Friday, October 31, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Without the patch


I've been without the eye patch most of the day. And I'm taking tylenol, rather than the hard stuff the doctor gave me. Mostly, it hasn't been too bad. A little dizziness, a little pain and pressure, but progress over the last few days. I tested out the "new eye," and could read a little with it, although it seems a little foggy. Still, they told me it would "get a little better each day," and that seems to be the case.

Just don't ask to look at the eye. I took one glance, and it's a pussy mess. Not pretty.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

How the day goes

First order of business: Get out of bed.
Second order of business: Get food in stomach.
Third order of business: Take pain medication.
Fourth order of business: Clean off wound.
Fifth order of business: Apply eye drops.
Sixth order of business: Blog about it all.
Seventh order of business: Go back to bed.

I did get in a couple of movies yesterday - Iron Man (note: sfx-laden movies don't work so well when you can only see out of one eye) and Grace is Gone, a Jon Cusack movie about a father attempting to tell his two daughters that their mother was killed in Iraq. It was a tender, understated yet powerful movie. I had tears in my eyes. . .but then again, that may have just been because I have stitches in my eye, too.

As a quick follow-up, I go back to see Dr. Rotkis next Tuesday, and he'll let us know if everything is still healing up nicely.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The story

In case you have a lot of extra time on your hands. . .

It begins in about 1998, when I went to see a new eye doctor. This was my first visit since moving from California to Oregon. Somewhere near the end of the visit, the doctor said, "hmm." He mentioned he saw a little astigmatism in my eye. "We'll have to keep watch on that and see if something's happening."

January of 2000, I noticed my vision blurring. So back to the eye doctor in Gresham. They assigned me a new doctor in their clinic, a young woman who split her time between this clinic and teaching at the optometry school in Forest Grove.

"Hmm," she said, and left the room. When she came back, she told me she had bad news. "You've developed karatoconus in your left eye." And thus we entered into a new world of eye treatment.

However. . .

My new pair of hard lenses came, but the left one didn't fit well. Which is somewhat expected. But then the next didn't fit, and neither did the next. "Hmm," she said. She was somewhat frustrated. One day I was in, and she told me there was a contact specialist in the other room. She wanted him to try and fit me.

He was a little, well, arrogant shall we say? A little patronizing toward the eye doctor. He all but said "I'm going to teach this young woman a thing or two." But after about 15 different attempts, it still wouldn't fit. So he made it my fault. "You rub your eyes a lot, don't you? You're blinking wrong. You squint too much."

Having no luck, they sent me to have a corneal scan done in downtown Portland. I went to the office, sat in the chair, and listened to them explain karatoconus. "In fact," the specialist said, "I'll show you on your scan here, just as soon as it prints. See, the coloring here. . .hmm. That's not normal for karatoconus."

So back I went to my doctor, who promised to keep working with me.

Three weeks later, she called my office. She sounded quiter exuberant. "I've got it!" she said. "I talked to my prof at the school, and he knew exactly what it is! It's called Peluccid Marginal Degeneration, and it's really rare, but we can make a lens to fit it."

[from the experts: Pellucid marginal degeneration (PMD) - is a rare condition whereby the lower cornea becomes thinner and the optic surface of the cornea becomes irregular and the vision becomes blurry. The resulting shape of the cornea is similar to a pregnant belly whereby the lower portion of the cornea protruding forward. PMD is often misdiagnosed as Keratoconus, although similar, the resulting cornea shape can be quite different. PMD often has cornea sizes similar to that of a regular eye but a very steep curve in the bottom of the cornea.]

So I got the new lens, it fit well, and life carried on.

Three months later I moved to Turlock. There were no eye doctors in Turlock, or anywhere nearby, who even knew what PMD was. So for six years, I lived with that lens. Which was often a pain in the dry, dusty air of the San Joaqin Valley. But at least I could see.

In 2000 we move to Lakebay. About that time I noticed the lens wasn't fitting well again. So Karina called around and found the local experts in corneal issues. I made an appointment, and went in and saw Ralph Archer.

He looked at my eye through the eye-looking machine. "Hmm," he said. "A problem?" I asked. "That lens fits like %#$#$"

Which is what began this second phase of eye treatment. It took about 8 trips into Seattle and about 6 different lenses to find the one that finally fit. All along he told me he was confident we could treat it with a lens. But he also kept saying I was one of the worst cases he'd ever seen. "If a typical ophthalmologist saw one or two like this in their lifetime, they'd be lucky." PMD is rare enough, but mine seems to extend even more deeply than most. As my mom always said, I'm "special."

