This morning, I read an interesting article posted by Andrew Peterson on his personal blog, “Money, Part 1: Not the Root of All Evil“. It was something that really hit home, and kept coming back to mind as I was at an all-day conference at my work:

Years ago I played several shows with a few members of the Kid Brothers of St. Frank. Remember them? It was the unofficial pseudo-Catholic order started by Rich Mullins in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, and included a few younger musicians like Eric Hauck, Michael Aukofer, Mitch McVicker, and Keith Bordeaux (who wasn’t a musician, but who was on the verge of moving to Arizona to serve however he could before Rich died). I was as big a Rich Mullins fan as you could imagine, so in the years after his death I was honored and a little frightened to find myself occasionally doing shows with those guys.

The day I got the advance for my first record deal we threw a party at our little house in Watertown, Tennessee (a 1000 square foot farmhouse we rented for $500 per month), and I splurged on the following: one cheap propane grill, some ground beef, and one Nintendo 64 game system. We used the grill to make burgers for our friends (several of whom were Kid Brothers) and the Nintendo to play the James Bond shooter Goldeneye until sunrise. All told, I spent $200. I remember one of the guys pulling me aside and gently questioning my materialism. I was flummoxed and a little defensive. Was I being materialistic by purchasing a $100 video game? Was I being materialistic to have bought a cheap grill to cook the food? (Food they were happily eating, I thought to myself.) These guys, back when they were official members of the unofficial order, had taken vows of poverty and chastity. I hadn’t. And besides, for the first several years we lived in Nashville (even after the record deal) we were living well below the poverty line. I stood there by the new grill thinking, “I haven’t taken a vow, but I’m living it, by golly.” It wasn’t a big deal, though. I shrugged it off and partied on. It was a good day, and the fun we got out of that James Bond video game was worth every penny. I love those guys and the mighty honor they paid me by letting me do shows with them. [emphasis mine]

This stung a little bit, with my own feelings, for a few reasons. At the end of my freshman year in college, Rich Mullins was on campus and I had dinner with him and a couple of other guys, during which he mentioned that he was always looking for guys with desire and/or talent to travel with him on the road (this was during the pre-Kid Brothers, amorphous thought stages of his, I recollect). That night, I almost decided to leave school and travel with Rich, but in the end I was too scared to leave, and thought that my talents in math and chemistry were probably greater than those in music. Had things gone differently, I might have been a Kid Brother, and y’all wouldn’t know me and/or Zan.

Later, after Rich’s death, I became involved in the ministry he most loved and cared for during his life, teaching art and music to kids on the Rez. Whenever I returned from a week of camp, every $7 lunch seemed like guilt-inducing extravagance. At the same time, I was blessed with a job that allowed me to care for my family and support several missions, including The Legacy.

Peterson writes:

Around this time I read an excellent book by Richard Foster called The Freedom of Simplicity, and I had my answer. What I envied about the Bolivians wasn’t poverty. It was simplicity. They didn’t choose it. It’s a necessary result of living in poverty, the silver lining on a dark cloud. That’s why people come back from Africa with that infectious gladness–not, of course, because of the terrible smell or the sickness or the injustice–it’s the simplicity. It’s a life uncluttered by television and power bills and traffic jams–a life enriched by the intense joy of interacting with other souls at a profoundly deep level, which is what we were meant for. What we miss when we come back from mission trips and church camps and spiritual retreats is life at its simplest.

American culture is one extreme (a land of plenty at the cost of simplicity) and the Third World is the other (poverty with the gift of simplicity). Each has its blessings and its curses. This point of this isn’t to get to the bottom of which of these extremes is better, but to propose a better way. A Christ-centered life of intimate fellowship unharried by either sickness and starvation or the chaos of a capitalistic rat race might be a good picture of the order of the day in the New Jerusalem. We don’t want to thrust electronics and trinkets and McDonald’s fries on Elba’s family any more than they’d want to thrust their dirt floors and malnutrition on us. What I wish for Elba is clean streets and sturdy houses, good food and warm clothes: hope. What I wish for us is walks in the woods, good friends, a tight community with a loving church at its heart: peace.

The only way to usher in that Kingdom is to walk in the way of Jesus. To love well, to push back the fall, to let the Spirit lead. Now, the beauty of it is that each of us carries a peculiar gift to light the darkness. Rich Mullins, God bless him, was single. That meant he could give most of his money away and hitchhike barefoot. It meant he could up and move to Arizona to live with Native Americans and he didn’t have to ask a soul. The Wind blew, and he floated on it. He wrote about his long, lonely, love-struck journey with Christ, and we, the Saints, were edified.

