29 May 2009

Twist and Shout




One of the few Hebrew words I remember from seminary is the word "regalleme" which means "creeping things." In one of the Genesis creation accounts God is said to have created the "regalleme" - the "creeping things - think worms, caterpillars, spiders and such." SO, how creepy is that, eh? (That was a joke ;D)

The creeping things appear again in the Pslam this morning and they are praising God along with a wide variety of creatures.

Praise the Lord from the earth,
you sea monsters and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and frost,
stormy wind fulfilling his command!

Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!

Wild animals and all cattle,
creeping things and flying birds!

Kings of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all rulers of the earth!

Young men and women alike,
old and young together!

Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted;
his glory is above earth and heaven.
(Psalm 96:7-13)


Perhaps you and I may join the creeping things in praising God on this good Friday. For if a worm can praise God ... then so can I!

Here's one for all the regalleme out there twisting around in the dirt:
The Beatles, "Twist and Shout"


28 May 2009

Mercy, Mercy, Mercy




"Your God doesn't seem to be very fair." I heard that statement once from someone whose child has suffered greatly. The Old Testament reading this morning responds to that provocative question with aplumb, as the LORD says, "You say, "The way of the Lord is unfair..." Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? (Ezekiel 18:25)

In the New Testament reading, Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan, the racial ethnic dude who unexpectantly came through for the victimized man in a lurch. The more likely heroes, the church staff member and the lawyer, disappointed everyone in their lack of concern for the man who had been robbed and beaten. Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" Jesus said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." (Luke 10:36-37)

Mercy is in short supply these days. Perhaps we should show more of it to one another and to God.

"Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" Joe Zawinul's tune played by the Cannonball Adderley Quintet. Slideshow.

27 May 2009

Pleased to Meet You - Hope You Guess My Name





Let's look at the Gospel reading today from Luke 10:17-24 which comes in 3 acts.

Here is Act 1:

The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!" Jesus said to them, "I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." (Luke 10:17-20)


The difficult problem for Neo-Orthodox Biblical hermenutics (the way so-called Liberals interpret the scripture) is what to do with the devil. Jesus clearly mentions Satan in this text and the disciples are casting out demons. It's tough when science says there is no devil and no demons but Jesus and his disciples say there are devils and demons. I suppose at that point we have to make a choice between SCIENCE and Jesus and if that is the choice I will choose Jesus every time. I know this goes against the modern template whereby Scientists are the new priests and Darwinism is the new religion. I can live with that. (I welcome comments from more clever biblical scholars than me about how to manage the difficulty noted above.)

Here is Act 2:
At that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." (Luke 10:21-22)


This Act anticipates the argument that arises from Act 1. Jesus is calling those who do not acknowledge the reality of evil "the wise and the intelligent." Yet, it is not to the wise and intelligent that God reveals "these things" about the reality of evil forces beyond human comprehension. Jesus says God chooses to reveal a deeper reality about the world "to infants" - the innocent? - rather than to the wise and intelligent.

Finally, here is Act 3:
Then turning to the disciples, Jesus said to them privately, "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it." (Luke 10:23-24)

This is usually translated to mean "You disciples sure are lucky because you get to see and hear Jesus while he is actually alive on this earth." Another translation may be, "There is a way of seeing the world that is not known or experienced by the so-called wise and intelligent and this is the journey that I invite you to take."



26 May 2009

It's the End of the World As We Know It





Things are not looking good in the lectionary readings this morning. I see lots of gloom and doom here. For instance, take this excerpt from the Old Testament reading:

"Disaster comes upon disaster, rumor follows rumor; they shall keep seeking a vision from the prophet; instruction shall perish from the priest, and counsel from the elders. The king shall mourn, the prince shall be wrapped in despair, and the hands of the people of the land shall tremble. According to their way I will deal with them; according to their own judgments I will judge them. And they shall know that I am the Lord." (Ezekiel 7:26-27)


We are living through days of dramatic change perhaps not seen since the Industrial Revolution. Where are we headed? Some people make their living predicting where we are heading and due to the open nature of the web at this time we are able to read their thoughts for free. Strategic Trends is an independent view of the future produced by the Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC), a Directorate General within the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MOD). It is a source document for the development of UK Defence Policy and covers their predictions of trends in the world from 2007-2036.

