Hebrews 12:1-2

"..let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith..." - Hebrews 12:1-2

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Leave Me - A Short Film

I saw this wonderful short film today and wanted to share.
It was made in 36 hours over the course of a weekend.
This is a perfect example of Christians making beautiful art.

Leave Me from Ryan Dunlap on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The State of the Union 2011

As is my annual ritual, I read through the President's State of the Union Address this morning. I haven't read or listened to any political commentary at this point, so my perspective is untainted and solely my own.

There are several portions of the speech that I could draw attention to, but I will choose only two.
Here's the first:
And if we truly care about our deficit, we simply can’t afford a permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. (Applause.) Before we take money away from our schools or scholarships away from our students, we should ask millionaires to give up their tax break. It’s not a matter of punishing their success. It’s about promoting America’s success. (Applause.)
In fact, the best thing we could do on taxes for all Americans is to simplify the individual tax code. (Applause.) This will be a tough job, but members of both parties have expressed an interest in doing this, and I am prepared to join them. (Applause.)
Okay, where to start. If you truly care about the deficit, you will stop spending more than you have. Period. This isn't rocket science. Don't spend what you don't have. That means that you can't create new government institutions, agencies, positions and programs until you have funded existing programs. Since the existing programs were running a deficit when the President took office, he should have reigned in spending and reduced the size of the Federal government. But he didn't. He increased its size and scope and buried the nation under a crushing amount of debt that will cripple us in the coming years if the tough decisions aren't made.

The idea of sacrificing for the good if the nation is noble and all, but when the government doesn't choose to adopt the same strategy, one has to question the motivation behind this course of action. America's success isn't going to be determined by whether or not the wealthiest Americans are taxed higher. Her success will be determined by how well the Federal government allows the American people to innovate, create and prosper - including financially. When you tax the wealthiest people at an ever-increasing rate, what do you suppose the final outcome of that will be? Inevitably, the wealthy people find the loopholes, reinvest their finances in other places, or they simply move to a place that will not tax them so heavily.

I'm all for simplifying the tax code. What currently exists is so convoluted and complex that even the government institution chartered to enforce those regulations (the IRS) is having trouble keeping up.Contrary to what the President and members of the government believe, this is a fairly simple goal to accomplish. It's called a flat tax. The amount of paperwork and hassle that such a system would remove from businesses is huge. The reduction in size of the Federal government, by way of drastically reducing the size of the IRS, would be sizable. While I am open to the idea of reducing and removing large portions of the existing to tax code as a preliminary step, I cannot see how this type of effort would prove worthwhile over the course of time. Every year there are additions to the tax code. I am of the opinion that a flat tax would work and would allow the citizens and companies of this great land to prosper. The only way this would work is if the government is held accountable and sticks to a non-deficit increasing budget. (That's sounds a lot like common sense, doesn't it. Some might even say it's Constitutional.)

[Feel free to insert a rant about the Federal Reserve's ability to print an unlimited amount of currency here.]

Here's the second portion that I want to draw attention to:
And because the American people deserve to know that special interests aren’t larding up legislation with pet projects, both parties in Congress should know this:  If a bill comes to my desk with earmarks inside, I will veto it.  I will veto it.  (Applause.)
Let's see how long it takes to break this promise. I cannot imagine the President being able to stick to this. Now perhaps the senators and Congressman will find another way to tack on their pet projects, or call them by a different name, but I just don't see this being a line in the sand that the President is unwilling to withdraw from.

Overall, the speech read like most of the State of the Union speeches. Obviously, I cannot speak to the effectiveness of the President's delivery of these words, nor to the receptiveness of the blended-party crowd. I am sure there is plenty being said about all that extraneous stuff anyway. If I find anything worth linking to or pointing out as I read more and hear more today, I will add it to the bottom of this post.

