Thursday, May 31, 2007

Quick note

Apparently some of the newbies have been having a hard time leaving comments. I've changed the settings, making it easier on you all. So if you tried, and were rebuffed, try, try again.

I'll leave it this way unless I start getting a whole bunch o' spam

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Moving Down in the World

The greater Seattle area was recently listed as the 6th-worst spot for car thefts in the United States. That's a bad thing. But, the greater Modesto area, where we lived a mere 18 months ago, is up there at the 5th-worst spot (you can read the list here). I guess that means that our cars are a little safer now.

Still, makes you wonder - every one of the top 10 spots is out here in the West. Are there no car thieves on the East Coast?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Great Sermon Experiment, Take One

{Through the summer, I am asking people within our church body to take part in the creation of the Sunday sermon. This is the first installment of our project. Anybody who happens in here is welcome to join in the discussion, although a certain group of people have been asked to take the lead. Please leave your thoughts and insights in the comment box below}

Texts for Sunday, June 10

The primary text will be Psalm 146. This text begins the set of “Hallelujah!” Psalms – the final five Psalms, which all begin with “Hallelujah!” (often translated “Praise the Lord!”).

The basic structure is this:

Intro: I will praise the Lord
Command: Don’t trust human leaders
Purpose of Command: They’ll die
Statement of Blessing (with a subtle hint of expected action): Blessed are those who trust God.
Reasoning behind blessing: list of God’s attributes
Conclusion: Praise the Lord

Things to ponder:

1) What is the central point of this text? What is the Psalmist trying to say?

2) Who/what do we put our trust in, if not in God?

3) Which of the attributes of God speaks to you? Why?

4) What does this text call us to do?

5) How would you live out this text in your workplace/school/home?

Supporting texts will be:

1 Kings 17:7-16 and Luke 7:11-17

1) How do these texts support the message of the Psalm?

2) How would you describe our God, specifically based on these texts?

3) Is there an ethical duty for us to take away from these stories? Are we being called to do anything?

4) How would your reading of these texts influence the way you live your life?

Finally, what examples of these texts can you think of from your own life? From movies you’ve seen or songs you’ve heard or books you’ve read? Are there any modern-day parallels to these three texts?

Book Update

I'm still working through To Continue the Dialogue: Biblical Interpretation and Homosexuality. Homosexuality is obviously a huge issue in the Church today, and I don't see it being settled any time soon. The debate continues to rage, churches continue to divide, and, as society becomes more and more interested in "tolerance," those churches who choose to treat homosexual practice as sin are going to be viewed by outsiders with suspicion and anger. It is my contention that we all need to think deeply about this issue, if only to "be ready to give an answer" to our belief and practice. If a gay couple walks into my church, I want to be ready to speak to them from the wrestling I've done, not from a pamphlet I read somewhere.

Unfortunately, so far at least, this book has not been the help I thought it might be. There have been a few small nuggets here and there, but, at least in framing the discussion, it's left me wanting more. The general feel through the first eight chapters has been almost passive-aggressive. Perhaps that's the Mennonite way showing through - above all, desiring to be "nice" and not offend anyone. Thus we read "The Bible says homosexual activity is a sin" but then "so we must still be open to hear all sides of the discussion and be willing to change our position if necessary."

One particularly troubling chapter was the one attempting to lay out the biblical framework for the discussion. The logic essentially went like this:
- All the verses supposedly condemning homosexuality (and all the reasons why they actually don't)
- All the ways to rightly interpret those verses, thus showing they have nothing to do with homosexuality
- Now let's look at the two options and decide which is the right one.

In other words, it wasn't a fair framework to begin with.

I was also surprised by one author using Richard Hays, who actually concludes that same-sex sexual activity is outside the will of God, to support his position that there is nothing inherently wrong with homosexual activity.

I'm trying hard to have an open mind and not bring all my presuppositions into the reading of this book, but it's hard when I watch people posturing and refusing to take their own stands. Maybe it's just me; I prefer to see two well-defined positions, hear their supporting arguments, and then decide between the two. That's not what is happening here.

