Friday, December 30, 2005

John Travolta as Marlon Brando

I just found the transcript for one of my all time favorite SNL skits: John Travolta as Marlon Brando on the Larry King show (Larry is played by Kevin Nealon).

Here's the transcript.

Right outside our rental house

Back home

We made it back home today, after three wonderful days in Gualala. A storm was heading in, so we left a little earlier, and thankfully did not have as much drama as we did on Tuesday.

Yesterday we found out that the work on the roof was going to cost around 15-20k. You can imagine that we decided to walk. A little disappointing, but we would much rather learn this now than after we had bought it. We're not sure what we're going to be doing now. We know that we are moving at the end of January. We'll probably try to rent a place for 6 months.

The Oswald readings have been such a good thing for me. I'm really not worried. I see God's hand in all of this. It's obviously frustrating, but I know that I can trust Him.

My Utmost - Dec. 29

December 29, 2005

Deserter or Disciple?
“From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more” (John 6:66).

When God, by His Spirit through His Word, gives you a clear vision of His will, you must “walk in the light” of that vision (1 John 1:7). Even though your mind and soul may be thrilled by it, if you don’t “walk in the light” of it you will sink to a level of bondage never envisioned by our Lord. Mentally disobeying the “heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19) will make you a slave to ideas and views that are completely foreign to Jesus Christ.

I continue to be amazed at how timely each of these devotions is. So far, everything about this move has been hard. We’ve wondered if that meant that we were doing the wrong thing. Wouldn’t things be easy if we were truly following God? I realize that we were never promised an easy life. We are promised that abundant life is available, but, again, abundance doesn’t mean that things are easy. These kinds of views cause us to be disobedient, and often cause us to “sink to a level of bondage never envisioned by our Lord”. We actually cause things to become more difficult this way, and this is a difficulty that Jesus never had.

Don’t look at someone else and say, “Well, if he can have those views and prosper, why can’t I?” You have to “walk in the light” of the vision that has been given to you. Don’t compare yourself with others or judge them—that is between God and them. When you find that one of your favorite and strongly held views clashes with the “heavenly vision,” do not begin to debate it. If you do, a sense of property and personal right will emerge in you—things on which Jesus placed no value. He was against these things as being the root of everything foreign to Himself—“… for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15). If we don’t see and understand this, it is because we are ignoring the underlying principles of our Lord’s teaching.

I confess that we’ve asked questions such as these more than a few times. It’s so tempting to compare ourselves with others, or to compare the way God works with others to the way God works with us.

Our tendency is to lie back and bask in the memory of the wonderful experience we had when God revealed His will to us. But if a New Testament standard is revealed to us by the light of God, and we don’t try to measure up, or even feel inclined to do so, then we begin to backslide. It means your conscience does not respond to the truth. You can never be the same after the unveiling of a truth. That moment marks you as one who either continues on with even more devotion as a disciple of Jesus Christ, or as one who turns to go back as a deserter.

It’s also very tempting to compare the way that God has worked with us in the past to the way He is working with us today. Because God is “handling” us in a different fashion, we fail to recognize His standard, and thus we “don’t try to measure up.” Thus we backslide.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

My Utmost - Dec. 28

December 28, 2005

Continuous Conversion
“… unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

These words of our Lord refer to our initial conversion, but we should continue to turn to God as children, being continuously converted every day of our lives. If we trust in our own abilities, instead of God’s, we produce consequences for which God will hold us responsible. When God through His sovereignty brings us into new situations, we should immediately make sure that our natural life submits to the spiritual, obeying the orders of the Spirit of God. Just because we have responded properly in the past is no guarantee that we will do so again. The response of the natural to the spiritual should be continuous conversion, but this is where we so often refuse to be obedient. No matter what our situation is, the Spirit of God remains unchanged and His salvation unaltered. But we must “put on the new man …” (Ephesians 4:24). God holds us accountable every time we refuse to convert ourselves, and He sees our refusal as willful disobedience. Our natural life must not rule—God must rule in us.

To refuse to be continuously converted puts a stumbling block in the growth of our spiritual life. There are areas of self-will in our lives where our pride pours contempt on the throne of God and says, “I won’t submit.” We deify our independence and self-will and call them by the wrong name. What God sees as stubborn weakness, we call strength. There are whole areas of our lives that have not yet been brought into submission, and this can only be done by this continuous conversion. Slowly but surely we can claim the whole territory for the Spirit of God.

Last night we were all talking about the balance between hanging out with people and being intentional at the same time. Conversion that took place long ago will not help me with this. I must be continuously converted every day of my life. That is the only way that my natural self will yield to the Spirit. Trying harder will not work. It’s only through training. It takes work and discipline, yet it also comes through rest and submission (which, ironically, is often the hardest type of work).

Can we trust God?

Some days Mandy and I are at peace about our decision to move. Other days we’re pretty overcome with worry and doubt. Christmas Eve was one of those stressful days. Not only were we super busy with five Hillside Christmas Eve services, but we were also a little sad being away from our family. The house we’ve put a contract on had an inspection on Friday, and we found out there were quite a few repairs that needed to be made. We wondered if we were going to be able to buy it, and, if not, what were we going to do. I decided that I should read My Utmost again. Below is the entire devotion, along with some reflections we came away with.

December 24, 2005
The Hidden Life

… your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3).
The Spirit of God testifies to and confirms the simple, but almighty, security of the life that “is hidden with Christ in God.” Paul continually brought this out in his New Testament letters. We talk as if living a sanctified life were the most uncertain and insecure thing we could do. Yet it is the most secure thing possible, because it has Almighty God in and behind it. The most dangerous and unsure thing is to try to live without God. For one who is born again, it is easier to live in a right-standing relationship with God than it is to go wrong, provided we heed God’s warnings and “walk in the light” (1 Jn. 1:7).

This goes against so much of the way that I live, yet…if this is true, then it changes everything. I often feel like finding God’s will is like finding the set of keys that I lost a few months ago. I searched everywhere (I’m still hoping I find them when we move). Yet this says that it’s easy to get it right than it is to get it wrong. I started thinking about that and realized that it made a lot of sense. I started thinking about John 10:29 (My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand). If we are truly servants, and He is the Master, then perhaps things work a little more to His will than I often think. The more I started thinking about this, the more I started believing, and then the bigger my view of God became. This is worship.

