Simply Observed

These are just some simply observations I took from our trip. Just thoughts. Do with them what you will.

  • I don’t know how little cafe’s do enough business to stay open and pay the bills. Seriously, some of them seem to always be empty!
  • Seeing “Ausfahrt” on freeway signs is always good for a giggle. Always.
  • The Americans (a.k.a. our group) were almost always the loudest crowd anywhere we went, be it the cafeteria or the trails in the mountains.
  • Speaking of the mountains, there are few things on God’s earth more beautiful than mountains. I could have spent days upon days just admiring the majestic Alps.
  • Everyone else in the world speaks multiple languages. Mostly their own, and English. While that makes traveling easier (everyone can understand me!), it might be time for Americans to step up language studies.
  • For the most part, German food in Germany is pretty equitable to German food in America. There were some exceptions, but the real moral of the story is that German food is AWESOME.
  • Contrary to what I had heard from many people, every beer I saw or drank was cold, and not a single one was flat. It also was pretty much like beer here in the states.
  • The Labor Camp at Dachau is a chilling memorial. Evil exists, people.
  • Worshiping in “House Shoes” needs to take hold. Every morning and evening we worshiped in slippers and it was pretty cool. Comfortable and like family. Isn’t that how worship should feel with your brothers and sisters?
  • It’s pretty lame that you don’t get passport stamps when you travel between countries in the EU. Then again, it’s nice to not go through customs at every border.
  • Meat. Potatoes. Repeat.
  • “Parking lot” is a relative term. Any plot of land more than about 5×5 will have about 7 cars parked in it, unless marked otherwise.
  • Did I mention I love the mountains?

Any other observations from your own travels in different cultures? Leave them in the comments below!

Fatty Culture

My wife tells me I’m fat on the inside.

I’m a thin guy. In fact, I have always struggled to put on weight (I know, cue the world’s smallest violin for the skinny guy that has it so rough). The truth of the matter is that I am relatively healthy and haven’t had any health problems. Yet. But I have sustained some pretty unhealthy eating habits until recently, and I exercise very little.

So the medical condition I suffer from is “fat on the inside.” I think that’s the clinical term.

The real issue is that I consume, and consume and consume food (some of which is terrible for me but so delicious) and don’t balance it with enough physical activity to use the energy the food supplies. I am just a consumer. In fact, that is the problem with all obesity in general (chemical/hormonal issues aside). At the risk of being simplistic, the issue with obesity is taking in more and more energy, but letting your physical activity level atrophy to death. Boil it down and it all comes down to calories in, calories out.

But this isn’t primarily about food.

I may be fat on the inside, but it’s not my only area of fatness. In fact, I’m a pretty fat guy all around.

I consume and consume on the internet and don’t spend nearly enough energy exercising the energy or knowledge that it gives me. I read news, I check my favorite blogs, and I read blog articles about effective blogging. But I don’t invest the energy I need to into contributing, writing and exercising. I check facebook repeatedly to “keep up with things.” I mindlessly hold my phone to my face as I surf around my favorite sites. In other words, I’m also a tech-fatty.

The result? Lethargy, and a tendency to copy whatever method out there seemed to “help” others get past their tech-fattiness. My connectedness causes a gap between what I want to get done and “researching” how to do it.

Why all this talk about being a fatty? Because I’m worried that I’m not alone, and that society is moving more and more toward being obese — not just physically — but being tech fatties and mental fatties and entertainment fatties.

There is a weird paradox around the information age. The more information we have at our fingertips, the less productive we seem to be with it. We talk about an article that discussed a study, rather than picking up some books and doing studies of our own. Mental fattiness in action.

We consume and consume and consume and never expel any of the fuel we receive. We store calories. We don’t exercise. We get fat in all kinds of different areas. We have become a fatty culture.

The bible has a word for this pattern. It’s called, “gluttony.”

Gluttony goes beyond food. It is a total lack of discipline in how you consume. It is “greedy or excessive indulgence,” according to Webster’s. And more and more it is a symptom of our culture’s ethos, a condemnation of the posh wealth that even this nation’s lower classes enjoy (in perspective of global poverty), much less those of us who don’t need to “struggle” to eat each day.

