Weekend Photo Challenge: Home(screens) [a quick Android vs. Apple]

This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge theme is “Home“. Tomorrow, I’ll have a serious post on this topic but, for the weekend, I wanted to put up this fun one. Beware: people are passionate about this topic.

For my new job, I’ve been given an iPhone. The generosity of my company is wonderful, but an added benefit is that I get to compare this iPhone with my much-beloved Android phone.

Even after a week of having to spend most of my day on the iPhone, I can safely say I strongly prefer the Android. (I put up a little Facebook status to this effect and it started an amusing comment war amongst a few fanboys that I thought was pretty funny.)

At the end of the day, I know this discussion is all about personal preference and is not an objective argument. But I just wanted to post these pictures up of my two phone homescreens and ask one question:
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Nature shows us the Resurrection

As part of my own personal devotions, I use A Year with the Church Fathers by Mike Aquilina (also a free Android App–Google FTW!). In it, he offers a little introductory summary, followed by some words by a church father, and then ends with a question to meditate upon and a concluding prayer.

This one struck me yesterday, as doubt in the Resurrection is something I struggle with a lot. Thank God we live and grow and struggle in such a long, continual stream of godly men and women having walked before us. We stand on the shoulders of giants, to be sure. I hope this encourages you as well.
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What’s With All the Instagram Shots of Your Lunch?

“Food is everything”, says my friend Ben, an organic farmer who runs a small vegetable stand at Lancaster’s Central Market. Each generation pushes back on the one that came before it, often a reaction against cultural norms that seem to be inherently evil. One of those such current ideas comes as a blowback in how we produce and consume food. Since WWII, our food supply has been mass-produced and mass-processed, often putting in it more preservatives than nutrition. In recent years, organic farming has blossomed (in part) as a reaction against the greed, industrialization and lack of nutrition of America’s food supply. At Ben’s market stand, a small sign reads something like “out of the ground comes nutrition for our food”.

There’s certainly something deeper to this little sign whether he knows it or not.

“Man is what he eats”, writes Alexander Schmemann. All of life is sacramental, and therefore, Eucharistic. He continues, “Man must eat in order to live. He must take the world into his body and transform it into himself; into flesh and blood.” In the same way, at the celebration of the Eucharist, the very flesh and blood of Christ come to man. Man eats it and in this most revered element of Christian worship, he ascends to heaven with Christ, receives the Kingdom of God, and takes it with him back into the world. Eating is sacred business in the Christian economy and without it, the Kingdom of Heaven does not come to the world. Schmemann even goes so far as to say that all food leads us to Christ.

Meals in community are sacred. They have been for most all peoples for all time.  There is something deep within the heart of humankind that knows this. There is a longing for communion and companionship over any meal we eat. But alas, our culture does not work this way. We are hurried to and fro and are lucky to grab something at a café or in a drive thru or whatever quick meal we can get out of the way to get on with the more important things of life. But, even in our hurried state, we stop and take the time to photograph our food and post it for all to see – our new “social” community – facebook or instagram. What we miss by eating alone so often, we try to reacquire via our mobile technology. Our souls crave the sacred meal together, yet, for whatever reason we make little effort to make this a primary part of our lives. We want others to share in our experience and the best way we can get them to do that is to post our square images  of eggs in a frying pan or the coffee we got on the way to a meeting on our own little online kingdom.

Each Sunday, as we partake of the Eucharist, we ascend with Christ into his Kingdom for the good of his world. In the same way, let us strive to make our daily meals a little more sacramental; a little more Eucharistic, even.

Epiphany: a great time to talk Magi & biblical errancy

advent-nativity-icon This Church season of Epiphany primarily celebrates the coming of the wise men to see the young Jesus. Now think of the popular conceptions of the “wise men”. I imagine the picture that comes to mind is much like the one above: a quaint manger, farm animals, some shepherds, and the three wise men, presenting their gifts to the newborn Jesus.

I’m not sure how many of us know how wrong this is.

The wise men did not visit Jesus in the manger, their paths did not cross at all with the shepherds (that we know of), and, contrary to some of the most well-engrained church and musical traditions, their number is not given–“three” is just a guess. This guess is probably based on the fact that three gifts were offered (though the 6th-century Armenian Infancy Gospel, the source of the Western tradition of the wise men’s names and ethnicities, lists far more than just three gifts). The Eastern Church tradition even says it was twelve.