Strategic Trends presents an understanding of the changes that are likely to take place
during the next 30 years, by considering major trend-based outcomes in 5 dimensions:
• Resource.
• Social.
• Political.
• Science and Technology.
• Military.

If you want to know the future, read the source documents of those who plan the future. The 106 page PDF file is available for free download at
http://tr.im/mqBg

Larry Norman: "I Wish We'd All Been Ready."

25 May 2009

God of all Googlers



God of all Googlers
Your algorithms exceed the utmost limits of human quantification
Infinity is your playpen
Our small sandboxes amuse you greatly
but also leave you saddened.
Consider our limitations, frailties, and illusions.
Interface infinite Divinity with limited humanity once again
in the face of a forgotten child
a stray dog a croaking frog
a magnolia tree
a cactus a pebble
a quark
Detonate within us once again
Rebirth us in your Image
and never leave us hanging
for we are Your inquirers
and the quest is our energy
and You are our destination
even when nothing computes.

~*~

"Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
his greatness is unsearchable."
(Psalm 145:3)


23 May 2009

Pesky Psalms





Some so-called wise people take issue with the Psalms for being brutal at times and this text would fall into that category in their opinion. I'm referring to the prhase: "All evildoers ... are doomed to destruction for ever." That's not nice, is it? Especially coming from the mouth of a so-called "Loving God." Yet, there it is, right there in the Bible and no on may deny that it is there.

The Psalms are probably intended to be prayed in a sing-song fashion first thing in the morning to start the day. For some time I was doing that each morning, taking a chapter at a time, singing it in a simple tune, on my knees with the Bible spread before me on the bed. What I found by doing that day after day over time is that the Psalms cover the landscape of human emotions. There is joy, happiness, anger, disappointment, sadness, and yes, even despair and the desire for revenge. All the human emotions are present in the Psalms without elaboration, explanation or apology. I think the Psalm are meant for use rather than dissection.

How great are your works, O LORD! Your thoughts are very deep! The dullard cannot know, the stupid cannot understand this: though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction for ever, but you, O LORD, are on high for ever. -Psalm 92:5-7



22 May 2009

Hands




We shake hands. We eat with our hands. We clean ourselves with our hands. We use our hands to make connections with the world in which we live. Imagine God's hand stretched out to you. Imagine God's hand delivering you. You are the work of God's hands. Therefore, God will never forsake you.

"Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies;
you stretch out your hand,
and your right hand delivers me.
The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands."
Psalm 138:7-8
Speaking of hands, how about these?



For more about hands read this New York Times Magazine feature called "Working with your Hands."

21 May 2009

A Counter Cultural Act





Praising God is a counter cultural act because the object of our devotion is OTHER THAN the state, a celebrity, our own aspirations, or positive thinking. God is OTHER THAN us. That is something that we tend to forget as we become more and more enmeshed with our technology. We will never be able, as Ray Kurzweil and the post-humanist proponents suggest, to so magnify our brain's computational ability or optimize a software algorithm in such a manner that we may achieve divinity.

On the other hand, we are as to "put on the mind of Christ." We are to see Christ in the bumbling face that stares back at us in the mirror and in the sullen face of others we encounter. Even the stranger and the enemy is a vehicle for the manifestation of Christ. So, let's get radical, as the psalmist suggests. 
"Clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with loud songs of joy. Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the king of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm."
-Psalm 47:1,6-7


20 May 2009

Find Where Love Resides





Find first where Love resides and get yourself together in that realm and everything else will fall into place. (Hint: God is Love.) Jesus said to his disciples, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. (Luke 12:22-23)

19 May 2009

How to Judge a Religion



We are swamped by religion these days. All religions have now been lumped together into one heap. We have the Roman Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Church of Christ,Islamism, Judaism, Buddism, Taoism, Hinduism, Darwinism (yes, it is a religious belief for those who hold fast to it), and I'm not even counting Scientology, Mormonism, Satanism (a religion officially reocnigzed by the US military), and the list goes on and on (I am just scractching the surface). All of these are now lumped together into one pile and all of them are acceptable to the New Age Religion that permeates everything today with one caveat. None of these religious bodies may claim that they have exclusive truth. To do so is anathema to the system and will cause a person or group to be labeled "wing nut" and cast out of the system.

