Monday, April 30, 2007

Obama Gets Religion

Most Conservative Evangelicals I speak with express grave concerns with Obama. Their concerns are so grave, they even utter the hitherto unspeakable: "I'd prefer Hillary Clinton to Obama."

Those are mighty strong words. But apparently Obama's people are on top of this image problem with Evangelicals. Today's NYT has an article regarding Obama's conversion testimony and his relationship with his spirtual mentor, the right Reverend Wright. There are several comforting are a few:

"He had sampled various faiths but adopted none until he met Mr. Wright, a dynamic pastor who preached Afrocentric theology, dabbled in radical politics and delivered music-and-profanity-spiked sermons."

"On the Sunday after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Mr. Wright said the attacks were a consequence of violent American policies. Four years later he wrote that the attacks had proved that “people of color had not gone away, faded into the woodwork or just ‘disappeared’ as the Great White West went on its merry way of ignoring Black concerns.'"

"Mr. Obama has written that when he became a Christian, he “felt God’s spirit beckoning” and “submitted myself to His will and dedicated myself to discovering His truth.” While he has said he shares core Christian beliefs in God and in Jesus as his resurrected son, he sometimes mentions doubts. In his second book, he admitted uncertainty about the afterlife, and “what existed before the Big Bang.” Generally, Mr. Obama emphasizes the communal aspects of religion over the supernatural ones."

So, to all my radical, right-wing, fundamentalists friends who were afraid that Obama wasn't one of you.... Doesn't that make you feel all better?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Saturday Morning Piper

The last few days I've been attending Children Desiring God, a conference hosted by John Piper's church. This morning as I was purusing their website I came across two articles that I thought were especially interesting.

1. The first I thought was interesting not because it was especially profound or said something that hadn't been said before regarding partial-birth abortion. It was the title that struck me: "Let the Python Eat its Tail. Amen." It is a response to the recent Supreme Court ruling upholding the ban on partial-birth abortion. Be forwarned, it's graphic and may make you cry. The graphic nature is not due to Piper being a sensationalist but from merely quoting Justice Kennedy.

2. The second is entitled "Don't Play the Lottery for Me."

It was written several years ago in response to the West Virginia man who tried to donate some of his winning to the Red Cross and was turned down. It highlights that the real problem with gambling is not merely the fact that you usually lose and are squandering your money. It is just as problemeantic when you win because you are defrauding the poor. Here are two excerpts:

"Christ does not build his church on the backs of the poor. The engine that delivers his righteousness in the world is not driven by the desire to get rich. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not advanced by undermining civic virtue. Let the pastors take their silver and throw it back into the temple of greed."

"Don't play the Lottery for Bethlehem Baptist Church. We will not, I pray, salve your conscience by taking one dime of your plunder, or supporting even the thought of your spiritual suicide. Let the widow give her penny and the laborer his wage. And keep your life free from the love of money."

Great stuff.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday! I hope you have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

I'm Bullhorn Guy

If you have a chance, check out Rob Bell’s Nooma video called “Bullhorn Guy.” If you haven’t heard of Bell, he’s one of the voices in the emerging/emergent church movement.

Here's the link:

This is really a rather well done piece of propaganda.

Cool guy postmodern minister takes on nerdy modernist preacher who seems lost in this confusing contemporary society, completely unable to connect with people.

I have a good laugh every time I see it because it’s so outlandish. Bell claims to be concerned about the harsh proclamation of the truth, a concern that I share, but the more he talks the more you realize he is really uncomfortable with a biblical epistemology and the nature of the truth claims Scripture makes.

If you made a video where cool guy on a park bench shreds a Bible, you'd turn people off. But if you attack biblical principles while simultaneously taking on a chubby, socially awkward, balding man you get people all warm and fuzzy.

Bell doesn’t merely criticize the methodology but seems to criticize words like hell, repentance, and in several places even the concept of conversion. Nowhere in any of his writings or videos have I ever seen what his proposed methodology for presenting the truth of the gospel is. I have challenged several Bell fans to find any statement of Rob Bell’s that was a clear proclamation of the gospel. So far no one has been able to do it.

I'm thinking of renaming my blog "Bullhorn Guy."