However, let me share one of the better passages I've read:
From either perspective, however, I am often deeply offended by the rhetoric I hear and the things written by my brothers and sisters in the church. I find the attitudes expressed, and the lack of respect and care for the gay and lesbian person, disappointing, and at times very painful. Too many times people speak on this subject out of ignorance. Too many who speak have never held a significant conversation with gay or lesbian persons in order to understand their experience and to care for them. Too many of our gay and lesbian sons and daughters in the church have no one in the church who cares for them as persons, no one who prays for them, no one to express interest in their spiritual life.

Instead, I hear people in church circles again and again reflect the anger, fear, and disgust of our society. When I as a parent hear judgment without genuine care for the person, I feel deeply disillusionment and grief."

Saturday, May 26, 2007

A Post for Pentecost

Late yesterday evening Olivia and I were walking along the Western shore of Penrose Point State Park, enjoying the setting sun and the excitement of all the campers showing up for the Memorial Day weekend. Clara rode high up on my shoulders.

The wind picked up, rustling the new leaves on the maples and firs to our left.

Olivia: "Daddy, why can't you see the wind?"
Me: "Because it is made out of air, and you can't see air. You can only see what it does - moving the branches, swirling the leaves, rippling the water in the bay. You can't see wind; you can only see the effect it has on everything around it."

John 1:8 - "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

Perhaps the Spirit was reminding us that he's still around, 2000 years after the first Pentecost.

[As a bonus gift, we found our first ripe berry of the season and shared it together.]

Friday, May 25, 2007

My Theory, If I Were a Scientist

This weekend is our annual rummage sale at Lakebay, so the church fellowship hall is a mess. Full of all sorts of . . . stuff. All waiting to be picked up by bargain hunters tomorrow morning. It's been fun experiencing all the activity around here this week - the constant stream of people dropping stuff off, the workers here to sort and price. I've sat in my office and listened to all the conversations of people working together to set this thing up.

But it's got me thinking about a new scientific theory I might develop. I'm going to call it the Endless Stuff Cycle, or the ESC for short. The ESC postulates that there is an endless chain of Stuff circling around our little planet, jumping from place to place by way of garage sales, rummage sales, thrift stores, and unwanted Christmas presents.

One possible example (there are many) would be this: Item is purchased at Wal-Mart by Person A, who gives it to Person B as a present. Person B pretends to like it, but then puts in in the basement for about 6 months, until they decide to take all such items and sell them in their driveway as a garage sale. Person C sees Item and says "this is just what I've been needing! And it's such a bargain!" They purchase Item, take it home, and promptly forget about it. Person C's spouse takes Item to the local church for their rummage sale. Person D sees Item on the church table and says "my best friend at work could certainly use this! And it's such a bargain!" They purchase and hand deliver Item to to Person E, who says "Oh, you shouldn't have!" Person E uses item in their next White Elephant Gift Exchange, where Person F "wins" the item. Person F quickly donates Item to the Goodwill. . .and on and on it goes.

Of course, the diabolical thing is that, while all such items are swirling around the Endless Vortex, manufacturers are perpetually dumping more and more Items into the system, using Wal-Mart and the Home Shopping Network as their conduits. Thus, the ESC is becoming more and more crowded, and will one day hit critical mass, at which point all heck will break loose upon the earth. Economies will shatter, landfills will supernova, our storage units and garages will refuse to accept one more Item.

Anyway, it's still just a theory at this point. I haven't done the research to prove it yet. But it works for me, so it's the truth I'm going to work with.

By the way, if you want any stuff, we've got a lot here at the church for you to peruse over the weekend.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

It's Official

Jorge, Karina's brother-in-law, starts work at Boeing in Seattle in early July, so they'll be moving up from the Bay Area in late June.

I had always assumed we'd do the split-family thing - my family in Seattle, Karina's in California. Until Lakebay called, I had assumed we'd stay in California and have to make the regular visits to Seattle. Never did I assume that both sides of the family would be in the same area; even less did I think that would all happen up here.

Sometimes God blesses us, even when we aren't looking for it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Great Sermon Experiment

I've decided to do an experiment for the summer. I'm going to call it Online-Collaborative-Sermon-Making.

