes of a dinner/after-dinner-snack; they were meeting with their guests and finding out where to sit down. Well, as a good hour-and-a-half wore on, it seemed to frazzle. Everyone [including me] was beginning to look at our watches and having it dawn on us that we'd apparently arrived 1.5 hours early for ... nothing. But I digress.

The Atmosphere ... Part 2
One thing that many people took advantage of was that you could send a text to whatever designated number and it would show up [eventually] on two huge screens across the arena. So as we drew closer to Donald Lawrence's opening remarks, the mood started to pick up. People homed in on their seats and scarfed down that popcorn. Text messages switched from pictures of girls to, "Take it home, Chicago!" and stuff like that.

Allow me to make some remarks that I might not have been the only person thinking. One thing that nagged at me about HSTS is that the Ryan Seacrests of the competition make it sound like we could be listening to the orchestra for all of the "God" factor involved. Does that make sense? A church choir, from the dawn of time (or whatever), has been assembled to draw Christians in unity to a single praise of God. That is the point. People may have lost that point over the generations, but when you get a choir together, the point is to glorify God. Donald Lawrence is so polished that if you forget what you're really listening for, you'd think the only thing we're looking for is the bounciest choir with the best moves.

What Happened Next
As far as the actual choirs are concerned, I don't really remember the order or the exact songs too much. I had two favorite choirs. One was your seemingly typical choir [at this point in the competition], but they had some serious anointing on them! They sang, "I'm on the battlefield/fighting for the Lord." Seriously, I could have danced in the aisles. The other one was an all-white choir who sang, "Soon and Very Soon"; definitely a good choice, because the audience loved singing along about heaven.
There were one or two choirs I didn't actually understand the words, and they were very energetic, so the audience wanted to praise God with 'em. But it was tough.
There were one or two choirs that I definitely wanted it to be OVER and/or wanted to fall asleep to.
There were a couple of amazing choirs that I admired based purely on technical skill. There was a certain director in the second half of the 11 total choirs who made me tired just looking at him. Don't get me wrong; our church choir director, Brandon Frazier, is totally on the ball. But this guy was giving it 250%, and that choir followed his every move.

The Judges
Let's be honest, here. I was a little skeptical about mixing up the judges from last time. Why keep 1 of 3 judges from regionals if you're going for an "unbiased" mix? And why bring in new judges anyway? Either way, I ended up not minding. They chose Byron Cage, Dorinda Clark-Cole, and Marvin Sapp as the finalist judges. They really impressed me. I usually ended up agreeing with their conclusions. They said nice things like "great sound," "keep doin' what you're doin'" "I love your energy, man!" In fact, one time Dorinda Clark-Cole mentioned something about feeling God's Spirit in the room after a particular choir and I got a bit antsy. I hadn't felt much. Maybe I'm just a heathen, and I'm sure God moved, I really am, but I was like, "If she thinks this is anointing, how will it bode for us?" ...
Anyway, Marvin Sapp is definitely my favorite. After he said that whole, "I'm gonna come to church one Sunday, and Imma slip in the back, and I'm just gonna allow some yokes to be destroyed offa my life from this ministry"; yeah, he's awesome.

"Atlanta. West. Pentecostal. Chuuuuuurch!"
So Atlanta West got up, and all of a sudden I started wishing I had been praying like Daniel over us. Three times a day, three hours a day. Unfortunately, I had forgotten, and I started sending up desperate half-worded prayers to God, leaning on my equally desperate hope that He knew what it was I was asking. I didn't even know I was asking. For us to win? For thousands of people to be slain in the Spirit? For the judges to feel Jesus so powerfully? All of it, and more, and I just needed God to do what He does best: the impossible.
As they began to sing, the place was already on its feet. From the first a capella note, the Lord stirred every heart. Here's the link to the video! And man, with every soloist calling out God's praises, and the difficulties I knew choir members had been through in the past weeks, I knew a breakthrough when I saw one. I mean, those judges could barely talk, they were so in the Holy Ghost! I later heard of people staying until midnight praying in the Holy Ghost. People walked up to Pentecostal folks not even from our church and insisted they know where we were from and what was going on with that choir!
I didn't know any of that at the time; they should have given us more room to hoot-n-holler. The whole place like to gone up in flames, if you'll excuse the mixed grammar.

