Bono on CT

March 2003 Christianity Today Bono graces the cover of the March 2003 issue of Christianity Today. It’s about time.

“‘Love thy neighbor’ is not a piece of advice, it’s a command,” Bono told Christianity Today in an earlier article. “Christ talks about the poor [and says] ‘whatever you have done to the least of these brothers of mine, you’ve done to me.’ In Africa right now, the least of my brethren are dying in shiploads and we are not responding.”

Jesus is my Homeboy

Jesus Is My HomeboyJesus Is My Homeboy (stylized w/ Pamela Anderson)Jesus Is My Homeboy close-up You know it’s bad when Christian kitsch is cool. The kind of t-shirts I wore in high school as evangelistic billboards are now the latest tongue-in-cheek rage. Well, not exactly the same t-shirts, but the general idea is there. Instead of “bench press this” it’s a hippie Jesus with the slogan “Jesus is my homeboy.” Such trendsetters as Ben Affleck, Ashton Kutcher, and Pamela Anderson have been seen wearing the shirts. You can pick them up at Urban Outfitters (they also sell a “Jesus surfs without a board” t-shirt) or online at for a mere $28. You can also get a trucker hat with the same brilliant slogan.

Buechner on Nakedness

“Beneath our clothes, our reputations, our pretensions, beneath our religion or lack of it, we are all vulnerable both to the storm without and to the storm within, and if ever we are to find true shelter, it is with the recognition of our tragic nakedness and need for true shelter that we have to start. Thus it seems to me that this is also where anyone who preaches the Gospel has to start too — after the silence that is truth comes the news that is bad before it is good, the word that is tragedy before it is comedy because it strips us bare in order ultimately to clothe us.” (Telling the Truth by Frederick Buechner)

Laziness + Cheapness = Cool

I need a haircut. As happens too quickly in my life, my hair goes from the halfway decent, fresh from the barber look to the shaggy, colic. I usually realize this while standing in the bathroom at work at 7:59. My bangs are curling and I have colic that only cement can cure.

Lately my hairstyle plan has been to cut it so short you can’t really comb it. It works great for winter. I put a hat on, I take my hat off, my hair looks fine. That is until I reach the inevitable shaggy state. Then my hair stands to attention like a soldier.

I need a new look. Tonight I went for the bandanna. Unfortunately, the gang look doesn’t exactly mesh with the dress code at work. I’m tempted to grow my hair long. I don’t exactly know what that means, other than the fact that I’ll have to go through a painfully long shaggy state where my hair doesn’t know what to do, and neither do I. But I take encouragement from my balding friends at work: grow it while you got it. My hair will surely abandon me on the day when I need to feel my youngest, so I might as well enjoy it while I can.

All this talk about hair makes it actually seem like I care about style. I don’t. I’ll probably end up with the disheveled look, which is so two years ago, but not for stylistic reasons. Shear laziness will be my primary motiviating factor. In all honesty, laziness paired with cheapness are the inspiration for most of my fashion choices.

War is a Tricky Thing

The cry of war keeps getting louder and louder. This past weekend millions shouted back with worldwide antiwar protests. Not that anyone expects George W. Bush to change his mind after a few million compainers, but Bush didn’t budge.

“War is my last choice,” Bush said in response to the global anti-war protests. “But the risk of doing nothing is even a worse option as far as I am concerned.”

War is a tricky thing because we can only determine the right choice with hindsight. World War II is such an obvious choice right now. Of course we made the right decision. But in 1940 it wasn’t so clear. Vietnam seems like an obviously bad choice right now. But in the 1960s that wasn’t so clear either.

Saddam Hussein is a not a nice guy. But bombing his country back to the stone age — a country that isn’t exactly up to worldwide standards — doesn’t seem so smart. Sitting back and letting terrorists have free reign isn’t very smart either. There isn’t a very clear choice.

