Sunday, December 24, 2006

What James Bond Can Teach Us About Worship

First, something I've been meaning to say for awhile. You do understand that my blog is about anything I may be thinking about on any given day, right?
Today, I was thinking about 007. Specifically the new film Casino Royale.

This film has struck a cord with movie-goers and critics alike:

Entertainment Weekly- Owen Gleiberman
Relaunches the series by doing something I wouldn't have thought possible: It turns Bond into a human being again -- a gruffly charming yet volatile chap who may be the swank king stud of the Western world, but who still has room for rage, fear, vulnerability, love.

San Francisco Chronicle - Mick LaSalle
Casino Royale is fresh, actually fresh.

LA Weekly - Scott Foundas
What's appealing about Bond is precisely its unhip classicism -- its promise of clean, crisp excitement delivered without the interference of whiplash-inducing camera pyrotechnics, attention-deficient editing patterns, gratuitous color tinting and/or ear-splitting rock ballads.

Slate- Dana Stevens
Martin Campbell (who also directed Pierce Brosnan's first outing as Bond in "Goldeneye"), has chosen to give us a Bond who's both metaphorically and literally stripped bare. Let me take this opportunity to thank him for both.

So what does this have to do with worship? It actually has more to do with what people respond to (or don't) in a worship service. A James Bond movie has been released depicting an authentic, believable British Special Agent. This special agent uses a regular gun (not a gun made out of a shoe), a regular car (not an amphibious cannon-capable roadster), and the audiences are responding to him. What I've heard is this; when people leave the theatre, they like the guy because he is a real person.

It was much the same reaction with Batman Begins. People got tired of all the over the top theatrics, special effects, and explosions. The audiences wanted something more basic; more believable. They found it in Batman Begins.

So my question is this. Why do some churches still beat the same drum of trying to put on a production and turn the worship service into a variety show hour?

It has been said that worship leaders try so hard to put on a top-notch rock concert during a worship service, with mediocre talent and meager funds. My comparison with Casino Royale takes it one step further. Here is a major motion picture company capable of putting out the latest and greatest cheese-fest Bond movie, along with the best special effects show you could possibly imagine, and yet they don't. They deliberately sacrifice the glitz and the light show, in exchange for a stripped down, bare bones 007. The result? A box office hit.

Again, they CAN put on the over-the-top Bond movie, but don't.

Most worship leaders CAN'T be Bono (or Michael W. Smith or Amy Grant or Passion or Maranatha or Hillsong) but TRY to, and fail miserably. And not just on one Sunday, but EVERY Sunday. The worst thing about it is that they actually believe they are connecting with the congregation... every Sunday.

Sadly, it has been my experience that this comparison will not resound with those individuals who need to hear it the most; worship leaders. They will continue in their attempts to entertain rather than lead worship. The will continually fail to make a distinction between worship and entertainment. They will continue to remain blind and deaf to the changes in the cultural make-up. They will continue battling over arguments of tradition vs. contemporary worship, and the silly congregants will continue to be either repulsed or mesmerized by the fact that drums are being played in the worship service. As this silliness continues to fester, those who are desperate for authentic worship sit starving on the side-lines, leave, or never darken the doors of a church.

I mean, why rent a DVD of Octopussy, when you have Casino Royale?

It's not always the case, but this is one of those rare occasions when the church needs to pay attention to what Hollywood is telling us. People in today's culture are seeking authenticity, not special effects.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Hip-Hop through the Eyes of a Child

"I want to hear rap music."

That's what my 8 year old daughter told me yesterday as we were driving back home from the stores.

I didn't have my Tribe Called Quest CD with me or anything else of worth, so if I was to play rap music for her it would have to come from the radio. As a dad, I wasn't all too sure about the content the latest "hit" song would spew into her brains. It's not just the expletives or the massacre of the English language, but everything else that hip-hop today seems to represent (womanizing, materialism... you know what I mean).

Because she is so young, I was curious as to how she would describe rap music. So, I just asked her, "What is rap music?"

This was her response: "You know... when there's a guy singing, kind of; and he has a silver tooth and a gold tooth..."

Does anyone else think that is hilarious and sad at the same time?

Is anyone else turned off by the prevalent images in hip-hop culture?

To keep in step with other fellow bloggers making lists of their favorite hip-hop artists (click the link above), here is a short list of my favorite hip-hop artists. These aren't "the greatest", but rather artists who are or have been innovators in hip-hop. These are artists that I wouldn't mind listening to some day on a road trip with my daughter. Because of these groups, I love hip-hop.

1) Public Enemy - still my favorite. They head-lined the only major hip-hop concert I ever attended. I still have the red T-shirt with the guy in the cross-hairs.

2) Eric B. and Rakim - First hip-hop crew to implement Hebraic/Middle-Eastern pop music by sampling Ofra Haza.

3) De La Soul - The Flower Children of hip-hop. "Say No Go" still one of my favorite all time tunes.

4) Tribe Called Quest - Jazz influence phenomenal. Smartest lyrics I've ever heard.

5) Jurassic 5 - One of the few LA groups I can actually listen to. The only reason these guys aren't mainstream successes is their obvious lack of "bling". Grassroots hip-hop at it's best.

There are more artists I could add to the list (i.e. Brainwash Projects, Pharcyde, Run DMC- goes without saying, the Beasties, Nas, The Roots, etc...) but the point, as clearly illustrated by my daughter, is that today image supercedes art. This is true in everything, but especially in hip-hop.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Holy Hat Racks Robin!

This 7-foot long aligator was pulled from the lake behind our house today.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Legacy - How Great Thou Art

I had the privelage of knowing and loving one of my abuelos, Jose Mora. He is pictured here with my beautiful grandmother, Mercedes. We affectionately called them Meme and Chu.

Chu served as a horse mounted military police for the Cuban government, pre-Castro (my mom or uncle will correct me if I am wrong). He passed away when I was about 13 years old, so I never had a chance to sit down for a "man-to-man" talk with him. I remember Chu as a quiet, serious man; until of course he thought of something funny, and then he would break out with a contagious laugh that I still remember to this day. He was a great man who lived a full life, and I look forward to seeing him again in eternity.

So what does Chu have to do with the title of my blog?

I remember the first time I began realizing the importance of the word "legacy". It was the day of Chu's funeral. Many other words flooded to my mind on that day; honor, grace, mercy, love, strength and power. I was 13 when Chu passed. It was on the day of his funeral that I met God face-to-face for the first time.

During the eulogy, the pastor was saying very nice things about my grandfather. Everyone says nice things when someone dies; it's what you're supposed to do. I vaguely paid attention, more interested in being able to sit down and get some sleep. It was late.

We got to a point in the service where the pastor said, "Now, we will sing Jose's favorite hymn, How Great Thou Art."

Favorite hymn? Chu had a favorite hymn? Okay. Maybe he's just saying that about Chu to make him sound spiritual. Whatever.

The lyrics to this hymn go like this:

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

I remember listening intently to the lyrics, because I wanted to see what had inspired my grandfather so much.

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

I was floored. I could not contain the tears. A woman I don't remember reached out to console me. I cried hysterically and ran to the bathroom.

I wasn't just crying for my grandfather. I was a 13 year old, blown away by the depth of my grandfather, and gripped by the message of that verse.

