Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Life's getting away

We leave Friday morning for our inner-city Urban Plunge/ministry trip to San Francisco, so I think this space will be silent for the next two weeks or so. Too many details to take care of in the next 40 hours. If you think of it over the next few weeks, say a prayer for our team as we travel to, and minister in the Bay Area (and as we travel home, as well).

God be with you 'til we meet again.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Maybe this just goes to prove my point

The last week or so has been wondrous. Ferry rides through the Puget Sound, camping out on Orcas Island, climbing Turtleback Mountain, picking raspberries in a friend's backyard, a picnic at the beach yesterday, watching the glorious sunset over the Olympic Mountains, driving home Sunday night down the West Valley Highway as the sunset glow turned Mt. Rainier red then orange then pink then a soft lavender, and mostly spending lots of time with my wife, my kids, my parents, and a lot of friends.

This morning has been torturous. It all started when that little "Windows Update" icon appeared in the firefox toolbar. It must have been a large update, because it took a long time to load. In the middle of that, I attempted to visit a site that used java and a java update thingy came on, but for whatever reason the java update didn't automatically work with firefox, so the site crashed. And the update that was loading was slowing down everything else. The music that was supposed to be smoothly playing was instead coming in spurts. The news website I was looking at froze. The email that was coming and going froze in midstream. And when I moved the cursor of the "update" icon it seemed stuck at 33%, then went back to zero after 10 minutes and started all over.

In other words, I just wasted 90 minutes simply trying to make this computer do what I need it to do.

So, again: 6 days, mostly technology free = glorious experiences with friends and with creation.
90 minutes with a laptop = ready to pull my hair out.

What does this all tell us?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Thoughts on Technology

Recently I was handed a copy of a magazine that focuses on technology and how it interacts with our lives. It was filled with articles touting the latest gizmos, exploring the depths of technology's influence in society, and, of course, it had a whole lot of ads from technology-related companies.

I found myself becoming somewhat distraught the further I got into the magazine. By the end, I was troubled, sad, and even a bit confused. If this magazine is a reflection of society and its intentions with technology, then I'm wary of our future. And no, not because of issues like genetic modification or human/robot hybrids.

Mostly because the majority of the technological applications and innovations revolved around entertainment. Computers were touted for their ability to: 1)play movies; 2) organize music; 3)play video games. Portable devices were sold on their ability to: 1)play movies; 2) organize music; 3)play games. There were new "individual movie players" - perhaps you've seen them; they look like eyeglasses but they have tiny video screens inside so you can lock out the world and watch Rambo in isolation. There were new and improved music players, new and improved game players.

And it got me thinking: how does technology help me achieve what I want in life?

Personally, I do enjoy and use technology. I write this blog on my Sony Vaio laptop, posting it to the internet via the church's wireless router. Last week we received our brand now computer at home, and set up a wireless network so I can take my laptop home and we can all share the same system. We own an ipod, and a Playstation (2). Karina and I both have cell phones. I utilize technology for my work, doing sermon research online, keeping in touch with people via email and social networking. I've been able to do some long-distance pastoral counseling by utilizing the internet.

Quick story - On Monday, our ferry was delayed by a tug pulling a barge past the north end of Vashon Island. I took a picture of the barge with my cell phone and sent it to my friend Doug, who drives a tug boat. Just a little moment, just a quick way to say "hey!" Just a way to maintain a friendship during the day.

But, when I think about the things that are important to me, and then I compare it with the lifestyle the technology industry is selling, I find myself more and more at odds with them.

This is what is important to me:
- rich friendships
- deep conversations
- spending time outdoors, enjoying nature
- making music (with real instruments, not fake video game instruments)
- playing with my kids
- reading good books
- being able to bring Christ into the lives of others
- good cheese and root beer

The emphasis of the technological world seems to push against all those ideals. Rich, deep friendships are replaced with instant messages and facebook friends. Music making is changed into music-consuming. "Playing" (by which I mean something tactile, whether running or throwing a ball or playing a board game) is replaced by manipulating a joystick. Good books are replaced by infotainment.

So I have begun to ponder - how does technology affect my life? Is it forcing me to give up the things I love in order to pursue the things I'm 'supposed' to enjoy? How can technology make my life better, when, in reality, most of it is just trying to make my life different (so that I'll buy more of it. . .).

In other words: technology is sold on the backbone of entertainment. I don't want to be entertained. I want technology to make me better at the things I enjoy, not the things it wants me to enjoy. And yet I don't want to become a luddite, shunning technology and ignoring the possibilities it brings.