Is there another way to determine the merit of a religious belief or group without getting into theological truth claims? Of course there are other ways. We could lump religious groups into different clusters based on their polity or forms of governments (that would be another discussion). Or we could diistinguish between and among the different groups by what they DO. That is the suggestion of our text this morning from the Epistle of James, ever the practical person. Here is how he puts it: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." (James 1:27) Regardless of our religions affiliation we all stand equally judged by James' criterion as groups and as individuals. So, how is your church doing, according to James? And how are you doing today? When judged according to James' standard, perhaps I am not so religious after all.





18 May 2009

One Friend Will Often Do




Faithfulness is a good quality especially when you are in need. In a time of crisis, one faithful friend is worth ten thousand acquaintances. The Lord is that faithful friend who is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds. (Psalm 145:13)

I think of friends who are currently unemployed. I think of others who are wondering if their business or job will be able to continue. When times are tough we know where to turn. In case we've forgotten, the Psalmist reminds us: "The Lord upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down." (Psalm 145:14

Let our lips utter the sound of praise to the Lord. Let us join the psalmist in proclaiming: "My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, and all flesh will bless his holy name forever and ever." (Psalm 145:21)

17 May 2009

NOW Media: My, How The Stream Doth Flow


The web is no longer an email inbox where you must read through to the last email or web pages where you must read all the way down to get to the bottom of the page but now a constant stream of real time info that you dip into from time to time as if you were swimming.

A couple of months ago I was introduced to Facebook, Twitter and the iPhone 3G at the same time and suddenly things look different. For instance, I find I rarely even bother with main stream media any more yet am as well or better informed than most who do. I find that email seems almost quaint and I have to remind myself to check it whereas 2 months ago I would check it several times throughout the course of a day. 

@erickschonfeld has a pertinent post called "Jump Into The Stream.Here a good description of what web is now and how to approach it. The web is no longer an email inbox where you must read through to the last email or blog pages where you must read all the way down to get to the bottom of the page but now a constant stream of real time info that you dip into from time to time.

Now Media is the fusion of Old Media and New Media according to Jeff Pulver.
I remember reading about Social Media and Web 2.0 a couple of years ago and I could conceptualize it but I didn't experience. Now I am experiencing it, and yes, the blog is now crucial in a way it wasn't before, in my opinion. All of this to say the blog seems to play a central role in the new social media economy. 

Now think of your blog posts as platforms inviting your readers to dive into the stream. I wonder how our Christian image of baptism would fit with this metaphor?

15 May 2009

Beyond Web 2.0 ... What's Next?

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

How To Create A Twitter Following


May 15, 2009
By Guy Kawasaki 

AddThis

Twitter is the latest social media craze and everyone is jumping on the bandwagon, but your tweets won't matter unless you have followers. Guy Kawasaki shares his tips for building a following.



Don't Miss: 10+ Business Uses For Twitter


Guy Kawasaki

Late one night in a hotel, I discovered I hadn't brought a MacBook power supply, and I was leaving early the next morning for a remote location. I posted a message to Twitter, and within 10 minutes, five people offered to bring me a power supply; one delivered it to me within an hour.

This illustrates the practical implications of a large following on Twitter. Here's how to get it:

  1. Follow The "Smores," Or Social Media Whores. Get a good idea of who these opinion leaders are by viewing twittercounter.com,twitterati.alltop.com, and egos.alltop.com. Many have scripts that will auto-follow you, and you might learn something from watching what they tweet about.
  2. Send @ messages to the smores. They probably won't answer you, but that's OK. You just want to appear to have a relationship with them. The theory is, "If she's tweeting with @scobleizeer, she must be worth following." It's BS logic, admittedly, but it helps. To bastardize what a famous PR person once told me, "It's not who you know. It's who appears to know you."

  3. Don't Miss: Yammer Is Twitter For Business


  4. Create An Effective Avatar. Your avatar is a window into your soul, so create one that doesn't look like you shot it with a camera phone while out partying. Use a simple, informal, straight-up mug shot -- not you and your dog, kids or surfboard. Increase the exposure. Fix the red-eye. Crop the photo. And if you have access to cool image tools, create an avatar that raises the question, "How did he do that?" When people view a stream of tweets, your avatar should stand out.
  5. Follow Everyone Who Follows You. Some people will respond to you and everyone who follows them will see this -- which is more exposure for you.