So for a year or so, I lived with this massive lens in my left eye. It popped out all the time. It scratched my eye. In the words of the docter, it "beat up" my eye pretty heavily.

When it broke last spring, I made another visit to fit a replacement. "Hmm" said Ralph. "Are you interested in a graft?"

And after talking at length with Ralph, after consulting with Dr. Rotkis, after talking with others who have had corneal transplants, we made the decision to go ahead and have it done.

Tomorrow, around 3:30, the scalpal will cut and I'll enter phase 3 of this journey. Which, hopefully, will end up being the easiest phase. If all goes well, the cornea will be shaped relatively normally. No more PMD, just typical blurred vision, correctable by normal contacts or glasses. No more hunk of plastic in my eye, no more inability to look to the right, no more beating up of the eye.

I'm ready. It's time to get this done. I'm looking forward to not being "special" any more. Normal is just fine with me.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Old friends

Way, way back in time, there was a group of 6 or 7 of us who grew up in church together. Our dads all served on the elder board, our moms all taught Sunday School. When we were kids we ran around in the parking lot after church; when we got older we became the youth group; as teens we went backpacking together and had New Year's Parties together and tortured our Sunday School teachers together. But then, as happens, we all went off to college and lost touch with each other.

Tomorrow I'm going on a picnic with one of those old friends, one I haven't seen in, what, 15 years? And now she's married and has kids, I'm married and have kids, so our kids can play together while all us adults do adult things like talking. Her husband's a pastor, and I'm a pastor, so we can talk about pastor-stuff. And the weather is supposed to be nice, so we're all looking forward to a blessed Fall afternoon of fun and talking about old times.

Last Wednesday evening, I had a phone conversation with my old roommate, who I lived with in Southern California 12 years ago. We hadn't talked in probably 6 years, haven't seen each other since 1997, so it was good to catch up and hear about life's twists and journeys.

When I left California, it was to move into a new ministry position in Oregon. Because I'd been forced out of my previous one. By a pastor who I'd fit into the category of "not very nice people." Some of you know the story: he was a habitual liar, a control freak, he plagiarized sermons, he was more interested in comfort and glory and protecting his position than in serving and shepherding and "being an example to God's flock." This man hurt a lot of people (including me) pretty badly.

So in the course of the conversation, my ex-roommate mentioned that this particular pastor had died a few years ago. And his wife had died a year or so before that.

And the truth is. . .I felt nothing but sadness. For which I praise God today. Because I know my thoughts toward this man were not exactly holy and righteous in the months and years following my ignominious firing. But God has been good to us, teaching me about forgiveness, helping me find good counsel, and, ultimately, teaching me to be grateful for all I have today. The fact is, I'm in a wonderful church, have an amazing wife and family; I love my life today. I have no regrets. I've learned the truth of Genesis 50:20 - "What you meant for evil, God meant for good." And so I can honestly say I take no pleasure in hearing of this man's death.

Only sadness remains. Sadness for a ministry he destroyed, sadness for the kids in our youth ministry who abandoned the church because of his actions, and sadness that, so far as I know, he never took the chance to seek redemption and reconciliation with those he had hurt. He was a smart man, had a good sense of humor, understood theology. . .he would have made a great pastor. And I'm sad he ended up living a different life than the one he was called to. I'm sad for the waste.

I suppose part of me always hoped we'd have a chance to reconcile someday; it would have been nice to redeem, in some small way, the damage he caused in my life. There was always that small part of me that wished for the day he would call and say "I realize now what I've done." Not for my own vindication, but for the good of the Kingdom of God and the victory of Christ over sin. Now that's all in God's hands, as it always has been anyway. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Giving Thanks to Someone I'll Never Know

It's an odd thought; I suppose any who have transplants must confront it at one point or another. Sometime today or tomorrow, someone in the vicinity of Seattle is going to die. After which their body will be harvested for organs and such, and their family will enter into a time of mourning. And on Monday, one of that person's corneas is going to be sewed onto my left eye, hopefully repairing the disorder with which I've been struggling for a decade. And I will go into the rest of my life "wearing" that person's cornea, facing less pain and struggle to read, to watch the sunset, to read music, to play with my kids.

