The Gospel According to The Avett Brothers #3 (of 4)

Here is talk three (of four) in our series, “The Gospel According to the Avett Brothers.”

We will meet for talk four on Wednesday evening at 7:30 PM at First Presbyterian Church in Greensboro. This will be the final meeting of our series, and if you’re local we’d love for you to come join us.

Meanwhile, here is a link to an audio version of the talk.

Here is a list of references from the talk:

Apology by Plato
Philosophical Fragments by Soren Kierkegaard
The Big Kahuna (starring Danny DeVito and Kevin Spacey)
“All I Really Want” by Alanis Morissette
‘Til We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
“Shame” by the Avett Brothers
A Confession by Leo Tolstoy
“Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen
Hebrews 11:6
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
The Great God Brown by Eugene O’Neill
“Fix You” by Coldplay

The Gospel According to The Avett Brothers (Talk 2 of 4)

Here is the link to talk two (of four) in our series, “The Gospel According to the Avett Brothers.”

We will meet again for talk 3 on this Wednesday, June 19th, at 7:30 PM at First Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, NC. We’d love to have you join us.

Meanwhile, here is a link to the audio version of the talk:

Below are the references used in this week’s talk:

“The Perfect Space” by The Avett Brothers
Matthew 25:14-30
The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis
Symposium by Plato
Genesis 1:27
The Reason For God by Time Keller
Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
“All By Myself” by Eric Carmen
“And It Spread” by The Avett Brothers
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
John 15:10-12
John 10:10
“The Scientist” by Coldplay


The Gospel According to The Avett Brothers (Talk 1 of 4)

Above is the first of four talks in a series I’m hosting called “The Gospel According to the Avett Brothers.”

This series meets each Wednesday in June at 7:30 PM in Memorial Chapel at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Greensboro, NC. If you are local, we’d love to have you come join us.

Meanwhile, here is a link to an audio version of the talk.

Below is a list of references from the talk. This list is included at the end of the video, as well.

“As The Ruin  Falls” by C.S. Lewis

1 John 4:8

Luke 9: 23-25

“Ill With Want” by The Avett Brothers

Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“Down With The Shine” by The Avett Brothers

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

The Reason For God by Tim Keller

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

“Sigh No More” by Mumford and Son

Galatians 5:22-23


June Series: “The Gospel According to the Avett Brothers”

This June I will be presenting a four-week series on Wednesday evenings at 7:30 P.M. called “The Gospel According to the Avett Brothers” at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Greensboro.

The series will use references from classic literature, contemporary film, Avett Brothers (and other) music, and the Bible to examine spiritual truths about who God is, who we are, what it means to be in relationship with God, and why it all matters in the first place.

Now, I certainly don’t claim to have all of the answers to these questions. Instead, I’m just hoping to open a discussion about them, and I feel like exploring the philosophical, theological, and spiritual dimensions of the Avett Brothers’ music is a wonderful entry point to begin such a discussion.

After the event, the group will move across the street to Fisher’s Bar and Grille and The Corner Slice to enjoy food, drink, and further fellowship together. If you’re local and interested, I’d love for you to come out and join us!

* These will be very casual evenings, so feel free to arrive in street clothes, pool attire, gym attire, etc.

** Kid Care will be provided for children up to age 12.  If you want to take advantage of this service, it would be helpful for the staff if you could email me at and give me the number of children you’ll be dropping off. This helps the church know how many child care providers to have on hand. The service will still be available for you if you bring a child unannounced, but if at all possible, the church would really appreciate the advance notice.

The Gift of Goat

Some fifteen years ago my aunt and uncle gave me the gift of goat for Christmas.

Let me rephrase: They didn’t give me an actual goat, but they donated a goat—in my honor—to a village in a third world country.

At fifteen, I was less than pleased. The plight of starving children and the needs of indigent humans around the globe was far too serious and far too abstract for my selfish teenage brain to wrap itself around.

Today, though, I find myself in the ironic position of wanting to buy goats, mosquito nets, and other items as Christmas gifts in honor of my own family members. This causes me to look back on my selfishness at fifteen and see how blind I was to the idea of grace, how blind I was to the beauty and significance of my aunt and uncle’s gift.

