Friday, February 27, 2009

Christ - Come

Poignant, because Karina's grandmother passed away yesterday. Thus, songs of resurrection, and coming to Jesus, fit the day well. Over a year ago, Mami Chaio was in the hospital after a stroke, and the family had gathered around, expecting her to go at any moment. She recovered and had more good days, but on the darkest day in that time, I was riding my bike through the sunshine and the woods here in Lakebay, and David Crowder's Come Awake started playing in the ipod. I really thought that song was for her in the moment:

Are we left here on our own?
Can you feel when your last breath is gone?
Night is weighing heavy now,
Be quiet and wait for a voice that will say,
'Come awake, from sleep arise.
You were dead, become alive.
Wake up, wake up, open your eyes.
Climb from your grave into the light.'
Bring us back to life.

And now, in faith we believe that even before her body is in the grave, she has already awoken in the presence of Life himself.

And with that, the songs. . .

Christ the Lord is Risen Today -
Jill Phillips
Cindy - Andy Griffith (from the original TV soundtrack)
Clair De Lune - Philadelphia Orchestra
Cold Cold Heart - Norah Jones
Cold Day in July - Dixie Chicks
Come and Listen - David Crowder Band
Come Awake - David Crowder Band
Come Away with Me - Norah Jones
Come By Me - Harry Connick, jr.
Come Thou Fount - Mars Hill Music
Come to Jesus - Mindy Smith
Come to Me - Jill Paquette

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Book Review: Tuck

I don't get to read much fiction. I enjoy a good novel, but don't often find the time for it. When I do get the chance, I gravitate toward authors like John Irving, Charles Dickens, John Updike, or Tom Wolfe. I figure if I'm going to give an author time and space inside my mind, I want something that's going to be worth it. And, in general, I haven't found 'Christian' authors who fit that bill. I'm not given to romance novels, Christian or otherwise; the hyper-spirituality of Peretti and the like strikes me as dangerous; and, of course, (in my humble opinion) those best-selling end-times novels aren't worth the paper on which they're written.

Stephen Lawhead is the exception to the rule. I think I've read every one of his books, save for some kids' books he did a few years back. Lawhead breaks every stereotype of Christian fiction, in that his books are actually well-written. From well-developed plot lines to believable characters to excitement and intrigue, his books are always winners. They may not rank up there as Great Literature with the likes of Dickens, Tolkien, Tolstoy, or O'Conner, but (in my humble opinion) they're better than most anything else in 'Christian' fiction, and up right there with the rest of the popular fiction at your local bookseller.

Tuck is the finale in Lawhead's most recent King Raven trilogy, a re-telling of the Robin Hood tale. Along with the first two, Hood and Scarlet, Tuck is full of familiar and memorable characters, deep intrigue, action and adventure, and enough historical lore to create a vivid world in the reader's imagination. Included are your soulless villains, your strong yet fair maidens, your club-wieding priests, your hard-working laborers, and, of course, your troubled yet victorious hero. Lawhead takes you from deep inside the ancient woods to the broad plains of Wales, from tiny farming villages to the teeming streets of ancient London. There are moments of quiet introspection beside mountain streams, running battles along wooded trails, and massive battle scenes with armies arrayed in full color and splendor across open fields.

Lawhead's language is rich and poetic, full of the sights and sounds of ancient England. It is evident that he has done his research, as he includes many of the tiny details that made up life in the days of Robin Hood. From the song of the bard to the arrow of the Cymry, each character and their actions flesh out a world so intriguing yet foreign to modern-day readers.

And, of course, what makes Lawhead unique in this genre is the way in which he weaves the work of God into the story. Without being overbearing, without forcing Jesus into the story, Lawhead still creates a story of a people whose faith in the "blessed Jesu" sees them through their darkest days. Truly, I fear labeling his writings as "Christian fiction," because so often that means poorly-written attempts to force Jesus onto bad novels, or writing bad novels in an attempt to "tell the world about Jesus," or even writing cleaned-up versions of whatever the secular world is pursuing, just so our kids can have all the fun with none of the sin. That's not what Lawhead does. Instead, he pens well-written books in which his own faith pours out, guiding the action of the characters as the plot moves along. I suppose one could say he's a historical novelist who happens to have a Christian wordview, rather than being a Christian novelist.

