Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Do you get the Mouse?

If you receive Lakebay's Church Mouse newsletter, please fill out the following survey:

Note: we're limited in the number of responses we can receive, so if you don't get the Mouse, please don't take the survey.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Book Review: Dale Kuehne, 'Sex and the iWorld'

How in the world did we get here? Where are we going? And "who gets to define the future?" are three questions central to "Sex and the iWorld." It is obvious to all we are in the midst of great social change. Some gladly embrace this change and all it brings, including unfettered freedom and individualism. Others are more reactionary, and seek to use law and persuasion to clamp down on change, often-times quoting sacred texts and scary statistics to prove their point. In this book, Dale Kuehne seeks to step above the mudslinging, calling all readers to engage in a discussion about the nature of the world, and how best to support "the good life." In his toolkit, Kuehne brings along history, theology, philosophy, sociology, psychology, and even a lot of pop culture. Using these tools, the author paints a picture of our current culture, explaining how we left behind our old understandings of human nature and morality, and the road we traveled to get here.

However, Kuehne is rightly concerned that our present world, with its tendency to eschew boundaries and all but a few taboos, is moving down a road toward self-destruction. While offering us freedom and independence like never before, the 'iWorld' leaves much to be wanting. From the breakdown of the family structure to the willingness to ignore basic biology, we have created a world of great loneliness and isolation; our children are being raised deficient in the most basic of essentials such as hope, love, and a solid foundation upon which to build their lives.

Kuehne's answer is to push toward a new world, in which relationship is primary (hence his name for it - the 'rWorld') - a relationship defined as beginning with the 3 generation family, then on to neighbors, community, city, and out to the world. It is a world in which people are encouraged to seek fulfillment and meaning through a matrix of healthy relationships.

It is in the area of sexuality that Kuehne is at his most challenging, as he makes the case that our current infatuation with sex is, in fact, doing great harm to us as a people, because sex short-changes relationships, redefining true intimacy with a momentary act of pleasure. Thus, Kuehne would call us to learn that, while certainly enjoyable, sex just isn't necessary for true happiness, for the good life. And, he would go on, all this emphasis on "sex as inalienable right" is truly a lie, and a damaging lie. Thus, all the legal work that has been done to open the doors to unfettered sexual freedom has led us down a dark path leading to a dead end. People are getting a lot of sex in a lot of different fashions, but, as a society, we're none the happier for it.

One can guess where this leads. In the rWorld, sex is seen again as necessary to procreation, and helpful to bonding the husband and wife (who are responsible for creating the healthy family in which kids learn a healthy self-identity), but ultimately NOT a road to relational health anywhere else. This does, naturally, sound downright anathema to the iWorld. . .but the reader ultimately must ask whether or not the current situation is any better than the healthy promise of the rWorld.

Family is the one other arena much in debate today, and one addressed by Kuehne. The current culture is pushing in a direction of familial self-definition. With the growing numbers of single-parent homes, with gay marriage on the agenda and a swelling number of gay families, it is obvious that we've left the world of Leave it to Beaver behind. Again, Kuehne would argue that just because something is, or that just because people want something, that doesn't necessarily make it the best course of action. True relational health is found when children are raised by the parents who gave them birth. And the healthiest way to raise those children is with a parent of either gender, because gender matters - men and women each bring something unique to the table, and when one is missing, the child raised in that family, while fully loved and cherished, still misses out on something essential and important.

For some, these are challenging words. But, in the end, I believe Kuehne would have us cease the flame wars brought about by personal desire, and ask again, What must be done to build a healthy world that will best support The Good Life? Whether one agrees with Kuehne or not, the discussion is certainly important, and the future is valuable enough that giving consideration to today's decisions is worth the time and effort. Wherever one stands on any of these issues, Kuehne's challenge in his afterword needs to be heeded:

"Rather than look at the world with our eyes shut tight, we need to open them and take responsibility to be proactive in directing the future and live in the real world as opposed to being passive observers and potential victims of change."

Tuesday Stuff

- A great video of a unique introduction to Jesus (h/t Nate)

- Roshni pointed me toward a new music label/collective/project made up of a few of the more 'fringey' artists in the Christian music scene (Danielson, Leigh Nash, Sufjan Stevens, and more!). Three songs off their first release are available on their myspace. It may take you a listen or two to 'get it,' but there really is some depth and artistry here.

- Add me to the list of "Fans Against Neon Green Football Jerseys."

- Flash mob protest at Whole Foods in Oakland. note: a tiny bit of language that some readers might find offensive, and a whole lot of politics that some people might find offensive. But in the end. . .it's still a lot of fun. This is what protests ought to look like, whether or not you agree with the underlying point. They make their statement, and at the same time give people something to laugh about.

- Looks like I got all that firewood chopped up just in time. The forecast high for today is a chilly 57 degrees. Personally, I love the fall, and look forward to all that it brings. It's just the winter on the other side of fall that gets me less-than-enthusiastic.

