Monday, March 30, 2009

Get your Q City on...

We have an improv show this friday night. Here are the stats:

Friday, April 3rd
8-10 pm
(doors open at 7:30, come early for the best seats)

Ballet Tech Cincinnati
6543 Montgomery Rd
Cincinnati, OH 45213

$5 per person at the door

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

God as Father

Just posted a study on Matthew 6:1-18 over on the bible study blog.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Punch Drunk Love.

I've been a little melancholy lately as I watch my boys grow up. I had an altercation with my neighbor's son's friends this week. They're about 16 or 17. They were drunk and hanging out in the middle of the street. As I turned the corner to pull into our subdivision I nearly hit one of them. He yelled back calling me an ass---. In my rear view mirror I could see him calling me back, evidently wanting a fight. I avoid conflict. But this is my next door neighbor's "guest" calling me out of my car at 8:00 on a Saturday night. I put the car in reverse and went back to talk to him. The brave kid got in his car and closed the door. My neighbor kid apologized for him and said, "he's just really drunk." It was in that moment that I found myself trapped in between two worlds. I remembered all my buddies from high school who would drink every Saturday night in ninth and tenth grade...many of them began to get drunk at lunch everyday our senior year. But as quickly as I had that thought, I saw my kids' eyes in those teenagers. Eli is only six years younger than these kids. I'm almost twenty years older than them. I'm starting to see life through my kids' eyes more than my own these days.

I came inside and told my kids what happened. They couldn't believe it.

"Kids were drinking? Alcohol? Isn't that illegal?"

We talked about it some. It struck me that it will only be a few short years until my kids will be sitting in a car in some neighborhood with their friends. Who knows if what I say in this moment will affect their behavior in that one? I didn't drink in high school primarily because I was a religious Pharisee in the making. I did rebel in other areas though. I rebelled even more as an adult. Everyone rebels. Lots of my buddies who partied all through high school seem to have turned out just fine, though some are junkies and alcoholics now. I'm not sure what I am saying except that I hope my kids let me walk this stuff out with them as much as is possible.

I went to bed last night with a heavy heart. I thought about how life unmercilessly grinds forward. I can't keep my kids at nine and seven. Truth be told, I'd hit the pause button and stay here for a while if I could. I didn't really thrive in the baby stage and I'm scared to death of puberty. This is the sweet spot, and it's just like me to get sad because of how happy I am. I'm an emotional mess that way.

Last night something happened that doesn't often happen anymore. Eli got up in the middle of the night and asked to sleep in our bed. It's been months since he's done that. He snuggled in between us and instantly fell asleep. About an hour later, Aidan came in with the same request. Our queen size bed doesn't hold the four of us, but there was no way I was letting that moment slip away. I had a terrible night's sleep, but it was just what I needed. I wouldn't have changed it for the world.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Kingdom Snapshots.

Just posted week four of seven of the Sermon on the Mount virtual Bible study. Check it out here if you're interested.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Why Patrick Matters

Were I to make a top ten list of "rebel pilgrims" St. Patrick would certainly make the cut. He was in many ways a rebel against the Roman church structure - his missional mandate from God was often getting him in trouble with the church system half a world away in Rome. He was also clearly rebelling against the traditional religion and beliefs of the Irish people...being the first to introduce them to the story of Jesus. Beyond that, he was also a pilgrim - a wandering foreigner in a strange country. As you may know, Patrick was not Irish at all. He was from Wales and taken as a slave to Ireland. At an early age he escaped his captors and found his way back home, only to be called by God to return to Ireland in a dream. He went back to Ireland immediately as a missionary, never to return home.

Patrick only has two small written documents that have survived. Here is a short piece from A Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus:

"I am Patrick, yes a sinner and indeed untaught; yet I am established here in Ireland where I profess myself bishop. I am certain in my heart that all that I am, I have received from God. So I live among barbarous tribes, a stranger and exile for the love of God...If I have any worth, it is to live my life for God so as to teach these peoples; even though some of them look down on me...

Could I have come to Ireland without thought of God, merely in my own interest? Who was it made me come? For here I am a prisoner of the Spirit so that I may not see any of my family. Can it be out of the kindness of my heart that I carry out such a labor of mercy on a people who once captured me when they wrecked my father's house and carried off his servants? In short, I am a slave in Christ to this faraway people for the indescribable glory of everlasting life which is in Jesus Christ our Lord."