I cried hysterically for a good 15 minutes. I remember that I was in uncontrollable awe of God. I never felt that way before, or since.

All at once I was confronted with my mortality, my sin, my humanity. I was also in the presence of the living God my grandfather had loved so much.

Chu was no saint. He was a flawed man. But he loved God, and understood what I would later understand to be God's grace.

I thank God for my family, the church I grew up in, and all of the other things that influenced my walk with Christ. But not many people know the impact that Chu and a hymn had on shaping who I am, and Who's I am, today.

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: "My God, how great Thou art!"

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Christmas Shopping

I went to Toys'R'Us yesterday to get some presents for my daughter. It's not easy shopping for her, because her toys of preference are limited to electronic gadget games (that get expensive and monotonous after a while), board games and baby dolls. She thinks Barbies are okay, but loses interest after a while. (Did I mention, my daughter is the coolest girl in the world?)

So since she already has an orphanage full of baby dolls, I began my search for those toys which only I could be so ingenious to select. My originality in selecting these toys would surpass that of other parents who just walk in and buy the latest heavily marketed toys on the market. I wasn't going to be like them. My daughter was going to receive smart, unique toys which would challenger her creativity, and expand her mind. These toys would teach her the values every strong, virtuous woman should learn from childhood.

Basically, I was getting whatever toy I could grab that was still on the shelves. The truth is I'm a raging procrastinator when it comes to gift buying... and uh, anything else.

I first entered the board game section. Here you find a wide selection of games, like Sponge Bob Monopoly, or if you prefer, Micky Mouse Monopoly. There's Disney Princess Chess, Jimmy Neutron Trivial Pursuit, Pirates of the Carribean Dead Man's Chest Twister (because Pirates of the Carribean Curse of the Black Pearl Twister is so yesterday), and of course the one I'm sure you've heard of, the classic Fairly Odd Parents Backgammon game.

I bought Trouble. Not That's So Raven Trouble. Just Trouble. I played it as a kid, That's So Raven wasn't stamped all over it, and it was STILL a fun game.

I then proceeded to the educational section of the store. Here a parent could find a myriad of scientific and brain stimulating toys, that push the child to be creative. They had telescopes, microscopes, molding clay, dinosaurs skeletons and farm animals. It was really cool, and a great section to be in because I was the only parent interested in being that section. All the moms were in the Brat Doll section of the store (more on that later) and the dads were checking out the moms in the Brat Doll section of the store.

Moving on I passed the Dora The Explorer and Bob The Builder section, because my daughter is just too mature for them (those toys are so pre-k), and came to the Barbie and Ho dolls. This is the section where you realize that Barbies now appear to be the Amish doll collection, in comparison with the Brat Dolls and the all new low in the, what I like to call "slutification" of our pre-teen girls, My Scene Bling Dolls. The "Scene": your favorite bar, club, backseat or apartment where the guys outnumber the girls at least 2-to-1. The "Bling": all the flashy jewelry a girl can get in exchange for... well, I guess whatever she's willing to give up. To put this in perspective, these dolls are being sold to girls between the ages of about 5-10 years of age, and they are selling like... well, like Brat Dolls.

I tried walking briskly through this section to get to the baby dolls section, just to look at them and rekindle the flame of hope that not everybody in America is buying these dolls for their daughters. Unfortunately, I couldn't get through the near-empty Ho dolls shelves before I heard a grandmother say, "oh, look how cute these dolls are!"

That's what I always say when I turn on the TV and see Paris Hilton, or Britney Spears flashing while wearing skirts much like these Bling dolls... "Oh they're so cute!"

I wonder if the Bling Dolls come wearing thongs? At least they'd have on more clothes than Paris and Britney.

I then continued on and my hope was renewed when I saw that girls still love their doll houses, horse, and stuffed animals. Thinking about it a bit more, I reminded myself that 99.9% of how your daughter grows up depends on the values you teach her at home. It is disturbing however, that these dolls are even marketable. It means someone out there is buying them.

Ah, Christmas shopping. You gotta love it.

Paris Hilton as depicted on South Park

Friday, December 15, 2006

Great Pinochet Story - click here

The attached article was published on

Being married to a Chilena, I've heard first hand accounts of what went on during the 1970's in the early stages of the coup against Allende (the communist leader overthrown). I also heard the stories of how things were under Allende, and they mirrored Cuba; no food, no freedom of speech, no free elections, no opportunities, a failed economy, and a dictatorship willing and ready to be as violent, if not more than, what happened under Pinochet.

The difference? When Communists murder millions, you hear very little talk about it. When it's someone else killing 10 or thousands, you never hear the end of it.

Disclaimer: I did not see this article as an apology for the Pinochet Regime's atrocities. When it comes to history, however, you always need to keep things in perspective.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Why Idealists Suck

I just finished reading a short piece my dad wrote several years ago. In it, he gives details about his life in Cuba, his courtship with my mom, life with family in Cuba and his departure in 1962, fleeing the Castro regime.

I find his story fascinating. Because I've heard it first hand from his own lips, reading about it makes it all so vivid. I can see my grandmothers crying as both of my grandfathers were arrested. I can imagine their fear over those long weeks while they were imprisoned wondering what was going to happen to them. I can imagine my mother and father worrying about what kind of life my sister would have if she was to grow up under that system of indoctrination.

On Sunday, former dictator Pinochet died in Chile. Fidel Castro is most likely already dead. These were men who were loved by some and hated by many. Regardless of your opinion of either one, when you hear first hand accounts of the lives they affected, you should be rendered speechless. Some, like my father, had their home and possessions taken; their families disrupted and separated. Others had their loved ones brutally murdered because they didn't think like they were supposed to.

I have a strong dislike of idealists. Specifically, idealists who live in an imaginary world where they don't actually experience that which they are idealizing. Unfortunately, many of these idealists work in our universities, or are movers and shakers in the media or in Hollywood.

If you're an idealist, I suggest you hear the voices of the people who are against your ideology; you may learn something from their first hand accounts. When you do, Che will no longer be the Jesus character he seemed to be in "The Motorcycle Diaries". When you do, you will understand why Cubans reacted when an artist wanted to erect a statue of Fidel in Central Park.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Blog Regarding Stereotypes - click here

My buddy Jose at Emerge Miami posted a video illustrating stereotypes Asians get hit with. My favorite one was "I eat dog", but that's besides the point.

Actually I had some great points and deep thoughts on the subject, until I heard the closing song.... "Tell Me Why?" by Bronski Beat. Dude (Mr. Cho), the video is awesome, but you've GOTTA change that song. Wasn't that a gay 80's anthem?

Seriously though, I can see some of what Jose is saying are similarities in feelings over stereotypes among minorities. Maybe I'm a little more resistant to it, but stereotypes don't bother me too much. That's probably because I love to dish out the stereotypes as much as I receive them.

Is that a post-modern trait? Has my cynicism and sarcasm defense mechanism made it so I can tolerate stereotypes and silly people more than people in past generations could? Maybe so. Maybe that's why shows like Chapelle Show and Mind of Mencia are so popular.

