Monday, April 18, 2011

The 4 Powerpoint Typos

This morning I filled in for the worship pastor at church and needed to fix up some of the powerpoint slides for the service. I got to the second verse of one of the songs and had a mini panic attack. Not because I forgot the words, but because I forgot how to spell the words.

The line was supposed to be “I was lost in utter darkness till you came and rescued me.” Easy enough until you think about the other word that sounds like “utter.”

That’s right: udder.

Which one was it? I know that one of them means that something is complete and absolute. The other is cow boobs. And for the life of me I couldn’t remember which one it was!

I needed to figure it out quick or I was in trouble. That would seriously change the meaning of the song! What would being lost in udder darkness be like? I udder at the thought of that! (See how I turned that into a clever pun?)

So I went with my “utter” and prayed for it to be the right one. Even as I sang the word I hoped against hope that it was correct.

I got lucky that time. But there have been other times when I have not been so fortunate. It got me thinking about one of the most overlooked problems we worship leaders face every single week:

Powerpoint Typos.

Yes. These subtle worship distractions can derail a service pretty quickly. But not all typos are created equal. They can range from the innocuous to the borderline heretical. I have done my best to categorize them for helpful reference.

So here is my list of the four basic powerpoint flubs:

1) The “Honest Mistake”
The “Honest Mistake” is just that, an honest mistake. This one just slipped by unnoticed and doesn’t cause much harm. But still, you are hoping this typo ends up on the slide that is only shown once. Examples include:

“My God is mighty to sve. He is mighty to save.”
“Shout to the Lord! All the earth let us sig

Distraction Danger: low in a verse, high in the chorus due to the repeat factor.

Who will notice: Pretty much everyone, but they will forgive you and show you grace because, hey, who hasn’t made an honest mistake?

Solution: Just look over the slides before you start. You will probably catch all of thm.

2) The “English 101”
This typo might fly over some church members’ heads, but it will punch others right in the eyeballs. The “English 101” is when you use a word that sounds like the right one but is spelled differently and has a different meaning. The technical term for this is a heterograph. People make these mistakes all the time. Examples include:

Your the God of this city. Your the King of these people.”
“You are beautiful beyond description / To marvelous for words”
“How grate is are God”

Ok, that last one was a little over the top but I was just emphasizing my point.

Distraction Danger: Moderate. You can hope that most people don’t know the difference. But those who do notice will really notice!

Who will notice: Grammar Nazis, English teachers, Snarks (What is a snark you may ask? A snark is the snooty hipster cousin of the Smurf and Snork.). But you know who won’t notice? Spell Check.

Solution: Get one of the aforementioned Grammar Nazis to proofread the words. On second thought, go with the English teachers. Their going to be less snarky.

3) The “Misheard Lyrics”
Never trust your ears when you write down song lyrics. Mishearing the words to songs is a time-honored tradition in our culture. Worship lyrics are every bit as susceptible to the occasional mishearing as your average Elton John song. Seriously, does anyone really know what that guy is singing about?

Sometimes this can be a simple confusion between “grace” and “praise.” Other times, it gets more serious. Examples include:

“Thy power and thine alone can change the leopard’s spots and melt the heart of stone.”
“I was lost in udder darkness till you came and rescued me”

Correct me if I am wrong, but didn’t Jesus heal lepers? I suppose God could change the leopard’s spots if he wanted to but why would we sing a worship song about that?

Distraction Danger: Moderate. Most of the time the word won’t change the song much. But if you aren’t careful, you get lost in the terrifying darkness of bovine mammary glands.

Who will notice: People who know the lyrics, leopards.

Solution: Look up the lyrics. Seriously. Look up the lyrics.

4) The “Accidental Heretic”
Ooh, this is a bad one. This typo not only changes the meaning of the phrase you are singing, it changes the entire theology of the song! You were typing up this week’s slides and accidentally hit the wrong letter on the keyboard changing the word “grave” to “grace.” This typo transforms a wonderful line like, “empty cross, empty grave” to the baffling:

“Empty Cross, Empty grace.”


Who's bright idea was it to put the “V” key right next to the “C” key anyway?

Or we could take a look back at "Shout to the Lord." Suddenly a "g" becomes the difference between a powerful call to worship the Lord and an invitation into Ke$ha-esque debauchery.

"Shout to the Lord all the earth let us sin!"

Distraction Danger: High. Pray that your church doesn’t still practice that whole burning at the steak thing.

Who will notice: The Senior Pastor, elders, armchair theologians, anyone who has a remote understanding of basic Christian doctrine, and the Spanish Inquisition.