Countless myths and legends surround this man. Some may even be accurate...but what we know without doubt is that he was a missionary consumed with the story of Jesus and his love for a people who first hated him. We could do worse on his day then to ask God for that same sort of love and passion for the city we call home.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Improv is timeless...sort of.

Last night the Q City Players (my local improv troupe) played a retirement home. I was going to blog all about it, but Chris Day beat me to why duplicate the cyber effort? We should probably start conserving the internet and save some of it for our grandkids anyway.

Check out Chris' post here.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


I got some stuff going on. It didn't really hit me until this week. I've been rather consumed with launching Reset and the Virtual Bible Study over the last few weeks. Now that those are in full swing, I can see what looms on the horizon. Honestly, it's all exciting stuff.

1. The Road to Emmaus, PA. We have been negotiating a contract with a sales agent in Los Angeles for a few months now to represent this film to distributors. We signed the contract this week and I'm looking forward to see where it ends up. There are three stages to making a film: conception/script - production - distribution. Each stage can take months or years. I think I enjoy the process so much because each stage is a different challenge. (As it turns out, I have a film in each stage right now, because...)

2. VCC 2010 Film Project. The follow-up to The Road to Emmaus, PA will be a narrative film written by Brad Wise. The script is written and we are revising it now. It's a comedy with a big heart and a true message. It will be the biggest project we've done to date as a church. As producer, I've begun looking for alternative ways to fund the project outside of the VCC ministry budget, but it will be a VCC production that we will connect with a teaching series in late 2010. We'll also be seeking distribution for the project on a wider scale.

3. On the personal front, I've had a poker-themed comedy film in various stages of pre-production since I was living in California. At one point, it had grown to a bigger Hollywood movie with name actors attached, but I've recently decided to finish it at a lower budget this summer. The working title has been "Hitting the Nuts: The True Story of the Scott County Series of Poker," but that may change. It is a "mockumentary" (Spinal Tap, Best in Show, etc.) surrounding the underground poker world in rural southern Indiana. I'm producing it through my production company, Rebel Pilgrim Productions. My plan is to shoot it on my summer vacation here locally and in Indiana. We just need a few more pieces to come together over the next several months.

4. Throw my book project in the mix and I've got plenty to think about. (I just received my notes back from the content editor this week.) I have about three weeks to get a revision back to the publisher. I have some decisions to make about the story and characters based upon their initial feedback.

This is all good stuff. I am in no way complaining. The strangest part is that I don't feel especially "busy" these days, just appropriately busy. I am committed to working on church projects on church time and personal projects on personal time. It's amazing to know that making films like Emmaus and the 2010 movie are part of my church job. What a blessing. It's also just like God to let my do some other exciting things in my other time. At some point about a decade ago, I asked God to let me build a career out of telling stories. I thought back then that I'd became an actor or writer or producer or maybe even a teaching pastor. Turns out, he made me all of them. I think maybe that's redemption. That's the way God answers genuine prayers. He starts immediately, but it takes us about ten years to see that he has been in the process of answering them the whole time.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Covenant of Salt, Light and the Problem with Rules

I just posted the week three study on the Sermon on the Mount on the virtual Bible Study blog...

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Reset is spreading!

Everyone is getting into RESET. Secretary of State Clinton tried to give a symbolic gift to her Russian counterpart. Turns out they put the Russian word for "overcharge" instead of "reset" on the button. Seems like that's something someone should have been able to figure out. Either way, we all need to reset from time to time.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Brother, Can you Spare a Denarius?

I'm speaking this weekend for the third week of RESET from Luke 20:20-26:

Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be honest. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. So the spies questioned him: "Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"

He saw through their duplicity and said to them, "Show me a denarius. Whose portrait and inscription are on it?"

"Caesar's," they replied.

He said to them, "Then give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent.

I got to thinking. I need me a denarius. I wasn't sure what I would do with it if I had one, but how cool would it be to have an actual coin dating back to the time of Jesus? I put the word out on twitter and facebook on Tuesday and people around the world started looking for the coin for me. (They aren't super hard to find - just hard to find on my budget which is near nothing.) They gave me some solid leads, but we didn't get one. I tried a few bids on e-bay, but then decided that there was a good chance we wouldn't get it here on time for the weekend even if we won the auction. Plus it was getting a little pricy.