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

In Honor of the Previous Post

Irony, thy name is Bud Light

I have a hard time fathoming how ad-execs who work for beer companies sleep at night. For example, last year the local catholic high school had a fish fry. The signs advertising the event read: "Notre Dame High School Fish Fry / Such and such a date / sponsored by Bud Light." That's right. A beer company was sponsoring a high school fish fry.

Genius or diablolical? Both?

But sponsoring events for underage drinkers is only one prong of Bud Light's advertising strategy. Bud Light has also produced a series of ads called "Real Men of Genius." Knowing of my love for the Lone Star State, my friends told me about this ad ("Mr. Way Too Proud of Texas Guy"). I have to admit, as a Texan at heart, I find it pretty funny. But the crazy thing is, I went to a website that had at one time had the ad on it but had taken it down. Here is a copy of the letter stating why:

From: Miller, Scott D (Legal) [] Sent: Tue 8/16/2005 6:43 PM To: Contact Cc: Subject: Unauthorized use of Anheuser-Busch commercials and trademarks


August 16, 2005

Whipnet Technologies

Dear Mr. (Whipnet)

It has come to our attention that the web page your firm has posted at contains unauthorized audio files of many Anheuser-Busch radio advertisements that are part of our long-running and successful Bud Light "Real Men of Genius" campaign (the "Advertisements"), plus numerous prominent references to BUD LIGHT.

The Advertisements are copyrighted content owned by Anheuser-Busch, and your unauthorized use of the Advertisements on your site infringes Anheuser-Busch's exclusive rights under 17 U.S.C. § 106. Moreover, your use of the Advertisements and BUD LIGHT references creates a significant likelihood that visitors to the site will be confused as to Anheuser-Busch's relationship with the site, in violation of 15 U.S.C. §1125(a) and the statutory and common law of various states, including Texas and Missouri.

We are writing to offer you the opportunity to resolve this matter simply and expeditiously. We demand that you immediately remove the Anheuser-Busch references and Advertisements from your website and respond to this letter confirming your agreement not to post any further content owned by Anheuser-Busch on your site, nor make use of any Anheuser-Busch trademarks. If we do not hear from you by Friday, August 26, 2005, we reserve the right to
pursue any and all legal remedies available to Anheuser-Busch. We look forward to your prompt response.

Very truly yours,
Scott D. Miller
Associate General Counsel (Phone number withheld)

So let me get this straight.... This guy is posting THEIR advertisements and they are threatening to sue him. What they pay millions of dollars a year to produce and air, he is putting out there for FREE! But instead of thanking him, they are concerned about the ads, which are unaltered, being aired and the "numerous references" to their product! Isn't that hillarious?

P.S. I am also aware of the irony that you could argue I am airing a Bud Light ad.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Cutthroat competition

After reading my several posts on the Gummi Bears, for some crazy reason Whitney feels that my adoption blog has somehow become distracted from its primary mission. In response she has set up a competing blog. I argued that the whole international flair of the series of blogposts ties in nicely with international adoptionn. She didn't buy it.

While I am personally appalled at this breach in our marital relationship, professionally I welcome the competition. On the one hand, she has a much better sense for where we are in the adoption process than I do. On the other hand, she had trouble remembering her password. Whatever you do, do not visit That website again is

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Gummi Bears - Opening theme (Multilingual)

If I had known about this video earlier I really could have saved a lot of time.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Funeral Message for James Vernon Bennett, Jr.

My grandfather died on Saturday, April 14, 2007. He was a great man and will be greatly missed. I had one of the greatest honors of my life being able to deliver the funeral message. Here's some of what I said, in honor of him....

As we were driving down to Arkansas, I was thinking of the passing of Grandpa and Genesis 25:8 came to mind. In Genesis 25 we read of the death of Abraham. Verse 8 reads: “Abraham breathed his last and died a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied with life, and was gathered to his people.”

It’s a beautiful verse to describe what is a rather terrible thing. Death is a constant reminder of the reality of sin and its affect on our world. It creates a separation that is painful to even contemplate. But on the other hand, as this verse and other verses tell us, death can be beautiful. For example, consider Psalm 116:15: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” Why is that? Why is the death of one of God’s saints a precious thing?” There are two parts of Genesis 25:8 I’d like us to think about.

"A Ripe Old Age, an Old man and satisfied with life."