Solution: Submit your Powerpoint slides to a rigorous Scriptural analysis. Does the word of God confirm what you have typed? Test the spirits. Pray for wisdom. Consult those who are older and wiser than you in spiritual matters. If necessary, recant and confess your sins.

Actually, just look up the lyrics and proofread it. You’ll be fine.

So those are the four Powerpoint typos.
Did I miss any?
What are the best worship typos you have seen? 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fighting for Redemption

Recently, Andrea and I watched "The Fighter." I will just cut to the chase and tell you that it was an excellent movie. However, I am required by Christian Law to give you a disclaimer because it is an "R-rated" movie with swearing and bras and such.Watch at your own risk.

That was a lot of links. Sorry.

Spoiler Alert! Do not read if you don't want to find out that he breaks his neck and then his trainer lets him die . . .wait, wrong movie. Oh yeah, he beats Ivan Drago and brings honor and glory to the good ol' US of A. No, seriously, I am about to give away the end of the movie. 

What I liked best about this movie was that the core of the story was restoration. The whole movie I found myself disgusted by Mickey's family, particularly his mother and brother. They didn't care about him. They were just trying to make themselves happy and using him to do it. It became clear that they were a terrible influence on him and needed to go. I wanted them to get what was coming to them

But Mickey didn't. He didn't want to let them go. Even when every sane voice in his life told him to he wouldn't.

And that made all the difference. (now watch how I change tense)

He refuses to give up on his family. He chooses to see the best in them. He chooses to hope. He will not turn them away. And because of his love for these people who have treated him like crap, they experience redemption.

That is grace! That is what I hope all of us will choose. That is what I hope we will extend to others. And that is what I think God does for us.

All of us.

Even if we don't know it.

What he really wants is to restore us to what we were created to be. And when I am tempted to desire above all else that someone gets what is coming to them, I need to remember that.

Dare I say it . . . God's great redemptive love wins?

What about you? How hard is it to stubbornly hope for people? For yourself? What makes it difficult? Have you seen "The fighter?" Seriously, how good was that movie?!

Monday, March 28, 2011

While You Are Waiting for Something Else

As the title of this blog would suggest, I am currently waiting for something else to finish. I would like to keep working on my study of the whole Bible but I am trying to get this one thing done first. Unfortunately it is being a bit cranky at the moment (and involves printers, excell sheets, and merge fields. Gross)

So to help me pass the time and to help you pass the time, I would like to share an important announcement entitled "The Truth About Bears."

Fun and educational! Hooray!

Sorry about the awkward spacing. I don't know much about HTML.

Friday, March 25, 2011

3 Top 5's

Ok, in honor of this being somewhere around my 55th post, I have decided to share a few favorites with y'all. I guess these things are all the rage with the bloggy kids these days. So for your reading and viewing pleasure, I give you:

The Top 5 Most Viewed Posts of ALL TIME! (on this site)*

1) If This is All There Is
2) Just Answer the Question!
3) Moralistic Therapeutic Deism
4) 100 Miles
5) What We Might REALLY Be Saying

*That involve writing. Video posts are not included.

And now I would like to list:

My Top 5 Favorite Posts (from oldest to newest)

1) Amen
2) The Word Became Flesh
3) Die Little Jesus
4) The Lost Older Son . . . and Part 2 (cheating? Maybe. But it's MY blog and I can do what I want!)
5) Housecleaning

And now I would like to share a few blogs that I enjoy checking out.

Jesus Needs New PR. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Christian culture.
Stuff Christians Like. Laughing at yourself is a gift from God.
Redeeming Domesticity. Reclaiming the joy of the home.
Jesus Creed. I don't know how Scot McKight has time to read all those books
PostSecret. My weekly reminder that humanity is beautiful and broken.

Ok. That ought to keep you busy for a while. Peace!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Grace for Cain

So for the last week or so I have been working on my new project: The Whole Dang Thing. It is a crazy attempt to read through the whole Bible via manuscript study. Well, I have managed thus far to get all the way to Genesis 4!

4 down, 1185 to go! So if I did one per day I would be done in just over 5 years. Dang.

So last night I read through the story of Cain and Abel, though it is really a story about Cain. Abel doesn't really do anything except offer a sheep and get killed.

But I was struck by the contrast between Cain and God.

At every turn and at every place Cain does something stupid or terrible, God is right there trying to help him. After rejecting Cain's offering, God seems to think that Cain should have known better. And then he gives him instructions on how to avoid a life with an unfortunate trajectory.

"Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at your door; its desire is for you, but you must master it."