Whoever that person is, whoever their family is, I pray God's blessing upon them, and grace in their grief. I don't envy their sorrow, but I am very grateful for their gift to me. May God have mercy upon them as they slip from this life; may God give comfort to those who mourn them.

And then there are the times you're blessed enough to go out

I actually did get out yesterday to visit a lady in our church who's in the midst of chemotherapy. She lives in a house on the water, on the east side of the Key Peninsula. We sat out on her deck, in the warm sunshine, under clear blue skies. To the east lay the open waters of Puget Sound, broken by the fir-covered mounds of Anderson and McNeil Islands, between which in the distance you could see the town of Steilacoom on the mainland, over which rose Mt. Rainier, shining in a crystaline snow-covered blanket of white. The conversation was wonderful, the setting was stunning, the refreshments refreshing. . .

That's my life. Surrounded by beautiful scenery and wonderful people. Sometimes I wonder why I'm so blessed.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sometimes Visitation Comes to You

Yesterday I got into the office and did about an hour's worth of work, before I walked out and bumped into a new friend. He and I had a long, deep talk about spirituality and community and seeking our way in life. After he left I had a chat with a woman about a mutual friend who is deeply hurting at the moment. Then our mission chair asked to meet with me about something, so we talked for 30 minutes or so. After she left I walked over to the front office, and saw one of our older ladies sitting there, waiting for Bible Study to start, so I chatted with her for 15 minutes or so. Then another woman from the church walked in - one I'd been hoping to talk with for a little while, so she came into my office and we talked about life and leadership for 3o minutes. In between all that I received a phone call from a woman who is deeply struggling with financial and marriage issues, and we talked through some options together. In the midst of all that another woman from the church came in with some concerns about some possible "inappropriate political advertising" taking place on church property. And then, just about the time I was heading home for lunch, in walked our janitor, who had been in the hospital over the weekend, so he and I spent some time catching up on all that was going on in his life.

I had one thing to accomplish yesterday: sending out the email newsletter. Short, simple task, right? I began it at 10:00, and didn't get it our for 5 or 6 more hours, simply because the day was spent visiting with people. Some people would like to see me get out of the office to do more visitation; lately I'm finding I can't get out of the office because all the visitation is coming to me.

And so goes the life of a community pastor.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Liturgy for Troubled Times

These were used in last Sunday's worship celebration at Lakebay Community Church:

Call to Worship
Leader: Whenever we gather together, we come to praise our God.
All: We praise our God, the one who reigns over all!
In times of joy and gladness,
We praise our God, who is good and kind!
In times of doubt and fear,
We praise our God, who is faithful and sure!
When bad news assails us, and dread stalks our homes,
We praise God, who protects and delivers us!
Whatever our lot, God has taught us to say,
"Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!" Amen.

Affirmation of Faith (from Habakkuk 3)
As God has been good to us, he is good to us still.
Though the stock market crash and cost of living rise,
though the paycheck is small and the bills grow large,
though enemy advance and foe prevail,
though trial and uncertainty remain;
'Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will exult in the God of my salvation.'
For God, the Lord, is my strength;
he lifts me to the high places.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Hey Doc - can you help me kill myself?

I've had a few people ask what I think about I-1000, the "assisted suicide" initiative here in Washington. To those still undecided, here are two resources that you might find helpful:

The 1997 Covenant Church Resolution on Assisted Suicide

The 2005 Covenant Resolution on Consistently Protecting and Promoting Life

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

On economic disasters and political discussions: A Christian Approach

For whatever reason, I find myself one step removed from the daily onslaught of breathy newscasters prognosticating doom and gloom regarding the economy, and slashing lives and destroying souls as they "report" the latest news from the Election Trail.

It helps not having television. Whatever news I get I either hear on NPR over breakfast, or read in the few online news sites I frequent, or catch as I work out at the YMCA. But I'm spared the 5:00 news, which is repeated in the 5:30 news, and then rehashed in the 6:00 news, which is then spun over in the 6:30 news, and then repeated all over again in the 10:00 news. And I'm fortunate to not be swamped by the 24-hour-a-day, never-ending "It's the End of the World as We Know It" coverage on the cable news networks.