When we think of being delivered from sin, being “filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18), and “walk[ing] in the light,” we picture the peak of a great mountain. We see it as very high and wonderful, but we say, “Oh, I could never live up there!” However, when we do get there through God’s grace, we find it is not a mountain peak at all, but a plateau with plenty of room to live and to grow. “You enlarged my path under me, so my feet did not slip” (Ps. 18:36).

Worry is sin. Most people would say it’s impossible not to worry. It’s a part of life. It’s normal. However, we’re called to a different kind of life. Perhaps we don’t have to worry. I can totally relate to believing that this kind of life is like the very top peak of a mountain. Oh, to be there…but that’s probably never going to happen. But maybe it’s more like a “plateau with plenty of room to live and to grow.” That’s good news.

When you really see Jesus, I defy you to doubt Him. If you see Him when He says, “Let not your heart be troubled …” (Jn. 14:27), I defy you to worry. It is virtually impossible to doubt when He is there. Every time you are in personal contact with Jesus, His words are real to you. “My peace I give to you …” (Jn. 14:27)—a peace which brings an unconstrained confidence and covers you completely, from the top of your head to the soles of your feet. “… your life is hidden with Christ in God,” and the peace of Jesus Christ that cannot be disturbed has been imparted to you.

I defy you to worry. What a strong statement. It is virtually impossible to doubt when He is there. What an even stronger statement. I’m reminded once again that the Kingdom of God really is an “upside-down” Kingdom. The world doesn’t understand this type of peace, yet Jesus offers it to His followers. He offers it, yet He doesn’t force us to accept it. We have the choice of whether to live life as the world offers, or to “learn the unforced rhythms of grace” that Jesus offers (Matthew 11:29, The Message).

So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective. Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. (Col. 3:1-3, The Message).

Slow for Cows

On the road to Gualala

Last night we got to our rental house in Gualala. We knew we were close to the ocean because we could hear it. This morning I awoke to the most wonderful site. I should take this opportunity to thank the Altom’s and Caulkin’s for the gift of three nights at this place with Jason and Barb.

I should next take the opportunity to mention that we almost didn’t get here. We got 10 miles outside of Petaluma when we came upon some flooding. Mandy and I decided that we would go through it first since we were in the SUV. We got through it just fine. Jason and Barb were about to follow when a lady advised them to go a different way. She said that there was a spot ahead a few miles where the flooding was much worse. They turned around and headed back to 101. I had never gone through flooding, and thought it was pretty fun. We didn’t know that there was another spot ahead. When we got there I was still on a bit of an adrenaline high and was ready to take it. I got halfway through and noticed that I could just barely see the rails that are normally very easy to see. I got a little nervous at this point. Thankfully we got through it. Soon we got on Hwy 1.

The first time traffic stopped it was because of a mudslide. Fortunately a tractor was cleaning it up and we didn’t have to wait long. The second time traffic stopped it was because of the cows. About thirty cows decided to head to Gualala with us – and they also decided to use Hwy. 1!

We thought the trip would take us about three hours, but it turned out to be more like five or six. Jason and Barb ended up coming through Hwy 1 a half hour or so after us, and by then there were more mudslides. They had to take a detour. Thankfully we all made it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Why do we lack peace?

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled …” (John 14:27).

This morning Mandy and I read from My Utmost for His Highest, the devotional classic by Oswald Chambers.

Whenever we experience something difficult in our personal life, we are tempted to blame God. But we are the ones in the wrong, not God. Blaming God is evidence that we are refusing to let go of some disobedience somewhere in our lives. But as soon as we let go, everything becomes as clear as daylight to us. As long as we try to serve two masters, ourselves and God, there will be difficulties combined with doubt and confusion. Our attitude must be one of complete reliance on God. Once we get to that point, there is nothing easier than living the life of a saint. We encounter difficulties when we try to usurp the authority of the Holy Spirit for our own purposes.

God’s mark of approval, whenever you obey Him, is peace. He sends an immeasurable, deep peace; not a natural peace, “as the world gives,” but the peace of Jesus. Whenever peace does not come, wait until it does, or seek to find out why it is not coming. If you are acting on your own impulse, or out of a sense of the heroic, to be seen by others, the peace of Jesus will not exhibit itself. This shows no unity with God or confidence in Him. The spirit of simplicity, clarity, and unity is born through the Holy Spirit, not through your decisions. God counters our self-willed decisions with an appeal for simplicity and unity.

Whenever peace does not come, wait until it does, or seek to find out why it is not coming.

Chambers says that there are two possible reasons why a person might lack peace. The first is that he or she is in disobedience. He describes this as acting on one's own impulse or trying to impress people. The second reason why a person might lack peace is that he or she has not given everything over to God. Chambers describes this as complete reliance on God. It may be that a person is obeying God in most things, but just hasn't completely trusted him in everything. For Mandy and I, we often do not have trouble trusting God in the big things. It's the small things that get us in trouble. We see God move in amazing ways, then we have trouble trusting him to finish what he has begun. When this is happening, life as a saint becomes very cloudy, confusing, and frustrating - a far cry from a life of being simply carried along.

My questions arise whenever I cease to obey. When I do obey God, problems come, not between me and God, but as a means to keep my mind examining with amazement the revealed truth of God. But any problem that comes between God and myself is the result of disobedience. Any problem that comes while I obey God (and there will be many), increases my overjoyed delight, because I know that my Father knows and cares, and I can watch and anticipate how He will unravel my problems.

There is a big difference between the problems that come due to disobedience and the ones that come due to obedience. We will always have problems, trials, etc. However, problems between God and I that are due to my disobedience lead to frustration and often bitterness. Suffering that comes as I am obeying God leads to perseverance, which leads to character, which leads to hope (Romans 5:3).

