Friday, February 29, 2008

I wonder if it means anything

NPU Prof Scot McKnight created a hermeneutics quiz, designed to show you where your method of Bible Interpretation puts you on the theological scale (from conservative through moderate over to liberal.).

Brad took it and got a 62.

Rick took it and got a 64.

I took it and got a 64.

Those would all be in the "moderate" category. And all three of us have strong connections to the Evangelical Covenant Church.

I know, it's a tiny sampling. Still, it's a little eerie how close those all are.

All I Really Want

is a clean, uncluttered workspace. An open space in which to read, to ponder, to pray, to study. A space free of distractions and piles, a space conducive to relaxation, to rest, to stillness in which I might hear the Lord speak.

But I have kids. And they stop by the office sometimes. And they write me notes that they stick up on walls. And they pull the books off my shelf, and play with the toys I have on display. They drop cookie crumbs all over my carpet. They make messes.

Let's face it. Kids are distracting.

But I suppose it's a good trade-off, in the end.

Especially on those days when God decides to speak through your kids, rather than in spite of them.

Have a good Leap Day, everyone.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

On Christianity and Politics

NPR interviewed Richard Land, public policy chief for the Southern Baptist Convention, asking him about how Evangelicals view the upcoming election.

Land is working hard to keep Evangelicals focused on the two issues of the Sanctity of Life and the Sanctity of Marriage. He believes that these two ought to remain the primary issues Evangelicals consider when deciding who to vote for.

A couple things jumped out at me:
- Land makes it clear that while social justice and poverty issues may be important, they cannot overshadow the Abortion and Gay marriage issues.
- Right at the point where I thought Land might give some props to Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo for opening up Evangelicals' eyes to broader issues they should consider, he instead attempted to refocus all attention back to the Two Main Issues, even implying that the Church was moving in the wrong direction if it paid too much attention to any other issues.
- Land explains the shift in Evangelicals from Republican to Independent or Democrat by focusing on the scandals within the Republican Party. In other words, people are upset with the dirty laundry at home more than they are attracted by the sweet words of another.
- Finally, Land dismisses the voice of the younger people, as quoted in a Relevant Magazine article, in which a majority of people interviewed said they would vote for Obama, by stating "The SB Convention is a lot bigger, and we're not voting for a Democrat" (that's not an exact quote; it's my paraphrase).

So, what do you think? Should the church still put all its time and energy focusing on those two issues? Has the day come when issues of social justice, poverty, race relations are just as important? Can Christians any more say that one party is truly "more Christian" than the other?
And the zinger: if you had to list the top 5 issues you're concerned about going into this election, what would they be?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

My Larry Norman Story

Many others have been blogging about the recent death of Larry Norman, the infamous early pioneer of Christian Rock-and-Roll. You can find all the details by googling Larry, or by following the links above.

I first heard Larry, or, more accurately, heard about Larry as a young junior higher going off to Bible Camp. The older kids had discovered this wonderful new thing called Christian Rock, with the likes of Keith Green and Amy Grant, and, most importantly, Larry Norman. But the camp director wasn't a big fan of Larry or his "music." So he confiscated all the Larry Norman tapes the kids had brought along (don't read too much into that - it was more of a joke between the director and the kids than it was any kind of power abuse. . .). And all week long the older kids called for Larry Norman songs at worship time, while we mostly sang John Fischer songs.

One day some of the kids got on the instruments and we all sang "Sweet Song of Salvation," and were getting into "Up in Canada" when the leadership shut it down and took us back into "Love Him in the Morning" and "Have You Seen Jesus My Lord?"

(Odd note: we also sang "One Tin Soldier" a lot, which, as far as I can tell, has no Christian message whatsoever, other than the "peace on earth" part)

This was all new to me - the Christian music around our home was mostly the Gaithers and Evie, with a little Don Francisco thrown in now and again. And, as so often happens, I went off to camp and found out this whole other world existed out there. Christian alternatives to worldly music. Instead of Madonna, I could listen to Amy Grant. Instead of all that metal my friends listened to, I could listen to Petra and Whiteheart.

Unfortunately (in some sense), I was too late to really get Larry Norman. By the time I found out about all this, Michael W Smith and Amy Grant were taking off, and people like Larry Norman and Randy Stonehill and Phil Keaggy were set aside, followed not by the masses but by the fans they'd already made.