But I find it deeply troubling when our government has no checks and balances. We have no sense of fairness. It’s perfectly okay for the U.S. to have whatever nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons we want. We can have them, we can store them, and it’s all good. Trust us. But if Saddam has them, that’s not cool. We’re going to squash him. Certainly Saddam is a bad example. But if what if Saudi Arabia had them? Or Kuwait? Or El Salvador? Do we trust any of them? Who is trust worthy and who is not? In 1988 we thought Saddam was pretty trust worthy and we gave him chemical weapons. He used them on his own people and now we want to punish him for using our weapons on his people.

The United States is a self-serving superpower. We’re a bully in the world playground, and everyone seems to realize this but us. We help those who can help us, and we hurt those who could hurt us. We’re not interested in who else gets hurt in the process. That’s why cheers went up on September 11. That kind of hatred needs to be considered when we think about waging war. Just because we’re the superpower doesn’t mean we can play the bully. Terrorism is about proving the big guy is vulnerable. On September 11 the world found out we can be hurt. Now we want to stir the coals and see if we can get burned again? It doesn’t seem to me like war is really Bush’s last choice.

Ringworm = Sick Day = Job Search

Searching for a job has to be the biggest awkward situation. In some cases it’s beyond stressful, especially if you’re doing your search between 9 and 5 because you’re unemployed. That’s never fun. But the prospect of looking for a position that will consume half your waking hours is a little daunting. How can you tell from the little paragraph in the want ads whether or not you’ll like the job, whether or not you’ll fit in at the office, whether or not this is a job that will drive you mad or make you happy? You can’t. Never mind that this elusive position will also determine your income, your benefits, your vacation, your daily commute. Whether or not you’ll get stuck in traffic every day depends on which job you get. There’s a point where something is beyond stressful, beyond irritating, where it reaches a plane of existence that I think is somewhere in the neighborhood of insanity.

For those of you who don’t know, yes, I’m looking for a job. My company is relocating and I’m not sure I want to relocate as well. So thankfully I’m not one of those people looking for a job between 9 and 5. Yet.

To top it off, I’m also now experiencing one of the benefits of being married to someone who works with children. I have ringworm. Despite how it sounds, it’s basically an itchy mosquito bite that’s contagious and won’t go away until you medicate it. Which I am, thank you very much. However, it sounds bad enough to be worth a sick day.

Hi, I’m Joe Crappy Singer

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.

Sometimes I think you have to be pretty gutsy to put the words of angels to music. Restricting divine words to our melodies and pitch and the highs and lows of popularity is not something to be taken lightly.

I often feel the same way about worship. But then sometimes I feel the opposite. God would rather have us croak out whatever feeble words we can manage to express a shred of our gratefulness for his glory. He’s not looking for a Pavarotti/Elvis duet with U2 playing back up. He’s looking for you, and he doesn’t care if you’re Joe crappy singer — which I usually am. Lately when we’ve been singing some more upbeat worship tunes and I really get into it I start to think I sound like Eddie Vedder. There I am, crooning out my worship to God, trying to close my eyes so I don’t notice the cringes all around me.

And as messed up as that seems to us, that’s exactly what God is looking for. When the angels sing holy, holy, holy, I don’t think God cares if they’re off tune or if they don’t come in at the right time. God is not a Rolling Stone music critic, or even a cranky back pew critic who finds every fault in our humble Sunday gatherings.

How to Be Good by Nick Hornby

I’m reading How to Be Good by Nick Hornby. The plot centers around a rocky marriage that’s weathering a wife’s affair and a husband’s sudden spiritual enlightenment. The husband is suddenly enlightened to what an angry jerk he’s been and he wants to make a difference in the world. He forgets his former hang-ups and the unspoken social rules he used to follow and tries to make the world a better place. He gives away his possessions and organizes his neighborhood to house homeless runaway kids in their spare bedrooms. I’m not finished yet, but so far he looks like a total freak, he’s driving his children and wife away, and he’s not making much of a dent in the world changing business.