Monday, December 05, 2005

Simply carried along

Mandy and I are in the process of making some decisions, and I've really felt the need for my soul to be at rest. As I have been praying and waiting, I have felt "simply carried along." I knew that I had read this somewhere, but could not remember where. I finally remembered this afternoon. It's from Frank Laubach, who was a missionary in the Phillipines during the early to mid 1900's. Laubach wondered what it would be like for a person to be in continuous conversation with God, to, as Paul said, "pray without ceasing." He decided to try an experiment in which he would try to think about God for one second of every minute. At first he failed miserably, but soon he began to become alive in a way that he had never felt. I find tremendous encouragement in this.

I feel simply carried along each hour, doing my part in a plan which is far beyond myself. This sense of cooperation with God in little things is what so astonishes me, for I never have felt it this way before. I need something, and turn round to find it waiting for me. I must work, to be sure, but there is God working along with me. God takes care of all the rest. My part is to live this hour in continuous inner conversation with God and in perfect responsiveness to his will, to make this hour gloriously rich. This seems to be all I need think about.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Rick Warren - Rwanda

I checked out a few magazines from the library before we went out of town. One was Christianity Today. There was a great article about Rick and Kay Warren's involvement in Rwanda.

Kay told Christianity Today seeing that article was "an appointment with God … he intended to grab my attention." The news photos were so graphic that she covered her eyes and peeked through just enough to read the words. There was a quote box in the middle of the article that read: "12 million children orphaned in Africa due to AIDS."

"It was as if I fell off the donkey on the Damascus road because I had no clue. I didn't know one single orphan." For days afterward, she was haunted by that fact: 12 million orphans.

Unable to block it from her mind, Kay began to get mad at God, praying, "Leave me alone. Even if it is true, what can I do about it? I'm a white, suburban soccer mom. There is nothing I can do." But that did no good.

After weeks, then months of anguish, she realized she faced a fateful choice. She could either pretend she did not know about the HIV/AIDS pandemic or she could become personally involved.

Here's the rest of the article.

Thanksgiving in the South

I finally feel like I've gotten caught back up from being out of town. Mandy, Adam and I spent almost two weeks in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Mississippi. We had a really great time, and showing off Adam to all of his family was a lot of fun. He did quite well, considering he lived out of his pack'n'play, and slept in four different locations. He got pretty spoiled, though. There weren't too many times when he was playing by himself. Most times, he was being held. So...when we got back home, he wasn't too happy when we kept putting him down to play by himself. He's getting back on his schedule, though, which makes Mandy and I much happier.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Church Opposes War - IRS Declares War on Church

It started with All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, Calif., where Rector J. Edwin Bacon was recently notified by the IRS that his church risks losing its tax-exempt status. Why? “A reasonable belief exists that you may not be tax-exempt as a church,” warned the IRS, because of a sermon preached by former rector George F. Regas on Oct. 31, 2004, shortly before the last presidential election.

Click here for the rest of the article.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Bono: The Rolling Stone Interview

The story of Bono and his band is a story of commitment to one another -- after twenty-nine years, they remain a remarkably stable unit -- and to the greater causes of social justice on which Bono has staked his reputation. Bono gives us a vision of how tomorrow can be better than today. He appeals to something greater than ourselves. He tells the story of his life and struggles in terms everyone can understand. He speaks about faith in a way that even a nonbeliever can embrace. "The New York Times Magazine" called him "a one-man state who fills his treasury with the global currency of fame . . . the most politically effective figure in the recent history of popular culture."

Here's the rest of the article.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Trick or Treat

This afternoon I ran to Safeway to pick up a few bags of candy. You just don't want to be caught without candy on Halloween. We had two groups of kids come around 5:00, then nothing else. Just now we had two teenagers and an adult come wanting my candy. No costumes, no kids in tow, just people who love candy. I guess that's ok, too.

Very tragic news

I heard about this from a friend today. Very sad.

Kyle Lake, the pastor at University Baptist Church in Waco, TX, was killed after being electrocuted during during a baptism. He was only 33 years old and had three kids. I can't imagine what the congregation (especially the children) is going through.

Dan Kimball shares about this on his blog.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Memories of another life

Tonight I watched a movie called Changing Lanes. It stars Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson, and is the story of two men allowing their anger and need for vengeance to pretty much wreck their lives. There's a scene at the end of the movie that reminded me once again of how backwards the Kingdom of God really is.

These two men finally come together after coming to the end of their ropes and seeing that their need for vengeance really did not fix their problems. It's taken this terrible day for both men to realize that they have been wrong for quite some time. Actually, they're pretty rotten to the core. Jackson's character (Doyle) realizes that his anger and drinking has driven his wife and kids away, while Affleck's character (Gavin) sees for the first time that his climb up the corporate ladder has been at the expense of others. He has fallen for the lie that it's ok to cheat because that's the way the world operates.

You could say that these men have both been humbled by their depravity by the end of this movie.

So at the end of the movie, Gavin tells Doyle a story. He says that there's a guy on a beach, and he finds himself standing next to a pretty girl. If he asked her her name, he'd leave everything to be with her. But he doesn't. So she becomes a memory to him, something that he thinks about every day. It's a life that he could have had.

Gavin says, "Today is that girl."

He's come to see that his life is not all that it's cracked up to be. He's got money, a beautiful wife, prestige, success, toys, etc. But he's corrupt. He wishes he could leave it all. This day has shown him that he can. It of course means that he'll lose everything...but he'll gain so much more. It kind of reminds me of something Jesus once said:

The Kingdom of God is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought the field (Matt 13:44).

Earlier today I was rereading an article called "The Church as Subversive Community." I was thinking about this while I was watching the movie.

The Subversive Community understands that the world and its ways are false. It is constantly interacting with people at work, in the grocery store, or at home who are all in the prison of this world's system. These prisoners are quite happy in their assumed reality (especially the ones who have amassed quite a kingdom of wealth). But some secretly ask the question, "Is this really all there is to life?" The Subversive Community’s answer is not merely to inform them about the Kingdom, but to invite them to become participants in a whole new reality. The training program will be unique and cannot be rushed or broken down into a few 'principles' that are easy to swallow. Remember, the kingdom of God deals with every aspect of our lives. This training might just take a lifetime.

This is why we pray for God's Kingdom to come. "This remarkable new opportunity" comes at a price. It means leaving behind the world and its ways. The "good life" is called "good" for a reason. But perhaps it's not as good as we think. The treasure in the field is so much better.