I expect God to tell him that is he does not to well that he will NOT be accepted. But that isn't what God says. God seems to be saying that if he doesn't do well, sin will begin taking over. Cain will become more and more mastered by it.

And he is. He doesn't listen. He kills his brother.

Even then, God doesn't seem to be angry with him. He asks questions and acts shocked, maybe horrified. But not angry. He then tells Cain that the thing he loves to do (tilling the ground) won't work anymore since the ground has cursed him. As a result, Cain will be a nomad.

This doesn't seem like a punishment. This seems like a statement of natural consequences. But Cain interprets it differently.

"My punishment is greater than I can bear! Today you have driven me away from the soil, and I shall be hidden from your face; I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth"

When did God say he would be hidden from his face? Why does Cain think that?

Is it possible that when God lets the natural consequences of our actions happen, we think he is totally rejecting us? We jump to the worst when God might actually be trying to help us.

Cain's problem had something to do with tilling the ground and his offering to God. Perhaps God is trying to break him of that kind of idolatry. Perhaps the time of wandering Cain will be in will be a purification. He will see more clearly who this God is and what he is about.

But Cain doesn't listen. He doesn't wander. He leaves God and settles somewhere else. He marries. He has a family. He builds a city. This doesn't sound like "fugitive and wanderer."

Is Cain addicted to settling? When you till the ground you have to stay there for a long time. When you build a city, you are committing to being in one place and are helping others commit to one place.

And I think it is totally possible that God was trying to break him of it and heal him.

Do I do the same thing? Do I get so tied to a way or a program or a style or a place or a system that I will violently defend it if it is threatened? Might there be things in my life that seem like unbearable punishments but are actually God's grace on me?

Gad has Cain's back through this whole thing. I think that might mean he has mine. And I think that might mean he has yours. And he wants the best for us even if we don't know how to receive it.

Seriously, come with me on this journey through the whole dang thing. It is going to be a blast.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Always Up To Something More

Here is a link to another sermon I preached last weekend. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

100 Miles

Actually, it is a bit more than that. But "100 Miles" just has a better ring to it than "132 Miles."

That is roughly the total amount of miles I have run since I began training for the St. Louis Half Marathon. I will be flying to St. Louis in two weeks and running that sucker on April 10. My lovely girlfriend, Andrea (who is quite a talented writer and just started a new blog which you may enjoy reading), and I will be joining a few more of her St. Louis posse to tackle the beast.

If you have followed my blog for long you may remember a post I wrote over a year ago about wanting to start exercising. I did start running last year but couldn't pull the trigger on a big running project. After "seeing" Andrea run one in Nebraska and reading Donald Miller's "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" I decided it was time to commit to doing something crazy.

A moment of slight panic began to set in when I was nearing the end of the registration process. There is this point where you hit the final button. It is the point of no return. No backing down.

In reality, all that happens is they take your money.

But it FEELS like you just enlisted in the army or something.

I hit the button and was registered. I had my "inciting incident." It was time to start training. And this was the part where I started learning things. Hooray!

When you commit to something, it re-orders your priorities. I found a 12-week training program that seemed reasonable and decided to use it. Three short or medium runs a week and a long run on the weekend. I realized pretty quick that running was going to be the first thing I did those days or it would likely not happen at all. This meant getting up earlier. That 45 minutes I spend running takes 45 minutes away from something else. Waking up earlier is the only way to not lose the time.

Also, it rains in Oregon. Not sure if you knew that but the rumors are true.

I am not a fan of rain. Name one thing you can do in the rain better than you can on a sunny day. There is only one: stomping in puddles. So not worth it.

But if I am going to do this thing, I have to learn how to run in whatever weather gets thrown at me. I remember a 4-miler where it was pouring. I was soaked about a half-mile in. But it didn't matter. I was training.

I have also been noticing that I never want to go running. Every time I would rather stay in and read the news. But my commitment pushes me out the door. And every time I run, I am glad I did it. I have probably had more moments where I felt a sense of accomplishment in the last 2 months than I have in a long time.

So What?

I am writing this after running 5 miles. I feel great. It was tiring but it honestly doesn't feel like a big deal. Last weekend I ran 8 miles.

I NEVER thought I would be able to run 8 miles without stopping. But I did. And this weekend I will run nine.

There is a change happening. It is small. Day by day and week by week. The first time I ran 4 miles by myself it kicked my butt. I felt like this: I just ran five like it was nothing.

Commitment changes you. You aren't sure what it will do to you but you dive in anyway. And little by little you begin to transform. I can run farther. I am probably in the best shape I have been in since college. Andrea hugs me and notices that it is a little easier to wrap her arms around the midsection.