So today I willed myself a denarius. I started calling coin dealers around the country and asking them to give me a $150-200 historical artifact for free. It only took me three calls to find a well-educated, Jesus-following Roman coin dealer named Guy Clark. Guy patiently took the time to educate me on the exact coin I was looking for. (Turns out there are only two options that the Luke 20 passage could refer to - The Augustus Denarius or the Tiberius Denarius. He also told me that based on archaeological finds in Judea, it would be more likely that Jesus would have been shown the Augustus coin.)

We tried to work out a deal to buy the coin, but the more we talked the more he opened up about his faith and his passion around his career/hobby. By the end he agreed to send me the coin for a week if I would just pay for shipping both ways. I humbly accepted. So, VCC is getting an Augustus Denarius dating to the early first century for $17.50 this weekend. I'm pretty excited about that.

Now I just have to figure out what to do with it...

This isn't our coin, but it will look something like this:

Now, here's what I need from you. The next time you are in the market to buy an ancient artifact, support my friend Guy at

Discipleship and The Beatitudes

I just posted week two of the virtual Bible Study on facebook and at I get 24 hours grace on typo's because it is 2:00 a.m.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

No Line on the Horizon

Once upon a time there was a rock band. Not just any rock band, but one of those rock bands who defines a generation. Like all rock bands, they grew older. At the time in their lives when most other rockers would try to recapture their youth and do nostalgic reunion tours , this rock band did the unthinkable. They became brilliant practical theologians:

Monday, March 02, 2009

Reset Resources

After speaking this weekend at VCC for the second week of Reset I had more requests than normal for the resources that I mentioned in my lesson. We give away free New Testaments at The Vineyard and many people took those this weekend. Our bookstore also let me know that we nearly sold out of Bibles. They've never had such a "run" on people coming in buying a Bible for the first time. I took this as a positive sign since I didn't suggest that people immediately go Bible shopping in the bookstore. It seemed to be a natural reaction to the challenge to look at the gospels as the earliest and most reliable manuscripts recording the life and message of Jesus.

I use the website daily. It contains several free versions of the Bible online. I tend to default to the New International Version in part because I've always used it and in part because I find it a fair balance between conversational writing and accurate scholarship. Of late, I have also been drawn to the English Standard Version for the same reasons. I do, unlike many theologians, recommend reading The Message or The New Living Bible along with the other versions. These are paraphrased versions written with a strong desire to be culturally relevant. The good thing about them is that they are easier for most people to understand. The dangerous part is that they are paraphrases of an author or collection of authors, not necessarily direct translations of the ancient texts. It's sort of like watching the Coen Brohters' Oh Brother, Where art Thou? to learn about Homer's The Odyssey, on which it was based. It's good to get the feel for what is going on, but if you want to know Homer you should read a direct translations. (And if you really want to know Homer you should learn to read ancient Greek...)

Beyond the Bible itself many people asked about Dr. Greg Boyd's books after seeing him speak on the video. I have read many of his articles and listened to his podcasts, but haven't read many of his books. To learn more from Boyd on the subject matter of belief in Jesus I would recommend one of these two books: Lord or Legend?: Wrestling with the Jesus Dilemma or Letters from a Skeptic: A Son Wrestles With His Father's Questions About Christianity

Other people asked how to learn more about the historical background of the New Testament as they read the book of Luke. There are, of course, countless commentaries on Luke written from every point of view imaginable. Many times having a commentary can distract us from the text itself. That said, I think without someone challenging our modern assumptions we can read things into the Biblical text that are not there at all. My current favorite commentaries for non-academicians are N.T. Wright's "For Everyone" series. I'd recommend picking up Wright's Luke for Everyone

I've been devouring Wright this year...I've either read or started reading five of his books. I loved Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. He was recently interviewed on The Colbert Report:

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Will this fix it?

I just changed the title of a past blog post and all of my posts disappeared on my blog. It's only seven years of my life, so I'm not too worried. I'm sort of hoping that this new post will make them all magically come back. If not, I'm officially depressed.