Perhaps because of that separation, because we get our news sparingly, I find myself more interested in the HOW question than the WHAT question. I'm truthfully not all that interested in what is being reported, so much as I'm fascinated (and troubled) by how the issues are being discussed, both at the "professional news" level and at the "common citizen" level. It is obvious by now that professional news organizations are anything but impartial - whether you are watching Fox or CNN or MSNBC, as much time is spent mocking Obama or Palin or McCain or Biden as is spent reporting what they actually say and do. Vitriolic diatribes fly back and forth, making fun of Palin's wink or blasting Obama's ex-pastor. And it's not just the candidates: let's show clips of rednecks carrying McCain/Palin signs; let's find clips of Christians praying for certain candidates; let's make caricatures of them lib'ruls and their money-wasting, anti-American ways.

I probably don't need to say anything more about that. You're smart enough to know what I mean.

The other issue, of course, is the economic disaster facing our world. And the tsunami-o-blame crashing around in its wake. It's the double-whammy, really. People are frightened, people are losing their jobs and their retirement funds. I had the "good wisdom" about a year ago to take a chunk of cash out of a low-interest savings account and invest it with the Covenant Trust Company. I'm sure the plan, which was to do better than that savings account, has actually backfired. I've been hit hard, too.

And so people are fearful, they are doubtful, they are wondering what tomorrow brings. They are tied into the news, rejoicing over every uptick on the Stock Market, despairing with each successive drop.

Between the two - the political scene and the economic scene, it seems that two emotions rule the day: anger and fear. The anger manifests itself every time a person says "I'm thinking about voting for. . ." Friends of mine have had threats leveled at them because of the political bumper stickers on their car. Internet message boards are filled with slander and venom toward those who support one candidate or the other. Anyone who disagrees with another is an "ignoramous" or a "neo-con" or a "fundamentalist" or a "socialist." I've been warned against discussing politics in the church, because we may end up causing anger and division. And, there's probably some truth to that.

The fear manifests itself in the endless stock reports, the sell-offs, the message boards and coffee shops where people sit around comparing our time to the Great Depression, where people stare into the opening chasm of financial chaos and see the end of their hopes and dreams, and wonder if they'll be left selling apples on the street corner. People who are beginning to stock up on cans of soup, people afraid to rent a DVD or go out to dinner, people who lie awake at night and feel the cold snake of anxiety slither into their room, constricting around their heart and smothering their soul. Fear that the world is sinking around us, that our ship is going under and we may just miss the lifeboats. Fear that the sun will not, in fact, come out tomorrow.

Fear and anger. Anger and fear. Perhaps the two most prevalent emotions of the day.

And as I sit back and watch all this, as I ponder the how of this conversation, I'm struck that the conversation within the church isn't much different.

I get the letters in the mail, I read the internet message boards, I notice the advertisements. There are a lot of angry Christians out there. Christians angry at the "liberals trying to ruin the country." Christians angry at the gays for trying to ruin the country. Christians angry at the fundamentalists for giving a bad name to Christianity. Christians declaring "no follower of Jesus could vote for Obama." And Christians saying "anybody who reads the words of Jesus HAS to vote for Obama."

And Christians who are afraid. Or at least silent in the face of doubt and uncertainty. Christians who are fearful of what tomorrow may bring.

Or, of course, those other Christians who are ecstatic -the ones who figure that all this means Jesus must be coming back in the next week or so, so "Praise the Lord for all the devastation! It just means prophecy is being fulfilled!"

In the end, it seems to me that these reactions - anger, fear, exaltation at the suffering of others - are the exact opposite of the emotions that ought to mark followers of Christ.

Instead, the people of God ought to shine in the world as examples of gentleness, peacefulness, and simple trust. Consider:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not think you are superior.

As a prisoner of the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other.

. . .I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.

So, then, this is the proper response for Christians in the midst of political turmoil and economic disaster: love, respect, gentleness, trust, prayer, peace.

Imagine if Christians engaged in political discussion in a way that was truly respectful of the opinions of others. If Christians could strongly disagree over candidates and issues, and yet treat each other with humility, considering each other better than themselves. Imagine if Christians utterly refused to allow political beliefs and opinions to divide them. Imagine if every time Christians had a political discussion we did so under a huge banner that said "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." And what if we actually lived it?

In other words, what if our common faith in Christ was more important, more precious to us than our opinions on earthly political matters?

And what if we chose to believe God's promises of provision? What if Christians truly were a people of hope and courage in the midst of recession? What if we joyously professed our belief that God will provide? And, just as important, what if those who still had money and possessions shared what they had with those who had lost jobs, those who had witnessed the disappearance of their savings?