And somewhere, the pioneering spirit of Larry, Randy, and the rest got taken over by Corporate Media who saw a cash cow in front of them, bringing us to the day when they produce stuff like Jump 5 and a hundred Steven Curtis Chapman knockoffs (read: Casting Crowns, Mercy Me. . .)

But it all started with Larry, who passed quietly from the scene 20+ years ago, and who passed gently into the arms of Jesus last weekend.

And that's my Larry Norman story.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A couple Thoughts on a recent vacation

- I'd forgotten just how big the California sky is. We were south of Redding when the sunlight first began to show over the northern Sierra, we were in Williams (70 miles south of Red Bluff) when the sun peaked over the horizon. I was stunned again at the vastness of that open space. Up here in the Pacific Northwest, often the view of the sky is limited, bordered by towering trees and mountains. But down there. . .you have open sky, a bowl of blue from horizon to horizon. It did my soul good to sit and stare into all that open space, especially once we reached the coast and had the sky open clear off over the ocean.

- The day we arrived a woman drowned just south of us, after trying to rescue her dog, who had been pulled under by the surf. We had front-row seats to the rescue efforts, which unfortunately went for naught. People underestimate the power of the ocean in that area. Our cabin sat about 60 feet above the ocean, and still we could feel the ground underneath us shaking every time a wave crashed onto the rocks below us. These are not the waves you wander out into, to get your toes wet. These are awesome, powerful, and dangerous.

- Once again I am convinced that there is no place more beautiful than the Mendocino coastline. Rocky shores, foggy folds in the hillside, mountainous terrain hiding farms and vineyards, miles and miles of crashing ocean waves, manzanita and redwood trees, brilliant sunsets off the Pacific coast, and a whole community of quirky, fun, ex-hippie, eco-conscious, earthy people to meet.

- Which makes me ask the question - how do people in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska do it? The Ocean is so necessary, so grounding, do soul-soothing. 5 minutes at the ocean can undo a year's worth of stress and anxiety. How can people live thousands of miles away from this place? I think I would go crazy.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

We're Back

But boy, was it tough to leave. . .

Friday, February 15, 2008

Friday random Stuff

Way back when, I had this friend - he was a volunteer in our youth program, we went to Anaheim Angel's games together, he had a Jeep a couple years before I got mine, we even jammed in the local coffee house together. Then I moved away from Southern California and we lost touch.

I found him again yesterday. Seems he's living the life of a musician down in Texas.

David Clucas and the Horsepainters


You know Murphy's Law. If you're in business, you know the Peter Principle. And what's the name of that rule that says every internet discussion eventually ends up talking about the Nazis?

I'm thinking of coining a new maxim. It goes like this: Every youtube clip related to 9-11 carries a comment stream in which conspiracy theorists expound the many clues that prove George Bush ordered the attacks.

I know, it's a little ponderous. I'm still working on it. But seriously, I was looking for a clip the other day, and EVERY SINGLE ONE led to a comment stream in which conspiracy theorists "exposed the lies!!!!!" (It's a missile! The building blew up before the plane got there! There was no plane - it's a TV trick!), after which others began calling the conspiracy theorists all sorts of names.

As a subheading to this new rule, I think there will be another one along the lines of "Every youtube clip related to the Apollo moon landings will receive comments from conspiracy theorists claiming the moon landings were a hoax."


And it's been awhile since I did a Friday Random 10, so let me leave you with this, before I head out the door for the week:

1. The Eleventh Reel - Chris Thile, "How to Grow a Woman from the Ground"
2. Immortal, Invisible - Fernando Ortega, "Fernando Ortega"
3. Wings of a Dove - Nanci Griffith, "Other Voices, Too (A Trip Back to Bountiful)
4. Out Loud - Mindy Smith, "Long Island Shores"
5. Unnoticed - Plumb, "Beautiful Lumps of Coal"
6. Fly Me to the Moon - Diana Krall, "Live In Paris"
7. All Shall Be Well - Andrew Peterson, "The Far Country"
8. Sally Johnson - The Dillards, "There is a Time (1963-70)
9. Lift Up Your Hearts (Sorsum Corda) - Derri Daugherty, "City On a Hill: Sing Alleluia"
10. Let Me Go - Susan Ashton, "Angels of Mercy"

Thursday, February 14, 2008

As to the day

I worked all day. Karina worked tonight. We had already decided to ignore Valentine's Day. Our love is a 24/7 365 kinda thing, anyway.