Perhaps some of you more technologically astute could answer me this: How might technology make our lives richer and better in areas NOT related to 1)watching movies; 2)organizing music; or 3)playing video games? What are some of the advances in technology that might, in fact, give us deeper and richer experiences with people and the world? If we threw out the entertainment emphasis, what's left for me to embrace?

And, perhaps this is the deeper question - for those of us truly seeking life outside of the entertainment mainstream, how do we live in a world where so many in our community do buy into the movie/music/gaming world? If I'm seeking depth, but everybody else is seeking cheap fun. . .how do we connect?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Commentary on Two Items

1. Scot McKnight posted on 10 Reasons why Golf is better than soccer. If you ask me, that's like posting on 10 reasons why tofu makes for better dessert than does play-doh. In the end, neither one is satisfying. Or 10 reasons why a Honda SUV is better than a Chevy SUV. In the end, neither one is a Jeep. Or even 10 reasons why Country is better than Hip-Hop. In the end, they're still both irritating.

Because golf may be better than soccer, but in the end they're both still a waste of time. Want the "outdoor sporty experience" of golf, try going for a hike or bike ride. Want the team aspect of soccer? Baseball and football are much, much better, much more interesting to watch and/or play. There are a hundred things that would be a better use of your time than golf or soccer. So why does it matter which is better than the other?

And since that's my opinion, that makes it true.

2. On a more serious note, the Seattle papers were abuzz yesterday with the news that yet another Mars Hill campus opened this weekend - this time, across Lake Washington in Bellevue.

It's not really my goal in life to criticize Mars Hill Church - I know people whose lives have been dramatically turned around through the ministry of Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill. I know people who still attend Mars Hill, people who are faithful disciples of Jesus and seeking to serve him in the world.

And yet, every time I turn around, they seem to be making these statements that completely rub the wrong way (caveat: I guess there is always the possibility that the press is trying to present them in a poor light. . .).

So, for instance, the Seattle P-I interviewed Jesse Winkler, the 30-year-old pastor of the newest Mars Hill Campus. And I have to wonder, who is training these people?

Winkler: "As Christians, I think we tend to add churchy stuff to what Christianity is supposed to be like. We say Christians are supposed to look, talk, dress and eat and drink this way, and the Bible just doesn't have that stuff."

This argument has been around since, what, the 195os? At least since the early days of the Jesus Movement. Hasn't it already become somewhat stale? Who exactly is he talking about? What Christians (except for a very few) are actually telling others how to look, talk, dress and eat and drink certain ways? Who is he arguing against here? Or is there really no "who," and he's setting up a straw man in order to better market to young people who are always fighting against some supposed "the man" who's telling them how to behave?

(And, as a side note, the Bible actually DOES have a lot to say on how Christians ought to talk and dress and eat and drink.)

Winkler: "We (Mars Hill) keep a little bit of a raw edge to us. We keep it simple, without any human, man-made stuff. We're not the churchiest of folks. We're pretty big Bible people."

I have never, in my entire life, found a church that didn't have "any human, man-made stuff." If he were telling the truth, their women would wear coverings on their heads, their men would be greeting each other with holy kisses, they would encouraging all their people to seel everything so that poor people could eat, their worship songs would be nothing but Psalms. . .If they don't do all those things, then they are "theologizing" the biblical texts, which means they are adding "human stuff." We all add "human stuff." Because we're SUPPOSED to add "human stuff." God didn't give us a detailed playbook, he gave us a book that forces us to wrestle with it, with our "human stuff."

Winkler (when asked about Mars Hill's choice to limit leadership in the church to men): "We believe that's a role God has given to men. He's given roles for women in our church as well, but the office of "elder," we believe, is reserved for men -- for one reason or another. We'll find out (why) in eternity, I suppose."

I know, I know. It's tough to do deep theology when answering a reporter's questions. It's impossible to sum up the arguments for and against women in ministry in one pithy statement. But still. "We'll find out in eternity, I suppose?" That's supposed to convince people that our position is the correct one? It just sounds so. . .trite. It sounds so much like what Josh McDowell attacked in "Don't Check Your Brains At The Door."

It also goes back to that earler part, where Winkler said "We're pretty big Bible people." Because, if that were true, they'd be aware that even Paul commends women who are in leadership in the earliest church.

Now, to his credit, Winkler makes this comment, which is pretty powerful: "The thing that makes us successful is the power of God's word, which is the Bible. When we compromise on that, we do damage to what God wants us to do. The power of this church isn't us, it's God. We're really not driving this ship at all."

I'm saying "amen and amen." Right up to that last little sentence. I think I know what he means, but I'm also wary enough to recognize the possibility of a cop-out. It's too easy, when we're being challenged, to say "well, it's just God is all. Don't challenge me, I'm just doing what God says." Which, sometimes, really means "I have no good reason for doing what I'm doing, so blame God if you disagree." Which is a shallow answer, at best.