I'm going to preach the lectionary texts over the summer. Somewhere around Tuesday of each week, I'll post the texts for the next Sunday's sermon (the Sunday 1 1/2 weeks out), along with a few comments on said text. I've invited a number of people from our church to join me in reading the texts and my comments, and then responding with their own observations, questions, ideas, illustrations, and the like. I will then take all those pieces into account when I put the sermon together in the next 10 or so days.

I've already asked 5-6 people to be a part, but all who read this blog are welcome to join in the conversation.

I think we'll begin next week. This Sunday is Pentecost, and the next Sunday I'm going to do something dealing with Creation, as Spring is hard upon us and Summer is almost here, so the lectionary texts would begin June 10. Which means I'll post the first texts, with comments, next Tuesday.

I look forward to allowing extra voices in the process. It'll be up to all who are part of Lakebay (i.e. those who actually hear the sermons) to decide whether or not the experiment is a success.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Train Watching in Seattle

A special steam train excursion was run in Seattle over the last weekend. It was special for a couple reasons - the engines were two of the more famous steam engines in the U.S. (the SP 4449 and the UP 844), and this was the first time they had ever doubleheaded. We went over Friday morning and watched them pass through Carkeek Park, and then on Saturday we were downtown so headed over to the Olympic Sculpture Park to watch it pass by. Here are some pictures Karina got: (btw - if you want a few more, click on the "my picasa album" link to the right)

Thursday, May 17, 2007


The girls got home last night. Or, to be more specific, this morning. Their flight got into Seatac around 10:30, so it was well after midnight by the time we pulled back into the driveway.

But they are home, and they are well, and all is well with the world.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Gospel according to Mandy Patinkin, and one more word about Jerry Falwell

On the ipod, two songs come out back-to-back (as I'm mowing the lawn). Both are from Mandy Patinkin's Album "Dress Casual."

The first - "Trouble in River City," the jaw-cramp-inducing sales job from Meredith Willson's The Music Man. The second - "There are Giants in the Sky," from Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods.

I couldn't help but notice the juxtaposition. The first is a sheister attempting to sell band instruments using the ages-old "Fear-based" method. Create a fear, then attempt to fill it with your product. The second is about grace and love - a young man finds himself surrounded by giants in a land far far away, yet finds safety first in the motherly love of the female giant, and then eventually finds grace and mercy back in his own home. The first speaks of danger and protection, the second of fear and love.

Jerry Falwell fell well into a long line of preachers who use the first method. Stir up fear. Talk fast and loud and play on emotions of uncertainty and fright. The fear of hell if you sin. The fear of America falling to terrorists if we allow gays certain rights. The fear of our children living in a hellish America if we allow feminists to speak. Go back to the revival preachers of the 18th and 19th centuries. Hellfire and Brimstone preachers are famous in our land. Even our billboards have God saying "Don't make me come down there!" as if God is the angry parent, and if we don't shape up then he's gonna give us a whuppin!

So they create fear - fear of hell, fear of gays, fear of feminists, fear of God, fear of the unknown - and they they sell you their nicely packaged product ("I heard there's going to be a boys' band!"). In this case, their product is a certain religio-political worldview. Vote a certain way. Believe a certain way. Behave a certain way. Fight back against the gays and feminists and democrats in the name of Jesus! Pray this prayer and you'll be safe from hell! (Get you kids in the boys' band to keep them away from the pool hall where they say things like "so's your old man!") Fear based religion. Fear based political work. I made you afraid. Now I'm going to sell you my product.

Compare that to "Giants in the Sky." Where Jack finds himself in a strange land, in great danger, and someone "comes along the hall to swallow you for lunch." And you know your own fear - "your heart is lead and your stomach stone and you're really scared being all alone." And the answer "And you scramble down and you look below. . .The roof, the house, and your mother at the door, The roof, the house, and the world you never thought to explore. . ." It's about coming home. It's about grace. It's about finding love and acceptance. It's the story of the prodigal son who comes home to find his father waiting at the gate, and then running to meet him on the way.

Which is the biblical image? I have to say the latter. While I dare not judge the eternal state of Falwell's soul, I grieve for the way he (and those like him) chose to sell a God of fear and hatred, for the way they tried to sell that God through fear like Harold Hill tried to use "the presence of a pool hall" to sell his band instruments. The Bible speaks to the reality of judgment, yes, but the overall message is one of grace to people who are broken and lost, who just want to come home, who find that God has been patiently waiting all along. Would that the Church could speak that message - one of love, compassion, and healing, waiting for the wanderers to come home again. There might just be a little less anger and division out there.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jerry Falwell Dead

The story, among other places, here.