Stereotypes seem to have become a part of the fabric of our culture, for better or for worse. We stereotype other people all the time (by we I mean me, Mr. Cho and Mr. Zapata). We assume we are going to be discriminated against, because all "white" people are like that. Isn't that a stereotype?

So Mr. Cho, and Mr. Zapata, I'm afraid I cannot in all honesty stand in solidarity with you in your American experience. I would be somewhat hypocritical. I love my church, but I also love stereotyping my "cracker" brothers. I do it all the time, but I still love them. I also stereotype my Asian, Colombian, Nicaraguan, Cuban (but that's just self-loathing), Puerto-Rican and... well pretty much everyone I meet.

I guess it's just some weird post-modern... thingy.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Thoughts on Jesus - Before Gethsemane

On the subject of Jesus, C.S. Lewis writes in Letters To Malcolm, "Can it be that the more perfect the creature is, the further this separation must at some point be pushed?"

The creature, Jesus. The separation, 33 years later in the garden of Gethsemane.

I thought of the reality of God coming down to live among us; what that entailed. The sacrifice of a perfect being, allowing Himself not only to become man to eventually die a brutal death, but just to come down here at all. He knew what He was getting Himself into. Why do it at all?

If it's true (and I believe it to be true), then we are forced to ask questions about this whole scene. God came to this earth to suffer, and to suffer dearly. Why would He do that? Most of us living in America don't have a clue as to what an impoverished life is; what it's like to live under the thumb of ruthless leaders and dictatorships. We don't know what it's like to have to watch what you say for fear of reprisal. We don't know what it's like to wonder if your children will have enough food to eat the next day. We don't know what it's like to have to live in the shadows, hiding from government controled military, and being coaxed to rebel against it by questionable rebel groups.

And even though we don't know what any of this is like, and live in a great country, we still acknowledge one of the great truths of existence; life can suck, and it can suck badly.

Before His death, Christ prayed in the garden. He prayed that God would "take this cup" from Him, because the thought of the pain and humiliation was becoming unbearable. The entire process from that point on to His last breath was made doubly painful because He could have stopped it all in an instant. But He didn't. He went through the lashings, the spitting, the mocking and the nails.

The most agonizing thing must have been the separation from His Father.

I watched Mad TV one night about a year ago. On that episode, they were making fun of Nascar fans. 2 girls were selling some trinkets to the spectators. I don't recall the whole skit, but one of the girls was selling Santa and Jesus Christmas decorations. One of the lines that was meant to draw a laugh came when she was showing the customer the difference between the 2. When she mentioned Santa, she refered to his red cheeks or something, with a smile on her face. When she mentioned Jesus, her face went long and she said in a very somber voice, "He died for you", and then went on flirting with the customer. I wasn't offended or anything. In fact it was pretty funny to me, because she wasn't making fun of Jesus as much as she was making fun of the shallow view we have of faith.

We see Christmas, Christianity, faith and God as instruments for our pleasure, consolation, expression of heritage, or experience of community. I wonder how God saw it when He came down to be with us? Was He doing it to make us feel better about life? Was He doing it to ease our pain, or maybe give us a reason to get together on Sundays? Was He doing it to so that we as Americans could make our churches grow and burst at the seams, and to give our charismatic mega-church pastors something cool to talk about?

I think He saw us, and it broke His heart to see our pain. I think it broke His heart to not have His children close to Him. He wanted to be with us so badly, He was willing to lay everything down for us. He was willing to be born and live among us and subsequently allow Himself to be murdered. He was willing to do this out of a desperate love for us.

Can you imagine what that love must look like? I don't think I can even begin to scratch the surface of it. That kind of love is not of this world.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

On a less serious note- Cigars

Time to relax. I've been too tense lately; too uptight.

So, allow me to walk the path of my friend Jose at (soon to be, who gave us a list of the 25 best beers in America.

I love cigars. I have the privilege of living in a city where many fine cigar manufacturers roll their wares - Miami. One of my favorite cigar masters is El Titan de Bronze.

This is Don Carlos (pictured on the left), owner of this cigar factory. He is a very soft-spoken man; all business. The first time I came upon his small store in Little Havana, he greeted me with a smile. Pride was written all over his face. Pride in his cigar making; in being Cuban. He showed me his selection. I told him I liked a shorter smoke, so he introduced me to his Hemingway; shorties with a kick. Of all the cigars I have smoked, these are still my favorite.

That was about 2 years ago. But Don Carlos has been doing this a long time; he told me he and his father before him were cigar rollers in Cuba. His shop is across the street from one of the greats of the cigar world, El Credito. Despite El Credito's hardwood floors, leather accents, and endless rows of rollers, El Titan stands strong with it's faded picture of Giuliani enjoying one of their cigars, and usually 2-3 rollers busily working while listening to WQBA or Alvarez Guedes on Clasica 92.

You can visit their website at But to get the full sensory experience, pay a visit to Don Carlos at his shop on Calle Ocho.

Sometimes people ask me why I like cigars so much. I don't smoke them as much as you would think. I don't particularly like the after taste, and I have health concerns over cigar smoking. I usually smoke about 1 to 2 cigars per month. But when I smoke a cigar, I feel Cuban. I become Cuban, born and raised, if only for a few moments. Every puff of smoke carries an image of a Royal Palm swaying majestically in the breeze, or a wise smile on the leathery face of a Guajiro. Benny More sings Como Fue, and Rolando Laserie sings El Guapachoso (while wearing his Cuban flag berret of course). It's one of the few times I can experience Cuba as my parents remembered it. Castro, Che; they don't matter, unless they are the subject of some good jokes.

My dad watched me smoking a cigar one time. Looking at me he said, "Your grandfather would be so proud to see you right now." That moment was one of the proudest moments of my life as I sat there with my dad and my brothers. It's times like that when I realize why herencia is such an important word to Cubans, like Don Carlos.

Heritage. There is something sacred about that word. You experience it with a good cigar, in good company.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Nativity Story

We just came from seeing the film, The Nativity Story. It was a beautiful film and true to the Gospel (even for Hollywood).

The movie pulls no punches and does not hide anything. "...God has become flesh..." says one of the wise men. Not this will be a great leader or this man will change the world.

Favorite scene was in the manger when a ragged, dirty looking Shepard came up to Jesus and hesitantly reached out to touch the baby. He was reaching out to touch the hope he had been longing for all his life. He had found it in this baby, and cried in gratitude.

The theater was surprisingly empty. I'm not sure if it was poor advertising or if Christians were turned off by the news about the girl who plays the role of Mary being pregnant in real life. I fear the latter to be the case.

Maybe I'm not a good person. That must be it. Maybe I'm not cynical about the right things, or judgemental enough about other peoples sins; if I was I was I would be a better Christian. Maybe it would have been better if I didn't go see the movie. That way when people asked me if I saw it I could say something that sounded smart and pious like, "Well the film lacks historical integrity, and I can't support a film where the main actress playing the role of the blessed mother of Christ is actually living in sin."

We westernized Christians can be so shallow and silly (and those eastern Christians are pretty wacky, too). We lack depth because our belief is limited to walking down the aisle (the conversion conveyor belt) to accept Christ as Savior, so we can begin our life of "being good".