All that to say, I was excited when Tuck was released, I was happy when it showed up in the Amazon box last week, and I enjoyed reading it over the weekend. It's a quick and easy read - I got through all 400+ pages in about 4 days, so it fit in nicely with all the other books I'm reading at the moment, and was a nice diversion when the family was gone for a couple days. I was expecting good things, and wasn't disappointed. Lawhead finished up the trilogy in typical exciting fashion.

If you've never read Lawhead, I could recommend any of his books. He has spent time within the English word, in this King Raven Trilogy, and also his Pendragon series, retelling the story of King Arthur. He's spent time in the Irish/Celtic world, with his Song of Albion trilogy and his Celtic Crusade series. He's penned an historical novel reframing the story of St. Patrick, and he's written a couple science fiction books as well. All are worth reading, although if I were recommend a starting point, either Patrick or the King Raven series would be at the top of the list.

The only complaint I bring is that they are such quick reads - I wait two years for a new Lawhead novel to be released, and then read it in a week, and go back to waiting for the next. But they are certainly well-worth the wait. If you're looking for a good novel to carry you through the rainy days of spring, or perhaps some lighter summer reading, then get started on this tale of Robin Hood and let Lawhead carry you away to not-so-merry old England, where scoundrels and villians are on the loose, and heroes stalk the night to free the land and bring hope and light to their people.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Updates on music and electricity

We finally got the power restored to the back 1/2 of the house this morning, thanks to Chuck's detective work. Turns out there was a wire burned off inside an outlet we never use. But all is better now.


Last night we of the Gig Harbor Peninsula Symphony Orchestra read through the music for our May concert. Of the three we read, there are finally some significant trumpet parts in two of them - the Haydn 104 (London) and the Schubert Overture in D in the Italian style. Still mostly punch chords and brief fanfares, but a whole lot more than the 25 notes we played in the last concert.

Maestro Labayen recently informed us we'll be doing a combined concert with the Peninsula High School band in May as well, performing, among other things, Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance, and "Nimrod" from the Enigma Variations. It appears the year will conclude with a much larger bang than it started, at least so far as my playing is concerned.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Book Review: This Incomplete One

This Incomplete One is a difficult, painful, searing book. It is also a book every pastor ought to have in their library. Perhaps it's a book that every Christian ought to have in their library. It's that important.

It's important because it walks on ground few of us are ever prepared to tread, it enters into places we never want to go; yet, all too often, we find ourselves there, and need help, need resources, need something to begin to show us how to regain our feet and our faith.

This Incomplete One is a collection of sermons preached at funerals for people who died too young. There are sermons for unborn babies, for children, for teenagers, for young people just entering into their adult lives, for a pastor in his mid-30s. There are sermons for people who died of sickness, of car accidents, of mountain climbing accidents. There are sermons by pastors who barely knew the deceased; there are sermons by fathers burying their own children.

As you might imagine, every emotion is seared across the pages of this book: doubt, fear, rage, hope, joy in happy memories, disgust with the trivial words of thoughtless well-wishers, and, of course, deep sorrow and sadness.

There are sermons by well-known pastors, teachers, and theologians across the centuries, including Karl Barth, Jonathon Edwards, Fleming Rutledge, and Friedrich Schleiermacher, as well as sermons by men and women unknown to me.

The book becomes then a resource in two aspects: 1) it gives the minister words to consider when confronted with similar situations, and 2) it forces the reader to enter into this painful killing field, wrestling with the deep, unanswered questions found there, and thus, hopefully, preparing them emotionally and spiritually for the day they are called to minister in these trying times.

As the book is simply a collection of sermons, the reader can pick it up and enter at any place, rather than reading straight through. I found this helpful, as it was difficult to read more than one or two chapters at a time without having to put it down and process what I was reading. Even as I read the last few sermons while flying home from Chicago earlier this month, I found myself choking up, tears coming to my eyes at the raw, naked emotion laid out in the thoughts and words of those facing the darkest terrors known to humanity.