But what about the rest of us? As much as I’d like to be as cool as Rich, I can’t. I got married at nineteen, so as long as I’ve been writing songs I’ve had a family to care for. That means I want a roof over their heads, and shoes on their feet (sorry, Rich and Eric), and beauty and safety and health. In my walk with Christ I have found that at times my footprints align with my heroes’ and other times they don’t, no matter how hard I try. Most of the time, their shoes are just too big for me to fill.

This I understand, and I feel the twinges of guilt/longing/discomfort when I make comparisons of my life with those of others – when, in reality, I need to have peace and seek simplicity and provide for my family in a land of plenty, while still seeking to improve the basic conditions of those in less fortunate circumstances, without taking from them the benefits of their own culture – which are different than mine.

He concludes:

The point: being poor is not the only way to radically follow Christ. Some people are called to it. I have long felt a tension between all that I learned from the Kid Brothers and Rich Mullins about identifying with the poor and the weak, versus my holy responsibility to tend to my family’s spiritual and physical needs. Had Rich ever married, I’m certain his wife would have appreciated a nice dress every now and then, or a bouquet of flowers, or a decent kitchen, and she probably would have lovingly insisted that he not give all his money away, especially after she bore his children and needed to buy diapers, and school supplies, and shoes for goodness sake. And the other thing is, Rich Mullins had hit songs that are still making money. He gave a lot of his money away, but he also had a constant stream of it flowing in. Lots of it. And I’m sure the ministries he supported with the surplus were grateful that he channeled it to them for Kingdom work.

Money isn’t the root of all evil. The Bible doesn’t say that. Here’s the verse: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Timothy 6:10) We’re called to keep watch so that we don’t fall in love with money. To be sure, wealth is a heavy burden and isn’t for everyone, just as poverty is a burden and isn’t for everyone. The people of the church are varied in strengths and weaknesses. Money itself isn’t evil. In fact, money can be a great tool for Kingdom work. It’s easy to tout ideals about how wrong it is to be wealthy until you’re on the receiving end of someone’s generosity.

Thanks, Andrew! (Now – get back to writing the sequel to North! Or Be Eaten, my daughters and I are eagerly awaiting…)

Brotherly loveA study was recently published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology which concluded that individuals who display consistently unselfish behavior are often rejected by peer groups for exhibiting this behavior. The basic conclusion was that the individual was seen as a “rule-breaker” (breaking from society’s norms), someone who made others in the peer group “look bad”, someone who made them feel uncomfortable (feeling like they “owed” the do-gooder something in return), or as someone with ulterior motives.

This might seem surprising or counter-intuitive, but consider:

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.

If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’

When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

Being Hated for the Right Reasons

Doing the right thing the wrong waySo you see, Jesus, in the same conversation in which he gives the command that we should love each other, his next observation is that the world will hate us as a result, if we are acting like him.

We should not be surprised that we’re disliked by the world (and by other Christians) if we act like asses by showing up and preaching hate at gay pride parades, wielding our bullhorns to assault Spring Break partiers, or protesting at funerals of soldiers. The hate and dislike of our sanctimonious, ego-edifying grandstanding is rather understandable, and credits righteousness to nobody, ourselves included.

However, if we act like Christ and unselfishly serve, we should also not be surprised that the world will distrust our motives and reject us as ‘rule-breakers’. If we act consistently, though, Christ will be lifted up so that others will see him in the works he has given us to do.

Over the past 20+ years, I have been blessed with a number of opportunities to lead/accompany worship in song – mostly (but not always) from behind a keyboard of some sort.  During that time, I’ve born witness to (and scars from) numerous “worship wars” dealing with style (primarily) and substance (on occasion).

Putting together a worshipful and effective musical worship service is not as simple as grabbing some songs from a hymnal/binder/web-page and running with it.  Lyrical content, style, instrumentation, flow and theme are some of the key elements that have to be considered in effectively leading corporate worship.

It is in this vein that I’m thinking about starting a new (likely infrequent) series: “Worship Music in Review”.  (If it flops, #1 might be the only edition.)

For this edition, I’d like to look at a currently popular song from Passion 2010, which is being incorporated into some churches’ worship services, Chris Tomlin’s “Our God”.  Before we go on, watch the embedded video (if you don’t know the song) and read the lyrics.