Anyway, please don't be a retard, and just go see this movie with your family. Enjoy it. It is a beautiful Christmas story. It is the Christmas story.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

My Awesome Niece

Consider this a brief intermission between my thoughts on Jesus entries. My niece Elsy, who just got married and is living in Pennsylvania (which, in case you don't know is WAY different from living in Miami) sent out an e-mail to give us an update on being newly-wed, being Cubanita living among "Americanos" (wonderful "Americanos" by the way), and missing our family.

This is a quote on finding a church to worship in from that e-mail:

"We are looking for a church right now. I miss worship. I miss it very much. Jeff and I are so starving for christian fellowship right now that if we walk into a church on sunday and people are up there banging trash cans and plucking a jaw harp singing phil collins songs with christian lyrics...we would stay. Thats how desperate we are right now for some church."

I love it. Classic Elsy.


Thoughts About Jesus

I was just listening to Rich Mullins and The Ragamuffin Band album, The Jesus Record. This was Mullins last album, which he did not finish recording. His friends decided to finish it for him.

It's not a great album musically but it has some of the best lyrics I've heard from him; so great that it prompted me to think about Jesus.

So for Christmas, some random thoughts on the Savior in no particular order.

One of the songs on The Jesus Record is called "Surely God Is With Us." I love this verse:

" Well who's that man who thinks He's a prophet?
Well I wonder if He's got something up His sleeve
Where's He from? Who is His daddy?
There's rumors He even thinks Himself a king
Of a kingdom of paupers
Simpletons and rogues
The whores all seem to love Him
And the drunks propose a toast!"

You have to know that I am your typical post-modern individual. I am a cynic, a rebel; I've been told I have a problem with authority. I wore black at the age of 10, not because I was into an early goth phase, but because I liked Johnny Cash and his rebellious streak. I think that is one of the reasons I connect with Jesus so well. He did everything he wasn't supposed to do; at least according to the Pharisee in the Sanhedrin.

But he wasn't trying to be a rebel. He didn't have to. He was just doing what came naturally for Him. He expressed grace and love to those we look on with disdain; look down on with disgust. He looked them in the eye and let them know He loved them. There was no motive in His heart but love, forgiveness and acceptance.

Therein lies the heart of rebellion. Rebellion is expressing love to a world filled with hatred and hypocrisy. Rebellion is God standing against the heart of man, shouting at us, "Despite your own hatred and your two-faced nature, your lies and deceipt; in fact, because of it, I am coming down to become one of you. I will rebel against your hearts, and will die for this cause."

I always hear the usual complaints at Christmas time. "Christmas has become so material", we say as we're driving to the mall, talking on our cell phones. "They want to take 'Christ' out of 'Christmas'", we say in a desperate attempt to cast our own sins on 'non-believers'. It would be great if this year, we marvel at who Christ is, and stop looking at what everybody else is doing or thinking. He lived an amazing life that merits constant study. No man before or since Jesus has made such an impact on the world.

And he did it through a rebellion of love.

"I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love." - Mother Teresa

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Inspired Soul

In my list of great rock songs by Christian artists, I did not list Rich Mullins. There are 2 reasons for that. One is that he wasn't really in the genre of rock. The second is, he had too many great songs, and listing them would have been a long and ponderous task.

I was able to see Rich Mullins in concert, about 3 years before his death. At his concert, I had my first worship experience (even though I had attended church all my life, and I attended this concert when I was 24 years old).

In addition to being a great songwriter, he wrote some pretty good stuff for publication as well.

The following is taken from Release Magazine, fall of 1992 issue. It merits being read, and re-read.

Making/Being Made

The Bible is a very great book. It is the written witness to God's revelation of Himself in His word: Jesus Christ. And, if you like, you can make a great deal of it.

You can speculate about it: This will make you a philosopher and people will think you are deep and very smart.

You can pontificate in view of it: This will make you a preacher and people will marvel at your courage and gift for oratory.

You can adulate it: This will make you it's number one fan. You can display your very fine collection of it's various versions all over your house.

You can attack it: This will make you a skeptic and people will admire your honest, blind determination to live in your grim, faithless little world.

You can adapt it: This will make you a youth pastor or a Christian musician or a feminist theologian or a popular author. You, too, can be the icing on a cake.

You can systematize it: This will make you a theologian and people will quote you and regard those quotes as some sort of authority.

You can criticize it: This will make you a scholar - and those who are not put off by your egg-headedness will confer on you M.A.'s and D.D.'s.

You can theorize it: This will make you an expert in biblical slants on contemporary issues like political science, psychology, church growth, economics, sex and marriage.

You can ponder it: This will make you a mystic and people will turn to you for spiritual advice (and from you when they get it).

You can practice it: This will make you a model citizen - a fair, generous and righteous (if somewhat uptight) person.

Of course, what we make of the Bible will never be as great a thing as what the Bible will - if we let it - make of us. For that which is born of the flesh - our human understanding and handlings - is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit - God's revelation of Himself and the power of that revelation to enliven us - is spirit. The will of man will not ultimately prevail against the will of God. It is the will of God that we should know Him as He revealed Himself and that will has not only survived the arrogant attacks of scientific and "enlightened" men, it has (even more miraculously) thrived in spite of our best intended, though sadly misguided attempts at "rightly dividing" that seamless robe of revelation.

So, let us press on with no faith in our own understanding and nothing but faith in the Truth that is too great to be diminished by our feeble minds and too great to not transform us. Salvation comes from God, not from our cleverness. The Bible is a very
great book. Let us submit to it so God may do the great work of making us into a great people.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

God's Gonna Cut You Down

I just saw a music video for a new release of a Johnny Cash song, God's Gonna Cut You Down. Speaking of great Christian song-writers, Johnny Cash was the man. The video is cool, black and white, and kind of depressing. It features a bunch of famous people, who I guess are troubled by all of the fame and fortune they have. Cool people in the video include Bono, Chris Rock, Q-Tip, Dennis Hopper and a few others. But if I have to see another image of the Dixie Chicks on black and white film with mascara running down there faces, trying to draw a new audience among the underdogs and, I guess, some Country music/Goth crowd I haven't heard of yet, I'm blowing up Texas.

The song is great though. Rick Rubin is a genius.

Country Dixies

Goth Dixies (let's be dark and introspective... as we sing about our double-wide)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Last, but not the end - A Song of Scandal

In 1991, Derri Daugherty and Steve Hindalong Released a concept album entitled At The Foot Of The Cross, Volume 1 - Clouds, Rain, Fire. The album was ahead of its time, and I don't believe Christian audiences were ready for an artistic endeavor of this magnitude. This was not a rock album as much as it was a creative force of worship and story-telling. It was followed by Volume 2 which was just as stellar. Unfortunately, these guys were part of the rock music collective of the time, and unless you were Sandy Patty or Steven Curtis Chapman or 4-Him, nobody was going to pay attention to you.

Beautiful Scandalous Night
was one of the tracks off the album. Though the song was released in 1991, it did not get widespread attention until about 10+ years later, when the song was re-released on Daugherty/Hindalong worship project, City On a Hill. I still like the original version better.