And yet, for over a thousand years, on into the present day, these traditions concerning the Wise Men have persisted. We know the sources of these traditions, we know when they became popularized, and we know how they’ve been used in Christian preaching and church life through the centuries. Every Advent season, even the most cursory drive in the suburbs will offer nativity scenes peppered with three wise men adoring the manger-laden Christ.

This reminded me of Jannes and Jambres.
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Advent, Evolution, & Absolution [RE-POST]

Today, I’m re-posting a piece I wrote exactly a year ago for last year‘s Advent series. During this year‘s, we’re seeing how the Advent event affects parts of our lives that we usually don’t associate with it. Today, it’s Advent and Evolution. You can follow the series here.

It’s Advent. A time where we especially orient ourselves towards rejoicing and celebrating the fact that God did not remain far off and merely create a “legal” or “dogmatic” satisfaction for the plight of his creation and creatures. Rather, he broke into it and came into his creation and among his creatures. In this year’s Advent series, we’re exploring how, in this Coming, Jesus took on our creaturely formcare-taking functioncomprehensive fallenness, and communal formation.

First, God took physical, human, creaturely form. In the study I did–and subsequent lecture I gave–on Beauty a couple of years ago, I defined “Beauty” as the attribute of something that expressed complexity simply. Is not this God-in-human-flesh (theologically referred to as the Incarnation) the most beautiful of all miracles to take place? The Infinitely Complex God inhabits the simplest of human forms: a child.

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for your soul, unplug. [casual fri]

This weekend, I’m going to go to New York. For the first time in a long time, I won’t be bringing my computer on a trip. I had no idea how tethered I was to this thing until I felt the thrill shudder through me at the thought of having a weekend with just a moleskine, my new (real) book, a Kindle, and a phone (hey, I can’t completely unplug in New York, right?).

About a year-and-a-half ago I read Tim Challie’s The Next Story about a Christian perspective on the digital explosion. He explored: How do we embrace technology rightly? How do we tend to do it wrongly? What are some temptations inherent in technology? How might we act to not let technology consume us? How do we maintain our humanity and community in the midst of it? What is a “theology” of technology?
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Foreign Policy Debate: this is what Obama is doing around the world in our name

Here’s an article from Daily Mail about some legal challenges brought against American military officials for their drone activity in Pakistan. One key stat:

American Drone activities just in Pakistan have been confirmed to have killed 881 civilians, but only 41 terrorists.

Some things to notice about that statistic: (1) this is only from Pakistan. We’ve also been doing drone strikes in both Yemen and Afghanistan (and probably Libya here soon), with even more atrocious effects (especially in Yemen); (2) there were a few thousand total deaths, but these were the only absolutely beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt confirmed “statuses” of the victims–the number of civilians is probably still higher; and (3) these are only deaths due to drone strikes. In Iraq and elsewhere, many additional civilian deaths have come about through other means.

For all my “I’m going to vote for Obama because of social justice issues”. Take note: if you add these numbers to the other civilian death numbers in other countries, Obama’s policies have killed far more impoverished people around the world than he has helped here (and he got the Nobel Peace prize!).

This story came out two days ago, and I can’t find a single reference to this information in any other major American news outlet (a friend on Facebook said he heard something on NPR a couple of months ago, though I think he was referring to a different special report they had done). This is what makes our reputation in the world, this is what creates new terrorists–not “our freedoms”, and this is what will define our history–not tax law. And so, for all those criticizing me for voting third-party: yes, yes. Let’s try and change things through the existing political parties. We have plenty of time. I’m sure the rest of the world (including these victims’ families) will be fine with us waiting. (More debate-prep here)

In other news, unmanned aerial drones are now surveilling Americans around the country. How long before they’re armed? Yeah, we’ve got plenty of time to try and choose between two guys who both support this.

Can no politician do enough to lose your vote?

the order of the cosmos; the chaos of our souls [QUOTE]

We have been to the moon, we have charted the depths of the ocean and the heart of the atoms, but we have a fear of looking inward to ourselves because we sense that is where all the contradictions flow together.