The Results
Don't misinterpret this. But every time Atlanta West has sung at HSTS [which is 4 times, so far], they win People's Choice. People's Choice is when Verizon customers text their favorite choir number to Verizon and they count it as $5,000 awarded for being the people's choice. So I didn't even question, exactly, who was going to get that. It's not as bad as it sounds. You could tell everyone loved Atlanta West.
Anyway, as Donald Lawrence paused an eternity before telling us who had won the National 2009 How Sweet the Sound competition, I was leaning forward off my chair [flirting with gravity's bad side, I might add], whispering/screaming to myself, "SAY IT!!!!" Good news for Mr Lawrence, he said it, and we all jumped up and screeeeeeeeeamed. Half in tongues. It was awesome. "Atlanta. West. PENTECOSTAL. CHUUUUUUUUUUUUUUURCH!"

The Rest of the Story
To anyone who knows "stuff" I've neglected to mention, let me know, if you'd be so kind. As for me, I really hope God doesn't stop here. He doesn't have a history of doing that, so I want to see how far He takes it!
Your Faithful Correspondent,
God bless.


It seems many in our culture are obsessed with beauty these days. It is my humble and inexperienced opinion that humans have always been so. We are in awe of the beautiful and lovely. We are attracted to something pleasing to the eye or the ear. We gravitate toward what we see as beautiful. People around the world spend millions of dollars and countless minutes arranging themselves, creating a pleasing surface. Depending on the culture, we lose or gain weight to become the accepted type. Men take steroids; girls go on diets, and sometimes, it's the other way around.

I was reading in 1 Peter 3 a while ago, and it mentioned a Pentecostal verse if I've ever heard one: [speaking to women] Don't let your beauty consist of outer adornment, such as a great hair-do or pretty jewelry or fashionable clothes. Instead, let your beauty come from the unfading beauty of a meek and quiet spirit - this is a jewel of great price. Submit yourselves to your husbands, as Sarah did, calling Abraham "Master". [Obviously, I'm paraphrasing.]

Proverbs 31 -- "Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord, she is to be praised."

Physical v Internal Beauty
This could be directed towards women, but also it can be for guys. Why is it so hard for us to stop seeking external attractiveness?

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Interesting brain study of the moment: Nature Makes you Smarter

 You know those all-night study sessions you find yourself in? If you're in college, they happen more often than not, and for others they may happen through a planning lesson. Whatever the case may be, you enter into a kind of zone where you just attempt to conquer an inhumane amount of material in an extended period of time, either to write a paper or study for a test. It's not fun to say the least....

Well during these intense study sessions, there comes a time every few hours where your brain ends up on overload and you need a study break...

But have you ever wondered what the best way to utilize these study breaks to the fullest? A moment where your brain actually gets rest?
A new study summarized at Cognitive Daily suggests that walks into natural landscapes or observing natural landscapes between intense concentration (study) sessions will improve your retention/cognitive ability during these sessions. The theory goes as so,

"the natural world engages your attention in a bottom-up fashion, by features of the environment (e.g. a sunset, a beautiful tree). The artificial world demands active attention, to avoid getting hit by cars or to follow street signs. Since intellectual activities like studying or writing also demand the same kind of attention, taking a break in the artificial world doesn't really function like a rest."

And if you read the link, the few studies that have been done on the matter seem to suggest walks into nature do indeed help for study breaks more so than walks into artificial environments...(although both work).

Friday, November 06, 2009


It seems that these days, anytime we hear about children, ie HAVING children, it's bad stuff. They wreak havoc. They cost tons of money. They won't listen to you. They're not grateful. They take up all your time; you have no time left to do hobbies or relax. They're disobedient and unruly and embarrassing when you take them out in public. In short, they're stinkers. And expensive stinkers at that.

And yet the Bible calls children "a blessing from the Lord." "Happy is the man who hath his quiver full of them" and "he will not be ashamed when he standeth in the gate" [when he has a wise child] and all that stuff.

So where's the disconnect? Even Pentecostals are having less and less kids. You've seen it: 2-3 kids, max, for most people. Any bigger of a family is just "too much to handle". In fact, a lot of young couples are reluctant to have even one child. Because they know that kids take over not just your life, but your time, finances, and sanity.