Of all the songs I've posted, this one merits being read:

Go on up to the mountain of mercy
To the crimson perpetual tide

Kneel down on the shore
Be thirsty no more
Go under and be purified
Follow Christ to the holy mountain
Sinner sorry and wrecked by the fall
Cleanse your heart and your soul
In the fountain that flowed
For you and for me and for all


At the wonderful, tragic, mysterious tree
On that beautiful scandalous night you and me
Were atoned by His blood and forever washed white
On that beautiful, scandalous night

On the hillside, you were delivered

At the foot of the cross justified
And Your spirit restored
By the river that poured

From our blessed Savior's side


Go on up to the mountain of mercy
To the crimson perpetual tide
Kneel down on the shore
Be thirsty no more
Go under and be purified


There were many other great and notable songs during that time, but I'm getting bored and VH-1 isn't paying me for this, so I'll end my list with this one great song.

Allow me a short rant. A song like this not getting any airplay in Miami, and not being used as a key worship song in South Florida until over 10 years after it was written is testament to how badly Miami sucks. The church in general in South Florida is so CLUELESS when it comes to worship that it is almost comical. But hey, second rate city, second rate churches. Hopefully, a change is a'comin.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Songs of Inspir--... Songs that Rock - Mortal

In 1993, a group named Mortal released their sophomore project, Fathom. At the time, there was a term used with Christian audiences which went something like "If you like (enter secular band name here), then you'll like (enter Christian band name here)". These guys were compared to Nine Inch Nails. I felt they transcended anything NIN had done with this album.

It's difficult to pick one song from this project, because I could pop in the CD and listen to the whole thing, including the cool and hilarious bonus track. You could tell they poured everything they had into this album, even in the cryptic messages written into the cover art. They did not want to be compared with a secular band (comparisons were drawn to Skinny Puppy because of 1 song on their first album).

One song off the album that hits you in the gut is Rift, which deals with sexual abuse. How do you explain to a victim that they are loved by God? How does a person recover after such a life-altering experience? The song had a haunting feeling to it, and was hard and beautiful all at once:

You say you'll lift me up
you say you'll cover me
you say you'll fill my cup
before it empties
you say you're never far
you say not far from me
you say that where you are i'll
always be
and i believe you
you say that when you love
you love with all your might
you say you trust by faith and
not by sight
and i
i believe you, i believed you
you said you'd lift me up
you said you'd cover me
you said you'd nurse my cuts
you stare and watch me bleed
your eyes have seen The Glory
but your body's on hold
your lips have kissed The
but your story's leaving me
sometimes our lives depend
on that which we place faith in
and sometimes faith relies
in Whom we are depending
sometimes our broken hearts
are healed the moment we
Believe Again

I always felt that Mortal was one of those groups that, had they not been on a Christian label, would have drawn the attention of the industrial and hard music world at the time.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Song #7 - Steve Again

Steve Taylor released this song, On The Fritz, in 1985. I didn't hear it until about 1994. To this day it stands as one of the few brutally honest songs I have heard; one that doesn't pull any punches about the consequences of sins.

In 1995, Steve Taylor released a live album entitled "Liver". The concert version of the song delivers a psychotic intensity to the song. He later released a video that was equally as intense. I tried finding it on the web, but no dice.

The song shows the unraveling of a life caught up in "secret sin". How a man, seen by many as a "man of God" (ST was singing about the "televangelist" types), tries desperately to mask a wrong committed, but watches as his sin life spins out of control. The song illustrates those hurt along the way as well. The video was disturbing, because while it was not explicit in any way, the imagery clearly conveyed the anxiety, pain, and guilt associated with the fear of a hidden sin being uncovered.

On The Fritz

He wished to right the wrongs
he sang religious songs
he kept the private he
under a lock and key
heat keeps rising in an age of passion
shakes a conscience to the core
stopgap, hand-slap, take a tongue-lashing
my poor soul can't take any more

On the fritz
on the fritz
there he sits
on the fritz

He kept his ego there
it was a sad affair...on the fritz
the inner circle knows
and so the story goes...on the fritz
airborne rumors chip away the image
but you knew the stakes were high
first they get you thinking you're a prophet
now they've got you living a lie


So the crowds grew, and their praise did too
and a mailing list sent you money
so they love Jerry Lewis in France
does that make him funny?
it's too late for apologies when trust has been betrayed
now victims of your double life are naming names

He kept his ego there
it was a sad affair...on the fritz
the public's had enough
they've come to call your bluff...on the fritz
small talk breeds where kingdoms come crashing
rumor conquers where it wills
no one hears you, go ahead and cash in
if you don't die to yourself
pride kills

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Inspirational Song #6 - Poor Old Lu

One of my favorite "new"groups of the 90's came out of Washington State, and were a couple of high school kids when they got their start. Poor Old Lu, named after a line taken from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. They emerged duing a time in rock music where every group, song, and guitar riff were put into sub-categories, so they were called a grunge band by some. I just thought they rocked, and their music was original. During this time in Christian Rock circles, the music was in a weird place as the major labels were taking a hard look at possible profits from a growing audience. Lyrical substance and musical prowess were taking a back-seat to image and marketability. In the midst of all that, Poor Old Lu was one of the few to rise to the top.

This is my favorite song off of their 1994 album, Sin.

Where Were All of You

hey you got a little something to say
i know you think it wrong
and you're gonna make the world okay
make us strong

where did you go?

want your right? rise up today
you, one and all
and the soul not so much to pay
feeling tall

where did you go?
where were all of you?

a Man can die
a child can cry
or One crucified
for you and i

a child can die
a Man can cry
and nailed on high
to give us life

where's the rights?
where's the rights?
oh, where's the rights?

have to push 'no choice' away
ya, make it small
"have to do all what we may"
you can't fall?

where did you go?
where did you go?

'Where Were All Of You' basically contrasts the world's push for defending personal rights to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and the fact that He laid down His rights for us when He went to the Cross. His rights to a proper trial. His rights to be treated decently by his own people. His rights to be worshipped as Lord of all. Instead, He was "nailed on high to give us life", but where were all of the people screaming for rights at that time? Where were we who want our way so often? To be like Christ requires sacrifice for those who do not deserve it, love for those who are unlovable, and compassion for those who would strike out at us."

Lyrics and song commentary can be found on the website

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Inspirational Song #5 - not so inspirational

I'm posting faster than usual because I have songs playing on my PC as I work. This one just played a few minutes ago.

Mike Roe, independent artist and front man for the aforementioned The 77's, came out with the Safe As Milk album in 2000. I don't know much about Mike Roe, but if his lyrics say anything about the man, he has deep-seeded struggles, inner turmoil, confusion, and intermittent pain... actually, that sounds a lot like me.

I first heard It's For You on a live album, then picked up the "uncurdled" version (as he calls it). Even though this song came out in 2000, it still falls in category of the brutally honest songs released from mid-80's to mid-90's. For obvious reasons, this "uncurdled" version didn't make it to Christian bookstore shelves.