“Ripe old age”—what does this expression mean? It is used throughout the OT. It does not seem to be just some type of congratulatory term. It doesn’t merely refer to anyperson who is really old. Just because you reach eighty plus years doesn’t mean you can be said to have reached a ripe, old age.

I believe it refers not just to the quantity of years lived but to the quality of those years. It is an expression that conveys we are sad as we contemplate the brevity of life and the passing of a loved one but that that sadness is greatly tempered as we reflects on the length and quality of the life of the one who has departed.

I’d like to suggest to you this afternoon that Grandpa lived to a ripe old age. No one can argue that ninety is a large number of years, relatively speaking. But these were also rich, full years. Let me share with you some of the reasons I believe that we can say with confidence Grandpa “lived to a ripe, old age, an old man, and satisfied with life.”

Grandpa lived to a ripe, old age, an old man, and satisfied with life because he was a hard worker.

The story Dad told this afternoon about Grandpa’s work on the home front during WWII is my absolute, all-time favorite story of Grandpa. The man would work 36-hour shifts to cover for the ineptitude of others. Though I obviously didn’t know him during this time, that story has often motivated me in my work.

By the time I was born, Grandpa was just about to retire and so I never knew him when he was gainfully employed. But I believe that I have a very skewed view of retirement because of Grandpa. To me, retirement means working in a shed, driving a tractor around, farming, gardening, fixing, fishing, working at the church, doing. As Matthew put it, he was constantly puttering. Never idle.

Grandpa combined this hard work ethic with a creative mind. He could combine mundane items around his house and shop to solve problems creatively. He was particularly good at welding. As Dad said, “He was an artist whose medium was steel.”

Let me jut walk you around the play ground in his backyard to give you a glimpse into his mind and abilities: There is a swing but this is no ordinary swing. Grandpa had found the highest branch possible from which to hang a swing and managed to do it. You didn’t just swing….you swang. And, for a little added zest, he put a bell. There is a swing set. But he didn’t buy a set of plans. Instead he welded it from pipe pieces and then painted it red, white and blue. There is a zip line. This was his last major addition to the playground. There is a teeter-toter. His doesn’t just go up and down but around in circles as well.

One Christmas, I desperately wanted to learn to ride a unicycle. Grandpa was told he couldn’t make one and so he promptly went and did it anyway.

Grandpa lived to a ripe, old age, an old man, and satisfied with life because he loved his family.

From my perspective, Grandpa existed for his grandkids. He would work for days, sometimes for weeks, for his grandkids to get a few hours of pleasure.

There are many communal memories of Grandpa: We can all remember a game of pool with Grandpa. We can all remember him saying, “I can’t be nobody who shoots pool like that.” We can all remember tossing horseshoes with him and listening to the funny commentary he would have on the status of the game if he was losing. We can all remember him saying, “You’re a good man, Charlie Brown.” “How’s Miss Suzie-Q?” We can all remember eating cornbread with him. My absolute favorite memories with him are on hot summer afternoons when he would finish his work in the and we’d grab a cup with some ice in it, a Pepsi from underneath the sink in the garage, and go and sit on the porch in the cool of the shade.

He lived for family reunions. I can remember the green “Benny” chair being set up at various locations and there would be Grandpa, sitting in the chair and holding court with various family sitting around him.

He was a humble man and it always seemed to surprise him when someone gave him a gift. There’d be that smile and look of shock on his face and the “For me? Well, I don’t know about that.”

He loved his family and in the past ten years or so I learned much about the depth of the love his family had for him. Watching how my Dad, my aunt, and my uncle have honored their father has been a great inspiration to me. They have truly obeyed Scripture’s injunction to “Honor thy Father and thy Mother.” In particular, Uncle Rocky and Aunt Ginny’s decision to move here to take care of Grandpa and Grandma was incredible to me. What man whose son does that for him can say his life is not full?

Grandpa lived to a ripe, old age, an old man, and satisfied with life because he enjoyed life.

Life itself amused Grandpa. I can remember when he’d get tickled by something he’d seen or heard, that laugh, not a guffaw, but sort of a wry chuckle—the smirk. He had a terrible, subtle form of humor. The gun with the barrel bent upward, the man with the tie in the garage, and—my personal favorite because I believe it is the perfect example of his sense of humor—the “Please Wait to be Seated” sign on the outside of the bathroom door in the garage.