What if the Body of Christ were enthused with hope, and practiced love and care for those who suffer?

Just what kind of impact would that make? How would it change the conversation?

So this is what I believe:
1. Those who follow Christ must be marked by the fruit of the Spirit - gentleness, kindness, love, peace foremost. We must not behave like news broadcasters, pundits, and so many bloggers, spitefully mocking those with whom we disagree. We must listen and respect all who come to the conversation.
2. No matter how bad things become, Christians must not lose their hope that God will make all things well. Thus, Christians can radiate joy and gladness even in the midst of pain and sorrow, for we know that, ultimately, we are in God's hands, and, in the words of the great song, "no power of hell, no scheme of man can ever pluck me from his hand."
3. In all things, the Body must stand strong together, meeting each other's needs, caring and providing for those who hurt and hunger, challenging those who are becoming divisive and unruly.

What I'm really saying is this: we are not of this world; thus, we ought not to behave like this world. May the mind of Christ dwell richly within us, so that it is his light that shines through us, bringing hope and civility to a world that has lost its way.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Good Tunes

One of the sites I frequent is Live (free) streaming folk, bluegrass, and a little Americana/jazz thrown in there for good measure. Right now you can watch video clips of the original Kingston Trio and Pete Seeger, there are album reviews and concert listings. Lots of good music resources.

Mostly, though, I just let the music play as I go about my business.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Farm Fest 2008

Set List:
Roll in my Sweet Baby's Arms
Cindy (the Andy Griffith Version)
Dooley (The Dillards)
The Crawdad Song
Poor Boy's Delight (Infamous Stringdusters)
I'll Fly Away
I Can't Feel At Home in this World Anymore (Blue Highway Version)
When the Roll is Called Up Yonder
Keep On the Sunny Side
Tramps and Hawkers (Laurie Lewis and Tom Rosum)
Farther Along
Hard Times Come Again No More (Stephen Foster)
The Last Testament of Angus Shane (Lost Dogs)
The Last Train to Glory (Arlo Guthrie)
Angel Band
Froggy Went a-Courtin'
You Are My Sunshine
If There Hadn't Been You
When You Say Nothing at All
All I Want is You (U2)
A Long December (Counting Crows)
Goodnight Irene
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Friday, October 10, 2008

The Blue Parakeet: One Reader's Review

I’ve spent a lot of time in a lot of different theological streams. Fundamentalists, Wesleyans, Calvinists, Emergent, Mennonites, Quakers, and more. I’ve studied with them, read their works, discussed theology with them all. And while most of that time was pleasant, and while some of those conversations were enjoyable, all too often they’ve devolved into arguments over the issues that separate those groups.

The thing is, swimming in so many different pools has allowed me to make an interesting observation: each group is convinced that their reading of the sacred text is the correct one, and that all others are mistaken. And so each group assumes that if they can simply out-argue the other group, their view will win out. Unless, of course, those on the other side are “hard-hearted” or “blinded by the flesh,” in which case they’ll never accept Truth. (Note: this brush I’m using obviously describes certain of those groups more than others. . .)

What I’m getting at is this: there are many groups who have read the Bible, taken specific theological positions from specific passages, and then read the Bible through that particular lens or filter. The verses that support their position get lots of attention. The verses that would undermine that position – well, let’s just say they either get ignored or explained away.

Sometimes, though, just when we think we’ve got it all figured out, along comes a verse or passage that shakes things up a bit. Just when a theological position is codified, along comes something to knock it loose. Scot McKnight calls those “Blue Parakeet” passages. And it is at that point that McKnight takes off in his newest book, called, appropriately, The Blue Parakeet.

The essence of McKnight’s thesis is that there are many ways to read the Bible, including lawbook, repository of pithy statements, and puzzle. Unfortunately, most of these all come back to the same basic idea: we read the Bible in order to get correct information out of it. McKnight challenges that notion with this idea: we read the Bible in order to get the plot of the story, and then we live out that same story in our lives today. Thus, rather than attempting to live as Moses commanded, rather than attempting to fit all of Paul’s words into 21st Century American culture, we instead watch the plot unfolding from Creation, through the fall and Christ’s work of redemption, on into the ultimate recreation in the book of Revelation.

