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The straight and narrow could stand to be a bit deeper.

“Before Roberta Green and her family joined Redeemer Presbyterian Church, she had one final question. … “Is Redeemer ecumenical or sectarian?” she asked. “Because I grew up deep in the fundamentalist world where every kind of church or believer who was not in our denomination was a heretic and needed to be shunned and I don’t want to be part of a church like that again.” – story from Jim Belcher in Deep Church

sign outside of Searcy, AR

Searcy, AR

…and my personal favorite (please note intended sarcasm)

Benton, AR

I have a strong desire for a better church in my city. Will it happen? I sure hope so. But in the churches I have attended in Little Rock I have found with my theology and my beliefs it’s like I’m stuck somewhere in the middle on the traditional/emergent pendulum. My theology is too liberal for some and too conservative for others. I don’t fall in line with the “traditional evangelical” church (please forgive that label, it is awfully generic) but I also don’t line up with the “emergent” church (also very generic label). I’m somewhere in between. I’m in limbo. I live in a state of dissonance, and as such I’m without a church that strikes that final note to make it a harmonic chord with my beliefs. I’m not looking for a perfect fit, or perfect church, because as long as churches are organized and attended by men and women it will always have a little bit of discord and dissonance. And I think a little bit of dissonance can be a healthy tuning instrument. At the same time I believe there are others here in Little Rock who might feel the same way I do – they find themselves falling somewhere in between and with no church to call home.

Now, I know by saying I desire a better church, it might seem arrogant, and I can understand why it may seem that way. Why should I think my vision for what a church should look like is THE way for a church? It comes across as arrogant, but I promise that is not my intention. I believe there are good churches in Little Rock who have done alot for their attenders and for this city, but I also believe there is always room for improvement. If you believe your church is perfect, well, as I’ve learned in the south when you want to call someone a moron but use different words you say “bless your heart”, so…bless your heart. 😉

I am a voracious reader and most of the time I am reading anywhere from 6-8 books at a time. I’ve read books from both sides of the traditional/ermergent aisle – so to speak – and I can appreciate the different leanings and interpretations from both, but what I don’t get is why there’s the constant bickering and denigrating of the other’s perspectives and beliefs between the two camps. If you’re on twitter you probably know what I’m talking about. There are shots across the bow almost every day from people about different figureheads of both sides. Are we not worshipping the same God?! Some would say no, I say yes! (more on that in the next post)

But for now, I’ve started to read a book by Jim Belcher called Deep Church.

