Archive for May, 2008

We visited Margraten Cemetery today, about 30 minutes from our house. There are 8301 World War II soldiers are buried here. Each of those crosses and stars of David represents about that many more people killed during that war, or 72 million people total. As I imagined what it would feel like to lose one son, the immensity of that grief multiplied that many times was overwhelming. Remember their sacrifice and pray never again.


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When I first heard a that you could play Scrabble through Facebook, I carefully avoided it. Once before I tried out Scrabble on the internet and found what a temptation it could be to be a major time sucker. While I can play a solitaire game against the computer in about 10 minutes, playing a full game against a real person typically takes over an hour. Plus I had a weird text exchange with some stranger in an online game room – creeped me out a bit. But two weeks ago, I caved in and tried Scrabbulous, and suddenly like throwing a light switch, the whole online social networking thing made more sense to me. What a marvelous thing – I can have games going with 5 to 10 people at once (or much more if I let it get totally out of hand), all of whom I know. I log in once a day and check my Scrabble boards, just like I check my email, playing on any that are my turn and perhaps sending a quick text chat message. In that same 10 minutes that I was losing to “Maven”, I can now have a quick recreational connection with several friends all round the world. Like anything “virtual” I suppose, it’s not quite as satisfying as the real thing and games may take months to play, but it’s still a beautiful thing. So don’t worry, if I challenge you, it won’t take hours of your time. At least not all at once! Wanna play?

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…but it’s not as quite as hard as we thought it might be. I know it’s not an open-and-shut case as to whether cloth or disposable diapers have a greater overall environmental impact. But for the last year or so, every time I’ve taken the trash out I’ve felt pretty (guilty? convicted? regretful?) about the volume of non-recyclable diaper plastic we’re adding to landfills. That stuff stays there a LONG time. A couple weeks ago we finally stopped just feeling convicted and actually switched to cloth diapers. Three cheers to Shannon for all the research she’s done on this project and following through in overcoming the inertia of the plastic status quo! And actually, I don’t know if I have any right to say “it’s not quite as hard as we thought”, since Shannon’s done much more work than me toward this project (soaking, laundry, clotheslines, etc). For my part, I guess all I can say is simply that the basic mechanics of diaper-changing were fairly easy to adjust to. Rinsing out poop in the toilet is a bit of a drag, but there was an unexpected gift even in that:

A few days ago, I was scrubbing out a particularly nasty mess of toddler diherria and feeling more or less an equal mix of revulsion, self-righteousness, and skepticism as to whether it was worth the trouble, when the following thought hit me like a ton of bricks: perhaps a billion people in the world live in squalor and abject poverty without clean water to even get rid of that kind of filth, conditions which also make diherria an everyday reality rather than a temporary aberration. Suddenly, my inconvenient little moment with a low-flow toilet and a stinky soak-pail seemed a little inconsequential. I realized that aside from any global impact of unthinkingly wadding up a plastic diaper and chucking it in the trash, there was the spiritual impact of disconnecting myself from this particular reality of life in our broken world. I have been robbing myself of this small shred of empathy with the poorest of the poor. I decided right then that every poopy cloth diaper I change from now on will be a string around my finger to remind me to pray for the world’s poorest people.

A couple caveats about this post. PLEASE don’t see this as us tooting our own horn. That thought makes me circumspect about even posting this entry. We’ve already thrown away almost three kids worth of disposables and have LOTS of room for growth in the realm of environmentally friendly living. We didn’t even go cold turkey yet, we’re still using some disposables. We’re not models in this area, but we’re trying to improve, and this is one step. I’m writing for two reasons: (1) There are lots of other folks out there with way more experience than us in cloth-diapering. If any of you want to share helpful tips, please comment below! (2) We believe using cloth diapers is good stewardship and a wise choice in consideration of God’s mandate for mankind to care for creation. Clearly, on our own, we make only a minuscule difference toward changing the world. Perhaps we can multiply that impact by encouraging diaper-changing friends to also consider making the switch. Take it a little at a time; one of our friends encouraged us, “Just start out with one cloth diaper per day.” If you are interested, here are a couple links that Shannon found very helpful in sorting out this unfamiliar realm of baby technology:

Happy diapering!

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This is Part 2 of the family values series.