So my question is, if the Bible assumes you'll have tons of kids and says that, in fact, having kids is an amazing blessing any way you cut it, why does it say that? And why is no one listening?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Googlebot

Here is your culturally relevant interesting read of the day: 10 Neat Facts About Google. The facts are actually neat. Like the "Feeling Lucky" button costs Google $110 million a year to have (since it doesn't allow the Google inquiry page to come up complete with ads that are paid for by by advertisers). It also has an interesting/scary bit about the lore of the secretiveness of Google especially with no one being able to get inside their data collecting centers (aka "Googleville").

However, I thought entry #10 was pretty cool: The introduction of the googlebot, a metaphorical overlord robot that personifies Google as a robot that connects two different worlds (the internet and the individual).

And this Googlebot was painted on a mural at one of their data centers (see picture above).

Postmodernism 2.0?

If you don' understand postmodernism please visit and read the article here. Even if you think you do understand postmodernism, please visit the article. While the read may take 10-15 minutes, I highly recommend it for a good synopsis of post-modernism from an evangelical point of view. In it, the author of the article, Albert Moehler sums up and nicely criticizes this book by a Christian minister who argues for post-modernism in a Christian context. John Franke (the author of the book that is reviewed) essentially argues that
"Christian faith 'is inherently and irreducibly pluralist.' As he explains, 'The diversity of the Christian faith is not, as some approaches to church and theology might seem to suggest, a problem that needs to be overcome. Instead, this diversity is part of the divine design and intention for the Church as the image of God and the body of Christ in the world. Christian plurality is a good thing, not something that needs to be struggled against and overturned.'".....

Seems like an interesting short, our understanding of Christianity is incredibly finite and small. Christianity in it's essence is the sum of all it's parts (thank you Maya Angelou). Or to put it as Carl Jung would have it, the human conscious (or in this case Christianity) should not be deduced through the individual, but rather should be viewed through the collective unconscious of the different Christian beliefs as a whole.

Which means if Franke were to critique Apostolics it would probably look something like this, "Thank you for your inspiring view of Christianity. While you are right to maintain your beliefs in your form of a salvation formula derived from Acts 2:38. However, you must keep the bigger view of other Christian denominations and their beliefs that they think are just as true as yours as part of the bigger redeeming process of Christ" (or maybe I just put a bunch of words in his mouth)......

Which if true is really weird, because if there is one mode of salvation, then you are obligated to deduce that the other offered forms of salvation are incorrect and salvation cannot be achieved through them. In this regards post-modernism may be the absolute enemy of the absolute declarations of salvation of apostolics and similar denominations.

I myself will raise my hand and say the postmodern academic environment definitely left it's imprint on me and much of my worldview....I especially agree with this Franke quote:

"Christians committed to the Lordship of Jesus Christ should not acquiesce to the cultural relativism that gives up on the notion of ultimate or transcendent truth. But we must also resist the temptation of espousing a notion of truth that makes an idol out of our own conceptions, assumptions, and desires as though they are not subject to critique."

However, Franke does not and cannot (in his dogmatic post-modern belief) resolve the fact that many differing Christian beliefs are in direct contradiction in each other, and both cannot be right. If beliefs are in contradiction, it is an either/or conclusion we must make.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Child Rapist will be Beheaded: Justice?

I'm a Mom. A pretty low-key Mom, unless you arouse my protective instinct. You don't have to be a Mom to despise the crime and cruelty of child sexual abuse and rape. Do not even those words raise up inside of you a rage against any who would perpetuate such a heinous thing?

How the Saudis Deal

Apparently the Saudi courts have the same reaction, because they have upheld a ruling to have a five-time child rapist beheaded and crucified.

I know many folks, both Christian and non, do not believe in the death penalty. My understanding of the Bible convinces me that it is justified in certain cases. What do you think?

Monday, November 02, 2009

Other Pentecostals: How they view Speaking in Tongues

This article was in my inbox this morning when I checked my email. The article talks about what the Assemblies of God is teaching about the infilling of the Holy Spirit these days. The comments at the end are somewhat disturbing.

I sometimes take for granted being raised in a family/church where receiving the Holy ghost with its accompaning evidence was taught and encouraged. I want to state for the record that this experience in God is life changing!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Newsflash: We Missed the Rapture....

I friend of mine sent me a link to an article on LarkNews which is a must-read for a good laugh. Essentially the rapture happened in 2005, but only two people had a correct enough theology to make it....very Onion-esque.

Kind of reminds me of the age old question of if a tree falls in the forest but no one is around to hear it, does it make a noise....