Thursday, August 30, 2007
So, say there is a teaching we shall call Belief A. Almost all Christians can agree that Belief A is central to Christianity, and that all who deny Belief A ought to be regarded with an air of suspicion. However, those who have the time, energy, and mentality to delve deeply into theology, realize that underneath Belief A is a series of subsets, (F,M,P,T,W). But those subsets aren't fully agreed upon by all theologians. While Belief A isn't in question, subset F might be. Perhaps the Calvinists would replace M with N, while the Emergents would just do away with P, T, and W, preferring to maintain the mystery.
Pastors, though, and most Sunday School teachers, don't want to spend a lot of time with the intricate discussions on the underlying points behind Big Theological Positions. So at a popular level, Belief A is held up before the people, and the language to describe it simply assumes all the subsets. And, generally, people in the church hold to Belief A, and assume that the subsets, as they've heard them, go right along with Belief A.
But then they meet somebody from a different strain, who, entering into the discussion on Belief A, says, "Ah, yes. Belief A with subsets (F,M,P,T,X)." "What!?" cries the first. "You are a heretic because you just used an X instead of a W!" "No," says the second. "I'm still saying Belief A. I just think X is more biblical than W."
They then spend 2 hours arguing that each is wrong over position A, when it's really subset W/X that is the issue. And each decides the other is a heretic.
"What?" you're all saying now.
Last week I was in a discussion about how we read the Bible. I mentioned "the authors" and somebody jumped all over me. "There is only one author - God!" I think this person and I would stand in agreement over 99% of our biblical beliefs. We both believe the Bible is the Word of God. I wasn't denying the doctrine of inspiration. But my subset below Inspiration includes (individual authors), while this person's subsets only include (God is author). Thus, in their mind, I'm denying inspiration and therefore a heretic.
If I'm right about this, it will change how I enter into theological discussions in the future.
what troubles me is this line:
"Seoul also said it would prevent South Korean Christian missionaries from working in the staunchly Muslim country, something it had already promised to do."
I'm wondering how the Korean Church feels about this pledge. On the one hand, it got their friends and family home. On the other hand, it effectively removes any possibility of being God's ambassador in that land that so desperately needs God. Could the Church ever agree to a deal that stands in the way of doing Kingdom work anywhere in the world?
Gospel work is never safe. When God calls, he doesn't promise health and freedom from harm. Sometimes God calls Christians to very dangerous places. Many Christians pay the ultimate price. I'm sure the Korean missionaries and their families are thrilled that this incident is over. But will the price paid for their freedom be worth it?
We'll have to wait and see.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
For those unfamiliar with the story, the Rev. Treat has been growing his church steadily over the last 20 or so years. It's gone from a small group of 30 people to a 10,000 member operation happening on multiple campuses. It's mostly been built on the Rev. Treat's charisma, and his ability to preach messages that people like to hear.
I could quibble with his theology, since I think he's preaching a gospel that, well, isn't exactly accurate. But for today, in this public space, I'm not sure I feel like throwing any stones.
Instead, I just thought I'd point out what his typical Sunday looks like:
At 9:30, The Rev. Mr. Treat is leading the service at the church's Everett location, while the Rev. Mrs. Treat (Casey's wife) is leading the service at their SeaTac location. Following the service, the Rev. Mrs. Treat climbs into a Mercedes to be driven to the local helipad, where she boards a private helicopter and is scooted up to Everett. There, she gets out and the Rev. Mr. Treat is flown back to the SeaTac campus, and they each then lead the 11:30 service from their new location.
I feel worn out just reading about it.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
A couple highlights, for those who care about the life of Dan:
- While camping at Mt. Rainier, I took the girls over for an evening ranger talk. The ranger was talking about using all five senses to experience nature. Just as she told the kids to be silent and listen, a fox slunk through the amphitheater, climbed up on Cougar Rock, pooped (in full view of the enthralled kids) and wandered away. It was a nature moment par excellence.
- And Wenatchee was simply fun. We strolled through the enchanting Ohme Gardens, visited the Rocky Reach Dam and watched salmon swim the fish ladder, took the tour of Liberty Orchards in Cashmere (home of Aplets and Cotlets candy. . .free samples. . .mmmm). On Sunday we spent the day in Leavenworth, Washington's Bavarian Village high in the Cascade Mountains. We ate at a waffle house, hiked along the river, watched the kids romp around on a play structure, then wandered back through town.