On the other hand, I've already given a copy to a friend who recently lost her son, copied a chapter for a couple who lost a child last summer, and recommended it to another friend who lost his nephew last summer. I have the feeling I'm going to be returning to this book many times; I also believe I'll continue to hand out copies to help people in their grieving process in days and years to come.

And, finally, I must add that Fleming Rutledge's sermon, given for a young man who died of AIDS, was such a powerful Easter word, such a beautiful, simple explanation of Christ's atoning work delivering us from death to life, that I believe it has planted the seed for my own Easter sermon. "And then he was alive. The tomb could not hold him. The stone was simply blown aside by God's returning life - not returning human life, which always ends in dissolution and death, but God's life, which is triumphant over anything and everything that threatens human existence, including most of all dissolution and death. The resurrection of Jesus Christ means that God has reversed the story, reversed the odds, reversed the direction - from death to life."

Monday, February 23, 2009

Household Items

A couple days ago we lost power to the back part of the house. That would include our bedroom. Chuck, a dear saint and handyman to everybody on the Peninsula, came over on Friday and we switched out a circuit breaker. At first, that didn't solve the problem. But ten minutes later, saints be praised, power reappeared and the problem appeared to be gone.

Oh, except that other thing. Our fridge went out at the same time. Seems the freon is gone. So Chuck and I took the fridge apart to get it out the door, then took apart the fridge that was in the garage, and pulled it inside the house. Out with the church's fridge, in with our own fridge that we bought at Youngdales in Turlock. It was a pain - all that taking things apart, switching food back and forth, putting things back together, and the necessity of mopping up the floor and cleaning up the fridge that had been in the garage, but at least now we have a working fridge again.

Oh, except that it seems something got into the inner workings and died when it was still outside, as now there is the distinct odor of dead rotting flesh permeating our kitchen. I don't mind the scent of dead flesh so long as it's sizzling on the skillet, but this is something different. Thanks be to candles and cinnamon water boiling on the stove for getting us through this time.

But then, Friday night the power went back out again, so we're still in the dark back there, except for a Coleman lantern that we use when we crawl between the sheets. The worst of it is the lack of a clock alarm, but thankfully cell phones now come equipped with those sorts of things.

I think Chuck's coming by again tomorrow to switch out an electrical plug. I'm praying that works. Otherwise, we're on to the "crawl up into the crawlspace and see if a mouse chewed through the wires" phase.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Broken - Children

In which we welcome Nanci Griffith to the stage, perhaps in honor of the Wintergrass bluegrass festival in Tacoma this weekend.

Broken from the Start -
Jon Foreman
Brown Adam, the Smith - Ken Burns' 'Lewis and Clark' Original Soundtrack
Buffalo Hump - Ken Burns' 'Lewis and Clark' Original Soundtrack
By and By - Jennifer Knapp
Calypso - John Denver
Can't Complain - Nickel Creek
Canadian Whiskey - Nanci Griffith
Cazadero - Chris Thile
Changed - Mars Hill Music
Cheek to Cheek - Steve Tyrell
Cheyenne Eyes - Ken Burns' 'Lewis and Clark' Original Soundtrack
Children of the Heavenly Father - St. Olaf Choir

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Just to be perfectly clear on something. . .

I have a brother named Michael. I often call him "Mike." Thus, Mike Whitmarsh is my brother. However, Mike Whitmarsh my brother is not the same as Mike Whitmarsh, the former olympic and professional beach volleyball player who was just found dead of an apparent suicide.

Back in the mid-90s, I enjoyed the name connection. There was a billboard in Upland that read "Whitmarsh Kills," playing off the "kill" that is a volleyball spike. One summer at camp our youth group kids spread the rumor that their youth pastor was "Mike Whitmarsh's brother - and he taught Mike everything he knows!" Random people started approaching me in awe - "Are you really Mike Whitmarsh's brother?" And I could answer "yes" without even lying.

It is certainly sad that that Mike felt life was no longer worth living, and that he has chosen to end it this way. But lest there be any confusion, my own brother is very much alive.

The great irony in all this is that today is my brother's birthday.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Reading for Lent

About five years ago I discovered the wonderful Advent reader, Watch for the Light. Composed of daily readings through the Advent and Christmas season, Watch for the Light contains works by many notable Christian authors, poets, thinkers, theologians, and preachers across the centuries. It has become a staple of my Advent diet, as I return year after year to these deep reflections on the meaning of the Incarnation.