I don’t think Hornby intended the comparison, but I can’t help but think this is what Jesus intended. Jesus is the kind of guy who would let a homeless kid sleep in his spare bedroom. While most of us would kick the kid out on his butt when he steals something, Jesus would invite the kid back in. The kid would steal time and time again and Jesus would open the door again and let the kid back in, leaving his world wide open to be ripped off. That’s what’s so amazingly frustrating about Jesus. Common sense and self-preservation aren’t an issue. If someone beat the crap out of Jesus, he’d still love them.

That’s such a high call. How can we even live up to that? I need to protect my family, my possessions, my financial security. I risk losing face, I risk feeling dumb, I risk embarrassment and being uncomfortable. But Jesus didn’t recognize social norms or embarrassment or losing face. None of that meant anything to him. That’s why he’s Jesus Christ.

Change is often the root of insomnia.

11:58. So I’m not impervious to caffeine. Or it’s just the stress of potential change. Change is often the root of insomnia.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,'” (Jeremiah 29:11). That’s all well and good, but it’s not as encouraging when you remember that God’s definition of prosper and yours aren’t always the same. We like to think of this as a great encouraging verse when our lives are in the midst of change. But it’s not that encouraging.

The Jews were in captivity in Babylon. God told them to settle in for the long haul. Build houses, plant gardens, get used to life in Babylon, ’cause you’re not going back to Israel anytime soon. He even told the Jews to ignore the so-called prophets who dreamed of returning. Then God says in seventy years he’ll bring the Jews back to the promised land. For he knows the plans he has for them (enter the verse in question).

Context helps, doesn’t it? Hope and a future meant waiting seventy years before returning home again. We don’t always get what we want. But God still takes care of us. I guess that’s the lesson. It’s not necessarily what you want or how you want it, but it works out. Sometimes that’s hard to figure when the math doesn’t add up.

God doesn’t have the same calculator I do. My calculations say I’ll be in debt until I’m 38, and that’s just my school loans. And you really don’t want to wait that long to start a family, so the calculations have to get pretty tight. Children are expensive, though I wouldn’t want to put a monetary value on them. But you can figure the cost of care, which is either the equivalent of one spouse’s salary or daycare, which are often equal or nearly equal numbers. Unless of course you strike the good fortune of free baby-sitting, but that often comes with the perils of resident in-laws. Factor in a mortgage, and my calculator’s laughing at me.

But somehow, I think God’s calculator makes it work. Sometimes I’m tempted to call his bluff and see if it really does. Throw up my hands, bring on the family, take out a mortgage and see what happens. Sometimes I wonder if truly relying on God is the same thing as stupidity. I’m willing to bet they are, God just covers your back.

The one thing I really hate is not being certain about my monetary provision. I remember the few times I’ve been jobless as some of the most stressful times of my life. After my freshman year of college I scoured southeast Michigan looking for a job. Okay, I didn’t look that hard, but I looked everywhere I knew at the time. I ended up crawling back to the grocery store I worked at in high school, and had a blast stocking the shelves again.

The summer after my sophomore year I landed an unpaid internship in Chicago, and applied for every part time job I could find. When Toys R Us offered minimum wage and informed me I’d have to work the register, I said no thanks and literally took to the street.

When I was a senior in college and about to get married and graduate, I applied for everything I could find in my field. I got one interview and actually landed that job.

So I’ve always come up with something, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t sick with worry until it happened. I just wish it could be easier. I think I have a trust problem. I know God will provide, that’s what I keep telling myself. But I have to slough through the hell of not knowing how it’s going to happen. I’m the kind of guy who likes to have my ducks in a row. I like to know where everything is coming from, how the bills are getting paid. I’m not good at blind trust. Forgive me, but I would have sunk like a rock if I stepped off the boat. Call Peter what you will, but that guy had guts.

It works out in the end, I just wish I had the script in advance.