- Which requires a bullet point of its own. About 8 years ago, we visited Leavenworth for the Christmas Lighting Extravaganza, along with an old high school friend and his (then) girlfriend (now wife). We entered a snack shop and saw one of those Hot Pepper displays. I made the mistake of sampling the Hot Sauce from Hell. One bite and the world spun out of control. I couldn't breath. I couldn't think. I ran out into the snow looking for relief, but even that didn't help. It's still a terrible memory.
So, we visited the same shop last Sunday. I thought "I've grown my palate since then. I've eaten a lot more spicy Mexican food. I've learned to enjoy Wasabi. I can handle it this time." I stuck a dollop of the Hot Sauce from Hell on my pretzel and took a bite. And my world came to an end. I couldn't breath. I couldn't think. The room started to spin. My eyes were watering. My throat was swelling. And all I could think was "pain." It came in waves - just when you thought "it's almost over now" it only got worse. I grabbed the girls and we ran out looking for a water fountain (they were oblivious to the fact that I was dying). Three minutes later we found the fountain, only to discover it was broken. It was like some sort of psychological torture. For 20 minutes it felt like I had a donut of flame shoved into the back of my throat. I couldn't talk, except to say "I'm in pain."
We made an agreement. If one of us ever even thinks about going back into that store, the other is supposed to step on their toe. Hard. Just to remind us of the pain. I still get agitated, just thinking about it.
Friday, August 24, 2007
We returned to find the forest to our north and west gone. Vanished to the cutting blade while we slept. What once was deep forest is now stripped bare. What had been woods beyond our yard is now broken earth.
In honor of the land, I give you Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front, by Wendell Berry.
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion -- put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go.
Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Thursday, August 16, 2007
If you look closely, they say "Jesus is my wake-up Call."
Then, there's this one:
That's Santa adoring Jesus, in case you didn't figure it out.
Or, how about this one?
In the catalogue, this is called the "Be Still and Know that I Am God Mug." Now you know God's secret last name.
"The name's Mug. God Mug."
Honestly - does somebody somewhere really think this stuff is actually helpful? Or do they just know they can make money off of artistically-challenged Christians? Does somebody sit in a design studio, pray for inspiration, hit upon "Jesus is my wake-up call" and think "Oh yes, this will be a blessing and witness to the millions of coffee drinkers out there!" Or is there some guy named Art, sitting before an I-mac, half a pack of cigarettes gone, pounding his head against a table shouting "I just need something so I can go home for the weekend!!!!" And this is what he comes up with, slams it out in 2 minutes, emails it off to his boss and goes home to his lonely life.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Do you know the word entropy? It’s a scientific word, tying in closely with the 2nd Law of thermodynamics. In scientific language, or at least in scientific language according to Wikipedia, entropy “is a measure of the unavailability of a system's energy to do work.” In more common terms, it looks something like this: whatever starts out with a lot of energy tends to wind down into a sluggish mess that just sits there looking at you, daring you to walk over and mess with it.
It’s like those Saturday mornings when you wake up and think “I’m going to mow the lawn today! Then I’ll weed the garden, wash the car, fix the leaky faucet in the bathtub, barbecue up a nice steak dinner, and then get to that pile of books I’ve been meaning to read.” But you know how it goes. By the time the lawn is done your allergies have caught up and your back is so sore that you spend the rest of the day sitting on the couch watching college football, ordering out for pizza and skimming the Reader’s Digest for some jokes.
Or it’s like that new hobby you decide to take up. Let’s just say you decide to start collecting Dish Towels. You go to the local hobby store and buy up 5 magazines on Dish Towel Collecting. You buy some nice shelving units in which to store your dish towels. You join an online discussion forum on Dish Towel Collecting. You join a local Dish Towel Collectors Club. You go to the library for a seminar entitled “Dish Towel Collecting and You!” You purchase your first 100 dish towels, but eventually you find out this whole thing is harder than it looked. After all, it’s so tough to memorize all those patterns, those stitchings. Is that a 1998 Costco or a 1999 Wal-Mart? Is this from the Martha Stewart Collection or the Mike Tyson Collection? Is it the Spring Target model or the Fall Sears model? And then there are all the club meetings. Shortly after you started they made you the new secretary, and now you’re putting in 10 hours a week just organizing meetings, making phone calls, sending out postcards and emails. Piles of dish towels are collecting all over the house, and you just aren’t as excited as you once were. So you give up, deciding to go join your wife on the couch and watch college football, using paper towels – oh the horror - to clean up the pizza mess.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Friday, August 10, 2007
Yesterday I checked my email and had a message from a former youth group member from Upland days, one I haven't seen in probably 10 years. The last time I heard from her was maybe 5 years ago? For whatever reason, she became curious about us, googled my name, found me, and wrote to say hello.