That feels good.

13.1 miles still feels terrifying. But I am committed. Every little step I have taken in this journey has mattered. When I got off track, I just jumped back on. And in less than three weeks I am going to do something I have never done before.

So this begs the question: What else am I capable of?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Whole Dang Thing

Hello Everyone.

I just wanted to let you know that I have begun a rather ambitious new project and you are welcome to join in.

I started a new blog and the site is

It basically boils down to this: I love Bible Study. It is probably the clearest way I experience and hear the voice of God. So I have decided to discipline myself and spend a little time each day doing Manuscript Study.

But the ambitious part is that I am going to try to do the whole Bible.

Yep. I have no idea how far I am going to make it but I am going to try. And the more people who come along with me the better.

So if you want in, feel free to read the blog and leave a comment.

I will continue to write in this one about other stuff that strikes me as interesting.

Ok. That is all. Peace!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Trees for the Forest

I am a big picture person.

I want to know how things fit into a larger whole. What is the context? How does this connect with that? That kind of stuff.

So naturally, I love studying the Bible. What a story! How that many different authors in that many different times and places wove all that together is mind bottling. I think people would be much better off getting the big picture of Scripture and seeing how the pieces come together to make the whole.

But there is also such beauty in the individual books. I have been going through the Gospel of Mark with my staff team this year and that guy knows how to tell a story! The themes and repeated phrases and juxtapositions make it so much fun to dig into.

I get to lead a fairly large section of it next week at our retreat and I am a little overwhelmed. There are so many dots to connect. There are so many threads to tie together. There are so many metaphors to invent to explain what I am trying to do. (That last one was a joke.)

I am excited to try it and to help people see and grasp the big picture, but I notice myself doing something. I notice myself missing the beauty of the individual trees in this vast forest.

I am more concerned with how the healing of the Legion man connects to the calming of the storm than the fact that Jesus just absolutely changed that man's life forever.

I am more concerned with the relationship between the Syrophoenician Woman and the feeding of the four thousand than I am by the fact that Jesus walked a hundred miles out of his way just to (seemingly at random) heal her daughter.

I am more concerned with the juxtaposition of the little children coming to Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler than I am with the fact that Jesus loved that guy and wanted him to follow him and he said "no." Sad!

The trees here are beautiful on their own. I don't want to miss them because it will make the forest itself that much more beautiful.

So may we find the beauty in both.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Something to Say . . .

I love the idea of blogging. The internet is full of normal people who are sharing their lives (sort of) and thoughts and ideas with anyone curious enough to want to know.

I would love to get in on this. I would love to join in the conversation. I would love to write more on this thing.

And yes, I would love to have higher traffic and unique visitors per month.

But the one thing that seems to get me stuck is that in order to have a blog that does those things, you need to have something to say. And not just anything. You need to have something to say that you think millions of random people ought to hear.

I have never been one to shy away from saying what I think, but that usually happens in the context of face to face interactions. I am much more comfortable with that than I am with shouting into the void of cyberspace.

So perhaps it is ok to save my best thoughts and interactions with real flesh and blood people. They will never up my blog stats to any kind of impressive number but maybe that is a good thing.

So I will probably just continue this blog the way it has been and not worry about who reads it and who doesn't. I have enough real people who read my life right now thank you very much!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Rob Bell-Love Wins-Universaist?

Disclaimer: The title of this blog was only to up the possibility of more internet traffic. Shameless, I know.

At the risk of making Rob Bell one of the most talked about things on my blog, I can't let this one go.

(Although, to be fair, I think Stephen Colbert has one more entry devoted to him. Colbert bump!)

He has a new book coming out next month called "Love Wins." Oddly enough, this is probably the least provocative or confusing title of any of his books. But a promo video was released and caused quite an uproar on the interwebs.

What is amazing is if you read some of the stuff people have written about it, it is as if they have already read the book. They haven't. Maybe they have read some of it but not all. But they take issue with some of the things that he says in the video, as if he is spouting some kind of universalist message about everyone getting into heaven and belief in Jesus being unnecessary.

Let me be up front about some stuff. I like Rob Bell. I have read his books. I have seen him speak. I attended a conference he put on. I think he raises some excellent questions and is gifted in the arena of communicating with nuance and grace. Having said that, I most certainly have not agreed with everything he has said. I am not sure he would want me to just accept it all. Read the back cover of Velvet Elvis.

So the point of this whole thing is to look at how we arrive at our conclusions about what he is saying when all we have to go on is this little three minute video. Here it is.

Here are some of my thoughts on the video.