A few months ago I noticed there is a companion volume to Watch for the Light. It showed up in my Amazon box a few weeks ago.

Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter carries the reader into and through the next great season of the Christian calendar. It contains 46 readings to take us through the season of Lent and Holy Week (divided into four sections: Invitation, Temptation, Passion, and Crucifixion), and then another 25 for Easter and the days following (divided into Resurrection and New Life). Included are poems, essays, and reflections by authors such as Oscar Wilde, Kathleen Norris, Walter Wangerin, Thomas a Kempis, Fleming Rutledge, C.S. Lewis, Brennan Manning, John Donne, Blaise Pascal, Wendell Berry, Martin Luther, Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day and Amy Carmichael. Most of the writings are 2-4 pages long, making them useful for a morning's reading over coffee and breakfast, a reflective reading to end the day, or even a lunch-time pause in the hectic pace of daily life.

Now, I must admit. I haven't read this book yet. I'm waiting until Lent begins next week before I dig in, so this is a recommendation based more on overall appearance, and the fact that I enjoy the companion Watch for the Light so much. However, some of you may be looking for this sort of thing, and should I wait until after I've read it, it would be too late, as Lent and Easter would be over. So there you go.

In the meantime, may your reading be deep and meaningful in these days of shallow and transitory, and may the Lord reveal himself as we enter into Lent, preparing ourselves once again for the Celebration of Christ's Resurrection.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Something's in the air. . .

It's been nice the last couple of days. Really nice. Yesterday we had lunch at the new Italian place overlooking the water by the Purdy Bridge, where we sat and watched the seagulls play and the sunshine reflect off the still water. For the afternoon we went to Penrose Point State Park and walked the beach, collecting shells and excavating crabs, while a bald eagle soared overhead amidst scattered cotton clouds. In the yard I've noticed flowers starting to break out of the ground. There have been a greater number of robins and swallows in the yard the last week or so. It's been sweatshirt weather, rather than winter coat weather.

All seems to be saying winter is slowly passing, and spring might be just around the corner. I don't know about you, but I'm ready.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

(It Started Out As) The Best Valentine's Day Ever

Mostly because it was unscripted and thus non-pressure filled. Breakfast at a hipster coffee shop in Wedgewood. A walk all the way around Green Lake, where we enjoyed sightings of a turtle and a great blue heron, plus hundreds of other people and their dogs. Then up to Shoreline to visit their new YMCA, and further on up to Edmonds for Thai food, finally over to Kenmore and the Tully's there. And all the time, 'just the two of us.' The kids were at grandma and grandpa's.

On the way home we all stopped at Burgermaster for a Burgermaster burger and fries. Mmm. What a wonderful way to finish Valentine's Day - red meat in the family sedan.

Then, on the way home, the phone rang not once, but twice, and suddenly emergencies in the extended family sent us crashing to the floor. And thus, it was a somber drive home.

Don't worry - nobody died. But some friends and family are extremely ill and troubled, and that is weighing heavily on our hearts. Making it tough to celebrate, when others are in pits of despair. Making it tough to sleep, tough to get out of bed and up to church and ready to teach confirmation to middle schoolers and then stand in front of the gathered Body of Christ and deliver the Gospel.

Thankfully, God is bigger than I am. Yesterday was filled with his blessings, and I daresay he showed up this morning and did what I couldn't do. The prayers of a few close friends helped immensely.

Still, I rejoice in a day well spent with my bride; I rejoice that my children had a fun day with their grandparents; I rejoice that I made it all the way around Green Lake without any trouble. I hope your day was as good.

Friday, February 13, 2009

And With This, Good night.

Blessed - Broken

Having nothing to do with the fact that today is our three-year anniversary of leaving Turlock.

