Friday, November 28, 2008

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

An incomplete itemized list of things for which I am thankful

- I have two beautiful, healthy, sweet, exuberant daughters
- My parents raised me well
- I have the best job in the world. (subset: I suspect I work for the best church in the world)
- My eye surgery went well, and I'm well on the road to recovery
- The people around me appreciate me
- There is food in the pantry (and the fridge and the freezer, and in my stomach, as well)
- There's a car in the driveway (with gas in it)
- I'm surrounded by beauty - quiet bays, soaring mountains, whispering oaks, bald eagles, sea otters, sparrows, deer, ferrets
- My newly-acquired position in the Gig Harbor Peninsula Symphony Orchestra, which is re-awakening a long-dormant passion for symphonic trumpet playing
- My ongoing position in the Lakebay Community Church worship team, which gives space for my idiotic passion for the mandolin
- I get paid to hang out with God, study his Word, pray, and think deeply
- I also get paid to hang out with a lot of really cool people
- I get to watch God (and God's people) work in the lives of others
- I've been through hard times, and I can confess today that God has turned those trials into gold.
- all my blog friends, twitter friends, and facebook friends who stay in touch as the days go by
- I get to spend Thanksgiving with my parents, my brother and his family, my sister, and Karina and our two kids
- The Roberts' just gave us some fresh-pressed apple cider
- This Sunday we get to begin singing Advent music
- When I stopped at Steamers the other day, the muzak was Bing Crosby Christmas music
- The testimony of faithfulness I see in the lives of the people around me, some of whom are suffering greatly these days. You who deal with pain and yet get up every morning and do the things needing to be done - you inspire me.
- In a conversation today I was reminded to be thankful for the last church, who paid my way through seminary so I'm not saddled with a ton of debt.
- The way Clara says "Hey Dad - I love you!" at random moments.
- The way I can see Olivia trying really hard to please her mother and I
- A godly family heritage stretching back many generations - even to the Mayflower and before.
- Friends who disagree and thus stretch me to think harder and deeper about important life issues.
- A warm, dry bed on cold, rainy nights
- Fresh drinking water (did you know millions of people around the world don't have access to fresh water for drinking, cooking, bathing, etc.? Go watch that video below)
- Firewood that needs chopping
- The way God loves me.

A good reminder before the weekend

Saturday, November 22, 2008

How did that hapoen?

I filled up the car today at the Arco in Gig Harbor. Gas was $1.799. We weren't completely empty, but still filled up for less than $20.

Never thought I'd see that again.

It's almost like getting an end-of-year raise, or an early Christmas bonus.

Friday, November 21, 2008

But to end the week on a happier note

Shad dropped off a CD the other day. And introduced me to Alli Rogers. And I am very grateful. Except that now I have another Christmas CD I need to buy.

Go check her out - you can hear a lot of the music just by going to her website. I think you'll like it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I Hate AOL

I used to be a loyal AOL customer. Had an AOL address. Used AOL as my homepage. But I gradually grew tired of them.

I know, it's trendy to hate on AOL, but that's not the reason I disliked them. What did it for me was the celebrity-rag AOL front page. Every time I went online, Britney Spears was staring at me. Or Justin Timberlake. Or Cameron Diaz. AOL's front page was attempting to be a "news and information" portal, but it seemed the only news they thought I wanted was entertainment news. I emailed customer service, asking them if I could set my preferences to "literature" or "science" or "anything not related to pop culture," but nope. I was stuck with what I got.

So I took advantage of free internet access through my place of employment, switched to gmail, cancelled AOL, and never looked back.

Except that I kept Instant Messenger. Enough of the youth group kids did AIM that it seemed worth keeping, especially since it was free and relatively unobtrusive.

I still have AIM on my computer, and every once in awhile I'll see a former youth group member on there and we'll chat for a moment or two. But other than that, AOL is out of my life.

This morning, I got a "you need to upgrade AIM" message. And dutifully I clicked the "upgrade" button. I de-clicked all the options, like "make AOL your home page, your default search engine, the beneficiary on your life insurance, etc." Just trying to upgrade AIM, that's all I needed.

Once it was loaded, it restarted my Firefox browser. And guess what?

