Saturday, December 28, 2013


Humanists will tell you that our problems find their origin outside a person and the solution lies within.
The Bible argues that the problem is within, namely sin, and the solution is without, namely God.

Saturday, December 21, 2013


I have been reflecting some more on the controversy currently surrounding Duck Dynasty star, Phil Robertson, and I think I got a few things wrong in my original response to what was going down.

Retractions and corrections never get as much press as the original headline, which is unfortunate for me because I am a verbal processor. A lot of people wisely wait to speak up on an issue until they have arrived at a place of settled conviction. For me, however, I only seem to arrive at a settled viewpoint through the process of talking and debating. I usually come away from a bull session with a more sharply honed and defensible position, but I am sure that if you read back a transcript of the discussion my views would evolve wildly from the first to the last. My first stab at articulating a position is almost always rife with prototype errors that must be subsequently debugged and sometimes even apologized for.  It's a messy process for sure, but it's me. (Hey there!) It is especially problematic for me in the internet age where I am perpetually documenting my bumbling progress toward the truth before an anonymous, judgmental crowd. (Hey there!)

You may read my earlier statement regarding the Phil Robertson dust up by clicking HERE.

Of course, not everything I said was wrong, and before I get to the mea culpa let me highlight a few of the things I will stand pat on.

First, I was definitely right regarding my prediction for the arts.

Second, the Bible and Christianity is, by it's very nature, controversial...even offensive. Christians who are effective and faithful in communicating and living the truths of God's word will always be described by some as extreme, too strong, hateful, and wrong. This is true even within Christian circles. There are a few Bible teachers today who I greatly admire, but I have found that for every positive comment you find about them you seem to bump up against two or three more that are critical of them, and usually written by Christians. They are being used in a powerful way though, touching the lives of thousands, and I have noticed a strong corollary between the efficacy of their leadership and controversy. This was certainly true of Jesus. After all, they wouldn't have crucified him otherwise. I forget who said it, but the quote comes to mind, "The only way to be at peace with your neighbors is to be no better than them." I have been waiting for the inevitable storm of controversy to erupt around the Robertson family for a long time. In fact, I have confided to Sarah more than once that I sometimes pray for them and their families. Their testimony is so public, and they are frail, sin-prone human beings like me. I have been waiting for one or more of them to become embroiled in a scandal or say something regrettable. Public Christians have disappointed so often, and being a large family they present an enormous target for the enemy to bring shame onto the gospel. I pray for them often. They are in a terrifying and sobering position, but that's exactly what makes Phil's use of language so difficult to pardon (I'll get to that in a minute). Didn't he know? Didn't he care?

Third, I don't like that the knee jerk reaction in our culture is to silence people when we disagree with them, or to unfairly label disagreement as hatred. I'm not talking about free speech either, that only applies to the government's attempts to silence people, which is not applicable here. Networks and individuals have every right to associate or disassociate with whomever they please, on whatever grounds they please, but in a society like ours, with such a diversity of perspective a robust and honest discourse about issues such as those which Phil Robertson took up will be a rough and tumble business. It will involve people saying things we don't like to hear, and when that happens the correct response is to engage, discuss, or even argue...heatedly! But Phil Robertson's critics simply said "Shut up!" "Remove him from the discussion!" As an American and an engaged citizen I don't like the feel of that.

Joshua Culpa

The church should never strive to be inoffensive, nor should it apologize for the truth, but neither should it seek to be thoughtlessly offensive, crude or abrasive. Nor should it excuse or defend brothers and sisters who fail as ambassadors by misrepresenting the spirit of their King. Colossians 4:5-6 says, "Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone," and 1 Peter 3:15 exhorts Christians to talk about their hope in Christ to nonbelievers "with gentleness and respect." I don't think that some of Phil Robertson's remarks pass the gentleness-and-respect test. In short, they were crude and regrettable. I can't defend that.

The worst part about all of this is that I don't think Mr. Robertson's comments do justice to the man himself. As best as I can discern from what I have seen of them on TV and online (I don't know them personally, of course), the Robertson family doesn't strike me as charlatans. They seem to be sincere about their faith. Their heart beats for the lost. They are honest about their failings, they have a correct view of grace and the gospel, and they are missional in outlook. I find them personally compelling, exciting, and sympathetic. In truth, I love them, and view them as brothers and sisters.  What's more, I like almost all of the comments Phil Robertson has made since this all hit the fan including some comments he made which were edited out of the GQ article as well as his short but to the point response to his critics, which has been circulating widely on facebook. 