Blessed Assurance - St. Olaf Choir
Blue - Leigh Nash
Blush (Only You) - Plumb
Bonaparte's Retreat (Fourth of July, 1805) - Ken Burns' Lewis and Clark Soundtrack
Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy - Bette Midler
Borderline - Alison Krauss and Union Station
Bound for Tennessee - The Infamous Stringdusters
Brakeman's Blues - Chris Thile
Breathe Your Name - Sixpence None the Richer
Brighter Days - Leeland
Bring Him Home - Mandy Patinkin
Broken - Norah Jones

Thursday, February 12, 2009

New Music

We started working on this song last night, and hope to introduce it to our church in the next couple weeks.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A brief word on discipleship vs. legalism

In further reflection on the Super Bowl, outreach, and popular culture.

This is one of the areas to which I've put a lot of thought over the last 10 years. As followers of Christ, we are called into a lifetime of discipleship, of walking in the way with Jesus, seeking righteousness, holiness, christ-likeness throughout our lifetime. We are to seek the things of God, the things of Life, the fruit of the Spirit, the attitude of Christ. The way of Christ is the way of Life, and thus we are to pursue the things that lead to life - holy living, confession when we sin, kindness and gentleness, hospitality, extravagant giving, treating others with respect and dignity; in short, loving God and loving our neighbor, or behaving justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God.

All too often, however, the Church takes these concepts and turns them into legalism. What begins as a proper discipleship question - for instance, is it appropriate for a follower of Christ to consume alcoholic beverages when these same beverages are the downfall and destruction of so many - turns into Law: Christians shouldn't drink beer. Or, is it appropriate for Christians to listen to rock music, when the culture of rock music is destructive and rebellious - turns into Law: Any music with a backbeat is necessarily satanic in origin. And soon, rather than pursuing righteousness, we're all back to living under the Law, building hedges and hiding from perceived sinfulness rather than pursuing Christ-likeness in our love of God and neighbor.

So I don't want the question about the Super Bowl to turn into a question of Law: should we pronounce it a sin to watch the Super Bowl in Church - but instead to frame it as a question of discipleship, a question of Christian ethic:

A) If we are called to pursue righteousness in all areas of life; and
B) If we are called to think on whatever is good, right, holy, etc.; and
C) If we are called to flee the evil desires of youth; and
D) If the greater culture surrounding the Super Bowl is one that leads to death, insomuch as it:
1) Promotes the image that women are objects to be enjoyed by virile young men
2) Is a bastion of wasteful spending when people around the world are starving to death
3) Promotes a culture of drinking, partying, spending, consuming, violence, gambling, etc.

Then. . .

E) Is it in the best interest of followers of Christ to spend the better part of an afternoon supporting this event? (One could also point out that it's a Sunday afternoon - iow, a Sabbath day. . .)

And even more so,

F) Is it harmful for the Church, the Body of Christ, to give approval to this event by publicly showing it and inviting the community in to watch it together?

And, finally,

G) If we sit with the young men and women of our community to share in this event together, in what ways are we forming their spirituality for good or bad? Are we causing our youth to stumble by essentially saying, "It's ok if it's sexualized and violent and if it is a massive waste of money that could be better spent on Kingdom work, just so long as it's entertaining, or if it gets your friends in the door"?

So the answer to the quesiont ought not to be "It's a sin to watch the Super Bowl." That's legalism at its finest. But could it be said "of the many options available to us, engaging in this activity is probably not the wisest choice for those who seek to honor Christ with their lives?"

And, just so you know, if our church decides to hold a Super Bowl party next year, I'm not going to go all judgmental on them. I'll probably show up and enjoy some pizza and soda and carrots and fellowship. I'm not trying to make any command decisions via this blog. Just trying to have a healthy conversation.

Two final thoughts:

- As was pointed out in the comments below, we had a group of young ladies take the afternoon of Super Bowl Sunday to travel to Seattle and hand out sandwiches to homeless people there. They chose to minister, to be counter-cultural and ignore the game in order to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Maybe we could learn something from them.

- Erin asked the question about going to the beach - Essentially, there's lots of girls in bikinis at the beach, so if we're going to avoid the Super Bowl, shouldn't we also avoid the beach? The pool? The world?