God, open our eyes to see the treasure before us, and give us the courage and grace to do whatever it takes to attain it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

An Upside-Down Kingdom

Tomorrow morning I'll be meeting with three guys to begin studying the life of Christ together. We're going through the NIV Daily Bible, which is in chronological order. Tonight I've been reading and am struck by how God chose to do things. Everything is backwards, or upside-down. What we think will happen doesn't happen. Jesus comes as a baby. His parents aren't important people. He's born in less-than-desirable circumstances. God chooses lowly shepherds as the first recipients of this good news. Finally he chooses two nobodies (Simeon and Anna) to be among the first to see this baby. I'm struck that Simeon totally got it. What a relationship he must have had with God. He had been promised by God that he would see the Messiah before he died. He also understood the role that the Gentiles would play in God's plan.

This upside-down Kingdom will be the theme throughout Jesus' life.

God, may we see things as You see them.
May we see people as You see them.
And may we not be surprised by Your way of doing things.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Mozilla Firefox and Blogger

While most web browsers are supported, Mozilla Firefox is used internally by all Blogger staff. Blogger advises its users, especially AOL users, to switch to Mozilla Firefox in order to have the best possible experience using Blogger.

Read more.

Adam at 4 months

Mandy has begun developing a real talent for photography. Granted, she's had a beautiful model. No, not me - Adam.

Mozilla vs. Internet Explorer

Over the past two months I've absolutely fallen for Mozilla Firefox. It is soooo much better than Internet Explorer. The tab feature is wonderful. blog sometimes comes up funky, depending on which browser I use. I think I'm going to stick with Mozilla, though. So if you want to read this blog, and you want it to be pleasing on the eyes, download Mozilla. You won't be sorry. I guarantee it!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Radical Reformission, Pt. 3

Once again, Mark Driscoll's The Radical Reformission. These are excerpts from chapter 4.

Biblical Principles for Cultural Decision-Making (104)
· Is it beneficial to me personally and to the gospel generally (1 Cor. 6:12)?
· Will I lose self-control and be mastered by what I participate in (1 Cor. 6:12)
· Will I be doing this in the presence of someone who I know will fall into sin as a result (1 Cor. 8:9-10)?
· Is it a violation of the laws of my city, state, or nation (Rom. 13:1-7)?
· If I fail to do this, will I lose opportunities to share the gospel (1 Cor. 10:27-30)?
· Can I do this with a clear conscience (Acts 24:16)?
· Will this cause me to sin by feeding sinful desires (Rom. 13:13-14)?
· Am I convinced that this is what God desires for me to do (Rom 13:5)?
· Does my participation proceed from my faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 14:23)?
· Am I doing this to help other people, or am I just being selfish (1 Cor. 10:24)?
· Can I do this in a way that glorifies God (1 Cor. 10:31-33)?
· Am I following the example of Jesus Christ to help save sinners (1 Cor. 10:33-11:1)?

First, to change a culture, we must change the people in that culture. The question that arises is whether people do what they are, or if they are what they do. The answer to this is imperative because if we are what we do, then all we need to do is train people to act differently, and they will change themselves. But if we do what we are, then we do bad because we are bad, and we cannot do good until we become good, the very thing which bad people cannot do, no matter how many dollars are spent and organizations are founded to help them (109).

The Bible clearly teaches that we do what we are. It also repeatedly teaches (particularly in Proverbs and in the teachings of Jesus) that our sin comes from our hearts, the center of who we are (109).

Second, if we aspire to straighten out crooked people, we must define what a “good person” is. This too has been the source of much conflict because there is little agreement as to what constitutes this good person we aspire to become. The Bible teaches that Jesus of Nazareth, who lived on the earth some two thousand years ago, was God in human flesh. And though Jesus was tempted as we are, he remained without sin. Because of this, he was the perfect person and is our perfect example of what a person is supposed to be. People must compare themselves with Jesus to see their sin. Only by seeing Jesus can anyone be aware of the sin they need to repent of so that Jesus can redeem them to be like him (109-110).

If we aspire to seek any change in our culture, we must resist the temptation to first change the culture. Instead, we must begin by bringing the gospel to people so that they can be given a new heart out of which a Christian life flows (110).

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Barna's new book

I just got this article in the mail today from Prince, my pastor at Hillside Church. It's about George Barna's new book, "Revolution." I then found a pdf of chapter 1. I'm looking forward to reading the entire book. I can already tell I'm going to like it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

I Repent

Tonight I've been listening to Derek Webb's album, I See Things Upside Down. One song is called "I Repent." I don't find a lot of writers that write like this. Here are the lyrics.

i repent, i repent of my pursuit of america's dream
i repent, i repent of living like i deserve anything
of my house, my fence, my kids, my wife
in our suburb where we're safe and white
i am wrong and of these things i repent

i repent, i repent of parading my liberty
i repent. i repent of paying for what i get for free
and for the way i believe that i am living right
by trading sins for others that are easier to hide
i am wrong and of these things i repent

i repent judging by a law that even i can't keep
of wearing righteousness like a disguise
to see through the planks in my own eyes

i repent, i repent of trading truth for false unity
i repent, i repent of confusing peace and idolatry
by caring more of what they think than what i know of what we need
by domesticating you until you look just like me
i am wrong and of these things i

A Good Place to Live

I've been doing a lot of reading on community lately, and stumbled upon this book at the library a few weeks ago. It's called A Good Place to Live: America's Last Migration, by Terry Pindell (written in 1995). Here's a quote from the book.

What were they (the participants in the last migration) looking for that led them to their shortlist of good places?

First was…the lack of community gathering places where you can walk in at almost any time and be assured of either encountering old friends or making new ones. Such places are the balm of life to the social being, the third piece of human wholeness after the realms of family and work. Thus Ray Oldenburg in The Great Good Place calls them “third places” (after the first, home, and the second, the workplace). Other societies with more functional communities than ours are built around them: the pubs of England, the bistros of France, the biergartens of Germany, the coffeehouses of Vienna, the piazzas of Italy, and the plazas of Spain.