Terence McKenna

This is why, I feel, that Order had to take on Disorder, and order it within Himself: so that all things, though still in chaos, might find their rest in Him.

Join us this Saturday to see the Dead Sea Scrolls!

As part of the Bible Survey Class I’ve been teaching at my church, I’ll be leading a tour of the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at The Franklin Institute here in Philadelphia (map).  We will be meeting at 4:30pm this Saturday, July 28th in the main hall just inside the main entrance (you can get into that hall without buying a ticket). I’ll have some introductory words to set up our time, and then we’ll go to the exhibit where we’ll stop a few more times for some added information.

Also, Living Social is selling discounted tickets to the exhibit all this week (the usual evening price is $19.50). So even if you can’t go this week, still buy the tickets and go another time. It’s an amazing exhibit and will be here until mid-October. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at burkhartpm [AT] gmail [DOT] com.

P.S. the trip to the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology has been moved to a week later than originally scheduled, to the 25th of August.

Unethical Plants vs. Unethical Animals: what to eat? [OPEN MIC]

So, I have this friend…

He loves documentaries and whenever he find one that is particularly informative, he tells us about it.

If I remember correctly, he may have been the first person from whom I heard about Food, Inc. which challenged our sensibilities about where our food comes from, and the whole notion of factory farming. I was now aware. I started hating Monsanto seed company with everyone else, buying organic food items, and buying my meat at a local farm, even though it was an hour drive and the meat was crazy expensive (I eventually gave this last part up, although I still try to be somewhat conscious at the store)

Then, I heard about King Corn and saw talks like this one and became all the more sure I should stay away from non-organic food purchases and try to cook more. My emphasis became “real” food and ethically grown crops.
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On “Real” Food: a TED Talk everyone should watch

This is a recent TED Talk given by Robyn O’Brien, the author of The Unhealthy Truth: How Our Food Is Making Us Sick – And What We Can Do About It. It’s on food. She makes a pretty compelling case for the “Real Food” movement, encouraging us to move towards “knowing” our food once again–it’s source, it’s farming method, and it’s distribution.

Now, this whole local, organic thing is a pretty big fad right now (and I’m as guilty as any for being an evangelist for it–even though I’m also a weak practitioner), but O’Brien’s perspective is different. She is a former Wall Street analyst, and so she spends her time not trying to belittle or demonize businesses who have a legal responsibility to maximize profits for their shareholders. Nor does she try and show how this perspective on food is inherently “better” or more “ethical” or “moral” (even though I might think so).

Instead, she shows how our current food system is–literally–killing us. There’s no sensationalism. No partisan backhands. No sarcasm. No exaggeration or twisting of facts; just a simple telling of her story of transition from a “normal” mom to her views today.

Ultimately, she shows how changing our food system could actually be best for our nation, both economically and politically.

On a personal note: I applaud this video, and yet I still find myself not following its suggestions (even as I’ve watched and read similarly-minded “exposes“, books, and documentaries). Nothing has been enough yet to actually change my habits. My main concern isn’t necessarily money or sourcing. Rather, it’s time. It takes time to plan, shop, and cook with intentionality and thought (or so I think).

I’m sure many of the readers of this blog will agree with the principles laid out in this video. If so, I want to hear from you. No. Actually, I need to hear from you. I need help in this. What’s your story? Do you follow these principles, even a little bit? What has worked? What hasn’t? Any tips for a time-bound (and probbably, more realistically, just lazy) twenty-something looking to reform his eating habits? Sound off below.

Untappd: Beer lovers unite! [casual fri]

Today, as people embark on the weekend, I want to plug an amazing app that has made beer a little more fun for me, and I’m confident it’d be even more fun if more of my friends were on it.

It’s called Untappd. [Website] [Android] [iTunes]

It’s fairly straightforward. When enjoying a beer, simply open the app (or the web app for you Blackberry or Palm users), search for your beer, and “check-in” to it. At the bare minimum, this is it. But there’s much more you can do, if you like.

