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I’m on the news!

There was a news broadcast the other day about me.  You should totally check it out and let me know what you think!

 

http://www.tsgnet.com/pres.php?id=370617&altf=Nbuuifx&altl=Boesfxt

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Going Ga-Ga for Google

So I’ve recently been discovering how cool Google is.  I mean, I’ve always used Google for my search engine needs, and I’ve been using Gmail and Google Apps for this sites email for a while now, plus I’ve always preferred Google Maps to Mapquest, but aside from all of that, Google’s got some neat things for it:

Google Calender has been helpful in keeping track of my writing deadlines.

Google Scholar’s a pretty nifty collection of scholarly essays that you can search for free.  I wish I’d have known that when I was in college.

Google Books is essentially just free e-books, and that’s a good thing!

Google Reader has proven to be a much more user-friendly RSS reader than Bloglines.

Google Documents is handy for people who have to shuffle documents around while they move, which is me.

Picasa‘s an easy to use picture organizer.

And, of course, Google owns You Tube.

But recently Google unveiled Google Chrome, a new web browser that offers faster browsing through multiple tabs, simple design, and ease of use.  I downloaded it yesterday and I’ve been using it ever since.  It has a lot of neat features which you can read about here.

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My wife Sarah is now officially a blogger! 

Pay her a visit, subscribe, and give her lots of love!

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I think the title says it all.  I suck at blogging.  Life has gotten crazy and blogging has taken a back seat to just about everything else, which sucks because the amount of writing I do on a daily basis is getting ever smaller.

So, I am going to try and make a more conscious effort to blog more often.  And yes, I know this is the third or fourth I’ll-try-and-blog-more blog, but this time I mean it.  You believe me…right?

So, here are some of the things that have been keeping me busy:

  • Moving.  We just moved out of our sardine can apartment and into a house that we are renting for really cheap from some family friends.
  • We got a dog.  Her name is Gypsy and she is a beautiful Beauceron-mix.
  • Job change.  Same job, different location.  I now work in Oakdale, the “Cowboy Capital of the World.”
  • Traveling.  We recently went to Disneyland…again.

There have been various other events, and hopefully I’ll start getting into the habit of posting more pictures on here of things as they happen.

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It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged, so I figured I’d get back into it by doing 25 word book reviews of what I’ve been reading lately.

“Leading With a Limp” by Dan Allender – An interesting, though sometimes repetitive, look at what living out Jesus-style leadership – humble and weak – looks like in the real world of business and pastoring. (4 out of 5)

“The Shack” by William Young – A progressive theological treatise masquerading as a novel, albeit a very touching, tear-jerking novel. The creativity somewhat makes up for the cardboard characters. (4 out of 5)

“Jesus For President” by Shane Claiborne – The book he should have written instead of The Irrestistable Revolution. Creatively designed and thoroughly researched, it’ll change the way you think about politics. *(5 out of 5)

“30 Days With Jesus” by F. Lagard Smith – Though sometimes insightful, this month-long daily devotional extremely oversimplifies the Gospels and often draws stupid, shallow conclusions. (2 out of 5)

“Samson and the Pirate Monks” by Nate Larkin – This excellent book encourages brutal honesty, humility, and brotherhood as the focus of accountability and ministries for men. His personal story is dark, yet hopeful. (4 out of 5)

“Blue Like Jazz” by Donald Miller (re-read) – Superb collection of essays that tackle the basics of Christianity in the context of culture and real life. Regularly insightful, personal, and humorous. (5 out of 5)

“Through Painted Deserts” by Donald Miller (re-read) – Miller steps away from theological essays to show that he is a gifted storyteller as he recounts his road trip from Houston to Portland. (5 out of 5)

“Searching For God Knows What” by Donald Miller (re-read) – Miller takes a more systematic approach to talk about narrative theology, and in this paradox he looses some of the touch that made BLJ a classic. (3 our of 5)

“To Own a Dragon” by Donal Miller (re-read) – Miller’s essays on growing up without a father are touching and insightful, but they seem to loose focus as the books nears the end. (4 out of 5 stars)

“Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer – Krakauer’s fascinating look at the life of a vagrant American traveler wonderfully mixes a journalistic investigation with good story telling. (4 out of 5)

“Velvet Elvis” by Rob Bell – An Emergent manifesto without using the E-word, Bell poses interesting questions about the Christian faith and poses some very relevant answers. (5 out of 5)

“The Fuck-Up” by Arthur Nersesian – A funny, strange, slightly vulgar, and abstract novel about a perennial screw-up that ends up having quite a bit of heart. (4 out of 5)

“Road Angels” by Kent Nerburn – Like all grade road trip travelogues, Nerburn’s journey down the West Coast is a spiritual quest that is philosophical and highly enjoyable. (4 out of 5)