They've taken over. The first thing I see is this monstrous, black-trimmed AIM box taking up the right 1/4th of my screen. But even worse, my browser went right to the AOL homepage, where I was confronted with - guess who? - Britney Spears. and Paris Hilton. and "The Hills cast pics." and "Did your fav hottie get snubbed?" It's like opening up my latest edition of Harpers to discover it's been taken over by Entertainment Weekly. And to top it all of, there, crowding the top of my browser, is the AOL task bar that I had chosen NOT to install.

It's like the antichrist has invaded my computer.

With a little work I got AIM to close, and I removed the task bar. But I turned off the computer, rebooted, reopened firefox, and once again, the AIM Dashboard (read: AOL homepage) popped back up.

Seriously, this is why people grew to hate AOL in the first place - they don't respect the boundaries of their customers. No wonder they're going under. I just hope I can purge this computer of their insidious presence. Anybody know of a liturgy for computer exorcisms out there I can use?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A new endeavor in my life

Last summer I met a cello player. We had gathered with some mutual friends for a Creative Music Night. Everybody brought a song to sing or play or share, simply to experience the joy of communal music-making. While there was a lot of good music shared, it turned out that Grant, the cello player, and I were the two classically-trained musicians in the group. Which gave us some sort of connection.

Grant told me he played in a local orchestra, and that they were looking for more brass players, and he encouraged me to audition. Which got me thinking about 'way back when,' when I was involved in a few orchestras and brass ensembles. And got me thinking how much I missed those days.

Now I run into Grant almost every Tuesday when he brings his kids to a dance class here at the church. And he's been bugging me to join the orchestra. So shortly before the eye surgery, I began to practice a lot more regularly. Then, the week after surgery, I began to practice again, trying to get my chops back in shape. The first few days were hairy, but it's all been coming back.

Last night I auditioned for the open trumpet position with the Gig Harbor Peninsula Symphony Orchestra.

The audition lasted all of 10 minutes. Play a major scale, a minor scale, an excerpt from a technical piece, an excerpt from a melodic piece, and some brief sightreading.

Then the director took me out into the hall.

"Welcome to the orchestra! Let me introduce you around!"

Not that I was overly nervous, but it had been awhile since I'd auditioned for anything, and it's been over a decade since I've done any serious orchestral playing. So I wasn't exactly certain I'd make it.

But I am now the official 2nd-chair trumpet player of the Gig Harbor Peninsula Symphony Orchestra.

Following the audition I sat through my first rehearsal with the group. It was exciting, fun, a little weird to be back in the saddle after so many years off. But after about 10 minutes, it simply felt natural again. And the people were friendly and welcoming. It was a blessing to look across the room and see Grant over there, just so it didn't feel like a room full of strangers. But I had four or five go out of their way to say "hi" and welcome me in. So I'm looking forward to becoming a regular part of the group.

Our next concert is Friday, December 12, if anybody's interested. We're doing the Haydn 101 (the Clock), Three German Dances by Mozart, and a couple other pieces. Come if you like music, or come if you like me. Either way, should be a good time.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Time for Christmas Music

Christmas is a big deal to me. Probably my favorite time of year. And Christmas music is a big part of that. Every year I buy a Christmas album or two, and quite often those albums go a long way in defining that particular Christmas.

Sometimes I'm disappointed. I've purchased my share of Christmas albums that haven't made it into my extended playlist. Picked up some that just didn't cut it. There are those that, try as I might, I just couldn't bring myself to like. Carolyn Arends' Christmas: An Irrational Season comes to mind (made all the more disappointing because I love the album title so much). As does Kathy Mattea's Joy for Christmas Day. Last year's great disappointment was Selah's Rose of Bethlehem, although to their credit, I think I kept three songs from this CD in my music collection before donating it to the church library.

But more often than not, I've found myself delighted, especially at the unexpected finds. Last year's gems were Michael W. Smith's It's a Wonderful Christmas, and Mindy Smith's My Holiday. Over the last couple years I've also picked up Diana Krall's Christmas Songs, John Doan's Wrapped in White, and the John Rutter Christmas Album. And a lot more. But we'll probably get to that later, with some kind of top-ten list in another week or two.

The point here is that I found this year's Christmas album last week. I hadn't even gone shopping for it; I just happened to be in Borders, and it just happened to catch my eye. I actually bought it more for Karina than me, since she's a fan, but I've already grown to love it.

It's Songs for Christmas, by Sufjan Stevens.