Unfortunately, American social history has not bee kind to the third place, from Puritan strictures against revelry to the misevolution of the American bar as a place of disrepute to the modern constriction of social life to the individual home. The convivial taverns that once spawned a democratic revolution are now tourist attractions and the small-town Main Streets that perpetuated it are deserted for malls built on the outskirts. In America the scarcity of the third place is more than an obstacle to good community, it is a threat to the democratic pluralism that we cherish, since it is in third places that people rub shoulders regularly with folks they don’t work with or invite to dinner (3-4).

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Radical Reformission, Pt. 2

Here are notes from chapter 3 of The Radical Reformission.

As our people function as missionaries, evangelism is done by the whole church instead of through the dated evangelistic routine of relying on the ministries of professionals, programs, or large formal events.

In the routine model, there are two options. In the first, a notable speaker is brought in to present the gospel to a large audience and to call them to make a decision for Jesus. In the second, Christians are sent out to ask non-Christian leading questions in a effort to compel them to receive Jesus. In both options, the emphasis is on eliciting a swift decision for Christ without taking the time to build a friendship. In both versions, those who walk forward, stand up, raise their hand, pray a prayer, sign a card, or indicate by some other means their decisions are deemed converts and told to assimilate into churches.

While Scripture gives examples of the routine model, the mission model of Jesus may prove to be more faithful to God, more fruitful to lost people, and more appealing to Christians who are otherwise fearful of using drive-by evangelism techniques such as knocking on doors and street witnessing (66-67).

In reformission evangelism, people are called to come and see the transformed lives of God’s people before they are called to repent of sin and to trust in God. Reformission evangelism understands that the transformed lives of people in the church are both the greatest argument for, and the greatest explanation of, the gospel. Therefore, it welcomes non-Christians into the church, not so much through evangelistic programs as through informal relationships like Jesus developed with his first disciples. In our church in Seattle, as lost people become friends with Christians, they often get connected to various ministries and participate in them before they possess saving faith (68-69).

One of the most fascinating aspects of reformission evangelism is that lost people actually function as missionaries themselves before their conversion (70).

Routine Presentation Evangelism

(Believe in Jesus, then belong to the church)

Reformission Participation Evangelism

(Belong to the church, then believe in Jesus)

Gospel information is presented

A genuine, spiritual friendship between a Christian and a non-Christian is built

Hearers are called to make a decision about Jesus

The non-Christian sees authentic faith and ministry lived openly and participates in it.

If an affirmative decision is made, the person is welcomed into the church

The gospel is naturally present in word and deed within the friendship

Then friendship is extended to the person

The non-Christian’s conversion to Jesus follows his or her conversion to Christian friendship and the church

The convert is trained for service in ministry by being separated from the culture

The church celebrates the conversion of their friend

See George Hunter’s The Celtic Way of Evangelism

Since our first parents (Adam and Eve), we have all been born into a world in which we long for gracious, joyous, and endless friendship and community but find this longing unsatisfied because of the sin that separates us from friendship with God and one another (79).

In his book Bowling Alone, Harvard professor Robert Putnam explains this phenomenon by showing that our world is arranged by various sorts of capital. Physical capital includes the objects that we possess and use. Human capital includes the skills, talents, and abilities that God has given people. Social capital includes the friends, acquaintances, coworkers, family members, and other relationships that form a web of trust and reciprocity.

Traditionally, people have lived their lives in these social capital networks by formally and informally bartering goods, services, information, favors and the like. Basically, this means that I do something nice to help you because we have some type of relationship, with the understanding, that, later on, you will help me when I need it, because I’ve made a deposit into our invisible social-capital account.

Traditionally, the largest repository of social capital has been the church. Roughly half of all membership in organizations, charitable giving, and community service is connected to religious organizations, making them the number-one repository of social friendships and connecting opportunities in our nation. But as spirituality has become more of a private affair, the percentage of the population that attends Protestant churches has declined from 15 percent to 12 percent in just the last quarter-century. Correspondingly, in the past twenty-five years, there has been a decline in both the number of friendships and the number of organizations that people typically join to build friendships – everything from labor unions to professional associations and civic groups. In addition, between 1970 and 1999, the divorce rate has tripled, the teen suicide rate has tripled, and depression has become more prevalent, which has contributed to a disconnected culture of loneliness (80).

In the past twenty-five years:

  • Playing cards as a social activity is down 25 percent
  • Frequenting bars, nightclubs, and taverns is down 40 percent
  • The number of full-service restaurants has decreased 25 percent, and the number of bars (including coffee bars) and luncheonettes has decreased 50 percent, but the number of fast-food outlets has increased 100 percent, as more people eat alone and eat more meals in their cars.
  • Having a social evening with someone from one’s neighborhood is down 33 percent.
  • Attending social clubs and meetings is down 58 percent
  • Family dinners are down 33 percent
  • Having friends over to one’s home is down 45 percent
  • From 1980 to 1993, participation in America’s number-one participant sport, bowling, was up 10 percent, but the number of bowling leagues decreased 40 percent, as more people bowled alone.
  • From 1985 to 1999, the readiness of the average American to make new friends declined by nearly 33 percent (80-81).

People are increasingly busy, isolated, lonely, disconnected, and without any helpful solutions in the culture. The isolation is now so entrenched that many people don’t know how to practice hospitality. This trend is even reflected in new architecture, which replaces large dining and living rooms designed for human contact with walk-in closets, home offices, and personal entertainment rooms. Here lonely people can watch sitcoms about friendship and reality-based shows in which characters pretend to interact with human beings, a thing apparently fascinating and foreign to many lonely, isolated individuals (81).

  • From 1992 to 1999, the amount of time spent caring for a pet increased 15 percent.
  • From 1992 to 1999, the amount of time spent for personal grooming increased 5-7 percent.

Isn’t it odd that we are apparently becoming a nation of attractive people who sit at home alone at night with our pets, watching television shows about relationships and taking medication for the depression brought on by our loneliness? Meanwhile, our neighbors, whom we do not know, are spending their evenings in much the same way (82).

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Radical Reformission, Pt. 1

Here are some notes from Mark Driscoll's The Radical Reformission.