  • Share your beer check-in on Facebook and Twitter as well, so your friends there can comment on your beer taste and such.
  • Check-in on Foursquare wherever you’re enjoying the beer, so others can keep track of what bars have what beer available.
  • Add tasting notes, reviews, and ratings along with your beer check-in so you can keep track of what you like and what you don’t. You the app will also keep a running list of your highest rated beers.
  • Get full profiles for each beer and see where else in the world people are drinking that beer.
  • The app will suggest other beers that taste similar.
  • You can “follow” breweries to see what other beers they make, what new beers are coming out, and where you can find their beers.
  • Add pictures to the check-in. This can sometimes lead to fun contests.
  • You can keep a running Wishlist of beers you want to try.
  • And.. you can get badges. If that’s your thing.

So go download the app, make an account, follow me, and start drinking!

READ THIS BOOK: “Genesis For Normal People” by Peter Enns & Jared Byas

A theologian whom I respect and a professor with whom I went to seminary have teamed up to offer a really great book on the first book of the Bible. Genesis for Normal People: A Guide to the Most Controversial, Misunderstood, and Abused Book of the Bible is a walk-through of Genesis following its themes and history. They open with these words:

Genesis is an ancient story. This may sound like an obvious or even patronizing way to begin. Of course it’s an ancient story. But once we look at what this means, that short phrase might be the most important thing to remember about Genesis. It will guide the rest of this book, showing us how to approach Genesis and what we should expect from it.

For many, the opening book of the Bible is a little confusing. It reads strangely, it doesn’t “sound” like any other book of the Bible, and, as Christians, we don’t know why we would even want to read it (except maybe for the first few chapters, but even those have a bunch of problems of their own).

Ever wondered what a sane, intelligent, and faithful understanding of Genesis would be in light of the findings of science or history? Ever pondered what the relationship between Adam and Darwin might look like? Have you ever been confused by a random history channel special that cast doubt on some of the stuff in Genesis? Ever tried to read the darn book only to only to ask yourself why you started to in the first place? Do you want to know how it connects to the rest of the Bible? Would you want all this talked about and explained in everyday terms with little prior biblical or theological knowledge needed?

Well, this is the book for you. (If you’re still skeptical, you can read a wonderfully comprehensive review of the book here.)

A quick note for any atheists or skeptics that find themselves reading this: this book is also for you. As a champion of (what I feel are) “not crazy” ways of reading Genesis, I have received a lot of pushback from atheists over the years who try and argue that the only true and faithful ways to read the book are in those (what I feel are) “crazy” ways. They try and say that if you “accommodate” the difficulties in Genesis away, you no longer have the faith you were trying to defend in the first place, and so you might as well abandon the whole enterprise. I challenge you to read this book and walk away feeling the same way.


As far as obtaining the book, I have good news, and I have bad news:

Good News: it’s only $1.99 (for a limited time, then it will go up to $4.99)

Bad News: at least for now, it’s only available for Kindle E-Readers.

The Good News about the Bad News: you can download free apps on your computer, phone, or tablet to read the book anyway. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center showed that computers were the most popular device to read an ebook on; not a phone, tablet, or even a Kindle. So….you have no excuse.

did i miss the “don’t plug in your phone” memo?

Update: I’ve written a comment below responding to some questions and clarifying my point a little. Thanks for the feedback, everyone!

Am I missing something?

I consider myself a pretty respectful and courteous guy, especially to strangers and their businesses.

In my job, I find myself all over the city, and quite often in the lobbies of various doctors and city governmental agencies. Because I’m on the road, my phone is my main connection to the rest of the world (to varying degrees of success. To those that I’ve never returned your emails, I’m sorry, it’s easy for me to lose sight of things when I only have my phone to email with), so it runs out of battery pretty easily (I am, what the marketers call, a “power user”).

And so I try and plug in my phone wherever I can, whenever I can.

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if you’re a church-going, coffee shop-visiting Philadelphian, watch your phone [casual friday]

Lookout Mobile Security recently released a study in which it analyzed where people most often lost their cell phones. Lookout has a suite of resources that you can activate if you think you’ve lost your phone. They took this data and analyzed it to see where people most often activate this feature.

  • The number one American city where people lost their phones? Philadelphia
  • The number one place people lose them? Coffee shops
  • The third most likely place Philadelphians lose them? Church

In other words, I’m screwed.

P.S. I’m fully aware that it is Saturday. Shut it.

[Story found via Mashable]