That, and we're going on vacation, so have a whole week to celebrate.

But, if you need visual stimulation to feel romantic, here's a picture of the moonrise over Home last month.

Speaking of Which

I missed this one - last month the Wall Street Journal posted an article about the resurgence of the practice of Church Discipline. It's fascinating, if for anything, to pick out people's world views as they are quoted in the article.

Many people are still of the "Hey - it's my religion and my church; nobody has the right to muddle in my personal affairs" mindset. (Note to these people: you don't get it)

On the other hand, Legalism begins to rear its ugly head again, on the part of church leaders who wield the Mighty Sword of Discipline in order to maintain control and power. (Note to these people: go read 1 Peter again)

And, of course, the world looks on in bemusement and misunderstanding. Words like "shunning" and "sinners" are thrown around too lightly in this article.

All the while, I'm reading it and saying "there is so much more going on here than anybody is saying. Interpretation truly is in the eye of the beholder. Everyone is always innocent in their own eyes." (and a few other cliches).

The point is this - as followers of Christ, we are to pursue lives of holiness. When we enter into Christ, we give others the right to hold us accountable before our Lord. A healthy church will, from time to time, have to speak harsh words to those who willfully choose lives outside of Christ's call to righteousness. And in the eyes of a "Live-and-let-live" world, that will seem preposterous.

However, even church leaders are given to hubris and pride and control games (I found the article by following a link from another post about the current situation over at Mars Hill. . .), which means we ALL need to approach this with humility, with gentleness, with a strong sense of our own fallibility, and we all need to find people who can speak the truth in love to us.

And, mostly, we need the Spirit of Christ, because we sure mess things up when left to our own devices.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

And then there are the hard times

Way back in 1994 or so, when I was a young and hip youth pastor, we had this lady in our church who was rather abrasive. I witnessed her bringing other pastors to tears. She took me on a couple of times, even led me to the brink of being fired by telling lies about me. Eventually, the senior pastor wised up to her ways. . .he went and met with her (along with a few witnesses), asking her to get counseling or please attend elsewhere.

In the next 13 years, I dealt with any number of difficult people, but never felt the need to ask anybody to leave. Or even to put the "seek change or move on" to them. I often wondered if I would ever find myself in that place again.

Now, twice in the last year we've come up against it. And I've had to be the guy in that chair, pulling that trigger. And it may be the toughest decision ever to be made.

But I think I understand something of Paul's heart, when he commanded the Corinthian Church to expel the immoral brother, with the hope that in the end he might be saved. So, too, in these situations, the desire has been only for healing and restoration, redemption and wholeness.

We're not talking some sort of dreadful excommunication act here; it's really a "this is unhealthy behavior and needs to change, as it isn't acceptable. But please - let us help you change; we want to see you restored as a full participant in our Body."

I still pray for reconciliation.

And in the meantime, I find that it's a dreadful thing to pull that trigger. Necessary, but awesome, when you consider the full responsibility of that decision.

And I hope it's at least another decade, or perhaps a lifetime, before we find ourselves here again.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

And you have to hear this one (if you haven't already)

The Jesus Cosmetics Line. Have you seen this on the news yet?

"The range, named Lookin' Good for Jesus, was on sale at three Topshop outlets in the Asian city state" [of Singapore].

The products included a 'Virtuous vanilla' lip balm and a 'Get Tight with Christ' hand and body cream, featuring a picture of Christ flanked by two adoring women."

If you ask me, the whole thing is pretty funny. Sacrilegious, sure, but funny.

Besides, we're the ones who came up with Bibles that look like fashion magazines.

Must be the day for Public Service Announcements

In case you missed it, Starbucks has announced that they will be closing their stores on Tuesday, Feb. 26, from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Apparently they need to retrain their employees in how to make coffee.

Seattle Times story here.

I would hate for some of you addicts to be caught off-guard.

Might be the perfect time to go try your local independent dealer. Might I suggest
- Stumptown
- Espresso Vivace
- Cafe Fiore
- Peet's Coffee and Tea (okay, so they're not exactly a non-chain)
- Q Cafe
- Caffe Ladro

Just to prepare you all

Starting on Friday, I will be away from this blog for about a week. I encourage you all to begin the process of finding a replacement blog to fulfill your blog needs, until the time I return (sometime around 2/24)

Monday, February 11, 2008

I love my church

Friday, we hosted the funeral for Edyth Johnson. 150 or so people and a whole meal; they were warmly and graciously treated by our church folks.

