Last night, Sarah and I went to Bottoms Up Pizza in the Shockhoe Slip area of downtown Richmond for something called “Spiritual Shots.” It is a forum for people to discuss matters of faith in a bar setting. Run by a Christian organization, Spiritual Shots features interesting topics each month such as “Suffering”, “Sex”, “Hell”, “Science and the Bible”, etc. The speaker is a local pastor (there are two that usually rotate back and forth) and they get 30 minutes at the mic with the topic. Then, the floor is completely open to questions, challenges, debating, and dialogue. Though many Christians come, there are also people who are not Christians and I’ll just say that sometimes, the discussions get pretty lively. Meanwhile, everyone is treated to complimentary pizza and water (you can purchase drinks and food for yourself at the bar beyond the complimentary stuff). If someone feels uncomfortable asking a question in front of everyone, then they can jot it down on cards provided and turn it in at the end. The speaker will then follow up with those questions via e-mail. The topic last night was about suffering. The issue discussed was the atheist claim that so much injustice and violence has been done in the name of religion. Instead of writing about it here, I’ll let you listen yourself. You can hear some of the messages (not the Q/A afterwards, unfortunately) at the following website: http://www.spiritualshots.com/spiritual_shots.html#audio
This is a repeat of my response to this immensely networked question on Facebook.
1. A perpetual habit I have is running my fingernails through the seams and edges of blankets, clothing, and sheets of paper. I certainly got this habit from my childhood, when I naturally did the exact same thing with my precious “blankie.”
2. I have spent the night in a homeless shelter.
3. I have never been skiing, even though my wife is from Denver, Colorado.
4. I have been working on Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables for over two years – and I’m only halfway through it!
5. My blood type is B positive. I always thought of myself as an optimistic person.
6. My wife and I do not own a TV, which caught the door-to-door cable saleswoman off guard when she came by last year.
7. Speaking of door-to-door salespeople, I used to be one.
8. I’m in the process of collecting all the state quarters (from both mints). I’m only missing three from the Philadelphia mint and a handful from the Denver mint.
9. I am currently reading through John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion – and loving it (despite being a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary).
10. Since the day I got my driver’s license 12 years ago, I have never gotten a moving violation of any sort.
11. I’m allergic to cheese, but I love pizza.
12. I am a chainsaw juggler.
13. When I was first dating Sarah, we were in different states for a summer, and I mailed her a handwritten letter every day of the summer except for one day. Her responses were not quite as frequent, but she still ended up marrying me.
14. I once got Sarah a clothes-drying racks as a Christmas present. I quickly learned that such practical gifts are not her type for Christmas and moved on to more sentimental things.
15. I have never broken a bone in my body.
16. I am left-handed, along with Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton, and Obama.
17. I would rather spend 45 minutes alone in a room with 1,000 elementary schoolers than with 10 “too-cool-for-school” teenagers.
18. As I write this, my wife is feeding me freshly cut grapefruit.
19. I am very picky when it comes to board games and card games. I tend to like ones that require more strategy and less chance.
20. I am a lifelong Mac user.
21. When I played little league baseball, I once played on a team with some players that had just returned from the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA.
22. I have lived for at least 3 months in 8 different states (MA, RI, PA, VA, IN, KY, OH, TX). The year 2008 was the first year in a decade where I resided in only one state for the whole year (that made state taxes much more simple).
23. When I lived in Israel, I got to attend a Shabbat Dinner, a Ramadan meal (after sundown, of course), and help out with a Christian food charity.
24. I sometimes call my sister Sarah and my wife Rachael (it’s really the other way around).
25. My wife sometimes calls me Josh and her brother Jesse.
This morning, I experienced a “Wow” moment after reading a story in the Bible. Here I am, 27 years old, just graduated from seminary, the son of a pastor, currently serving in ministry – and I read a Bible story about which I was totally unfamiliar. I’m in Children’s Ministry, so I am used to teaching kids the stories of David v. Goliath, Abraham and Isaac, Jesus and his parables, etc. But I think kids could get into a story about a guy riding a donkey who gets mauled by a lion and then the lion just stands there over the dead body without doing anything to the donkey. The fate of this unnamed man was brought upon the Lord because he was a prophet who disobeyed the Word of the Lord. This story is found in 1 Kings 13. We have two prophets – one is called an “old prophet” and the other is called a “man of God.” The “man of God” from the Southern Kingdom hears the Word of the Lord to go across the border of the Divided Kingdom and tell Jeroboam, the king of the Northern Kingdom, some bad news about God’s judgement against his wickedness. Meanwhile, this “man of God” was told by the Lord not to eat anything while he was in enemy territory.
Of course, the inevitable happens: the “man of God” is stopped by an “old prophet” from the Northern Kingdom who invites him over for some food. The “old prophet” tells the “man of God” that God said that he should come over and eat (which was a lie). The “man of God” obeys the lie and eats with the “old prophet.” The punishment for disobeying the Lord was death by lion attack. And the man’s donkey just stood by the lion after the killing.
“Wow.” How cool is it to find new and exciting stories (at least to me) in the Bible. There is a reason for every word in this Holy Book. And this is one stop along the way of the narrative of the Kings of Israel (including the time of the Divided Kingdom after Solomon and before the Babylonian captivity). One moral of the story is: listen to the voice of God and stick to it even if someone tries to tell you otherwise (even if they say, “God says so”). Perhaps this will be woven into a lesson for kids. They like animals. And the boys really like it when lions are involved.