Songs for Christmas is a veritable wonderland of Christmas music. Not just one CD, but five make up this box set of Sufjan's take on Christmas. Plus a lot of bonus materials: a singalong book complete with chord charts, a poster of Sufjan, a few Christmas stories and even a Christmas cartoon are all included. It's like getting a box from grandma with a whole bunch of presents inside. You certainly feel you got your money's worth.

As to the music itself: The set is the culmination of five years' worth of recordings. Every year from 2001 to 2006 Sufjan recorded a Christmas EP for his family and friends. This set pulls those five recordings together into one package, made available for the general public.

If you know Sufjan's work, then you generally know what to expect from this collection. Deep, rich, complex music set against fun, explosive, chaotic renderings. Some people might simply chalk it all up as "random," and they'd be right. Except that Sufjan has a solid core that guides and forms all he does, giving the music a soul and a center, even if it feels like it's been thrown into a blender and pureed for five minutes.

You get the classics here: "Silent Night," "Lo! How a Rose E'er Blooming," "I Saw Three Ships," "O Holy Night," and "Joy to the World." You also get some non-Christmas tunes, such as "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" and "Holy, Holy, Holy," - both of them sensitive, fresh, yet powerful arrangements. But then you also get some soon-to-be classics as only Sufjan could deliver, such as "That Was the Worst Christmas Ever," "Come on! Let's Boogey to the Elf Dance!" and "Did I Make You Cry on Christmas Day? (Well, You Deserved it!)."

Backing up those songs is an eclectic mix of instrumentation, including plentiful banjo and glockenspiel. He gets his electronic mix in there, but allows the "real" instruments to carry most of the weight. As to the vocals - this is everything that afor-mentioned Selah album wasn't. It's simple, it's out-of-tune, it's prone to come in too early or hold on too long. In other words, it's not studio singers perfected by electronics; instead it's a bunch of friends sitting in a living room having a sing-along, inviting the rest of us in. At times it sounds like a frat party that's carried on just a tad too long, and now the egg-nog filled guys are stumbling out into the snow to carol the sorority sisters next door. And that's a good thing. It's fun, it's human, it's got a soul to it so much lacking in the rest of the studio-driven CDs sitting on the store shelves.

And yet. . .and this is the key to a Christmas album for me. It's the album I'd love to have playing in the background on Christmas Eve, once the candlelight service is over and the kids are in bed, and Karina and I are sharing a cup while sitting on the couch dreaming of snowfall outside. It's restful, it's soul-ful, it carries you away to simple places and glorious times, reminding you that, since the Light has come into the world, we can smile and rejoice and make merry and be glad. Maybe that's it; ultimately, it's a very happy album. It's a hopeful album. It's a good album.

One caveat: If you really, really loved that afor-mentioned Selah album, you probably wouldn't appreciate the subtlety of Sufjan. I get that. He's certainly not for everybody. I know a lot of people who would scratch their heads at this album. I understand that. It will probably never sell as many copies as, say, Mariah Carey's Christmas Album (which I wouldn't listen to, even if you paid me. . .). I accept that. (Of course, if you think Mariah Carey's Christmas album is actually good Christmas music, then we have nothing further to discuss)

I'm just saying that I really like Songs for Christmas. And that it's going to help define Christmas 2008 for us, and probably years beyond. So go support your independent musicians, take a risk, leave behind music the studios want you to buy, and add some truly great music to your collection. That would be a good thing.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

And now, over to the sports desk

This has got to be the most depressing sports' year in the history of Seattle.

By my count, since August 30, when both UW and WSU kicked off the college football season, there have been 12 weekends' worth of football played involving the Huskies, the Cougars, and the Seahawks. As of today, 10 of those weekends have ended with nary a win between the three teams. One weekend the Hawks and Cougars both won; another the Hawks pulled off a win. Other than that, 10 weekends where Washington's finest took the field and all left in defeat.

For most of those September weekends, the Mariners were also finishing the most odious season possible. And, as has been well documented, the NBA kicked off the 08-09 season last month, with Seattle's team playing down in OKC.

I'm glad I don't live and breathe sports; this would be a tough year to take.

At least everybody is picking the Husky men's basketball team to do well this year. . .oh, wait. They got creamed by Portland last night. Never mind.

Friday, November 14, 2008

New Bibles

I own a lot of Bibles. A couple dozen, probably. Some I've purchased over the years, but most have been given to me - Bibles my parents gave me, my Ordination Bible, the Bible I was given when I was installed as pastor at Lakebay Community Church.