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Water you turned into wine
Opened the eyes of the blind
There’s no one like you
None like you

Into the darkness you shine
Out of the ashes we rise
There’s no one like you
None like you

Our God is greater
Our God is stronger
God you are higher than any other
Our God is Healer
Awesome in power
Our God
Our God



And if our God is for us
Then who could ever stop us
And if our God is with us
Then what could stand against?
Then what could stand against?





Structure: As modern worship music goes, this is fairly standard in structure (only two verses, a chorus and a bridge) and it has a fairly tight range.  This makes congregational singing easier, since you don’t have as much worry about, in terms of range.  (For contrast, consider “How Great Thou Art?” – where if you start on the wrong pitch for the congregation, most will drop out – or screech – at the end of the chorus.)

Structurally, most of Chris Tomlin’s worship music fits into both “modern” and “blended” structures, since it is structurally similar to so much of what congregants hear on the radio or in other venues outside of worship.

This particular song would likely fit better in the middle of a worship music set (if at the beginning of a corporate worship service) than as an opener, since its introduction and opening verses (and the first chorus) are rather subdued.  Only when it moves to the bridge does the percussion crescendo and a double-time feel kick in.  From this point out, the energy and focus of the song moves between the chorus and the bridge (which I have some issues with, and which I’ll look at here in just a bit), and it can then drop off and allow for an acoustic/A Capella close.

Stylistically, this song could also fit after a sermon/communion/offering meditation, since its start is subdued (which allows for a smooth transition between the left and right brain of the participant) and then builds in emotional import and intensity.

Lyrics: For me, the lyrical content of a song is the one aspect that trumps all others.  If the song does not lyrically make the cut – or is theologically dodgy (think “Above All” or “In the Garden”), chances are I will never use it in a worship setting.  While I generally do not have a problem with most of Chris Tomlin’s music, “Our God” has some high spots and some problematic sections, which are a mixed bag for me.

The verses and the chorus have a positive theme that I’ve found missing in much of church music (including hymns) – the exclusivity and supremacy of God:

Our God is greater
Our God is stronger
God you are higher than any other
Our God is Healer
Awesome in power
Our God
Our God

The one fully Biblical source of pride we have – in the power, majesty and exclusivity of our God in comparison with the false idols of this world – is fully front-and-center in this part of the song.  I’m sure that there are worship directors who would steer clear of this song, just because of the postmodern aversion to absolute truth claims and exclusivity.  That is an impulse that should be avoided.

However, what kills this song for me is the bridge:

And if our God is for us
Then who could ever stop us
And if our God is with us
Then what could stand against?
Then what could stand against?

It is not that this is wrong, theologically.  In fact, it is pulled directly from Romans 8:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?

What is missing for me is twofold: 1) The focus of the bridge is no longer on God, but is on us and our “invincibility” when we are with God; and 2) It is without context (from the rest of the song).

Just as biblical verses can be taken out of context and misapplied, so can these verses be abused within music (perhaps even more so, since music works on a deeper, subconscious level of the mind that reinforces and guides behavior without the need for clear logical connection).  In this case, one of the characteristics of the Western church has been its misappropriation of God as being “on our side” in matters of war, politics and personal conflict.  Without grounding in the context of Paul’s words, the congregation – and its individual congregants – are left to supply their own context, which may or may not be what was intended by Paul’s writing.  How so?  Let’s look at the remainder of Romans 8:

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

From the context of Paul’s writing, it is clear that Paul is not declaring that God will clear away the physical and spiritual forces that oppose and oppress us.  Rather, he is affirming that those forces of opposition and oppression cannot separate us from the love of God.  This song does not provide any context for this key – and very important – distinction.  This is a distinction that we in the western church consistently get wrong (particularly churches with degrees of word-faith or prosperity focus), and that I take pains to avoid when choosing worship music.

If this potential error was simply part of a bridge that was clearly not the focus of the song, I might have fewer reservations, but the prominence of it (with the build before the first bridge, and the centering of the bridge in the climax, with the seven-beat musical exclamation point repeatedly tagged after it) is very problematic for me in choosing this one as a regular worship song.

In a way, the song becomes almost schizophrenic – in conflict with itself in determining its message.  Which is sad, since the verse/chorus structure was so promising.