We have become a culture of gluttons. The fatty, salty and sweet flavors that were formerly mere morsels  now flood our food. So much so that much of our culture cannot stomach vegetables unless they are drenched in butter, or “southern-style” (soaked in sugar), or dipped in ranch dressing, or drizzled in velveeta. We have indulged in these flavor “treats” so much that they are now the new norm.

Cable packages have a bajillion channels, and TV viewing rises at alarming rates. Average home sizes have exploded in the last 50 years. Enough is never enough and I hereby confess that I am an all-around fatty in much of my life.

If this is so pervasive, what is it affecting that we don’t realize? Where else are we guilty of gluttony? Where else we might have a blind spot to our constant consumption and lack of exercise? Could it be that we have also become spiritual fatties? Could it be that we have been too worried about “what we are getting out of” church? Could it be that we have spent too long simply going to church to get?

The Gospel is inherently action-based, and yet church has become consumer-focused. Churches are in a race to have the hippest worship bands, the best coffee for service or the best atmosphere. Sounds more like a coffee shop than worshipping the all-powerful God of the Universe.

We go to worship where the pastor is the funniest or most captivating, or choose a church based on “what they have to offer.”

It’s time we stop consuming and start exercising some of what we have learned, putting action behind the spiritual calories that we come to church and take in. It is time for Christians to step up and see church as not a place to be served but a place to serve – a place to proclaim the gospel rather than to receive it.

What’s worst is that those regular attenders that are always in church are commended as being spiritually fit.

In reality they may be spiritually fat (at least on the inside).

It’s time to balance our spiritual diet and exercise.

How will you get some Spiritual Exercise this week?

Photo Credit: chotda via Compfight cc

“The Bible” on the History Channel

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The Bible is a 10-hour epic miniseries on History Channel that portrays the Biblical narrative from Genesis to Revelation. It premieres March 3 at 8pm EST.

You don’t want to miss this.

In the weeks following this post, a good portion of America might actually be engaging in conversation about the Bible. Let that sink in. Your coworkers may watch. Conversation started. Maybe your kids may tune in. Ice broken. Maybe you even invite someone over to watch, or just invite them to watch. groundwork laid.

I’m talking, of course, about History Channel’s new miniseries on the Bible, produced by Reality TV mogul Mark Burnett, and his wife, Roma Downey. There has been a lot of press around this miniseries, hitting from all angles, to be sure. Without going into the critical analyses (especially having not seen it yet, myself), suffice it to say you cannot produce a 10-hour epic portrayal of the Bible without some push back.

God’s Word, The Greatly Abridged Version

But what should Christians think about such a series?

Glad for the conversation

As Christians, we ought to be very glad whenever discussions are started around what we believe. Heck, we ought to be thankful for conversations about the opposite of what we believe as well! People are about to watch the story of God’s chosen nation, Israel, and his loving provision for them. They will watch and learn about not just Jesus’ crucifixion but his resurrection. They may get a visual of what it means to be a disciple.

It’s time we just got excited about the conversation.

But what if it’s all “Hollywood?”

This is probably true. There will probably be inaccuracies. I’m sure there were some “punches pulled” so that various people groups wouldn’t be offended by the content (see this CNN writeup). But the real question is why are we trying to “punch” people with the Gospel?

It’s Hollywood! Ultimately, Burnett and Downey, as well as the History Channel and the A&E family of networks are after ratings! Liberties will be taken, stories that you and I might consider “crucial” will probably be left out. It is possible that this will be one big 2nd-grade Sunday School lesson, just portraying the biblical stories.

But they’re still portraying biblical stories.

So what do Christians do?

We embrace this, full force. This will be 10x more visually engaging than any sermon, and we live in a visual culture. We live in a world that loves story. To prove it, complete the following quotes:

  • Go Ahead, _____ ______ _____.
  • You had me at _________.
  • Life is like a _____ __ _________.

Most likely, you don’t just know the rest of the quote, but you can picture the scene, context and dialogue surrounding the quote. This is great for our culture.

When we do have conversations, we must “have an answer for anyone that may ask” about the Hope we have, the faith we claim. And we need to “do it with gentleness and respect.”

Let’s embrace this advancement of God’s Kingdom and use it to point people to Christ!