Two particular bibles have caught my attention lately. I was at Borders yesterday and picked up a copy of The Voice: New Testament, a brand-new translation by the Ecclesia Bible Society. I've only had a few spare moments between then and now to poke around inside, but so far I like what I'm finding.

As to the translation, those behind this interpretation have made a conscious effort to present the Bible as story, in a way that will connect with a world steeped in narrative . In other words, the concern of the translators was the tendency of most Bible translations to come across rather academically, and thus sometimes rather stilted, losing the broad sweep of action and dialogue that is supposed to carry the reader along. In order to achieve a different telling, the publishers used not only academics and people with "Dr." in front of their name, but also poets and story-tellers and musicians and artists and pastors. While maintaining fidelity to the original texts (as much as we have them), they sought to translate in ways that sing and resonate in the ears of 21st-Century people. In essence, their hope is to reclaim books that were written as stories, shared around campfires and along dusty roads, stories that lay deep within the hearts of God's people, but that have all-too-often become the battlegrounds of textual critics and classical academics.

Much thought went into the layout. One of the changes The Voice brings is to present the text in screenplay format. Thus, instead of "And then Jesus said. . .and then Mary said. . .and then they all said. . ." you get:

Jesus: Go get some food.
Disciples: Where are we going to get food?
Jesus: Why don't you try that Burger King over there.

(note: I just made that part up to give you an example. Nowhere in The Voice does Jesus talk about Burger King)

Also, within the text, the translators have included points of clarification to help the reader track the story. This is both an interesting addition and a minor irritation.

For instance, in Matthew 8, the story of the healing of the demon-possessed men, you read this:

"A way off - though still visible, not to mention odoriferous - was a large herd of pigs, eating.
Demons: If You cast us out of the bodies of these two men, do send us into that herd of pigs!
Jesus: Very well then, go!
And the demons flew out of the bodies of the two flailing men, they set upon the pigs, and every last pig rushed over a steep bank into the sea and drowned. The pig herders (totally undone, as you can imagine) took off. . ."

You can see how they do it - the normal text is a fairly faithful translation of the Greek texts, while the italicized portion are NOT part of the original text, but added to help make better sense of the story. One can see the danger - when you put the added part right in line with the text, it's easy to confuse what is the inspired Word of God and what is human interpolation. At the same time. . .last Wednesday I taught the middle school girls' Bible Study (Karina usually does, but she was in Mexico at the moment), and a couple of those girls have never cracked a Bible before this fall. Have never been in church before. Missed out on my Confirmation Class. And thus were generally interested but clueless about all that was going on. And I can see where this Bible would be the perfect Bible for them, helping them see and understand the bigger picture, and what's underlying the action. Much of what the above text does reflects exactly what I did in that Bible study - explain the history, the thoughts and feelings, helping them to visualize the action, the sights and sounds and smells of the story as it went along. So I'm not overly troubled by what the translators have chosen to do here. As to the irritation: sometimes when I'm teaching I enjoy the more nebulous nature of the original text, as that gives the class room for discussion. "What's going on here? Why do you think Jesus said that? What do you suppose they looked like?" Those are all good ways to further dialogue in the classroom, filling in the blanks. When translators fill in those blanks, as the NLT also does fairly often, it can dampen discussion. After all, the answers are all right there in the text now. Nothing left to toy with, to discern, to debate or wonder about. Thus, as with the NLT, sometimes what makes for good public or private reading doesn't always do as well as a basis for teaching.

In addition to the in-line added commentary, The Voice includes more extensive thoughts as the text goes along, still in-line with the text but bracketed off in boxes. More often than not (insofar as I've seen, anyway), these tend to be summary-type statements, or devotional, personal statements. For instance, following the above story of demons and pigs is the following 'thought in a box': "Some people recognized that Jesus was powerful, but they wanted nothing to do with His kind of power. As in this case, it cost them dearly."

In the end, I think this Bible may be the answer to all those people who say to me "I've never read a Bible, and I don't know where to start." Just looking at how the page is laid out: two simple columns, easy-to-read font, script-style dialogue, basic "helps" along the way - it invites the reader in. Also, like most novels, it doesn't contain pictures and charts and diagrams and timelines and all those extras you find in so many other Bibles. Just the text, with basic book introductions. Even the chapter and verse numbers are minimalized so as to not interrupt the flow. It seems to me to be a lot less overwhelming than your typical Bible. Finally, the copy I picked up, with woven cloth and leather cover, still carries a dignity about it, still seems to offer respect to the text within, which is not the case with so many Bibles printed today (see Kid's bibles, Youth Bibles, Teen Bibles, Postmodern Cynical Bibles. . .).