These are from chapters 1 and 2 of the book.

This “reformission” is a radical call to reform the church’s traditionally flawed view of missions as something carried out only in foreign lands and to focus instead on the urgent need in our own neighborhoods, which are filled with diverse cultures of Americans who desperately need the gospel of Jesus and life in his church. Most significantly, they need a gospel and a church that are faithful both to the scriptural texts and to the cultural contexts of America (18).

George Barna – The first and most important statistic is that there are a lot of Americans who don’t go to church – and their numbers are increasing. The figure has jumped from just 21 percent of the population in 1991 to 33 percent today. In fact, if all the unchurched people in the U.S. were to establish their own country, they would form the eleventh most populated nation on the planet (18).

One of the underlying keys to reformission is knowing that neither the freedom of Christ nor our freedom in Christ is intended to permit us to dance as close to sin as possible without crossing the line. But both are intended to permit us to dance as close to sinners as possible by crossing the lines that unnecessarily separate the people of God has found from those he is still seeking. To be a Christian, literally, is to be a “little Christ.” It is imperative that Christians be like Jesus, by living freely within the culture as missionaries who are as faithful to the Father and his gospel as Jesus was in his own time and place (40).

So reformission requires that God’s people understand their mission with razor-sharp clarity. The mission is to be close to Jesus. This transforms our hearts to love what he loves, hate what he hates, and to pursue relationships with lost people in hopes of connecting with them and, subsequently, connecting them with him. The actually protects us from sin, because the way to avoid sin is not to avoid sinners but to stick close to Jesus (40).

The result of traditionalism is a Christianity that has all of the right answers to all of the wrong questions, because the questions that were once pressing are no longer being asked (51).

Gospel Signposts (58-60)
1. The gospel connects to this life
While previous generations worried about what would happen to them after they died, and were compelled by the idea of belonging to Jesus for the benefits in the life to come, many people today plan on living long but miserable lives and are likely to be more compelled by the idea of belonging to Jesus for the benefits in this life.

2. The gospel infuses daily activities with meaning
Our culture is filled with “successful” people who are mired in anxiety and confusion because they do not know the point of all their toil.

3. The gospel names sin and points the way to forgiveness
No matter how strenuously people fight them, their consciences prevail in revealing the filthiness of what they have done to others and of what others have done to them. Only the gospel can show people not only how bad sin truly is but also the justice of God through Jesus’ death in our place to forgive sin. Once forgiven, we can leave sin behind and move on in newness of life.

4. The gospel transforms life
What people long for most is not just a way to cope with who they are and how to manage their sins. They also yearn for new lives as new people, hence the popularity of television makeover shows.

5. The gospel builds a spiritual family
In our day of devastated families and generational fracturing, churches that operate like loving spiritual families, caring for and correcting one another in love, can be the most convincing proof of the power and benefits of the gospel.

6. The gospel is about participation with God
The gospel is not simply about getting my sins forgiven and then sitting around until I get to heaven or until Jesus returns. The gospel compels us to participate with God in the culture we live in. Any gospel that does not compel us into mission overlooks both the duties and delights of being a Christian.

7. The gospel is about Jesus as the means and end of our salvation
Simply, Jesus is not a means to things such as wealth, health, heaven, happiness, wisdom, and success in marriage, church, ministry, theology or politics. To remain on task with reformission, we must continually be about Jesus as the means and end of God’s will, and we must both proclaim his truth and live his lifestyle.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

No internet

On Saturday my internet went out. Because our phone (vonage) is connected through the internet, our phone was also out. At first I was very frustrated. However, that evening Mandy and I both agreed that perhaps this would be good for us. It would in a way be like we were on vacation (Mandy believes that vacation is only vacation when computers are not part of the picture. I’m beginning to believe that). The hiatus from the internet has been good for us. It’s given us more time to talk, and it’s also given me more time to read.

I enjoy reading, but much of the time I get interrupted by the internet. I confess that I’m quite an information junkie, and I love research. I’ll be reading a book, when I come across something in the book that makes me want to know more. I’ll then go to the internet and begin researching that topic/author/idea. Before long, the book I was reading is no longer being thought about. Often, while I am watching a movie, I see an actor and cannot for the life of me remember where I’ve seen him before. So I go to the computer, log on to, and find my answer. A bit more of my confession: last night I went to the library to send two emails. I returned with six books. I realize that’s a bit much.

However, one of those books is Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, by Robert Putnam. About a month ago I finished Mark Driscoll’s book The Radical Reformission. He quotes from Putnam’s book. Last night after returning from the library, I read a little over half of Bowling Alone. My pastor, “the artist formerly known as” Prince Altom, taught me his method of reading books. You read the first and last chapter of a book, as well as the first and last paragraph of each chapter. That’s what I did last night. I’ll be including some notes from this book, along with Driscoll’s, in this blog over the next few days.

I think I failed to mention that I’m typing this in Word right now, since I still don’t have internet access. The Comcast tech is coming by this afternoon, so I should have access tonight.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Overdue Credit Card Bills Hit Record High

And on that note...

I found this link on Darin's site.

Surging energy prices, low personal savings and the higher cost of borrowing have combined to produce a record level of overdue credit card bills.

Here's the article.

Making Ends Meet

Today's Chronicle front page cover story is about a new study that estimates what it costs for a family to "make it" in California.

The gap between high-income and low-income Americans is widening, the ranks of the poor in California and nationwide are swelling, and middle-class workers have lost ground compared with the 1970s, several national and state studies show.

The study finds that a Bay Area family of four, with one working parent, needs to make $55,740 a year just to meet the following monthly expenses: housing/utilities, transportation, food, health care, taxes, and miscellaneous. Note that this does not account for home ownership, but only renting!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Rick Warren goes to Rwanda - Wall Street Journal

Historians are likely to pinpoint Mr. Warren's trip to Rwanda as the moment when conservative evangelical Protestantism made questions of social justice central to its concerns. Given his huge wealthy Orange County congregation, Rick Warren could have become satisfied with his national success and ignored problems abroad. Instead he has chosen to make issues of global poverty central to his ministry and for that he deserves his identification by Time magazine as one of the most important evangelicals in America.