Sunday, we held not one but two breakfasts. The kiddies threw a "friendship breakfast" for the older folks, complete with a little program, while I hosted the confirmation class for breakfast here at the parsonage.

Sunday after church, a family threw a Mexican birthday bash for their son's 18th birthday. It was in the fellowship hall, so the whole church left the worship service and walked into a fiesta, complete with tres leches cake. Mmm.

Even the board meeting was kind of fun. Imagine that.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Finally the wind blew my way

There's this meme that's been flying around the blogosphere lately - part of the fun of reading blogs far and wide is to watch these things pop around like viruses. I've been wondering if it would finally blow my way. And yesterday Kim decided to toss the ball (to mix metaphors) into my backyard. So here goes.

Here are the rules:
Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
Open the book to page 123.
Find the fifth sentence.
Post the next three sentences.
Tag five people.

The book: Odd Girl Out - the Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, by Rachel Simmons.

"She may flirt with a guy who is dating someone else or have a crush on a boy who is already spoken for. As Lyn Mikel Brown observed in her study of girls' anger, 'a 'slut' is not someone who is sexually active per se, but rather someone who is disconnected from her partner of from other girls.' Psychologist Deborah Tolman writes that 'the fact of girls' sexual activity is explained in terms of relationships: girls have sex in the service of relationships.'"

(hey - when you work with teenagers, you need to pay attention to these sorts of things).

So now I tag:
Anya, because she needs to update her blog anyway
Lori, because she's a faithful reader here
Susan, because she reads a lot
Russ, because he needs a distraction
Whoever else wants a free tag - this one is yours.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Hide the Kids! The Democrats are Comin!

Apparently Hillary's going to be in Tacoma today, after a rally in Seattle last night. And Obama is playing Key Arena in Seattle sometime today, as well.

Me, I'll be leading the funeral of 90-year old Lakebay stalwart Edyth Johnson, mother of Phil Johnson, who you might remember from a post a couple months ago, so I'll be busy. Oh well. I mailed in my absentee ballot yesterday, anyway.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Why I Disagree with Jim Dobson

You probably already heard about Dobson's Official Statement yesterday, in which he declared that he could not, would not vote for John McCain (not even on a boat, not even with a goat). Thus, should McCain win the Republican Nomination, Dr. D stated that he could not, would not cast a vote in the upcoming presidential election (not even in the rain, not even in a train).
This from the press release:

"Dr. Dobson's statement speaks for itself," said Gary Schneeberger, vice president of media relations for Focus on the Family Action. "He made it as a private citizen, and it reflects his personal opinion of Sen. McCain's candidacy and record. People can read into it what they like; all I see is his own personal 'straight talk' regarding why he can't vote for one candidate."

What's troubling is that Dr. Dobson can't make "personal statements" - anything he says is taken as gospel by hundreds of thousands of evangelicals.

At best, this is extremely myopic. At worst, it's disingenuous and dishonest. Because Dr. Dobson cannot release a public opinion statement, calling it "his own personal straight talk," and not realize that hordes will follow his lead. The very form of this "personal opinion" reads as an official press release, which will cause many to take it as an official document. And if Dr. Dobson says "I'm not voting," then many of his fans will choose not to vote as well.

Besides all that, here's why I think he's wrong:
1) He's guilty of turning this into a single-issue election. Of course, that's Dobson's m.o. It's always been a single issue for him, and you can't fault him for caring deeply about that single issue. But he's allowing that issue to overshadow all the other many issues facing our land - the economy, the war in Iraq, the environment, social security, health care, for instance. When you start looking at all those issues, you find the candidates hold a wide variety of positions, meaning that it still does make a difference who gets elected. Even if the candidate doesn't line up on all your positions (or on your Main Position), there still will be one who lines up on more of your positions than does the other candidate.

2) God's people have always been called to seek the good of the land in which they preside. When Israel was sent into captivity in Babylon, when the church was scattered among the Roman Empire, followers of God were encouraged to pray for their land, to pray for their leaders, to "live such good lives among the pagans that they glorify our father in heaven." Whether or not we agree with our leaders, or even the political process, we are still called to be good citizens, to bless the communities in which we live. We are called to be a part of the process that brings health and well-being to our country. And if we have that opportunity through voting, I think we're obligated to take it.