Three hours later, I was on gmail when up popped a gmail chat from another former youth group member from my Upland days. I hadn't talked to her in a couple years. But for whatever reason she was using a mutual friend's computer, saw my name on the gmail chat list, and popped in to say hi.
It's like Dan Whitmarsh Old Home week. I'd call it coincidence, but the timing is too odd for that. God must be up to something. What? I don't know.
However, I will say this. About 5 years ago I went through a period where almost every week for a three month period, I heard about a friend or former youth group member who had crashed and burned. I started to doubt all the work I'd done, all the effort I'd put in.
And now, most of these friends are doing quite well. Many are coming out of painful situations, but putting their lives back together. They're on an upswing, you might say. Which is. . .encouraging.
At the very least, I'm realizing the value of older friends, and the need to maintain contacts with at least some of them. And I'm thankful for the internet, which makes it that much easier.
So anybody else want to pop back into my life?
Friday Random 10
We seem a little mellow today. #s 1 and 6 are by the woman I think has one of the strongest voices in christian music. #6 kicks off the album that showed up in the Amazon box this week. #s3 and 4 represent the classical genre beautifully. #s 2 and 5 fill in the gentle piano
music category. And see #7 and #8? Both have to do with sleeping. Maybe I should take a nap.
- Go – Plumb, from Beautiful Lumps of Coal
- Looking Back – Jim Brickman, from By Heart: Piano Solos
- All Things Bright and Beautiful – from Gloria: Sacred Music of John Rutter
- Eternal Source of Light Divine – Kathleen Battle and Wynton Marsalis, from Baroque Duets
- Japanese Music Box(Itsuki No Komoriuta) – George Winston, from
- Blush (Only You) – Plumb, from Chaotic Resolve
- Lullaby –
DixieChicks, from Taking the Long Way
- Where the Angels Sleep - Bebo Norman, from Ten Thousand Days
- On a Day When the Wind is Perfect – David Wilcox, from Out Beyond Ideas
- To Be Loved – Dennis Jernigan, from I Belong to Jesus
Thursday, August 09, 2007
However, I was a little surprised by the hard right it took. The first half related to how we read the Bible, and it's powerful stuff. It ought to be required reading for all who follow in Christ's footsteps. But just when he finished laying out the philosophical groundwork for spiritual reading, just when you turn the page for the "how-to," he instead went into a basic history of the Bible - where it came from, how it got to us. And he followed that with some interesting stories about archeology and its influence on how we read the Bible. And he included a section explaining his reasoning behind writing The Message. All of which, while very worthwhile stuff, didn't seem to flow from the first part of the book. I don't know. Maybe I'm missing something. You read it and tell me. I will admit that it would be more worthwhile for people who had never taken the time to study the history of the Bible. Maybe it was just ground that I was too familiar with.
In the end, my only complaint was that he never really went into the "how-to" part of Bible reading. He explained the thought behind it, but never said "so, here are some thoughts about how you might make this work in your life." Which means that you might have to pick up another book on Bible reading to go along with this one. Otherwise you might be left wanting just a bit more.
That's my $.o2, anyway.
But let me give you one last quote that I found especially helpful, especially in light of some of my recent online theological discussions:
"Once the Bible became a revered authority it became possible to treat it as a thing, an impersonal authority, to use it to define or damn others, and to avoid dealing with God's word in a personal, relational, and obedient way. It didn't take long for people to start using the Bible as a cover, as a front, by honoring it, praising it as a verbal artifact, defending it as the Truth against all comers, treating it as a classic, as great literature, rather than receiving these words and responding to these words as God's words to them, personally. But the words of Scripture are not primarily words, however impressive, that label or define or prove, but words that mean, that reveal, that shape the soul, that generate saved lives."
Good to remember.