Redeeming the Culture For Christ

One our pastors and a friend of mine, Freddie Williams, posted the following on Twitter a few days ago:
"Reminded we are invited to redeem ALL parts of life/culture for His glory. Praying God raises up a generation who will embrace this invitation."
This is something that I whole-heartedly agree with.
Today, I saw the following video and I felt like sharing it as a challenge to be on the lookout for ways to redeem our culture and world for Christ. I know this is an ad for a conference, but I liked the content of it and thought it worth sharing.

(HT: Joshua Harris)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Grace For Gospel Distorters Like Me

Love this quote from Michael Kelley in today's post entitled "Today's Gospel is Tomorrow's Law":
"For the gospel is the only answer for those, like me, who distort the gospel. There is grace for us, too. When we preach the gospel to ourselves daily, we will find that God will tear down the rungs of our carefully constructed ladders. And when those ladders are broken into shards and splinters, what will be left towering over the piles of rubble is the wooden beams of the cross."

Forever Reign - TuesdayTunes

Lyrics for "Forever Reign" by Hillsong:

You are good, You are good
When there's nothing good in me
You are love, You are love
On display for all to see
You are light, You are light
When the darkness closes in
You are hope, You are hope
You have covered all my sin

You are peace, You are peace
When my fear is crippling
You are true, You are true
Even in my wandering
You are joy, You are joy
You're the reason that I sing
You are life, You are life,
In You death has lost its sting

Oh, I’m running to Your arms,
I’m running to Your arms
The riches of Your love
Will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world forever reign

You are more, You are more
Than my words will ever say
You are Lord, You are Lord
All creation will proclaim
You are here, You are here
In Your presence I'm made whole
You are God, You are God
Of all else I'm letting go

Oh, I’m running to Your arms
I’m running to Your arms
The riches of Your love
Will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world forever reign

My heart will sing
No other Name
Jesus, Jesus

Oh, I’m running to Your arms
I’m running to Your arms
The riches of Your love
Will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world forever reign

Monday, January 24, 2011

An Interview with Glen Phillips About Music, Motivation and Creativity

I found this interview with Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket fame and wanted to share it.
It's interesting to me to hear the perspective of someone who has been in the music industry for so long.
Glen not only talks about some of his projects and bands, but he shares how his perspective and approach to writing has changed, as well as his motivation for creating.

As an aside - I saw Toad the Wet Sprocket live for the first time last year on the 4th of July and they sounded great. I was thrilled to hear for myself exactly how good they sound live and how much they sound like their recording, which is way more than most bands can have said of them. I'd love to see them again in a full concert setting, and I'd love for that show to not be limited to 70 minutes of scheduled time. Oh, and rumors online have a new studio album for TTWS coming soon...

Friday, January 21, 2011

I Don't Want to Hear You

This morning I thought of the following quote from the wonderful film Cinema Paradiso:
Cinema ParadisoAlfredo: Get out of here! Go back to Rome. You're young and the world is yours. I'm old. I don't want to hear you talk anymore. I want to hear others talking about you. Don't come back. Don't think about us. Don't look back. Don't write. Don't give in to nostalgia. Forget us all. If you do and you come back, don't come see me. I won't let you in my house. Understand?
Salvatore: Thank you. For everything you've done for me.
Alfredo: Whatever you end up doing, love it. The way you loved the projection booth when you were a little squirt. 
Yes, there is a particular reason why this quote came to my mind, but I don't feel like sharing it.
If you have never seen Cinema Paradiso, I would recommend you change that.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

God's Extraordinary Provision

"So we must beware of thinking that God is only in the earthquake, wind, and fire; of thinking that manna but not grain is God’s food. Most of God’s gifts to his people are not dazzling and gaudy but wrapped in simple brown paper. Quiet provisions of safety on the highway, health of children, picking up a paycheck, supper with the family—all in an ordinary day’s work for our God.”
—Dale Ralph Davis, Joshua: No Fallen Words (reprint: Christian Focus, 2000), pp. 48-49
(HT: Justin Taylor)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Return to College Night

Last night I was at the REALM for college night for the first time since Adelaine was born. The number of students attending over the past few months has greatly increased. I saw quite a few familiar faces and a lot more than I did not know. The musical worship time was very well done, with songs that were very appropriate for the evening's talk, which focused on Love and was wonderfully given by Freddie Williams.