“Vintage Jesus” by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears – This overview of basic Christological doctrine is informative, but tries too hard to be relevant with shallow stories and almost disrespectful vernacular (3 out of 5)

“Marriette In Ecstasy” by Ron Hansen – This short novel dealing with a nun who receives stigmata wounds occupies ambiguous ground between sensuality and spirituality.  Interesting use of language. (3 out of 5)

“Asphalt Jesus” by Eric Elnes – Disguised as a travelogue, this book outlines principles over a version of Christianity overly concerned with being ultra-liberal and narrowly focused on certain issues. (2 out of 5)

“Grace (Eventually)” by Anne Lammott (audiobook) – This collection of “essays” about grace amount to bitter, angry and morally ambiguous rantings by a menopausal old woman.  Avoid it. (1 out of 5)

“The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions” by N.T. Wright and Marcus Borg – This dialogue between top scholars in opposing camps is a perfect example of what respectful, well-researched dialogue should look like. (5 out of 5)

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In about an hour Sarah and I are going to hit the road for a long drive up the Pacific coast, eventually landing in Portland, the “City of Roses.” I’m very excited because not only do I love the coast (and, well, road trips in general), but Portland is one of my favorite cities in the world. Here are a few things I’m looking forward to:

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Today I went with my wife and a few other people from Youth For Christ Central Valley to go see Donald Miller speak at a ministry forum at Fresno Pacific University that included two separate 75 minute presentations and an extended question and answer session. Miller has been one of my favorite authors ever since I was introduced to him, and it was the first chance I’ve gotten to see him speak. End result – it was an absolute pleasure.

He talked a lot about narrative theology (without using that phrase, of course) and the relationship between stories and our lives.

He started out by talking about how he was approached with the idea of writing a script based off of Blue Like Jazz, which is more a collection of essays than a coherent story. So, he researched the craft of storytelling only to discover parallels between our lives and the stories we create. This will be the subject of his upcoming book. Here are some highlights of his talk and my reactions:

  • He talked about the essentials for a good story, including the necessity for us to care about the character, the need for that character to desire something, and the resulting conflict from the achieving or striving for that goal. What I found particularly interesting was his assertion that the character can’t think of himself as better than others or the audience won’t care. As someone who studied literature and reads quite a bit, I can tell you that his assertion is false, that it’s quite possible to have a character who thinks extremely highly of himself and to have that character fall flat on their face. The reason Miller probably didn’t mention it, I assume, is because this is an altogether different type of story. Having a prideful character who has a flaw (hubris) and subsequently falls down a peg or two is the defining characteristic of a tragedy (think MacBeth or Oedipus Rex, for example). I started thinking about this idea of a story versus a tragedy, and it brought to mine the repeated warnings of Jesus, Paul and other Biblical writers to not think of ourselves as better than others, and it got me thinking about how pride, the Devil’s sin, is always the first step towards a real tragedy.
  • When we refuse to look at the Bible as a story and instead reduce it to propositional truths (such as the four spiritual laws), we lose a lot in translations. The Bible, Miller argues, is not a textbook or a series of laws, but a story that is much more complicated than we make it out to be. As he says in his book Searching For God Knows What, the truths we pull out of Scripture are “the facts of the story…but that isn’t the story” (151). He compares it to a relationship, arguing that you couldn’t present your wife with a laundry list of facts about her and why you love her and expect to sweep her off your feet. Instead you write a poem, because there are some things that are too beautiful for words. I’ve always found this way of reading Scripture compelling, and I’m inclined to agree with Miller’s methodology. His examples, particularly his interpretation of Romeo and Juliet, are always helpful in wrapping my mind around the idea of the Bible as a story.
  • He talked about how our lives need to be lived like stories. We have to want something and go through conflict to achieve it. However, in order to not sound like Joel Osteen, Miller attaches stipulations. For one, your desire has to be meaningful and people have to care. You wouldn’t watch a movie about someone buying a Volvo, he says, but you will watch a movie where someone tries to save Holocaust victims, or motivate underprivileged kids, and so on. Basically, we have to find something in line with God’s plan for making the world a better place and go with it. Secondly, you have to be willing to go through conflict. Like a character in a story, we only grow and change when we are pushed beyond our limits and face-to-face with conflict and struggle. Thirdly, our story has to have the power to change others, to impact and motivate their lives in a meaningful way.

I realize as I write this that it is a jumbled mess and probably doesn’t make much sense, but I assure you it was wonderful and enlightening, especially for someone who spends a lot of time in stories.

For those who are interested, I recommend picking up one (actually, all) of Miller’s books. Most relevant to the aforementioned idea of the

Bible as a story would be Searching For God Knows What and Blue Like Jazz, but all of his books are fantastic.

Does anyone have any thoughts or reactions to the idea of narrative theology?

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