It details a conversation between John Piper and Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt and well, it just didn’t end well. Basically both sides told each other they were unfit to be a pastor.

~~~~ can we get a group hug~~~~

After almost a decade the two sides now are at loggerheads, and it seems the rift will not be healed anytime soon. – Deep Church

Yet the two sides can’t get along. They are hostile to each other, using their writings and conferences to denounce the other side. – Deep Church

…hmmm, maybe not.

So if we can’t get a group hug between the two sides…I want to find a way for myself to live more peaceably and more graciously within my traditional church (for the time being…more on that later) while I’m stuck dangling in the middle between the two.

I’m about 50 pages into the book and so far it’s been a great read. It outlines the traditional church and the emergent church and talks about why they seem diametrically opposed in matters of faith and completely unable to work together or even hold a civil conversation.

Again…are we not worshipping the same God?! Good grief people!

Over the next couple of posts I’m going to outline some of the concerns I have with the traditional church and emergent church and also offer suggestions that can make our theology more in line with how we live our lives meaningfully on earth…which is our future heaven. Wait a second…you don’t think God is going to destroy the earth we’re on now? Nope sure don’t. We need to be aware that our theology and how we interact with our culture and what we think about heaven and earth impacts how we live our lives today.

If you’re like me and find yourself stuck in the middle between the traditional and emergent churches and you’re wondering what to do about it I highly recommend checking out Deep Church by Jim Belcher. It (so far) is giving a fresh perspective of finding a balance and a deeper meaning to my faith than what is currently presented in the church I attend.

Maybe it’s time for a new church in Little Rock…a, shall we say, Deep Church. (a bit of foreshadowing perhaps? 😉

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Posted by on March 22, 2012 in culture, theology

 

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A New Civil War…Minus the Civility

It is less important to ask a Christian what he or she believes about the Bible

than it is to inquire what he or she does with it. – Lesslie Newbigin

What the hell is going on in the Christian community?!

I have friends, in real-life, (which these days seems so passé and out of touch)…so I’m going to start over and try again…how about…

I have friends I “follow on twitter and facebook” who are conservatives, liberals, moderates, progressives (not a fan of this word), fundamentalists, emergents, emergings, atheists, creationists, evolutionists, and many other political and religious categories from the whole spectrum of people-groups. It seems that recently I see so much bitching and bickering at each other within the christian community over theological differences. I’m not talking about normal disagreements – that happens when you are deciding what pizza to order. I’m talking about disparaging, nasty attacks on theologies that people hold so dear.  It seems as if when we hear somebody has a different viewpoint we go to our phones, laptops and social media outlets to say how wrong and how stupid they are, and sometimes if they’re really different and wear dark-rimmed glasses we’ll break out the heretic label and sit back and feel comfy in our piety. We seem so focused on proving how “my theology is right and your theology is wrong”.  I just don’t get it. I mean I understand (but don’t agree necessarily) about the machismo aspect in not wanting to back down from our own beliefs; and that if I said I believe it then I have to defend myself so as not to look weak, but why do we do so at the expense of embarrassing our christian brother?

 

 

If you don’t know what I’m talking about I’m referencing some of the relatively, recent comments from John Piper to Rob Bell, from creationists towards evolutionists (and vice versa), and from the litany of emergent thinkers who spit vile towards Mark Driscoll on a number of topics.

So everybody……….stop……….take a breath……….and freaking relax.  Cue Frankie.

 

 

I am very much aware that I am as guilty of these attacks, or at the very least a similar attitude, as anyone…although I try to be an equal opportunity offender and maybe someday I can get to a point where I’m much more gracious and less offensive…although that’s also a two-way street.

Maybe in time we all can learn to relax and engage in quality, respectful conversations with each other and not passive aggressively attack each other via twitter, facebook, or other electronic outlets. In other words, can we try to go out of our way not to piss each other off?

2 Timothy 1:12 – I know whom I have believed, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.”

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“Secondly, the phrase “until that day” reminds us that this is not a claim to possess final truth but to be on the way that leads to the fullness of truth. I do not possess the truth, so that I do not need to be open to new truth; rather, I am confident that the one in whom I have placed my trust, the one to whom I am committed, is able to bring me to the full grasp of what I now only partly understand.” Lesslie Newbigin, “Proper Confidence”

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Ecclesiastes 7:16 – Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself?

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“In our interpersonal relations, we would never make such a claim for our knowledge of another person. How absurd to make such a claim with respect to God!” Leslie Newbigin, “Proper Confidence”

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Isaiah 55:8, 9 – For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

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“Sometimes it (certainty) leads toe a refusal to reconsider long-held beliefs in the light of fresh reflection on the witness of Scripture.” Lesslie Newbigin “Proper Confidence”

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Galatians 4:21 Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says?

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“But we are now entering a postmodern period, a time in which the seemingly assured assumptions we have inherited from the Enlightenment are being deconstructed.” Lesslie Newbigin, “Proper Confidence”