After the talk I had the chance to catch up a little with some of the students that I have some history with. I didn't have the opportunity to go into to much depth with many of them, but it was good to see them and get a chance to begin reinserting myself into that community.

I had a very good discussion with one of the students I know regarding the Christian life and how we are to live in the world, but not of it. Our conversation touched on a variety of ideas and issues, but we kept circling back around several important questions:
- How are Christians to live for the Kingdom?
- Are we to forsake all possessions and live lives of poverty for Christ?
- Is it wrong to have "stuff"?
- How can a Christian be wealthy and not give to the poor?

All of the questions that we talked about were solid questions that Christians have been wrestling with since Christ walked the earth. We did not come to any consensus or conclusions in our time-limited discussion last night, but I believe that our conversation was edifying, challenging and encouraging for everyone involved.

I'm thankful for students who are trying to figure out how to live for God.

US States Compared to Foreign Countries

The Economist released the following map showing the size of each state's GDP as it relates to another country. For example, Missouri's GPD is roughly the same size as Finland's with a population that is equivalent to Paraguay's.

(HT: 22 Words)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Text Too Much?

(HT: Los)

How to Change Your Marriage

Love these points from counselor Winston Smith:
"Marriage is the sum of both people's actions. It's not just about what one person is doing. So really, anytime one person changes, the marriage itself is going to change."

"If your going to hang in there in marriage and you are going to see growth, you have to understand, you have to be convinced that 'my actions make a difference' that 'my marriage can be better if I am willing to put the effort into it and I am willing to look at myself to see how I need to change and how I need to grow'".

If I Stand - TuesdayTunes

Performed by Jars of Clay:

Lyrics for "If I Stand" by Rich Mullins:

There's more that rises in the morning
Than the sun
And more that shines in the night
Than just the moon
It's more than just this fire here
That keeps me warm
In a shelter that is larger
Than this room

And there's a loyalty that's deeper
Than mere sentiments
And a music higher than the songs
That I can sing
The stuff of Earth competes
For the allegiance
I owe only to the giver
Of all good things

So if I stand let me stand on the promise
That you will pull me through
And if I can't, let me fall on the grace
That first brought me to You
And if I sing let me sing for the joy
That has born in me these songs
And if I weep let it be as a man
Who is longing for his home

There's more that dances on the prairies
Than the wind
More that pulses in the ocean
Than the tide
There's a love that is fiercer
Than the love between friends
More gentle than a mother's
When her baby's at her side

And there's a loyalty that's deeper
Than mere sentiments
And a music higher than the songs
That I can sing
The stuff of Earth competes
For the allegiance
I owe only to the Giver
Of all good things

So if I stand let me stand on the promise
That you will pull me through
And if I can't, let me fall on the grace
That first brought me to You
And if I sing let me sing for the joy
That has born in me these songs
And if I weep let it be as a man
Who is longing for his home

And if I weep let it be as a man
Who is longing for his home

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ten Kay!

Saturday I ran my first 10k - the St. Louis Frozen Buns Run.
The weather was overcast with a mild wind, with a race time temp of 32, so the race title was pretty fitting.

Lisa was able to attend thanks to my family watching the two girls. While I was running the course, Lisa was able to do some window shopping in the Loop. They were setting up for their annual ice carnival, of which the run is the kickoff for the Saturday events.

I decided that I was going to follow my friend Charles' advice and get as close to the starting line as possible. This way, I could set my own pace, pick my own line and not have to hassle with working my way around and through the crowd of people. If people wanted to pass me, they could exert the extra effort to go around me. So, with 5 minutes before the race started, I positioned myself on the opposite side of the street from the masses. As soon as the police closed the street on my side, I took my place on the line, to the right of center. This is definitely a strategy that I will utilize again, as I did not have to work near as hard as I normally do in the first mile or so. There was plenty of room for people to go around me, and after the first 4 blocks or so, pretty much everyone had passed by that needed to.