3) The American Political Process gives room for dissent. There are always more than 2 candidates on the ballot. And you can even write in the candidate of your choice. Granted, the odds are that those other candidates won't win, but still, we have the opportunity to make our voice heard. If enough people vote for Ron Paul, the Major Candidates will be forced to pay attention to those voices. It's not just about the Big Two. True Confession: In 2000 I voted for Alan Keyes. Of course I knew he wouldn't win. But I liked him more than Bush or that other guy, so I voted as my heart led. Dr. Dobson and his followers can do likewise - in fact, mobilize your army to vote a third party or establish a write-in campaign. They may not win, but they can still make a difference; they can make their voice heard in a positive way.

4) Excuse me for getting a little personal, but in the grand scheme of things, Dr. Dobson's approach has him coming off like a whiny kid - "If I can't have it my way, I'm taking my ball and going home!" It's not productive; it's divisive and again sends the message to the world that Evangelicals are petulant and given to temper-tantrums if we don't get our way.

So my advice to my (sadly, very few) regular readers, is to research, study, read, listen, and discern who the best candidate is, and then get out and vote. Even if you have to write my name in.

Be A Winner for Jesus!

The aforementioned "Images of Atonement Contest" is up and running over at Emergent Village.

"In order for the rich benefits of alternative atonement theology to move beyond the circles of those who read theology books we must develop alternative imagery. We need not just a golf bag full of different explanations; we need a bag full of different imagery to use in conversations over coffee, in sermons, youth meetings, on blogs, etc. This contest aims to help this happen both through encouraging a wide number of people to work at developing an image, and then also by sharing the best images so that many others can use them."

Go ahead - try it out. Even if you don't win, it's good to stretch your mind around the broader meaning of atonement in our world.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

My Heath Ledger Story

I missed meeting Heath Ledger by about 5 minutes.

We were in Los Angeles for a Cross-Cultural-Encounter class, one of the final pieces of my time in seminary. We spent the afternoon at Venice Beach, enjoying the sights and sounds and scents and flavors of one of L.A.'s more exciting spots. Being that I had lived in L.A. for most of a decade, I was somewhat enjoying the role of tour guide to many of my fellow students, who were mostly from Canada and Kansas.

In the early evening, I was walking north along the beach with Mike (a friend from Fresno), and a young lady from Canada. Off in the distance I saw the telltale high-power lights of a movie shoot. The three of us wandered over to see what was happening. As we approached, they were just beginning to take one final shot of a skateboarder riding "into the sunset." We began talking to one of the crew on the fringes of the set.

"So what movie are you making?"

"It's called 'Lords of Dogtown," about the early skating culture down here."

"Does it star anybody we would know?"

"Well, it's directed by Catherine Hardwicke, who did 'Thirteen.' And the main star is Heath Ledger."

At that point, the young lady with us swooned. Both Mike and I said "who?" but she actually swooned.

"Yeah, he was just here, but left about 5 minutes ago to begin setting up for filming a street scene in town. Otherwise you could have met him."

Eventually, I figured out that Heath Ledger was that guy I'd seen in "A Knight's Tale." Other than that, I knew nothing about him. But strangely, when we told the story to the larger class at our debriefing that night, all the ladies once again swooned. Just because we'd been on the same beach where he had been.

And that's the closest I ever got to Heath Ledger.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Book report

One of the benefits of long plane rides is all the spare time for reading. So it was that, on the way to Chicago, I finally finished Scot McKnight's A Community Called Atonement.

This issue of Atonement (the theology, not the movie - although I read that book coming home from Chicago 5 years ago or so. . .) has been rumbling around in my head ever since taking the Theological Understandings of Jesus class at the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary. Mark Baker, class professor, had written (with Joel Green) Recovering the Scandal of the Cross, which attempts to push back against the overwhelming single narrative of Penal Substitutionary Atonement. Green and Baker argue that there are a number of biblical metaphors for atonement, and that the church should do well to claim them all. In fact, they suggest, it's time to write some new metaphors to carry the message of atonement into a world that has left the idea of guilt and sin behind.

(side note: The folks at Emergent are working on a contest, in which people will be able to submit new atonement metaphors that would speak to a post-modern culture. Judges will include MESSAGE DELETED TO PROTECT ANONYMITY OF JUDGES)

To cut this down - I was challenged by the book and Baker's teaching; I ended up submitting a chapter that was included in Recovering's sequal, Proclaiming the Scandal of the Cross. Following last Easter I preached a series on "what did the cross actually do?" The message I preached on shame was one of the most powerful experiences of my preaching career.