He enjoyed nature. Loved to be out in God’s creation. Sometimes when standing next to a mountain, he’d say, “It just makes me feel so unnecessary.” “It just wears me out to be nice to people.” “This is the first pretty day” at the beginning of spring and “This may be the last pretty day” at the beginning of fall. He enjoyed being out in the boat or riding the tractor. He enjoyed riding around with my dad in the later years.

The love of nature and life is part of Grandpa’s legacy to his family.

Grandpa lived to a ripe, old age, an old man, and satisfied with life because he was willing to change.

Every person has their shortcomings and I’m sure that Grandpa was no exception, though I must confess I rarely had even the smallest evidence of any faults. But whereas some people remain the same and give a resigned, “That’s just who I am,” Grandpa made strides to continue to grow in godliness.

Grandpa lived to a ripe, old age, an old man, and satisfied with life because he was a man of faith.

I loved listening to Grandpa pray. There was depth of emotion to his prayers that was very moving, especially when he was praying about his family. He was committed to his church and spent many an afternoon up there working on something.

And here we come to the crux of his life and if this was not true, the other characteristics of his life would be meaningless. You see, though Grandpa lived a rich, full life this day still came.

"Gathered to His People"

This brings me to the second phrase I’d like you to think about in that passage in Genesis 25:8.

It says that Abraham was “gathered to his people.” In some ways, this is just a nice way to say that he died, but I think there is something else here…it is revealing who his true family was. Abraham lived his life in light of another life and when he died he was being gathered to his true people.

Hebrews tells us that Abraham was looking for a better country: “for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”

Just as I believe the first part of this verse applies to my Grandfather’s life I believe the second part does as well. What does Grandpa’s life teach us about the heavenly country?

He knew the reality and danger of sin

I’d like to tell you about what I believe was a milestone episode in my Grandfather’s life. On March 24, 1987, Grandma wrote a letter. It was a Tuesday. “They said he just got up after church and went up and said he had some confessions he wanted to make—that he’d been saved and baptized when a young man but hadn’t been living right but wanted to join the church and asked if he’d need to be baptized again. They said the whole church was crying and went up and hugged and kissed him.”

As I read about those events of March 22, 1987, I believe they are evidence that my Grandpa understood the reality of what the book of Romans teaches us: that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s standard of perfection. He understood that all deserved the eternal condemnation of a holy God.

He understood there was a gap between God and Man that could not be breached by simply being a moral man. We try to bridge the gap in many ways but Grandpa understood what so many do not: the gap between God and Man is simpl too wide a divide for man to bridge.

Therefore, he knew that Jesus Christ was the only answer

And here is the key component. My grandmother wrote in that letter, “If he asks Christ’s forgiveness—that is all that counts.” Indeed it is. Nothing else counts. Why?

We’ve talked about the bad new in Scripture: We’re sinners. But as you know there is good news as well. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” In the OT it talks about how our iniquity and sin was laid upon Christ.

Now heaven is a free gift. Paul says it Ephesians that our salvation is a gift of God. It is not earned or deserved.

How can we receive that gift? Through faith in Jesus Christ. Not knowing facts about Jesus for even the demons believe and shutter. Not believing him for certain things. Not being noncommittal. It means trusting in Him alone to provide us with salvation.

What would you say if today were the day of your death and you were to stand before God? Only right answer is…because of my faith in your son Jesus Christ.

The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that it is better to go to a house of mourning than a house of joy. It causes us to think about the important things…about the tragedy and beauty of death. We learn about the great paradox of every human life: those who life the fullest lives here are those who are most aware of the life to come.

Grandpa: “You’re a good man, Charlie Brown.”

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Orphanage

Tonight I received an email with a link to some pictures from the orphanage we're adopting from. It was very moving for me to look through the pictures.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Poe and Unrequited Love, Part 2

This goes with the post below.

Poe & Unrequited Love

In high school I read an analysis of "The Raven" written by Poe himself. I remember being very impressed by it but promptly forgot exactly what his point was. I only knew that the purpose of his essay was to describe the process of writing "The Raven" and that it was a response to poets such as Coleridge. Whereas Coleridge argued for a muse of sorts that consumes the author, Poe believed in a deliberate process to convey meaning through the poetic medium.