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Lamentations 3:40 Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.

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“Hold to Christ, and for the rest be totally uncommitted.” Lesslie Newbigin “Proper Confidence”

Now, here’s the deal, over the next couple of months (I actually have no idea what the timeframe is) but I am re-dedicating myself to posting blogs on a more regular basis. I have about 10 posts that are in a final draft phase and just need a little touching up before I hit publish, and then I have about another 50 that are in the works so hopefully they’ll be up in a more consistent time-frame.

Disclaimer – I am probably going to post something that crosses the conservative or liberal limits of your theology and honestly, I quite possibly could cross both edges within the same blog-post as I often oscillate between diametrically-opposed camps on different topics. I will have some posts that will be humorous, insightful, dumb, profound, and maybe completely meaningless…to you.  I will have some posts that are in story form. Some of my posts will be solely about our culture (which is not divorced from being theological as some fundamentalists might think).  Some posts might be political. Some might be about sports. Some might just be about a new cigar I smoked, but what I ask is no matter if the topic is theological, political, cigar-ical or whatever, that you do not automatically discount what I say just because you think you disagree with me. Maybe somewhere in the post is a nugget that can help us progress forward to quality conversations, respectful discourse, and redeeming our Earth just as God has called us to do.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done ON EARTH, as it is in heaven. – Jesus

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2012 in cigars, culture, politics, sports, theology

 

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upcoming blogposts from yours truly…

I’ll be posting some thoughts on the movie “planet 51”, our all or nothing society, a conversation between a friend and I on if the Bible is absolutely everything we need, and some more on word intentionality and of course some good cigar and beer recommendations.  I just need to find some time!

First recommendation: Rocky Patel Renaissance cigar.  I had this over thanksgiving with my brother in law (he enjoyed his first ever Rocky Patel the Edge) and I must say this cigar actually can give the Edge a run for it’s money; although it is a little more expensive $12.50 vs. $8.50. It was a very smooth draw, has a little bit of spice and is just as tasty as the Edge; you could consider the difference between these two cigars as Vino’s Pale Ale to Diamond Bear’s Pale Ale – if you never have had either of those you don’t know what I’m talking about. sorry. 😉  The Renasissance has an Ecuadorian Sumata wrapper and a blend of Ecuadorian and Nicaraguan filler.  I also employed the use of my bullet cutter for the first time and I think I’m now a convert to the bullet cutter.

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2009 in culture, midrash, theology

 

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book review by Tad

I thought Tad wrote a great, brief synopsis on the book, “Why We’re Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be)” so I’ve linked to it.   Tad also touches on mis-conceptions/misunderstandings that happen when non-emergent people critiquing emergent theology and emergent people.  Labels is as labels does when it comes to emergent, but we’re confined to the system others have created with semantics.  Check it out.

Tad\’s Blog

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2009 in theology

 

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all cuddly in the ghetto

Here’s a snippet of a couple conversations with good friends on facebook recently and a possible conversation between a ‘christian’ and God. (to clarify, the possible conversation is definitely not a reflection of the people I had the actual conversations with (those friends asked me questions which I further clarified with my comments) but rather about christians in general who are firmly and staunchly planted in the christian ghetto and say repeatedly, I can’t wait to be in heaven and off of this wretched earth.)

status: Just like Christ rebuked the Pharisees, who would Christ rebuke if he were here today?…

me:  The motivation of my original status…I was reading Matthew 23 and verses 13-36 kindof stood out with those who I respect who are challenging peoples’ paradigms (mclaren, pagitt, bell, etc) but get called heretics by other christians. just my four half-pennies for the day. 🙂

friend:  Why is it a big deal that other Christians call them heretics if they bad mouth other Christians themselves?

me:  I think I phrased that poorly. They’re not challenging people directly – they’re (McLaren, Bell, etc) are writing their views on theology and sometimes it indirectly challenges conventional and fundamentalists’ views on theology. In fact, McLaren, and Bell, repeatedly say that if what they write is ‘upsetting’ to them then it’s better for the reader not to read what they write. Plus, name-calling just isn’t the best way to emulate Christ.

So what’s the point of my little rant and my friend’s honest question? Well, here’s another thread from a conversation I had with another friend at nearly the same time.

me: “I think a lot of people up until recently have primarily focused on an after-life faith and ensuring that we have a fire-insurance policy so we don’t burn as sinners in the hands of an angry God. Edwards is just one I picked on, unfairly, b/c of his famous sermon that speaks about sinners going to hell and burning forever (some would disagree with his view of hell let alone the attitude of the sermon). In the south, as you are, primarily what I hear from ‘christians’ is how non-X’s need to turn or burn. Maybe it’s me, but I don’t respond well to threats.

I think we should hold our views of hell and heaven with great respect but in addition God cares about the earth that he created, ‘your kingdom your will be done, ON EARTH as it is in heaven is often forgotten. So we need to align our focus with bringing God’s kingdom to earth. There’s a prominent sign on I-30 that says, “Warning, Prepare to Meet God.” That sign, I believe does more harm than good for God. Chris acted with love. He didn’t chastise the prostitute, nor rebuke many people other than the pharisees…who in my opinion are just like (some) modern day Christians….