First, there are the obvious implications of integrity: honesty, truthfulness, trustworthiness, faithfulness, etc, all of course extremely admirable traits that we aspire to uphold in ourselves and train our children to attain also. Excellent, if not very original; it is that sense of the word which probably makes integrity a core value for all kinds of organizations and people. However, as Shannon and I kicked around the question of what values most define us (or in this case what we would most like to define us), the idea we had in mind here was more one of “wholeness” (think integer) or “consistency” or “sameness”. Armor has integrity if it is all one piece; a ship has integrity if it’s not leaking, no holes in the hull. I want to be the same person with my kids as I am with my adult friends, or the teens in Club Beyond. I want to be the same person with my Christian friends as I am with my agnostic friends; the same person with my Presbyterian friends as I am with my emergent friends as I am with my Catholic friends. I want to be the same person on my blog as I am in person. Inherent in this sense of the word integrity is vulnerability, a willingness to reveal ourselves and to be fully known. I think having integrity means going below the surface with people, pursuing conversations that get to the real me and the real you; being authentic.

In our family, we’ve seen the need for integrity most with how we talk to, discipline and treat our children. So often I catch myself blowing up at them and then thinking “Would I have done that if so-and-so were here watching?” The other day, we were taking care of some friends’ kids, and it struck me how differently we spoke to and corrected them – invariably gentler, kinder, more patient. Later that night I suggested to Shannon that maybe we should treat our own children as if they are someone else’s. I think that kind of gets at what we have in mind with integrity.

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Zachary Malcolm Chastain turned two yesterday. We celebrated today with Shannon’s amazing mango salsa grilled chicken tacos and a lemon Bob the Builder cake. Click here for some more photos of the birthday bash and other recent family shenanigans.

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This is the long-delayed Part 1 of the family values series.

In a sense, I feel like I’ve already blogged about this value after writing my Wordplay review. I think I’m just spring-loaded to focus on community. When Shannon and I started discussing our core values, this is the one that immediately sprang to my mind and formed a word in my mouth. Every time I read somewhere that “an emphasis on community” is a common trait of emergent Christians or postmodern thinkers or whatever, I do have to wonder: is that culture influencing my values, or are my personal values what make me feel comfortable in that arena. It’s both of course, but I do think this value is genuinely me. When someone asked me recently what my motto for life is, I immediately replied “It’s not about me, it’s about us,” which is also a concatenation of the last two sermons I’ve preached (I get to preach about once a quarter). I think that single word community sums up my whole ministry leadership strategy: my goal in Club Beyond is generally not to create great programs or teach great messages or build strategic relationships with key students, but to foster loving community. I believe that the call to follow Jesus is a call to community as much or more than it is a call to personal devotion. I would like for the church, the body and bride of Christ, to be (almost?) as attractive to those outside as the person of Jesus himself. I don’t know if that’s a realistic goal or even a good one, but right now I think it’s a distant goal.

How does this value impact our family? Last summer, as Shannon and I were searching for a new house closer to the base and the school, we attempted to rent an abandoned bakery. It had a small upstairs apartment and lots of space downstairs that could be renovated for common areas: a rec room, a coffee shop, a club room. We were planning to have Club Beyond at our house every week and open it up a couple nights a week for kids to just come hang out. We had such a strong sense that this vision was from God. Yet it didn’t work out. We wonder if it is a picture of some future ministry we’ll have – with a church, a para-church community center, a college campus, or even just an informal community of our own kids and their friends. We’ll see. In any case, the point is that we really desire to integrate our family into ministry and to somehow use our home as a physical center for community – in a way that goes beyond simple hospitality.

We definitely have a lot of room to grow in living out this value. First of all, I think it’s very easy for me to talk and think and read so much about community that I forget to actually participate in one. Strange but true. Secondly, we believe that authentic Christian community should include “the other” – people who are not like us. That might mean religion, race, economic status, political views – whatever. Right now, we recognize that almost all the people we regularly spend time with are a lot like us, white middle-class Christians, mostly married with kids. In particular, I think authentic Christian community should always include non-Christians. We can do much better in that regard. And while we are always conscious of Christ’s commission to “go and make disciples of all people,” I think we (or I anyway) need to be better at simply being friends with people who believe differently without considering them evangelistic “marks.” After all, it may be that God has something to say to me through them even more than the other way around.

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  1. California Dreaming 2004 (remix) by Benny Benassi
  2. Mr. Brightside (Jaques lu Cont’s remix) By The Killers
  3. Rooftops by Lost Prophets
  4. 3’s and 7’s by Queens of the Stone Age
  5. Around the World by Daft Punk
  6. Reptillia by The Strokes
  7. One More Time by Daft Punk
  8. Somebody Told Me by The Killers
  9. Tick Tick Boom by The Hives
  10. Dig by Incubus
  11. Helicopter by Bloc Party
  12. What I’ve Done by Linkin Park
  13. Learn to Fly by Foo Fighters
  14. Promiscuous by Nelly Furtado
  15. No One by Alicia Keys

Click here to find out what this is all about.

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