Like so many, he did a lot of good, and he did a lot of harm. He will probably go down in history as the hero of many, and the embarrassment of many more. For me, he was the first person I thought of on 9/11. One of my prayers that morning was "Please, God, don't let Falwell make a public pronouncement about this being God's judgment because of the gays. . ." Unfortunately, I think it only took a couple days for Jerry to do just that. I'm sure the days ahead will be filled with mourning and rejoicing, depending on which side of the spectrum you find yourself. If he was anything, he was a polarizing figure. Unfortunately, at least in the public sphere, he seemed much more interested in judging than in offering grace. I trust that he has met the God who is much more interested in offering grace to sinners than he ever was.

Monday, May 14, 2007

I'm feelin' it. . .

Let's just say I've never been a huge fan of working out. It seems like too much work without getting anywhere. Same for jogging. Too much sweat and you don't go very far.

But biking on the other hand - the wind in your face, the road unwinding beneath you, the trees whipping by at your side - that I enjoy. And I've been needing to get back into shape for awhile now, and spring is hear, and I've had a lot of time on my hands with the girls in California, so lately I've been doing a lot of bike riding. Mostly a 5 mile ride near our house, or the 10-mile roundtrip to Key Center, or an 8-10 mile ride around Pt. Defiance Park in Tacoma.

Today I pushed it and did a 25-mile ride along the Burke-Gilman trail in Seattle, from my parents' house to Gasworks Park and back. It was a beautiful day for a ride. Mid-60s, cloudless skies, flowers in bloom, slight cooling breeze. It was exhilarating, actually. But let's just say the last 5 miles found my legs turning to jello. And let's just say I've been in pain the rest of the day. Let's just say I'm feelin' the burn, as it goes.

But I saw a lot of people, scooted around some ducks, passed through the all the UW excitement, rode along Lake Washington and Lake Union, I burned about 1200 calories, and I didn't harm the environment in the slightest. That's the kind of workout I can get into.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Study Time

I'm going to learn how the Mennonites are speaking to the issue of homosexuality and the Church. Should be an interesting read, since they always come at these issues from angles other than the normal ones.

From the intro:
"What this issue should be about is discernment: trying to discern the will and way of God on this matter at the threshold of the third millennium of the Christian Era. I know, others will disagree with this premise. For some, the issue is standing up for an oppressed minority; for others, it is standing up for the truth as they know it. (Is there any other?) But if we can't step back from our own positions long enough to hear the perspectives of others, then dialogue, if not discernment, is foiled.

In many such cases, the schismatics are putting their own convictions, ideas, and religious experiences - egos, too - ahead of the unity of the body and this treasure we call peoplehood. Whereas I am not comfortable with the current struggle over the 'H-issue,' as one chapter in this book calls it, I am even more discontented with the flight option [running away from each other and the debate].

What I plead for, instead, is a commitment to the common struggle of discovering God's will for us. To do this, we need at least the following: confession, empathy, humility, patience, and prayer."

Whenever I read stuff like that, I'm convinced that the Mennonites and Covenanters are cut out of much the same cloth. So I think I'm going to get a lot of good from this book. I'll let you know.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Free Advertisement

Lakebay's own Roshni Robert is having an art showing in Tacoma, with a grand opening this Saturday. Here's the information:

the four winds
works from the country,
including watercolours in found frames
by roshni robert

opening reception may 12th, 2007 5-8pm

may and june may and june 2007
blackwater cafe
747 fawcett ave.
tacoma, wa 98402

M-F... 6:30am to 9pm
Sa..... 8am to 9pm
Su..... 8am to 7pm

Ahh, Spring

Yesterday was one of those days that make the rest of the world jealous of us here in the Puget Sound area. Clear blue skies, Mt. Rainier sitting like a large scoop of vanilla ice cream on the Cascades, seagulls wheeling over the waters. I rode my bike around Pt. Defiance park for awhile. I watched osprey diving for fish, eagles riding the winds high overhead. I rode through the cool evergreen forests of Pt. Defiance, I parked and watched a tug pull a barge down the Narrows toward the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. I rode the winding roads alongside rose gardens and rhododendron gardens in full bloom, I whizzed past sunbathers working on their early tans.