I'd respond that those are different issues. The commercials shown during the game made it obvious that flesh and sexuality went hand in hand. Wearing swimsuits at the beach is a different matter. Yes, some are there on the hunt, but others are there because they want a tan. There are a lot of different reasons for going to the beach, and most are good. To get some sunshine, to swim in the ocean, to enjoy being with friends, to enjoy the beauty of creation, to play frisbee or nerf football in the waves, to surf, to get out and have fun. One could make the argument that going to the beach has much to offer the follower of Christ - to rejoice in the wonders of this planet, to have long , uninterrupted conversations with friends, to clear the mind, to find health in all the sunshine and clean air, to minister to others we may run into, to relax, to get exercise.

Yes, I know for some it's a struggle to keep their mind in appropriate places when surrounded by young men and women in various states of undress, but that undress is natural in the location. You wear a swimsuit to the beach; it goes with the territory, and it isn't necessarily intended to be sexual. But I would argue it's not the same with something like the Super Bowl. Whereas the beach can be a positive experience but also has at its core the potential to be, shall we say, distracting?, I'm not so sure that there are many positives left about the Super Bowl. Does the good that can happen there outweigh all the harm it can and does do? I'm beginning to think the answer is no.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Quick Tuesday Updates

Woke to a gentle snow today. Not enough to worry about, but nice. Drove to Tacoma for another post-op visit with my eye surgeon. He said the eye "looks very good." He also took another couple stitches out. 6 down, 18 to go. The best news is he told me I'm at the point where I can finally be fitted for a contact lens in that eye. It's been 4 months that I've essentially been one-eyed; it will be nice to finally have depth perception again.

Following the appointment I went and had lunch with Bill and Ethel Peterson. A lovely lunch and good fellowship. Until Karina called and said "you'd better get home. The snow is getting deep out here." She was right. What was a gentle snowfall in Tacoma was a heavy snowstorm by the time I reached Lakebay. So we're now hunkered in for the night, with a fire in the woodstove and hot water in the kettle. Might be a good night for popcorn and a movie.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Pastoral Question for Discussion

We held a Super Bowl party at our church. About 45 teens and adults (and 10 younger kids) came and enjoyed the game via projector on the wall, as well as the mandatory pizza and sodas and chips and salsa and cookies and crackers and carrots.

If you watched the game, you know a few of the commercials were a little, shall we say, risque. The sexy-women-in-underwear sort of risque. So there we sat, a bunch of Christians, including many young, impressionable teenage boys, projecting hyper-sexualized images up for all to see.

And now I wonder - the point of the event is both outreach and fellowship. Outreach - we get a lot of teens who come at the invitation of friends in the church. Fellowship - all these people enjoy a fun afternoon together, cheering and shouting and supping together.

But at what point are we doing more harm than good? And I know - some of you want to go past those ads and talk about the overt emphasis on alcohol, the violence on the playing field, the culture of domination and destruction and consumerism and consumption, the wasteful spending when people are starving around the world. I was going to say "let's leave that aside for a moment," but I guess they fit the question as well.

Is it appropriate for a church to hold a Super Bowl Party, in light of all the elements surrounding the culture of the game, elements that lead to death and destruction rather than life and redemption?

Go ahead. Discuss.

Musical Notes

This Friday, February 13, is the next concert of the Gig Harbor Peninsula Symphony Orchestra. It well begin promptly at 7:00 p.m. Songs to be performed include:

Sibelius: Valse Triste
Barber: Adagio for Strings
Sarasate: Zigeunerweisen
Kreisler: Liebeslied and Liebesfreud
Haydn: Symphony No. 91

As this is the night before Valentine's Day, there is a lot of sweet, romantic, syrupy music in there.

Further information, including directions, can be found here.

One note, however.

Of those five wonderful songs, we trumpets only play in one - the Sarasate number. And within that entire piece, we trumpets play around 25 notes. Total. A couple little fanfares and such.

So, if you're looking for wonderful, romantic music on a pre-Valentine's night, a lush night out with your beloved, please do come and enjoy the show.

But, if you're coming specifically because you know me and want to hear me play my horn in the symphony, you might be a little disappointed in the brevity of my playing.

Still, I hope to see some of you there!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Be to Blackbird

Since I seriously doubt I'll be near a computer tomorrow

In which we welcome Jon Foreman, the Dixie Chicks, and The Infamous Stringdusters to the Stage. . .