The Verdict:

While I think this song is strong, instrumentally, and has a focus (in the verse and chorus) on God’s exclusivity, which is sorely needed in the church, I do not think I would ever want to use it in a standard worship set.  Rather, if I was going to use it at all in a worship service, it would require someone (a pastor, worship leader) to provide the missing context that would soundly connect the supremacy and exclusivity of God with the power of His love to prevent anyone from separating us from Him.  If this context was provided, though, I think this song could be very powerful in a “special music” setting, to emotionally underscore a teaching message about the power of God’s love in saving us.

Interestingly, another song from the Passion 2010 worship set that also uses the latter section of Romans 8 as its core, is probably a better choice – Healing is In Your Hands.  Even with supplied context around Romans 8, I would probably choose this song over Our God.

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In the past, we’ve discussed issues of violence, non-violence, just war, and radical Islam. There’s a documentary, Holy Wars, that is starting to make the film festival/Oscar circuit that may be adding an interesting voice to the conversation. Even if I may not agree with all of its conclusions – or those of its key figures – from what I’ve read this past week, it may actually be a demagoguery-free picture of what following Christ might look like, when confronting other religions and their followers.

I have not seen the film (since I live nowhere close to LA or NYC), but it’s something I’ll probably check out if it makes it to Indianapolis.

Basically, the filmmaker wanted to follow some adherents of Christianity and Islam for 18 months, exploring their views on the End of Days, and how it impacts and/or drives their faith. During this time, he centered on two key figures – a Christian Missionary and an Irish convert to Islam – and how they sought to engage their opposing religion. At the end of the 18 months, he arranged a meeting between the two men, the results of which were surprising to him and had an impact on at least one of the subjects of the film. As a result, the director filmed for two more years. The end product, which unexpectedly shed a positive light on Christianity, was rejected by a number of distributors, but is now gleaning a number of positive reviews and some Oscar buzz for best documentary.

You can read more about the director and his vision Christian missionary. closely followed in the film, his book about the experience, and a couple
of reviews from the LA showing of the film last week.

Counting Stars Now AvailableIt’s no secret that I’m an Andrew Peterson junkie. Seven or eight years ago, he was scheduled to come play a small concert at our little in-the-middle-of-a-cornfield church, and – having become a bit burnt out on mediocre music with the label “Christian” slapped in front of it like “New!” on a stale bag of pretzels – I was going to skip it. A friend of mine from the church (and the guy who does our web hosting) suggested I might like it, and compared him to Rich Mullins. Unwittingly, he had just about put a nail in the coffin of my ever showing up, since pretty much no musician I’ve found in “Christian” music has had a favorable comparison to Rich.

And then I was asked to help promote the concert, and to play some of Peterson’s music on the piano in the weeks leading up to the concert. This meant I would have to listen to the CD and put some work into it, which – in turn – sold me enough that Peterson wasn’t the average CCM hack, that I broke down and bought tickets for the family to go to the concert. And while he wasn’t (yet) up to par musically with Rich, he had a great deal of talent and heart, and an authenticity absent from most performers.

The next year, he returned to our church, doing his first Christmas tour for Behold the Lamb of God, the True Tall Tale of the Coming of Christ. After that, my inner skeptic was stilled, and Peterson had pulled me into his artistic vision of the story of Christ – both within Christmas, and in every day life.

Peterson’s music and lyrics are not really comparable, in style or quality, within the Christian music sub-genre (or even outside it, for that matter) with anyone other than the dearly departed Mullins. If there is a key difference between the two, though, it is this – Where Rich had a haunted/pessimistic/cynical streak, seasoned with a wild but weary maturity of bachelorhood, Peterson has a more optimistic thread running through his music, most likely grounded in his family, as a husband and father. Apart from that, much of the instrumentation, flow and production are incredibly reminiscent of Rich’s later work (as he gained freedom from Word Records’ heavy-handed production) – similar, yet different enough to completely stand alone, in it’s own right.

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For those of you w/o the patience for Flickr & clicking through all of our trip pictures, here’s 200+ in 4 minutes, set to Laura Story’s “Indescribable”.