    That said, when you get to more than 50 followers, it's impossible to read what all your followers tweet. Then you have to focus on direct private and public messages.

  6. Always Link To Interesting Stories And Pictures. Think of yourself as a one-person StumbleUpon. The Twitter pickup artist's mantra is "Always be linking."
  7. Establish Yourself As A Subject Expert. That way, you'll be interesting to some subset of people. Say you're an expert on Macintosh. Search for "Macintosh" and answer people's questions. People are likely to not only follow you, but also retweet your posts, giving you additional exposure.

    If and when you're an expert, don't be afraid to express your opinion. It's better that some people refuse to follow you than no one knows who you are.

  8. Incorporate Pictures And Other Media. I've tweeted pictures of showerheads from Microsoft in the Singapore Airlines lounge and the world's longest toilet flush to get followers, so I know multimedia works.
  9. Use The Right Tools. They can make picking up followers easier. I use TweetDeck on my MacBook and Tweetie on my iPhone, as well asAdjix and Posterous as my main tools.

  10. Don't Miss: Socialtext Takes On Twitter, Talks About Social Networking For Your Business


  11. Repeat Your Tweets. Post your most interesting tweets three times, eight to 12 hours apart. My theory is that most people check in at about the same time every day, so people probably won't notice repeat tweets.

Ask people to follow. That's right: Just come right out and ask them. 

See more stories from Entrepreneur.com 

Guy Kawasaki's mantra is "Empower people." He is co-founder of Alltop.com, a managing director of Garage Technology Ventures, former chief evangelist for Apple Inc. and author of nine books -- most recently, Reality Check.

Food Fight



We could spend a lot of time talking about food. We could start by saying that food is used as a weapon of war. You always go after your enemies food supply. We could look into genetically modified food (Brief videos about Genetically Modified Foods > 
http://tr.im/lqvY). We could talk about the few corporations that now control the world food supply (Monsant +, Archer-Daniel-Midlands ADM) and the implications of having so much power in so few hands. Or we could talk about the Epistle reading this morning for it also is concerned with food.

At issue in the text is whether or not to eat foods that have been offered to idols. Another food issue in the early church was whether or not to eat pork. This is still an issue among some religious communities today. The point that Paul makes in regard to food is to not let it become a defining divisive issue.As he puts is: "Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another. ... For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. The one who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and has human approval. Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. " (Romans 14:13, 17-19)

Be aware today of what you eat. Where did it come from? Whose hands produced it? Which corporation modified it? Which company distributes it? What role did God play in its appearance upon your plate? Give thanks to God for what you have to eat. Notice your food before you eat it. Eat slowly and gain less weight. Eat thoughtfully and gain some wisdom.

Song for the day is "The Frim Fram Sauce" by Nat King Cole > 
http://tr.im/lqyl (via Todd Hill's suggestion)

14 May 2009

10 Youtube URL Tricks You Should Know About


youtube url tricksYoutube - You know that site with videos and all. Yeah! It turns out that its quite popular and you happen to visit and use it quite often. Instead of just searching and playing here are some top Youtube URL tricks that you should know about:

 

1. View high quality videos

Youtube gives you the option to switch to high quality videos for some of the videos, however you can check if a video is available in high quality format by appending ‘&fmt=18′(stereo, 480 x 270 resolution) or ‘&fmt=22′(stereo, 1280 x 720 resolution) for even higher quality.

2. Embed Higher Quality Videos

While the above trick works for playback, if however you want to embed hig quality videos you need to append “&ap=%2526fmt%3D18″ and “&ap=%2526fmt%3D22″ to the embed url.

3. Cut the chase and link to the interesting part

Linking to a video where the real action starts at 3 minutes 22 seconds, wondered if you could make it start at 03:22? You are in luck. All you have to do is add #t=03m22s (#t=XXmYYs for XX mins and YY seconds) to the end of the URL.

4. Hide the search box

youtube url start time

The search box appears when you hover over an embedded video. To hide the search box add ‘&showsearch=0′ to the embed url.