Be Here to Love Me - Norah Jones
Be My Somebody - Norah Jones
Beautiful Day - Sanctus Real
Beautiful Savior - St. Olaf Choir
Beech Spring (the Beginning) - The Lewis and Clark Original Soundtrack
Behind Your Eyes - Jon Foreman
Bein' Green - Mandy Patinkin
Big Yellow Taxi - Counting Crows
Bitter End - Dixie Chicks
Bittersweet - Plumb
Black Rock - The Infamous Stringdusters
Blackbird - Evan Rachel Wood (the Across the Universe Soundtrack)

Watch Blackbird - Evan Rachel Wood | View More Free Videos Online at

Midwinter Winds On

A couple moments so far:

"American Christians are like loaded down camels trying to make it through the eye of the needle. It is a matter of discipleship to help them remove that load on the road to salvation."

Interesting note on marriage: the Gen 2 passage, "and they shall become one flesh" - the word for "one" is echad. The exact same word, echad, used in the Shema, Deut. 6: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is one." The union of husband and wife is a unity on par with the unity of the trinity. Think on that for awhile.

Did you know there's now a Covenant Church in Idaho?

Poetry by Wendell Berry:
May our kind live to breathe
Air worthy of the breath
Of all singers that sing
In joy of their making,
Light worthy of the risen year,
Songs worthy of the ear
Of breathers worth their air,
Of workers worth their hire.

I accidentally ended up at the church planter's lunch yesterday. Turns out the Covenant is still one of the fastest growing denominations in the U.S., and still at the top of the list of ethnically diverse denominations. Even in that room there were white and hispanic and asian and african-American, there were men and women, there were young and old, there were traditional and contemporary and postmodern, churches meeting in schools and sanctuaries and coffee shops. And, best of all, on average, 10,000 people come to new faith in Christ every year through a Covenant church plant.

On a personal note, I had a nice talk with David Husby yesterday, then headed downtown with Doug and Jim, where we met our friend Jerry for dinner. Afterward we headed over to American Girl (had to pick up some presents. . .), and coffee in Seattle's Best Coffee at Borders. It's an odd thing to be sitting in a coffee shop in Chicago, looking at walls plastered with pictures of Puget Sound, Elliott Bay, Lake Washington, Pike Place Market, the Olympic Mountains. I lost track of where I was for a moment.

We eventually ended up walking across the campus of North Park University and Seminary (the Covenant's school), and getting a ride back to the hotel with Jerry. On the way, we passed a bank whose reader board said it was 11 degrees. Brr.

Today's the last full day; tonight we hear from Gary Walter, the new president of the Evangelical Covenant Church, and tomorrow morning from Gary Haugin, president of International Justice Missions. I'm excited to hear what he has to say, as I've long respected their work in combating global slavery and child prostitution.

And, hopefully. we'll be back home tomorrow night.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

My Kind of Town

I'm in Chicago for the Covenant Midwinter Conference. Already seen lots of old friends, and made a couple new ones. I haven't had any pizza yet, but I think we may tomorrow. Worship has been excellent - this year Matt Lundgren has given way to Matt Nightingale. The speakers, as usual, are challenging and inspiring. Although I think my IQ is 20 points higher just for listening to Phyllis Tickle tonight. She was speaking of the wrestling that is going on within the church these days to define how the scriptures have authority in our lives, and I think she was making the case that in coming days, the words of Christ will come to be important beyond all else. Almost implying we focus solely on the words of Christ and not the rest. Or something like that. I still need to think, and talk to a couple people about it.

Did I mention it's cold outside? And covered in snow? And windy? I still don't get how people live here year round. But at least the sun has come out a couple times, which made the 2-mile walk to the Ram bearable.

One note of interest: at dinner tonight, I had dinner with 2 of the previous three pastors at Lakebay Community Church. Which means that three of the last 4 pastors were all sitting together, along with Doug, the one guy who's been in the church for all three. And last night we had coffee and snacks with the 4th, so in 24 hours Doug has been surrounded by his last four pastors. Well, last three and the current one, I suppose.

That's why I love the Covenant so much. It's a small enough pool that, if you wait around long enough, you'll eventually connect with everybody else.