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For the mileage summary, we have:

Odometer Start: 36036
Odometer End: 40363
Total Miles: 4,327 miles (plus a lot of flying)

Links to the individual Days:

Day 1: Flying to Las Vegas
Day 2: Vegas to Yosemite
Day 3: Yosemite
Day 4: Yosemite to San Francisco
Day 5: San Francisco to Jenner, CA
Day 6: Jenner to Redwood NP
Day 7: Redwood NP to Coos Bay, OR
Day 8: Coos Bay to Astoria
Day 9: Astoria to Olympic NP (Hoh River)
Day 10: Olympic NP (Cape Flattery, Sol Duc Springs)
Day 11: Olympic NP (Sea Kayaking, Port Angeles)
Day 12: Port Angeles to Victoria, BC to Seattle
Day 13: Seattle to Mount Rainier
Day 14: Mount St. Helens
Day 15: Mount St. Helens to Mount Hood
Day 16: Mount Hood to Crater Lake
Day 17: Crater Lake to Lake Tahoe
Day 18: Lake Tahoe to Las Vegas
Day 19: Flying home

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

Oops! Wrong Tale…

While it was nice to have a long vacation, in some ways, it is always nice to be back home. Another nice thing about taking a break is that it tends to recharge your batteries and help you see some new and old things in different lights. And speaking of lights…

child abuseMy son Jordan and I were in Vegas last Saturday night, at the end of our 19-day journey, and we had the evening to do a walkabout up the LV Strip, just for the sheer spectacle (and to have a couple more conversations, along the lines of lesson at Caesarea Philippi). So, with the temperature in the triple-digits and the humidity nonexistent (with the sun going down), we headed up the strip.

Early on, we passed a line of young latino men and women wearing signs advertising “LIVE GIRLS TO YOUR ROOM IN 20 MINUTES OR LESS”, clicking business cards together, trying to hand them out to all the folks passing them. [We'd already discussed the importance of using the "Suzi rule" - my wife's long-time advice to me that when you walk around in a big city, you avoid making eye contact or answering folks on the sidewalk who are trying to get your attention.]

Just past these peddlers, there was a man, probably in his mid-40’s, with a T-shirt that said (in big letters) “JESUS LOVES YOU”, and beneath it, in smaller print “and I do too…” He also had a small stack of paper in his hands, though they were booklets which had on the cover “You don’t have to live like this“, along with a smaller logo and print identifying them as being from the Central Christian Church of Las Vegas. I smiled at him, and gave him a small nod and wink, which he returned to me. He actually stood out, somewhat, because he wasn’t trying to push his fliers into peoples’ hands, but he handed one to people who stopped by him and at least seemed to be paying attention.

child abuseA couple blocks later, we crossed the street to take a look at the fountains in front of the Bellagio. Unfortunately, much of the corner was clogged, with people spilling out into the street, because there was a small entourage of street preachers with megaphones, hollering at folks (who did their best to walk around them, since they were blocking the way through what was probably the busiest intersection on the strip). In addition to the bullhorn guys, they had four or five little kids with them, with “repent or perish” shirts on, shoving tracts into folks’ hands as they walked by (not all that differently from the guys in the “LIVE GIRLS” shirts). The guys with the megaphones were doing a great job shouting the Roman Road at folks, along with all of the great $10 words like “propitiation”, “substitutionary atonement”, “salvation” and every other Christianese phrase that would do a Dutch Reformed heart proud.

I later thought it was funny that my son chose the caption for our photo (above) in Flickr: “Sometimes you wish folks would stop being on your side…” It was sad, but true – and it didn’t require an 18-year-old to notice the stark difference between a Christlike witness and those just being “Jerks for Jesus”.

About four hours later on the way back down the strip, I noticed that the gentleman with the “You don’t have to live like this” fliers was having a discussion with two of the “LIVE GIRLS” guys, and none of them paid attention to us as we walked by (they were speaking in Spanish, so I don’t know what was being said). In some way, I wondered if the “LIVE GIRLS” folks weren’t the actual audience to which the older gentleman was wanting to speak to, in the first place.

Teller Like it Is

And it’s not just Christians who notice this.

Penn & Teller, a comedy/magic duo somewhat famous for their dark humor (their Vegas ads proclaim “fewer audience injuries than last year…”) are also famous for being atheists, as well – and fairly vocal ones at that. Even so, I recently read an interview (language warning) with the talking half of their act, Penn Gillette, who also narrates a Showtime program that “debunks” various religions and charlatans (except for Scientology, because the network won’t let them, and Islam, because they value their lives):

You do go after Christians, though … Teller and I have been brutal to Christians, and their response shows that they’re good ****ing Americans who believe in freedom of speech. We attack them all the time, and we still get letters that say, “We appreciate your passion. Sincerely yours, in Christ.” Christians come to our show at the Rio and give us Bibles all the time. They’re incredibly kind to us. Sure, there are a couple of them who live in garages, give themselves titles and send out death threats to me and Bill Maher and Trey Parker. But the vast majority are polite, open-minded people, and I respect them for that.