Maybe Phil Robertson is a verbal processor like me, and maybe he will come out of this national bull-session with a more sharply honed position. Whatever comes of this, I hope he and the rest of the Robertsons keep on talking. I like what they have to say, and, normally, I like how they say it.

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders.

Gentleness and respect.

In the meantime, I will keep praying for them.

I love the Robertsons.  

Thursday, December 19, 2013


Now we can debate whether or not a show like Duck Dynasty technically qualifies as "art," and it most certainly does not, but even so I think this most recent flap surrounding Phil Robertson's views on homosexuality does tend to support a prediction I made about the arts way back on October 18, 2010.You should check out my prediction by clicking HERE.

I called it, America! Prescience comes standard in this model.

The thing that I find most ironic about A&E's response to Mr. Robertson's unfiltered and honest opinions in a recent GQ interview is that for my whole life I have been hearing about the heroes of pop culture, like Elvis, Madonna and Bill Maher, who dared to push the envelope of what was acceptable, "bravely" confronting the established mores of society through outrageous conduct and in-your-face language. All the while efforts to silence them and marginalize them were universally condemned as vaguely un-American, not to mention futile. Those soldiers of liberalism have been held up to me as wave upon relentless wave of an advance against the bastions of prudishness which enslaved a free-spirited people. How are Phil Robertson's statements any different than say John Lennon declaring "We're bigger than Jesus," or "Imagine no religion. It's easy if you try?" 

Now the shoe is on the other foot. Us church folk are getting a taste of our own medicine, and it must be owned that the church in America has a checkered past of engaging culture in collaborative dialogue, but it must also be owned that liberals' hearts are twisted, and they would make themselves into what twisted them (best line from the movie "Last of the Mohicans"). Their response to Phil Robertson is the very stuff of prudish disapproval. It strikes me as vaguely un-American, not to mention futile. Phil Robertson is an envelope pusher. His conduct is outrageous and his language is designed to stir the pot. By the way, having Phil Robertson sit down for a GQ interview is a bit like releasing a dog into a chicken coop and then feigning shock and dismay when it starts gobbling up chickens. We all saw this coming, didn't we? I am only surprised that it was this long in coming.

Having said that, I appreciate Phil Robertson's honesty and what's more I agree with him in substance. I think his ideas could have been more artfully presented, his words more carefully chosen (what he said was crude), and more balanced with grace, but in the main he was speaking the truth as I and many others understand it.

Timidity does not move a culture. It has never led a people.

Our liberal, culture-shaping, pop icons have taught us the truth that a bold, provocative, envelope-pushing style moves the debate and leads a people. Silence is surrender, and too much of the field has already been ceded through timidity and silence. The lay of the land, culturally speaking, is ripe for a Phil Robertson. It feels a little naughty when the Robertsons mention the name "Jesus" on national TV. That is not so unlike how it must have felt for folks in the sixties to see Elvis shaking his hips and gyrating in black and white. **GASP** I'm telling you, it's an irresistible vacuum to an envelope-pushing culture, Phil Robertson just got sucked in.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


It was early in the morning. The moon still hung pale in the gray sky even as the thin, rose-colored rim of the dawn began to spread in the east. The world was metallic and cold. My feet felt wooden as I walked, and my fingers ached as I fished my keys out of my pocket. Then I opened the door, and descended the stairs into the warm apartment below.

Under the weight of the blankets her feet slid across to find mine. She gave to me of her warmth, and took of me my cold.  The transaction spoke to me of love...true-hearted, pure and simple.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

A man came walking across the weedy fringes of the woods at the edge of town. From the barber chair I watched him emerge from the woods and stride across the railroad tracks and then turn down Catherine Street before doubling back and crossing Lake Street. He walked aimlessly but alert like one who is looking for something, but is either not sure exactly what or was not sure where it might be found. He had on his face a certain look which inspired kindly strangers to say things like, "You look lost, can I help?," and which inspired the less kindly to avoid him altogether.

"Do you know that fella?," asked the barber

"No," I said, "You?"

"No. He looks lost though."

"Yeah, maybe he's looking for something."

"...or somebody," said the barber.

Monday, November 25, 2013

TATE KIDS (bonus)

 One afternoon we stopped by Lake Palestine and we let the kids jump in and cool off. Only afterward did we learn that even the locals advise against jumping into this body of water because "It's just nasty" and "There's a lot of gators in there." Nobody died so no harm no foul I suppose.


In this week's installment I invite you to come dine with the kids at Lake City's Fu King Chinese Restaurant and around our breakfast table. Then join them for the craft portion of a children's event at the church where they made turkey hats.

 "Italian Captains are cowards! He should be shot!" written next to the urinal in the bathroom of the Fu King Chinese Restaurant.