And, of course, last year Scot McKnight weighed into the discussion with the above-mentioned book. McKnight's premise, somewhat akin to Baker and Green's, is that there are any number iof biblical images that speak about atonement, and that they are all important. While each is metaphor in its own right, each offers a slightly different shade as to the extent of the work of the cross. McKnight's genius is in likening all this to a golf bag - in your bag, you need a number of different clubs, because different clubs fit different situations better than others. So too with atonement metaphors. One will speak to one issue, in one situation, one will speak better in another.

McKnight begins by discussing the problem itself - what problem was atonement meant to solve? Because where you begin ends up defining where you end. And the basic problem, according to McKnight, is this - we were made in the Image of God, to live in relationship to God, to others, to creation, and to ourselves. Sin cracked that Image, and distorted all four directions of relationship. Therefore, atonement must be big enough to restore that Image, and to restore relationships in all four directions.

He then moves on to discussing the various atonement moments and metaphors. I appreciate the fact that he pushes atonement further out than simply the cross, or the cross and resurrection. To McKnight (with whom I wholeheartedly agree), the whole life of Christ was an atoning work. Thus, the incarnation, the cross, the resurrection - these all are part of the bigger atonement picture.

McKnight briefly sketches a few of the historical developments related to atonement, and then sums them up with this thought: The bag that holds all the atonement images is defined as this - Atonement is identification for incorporation. Jesus came to earth to identify with humans. His life, Passion, and resurrection are all about identifying with humans, with living the human life in all its fullness. And Jesus did this that we might be incorporated into his death and resurrection, that we may be restored to God, self, others, and creation through his redemptive work. Jesus died for us, instead of us, and with us. "God sends his Son into this world, the Fourth Gospel tells us, to set in motion the earthly missio Dei, the mission of God to bring the world to its consummation, to restore cracked Eikons [humans made in the image of God], to heal humans in all four relational directions. . .Everything good happens to the Christian by virtue of union with Christ."

Finally, McKnight challenges us to recognize this fact - the primary work of God is to create an atoned community who will carry out the work of atonement in the World. This is not an individualistic "Jesus saved me!" thing; when we are incorporated into Christ, we are given the mandate of joining with the people of God to live out atonement for the world around us. Therefore, the Church is to be about the work of the missio Dei, fighting for the oppressed and loving the hurting and feeding the hungry and standing up to injustice and proclaiming the Good News that Jesus Christ is Lord. When the church gathers for fellowship, when the Church fights for justice for all, when the church goes to work in carrying out God's mission to the world, when the Church lives out the Lord's Supper and Baptism, then the Church is reflecting it's nature as God's atoned people.

Now, I must admit this. I love theology, I also love practicality. And I found myself at the end of the book saying "and how do we do this?" But this is more of a theological, setting-the-stage kind of book, than it is a "how-to" book. Perhaps sometimes I expect too much, or I'm looking for the easy answers. Either way, McKnight's book throws out the gauntlet - are we going to be the people God called us to be? Are we going to be living atonement in our midst? Are we going to be living out the Mission of God in our communities? Are we going to expand atonement until we realize it is about the restoration of all of Creation, and not just the salvation of a few? And are we going to be the Christians we're supposed to be, carrying on God's work into our communities?

Or are we going to settle in, knowing that "It's all good between Jesus and me. Now pass the chips. . ."

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Sometimes you just can't get away

I got to Midwinter and ran into Mark Nakazono, former youth pastor of Turlock Covenant, and current U.S. Army chaplain. The next day I met up with Sean and Kerri Curtis, former interim pastor (and spouse) of Cornerstone Covenant in Turlock. On Thursday I had breakfast with Sean and Kerri, and Amanda, wife of the current youth pastor at Cornerstone Covenant in Turlock. Friday night we went to dinner at Jake Bradley's (formerly of Turlock) and his father and step-mother, formerly of Modesto and Escalon.

This morning in worship I kept having weird Turlock flashbacks. I was remembering those warm days driving out of town along Santa Fe, or along the canal north of town. Maybe I just miss the warm weather; I don't know. Or maybe it's because we've hit the 2-year anniversary of our leaving Turlock. Or maybe it's some weird virus that has infested us. . .