Continue reading.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Stone Soup

The following story comes from the Introduction to Gordon Cosby's book Handbook for Mission Groups. The introduction, written by Elizabeth O'Connor, gives a history of The Church of Our Saviour, of which Cosby was pastor for several decades. I encourage you to do a google search of Cosby and the church.

Here's the story of the Stone Soup.

Two travelers came into a new town one day.
"What are you doing?" a woman asked of the two travelers.
"Fixing stone soup. All you need is a little water and some stones," one replied.
"Of course, it would be better if we had just a bit of potatoes," said the other.
"I have some," she said, and going off, shortly returned with them.
Others passed and stopped to question the strangers. Each time the two travelers explained, and each time the townspeople volunteered to provide the necessary ingredient. At the end of the day every imaginable vegetable, herb, and spice had been added to the pot. That night the two travelers fed the whole town on the most delicious soup anyone had ever tasted.

O'Connor ends the story with this:

This legend is reminiscent of another story about fishes and loaves, and deep away in us is a self that knows that this is what miracle is. If it is to happen in the city and in the world we simply have to commit our own human and financial resources.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Anonymous Postings

Does anyone know how to prevent anonymous postings of comments? I'm starting to get blog spam - although I did appreciate the comment that I have a beautiful mind! What?

Blacks Blast Bush for Katrina Response

I saw this on CNN a couple of nights ago. Regardless of whether or not there are right and wrong answers here, this much division should be cause for concern.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Where are my keys?

Yesterday I lost my keys! We've looked all over this house - no keys. Perhaps my luck will change tomorrow.

I've been watching those Jesus movies over and over. I just laugh and laugh. This one's awesome.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Cooperative Kitchen

I envision a life with less fast food in the car and more spreads of home cooking with family and friends. Shoving burritos in our mouths while driving can't be what God had in mind for us. We have lost the beautiful art of sharing a meal together. I want to regain that art.

This is from the introduction to Randy Frazee's book Making Room for Life. I started reading it last night. This Friday night we are starting the Cooperative Kitchen back up. We'll be meeting every other week at a church in the Lake Merritt area of Oakland.

There are several reasons why we started the Kitchen.
1. Our eating habits are not as nutritious as they should be.
2. Many people do not know how to cook. It could be said that we're a little intimidated by the kitchen.
3. Because of these two reasons, we tend to eat out a lot, which either is really expensive, or, if it's not, is quite bad for your body (Did you see the documentary Super Size Me?).
4. If we do eat at home, more often than not we're not together. It's difficult to find time for everyone to sit down at the table and share a meal together.

The Cooperative Kitchen exists to empower people to live (w)holistic by providing fresh, healthy, and delicious meals for one another and to people who are time-starved, budget sensitive, health conscience, and/or environmentally aware.

Our four values are:

· Economic (Smart Buying) - leverage the buying power of a group of people for fair trade economics

· Health (Nutrition) - Creative planning that brings balance and nutrition to the table without sacrificing taste

· Community Collaboration (Relationships) - bringing an interdependence to each other as we work together

· Time (Convenience) - to create meals together in less time than it takes to do so individually, without taking time away from the things in life wevalue and want to enjoy

Weekend in Calistoga

Mandy, Adam and I spent this weeken in Calistoga with about a dozen members of our worship team at Hillside. We played music together, ate some great food, played a little poker, and all in all just got to know each other a little better. This was our first getaway with Adam, and, though it was a little difficult at times, I think it went quite well.


This weekend I also came across two videos. One is about New Orleans. It's from a church in Houston called Ecclesia. It's a very powerful video, and was for me tonight a somber reminder not only of Katrina but also of 9/11.

The second is much lighter. It was recommended to me by my friend Emory Mann. It's from a church in Raleigh, NC called Vintage 21. The videos deal with our preconceived notions of Jesus. Funny, funny!

Katrina Video - This is a download

Jesus Movies

Movie #1

Movie #2

Once again, these are downloads. There are two other movies on their site. These were my favorites. A word of warning: some might see these as a little irreverant. They're definitely comedic, and I think they get their point across.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The New Monasticism

Here's a good article from Christianity Today that you should take a look at.

Monday, September 05, 2005


Like most Americans, I've been watching a lot of news lately. Like everyone else, I've wondered what exactly I should do about this tragedy in the Gulf Coast. I have felt that most people desperately want to help, but just don't know how.

At times like these we want leadership that will take charge of the situation and assure us that everything is going to be ok. I have seen several interviews with our president, and have not been convinced that he thinks everything is going to be ok. I don't want that to sound too harsh. I can't imagine being in his shoes at this point, and believe that this would be difficult for any person. Further, no one could have predicted that this would happen. Most people do not know how to respond, but true leaders should. They may get a few things wrong, but they will continue to make decisions, because during times like these it is essential that decisions be made. I remember after 9/11 that Rudy Giuliani showed himself to be a true leader. When tragedy struck, he responded. He made decisions. He reassured the people. The following is taken from a Time Magazine article, in which he was named Person of the Year in 2001.

Sixteen hours had passed since the Twin Towers crumbled and fell, and people kept telling Rudy Giuliani to get some rest. The indomitable mayor of New York City had spent the day and night holding his town together. He arrived at the World Trade Center just after the second plane hit, watched human beings drop from the sky and--when the south tower imploded--nearly got trapped inside his makeshift command center near the site. Then he led a battered platoon of city officials, reporters and civilians north through the blizzard of ash and smoke, and a detective jimmied open the door to a firehouse so the mayor could revive his government there. Giuliani took to the airwaves to calm and reassure his people, made a few hundred rapid-fire decisions about the security and rescue operations, toured hospitals to comfort the families of the missing and made four more visits to the apocalyptic attack scene.

I don't feel that we've seen this type of leadership from our top levels of government this past week, and I believe that this has in turn hindered our relief efforts. With leadership comes great responsibility. Fortunately we have seen great leadership during this time. Alabama governor Bob Riley's "Operation Golden Rule" is a detailed plan to help those who have lost homes due to Hurricane Katrina.