And I thought, nobody could ever convince me there is a more beautiful place to live.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Let's Think About This For A Moment. . .

Item #1: Spotted on the back of a pickup in Port Orchard approximately 2 1/2 weeks ago: One yellow sticker attached to rear window, with the following text: "Official Terrorist Hunting Permit/Serial #91101/No Bag Limit."

Four inches below said bumper sticker was another one: a bright, shiny, silver fish with the name "Jesus" inside.

Item #2: On Monday as I drove into Tacoma, a small green sports car with 3-4 younger people inside passed me by in the carpool lane, driving somewhere in the 90-100 mph range. As they got ahead of me they weaved in and out of traffic in order to maintain their extremely high rate of speed. Clearly visible on their back bumper was a bright, shiny "Jesus" fish.

Item #3: Early this morning as I made my way across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge on my way to the Pierce County Prayer Breakfast, a silver Jeep Wrangler (Rubicon Edition) rode approximately 2 inches off my bumper, headlights brightly reflecting in my mirror. All along Highway 16 through Tacoma he remained approximately 2 inches off my bumper. As soon as the carpool lane ended and opened to all traffic, he shot into that lane and blew away at a high rate of speed.

No Jesus fish on this one. But 3 hours later, as I left the prayer breakfast and headed back to my car, I spotted the exact same Jeep in the parking lot, with the exact same driver inside. I guess tailgating is justified if you are A Really Important Person on your way to Really Important Prayer Meetings.

I was going to write a witty conclusion here, but I think you're all smart enough to get the point, right? So let me just say this:

If you're going to claim to be a follower of Christ, THEN DON"T ACT LIKE A BLOOMIN' IDIOT when you're out in public. Your actions speak much louder than your little bumper sticker.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

End of an Era

CBC-Ecuador held their final commencement over the last few weekend. CBC-Canada is holding its final commencement this coming weekend. Then, that's all she wrote.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

In the News

The May KP news came out yesterday. On the front cover is an article of Lakebay's own Sam Shake, pointing to an article inside telling the story of Sam's upcoming European trip this summer. On the back page are two pictures take by Karina, one of the bald eagles over Home last month, and one of the Lakebay sunrise service. And on their website they have a picture of Linda Anderson's daughter-in-law Heidi Whittemore receiving an award. So I'd say the Lakebay Community Church family did pretty well this month.

Clara in Mexico

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Catching up

A few months ago I mentioned that this summer is my 20th High School reunion. I suggested, and was given the assignment, that we set up an online message board where we could all go and tell our stories before the reunion, maybe even start some conversations and rekindle (maybe that's not the best word) some old friendships. The idea being that, when we all see each other next August, we have some sense of where everybody has been, what they've been up to, and we're already well on the road to catching up, instead of looking at each other saying "So, how long ago did you become a Harri Krishna?"

So far about 9 people have signed up and shared their stories. And it really has been interesting to read what they've been up to (even as I write this it occurred to me that I'm the only male-type person on that list. Does that mean something?). Some have known real tragedy, some have suffered the end of marriages, most have had kids, at least one is on the opposite side of the country, one was down in L.A. during the same time I was down there, some are doing really well and some are still trying to sort life out.

It's hard, of course, not to picture them as 18-year olds, which is what they were the last time I saw most of them. It's hard to picture them aging at all (after all, I haven't gotten any wrinkles or gray hair or extra pounds. . .). It also brings home what a short time 20 years really is. Graduation doesn't seem that far back. I guess the good thing is that we're still closer to young than old - we're still all on the short side of 40, anyway.

I remember my sister being amazed at her reunion at just how badly many of her classmates had turned out. From what I'm reading, the class of '87 did ok. And reading their stories has got me all the more excited to see them in person again.

One final note - doing this has opened my eyes again to the fact that we were a pre-digital generation. It's amazing how many of our classmates don't seem to have email addresses, or any web presence, for that matter. Many of my former classmates appear to have dropped into the black hole that is non-internet people. . .