In other words, McKnight argues that our task is not to directly import the rules and statements of Moses and Paul into our day, but to see how God was working in the days of Moses, of Jesus, and of Paul, and allow this plot line to reveal to us how God is working in the world today. And then, most importantly, to live out this story in our world. To live lives of redemption, aware that God is still working today in ways unimaginable in biblical times, drawing us still away from the curse and into the Kingdom of God.

A couple brief thoughts:

- This book will make a lot of people nervous or angry, especially if they rank inerrancy and inspiration as the Highest Biblical Truths. Because McKnight pushes us to see beyond the words on the page to the God behind those words, some might accuse him of taking too low a view of scripture. I’m sure he’s aware of that, and is ready for the heresy police to come calling.

- McKnight uses the first half of the book to make his point, and then shifts in the second half to give us an example. For that example, he addresses the issue of women in ministry. I see and understand his logic. The teacher in him is coming out. First, give the theory, then the application. Again, his use of this issue is bound to make some people uncomfortable, especially the Southern Baptists out there. But I understand his method, and I concur with both his destination and how he got there.

- My only complaint with the book (and I realize this is probably just a personal thing): McKnight writes in a very conversational style, given to a lot of asides and personal interjections and cute acronyms. Perhaps this is due to the time he spends in college classrooms, attempting to reach today’s 20-year-olds with deep theological truth. To me, it all becomes so much distraction after awhile. Too cutesy. A dumbing-down of something that ought to make us think deep and hard. If I’m being forced to rethink how I read the Word of God, I want to be challenged with powerful examples and weighty logic, not fun stories and anecdotes. In other words, for a topic as important as this, I was surprised by the light and breezy tone taken by McKnight. Then again, I’m almost twice the age of most of his students, and I read professional theological tomes all the time, so perhaps I’m not exactly his target audience. You can read it and be the judge of that.

In the end, I find his primary argument, and his work on women in ministry, to be important for the Church today. I recommend the book for all who are seeking to figure out how the Bible speaks in the 21st Century world. It’s a relatively easy read that will still cause you to think deeply about how you approach the Bible and how you apply it to your life. And being aware of how we read is probably almost as important as knowing what we read.

(Note: according to Scot McKnight's blog, The Blue Parakeet is available on Amazon as of today)

Sometimes, as a father, I shudder

Two articles I came across this morning that make me want to pack my bags and move to, idk, Wasilla Alaska, maybe?

First, a September article about the media's attempts to sexualize our girls, even when they are as young as four years old. I'm not sure which is more disturbing:
- the thought of little girls dressing up in vampy clothes and dancing for the delight of strangers
- the parents who actually find this sort of thing appropriate, or, even worse, "cute."
- the corporate entities who are taking our daughters' innocence all the way to the bank

Second, Andrew Jones' account of his daughter being given the HPV vaccine, in spite of the fact that he and his wife and his daughter ALL agreed it would be better if she opted out, and checked the "no" box on the consent form. Seems the dr. went ahead and did it anyway.

Again, a perfect example of "professionals" thinking they know better than you as a parent. And the unsettling suspicion that, behind it all, nefarious corporations are getting rich by turning peer pressure against those who would choose not to consume their product.


It already began with us a few weeks ago, when we first heard "but daddy, ALL the other kids bring their ipods on the school bus. I'm the ONLY kid on the bus that doesn't have one." This from our innocent third grade daughter. And I've seen enough in all my years as a youth pastor to know it doesn't ever let up.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Bring me my cane, you whipper-snappers!

This fall, the wife is leading a Wednesday night Bible Study for Middle School girls. They have about nine girls taking part.

This morning I noticed a registration form for one of the girls in the group. It was lying on the counter, next to where I was grinding up my coffee beans in a vain attempt to kick-start some energy in this body. I was drawn to the birthdate.

This girl - this Middle School girl, this intelligent young lady who's coming and partaking in this Bible Study on the book of Acts, this girl on the cusp of growing into a young woman - was born in 1996.


Which means she has no memory at all of the 1990s. Of anything before, say 9/11? In fact, she was only 5 when that event happened.

And now she's in Middle School?


She probably doesn't even remember when the Spice Girls were all the rage.

I feel so ancient, all of a sudden.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Call to Worship for Communion Sunday

Leader: We come this morning to worship our God, the King of kings and Lord of lords.

All: May his presence fill this temple, and his power fill our hearts.

May his peace guard your hearts and minds as you come before his throne.