And what’s funny is that he’s pretty much spot on when evaluating the Christian blogosphere, as well. Many are incredibly kind, and it’s just sad that there are a (very vocal) few of them who live in garages, and give themselves important-sounding titles (like “Pastor”) and lie and speak eternal death threats against those who won’t follow the narrowly legalistic, eisegeted systematic theology they claim to follow. Which is probably where the saying comes from that it only takes a few bad apples to spoil the bunch.

And it’s not just Vegas.

When I got home this weekend, I saw this story which pretty much mirrored what I saw out in Las Vegas – again a tale of two witnessing Christians, but in a different city.

Apparently, there was a “gay pride” event (let’s just call it a mini-Vegas) at which a guy was simply planning on handing out Bibles and talking to folks who were interested in speaking to him. The organizers of the event sued him to prevent him from showing up, but the court threw out their suit.

So, this guy, his wife and son showed up

wearing yellow T-shirts printed with the words “Free Bibles.” They pulled rolling suitcases full of Bibles and attracted little attention, stopping only to hand out Bibles or to engage in conversation when asked. They encountered a few challengers and bemused glances from festival attendees familiar with the court case, but attracted little attention until a gaggle of television cameras began to follow them.

“We’re not interested in preaching, and we never were,” Johnson said. “We’re not here for all that stuff in the news. We’re the ones that meet and have honest conversations with people, and we have our own rules that we go by as far as conduct is concerned.”

Johnson said he believes that homosexuality is a sin, but he insisted that he is not forceful about his message.

Meanwhile, a Jerk for Jesus decided to show up, as well.

[He] attracted far more attention than the [Bible Guy] as he stood on a box with a sign that read “You are an abomination to God, You justify the wicked,” preaching to a jeering crowd. [He] attracted shouts of disapproval and arguments from passersby. Eventually, Pride attendees stood in front of him with signs that read, “Standing on the Side of Love.”

And, just to demonstrate the inherent legalism within both his preaching and his orthopraxy, the second man “brought a decibel meter to prove, he said, that he was acting within the law by not being disruptive.”

And they will know we are Christians by our decibel meters not pegging out loud enough to be called ‘disruptive’.

As I thought of both cities and both types of Christians – the humble and the boorishly proud – I was reminded of one of Rich Mullins’ favorite quotes (paraphrased from Wilhelm Stekel)

An immature Christian wants to die nobly for a cause, but the mark of a mature Christian is that he wants to live humbly for one.

All good things must come to an end, including this trip…

Best Laid Plans

For Day 19 (June 27, 2010) the plan was this:

Day X Planned Travel RouteHopefully we didn’t stay out too late last night, because we have to get up VERY early to make our 6:00 a.m. flight time out of Las Vegas, where we will then have a brief layover in Denver before taking our last leg of the trip home to Indianapolis, scheduled to land at about 3:00 (if all goes well).

What Actually Transpired

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Today was almost all wasteland travel, followed by a trip up the strip.

Best Laid Plans

For Day 18 (June 26, 2010) the plan was this:

Day 18 Planned Travel RouteToday is a long driving day, along the California/Nevada border from Lake Tahoe back to our original launching point, Las Vegas. About the only sight of consequence along the way will be Area 51, which we will pass close to (but not see) north of Las Vegas. Once we get into Vegas, it will be time for Jordan to get his trip tattoo … just kidding – checking to see if you actually read this far…  In actuality, we will be staying at the Emerald Suites a couple of miles south of the Las Vegas strip.

What Actually Transpired

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Today, we followed a bit of history, taking in several sites related to the American westward migration.

Best Laid Plans

For Day 17 (June 25, 2010) the plan was this:

Day 17 Planned Travel RouteToday, the plan is to leave Crater Lake and keep going south, where we will leave Oregon, heading south toward Lake Tahoe. Along the way, we plan to pass Mount Shasta and stop at Lassen Volcanic National Park and Donner Memorial State Park (in recognition of the ill-fated Donner Party in Truckee, CA), before crashing for the night at the William Kent campground, near the shores of Lake Tahoe.

What Actually Transpired

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