We've also seen numerous citizens inspired to be creative in finding ways to help. On Saturday I was watching Wolf Blitzer, and he read a few emails from people with some really great ideas. One of those was a man from Salem, N.C., who wrote saying that all of the churches in his town had come together to adopt a town in Southern Mississippi. Can you imagine what they will be able to accomplish? Or the lives that will impacted through their imagination and cooperation? This kind of creativity is to be applauded, as well as copied. It's exciting to see churches working together, and we have a wonderful opportunity to change our image here in America.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Social Entrepreneurship

I just discovered this site this morning. There are some good articles and links on social entrepreneurship.

Here are a couple of quotes I found from another site.

The job of a social entrepreneur is to recognize when a part of society is stuck and to provide new ways to get it unstuck. He or she finds what is not working and solves the problem by changing the system, spreading the solution and persuading entire societies to take new leaps.

"Social entrepreneurs identify resources where people only see problems. They view the villagers as the solution, not the passive beneficiary. They begin with the assumption of competence and unleash resources in the communities they're serving."

David Bornstein, author of How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas

Monday, August 29, 2005

Bad, bad Robert

OK, so it's been a few weeks since I last blogged. I'm so ashamed. I do have a good excuse, though. My last three weeks have been very hectic. Here's the synopsis...

1. Went with several people from my church to Willow Creek's Leadership Summit, held via satellite at a church in Walnut Creek. It was a refreshing time, and I got to hear some really good speakers.
2. Went back to Tennessee to close on a house my friend Dax and I sold. We also put an offer on another house.
3. Built my first computer (I like challenges)
4. Was sick for a few days
5. Preached my first sermon at my church

We're also getting ready to really market the business. We've got ads going in the Belvedere/Tiburon newspaper in a couple of weeks, as well as the Marin Experess, and we're making some changes to our website. I feel like we're taking the plunge into this, and I'm not sure what the water's going to be like. Hopefully we'll remember how to swim!

Mandy starts teaching again tomorrow morning. She's going to be teaching Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, and I'll be home with Adam. This morning Mandy was working in her room, and Mrs. Colt, one of the first grade teachers, gave her some letters that her kids had made Mandy on June 14, the day after Adam was born. I must include one of those letters here. It's from Danilo. (Mrs. Colt told all of the kids that Adam's full name was Adam Joshua).

Dear Mrs. Grisham I like your baby's name because it is a compound word and I think the baby's so little. From Danilo.

And I think I've redeemed myself with that!


Adam is 11 weeks old today. Here are some new pictures.

More Pictures

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Brian McLaren

Here's a PBS interview with Brian McLaren.


I've recently started using the Mozilla Firefox browser. I actually like it a lot better than Internet Explorer. However, I just realized that it messes with my blog a little. If you use Firefox, you know what I mean. The pictures overlap a little. No problems like this with IE. I guess I'll just use both of them.

Crowded Now

This is worth reading every few days.

Crowded Now

In my world, with the children shouting
in my world; a taxi rank
jobs to do, no time to stop and question
in my world, of hurried love.

In my world; there is no tomorrow
in my world, only now
time demands more than I can offer
life crowds in to every pause

Oh Lord, still my heart
Oh Lord, still my heart
Oh Lord, still my heart
oh Lord God

In my world, where the customer is king
in my world: the boss who shouts
jobs to do, the in-tray's never empty
every hour: the working life

In my world; there is no tomorrow
in my world, only now
time demands more than I can offer
life crowds in to every pause

Oh Lord, still my heart
Oh Lord, still my heart
Oh Lord, still my heart
oh Lord God

in my world, days stretch out before me
in my world; the silence shouts
yesterday, when my day had purpose
yesterday, a memory

Oh Lord, still my heart
Oh Lord, still my heart
Oh Lord, still my heart
oh Lord God

In Your courts, you are high and lifted up
In Your courts, Majesty
In Your courts; truth and mercy mingle,
In Your courts, I bend the knee

Oh Lord, fill my heart
Oh Lord, fill my heart
Oh Lord, fill my heart
oh, Lord God.

Lord have mercy.

Caroline Ramsey

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Freak accident

On Friday I brought my car into the shop for some preventative service. The mechanic said that I needed an alignment, but because I wanted to get some new tires anyway, said that I should wait on the alignment until after the new tires were on the car. At about 1:30 I headed to Union City (about 20 minutes away) to get some tires. I was going south on I-880 when, all of a sudden, the tread on my left front tire came off. In doing so, it ripped up quite a bit of my car. Thankfully, I was able to get over the shoulder without being hit by another car.

I called AAA. Forty-five minutes later we had a spare on the wheel, and he thought it would be ok to drive to a nearby tire place. After getting a new tire, I went straight to a body shop. The estimate he gave was $4600. I bought the car in January, 2004 for $5000. Sounds like my insurance will probably be totalling the car. Not sure yet what that will mean for us.

Monday, July 25, 2005

The Happiest Baby on the Block

Two weeks ago a friend loaned us a DVD called The Happiest Baby on the Block. It's by a doctor named Harvey Karp. It's teaches parents how to calm a fussy baby. I was a little skeptical, but I must say that I was amazed by the results. In a nutshell, he talks about the 5 S's.

1. Swaddle
2. Turn baby on his side
3. Jiggle baby
4. Put pacifier in baby's mouth
5. Sshh softly in baby's ear

You're probably wondering where the 5 S's are. I'm not too sure either...but the point is that this stuff is good. Adam is a good baby, but occasionally he gets mad at the world, and is not afraid to let it be known. It's at this point that I go through the 5 S's (of course after making sure that he is fed and his diaper is changed). Works like a charm every time.

Billy Graham a DEMOCRAT???

There's no doubt going to be rioting in the streets after this news gets out.

Here's the link.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Update on Adam

It's a little after 7:00 a.m., and I just rocked Adam back to sleep. I thought I'd take this probably brief time to give an update on him. Even as I held him this morning, it still shocks me a little that we have a baby. Life has changed in a dramatic way. It's been tough, especially since our family left. But it's been great. Yesterday was Adam's birthday (5 weeks). He had his best day yet. He has times when he just smiles and laughs.

So, here are a few pictures (hopefully I'll get this done before he wakes up again).