It's For You

it's a fishbowl fry
it's small potatoes
its some tough tomatoes
when the shit hits the fan
from the fire to the frying pan

so go on, stake a claim
but the lease is a little lame
'cuz the land is a little locked
to any borders or boundaries
it'll leave you in a quandary...

it's a wake-up call
'cuz the thrill of it all
isn't worth the punch
drunken binges only blow your lunch

yes you shot your wad
when you named yourself "God"
but your nickname is "chump"
blowing chunks out your mouth
wisdom out your rump

it's a belching gas
it's a treacherous trip
on a mountainous pass
it's a warning
it's a block
you're the cock 'o th' walk
but you can't walk your talk

it's for you and you and you

it's a freeze-frame still
full of whiskey and bitter pills
it's a catwalk crawl
through one barroom brawl after another
(it's a mother)
so don't look down
'cuz you won't like the drop
it's fun while you're flying
but it's bad when you're lying there
bleeding and dying

it's for you and you and you

it's a bath of sin
with no way to clean up
and no way to win
it's a hardened heart
that attacks when it stops
and you can't make it start again

yes, you're laboring under the law
with all of your foibles
and all of your flaws
you can cut 'em all loose
and save yourself from the hangman
there's no need to be damned
but do you give a dang, man?

whether fortune and fame
or rank poverty
we all rank just the same
'cuz every knee has to bow
to some god of some kind
which one will you choose now?

is it you and you and you?

Once you get past the realization that yes, in thought or in print, Christians do say 1 or all of the 5 words you can't say on television, and look deeper into the song, you will note that the last verse sums up the song nicely, and is a reference to Phillipians 2:10,"that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,".

Song of Inspiration #4 - Strong Hand of Love

The late Mark Heard wrote the song, Strong Hand of Love. It was recorded by Daniel Amos, and later covered on a tribute album by Bruce Cockburn:

Down peppers the rain from a clear blue sky
Down trickles a tear on a youthful face
Feeling in haste and wondering why

Up struggles the sun from a wounded night
Out venture our hearts from their silent shrouds
Trying to ignite but wondering how

We can laugh and we can cry
And never see the strong hand of love hidden in the shadows
We can dance and we can sigh
And never see the strong hand of love hidden in the shadows

Young dreamers explode like popped balloons
Some kind of emotional rodeo
Learning too slow and acting too soon

Time marches away like a lost platoon
We gracefully age as we feel the weight
Of loving too late and leaving too soon

We can laugh and we can cry
And never see the strong hand of love hidden in the shadows
We can dance and we can sigh
And never see the strong hand of love hidden in the shadows

This song is so poetic, you can hear it over and over again and capture something new each time. The funny thing is, as with most of the songs you will see on my list, it never got any air-play on Christian radio (at least in South Florida).

One interesting piece of information; Bruce Cockburn is said to have frequently called Mark Heard his favorite song-writer. Bruce Cockburn has in turn been lauded by Bono, and had some of his songs performed on stage by U2.

If you would like to add Mark Heard to your collection, check out

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Song of Inspiration 3

Okay, this looks like its turning into a top 10 type list of great rock songs by Christian artists. But why not? It's good mindless fun (for me anyway).

Why spend time on this list? In the sea of mass marketed mediocrity, it is good to know that there actually are artists in the Christian music scene, who write songs from the heart expressed honestly and with passion.

("Pray Naked" Album cover - note, the 3 naked guys are NOT the 77's. Also, you think a "Christian" rock group could get away with this today?)

The 77's were a rock band out of California. If you want their discography or more info on the band, just Google them and you'll find them. All I have to say about them is that they were one of my favorite bands. The first album I picked up was "Drowning With Land In Sight", which had the best cover of Zeppelin's Nobody's Fault But Mine I've heard to date.

The song I picked for this blog is "The Lust, The Flesh, The Eyes, and The Pride of Life". This song beautifully portrays the pull of the world on man. It's not only a great song lyrically, but has a very catchy guitar hook throughout.

Well, I feel
Like I have to feel
Something good all of the time
With most of life I cannot deal
But a good feeling I can feel
Even though it may not be real
And if a person, place or thing can deliver
I will quiver with delight
But will it last me for all my life
Or just one more lonely night

The lust, the flesh
The eyes
And the pride of life
Drain the life
Right out of me

Well, I see something and I want it
Bam! Right now!
No questions asked
Don't worry how much it costs me now or later
I want it and I want it fast
I'll go to any length
Sacrifice all that I already have
And all that I might get
Just to get
Something more that I don't need
And Lord, please don't ask me what for


And I love when folks
Look right at me
And what I'm doing
Or have done
And lay it on about
How groovy I am
And that I'm looking grand
And every single word
Makes me think I'll live forever
Never knowing that they probably
Won't remember what they said tomorrow
Tomorrow I could be dead


Monday, November 06, 2006

Songs of Inspiration - Hide The Beer

This song, released in 1989, isn't really inspirational. But it's a good example of what Christian musicians used to get away with. It's fun, and my favorite song from the Swirling Eddies. Notice the brutal truth hidden in this campy song.

Hide the Beer the Pastor's Here!

the straw runs down his arm and leg
under the carpet out to the keg
a secret party tonight at Point Loma

and the hate in your heart you're hiding well
but the booze on your breath is easy to smell
there's a six-pack to hide
on the Oral U side
let's drive to oklahoma

hide the beer, the pastor's here
hide the beer, think of your career
he might find out that we're human beins'
and bring us all down to the rack and the ruin

she had a beer as an evening snack
when the 'scripture man' planned a sneak attack
suspension's the buzz out at Wheaton
as she packed her bags and gathered her books
'scripture man' gave her that lustful look
yes lust is his brew but no one sees through
his minty fresh breath ain't reekin'

when the coast is clear, you can kiss me, dear
together we'll have hell to pay
so wear a beard, the pastor's here
put the "R" rated movie away

yeah, hide the beer, the pastor's here
hide the beer, think of your career
he might find out that we're human beins'
and bring us all down to the rack and the ruin

hide the beer (biola!)
hide the beer (bethel!)
wear a beard (west mont!)
hide the beer (calvin college!)
hide the beer (azusa pacific!)
hide the beer (liberty baptist!)
hide the beer (san jose bible college!)
hide the beer (bob jones!)
hide the beer (taylor u!)
hide the beer (california baptist!)
hide the beer (gordon college!)
hide the beer (calvin klein!)
hide the beer!

george fox, moody bible institute,
seattle pacific, baylor, smu, pacific christian,
jimmy swaggart u, john brown,
anderson, eastern mennonite, fort wayne bible,
grand rapids baptist, greenville, grove city, nyack,
travecca nazarine, multnoma school of the bible,
inland empire school of the bible, philadelphia college of the bible,
whitworth spring arbor,
and south & north western. . .

I Blew Up The Clinic Real Good!, and other songs of inspiration

Okay, so I've read and heard over the years about how badly music labeled as "Christian Rock" sucks. From "God Is Doing a Nu Thang!" (emphasis on the Thang) by DC Talk, to Stryper (and whatever songs they sang that people liked... I wasn't one of them), we've heard the vile criticisms. The latest great criticism came from South Park, the episode where Cartman decides to form a Christian band called "Faith Plus One". His secret? He takes songs from popular secular songs, and just switches some words of affection for more spiritual word (i.e. - Jesus for love).

However, rather than sit here and high-brow my way through yet another critique about how Christian rock is a business, and it's all bad copies of secular music (can you say Barlow Girls ala Evanescence?), and they're all in it for the money -- by the way, YES all of these criticisms are true -- I decided to highlight some songs that stood out in a time when Christian Rock was considered, well... just too gosh darn stinkin' controversial.