I bring all of this up because of the new web/television show I mentioned last week called Missions in Action. And while, yes, I am a creative producer on the show and helped develop it from its inception, the reason I signed on to the project was because of how inspiring the mission was: to bring the camera into pockets of the world where unsung missionary and humanitarian organizations are doing amazing work.

In our first phone call together the show’s producers told me that they wanted to show the world what the face of selflessness looks like and to, in the process, show people exactly what their gifts and donations go to and accomplish when contributing to a missionary and/or humanitarian nonprofit.

In this first season, Missions in Action is teamed up with four nonprofit aid organizations: Compassion International, WorldVision, ChildFund, and the Mocha Club.

Just five days ago the show’s first episode went live and featured host Alex Boylan meeting families in the Philippines whose lives are turned upside down each year because of the epic flooding that takes place in the area.

The second episode—a new episode launches every two days—which is also based in the Philippines features a twenty-two year old Philippine girl named Maan and traces her fifteen year trajectory through the Compassion program: the five sponsors who helped her along the way; the education she received through the program; the hope she found in Jesus; the way she is currently finishing college and hopes to work as a Project Director for Compassion so as to help other kids like herself rise above their disadvantages.

Watching organizations like Compassion impact people’s lives is showing me how important it is that, as human beings, we realize that we are all connected and that we must do whatever we can to lift others in their time of need and provide hope for their future.

In other words, watching these first episodes of Missions in Action has reminded me that there is but One Love and that we are to, as Bono says, carry each other.

In that spirit, this Christmas I will be doing what I can to help, and I hope that my teenage cousins won’t be too distraught when they see how I’m choosing to do it. But then again, who knows… perhaps they are far more mature and selfless than I was at fifteen.

Perhaps they may think it wonderful when they find out they’ve just donated goats to villages in need.  

To learn more about organizations like Compassion and WorldVision and to follow along on Alex’s journey, go to You can chat with him on twitter at @missionstv and interact with him on Facebook at twenty-four hours a day. Who knows, maybe his journey will inspire you to give the gift of goat this holiday season.

Watch Episode One:

Watch Episode Two:


A Sobering Story

When I and three friends were being recruited by Liberty University for soccer and went up to the school on our official recruiting visit, our hosts took us to dinner and then to a train track that runs over the James River in Lynchburg.

We were told that the spot was a favorite of Liberty students because the setting resembles that of the train scene from Stand By Me. Students like the thrill of walking out on the bridge, daring one another to go a little farther.

I know; I was one of them.

Counting that recruiting trip, I figure I went out to that spot at least twelve times in the three years I lived in Lynchburg.

I tell you all of this because on Friday, on my way home from work, I heard a quick report on news radio that one Liberty University student had died the night before by being hit by a train. The report explained that one other student was in critical condition, having jumped some 100 feet to avoid being hit. Then, the report said that two students left the scene unscathed by jumping to nearby pilings and one remained safe by hanging below the tracks.

While listening to the reports it was eerie to be able to visualize the exact spot where this tragedy happened, to be able to surmise what likely took place: that these students were getting a thrill from seeing just how far out on the bridge they could walk; that suddenly a train appeared in the distance and it occurred to them in a flash that they were too far out to make it; that two of them were fast enough to reach a place where, when they jumped to the pilings, they were close enough to the tunnel that the leap was not a long distance; the way one of them– in the same way my buddies and I always said we would do if a train were to come– slipped below the tracks and hung for safety until the train disappeared; the way one knew she wasn’t going to have a chance of making it back to safety and knew that jumping 100 feet gave her a better shot of surviving than did being hit by a train; the way that last poor girl, with only a split second to make a decision, knew she wasn’t going to make it to safety, feared jumping to the darkness below, and, likely, just before that train came upon her and took her home, watched her life pass before her eyes and, at 18, asked herself, why did I choose to do this?