Over the years, as distance from the time of reading his essay increased, I began to believe that his main point had been that unrequited love was the most tragic of all themes. The Raven, I thought he argued, was a tragic poem because what love could be more unrequited than the love a man has for his dead lover?

His essay came to mind so frequently over the years that I decided to purchase a book entitled "The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe." Unfortunately for me, it should have been called "The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe Except the One You are Looking For!" Seriously, this book has every work except the one I was looking for. It even has an essay entitled "Philosophy of Furniture" (Opening line: "In the internal decoration, if not in the external architecture of their residences, the English are supreme." Very helpful.) I eventually concluded that I had made the whole thing up and Edgar Allan Poe had never written an article on "The Raven" and in fact "The Raven" itself was probably written by Mark Twain.

But then I stumbled across his essay again. It is entitled "Philosophy of Composition." If you are still reading this and have not just given up and cliked on the Simpson's video, you obviously have a strong stomach for tedious narrative so I feel no compunction to stop.

Here is what Poe actually argued. (If you want to save yourself the trouble of purchasing a book that doesn't have this article in it, here you go:

First, his starting point was that "Beauty is the sole legitimate province of the poem."

Second, he believed that the best tone through which to convey beauty was that of sadness. Or, as he puts it, "Beauty of whatever kind, in its supreme development, invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears. Melancholy is thus the most legitimate of all the poetical tones."

Third, the most melancholy subject would be the contemplation of the death of a beautiful woman by her bereaved lover. "I asked myself — 'Of all melancholy topics, what, according to the universal understanding of mankind, is the most melancholy?' Death — was the obvious reply. 'And when,' I said, 'is this most melancholy of topics most poetical?' From what I have already explained at some length, the answer, here also, is obvious — 'When it most closely allies itself to Beauty: the death, then, of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world — and equally is it beyond doubt that the lips best suited for such topic are those of a bereaved lover.'"

The guy was amazing, in my opinion. And so, my search is over. Poe never used the words "unrequited love" and so there you are.

Here's my question: how healthy is melancholy? For those who are prone to episodes of sad contemplation, what is Scripture's injunction? On the one hand, Ecclesiastes' observation is that the house of mourning is better than the house of mirth. But, on the other hand, I think the intent of melancholy for the believer should be far different than that of the unbeliever. The unbeliever mourns as one "who has no hope." We are commanded to contemplate the melancholy topics for different reasons than the world. Whereas the melancholy tendencies of the world cause a person to further introspection and unhealthy absortion with themselves, God calls us to look to Him in humility as the ultimate answer to lifes distresses.

"Take Thy beak from out my heart and thy form from off my door" is what the narrators says (or something very nearly like it.) That pain that takes our breath away as we contemplate the melancholy topics of the world is not a pain our Lord is unfamiliar with. There are boundaries to our melancholy musings.

Well, all that to say, here's Homer's take on The Raven.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Literary Analysis of "Rover Meets Grandma Jean and Grandpa Bob"

Rover is a tiny, imaginary dog that Hannah enjoys telling stories about. There are stories about Rover meeting various members of the family. Recently, she sat down and wrote a story about Rover meeting Grandma Jean and Grandpa Bob. This isn't bad for a five, almost six, year old. I'm leaving in the grammatical and spelling mistakes she made because I assume they were for artistic purposes...


The Bennett family and thier dog Rover were going to grandma jean and grandpa Bobs house. While Hannah rode the exercise bike she noticed Rover wasn't in her pockit. Rover was in a cabnit in the kitchin! When grandma jean Opened the cabnit she said aww and Rover Said Rroof! then grandpa Bob came in and said Whats all the noise? grandma jean said its this dog! and grandpa Bob said wheaww! and Rover said: Rrooof! Dad came in and said: whats all this noise? gramdma jean said: Its this dog. Daid said: Oh thats our dog and He gave it back to Hannah.

Ok, admittedly it's not Jane Austen. But this five-year old kid just sat down and wrote the story by herself. It has tension, surprises and she does some creative things to address punctuation she's unsure of. I also like the character development but the plot is admittedly far fetched. She didn't really have me believing that the dog found a way to get into the cabinet. However, those are small quibbles, really.