In the end, I want to see the Kingdom of God grow, and I want to see young leaders grow into mature leaders. I know people make mistakes and say silly things all the time, and it's not my place to sit over here and say "neener-neener" at them.

It's just that, there seems to be this trend over at Mars Hill of pastors who, while claiming to speak from a biblical point of view, instead seem to be clothing a worldly point-of-view in biblical language and calling it good. And that's not good.

Perhaps it's all just growing pains. It will be interesting to see what happens to a church that markets itself to 20-somethings ages, when all those 20-somethings are in their 40s and 50s. Will the language change? Will the "rebellious" passion remain? Or, 30 years from now, will they become the old fuddy duddies, being challenged by a "new" youth culture?

Why it's cool to live where we live. . .

This was yesterday:

Breakfast in Port Orchard, followed by a ferry ride across the Puget Sound to Seattle (where, for you Turlock folks, we picked up Anya for the day). Lunch was Indian food in Ballard. Then off to Golden Gardens park for the afternoon - running through the sand, playing in the surf, getting some sunshine. Over to Fremont for gellato and gluten-free pastries (and a quick stop at Dusty Strings). Pick up sushi and head to Queen Anne Hill, where we eat dinner overlooking Elliott Bay, downtown Seattle, and Mt. Rainier hovering in the distance. The kids head down the hill to play on one othe best playgrounds in the city. Then over to REI for a few minutes, a stop for coffee, and a drive home at Sunset.

It was, by all accounts, a marvelous summer Seattle day. I even wrote a poem about it:

It was 80 degrees and sunny at the beach yesterday.
We were at the beach yesterday
It was nice.

(I never said it was a good poem. . .)

Friday, July 11, 2008

For the church musicians

Quick - look at Sunday's music list. From what 'streams' do your songs come?

Including our optional time of pre-service worship, our Sunday Set finds its sources in the following places:

- Worshiptogether: 3
- Little Peach Music: 2
- Hillsongs: 2
- Integrity's Hosanna: 1
- Vineyard: 1
- Songs within the denomination: 1
- Public Domain: 1

All in all, pretty widespread. How about your church? Does all your music come from the same place, or do you pick and choose from wider sources?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

So much for compassion

I was putting in my contacts this morning. My right contact slipped off my finger and onto the sink. I picked it up, rinsed it, and inserted it into my eye.

Apparently, I didn't rinse it well enough. And apparently Karina hadn't completely finished wiping the bleach off the sink when she washed it yesterday.

Ever had a firebrand stuck through your eyeball? Yep, I think it felt about like that. And, since my eyelid slammed closed in agony, and since my eye was watering like a firehose, it took about 5 minutes to get said contact out of my eye.

So eventually everything gets squared away, both the contact and the eyeball are thoroughly rinsed out, and I enter back into life with only a vague stinging sensation, and the horrific memories of five minutes of sheer torture.

At the breakfast table, I share this story, perhaps to receive some sympathy for all that agony, but no. As my impressive, tear-stained story draws to a close, Clara pipes up, "But Daddy, I have a cut on my toe!"

And any empathy that would have been mine goes instead to her toe, which was slightly cut by a barnacle in the Puget Sound yesterday.

Sometimes I wonder if we do the same to God. He's up there saying "My son got killed for you!" and we're down here going "I'm so upset because I can't afford those new jeans!"

But that would be to overspiritualize things, I suppose. Really, I was just wondering how life came to this, where a near-blinding can be overcome by a tiny scratch on the toe of a three-year-old? Kids today have no compassion, I tell you what.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Fun Summer Times

Sunday afternoon was pretty much the definition of summer. Olivia and I traversed the hill behind our house, picking a bucket-load of huckleberries and thimbleberries. Then, for dinner, Karina made huckleberry pancakes, with the huckleberries we had just picked.

You put up with a lot living here in Washington. A lot of rain, a lot of fog, a lot of cold, a lot of crazy folk, but it's days like that that make it worth it.

In other news, next week we're going camping up on Orcas Island, attending the Woodsong Arts and Music Festival. Three days of camping, listening to music (a lot good, some not so much, or so I'm told), meeting people and doing artsy crafty things. Our friends Lief and Anna go every year, and have invited us along this year. They say it's the best thing of the summer, so we're looking forward to it.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Music List for Independence Day

(How many of these are in your collection?)