I realized I said awhile ago I'd post some thoughts on To Continue The Dialogue, the Mennonite book on homosexuality that I finished last month. And I haven't done that yet. So this morning, as I sat at the Honda dealership, waiting for a pressure switch to be replaced in the car, I began writing those comments down. They should be here soon.
And now? I told you a couple days ago that the Amazon box showed up. . .but I've had a stack of 10 books on my immediate to-read pile, so I can't jump ahead. On top of the pile was Sacred Sex, by Tim Alan Gardner. So I guess it's next.
note: from first glance, this appears to be more like Peterson's book - a philosophical, theological work, not a how-to book. So rest easy.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Yes, the reunion was a good time. At least for me it was. I think most would say the same. And I needn't have worried about recognizing everybody. Even after 20 years, faces and names clicked almost instantly. Of course, having a class of 32 helps - by process of elimination, you can pretty quickly figure out who is who.
As I said earlier, there are those in the class who are struggling right now. Some in the midst of ugly divorces. Some trying to raise kids across great distances. Some have lost parents recently. Some have struggled but never had kids. On the other hand, some are really doing well. Great jobs, healthy marriages. One spent years as a missionary with her husband, who is now on staff at a Covenant Church in L.A. One is doing a Masters in Spiritual Formation (Hey Diana).
It's amazing how, after all those years, you can instantly go back to that place of friendship and start talking about the deep stuff of real life. Friday night I had a couple of good conversations. Saturday morning we laughed a lot as we cleared some brush at the school. Saturday night, for me, was about three conversations - one on the boat to Tillicum Village, one on the boat ride back, and one as we stood on the dock saying goodbye. Three heart-to-heart conversations with people still searching for some answers, people in some deep pain. And it felt good to sit under the setting sun and share in each others lives.
One more thing: There were 6 of us who went together from Kindergarten through 12th grade. Four were there Saturday morning, when our former Kindergarten teacher showed up to give us a tour of the school. We got a picture of the 4 of us with our teacher. It was a quick moment, over in a (literal) flash. But so much was wrapped up in that moment - 33 years of history together? Something like that. And the fact was, we're all doing well; we all shared a laugh. One of those made-for-TV moments, only without Celine Dion screeching in the background.
Yes, the reunion was a good time.
Oh, and this: Brent told me that they were talking later Friday night, and everybody agreed that I won the award for aging the best. I suppose that's a good thing. Some vindication there.
My one hope is that a few of these relationships can carry on. I need some old friends in my life.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
You know the character Jud Nelson played in The Breakfast Club? That was Rex. Although Rex wasn't quite as angry as Nelson's character, not as dark. Rex had a better sense of humor, and tended to be more sarcastic than moody. But still. . .rebellious, angry at life, dealing with huge issues.
I heard stories Saturday night, telling how Rex as a freshman, used to sit under the stairs in our high school getting drunk before going to class. As seniors, I shared a table in study hall with Rex. He enjoyed getting a rise out of our supervisor, Nora Scheib. And he would tell me stories about sneaking his girlfriend into his bedroom after his parents went to sleep, and the trouble they'd go to to make sure she was out before they woke up.
Rex sold me a pair of parachute pants once.
The story is, after high school he continued to party hard. He was one who used and abused alcohol and all sorts of drugs. But apparently he'd moved to LA and gotten into the world of fitness. I'm not sure if it was just working out, or body-building. But he was into fitness, and so cleaned up his act. I heard he was married and had a child. Then, around the age of 36 or 37, he died in his sleep.
I wonder if he ever found whatever it is he was looking for?
On our end, it is sad because it closes that door forever. Sure, not everybody showed up to the reunion, but there's the thought that they could have, if they so desired. The potential was there to get everybody together again. But no more. One of our class is gone, and with him, his memories, his experiences, the role he played in our lives.
And when we watched the graduation slide show, and his picture came up, there was a laugh, a joke, and a sad pause, all at the same time.
Funny how I hadn't thought of him in years. And now that I find he's dead, I mourn for him.
(as to the reunion, it was good. I'll tell you about it later)
I'm not expecting to agree with everything she says. I'm not expecting to accept her position on a few things. . .but I've heard she is worth listening to, so perhaps I'll learn something anyway.
Orthodoxy, by G.K. Chesterton
I know. You can read it free online. But still, I prefer something tangible in my hands, something I can mark up and go back to in years to come.
Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community, by Wendell Berry
I actually bought this book once before, then loaned it out, and never got it back. His chapter on gay marriage is worth the price alone.
The Crime of Living Cautiously, by Luci Shaw
I've read a lot of Luci's poetry, but not so much her prose.
What the Light Was Like: Poems, by Luci Shaw
Speaking of Luci's poetry. . .
The Genesis of It All, by Luci Shaw
It's a kids book, I suppose. Telling the story of Creation with sweeping pictures and poetic language.
There was also some music in the box.
A New Standard, by Steve Tyrell
He's the guy who sang all the jazz standards on the Father of the Bride soundtracks.
Chaotic Resolve, by Plumb
One of my favorite Christian singers of all time. A little techno, a little rock, some powerful lyrics, a strong voice. . .
Heart of the Heartland, by Peter Ostroushko
He plays mandolin with the Prairie Home Companion band. Beautifully.
Dream Big, by Ryan Shupe and the Rubber Band
I know nothing about them.
Friday, August 03, 2007
It's the moments like Saturday, standing on a breezy hillside, standing under the sun, wedding a man and woman who obviously love each other, surrounded by family who love them deeply, and knowing you represent a God who is manifestly pleased with all that is happening there.
Or it's the tough conversation that led to significant resolution of an inter-personal conflict.
Or it's being able to share in the journey of a person seeking some answers to questions they've held onto for so many years.
It's the quiet moments when I can actually pick up a book and delve into some of the greatest mysteries of eternity.
It's the person who sticks their head in the door, asking if they can come chat for a moment.
It's leading people to prayer, when world issues seem to crush our faith in goodness.
Yes, life is painful, life is tough. I become exasperated and angry, just like everybody else.
But I was reminded a couple of times this week exactly why I do what I do, and why I'm glad to do it.
Today's Random 11
"Everybody else's only goes to ten, but mine goes to eleven. So mine's better"
"But, see, you've just crossed out the ten and made it an eleven."
"Right, but mine goes to eleven, and their's only goes to ten."
"Ah, I see."
- Leaving You – David Wilcox
- Come to Me – The Elms
- Dreamland Express – John Denver
- A Mighty Fortress is our God – St. Olaf Choir
- In Pace – Sarah Brightman
- Jesus Paid it All – Kristian Stanfill
- Vivaldi: The Season (Spring:
) – Itzhak Perlman Largo
- Sink N’ Swim – Plumb
- Never Finish – Leigh Nash
- Percy Grainger: The Merry Wedding – Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra
- Montana: A Love Story –
Thursday, August 02, 2007
This is how it was: we cleaned out our lockers, and went to our graduation rehearsal. The evening of graduation, we all joined in celebration of our achievements. A couple hours later we gathered at the school and drove to a large health club in Edmonds for a night of swimming, walleyball, and hanging out. Early the next morning we were dropped off back at the school, and we all drove home. I remember that moment - climbing in my car, watching all my classmates get in their cars, and thinking this truly was the end of it all. Some of those people I would never see again; many I wouldn't see for years. I did go to Grace's wedding a while later; Brent and I hung out whenever we were back in Seattle - I performed his wedding, and he came to mine. Other than that, I don't believe I've seen the rest of them since.
How quickly it all passes. Now most are married with kids, some are divorced, they are living in Florida and the Midwest, some are professionals and some aren't healthy. I don't think anybody's famous (my inclusion in a theological book notwithstanding), and I don't think anybody's dead.
Friday night we're getting together for a low-key hangout time. Saturday night we're getting on a boat and going to Tillicum Village. And it will be interesting to see what happens. Will it be 10 more years before we see each other again? Or will we reconnect and reclaim old friendships?
Some people dread reunions. Some people hate reunions. Me? I'm rather looking forward to it.
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
So, on to the (sniff, sniff) end:
Texts for Sunday, August 12
Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
Both of these texts have to do with right living. Both seem to be comparing people who truly are obedient, with those who only act like it. Actions vs. words. Motive. Substance vs. style. Both allude toward judgment, with the Luke passage pointing toward the second coming, while the Psalm passage has more to do with God's judgment now. Both include warnings, and promises for obedience.
So what do you see? How do you respond? What message does our church, our culture, the KP need to hear from these two passages?