yeah, that’s why I was saying I unfairly lumped Edwards in with the comment. I’ve read commentaries on the sermon, but not the actual sermon – it’s actually more that some people I come in contact with here in Little Rock that have misplaced the focus…but that’s a haughty statement for me to make b/c it makes it sound like I have it all figured out’ which I definitely don’t. 🙂 It just discourages me when people pass off culture and the earth as ‘bad’. God created it and us and loves everything in it.”

So now again, what’s the point of all of what I just copied and pasted?  I believe that sometimes we as Christians lie to ourselves (sometimes inadvertently) about what matters and try to advance ourselves to heaven and in doing so we do more to destruct God’s kingdom here on earth.  In essence we’re saying, “To hell with earth!” which could be construed as, “God I don’t give a damn about what you created (the earth) I just want to get away from it all and be all cuddly with you in the Christian ghetto.”

God’s question in response might be: “what about your fellow man?”

you: “to hell with him, I want to be cuddly in the ghetto.”

God: “and hunger?”

you: “to hell with it, I want to be cuddly in the ghetto.”

God: “and poverty?”

you: “to hell with it, I want to be cuddly in the ghetto.”

God: and the Earth which I created?

you: “to hell with it, I want to be cuddly in the ghetto.”

God: “Really? So you’re almost like a gnostic?  Ok.  I need a drink. Jesus get in here; and bring some water with you to make some wine!”

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2009 in theology

 

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Hearsaywhat?

Amongst evangelical christians it seems we are manufacturing consent (amongst fundamentalists)/dissent (against paradigm-pushers).  This is my posting on it.  It is rather lengthy.

Wrongly or rightly I’m a contrarian – I’ve always been that way.  Maybe it’s nature that imbedded it within me, but in having two older sisters I’m thinking it’s more nurture – I was provoking reactions at it’s most enjoyable.  Fast forward to the present and I’m a protesting-Protestant who protests the old tried and not-completely-true ways of the Christianity I grew up learning and living.  The old way was founded in modernity and in the enlightenment, and it’s purpose was to classify every piece of information contained in the Bible so it was all nice and tidy and made perfect sense to the masses.  The ‘correct answers’ were contained in some file box that we could reference when someone had a question.  Ummm…not everything in the Bible makes perfect sense if you ask me.  I feel comfortable with the mystery in the Bible and not understanding every verse.  If we as Christians reclaim the mystery and accept the mystery of the Bible then we can live with more graciousness and humility and not arrogance and pride of know-it-alls. (That’s not the only benefit of reclaiming mystery, but I’ll save that for another blog)  Today I have more questions than answers about Christianity and I’m ok with that.

Labels.

Labels are sometimes frustrating. But they are what they are, so allow me to attempt to muse on: biases affecting information, some common misconceptions about a particular label, and finally what that particular label means to me.  This will not be an all-encompassing dissertation, but just some quick tidbit thoughts to point out.  Maybe it’ll help clear up some ignorance on the topic, maybe it won’t.

The particular label:

Emergent

What a fun, hopeful, controversial, threatening, divisive, and misunderstood word these days in the world of theology.

Nebulous.

As much as I might try to ‘explain’ emergent thoughts and tendencies it won’t be wholly accurate because emergent is a very nebulous label.  Imagine light shining through a prism. You can see countless reflections of beautiful colors shining on a wall that look different when looking at it from different viewpoints.  But there are certain key components which allow the reds, blues, yellows and greens to shine beautifully – the prism and the light.

Biases come into play.

I’ll be explaining why I appreciate emergent from my viewpoint – my bias.

I was in jury duty the other day and the defense attorney started his voir dire (jury selection) by saying, ‘we all have biases’.  This is an absolutely true statement.  As much as we may try to put our biases aside and be objective our biases still come up and cloud our interpretations.

The oh so cheesy statement of, ‘let go and let God’, is meant to say  that God acting is and doing as he pleases separate from our interaction, which is true, but the saying also includes us interpreting his actions of what he’s doing.  Let me try explaining it this way.  Sometimes people say, “Let’s just allow the scripture to speak for itself”. My response would be, “Ok, that’s cool…but we still have to interpret the scripture.” Our biases always come in to play.

All that to say that, our biases will cloud how we view a topic.  I think these biases have played a major part into some of the misconceptions of emergent.

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble.  It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” – Mark Twain

Say it ain’t so, Joe.

Misconceptions – we are lazily ignorant.

After 9/11 a Viet Nam veteran went to a local Target store and asked if Target would like to support a local Viet Nam war memorial with a monetary donation.  The local store declined and then soon after an email was fired all over the place, by an un-named source, saying that Target is against the military. (you might remember receiving an email about this)  At the time emotions ran high for our military and it looked very bad for Target and was not a beneficial p.r. scenario. The actual situation was that to receive a donation an organization needs to go through their corporate office. Bureaucracy? Yes, but very similar to other corporations. Against the military? Not necessarily.  The point is, is that the email was fired all over the place without people checking the actual facts.  This is similar to what I hear from some of my friends (and from some I’ve been de-friended) about emergent.  Reading one book by one ‘emergent author’ does not give you enough information for what emergent might believe.  There are many different beliefs.