I am looking forward to spending more time with this Bible in the days to come. If you're interested in it, you can check out more at their website (see above). You can even download a copy of the Gospel of John for free, just to get a feel for how it reads.

Last May I ordered a copy of The Books of The Bible, which is not a new translation but a new arrangement of the Bible. Published by the International Bible Society, The Books of the Bible is a specialty version of the popular TNIV, the translation I use in my own personal study and preaching.

Two things stand out about TBOTB, and both relate to the overall layout of the text. First, the publishers chose to order the books in ways that make more logical sense, or that stand truer to their original intent. Many people don't understand the rather haphazard way in which the order of books within the Bible was created; nor do we see how the disordered manner of book listings interrupts the overall flow of the Bible.

For instance, Luke and Acts were really intended to be Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 of the Christian story, compiled by Luke. Vol. 1 tells the story of Jesus, Vol. 2 tells the story of the early church. But both were written by the same author and meant to flow together. However, early on the church shoved John in between Luke and Acts, since Luke structurally parrallels Matthew and Mark while John is just so, well, John-like. But when John broke up Luke and Acts, the reader lost the drama of reading Luke's epochal story beginning with the earliest inkling of the Messiah and ending with the Church spreading to Rome and beyond.

Thus, the publishers tried with TBOTB to restore a semblence of historical order and original intent, meaning the books of this Bible aren't necessarily in the same order as the books in your Bible. Luke and Acts are put back together, and followed by all the Pauline epistles. Matthew, being the most Jewish of the gospels, is placed right before Hebrews and James. Mark was a disciple of Peter, and much of the gospel of Mark probably came from the memories of Peter, so the gospel of Mark is placed just before 1 and 2 Peter. John is placed right before 1, 2, and 3 John. And so it goes.

In addition, in attempting to read as closely as possible to the originals, chapter and verse numbers have been eliminated from the text itself, and placed along the bottom of the pages. Yes, that makes it difficult when the pastor says "Turn to Joshua 4:5," it makes it difficult when you're attempting to look up a specific verse. I get that. But it also allows the reader to see the Bible as it was, whole sections and thoughts, a long developing train leading toward monumental conclusions, rather than a series of disconnected verses divided by random chapter and verse numbers.

TBOTB does even less with commentary and "helps" than The Voice. In fact, there is no commentary in TBOTB, save for a few short book introductions. And all footnotes have been changed to endnotes, so as not to clutter each page. In fact, rather than columns, each page is a gingle column of text, laid out in paragraphs, with poetry inset slightly from the margin to call attention to its form. It is one of the simplest layouts I've seen - simply the naked text on the page.

As to its uses, I find it primarily helpful in devotional reading, when I'm not so concerned about chapter and verse, wanting instead to be lost in the continual waves of the text. It's a little like floating in the ocean vs. a small pool, as the boundaries have been removed and it's a little less obvious where things start and where they stop. Which is a lot like real life, when you stop to think about it. I've also found that it can be helpful even in sermon prep, and Bible Study background work; again, in that you're allowed to see the long, logical development, or the extended songs of praise, you're much more aware of the broader context when all that context isn't bracketed off by chapter and verse numbers, and when that context isn't lost in the chorus of footnotes and Helps and graphs and charts. Thus the true voice of the Word stands out alone, instead of in chorus with all those other things we've added in over the years.

One little confession: I gave TBOTB to all our confirmation students this year as their Confirmation Bibles. The truth is, most have pretty decent study Bibles already. And I wanted something that might stick with them over the years, not a Teen Bible they'd put away in four more years. They might end up being just a little confused by this Bible. At the same time, I have the feeling it's one they'll come back to in later years, once they've grown up a bit and want to come back and take another look at this Book, this Holy Word. I told them I didn't really expect to see them using this Bible in church, mostly because it's tough to follow along when I say "here in chapter 6 verse 3." But for their personal time, their devotional time, when they're sitting around looking for something to read. . .just maybe they'll pick this one up, and see in it the Bible as it's supposed to be. God's Word, unencumbered by all that extra weight.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Tale of Two Sons

Yesterday we received word that the son of a woman in our church, 35-years-old with four young boys of his own, a man we've been praying for regularly, is dying. By the end of the day, the word was that he was in his last day of life.

