Friday, September 28, 2007

Big Week

There is a lot going on over the next week. First off, it is banned book week. Being a huge fan I am always interested in who and why books are banned. Sometimes they are legitimately questioned while others they are just crap with stupid premises and bad writing that because they have a thing for homoerotic imagery or killing small children in satanic rituals. Seriously, they wouldn't be nearly as famous if it weren't for the fact they write about naughty subjects and some idiot decides to make a big stink over it instead of letting it just die a natural death like it should. Here is a list of past banned books.

Second, this weekend is my churches presbytery which is the governing body of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. What makes this meeting especially important is that many churches are leaving the PC(USA) in order to join our branch of the denomination. This is a huge deal because it is causing our numbers to grow (the closest EPC church to us is in Maryland) while greatly dwindling the PC(USA) denomination. This can lead to a lot of law suits and bitter fighting (let's pray not). When the EPC was first started my church was one of the first to jump on board forcing us to buy our building at the risk of losing it. Pray for a smooth transition.

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posted by Out Of Jersey | 11:09 AM | 5 comments

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Spiritual Disciplines: Walking The Path

All I asked for was a book that would help me grow as a Christian and develop my spiritual maturity. Usually people recommend books lacking any substantive or practical advice on trusting Jesus or whatever. In this case I got more than I asked for when someone told me about book on the active practice of various disciplines that are meant to strengthen our walk with God through fasting, Bible Study, meditation, etc. Making these practices a part of your life are challenging. I read the book twice and only made a handful of half-hearted attempts. How many times have any of us promised to fast only to gobble down an entire bag of chips? What I am hoping to do is to post whenever I actually attempt one of the disciplines to share my experiences both successes and failures. Though I do think these disciplines are important to our spiritual growth they aren’t meant to be taken lightly and if you have any doubts about them speak to your pastor or someone you trust. I have done that myself as I attempt to practice each of these disciplines to know the proper way (if any) that they are meant to be practiced.

I am starting off with a prayer labyrinth which is an odd choice since it was a tool more closely associated with Greek pagan culture than with Christian practice. Whenever a church adds a prayer labyrinth extreme heat follows. I didn’t take walking the prayer labyrinth lightly as I asked my buddy Ken, who walked it before, the pro’s and con’s of walking the maze. As for the labyrinth itself it isn’t like mazes we played with during school rainy days which have a single path through the maze with many turns and dead ends to lead you away from the main path. The prayer labyrinth is only a single path leading to the center which you have to retrace to get out again. If you do choose to try it there are two things you need to do before hand to prepare yourself for this experience. First, pray for guidance. Many well meaning Christians lose their way in the pursuit of spiritual disciplines. For instance, One-ness Pentecostalism was born when a man having an all night vigil had a “revelation: about the true nature of God. Second, you need to have a tentative plan of what you are going to think, pray, or meditate on while you are walking the path. Third, be aware of your steps. If you aren’t paying attention you will cross over a line breaking the path. I hate to admit it happened to me twice. My mistake was I went having no set plans and both times got lost in my own imagination making my mind jump around on matters of faith and whether I should have chicken for dinner. This time I had the plan to concentrate on a portion of 1 Peter chapter 1, chewing on the words, and seeking God’s guidance. Walking the labyrinth forced me to be strict confines being very conscientious of my steps. I couldn’t rush, my steps became well paced, stopping every now and again to look at the scripture to remind myself of the important words of God. Sometimes placing a strict confine on your actions can be helpful in opening yourself up to the work of God in your heart. If I were to rush through is to miss the beauty of walking with God. Looking back I could have just as easily had the same result walking through the park lost in God’s grace around me. And in the middle of my walk the bells of the local church started to ring… Gravy!

Recommended further reading: I kept this part until the end so you could decide for yourselves what you thought about the matter. Though I'd say my experience was positive I still am a bit wary considering the maze's past. Here are some readings on it both pro and con.

I don't know who these people are that wrote these articles, but they are very critical of prayer labyrinths. I mean very critical and they make some valid points.

Of course the Wikipedia entry. It speaks for itself.

I am suprised to find this article in the Christian Standard. Aren't they a staunch right wing magazine? Or am I wrong? here is the pro side.