May our words, our thoughts, our offerings and our deeds be pleasing in his sight.

May you know the power of his love, overwhelming your sorrow and doubt with hope and contentment.

May we feel his presence in our worship, in the Word, and as we gather at his table.

He is our God! He is a friend to the friendless, father of the orphan, shelter for the traveler and alien among us!

He is our God! His name is more powerful than presidents, kings, rulers and authorities! He is our hope, our friend, our redeemer. His love saves us and restores us. Come, Oh God, and invade this space! Come, be with us! Open the heavens and come down; reveal your love once again! Amen.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Concert Review: Amazingly. . .disappointing

It was set up to be an interesting evening. Chris Thile, the mandolin prodigy famous for his three solo albums and his three bluegrass albums with his band Nickel Creek. Edgar Meyer, one of the most proficient double bass players in the world today. They are both masters of their instruments, both well-versed in the standard core related to their instruments, yet both given to pushing the boundaries in search of new sounds and ideas.

I went to the show, held in Seattle's beautiful Benaroya Hall, as fans of Thile. We had never heard of Meyer, but read his bio with great interest as we settled in to enjoy what we assumed would be a night of bluegrass, ballads, and great music. Thile's "How to Grow a Woman from the Ground" is one of our favorite albums, one we probably listen to every week, and thus we assumed we knew what we were getting into.

Unfortunately, that assumption was wrong.

Don't misunderstand. Thile and Meyer were utterly amazing. Their technical proficiency, their sense of musical phrasing, their ability to improvise were all astounding. The interplay between the two instruments was breathtaking to behold. They ripped off lightning-fast riffs with each note played clearly and distinctly, they harmonized in complex, atonal ways, they danced around ideas and tunes, passing back and forth with electric runs and complex sustained chords. Just watching them work their instruments was an inspiration.

It was just that the entire night turned into a 2-plus hour demonstration of experimental music. Their set consisted of music from their collaborations, music of their own composition, plus a few Bach numbers thrown in. Those classical pieces became, for us, the few enjoyable moments of the evening (ever heard a Bach Organ Prelude played by mandolin and concert bass? It can be surprisingly pleasent).

But they never went near any of their more standard work. Not one song from any of Thile's solo albums, nothing like his Nickel Creek days. And after two solid hours (with a short intermission), it all became too heavy. Too "out-there." It was, truly a disappointment.

Maybe if we'd been told ahead of time, and knew what to expect, we might have appreciated it more. Or, more likely, we wouldn't have gone, saving our money for Jolie Holland in Olympia next week. Truthfully - by the time we purchased the tickets, had a nice dinner out, spent the money on gas to get to Seattle and back, we were out a significant chunk of cash. And to hear "How to Grow a Woman" or "The Beekeeper" or "You're An Angel (and I'm gonna cry)" would have been worth it. But we got none of that.

All through the show, we kept telling ourselves "They've got to spend some time here, but they HAVE to pull out some of their other stuff. Too many people are looking forward to it." After the intermission we expected it. For the encore we expected it. But, nope. None of that.  To come with one set of expectations and be given something completely different was just, well, disappointing.

And I don't think we were the only ones. I noticed little pockets of people standing around at intermission, all dressed like bluegrass lovers, who had a haunted look in their eyes. Following the intermission I noted quite a few empty seats. Throughout the second half, I saw more and more people getting up quietly and walking out. Following their final song, when many stood to cheer and call for an encore, many more simply turned and left.

I hate to sound like a hick or a curmudgon, griping about this "new-fangled music" and wishing for something "dumbed-down." Truthfully, if we were on a college campus and had come for a night of experimental improv, I probably would have liked it. But this was so far away from what we were expecting, so different from what we had hoped. . .it was difficult to take.

And after 2 hours of odd chord structures, clashing riffs, atonal harmonies, euclidean time signatures, tweets and growls, moans and groans and exploding runs in the midst of pastoral clusters, after two hours of "Rabbit Cake" and "G222" and "The Fencepost," I just couldn't stand anymore.

It's rare for me to say this after a concert, but this time around, I really wish we had saved our money and stayed home.

Except, of course, that's it's always nice to be out,  and it was nice for the kids to see grandma and grandpa. I suppose those were the ultimate highlights of an otherwise dreary evening.

No offense to Chris or Edgar - you guys are amazing players. I just needed something to which I could tap my foot, and you never delivered.