Yesterday I visited another young couple, part of our church, and held their baby in my arms, little Asher, born the day before.

And so we welcome one son in, rejoicing, and we let one son go, grieving. Our thoughts and prayers are with both families, holding both close to our hearts, holding both up before our gracious Father in Heaven, as one family begins a lifetime of meeting their son, watching him grow and flourish and become the man he's destined to be, as another family mourns a son, a father, a husband, a friend. Grace be to you both; may God's gentleness rest in your souls.

And remember - your Family loves you and cares deeply for you. We're here whenever you need us.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Couple Random Things

In the next month, buses will be rolling through the Washington D.C. area emblazoned with ads stating "Why Believe in a God? Be Good for Goodness' Sake." It's a takeoff from a similar campaign running in London this holiday season.

article here

A couple thoughts:
1. Certainly one more sign of the times. As we become even more of a pluralistic society, Christianity is becoming simply one more voice among the many.
2. Many Christians will choose to be offended by this ad campaign (or so I'm guessing). Perhaps, instead, this may become an excellent conversation starter. After all, they ask "Why Believe in a God?" And we've already been given the challenge: "Always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have" (1 Peter 3:15). So if they ask, let's give them an answer. (not forgetting that Peter said to carry out the above "with gentleness and respect".)


Closer to home, next year a law goes into effect in Seattle and King County, requiring restaurants to hand out and display nutritional information for all the food they serve, in order to assist people in making more informed dining choices.

The P-I ran an article on this new law this morning, along with some pertinent nutritional facts from our local eateries.

If you want to remain in denial about those frappuccinos and chili burgers you're ingesting, don't go check it out. But if you're wondering why you just can't lose those last 15 pounds, maybe it's because that macaroni-n-cheese has 2430 calories and 128 grams of fat.

Movie Review: Madagascar 2

I took Olivia and her friend Reagan to see Madagascar 2 yesterday. It was a rainy day, the kids were all out of school for Veteran's Day, so what better to do than go to the movies? Apparently everybody else agreed, because the place was packed. But that was a good thing; it added to the energy of the whole event, having all these excited young kids who seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves.

As to the movie: It's been a while since I've seen a CG-driven movie on the big screen, and I was constantly impressed by the imagery. From the opening sequence overlooking an African savanna, through plane-crash sequences and zebra dance routines, the scenery was stunning and surprisingly realistic.

In addition, the movie did well at balancing the kid/adult spectrum. The plot was quick and funny enough that the youngest children seemed to stay involved throughout, but there was enough subtlety and innuendo to keep adults interested until the end. The storyline was simple enough for all to follow, yet filled with insider jokes such as Survivor ripoffs and a not-so-subtle dig at airplane manufacturing union strikes.

In the end, it was the characters that really drove the movie. Besides the four central characters, you had the hubris-driven penguins, the brawny-but-brainless Moto Moto, the granny from New York who would take no guff, and a host of others who made short but important appearances.

There was a moment in the middle of the movie where it seemed to muddle down a bit; it was difficult to keep about five different plot lines all progressing at the same time. Also, whether intended or not, the central plot seemed awfully close to Lion King - the Alpha Lion being challenged by a devious usurper, the son choosing fun and play over true grit and character, the son needing to redeem himself and take back the throne that is rightfully his. Which meant it was hard not to compare the two movies as this one progressed, thus taking some attention away from the actual movie showing in front of us. But then again, the target audience of Madagascar 2 probably wasn't born when Lion King came out, so maybe it's not an issue. Finally, this critique: one or two jokes about large animal posteriors might be funny. But how many do you actually need in one movie? It got a little old after awhile. Although the kids laughed every time, so what do I really know?

In the end, I'd give it 4 out of 5 stars. I laughed more at this one than I have over any movie in quite some time. The effects are powerful, the plot interesting, the characters lovable; it all comes together in a very enjoyable movie, for kids and adults alike.


Friday, November 07, 2008

More old friends

Last weekend, our friend/former youth group member Ken came over for some free food and family fun. He's now in the army, based over at Ft. Lewis, so it wasn't much trouble to make the jaunt over for a night and 2 partial days. Although I made the mistake of playing some video games with him. And didn't win one. Don't play shooter games with guys in the army, I guess.