It is my opinion that the best era in Christian rock lasted from the mid' 1980's to the mid' 1990's. Back then, Christian rock music performers were on the fringe of both the secular world and the Christian music world. In other words, they were not widely listened to and were, for the most part, forced to seek distribution through independent labels. The result? The kind of freedom allowed to many indie artists to express themselves without the restraints usually placed on artists on major labels to fit the Jesus mold. The music was fresh and creative, and the lyrics had a depth and honesty that sometimes made the listener feel uncomfortable.

Over the next few blogs, I want to highlight some of the great songs, and their lyrics, that came out during that golden age of Christian rock.

The first song I picked was written by Steve Taylor, from his album "I Predict 1990". The song was later covered by rock duo Flemming and John, which was the first time I heard (their version is actually better, but props to Steve for birthing the song). The song was inspired by Flannery O'Connor. The original recording was done in London with a chamber orchestra.

Harder To Believe Than Not To

Nothing is colder than the winds of change
where the chill numbs the dreamer till a shadow remains
among the ruins lies your tortured soul
was it lost there
or did your will surrender control?

Shivering with doubts that were left unattended
so you toss away the cloak that you should have mended
don't you know by now why the chosen are few?
it's harder to believe than not to
harder to believe than not to

It was a confidence that got you by
when you know you believed it, but you didn't know why
no one imagines it will come to this
but it gets so hard when people don't want to listen

Shivering with doubts that you left unattended
so you toss away the cloak that you should have mended
don't you know by now why the chosen are few?
it's harder to believe than not to

Some stay paralyzed until they succomb
others do what they feel, but their senses are numb
some get trampled by the pious throng
still they limp along

Are you sturdy enough to move to the front?
is it nods of approval or the truth that you want?
and if they call it a crutch, then you walk with pride
your accusers have always been afraid to go outside

They shiver with doubts that were left unattended
then they toss away the cloak that they should have mended
you know by now why the chosen are few
it's harder to believe than not to...

I believe

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Halloween and Ms. Ellis

Yesterday, we took our daughter to the neighborhood I grew up in for Trick-or-Treat. We went down the same route we used to take when I was a kid. My mom was with us, and I saw the old houses, some with new doors to knock on.

We saw a house with a big picture window. On the other side of the window, the owner had decorated for Halloween, with a full sized monster figure, and lit up carved pumpkins. There were other assorted decorations finishing off the festive Halloween decor.

The owner of the house came out, and since she lived on the same block as our old mailman (see yesterdays blog entry), I proceeded to tell her about how much I enjoyed the mailmans decorations when I was a kid and that her decorations reminded me of his house.

"That was my father" she said. "Mr. Faye. He lived on the other side of the block. My daughter lives there now."

We continued talking for a bit. She was overwhelmed with joy, talking about how much her father loved decorating his house for Halloween. She was also very happy to hear that someone appreciated what he did.

So, I thanked Ms. Ellis, and continued to walk down the old neighborhood with my daughter. I realized that though Miami has changed, the old neighborhood hasn't changed much.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Just thinking about what Halloween means to me.

I remember trick-or-treat with the family in the Westwood Lake neighborhood. Around the block from our house, our mailman (who lived in the same neighborhood he did his route), would set up his house to look like a haunted house, with Frankenstein, Dracula, zombies and other full-sized figures. He and his wife loved doing this every year. What I remember most about his house was 2 things -- the full-sized zombie statues, and the smile on his face. We would do our rounds for candy, come home and dump the bag on the dining room table. Mom would look through all the candy, because my teachers at Tropical Elementary would always show us the reel-to-reel films warning us about razor blades in apples, or poisoned candy-corn. Then, they would let me have a few pieces of candy, and we would watch Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

My other Halloween memory comes from our home church. Every year up until I was about the age of 12, our church held an annual Halloween party (I was going to insert negative commentary here about how the fundamentalist Christians of America put a stop to that, but I want this to be a happy blog). This was usually held on a Saturday right around Halloween time. The youth group was in charge of the haunted house. The most memorable Halloween parties were given by our church when we rented space at an Episcopal church off of Okeechobee Road in Hialeah. the expansive fellowship hall and adjoining classrooms were perfect (the classrooms were set up as different "spooky" themed rooms). It was the 70's, so the spookiness included a zombie stable, complete with cemetary, another room had a beheading, complete with a head falling into a bucket, mad scientists, and other spooky scenes. The rest of the time included Cuban food, live music (Christian themed sing-along songs we called "coritos"), funny skits and time with friends and family.

My favorite holiday of the year is Thanksgiving. But growing up, Halloween was up at the top of the list. Not because of a bag full of candy, but because it was a tradition I experienced with family and friends. Today, it prompts memories of a great American tradition. Let's not complicate it too much.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Siempre Hay Musica - from Babalu Blog

Love this picture: A scene from a Cuban neighborhood; music in the streets. One day hopefully, I can be jamming on those congas under a Cuban sky.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006



Monday, October 23, 2006

Perceptions 2: Mr. MacPhisto

At the prompting of my friend Rick at, I bought a copy of U2's Zoo TV DVD, a concert given by the band during their Zoo TV tour in the early 90's.

First of all, yes it's true. U2 is the greatest rock band -- ever. I hesitate to say that, because I know everyone has their own favorite rock gods, but that's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.

I first listened to U2 when I was in high school, probably in 1986. I wasn't really a fan (back then I was to busy listening to hip-hop music and watching YO! MTV Raps), but you couldn't deny their music was stellar.

Right around 1990, I decided that I couldn't let televangelists, the Spanish Inquisitors and other assorted greedy and mean so-called Christians dictate whether or not I was going to believe in an eternal God, so I did my own search and found that God and Christ made sense, not only to me but in the realm of reality, and that I was going to stick with Him for awhile.

Still, I grew up as most Christian children in America do; believing that the Bible is "the Good Book" of rules to be followed and anything weird or outside the realm of what I had been told was "right" is suspect and "of the devil".

Which leads me back to U2.

I had heard that Bono was a Christian. I later read that 2 other band-mates were also Christians. But I didn't get the words to "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For".

"You broke the bonds, and you loosed the chains Carried the cross, of my shame, of my shame You know I believe it. But I still haven't found what I'm looking for"
It was a beautiful song, but what was Bono saying? That he believes in Christ's death on the cross for his sin (shame), but he still hasn't found what he was looking for? Was there something more?

I heard other rumors here and there about Bono's beliefs, and drew my own conclusion that Bono was not content with Christianity and assumed he'd be making the inevitable celebrity trek to the mountains of Tibet to run away from Christianity... I mean to find enlightenment.

I still listened to U2 over the years. Over time, they became one of my favorite rock bands (up there with Zeppelin, The Beatles and Queen).

So here I am, with a copy of Zoo TV in Sydney, Australia, a concert given by U2 in 1993...

...which leads me back to Perceptions.

In 1993, I was still carrying a judgemental attitude, wearing my Christianity on my sleeve. U2 was a great band, but Bono's faith was questionable, and could confuse weak-minded believers.

I was such a schmuck.