Finally, my presidential endorsement

I've found the candidate of my choice. Watch the news feed here.

Monday, October 06, 2008

What Clara's saying

"Watch my amazing trick, daddy. Watch my amazing trick, daddy. Watch my amazing trick, daddy. Watch my amazing trick, daddy. Watch my amazing trick, daddy. Watch my amazing trick, daddy. Watch my amazing trick, daddy. Watch my amazing trick, daddy. Watch my amazing trick, daddy. Watch my amazing trick, daddy. Watch my amazing trick, daddy. Watch my amazing trick, daddy. Watch my amazing trick, daddy. Watch my amazing trick, daddy."

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Sunday. I'm Tired

At the church by 7:15.

New members class from 8:30-10:00.

A few brief conversations about dispensationalism and P.P. Waldenstrom.

Worship from 10:30-12:15ish, including a Q&A sermon that lasted almost 45 minutes. And the Lord's Supper.

A few more conversations.

A three hour board meeting to discuss the 2009 budget.

A quick check of the internet to check on the Seahawks' score.

Dinner and a bath.

Fire in the wood stove.

Kids needing some daddy time.

Bedtime calls.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Congregational Response to a Question & Answer Sermon

We go into the world, a world of mystery and wonder,
a world abounding in joy and majesty,

yet a world dimmed by pain and suffering. As we go,

we go sure of this: God is on the throne.

Our victory is assured through Jesus Christ.

Though now we see in part, one day we shall see in full.

Though now we see through dimmed eyes,

one day we shall see as clear as the dawn.

Until we see fully and know completely,

we will trust in what we do know,

we will trust in the One Who we know:

God the Creator,

Jesus the healer,

Spirit the comforter.

Our God – the greatest question the world has ever known,

Our God – the greatest answer we will ever find.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Pastoral Life

Begin the day with deep, quiet conversation with a soul seeking answers to difficult, life-altering questions. Lunch with dear friends, more deep soul-talk mixed with political banter. Back for a long-distance phone call from an old friend facing a wicked blender of financial issues, job issues, family issues, and major life changes. Then in pops a woman who has recently faced the excruciating pain of the death of a child, and we talk about grief and mourning and moving on and people who just don't know how to care. Then down at the house I end up in a spontaneous discussion about salvation and what it means to follow Christ with a man whose wife just kicked him out for wanting to go to church. He came by to check a water valve, and we ended up in a deep, quiet conversation over, well, deep soul issues.

This day's not even over yet and I've already walked deeper waters than I do in most weeks. Praise God for his faithfulness, and pray for those in need.

Kyrie eleison

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Some Random Stuff

That metro-link train crash in LA a couple weeks back? Turns out the engineer was texting railroad hobbyists. Some people put the blame for the accident on the culture of train lovers. Now there's a growing backlash against said hobbyists. I think I better hide my train calender.

On NPR this morning, they announced that Wal-Mart, in order to stave off a slower-than-usual holiday season, is opening its Christmas shops next week. You know that old saw "Christmas all-year-round"? It may be coming true.

Is it too early to throw out my yearly promotion of

If so, maybe you should go read this article about the conditions in the Chinese factories in which most of Wal-mart's Christmas ornaments are produced.

Or at least rent What Would Jesus Buy? and watch it before you go shopping.


Ben Witherington has posted an article by Dr. James Howell on the issue of "Rights vs. Responsibility."

Instead of “rights,” the Bible speaks of “gifts.” There is no “right to life.” Life is a gift, and this may be the compelling reason we do not have any right to destroy life. I do not have “rights” over my own body; God has those “rights.” My body is a gift of God, an instrument to be used in service to God, a temple of God’s Spirit, not a private domain for me to use as I wish. Christians get “responsibility” – which is “response-ability.” God has made us able to respond to God’s gifts. Responsible people do not gripe or whine so much as they get involved, they do something. Citizenship is responsibility, and perhaps the Christians could foster a buoyant hope in America life by simply refusing to play the “rights” card and instead lead the way in taking responsibility for the good stewardship of God’s gifts.

Good reading in today's political climate.

Scot McKnight on why he remains an Evangelical and doesnt become Orthodox or Catholic.

Speaking of baseball

I don't know. . .it just doesn't seem fair that with only eight teams making it to into the baseball playoffs, Los Angeles and Chicago each get two teams in there. There ought to be a law that it gets spread around a little more or something.