Today our former youth group member/friend Betsy flew up from California; the plan is to do the Seattle Tour tomorrow, seeing if we can connect with other former youth group members/friends Jake, Anya, and Leah along the way. It's supposed to rain all day, but I guess that's part of the Seattle experience. Anyway, it's always nice to reconnect with people who were part of your history and carry on with those friendships. Plus we're making Chex Mix to celebrate, so woohoo! It's all good.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

On the Other Side

I spend a fair amount of time visiting with people. And, as a pastor, I've done my share of hospital visitations. I've been with young parents shortly after they delivered their babies, I've sat with men and women who have come out of surgery, I've prayed at the bedside of people who just received devastating medical news. I've often walked into hospitals as a "man on a mission," the pastor on his way to sit and pray with his parishioners who are experiencing medical trauma of one sort or another.

Which is why the whole surgery experience was just plain odd. For the first time, I was the guy in the bed, the guy being wheeled down the hallway, the guy getting poked and prodded and stuck with needles and asked a hundred questions ("Is anybody abusing you?"). I kept thinking "wait - I'm supposed to be on the other side of this bed, the guy in control of the situation, the guy doing the ministering, not the helpless one having everything done to him."

Even as I was being wheeled down the hallway into the surgical suite, it became almost surreal, like "this isn't how this is supposed to work." And a couple days later, when Doug came by the house on a pastoral visitation call, in which he was the pastor and I was the "recovering guy," it was just too weird.

Sunday was the same. I attended church on Sunday. That's all I did. Other people called the people to worship, other people prayed, other people made the announcements, somebody else preached. I didn't do anything accept sit and stand and sit and stand (and start to fidget when the tylenol began to wear off. . .). Again, it was all backward. I was "the guy in the pew" rather than the one leading it all. It was pretty surreal (of course, that may have been the drugs, too).

Which, in the end, was probably all a good thing. To have to give up control, to put myself at the mercy of so many others, to experience the helplessness and lack of power. . .those are not things I'm so good at. It feels good to sweep into the hospital, knowing I'm doing what's expected and I'm fulfilling a calling and playing an important role. But we know that the call of the Christian is a call to relinquish control, to give up power and prestige. I don't know how often I get the chance to be completely dependent upon everybody else. So it's probably a good experience to be "on the other side." I would hope it all makes me that much more sensitive and empathetic to those I visit from here on out, as I've now truly been one of them. I've lain in that bed and felt helpless. I've sat in the pew and had to trust others to lead me through worship.

The other thing I've figured out is this: it's okay to be vulnerable in front of the congregation. In fact, I think there are times when the church needs the opportunity to turn things around, to show their love and appreciation and care toward their pastor. They don't need Superman, they need somebody who is human, who has hopes and dreams and fears and hurts, just like they do.

I'm reminded of a conversation I had way back in the first church I served. It was late in the evening, following a youth group meeting, and three girls in the group were sharing their frustration with me. And the core of it was this: "Dan, we tell you all about our problems, all about the things that bother us, we tell you everything in our lives, and you never tell us anything about what's going on in your life!" They were actually mad at me because I was holding some emotional distance from them. I was the leader, the youth pastor, and I thought I needed to show strength, to be impervious, to stand strong in the face of life. What they told me that day was that they needed me to be human. They wanted to share in my life as people, not as pastor-parishioner. They wanted true human relationship, not a static leader/student relationship.

And I'm still learning that lesson. I'm still learning that not only is it okay, it's truly necessary to let this relationship be reciprocal. As I minister to the people of this church, they need to minister back to me. As I love these people, I need to let them love me as well. And sometimes that means getting into the hospital bed and becoming the patient, of sitting down and letting them lead. Of letting them become Minister to me, in every meaning of that word.

So maybe my little jaunt to the other side made me just a little more human once again. At least when I say "I feel your pain," I really mean it, because my eye really hurts right now. Anybody want to bring me some tylenol?

Monday, November 03, 2008

Options for Tuesday

1. Breathlessly track the news throughout the day, noting every prognosticated jump in "projected numbers," becoming more and more agitated as the day goes on


2. Find a good book, get some reading done, maybe finish a project or two, check the news before going to bed. Realize it probably won't be over for a few more weeks anyway and have a good night's sleep.

I think I'll take #2. With a checkup with the eye surgeon in there, just to break up the day.