People now side with Martin Luther and even named a denomination after him, but when he was asking his questions and making his public declarations he was viewed as a heretic…so either we’ve figured God out completely (that’s some mighty powerful kool-aid) and have nothing further to add to the painting or we are now no longer allowed to ask questions and proffer statements about God and continue painting our beautiful faith.  I, myself, want to add to the painting.

Don’t dismiss an idea because it is new or unfamiliar to you.  One of my favorite books is, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”, by Thomas Kuhn. Buy it, read it, appreciate it.  This speaks of how we react to paradigm pushers; I’ll just say we don’t react warmly, nor with open arms to people who challenge our worldviews.  We fight the new ideas because we don’t like change, we like to be comfy and be sure of what we know.  The Sun is the center of the universe.  You’re a heretic.  Say it ain’t so, Joe. The world is round. You’re a heretic. Say it ain’t so, Joe.

What concerns me is when people form finite, unchangeable opinions off of hearsay about emergent.  People are obviously free to form their own opinions about different topics.  But what aggravates me (not only about theology, but all areas of life) is when bad information and incorrect information is disseminated as fact. Sometimes people are too lazy to find out all the information.

Another common misconception is that emergent is unbiblical.  I can’t disagree with this more.  I’ve heard Brian McLaren speak in public – he was completely Biblical.  I’ve heard Doug Pagitt speak in public – he was very biblical.  I’ve read Rob Bell’s writings – they are very biblical.  I’ve read Tony Jones’s writings – they are very biblical.  I’ve read Tony Campolo’s writings – they are very biblical.  Part of this references back to our biases.  But just because someone has a different biblical worldview than yours because they interpret the Bible differently does not make it unbiblical.  They just might not completely share the same views on Biblical interpretation as you.

Emergent being beautifully inclusive – and why I want to be included.

With all the authors and innovators in emergent sometimes it’s hard to speak of emergent b/c there are many varying degrees of belief.  Take me for example; I’m a bit of a paradox – I’m a conservative GOP’er but would also label myself as emergent because of the complimentary nature of beliefs within emergent.  For more specific information on why I value complimentary beliefs see my posts titled, “calcio and an open mind”, “playing frogger with a nebulous endline”, and “harmoniously dissident orthodoxy”.

Politically, I have a friend who is as liberal as I am conservative.  I have another friend who is in-between us.  So we’re all on different levels politically and a bit theologically but we’ll sit at Creegan’s enjoying beer and cigars and still revel in the powerful, merciful God we serve.

Verse to ponder on Romans 2: 14, 15

I believe in hell, some within emergent do not, but I’ll be damned if I’m so narrow-focused on my beliefs to not allow C.S. Lewis (if he were alive) to teach at the church I’m attending solely because he’s an inclusivist. (which I think I am an inclusvist if it were not for it being a label)  We need to learn that while we might not particularly agree with someone that we can learn from them and they can help us grow in our faith.

Instead of expounding further since this has been a very long post, (but it was asked for by some people) I will sum things up by saying that I appreciate emergent thoughts because it allows me to say, “I believe in hell and here’s why. I know you don’t believe in hell and you’ve told me why.  We’ve never traveled to hell so we don’t know everything that goes on after death.  We worship God. God loves both of us.  I am an inclusivist (even though I’m not a fan of that label) and here’s why. I know you’re an exclusivist and you’ve told me why.  We’ve never died so we don’t know everything that goes on after death.  We worship God. God loves both of us. Emergent values context in biblical interpretation instead of willy-nilly picking verses out to make us feel good. I value context in biblical interpretation instead of willy-nilly picking verses out to make me feel good.  Emergent values learning from others – including Catholics, Lutherans, Buddhists, etc.  I value learning from others – including Catholics, Lutherans, Buddhists, etc.  Emergent revels in the mystery of God.  I revel in the mystery of God. Emergent recognizes and appreciates grey areas.  I recognize and appreciate grey areas.  Emergent compliments me and I believe I compliment Emergent.

I still don’t like labels, but I love God.

Even though I will probably always be a contrarian I still value the genius of Calvin from ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ when he said, “Provoking a reaction isn’t the same thing as saying something significant”.

Cigar recommendation – I have a Rocky Patel Olde World Reserve staring me in the face that I think I’ll have later tonight.  I’ll check back in and let you know how it is.

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

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out of touch

Ok, so I’ve been a bit out of touch recently due to…nothing really other than having a serious case of writer’s block.  I made a quasi-promise to a friend that I would blog over some mis-perceptions about emergent beliefs and leaders.  There are some disturbing thoughts (disturbing to me at least) about the emergent movement where I believe most people are just shooting from the hip and judging ignorantly, but I will try to elaborate more on later.

For now, if you have the opportunity to bring up, download, or rent the West Wing episode , “Five Votes Down” you will not be disappointed, it is the one of the most hilarious West Wing episodes ever.  Toby is getting razzed and harassed by his fellow staffers after making $125,000 from a $5,000 investment and President Bartlet is a little loopy after taking strong pain meds.  West Wing  was such a great series and I miss not having new episodes but I’m reliving the good ol’ days by recording the series on Bravo.

Cigar recommendation – I can’t stress enough how good of a cigar The Edge, by Rocky Patel is; go out get one and enjoy it.

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

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