The first mile was a pretty steep uphill and as I reached the top my legs were feeling quite heavy. I worried briefly about that until I checked my time and saw that I had run the first mile uphill in 8:45. Since this was much faster than man desired pace, I was happy to be able to scale it back a touch and catch my breath on the slight downhill. From that point on, I stayed in the same pack of 3 fellow racers for the duration of the course. We kept a solid pace of around 9:30for the majority of the run, with all of us increasing that pace the last 2 miles.

I felt good throughout the run, without ever doubting my ability to finish. After running the first 3 miles in 28 minutes, I knew I could beat an hour of total running time and set my goal to finish before the 58 minute mark. It's nice to find a group of people who are determined to run a very similar time. Without saying a word, you challenge each other to conquer the next hill without slowing. You find yourself determined to not lose any ground to those around you. As the race winds down, everyone picks up the pace and the challenge become even more intense. As we rounded the final turn to run the last .2 miles, I was determined to pass 1 of the guys I had been shadowing. I picked up my pace just as he increased his again. Knowing that end was near, I was able to move passed him and finish quite a bit ahead of him.
Yours truly right before the finish line.

It was at this point in the race where I saw Lisa on the side of the road waiting for me. I passed my nearly empty water bottle off to her and she challenged me to "pass that guy", speaking of a different man who had just passed me before the final turn. I huffed back to Lisa "I can't, I've been trying" and kept plugging toward the finish line. I was thrilled to see the clock tick to 57:32 as I crossed the line. I had not only finished the race confidently, but I had beaten my initial goal of running a 10 minute pace, as well as my mid race goal of under 58 minutes.

I'm glad I got to run this race, as it was very well organized and had great volunteers helping with it. We had 2 water stations on the 10k course and they had a great relief tent set up at the finish line with all sorts of great treats. I had decided to run this 10k because it was the only one in the area over the next few months and I needed a 10k finish time in order to sign up for a time based starting position in the upcoming Go! St. Louis Half Marathon.

I have almost 3 months to prep for the extra miles in that race. I am hopeful that I will enjoy that race as much as I did the one this past weekend...

If Gimli Succeeds

The Lord of the Rings goes like this:

(HT: 22 Words)

Friday, January 14, 2011

College Students Impact the World

When I heard Louie Giglio read the stats of what was accomplished in 4 days by college students at the final session of Passion2011 in Atlanta, I was surprised by the shear amount of it all. In the days since, the tally has grown even more. Here's the final recap:
Here’s what happened:

Homeless//Towels and Socks for Atlanta area shelters. Given: 18,400 towels and 88,000 pairs of socks!
Clean water//$75,000 for 15 wells in villages in India. Given: 24 wells!
Micro-finance//200 small business loans for Afghan entrepreneurs totaling $40,000.
Given: 387 loans!
Bibles//20,000 New Testaments to unreached in Colombia at $20,000. Given: 31,554 New Testaments!
Feeding Children//Feed 1,000 at risk children in South Africa for one year at $50,000. Given: Feeding 2,225 children!
Homes//Build 15 homes in Haiti at $54,000. Given: 39 homes!
Sponsor Children//Sponsor 150 children and provide family essentials at a cost of $100,00. Given: 442 children sponsored!
Human trafficking//Restoration and a future for 10 girls trapped in sex slavery in Bolivia at a cost of $36,000. Given: 22 girls rescued/restored!
Surgeries for Children//$50,000 to fund 50 Hydrocephalus surgeries in Uganda. Given: 141 surgeries!
Rescue women//$45,000 to fund 10 rescue operations to free sex slaves in the Philippines (each operation frees 15 women on average). Given: 29 rescue operations!
Plus, College fund for Haitian earthquake survivor, Therissa Leo. Given: $23,106!
(This was not planned beforehand or factored into the $470,000 goal.)
Total Given at Passion 2011 Atlanta: $1,167,249.24
 I love the work that Passion is doing and the desire that they have to impart upon this generation the supremacy of Christ and a passion for the Scriptures. I pray that God would continue to bless their efforts to change the world for God through college students.