For 45 minutes, I kept saying "this is the most boring Super Bowl ever. And even if the Patriots win, I'm not impressed."

That final quarter sure made up for the rest of the game, didn't it?

Oh, and this. It's always an odd moment when you are at a church football party and a Victoria's Secret commercial comes on. Robert and I had to take care of that with some quick body blocking.

Friday, February 01, 2008

How my week began

First of all, you have to understand that I didn't get any sleep Saturday night. From 11:30-5:30, we were dealing with a sick child. Then at 6:00 my alarm went off, telling me it was time to get up, to get ready for the Sunday services ahead. So I entered Sunday morning on perhaps 20-30 minutes of sleep.

Then you must remember, we had tickets to the Sonics game Sunday night. And just getting there was confusing enough. We left shortly after church and stopped in Key Center to see everybody at the Delores Leigh fundraiser. Then off to Karina's sister's to drop off Clara. Then to the Park-and-Ride in Purdy to pick up Roshni. Then to Port Orchard to meet Jake Bradley (formerly of Turlock). Then across the Puget sound on the ferry to West Seattle, where we picked up Leah Ingram (formerly of Turlock). Then up to Seattle Center where we met my brother and his friend and Martin (formerly of Upland, CA) and his girlfriend Kelly. Dinner at McMenamins, then the game (In which Seattle was almost blown out, then came back to tie on a miracle 3-point shot with 6.1 seconds left, only to lose on a buzzer-beater at the very end). Then coffee at Cafe Ladro. Then the drive to West Seattle to drop off Leah and Jake, and the drive to Tacoma to pick up some of Roshni's stuff, then the drop-off of Roshni in Purdy (where we found her car frozen in a block of ice) and finally home at midnight.

My alarm went off at 5:00. Time to get up and head to the airport to catch my flight to Seattle. Throw on a sweatshirt and jeans - I can take a shower when I get to Chicago, I think to myself. I walk outside. It is snowing. Traffic is therefore very slow. But I make it to the airport, get checked in, walk to the gate. . .and find the flight delayed 2 1/2 hours. A number of other Covenant pastors are on the same flight, so at least I can find some breakfast and have a conversation or two.

I get on the plane, to find a man sitting in my seat - the window seat. I would soon discover he's from China, up near Mongolia, and doesn't speak much English. "Excuse me, I think that's my seat." "Uh, yes. 24A!" "Right. But. . .I have the ticket for 24A." "Right! 24A!" "Where is your seat?" "Uh. . .middle! I sit so I look out window!" "But I have the ticket for that seat. " "Yes! I look out window!" And everybody's looking at me and smirking bemusedly. I take the middle seat.

Finally we're all ready to go, but we're sitting there. And sitting there. And sitting there. First, it's "because the flight was delayed, there's a backup going to Chicago, so we're waiting for our slot." Then it's "the boys are out there de-icing the wings." Finally, it's "we added a couple people at the last minute, so they have to rearrange the luggage down below, to keep the weight load level."

And then, eventually, we're in the air, and get to Chicago late but safe and sound. We all go down to the luggage carousel. About 5 pieces of luggage come off. About 50 of us are waiting. And waiting. And waiting. 30 minutes go by, and still nothing. After all this time, somebody wanders off and finds an Alaska Airlines representative. "Oh, yes. They took 40-50 bags off that flight." "Um, what?" "Yes. Just before they took off they removed 40-50 bags from the flight. They're coming in later."

So, explain this to me. At the last minute, 3 or 4 people were added to the flight. And to compensate, 40-50 bags were taken off the flight. I don't understand that math. What I also don't understand is why Alaska Airlines didn't send a representative to the gate, or to the carousel to greet us and tell us what had happened. Or why they didn't make an announcement on the plane? Instead, they left us to mill around, wasting a good 30-45 minutes waiting for luggage that would never show up.

Of course, all's well that ends well. I didn't get to put on clean clothes as soon as I got to the hotel. I had to hold my contacts in a coffee cup when I went to sleep that night. I didn't get to brush my teeth. But around 2:30 a.m. the phone rang and the bellman told me the bag was there, and shortly thereafter he brought it to the room, and I had clean clothes and toothpaste and my pajamas, and I drifted back to sleep, for a few more hours.

So, if you saw me in Chicago in the last few days, and I appeared sleepy, now you know why.