The kids made turkey hats, and then all the adults stayed in one part of the church while the kids went and hid throughout the church. The adults were the farmers and the kids were the turkeys. None of them escaped, but one little boy managed to stay hidden longer than the others because he managed to wiggle into the little cubby under the pulpit.

Miles refused to make or wear a turkey hat, explaining "I'm not a turkey. I'm Miles, and that isn't even fun or cool or fun or anything!" Well-played, Miles, well-played. (That one's trouble)

Sunday, November 17, 2013


1. I wish pine needles were edible, no, more than that, I wish they were delicious! For all I know they may be edible according to the strictest definition of the word. I imagine that the flavor of a green candied pine needle would be tart like lemon or rhubarb but also fresh like basil.

2. I have always thought I would enjoy writing for the J. Peterman catalog.

3. If I had loads of  cash, and I mean enough to be a little eccentric, I would, among other things, create a line of hard candies to sell in museum gift stores that closely resembled famous statues- only in miniature of course. They would be very tastefully done...very classy.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


A quick tour of the Lulu Advent Church

A lot of you have asked what the church here in Lulu looks like so I wanted to give you a quick tour. To watch the tour on Youtube click on THIS LINK. I'm sorry it's so shaky. I hope watching doesn't make you nauseous. Maybe if you shake your head as you watch it'll all even out.

Sunday, November 3, 2013


When I was a kid I loved to come home from a night of Trick-or-Treating and organize all of my candy on my bed. Candy bars in one row, lollipops in another and so on. I also liked to stick my face into all that candy and breathe in the smell. All of those confections mixed together within the plastic confines of my Jack-o-Lantern bucket to create an odor that was nothing short of intoxicating. It's the smell of Halloween.

When I was a kid I remember one Halloween season when my Mom became frustrated with me because I was eating my candy at an irresponsible rate. I was 8! What do you expect? She threatened to take my candy and give it to the homeless people at Fort Totten, which was a local train station where the homeless congregated, if I didn't stop sneaking candy. I became so concerned after she made that threat that I went up to my room, closed the door and ate every single last piece of candy. All in one sitting! It was disgusting, but with grim resolve I saw the thing through. I reasoned, "Those homeless people aren't getting any of my candy!" I was a rotten kid.

Few children are ready for the responsibility of being entrusted with that much candy. My kids ate more candy on the evening of Halloween than they were permitted to eat for months and months prior, and they still had a big bucket of the stuff to lust after in the days that followed.

The question on most parent's minds when November 1st dawns is, "What are we gonna do with all of that candy?" After all, it's enough candy to choke a horse. The most pressing reason to dispose of all that candy are the incessant requests from the kids to look at, gaze upon, trade, and have a piece of their candy.

Their greed filled the bucket, and believe it or not you can use that same powerful force to empty it.

This was Sarah's idea, not mine, but I thought it was such a good idea that I wanted to share it with you all. Today, when the kids came and asked us if they could have a piece of their Halloween Candy, Sarah said that they could have a piece whenever they wanted, but they also had to give Mom and Dad a piece of their choice each time.  So for every piece of candy the kids ate they had to give away two. I could see their little wheels turning. Is eating this Reece's Peanut Butter Cup worth giving up a tootsie roll and a Dum-Dum? Pretty soon, we had a big bowl filled on top of the entertainment center (out of sight and hopefully out of mind) and the kid's buckets were mostly empty. Some candy they are holding back for dessert when they can eat a piece of candy without penalty. That's great. It disposes of the candy problem while giving a lesson in economics. Brilliant!


 I think I was the only one who wanted to go to the Alamo. My poor, road-weary Bowden had a MAJOR meltdown as we approached these hallowed gates, and getting him to appear in this photo at all (look at Sarah's left-hand shoulder) was something close to miraculous. As you can see, Miles and Jack are also protesting the photo. Only Sarah and Lucy refused to join the mutiny although they were also less than enthused about touring the Alamo. They're gamers.

Well at least now we can remember the Alamo.
 Did you know a Vermonter, Miles DeForest Andross, died at the Alamo?
 New Orleans.

 This homeless man spent his days fishing coins out of the fountain to give to children so they could throw them back into the fountain. All the while he had a little grin on his face. Were he not so obviously deranged I would have appreciated him finding such a novel niche in life. His life's mission to supply passersby with coins to toss into the fountain struck me as more worthy than some I have encountered, but still I didn't trust him. The kids loved him.

 Although the place reeked of urine and there were throngs of drunken revelers even at midday there was much to like about New Orleans. There's no other place like it really.