I say all of this because, thinking about this tragedy this weekend, I have been unable to escape a single thought: it could have easily been me.

I wandered out on that bridge– a good distance– several times. Each time, I and my friends laughed and joked about how scary it would be and what we would do if a train came. It never did, and we were lucky.

But I think all of this speaks to our belief as people– especially as teenagers and young adults– that we are immortal. That nothing bad can happen to us.

I feel blessed that I escaped unscathed from many poor situations in which I put myself in my past, and I feel terrible for the family of this young Liberty student who, just like I, was only looking to have a little fun and excitement. May God bless them in this of mourning, and may we all counsel and encourage the teens and young adults in our lives about how precious, tenuous, and fleeting our lives are, and how we should go to lengths to protect it, not to encourage its danger.

The young lady’s name was Hannah Williams, and here is the article about the tragedy from the Lynchburg News & Advance.


Thursday’s Top 5 List: Memoirs


Since I am on my current presidential biography kick, I thought I’d use this week’s top 5 list to reflect on the memoirs that I’ve found most enjoyable over the years.

Prior to now, I have not read many biographies or autobiographies; instead, my only forays into (auto)biographical reading have been through memoirs.

The list I’m compiling below reflects only secular memoirs– in other words, I’m purposely excluding spiritual memoirs (because I’ve essentially listed my favorite spiritual memoirs in a previous Top 5 post on Favorite Christian/Spiritual Writers).


  1. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
  2. The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer
  3. Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood by Koren Zailckas
  4. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (I’m considering this collection of humorous essays to be memoir)
  5. Killing Yourself to Live by Chuck Klosterman

Good Presidential Biographies

I have never been a history buff.

However, I recently picked up Ron Cherow’s biography on George Washington Washington: A Life and I have been loving it. Not only is his writing exquisite (really, it’s extraordinary), but the story of Washington’s life is fascinating, as well.

This has me interested in beginning a new endeavor: reading– in order– a biography on all 44 presidents.

However, as I have no background in this genre, I turn to you: do you have any presidential biographies you’d recommend as being the definitive work on any particular figure?

Thursday’s Top 5 List: Favorite “Classic” Novelists



Because I used yesterday’s post as a plug for my new show, Missions in Action, I missed the weekly “Thursday’s Top 5.” Therefore, it is sliding in to the Friday slot today.

Today’s topic is favorite “classic” novelists. Which is a very difficult list for me to compile. However, after considerable thought, here is what I’ve come up with.



  1. John Steinbeck
  2. Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  3. Fyodor Dostoevsky
  4. William Faulkner
  5. Harper Lee (granted, she only wrote one book; however, that one book is possibly the greatest American novel ever written)

Created on a different day, this list could admittedly look completely different. That said, who did I miss?


Missions in Action


Next Wednesday (11/16) will see the launch of a web/television series called Missions in Action I have had the privilege of helping create and produce over the past year.

The show, which is being hosted by Amazing Race Season 2 winner, Around the World For Free host, and all around good guy Alex Boylan,  is a live look at the amazing work being done by various humanitarian and missionary organizations around the globe. In following Alex’s journey you will have a direct look at how gifts, donations, and sponsorships from people like yourself are being utilized and are making an impact in the world– how they are bringing food to the hungry, hope to the hopeless, and justice to the oppressed.

Outside of the wonderful and inspiring stories that will be captured, the beauty of the show is that you, the viewer, get to personally interact with Alex on a regular basis as he tweets, blogs, and communicates with you 24 hours a day throughout his journey. In fact, the production team with whom I’ve partnered on this project, Around the World Productions, has been a pioneer in the web/television industry, being among the first in the industry to foresee how social media and interactivity can be utilized to create a compelling television show– their flagship program Around the World For Free is the most viewed web program in history.

I could go on forever with a description of what the show will entail, but I think it is best summarized by clicking here and viewing this trailer.

Follow our journey by following Alex at @missionstv on Twitter and at the Facebook fanpage; meanwhile, keep in contact with him over at as well, where new episodes will be regularly updated several times each week.

I hope you will be as excited about this journey as I am!

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