1. Portraits of Freedom: Music of Aaron Copland and Roy Harris; Seattle Symphony, Gerard Schwarz, conductor. (Highlights include A Lincoln Portrait and Fanfare for the Common Man)
2. Handel: Royal Fireworks Music; New York Philharmonic, Pierre Boulez, conductor.
3. Tchaikovsky: Festival Coronation March; USSR Ministry of Culture Symphony Orchestra, Guennadi Rojdestvenski, conductor.
4. Orff: Carmina Burana; The London Philharmonic, Zubin Mehta, conductor.
5. Honor to our Soldiers: Music of the Civil War; Classical Brass.
6. Heart of America; Azusa Pacific University Choir and Orchestra, Gary Bonner, conductor.
7. Out West!: Tone Poems of the American West; Seattle Symphony, Gerard Schwarz, conductor (highlights include Grofe's Grand Canyon Suite and Copland's Rodeo)
8. Greatest Hits: Simon and Garfunkel.
9. Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture, from Tchaikovsky Gala in Leningrad; Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra, Itzhak Perlman, conductor.
10. Respighi: The Pines of the Appian Way (from The Pines of Rome); New York Philharmonic, Giuseppe Sinopoli, conductor.
11. Holst: The Planets; Chicago Symphony Orchestra, James Levine, conductor.
12. Copland: Appalachian Spring; Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Leonard Bernstein, conductor.
13. Sleepless in Seattle: The Soundtrack
14. Dvorak: Symphony No. 9: From the New World; The Philadelphia Orchestra, Wolfgang Sawallisch, conductor.
15. Summon the Heroes; The Boston Pops Orchestra, John Williams, conductor. (Highlights include Bugler's Dream, Summon the Heroes, Festive Overture by Shostakovich, The Olympic Spirit, and 1492: Conquest of Paradise)

Thursday, July 03, 2008

This is a test

Sermonhost has a 'mini-player' that lets me link from this blog to our Sunday morning archive. If you press the button below, you should be able to hear my sermon from June 22.

And now, over to the sports desk

Last night, a group from Lakebay Community Church drove over to Tacoma to see the Rainiers take on the Colorado Springs Sky Sox in a battle of AAA baseball. It was my first time to see the Rainiers, and I believe my first AAA baseball game.

The Tacoma Rainiers are the AA affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. If you've been paying attention, the Mariners are having one of their worst seasons ever. And, among all their ineptness, two of their major downfalls have been 1)bad starting pitching, leading to too many huge deficits early on in games; and 2) not being able to score runners on base, thus leaving many runners stranded out there when the inning comes to an end.

Apparently, the little boys have learned from their big brothers. By the end of the second inning, the Rainiers were down 7-1, and eventually lost 9-2. And over the course of the game, the Rainiers left 10 men on base. Twice they had bases loaded with only one out, and failed to score a run. A couple other times they had men on base with no outs and failed to score a run. It was, by all accounts, an excellent exercise in futility.

Ah, well. It's always a fun night at the park, regardless of whether you win or lose. I was somewhat surprised at the sparse attendence - I think the park wasn't even 25% full. But our group had fun, and got to cheer when our name went up on the scoreboard (twice), we got to enjoy a warm summer night at the ballpark, and we even got a fireworks show - our eastern-facing seats gave us a front-row view of a thunderstorm moving in over Puyallup and Auburn. So while the Rainiers weren't lighting the park up much, we were able to sit back and watch the lightning show as it moved in. Which, by the second inning, was about all the drama we could expect.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

slice of life

On my walk home for lunch, I was pleasantly surprised to discover our huckleberry bush full of ripe, red huckleberries. mmmm

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Add One More To the List

As part of our vacation last week, we made it up to Wisconsin twice - my first trips into the Cheesy State. On Tuesday we drove up to the Covenant Annual Meeting in Green Lake; on Friday we spent the afternoon in Lake Geneva (home to one of our Covenant Camps).


All in all, Wisconsin seems like a nice enough place, although we saw more police on stakeouts than I've ever seen anywhere else. Part of a crackdown, what with all the Covenanters coming to the state?

However, the recent midwestern floods had left a lot of standing water around, which accounted for the plague-like swarms of mosquitoes that made life outside somewhat miserable. Or so the locals all said, anyway.

And I guess my geological sense isn't finely attuned to Land East of the Rocky Mountains, because, for the most part, driving through Wisconsin felt and looked the same as driving through Austin, TX (where we were last March) and Knoxville, TN (where I was in 2003 and 2006 for CHIC). I suppose it's all the open land and generally rolling hills, the humidity, and the lack of evergreen trees.

Still, Lake Geneva was a cool place to hang for a couple hours - nice shops, good restaurants, beautiful lakefront, friendly locals. And since Wisconsin is "the land of my forefathers" (grandpa and grandma Whitmarsh left there to move out west many a decade ago), it was nice to visit.