A Bill to Defund Abortions at Planned Parenthood

You can read the bill here: H.R.217

Our Calling Extends Beyond the Church

From the article "Our Calling, Our Spheres" by Tullian Tchividian:
So, while Christians are to separate from the self-glorifying motives and God-ignoring goals of the world (our spiritual separation), we're not to separate from the peoples, places, and things in the world (a spatial separation). We're to be morally and spiritually distinct without being culturally segregated. In the famous words of Abraham Kuyper, "There is not one square inch in the entire domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, 'Mine!'"

For church leaders, this means that we make a huge mistake when we define a person's "call" in terms of participation inside the church—nursery work, Sunday school teacher, youth worker, music leader, and so on. We need to help our people see that their calling is much bigger than how much time they put into church matters. By reducing the notion of calling to the exercise of spiritual gifts inside the church, we fail to help our people see that calling involves everything we are and everything we do—both inside and, more importantly, outside the church.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New Running Milestones

This Saturday, I will be doing something I have never in my life attempted or completed.
I will run a 10k race.

Over the past few years, I have run numerous 5ks.
I do typically 2 a year, usually in October and November.

Instead of stopping after those races, I decided to keep running and set some new goals.
The next milestone for me to tackle is the 10k (which is 6.2 miles).

The farthest I have ever run was 2 weeks ago on my long run. I was running for a little over 5 miles and decided to run for a solid hour (another milestone in my life). I later learned that I had run just under 6 miles. So, I have no doubt that I can finish the upcoming race, as I could have continued running beyond when I stopped two weeks ago.

The biggest question in my mind is how fast will I go?

I'm hoping to run the race in an hour, which means that my pace will need to be at least 9:39/mile. If I finish with a pace of anything under 10 minute miles, I will be satisfied with my race. The course appears to be uphill for most of the first half, with the back half being mostly downhill. The longer runs I have done have been mostly uphill for the first 2 miles, so I am hopeful that I should not have too much trouble with the large uphill portion.

Currently, the weather is supposed to be clear with a light wind and a race time temperature of 30 degrees. Hopefully, this is the case, as I don't enjoy running into a strong wind, especially with cold temperatures added to it. Either way, it should be a good time and I am looking forward to it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Passing the Gavel

(HT: Zach)

Inconsistency of All Human Characters

Pride and Prejudice (Restored Edition)Lisa and I finished watching the 6 episode BBC created adaptation of Pride and Prejudice last night. The following quote is one that I find memorable:
"There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of merit or sense."
— Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice)

Monday, January 10, 2011

How to Avoid a Broken Heart

"To love all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully around with hobbies and little luxuries... lock it safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket - safe, dark motionless, airless - it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenerable, irredeemable... The only place outside of heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers of love is hell!"
- C.S. Lewis in "The Four Loves"

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

When Your Mouth Betrays You

The other night, Lisa and I were talking about Lydia and how quickly she is learning new things. It's hard to know how intelligent your child is at this stage of development, but Lydia seems to be grasping certain things quicker than what other kids her age normally do. Here's how I added value to the conversation:

"Lydia seems to be really smart. She's practically learned the alphabet and how to count to ten already.We really need to make sure we keep her mentally challenged."


Let's hope Lydia learns how to express her thoughts in a way that is consistent with what she means to convey.
Unlike her father...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Economic Recovery Hinges on One Word

"One of the biggest obstacles to economic recovery is that politicians and the media are both focused on how government can MAKE the economy recover, rather than on how it can LET the economy recover. One of the biggest deterrents to investments, and the jobs they could create, is uncertainty as to what new bright idea will come out of Washington to change the rules in midstream." - Thomas Sowell