5. Embed only a part of Video

youtube url to mp3

Just append ‘&start=30′ to skip first 30s of the video. In general you can modify the value after start= to the number of seconds you want to skip the video for.

6. Autoplay an embedded video

Normally when you embed a Youtube video and load the page, the player is loaded and it sits there waiting for you to hit the play button. You can make the video play automatically by adding ‘&autoplay=1′ to the url part of the embed code.

7. Loop an embedded video

Append ‘&loop=1′ to make the video start again without user intervention after it reaches the end.

8. Disable Related Videos

youtube url downloader

Publishing your content in the form of Youtube video? Don’t want people to see other people’s content that may be related but may as well be in competition to you? Just add ‘&rel=0′ to the end of the url part of the embed code and you just turned off the related video suggestions!

9. Bypass Youtube Regional Filtering

Some videos are only available in certain parts of the world. Your IP Address is used to determine your location and then allow or deny access to the video. Change the url from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v= to http://www.youtube.com/v/

10. Download Video

Although not inherently a youtube trick but useful all the same for downloading videos. Just change youtube to kickyoutube in the url of the video and it will take you to kickyoutube.com with all the options for downloading the video you were watching.

(Taken from BigBrains.com)

What shall we then eat?



Lately I've been taking a photo of the food on my plate before I eat it. Like keeping a diary, it has been revealing. For instance, I didn't know I ate so well. Food is one of those things that can slip by unaware in the blurred landscape of our daily existence. So it doesn't hurt to focus the camera there, take a photo and reflect on it.

Jesus had an interesting relationship to food. His disciples were reprimanded by religious officials because they picked grain on the sabbath day which was against religious law. Jesus himself, even after his resurrection, prepared and ate fish with his disciples. The fish became the early symbol of Christianity. Bread and wine became the sacred symbols of the sacraement of the Lord's supper. God uses ordinary food to reveal divine truth and make real connections to human beings.



No wonder then that the Apostle Paul speaks about the food that we eat. Here is what he says:

Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand. (Romans 14:1-4)

The point he wants to make is that we are not to judge one another based on what we eat (or whether or not we photograph our food before we eat it). Vegetarians, take note, please, and do not judge us who eat meat. The same goes for those who would judge the vegetarians. And of the course this principle extends beyond the issue of food. As Jesus said more than once, "Judge not that you be not judged."

Song for the day: "Grapefruit, Juicy Fruit" cover of Jimmy Buffet song on ukele by JTPokie >
http://tr.im/lkju

13 May 2009

Haiku how are you?



before crossing lake
thronged by WORD fireballs
Jesus' family peeps

Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. And he was told, "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you." But he said to them, "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it." (Luke 8:19-21)

Song for today: "Only the Lonely" by The Motels > 
http://tr.im/lev7

12 May 2009

How to Act on Twitter



Growing up as I did in a small town in Mississippi, good manners were everything. This cultural proclivity toward kindness draws its roots from the deep Biblical roots of the region. This is, after all, the buckle of the Bible Belt. Growing up as a child of the church in that culture in the 1960s and 70s, I always knew what was expected of me. Now I live in a cosmopolitan city in the postmodern 2010ish world and things are not so clear.

For example, what is proper etiquette in social media such as Twitter? What is the right way to BE among friends and colleagues on the web? One of the great things about the Bible is that is a historical document, meaning, it was written by certain people at a certain time in history about 2000 years ago. So the biblical writers were unobscured by the current political and moral climate. They were untainted by political correctness of the left or right. 

The Epistle reading this morning offers some guidelines that could serve as "Proper Etiquette for Twitter from the Bible." Here is is, straight from chapter 12 of Paul's letter to the Romans:

Let love be genuine; 
hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good;
love one another with mutual affection; 
outdo one another in showing honor. (vss. 9-19)

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 
Live in harmony with one another;
do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; 
do not claim to be wiser than you are. 

Do not repay anyone evil for evil, 
but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 
If it is possible, so far as it depends on you,
live peaceably with all. (vss. 15-17)

Paul's suggestions here also apply to daily life in the office, home or school. Read the list again, ponder one of the phrases in silence, and see what the Spirit may suggest to you.

--

Song for today ==> 
http://tr.im/l81c "My Hometown" by Bruce Springsteen, featuring video footage from Bruce's hometown put together by someone who seems to still live there.