1) I know that Rob is much more of a person who thinks our ultimate destiny is a new heavens and a new earth. God is about redeeming this world and his good creation. Therefore, this book cannot be about who gets into heaven. That is not Rob's take on the story of Scripture.

So right off the bat we know that this is not about heaven and hell as we traditionally think of them. That should clue us in on some other things.

I also know that Rob isn't naive enough to think that there is no justice in the world. Nobody thinks that the evils of this world should go unpunished. I have listened to a lot of his sermons and I know that he is smarter than that. Therefore I will give him the benefit of the doubt.

2) The first questions he asks are about how this certain person knows Ghandi is in hell. It's a valid question. Last I checked, it is not my place to decide who is in and who is out. That is up to God. I don't know where Ghandi is or where his ultimate destiny is. Pretty sure no one else does either.

3) He is addressing one of the biggest questions our culture has about the Bible and God. He is just asking the question. There is nothing wrong with asking a question. I think Jesus likes it when we ask honest questions. And people have questions about how having the majority of people who have ever lived being condemned to hell is actually good news. I have that question.

4) Is it possible that the good news is more good than we can possibly hope or imagine? I hope so. When you read Revelation 21-22 and Isaiah 60-62, that seems like good news. Redemption. Restoration. Renewal.

All I can tell from this video is that Rob is raising some tough questions and wants to deal with them honestly. And my experience with Rob is that you have to listen to the whole thing. He knows how to tell a story and grab your attention.

So how about we all just cool it and read the book when it comes out. Then if he is crazy we can know for sure. I for one am going to go in with an open mind and will try to think critically about what he says. People are jumping way too quickly to conclusions and are passing judgment on a man who has helped thousands of people rediscover the joys of following Jesus.

So why don't we just settle down and get ready for an interesting read. And if we have a problem with it, we can take it up with him rather than shouting into the void of the internet.

IRONY ALERT! I just shouted into the void of the internet.

Monday, February 21, 2011


I am sitting in a room that is remarkably clean. This room is a part of an entire floor of my house that is also remarkably clean. And what may be the most remarkable thing about it is that I am terrible at house cleaning.

I didn't even do it.

Two weeks ago my staff team had a meeting at my house. We finished about an hour early and our director gave a suggestion about what we could do with our extra hour.

"So tomorrow, Ben's girlfriend Andrea is coming to visit and she is going to stay here. And since this is a house where 6 guys live, it might not feel all that 'homie' to her. So I think we could give her a gift and just make the house a little more hostpitable for her."

Everyone seemed to love the idea of spending an hour to clean my house. Everyone except me.

What I heard when our director was making that suggestion was: "Since Ben is a total slob and has no idea how to treat his girlfriend well, we are going to do it for him."

You see, I have lived in this house for 5 years and I have never done any kind of deep clean. I don't even really know how to clean. And if I let all those people clean my house, they would get to see exactly how bad at cleaning I actually was. They would look at the corners and cabinets closets that had never been swept or wiped down.

I was not excited to spend the next hour hearing people comment on how disgusting my house was. And in case you think I am over-reacting, in those five years I lived at the house, I am pretty sure the microwave has NEVER been cleaned.

I felt ashamed and I felt incompetent in front of some of my best friends. I tried to gracefully get out of it. I had to find some way to tell them that they didn't have to do it. But resistance was futile. The idea was already incepted and was taking root and growing.

So I surrendered.

For the next hour, 11 of my friends cleaned the main floor of my house. They swept, scrubbed, dusted, febreezed, vacuumed, uncluttered, and rearranged. They bought flowers and candles. My bathroom was spotless.

But as amazing as it looked and as grateful as Andrea was for it when she saw it, it was something else that really shook me up.

You see, the whole time, no one said anything about how dirty it was. Not a word.

No one commented on how gross the microwave or the stove was.

No one told me I was a slob.

The only thing they did was give me, my housemates and my girlfriend a wonderful gift. And the only thing I could do was receive it.

In short, I encountered grace and it messed me up.

People looked right into the literal mess I had made through my laziness and neglect and ignorance, and did not condemn me for it. They simply offered me a gift.

The reality of the Gospel came flooding into my life in a new way. I was experiencing the Word becoming flesh. I was reminded of how Jesus looks at our sin and disobedience and the mess we have made and offers himself as a gift so it can be made right. And all we can do is receive it and let it change us.

Yes, it was a free gift for me. But it was a gift that I was able to share with people I love. Because of what someone else did, I have something to offer to others.


May you experience the tangible grace of God today. May you be reminded of this amazing gift that has been freely given for you.