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posted by Out Of Jersey | 1:23 PM | 7 comments

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Goodbye to God, Money Money Money, and Matt Makes A Review

Since I seem to find so many good things to share with you guys I think instead of publishing them when I find them setting a time out every few weeks or so and do them at one shot. Hope you enjoy this Miscellany.

Atheists become vocal and angry!

The difference between the churches that have versus the ones that have not. Judge for yourselves, but am I the only person who thinks that the richer churches could use their money in better ways like, at the very least, buying that poor guy a new car!?

Are we running ourselves too ragged these days? I have to admit recently I was doing so much that a good friend of mine said I had become so angry over the last few years. Big time Burnout! I am starting to learn to say no.

And my buddy Matt has published a book review.


posted by Out Of Jersey | 8:23 PM | 7 comments

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Michael Palin - The Monty Python Years

This past week Michael Palin was reading at the Philadelphia Library from his book of diaries spanning the decade Monty Python was on the air. I had pretty low expectations stemming from the fact that just because a person can write funny things doesn't mean he'll be funny in real life and also when I saw the crowd I knew we weren't going to be even in the same room as Palin, but stuck in some vestibule somewhere watching it on closed circuit TV. I was very quickly proved wrong. Palin is a very personable man with very jittery mannerisms and retains a lot of the twinkle in his eyes that makes you know he is still a bit of a trouble maker. Plus he is very ordinary. If you didn't know he was a famous comedian you'd think he was just some average bloke hanging out at a pub. Though apparently he spends most of his free time at home with his family reading newspapers and drinking tea. Since these diaries were about the Python years the night focussed on the creation and success of Python. How they had to fight against censorship. The care they took to understand Christ's theology and the Bible while writing Life Of Brian. Many of his favorite sketches which tended to involve annoying John Cleese. With that I thought it'd be fun to show the sketches he mentioned as being his favorites.

Michael said he had a hard time getting through performing this sketch with John without cracking up. He knew as long as he made it past the part where he tells the musicians to shut up he'd be alright.

Apparently being able to slap John in the face with fish was another opportunity to see John get flustered. When they first planned the sketch the lock was full with water, but sometime during the night the level had gone down considerably.

And now for two of my favorites:

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posted by Out Of Jersey | 4:55 AM | 10 comments

Saturday, September 01, 2007

What I've Been Digging: August Edition

Akira Yoshimura - On Parole: Sadly, this is only one of his twenty books that have been translated into english. Though he focuses on Japan and Japanese culture you can still find yourself understanding and knowing the characters in his books. They are so real and vivid I found myself thinking I knew the guy in real life. This was my second time reading the book and I still found myself going nuts over the end.

Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars: The experience is better live, but their mix of reggae and African music styles is up beat and positive without being overly sentimental. Whenever they sing about heavier issues they do it without any sense of feeling sorry for themselves. Even though they did form in a war torn country.

Sagami: I only go there once a year for my birthday, and it never disappoints. The sushi chef's are top quality unlike a lot of the junk you get in the supermarket. They know what they are doing and know how to make a great presentation. I recommend when you order the meal get the salad with ginger dressing and finish it off with green tea ice cream.

Torchwood: A spin off of the new Doctor Who Series it is a disappointing X-Files. I enjoyed it to a point and am not sorry I watched it. At the end I realized I didn't like any of the characters (there wasn't a decent one in the bunch) and they ripped off a lot of the typical story lines like people falling through time and a man releases satan to destroy the earth. When I heard they were giving the character of Captain Jack I thought it'd be great because you enjoyed the character and wanted to find out about his past because he was a time agent and for some reason was missing two years of his memory. I enjoyed it, but would only really recommend it for die hard sci-fi fans.

Sitting Out On My Porch: Sorry, this is something you'd have to experience yourself. There is something just so relaxing about it.

Pop! Goes My Heart: I haven't seen the movie Music and Lyrics yet. From what I've heard it's actually kind of funny for a chick flick. When my friend showed me the video for 'Pop! Goes My Heart!' I couldn't help laughing because it is so 80's!


posted by Out Of Jersey | 9:27 AM | 4 comments