I now watched the Zoo TV concert. Performance? Amazing. Theatrics? Cool and over the top. Imagery? Thought provoking (Is this "The Clockwork Orange" or a philosophy and religion class?).

Faith? Zoo TV is riddled with it. Bono is a master in acting out his own struggle with belief, temptation (how 'bout that belly dancer), and the duality of man. Through song and screen shots coming off the huge stage monitors, he unravels humanity, and brings the true observer to question... everything. In fact, unravel is a great word. Zoo TV takes the viewers perceptions (whether you're an atheist, Christian, Buddhist, etc...) and rips them apart; unravels them.

Watching Zoo TV, I realized how much my perceptions have changed over the years; because of life, age, wisdom. Mostly though, my perceptions changed out of a desire to think, an openness to truth, and the acceptance that there is more to this life.

Maybe I was reading too much into Zoo TV. All deep thoughts and exaggeration aside, it's an awesome show. You should get a copy.

As far as "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For", it dawned on me while watching the concert that Bono was crying out from his heart. He doesn't want something other than Christ. He wants to experience the fullness of Christ. He wants to touch the face of God. I can relate to that.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Eternal Life

"A vague religion - all about feeling God in nature, and so on - is so attractive. It is all thrills and no work; like watching the waves from the beach. But you will not get to Newfoundland by studying the Altantic, and you will not get eternal life by simply feeling the presence of God in flowers or music." C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Thursday, October 19, 2006


I've written before on Perspective. Today, what haunts me is perception.

I had a conversation last night with a person who is struggling with a dilema. She is a Christian, who believes she has not been walking "the path" (I put that in quotes because it's something she said, which I guess is a path subject to her interpretation of something she has been told we as Christians are required to follow). She was tormented over a life and relationship issue that anyone today (Christian or non) may struggle with. But as with most Christians, her universal struggle came down to questioning herself and her relationship with God.

I talked to her about Grace. I told her that just because something terrible, bad or inconvenient happens, it doesn't mean God is punishing her for some wrong she had committed. I told her that God was not mad at her for not walking "the path". I told her that God was and always will talk to his children through trials and blessings, all in an effort to keep us close to Him, and that He does this out of love for us.

She didn't get it.

Why? Her perception of Christianity was shaped by a fundamentalist, "you must be doing something wrong" mentality. She grew up in a very legalistic faith community, that preached the gospel of "accept Jesus as your savior, or else".

This is not a deep theological blog entry, so I'm not going to break out scripture to prove my point. I just think it's sad. It's sad for different reasons:

1. Because of wrong teaching, people are robbed of the love and freedom found in Christ.
2. Because of wrong teaching, people see Christianity as rules and guidelines to follow.
3. Because of wrong teaching, people see God and faith as something you do when you have kids, because it's good for them (and isn't "Jesus Loves Me" such a cute song?).
4. Because of wrong teaching, people see Christianity as something you turn back to when things get rough, and not as something that becomes your identity.
5. Because of wrong teaching, people fail to see the vastness, magnificence, and mystery that is God, the Trinity, and our ancient, ethereal faith.

Perceptions are such dangerous things. They lock us into an idea, and don't let us move. Perceptions can paralyze.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Cigars, Rum and Google

Interesting factoid. If you go to Google, and type in "cigars rum", the first website that comes up is NOT Cohiba, NOT Bacardi, and NOT Montecristo (props to all of these great companies)....


Anyway, I thought that was pretty cool. Thanks to my friend Al for pointing that out.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


For me, the beginning of sharing my faith with people began by throwing out Christianity and embracing Christian spirituality, a nonpolitical mysterious system that can be experienced but not explained. Christianity, unlike Christian spirituality, was not a term that excited me. I couldn’t share something I wasn’t experiencing. And I wasn’t experiencing Christianity.

- Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Eric Cartmans Discontent (click here for link)

"Democrats piss me off" - Eric Cartman

Along those lines, click the link for a great post on, written by George Moneo.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Catholic Cigar Dude

One of my favorite thinkers is G.K. Chesterton. He was an English philosopher, novelist and poet. He was also a devout Roman Catholic, who loved smoking a good cigar.

He wrote this interesting article on American morals, which is very telling. I guess times haven't changed much :

"Of course numberless Americans smoke numberless cigars; a great many others eat cigars, which seems to me a more occult pleasure. But there does exist an extraordinary idea that ethics are involved in some way; and many who smoke really disapprove of smoking. I remember once receiving two American interviewers on the same afternoon; there was a box of cigars in front of me and I offered one to each in turn. Their reaction (as they would probably call it) was very curious to watch. The first journalist stiffened suddenly and silently declined in a very cold voice. He could not have conveyed more plainly that I had attempted to corrupt an honorable man with a foul and infamous indulgence; as if I were the Old Man of the Mountain offering him hashish that would turn him into an assassin. The second reaction was even more remarkable. The second journalist first looked doubtful; then looked sly; then seemed to glance about him nervously, as if wondering whether we were alone, and then said with a sort of crestfallen and covert smile: “Well, Mr. Chesterton, I’m afraid I have the habit.”

As I also have the habit, and have never been able to imagine how it could be connected with morality or immorality, I confess that I plunged with him deeply into an immoral life. In the course of our conversation, I found he was otherwise perfectly sane. He was quite intelligent about economics or architecture; but his moral sense seemed to have entirely disappeared. He really thought it rather wicked to smoke. He had “no standard of abstract right or wrong”; in him it was not merely moribund; it was apparently dead. But anyhow, that is the point and
that is the test. Nobody who has an abstract standard of right and wrong can possibly think it wrong to smoke a cigar.

—G.K. Chesterton

from “On American Morals”

Thursday, September 28, 2006

A message about posting

I recently switched to Blogger Beta. I didn't know what it was about but figured "hey, maybe it's an improvement".

It's got 2 more whistles than regular Blogger, that's about it.


However, THERE IS A WAY AROUND THAT. Just post as "other" or "anonymous", and you can post a comment.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Jesus is the God whom we can approach without pride and before whom we can humble ourselves without despair. -Blaise Pascal

Recently, I was asked what I mean in the title by "pride-breaker". Here it is:

Why do people assume they have reached the summit, when they haven't even scraped a single rock from the base?

"Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?
Tell me, if you understand. - God in the book of Job

Who is the person who is always looking for something new; a new salve for the pain; a new drink for the sorrow; or an ancient remedy for his emptiness?

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun. Ecclesiastes

Why do people judge greatness and majesty beyond knowledge and comprehension, beauty beyond measure, love beyond all understanding, by the actions of small, insignificant and sad little men?

"No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him" - I Corinthians 2:9

Why do people look down their noses at the seeker; the one who knows there has to be more to life than this? Why do they do their best to shatter faith, hope and love?

For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength. - I Corintians 1:25

Why is the sacrifice of a Lover, with violent immeasurable grace, such a hard pill to swallow?

...there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Luke 15:7

To the believer: Why do we cheapen God? Why do we make God about church on Sunday, and "your best life now"? Why do we sell God when Christ kicked the fleamarket out of the church? Why do you make the Bible out to be a book of rules instead of a love story?

To the non-believer: Christ is not in a feeling, emotion, incident or action. He simply is, whether you like it or not.