- A friend and occasional former mentor has created a new organization with the aim of supporting theological education in the developing world. Ron helped me out with some good counsel after I was ignominiously fired from my first church; years later, I sat in my backyard in Turlock, talking to him in Australia, picking his brain about a current logjam I faced, and again his wisdom helped push me forward. (Oh, and once, when I was still single, his youngest daughter came over and made me dinner, and even before that I took his oldest daughter out to dinner. . .). So I'm happy to point you to Synseis Alliance International.

- Upcoming Gigs
     The Down Home Band (with yours truly on lead trumpet) is playing this Saturday night at the Key Pen Cornucopia Dinner and fundraiser, following the KP Farm tour.

     I've been invited to participate in the 1st Annual Gig Harbor/KP Blessing of Law Enforcement, firefighters, EMTs and their families. The event is this Sunday from 1-4 at the Gig Harbor United Methodist Church, with the blessing taking place from 2:00-2:30.

Monday, September 28, 2009

What does it all mean?

A week ago, some of the women from our church were away at the NPC Ladies' Retreat at Cascades Camp. In spite of that, Lakebay had one of the best-attended Sunday services in a few months.

Yesterday, some of the men were away at the NPC Men's Retreat at Cascades Camp. And yesterday we were off by almost 1/3 of our regular attendance.

So does that tell us anything? The women leave and the men still show up, but the men leave and everybody stays home?

I'm sure there's a brilliant insight in there somewhere. I just can't figure it out.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Hoping it all came out okay

This morning was a first.

In the 3.5 years I've been a senior pastor, and in all the years as a youth and associate pastor, I've always felt good as I step up to the pulpit to begin preaching.

Not today. As I walked up the hill toward the church early this morning, I had the first impression of a coming headache. I ignored it. Which worked well, until worship practice. The monitors seemed especially hot this morning. The headache grew.

I still ignored it as best I could. But then into confirmation and an hour with middle schoolers. Which was actually just fun enough that I could mostly forget about the headache.

But then the worship service started. And about 10 minutes in, right as we switched from "Happy Day" to "The Wonderful Cross," it hit full force. But that's okay, I think. I'll just stay really focused on the task and survive.

But that didn't last long. Thankfully, I had a minute while Robert read the scripture, so I went and found Karina, and got some advil from her. Which I think kicked in somewhere after my rambling introduction and before I got into my list of 5 Biblical Images of the Atonement.

Still, I was feeling wiped most of the morning, so I'm really hoping and praying I didn't say something I'll regret later. It's tough to concentrate when you're constantly thinking "ignore the pain; ignore the pain." And it's hard to really focus on conversations when you're only thought is "wow I need an aspirin."

I suppose everybody gets a down day every once in awhile. Today was mine.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Simple Majesty of a Starry Night

                     "I'm headed home, yeah, but I'm not so sure 
                      home is a place that'll ever look the same. . ."

                        "I'm lost in a whirlwind, so this is how it feels, 
                     spinning like a wheel, so in love with you. . ."

Simple Majesty (Clark's Theme) - Ken Burns' "Lewis and Clark" Original Soundtrack
Sing to the King - Candi Pearson Shelton
Sinkin' Soon - Norah Jones
Sitting in the Stern of a Boat - Ken Burn's "Lewis and Clark" Original Soundtrack
Something in the Way She Moves - James Taylor
Sometimes Yes, Sometimes No - Jill Paquette
A Song for all Lovers - John Denver
Southbound Train - Jon Foreman
Spinning Like a Wheel - Susan Ashton
Springfield USA - Sarah Hart
Stand - R.E.M.
Starry Night - Infamous Stringdusters

bad movies has listed the worst 100 movies of the last decade. I'm glad to say I've only seen two of them, and I agree - both were pretty bad.

How many have you seen?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Old Times

For those of you who didn't see this over on my facebook page. Kim, our dear friend who so recently passed, gets some significant play in the middle.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Seven Simple

Funny, I was just thinking I needed to use "Show the Way" in this Sunday's sermon.

Seven Sundays in a Row - Blue Highway
Seven Years - Norah Jones
Shanghai Breezes - John Denver
She's Always a Woman - Billy Joel
She Must and Shall Go Free - Derek Webb
Shenandoah - Bruce Springsteen
Shenandoah (Jefferson's Theme) - Ken Burn's "Lewis and Clark" original soundtrack
Shoot the Moon - Norah Jones
Shout to the North - Delirious?
Show the Way - David Wilcox
Simple Gifts/Lovely Love - Barry Phillips and William Coulter
Simple Love - Alison Krauss

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A follow-up to "a couple reviews"

Michael Snyder showed up and said hello in the comments below my last post. Very graciously, I might add.

That's always the harsh side of reviews; you're not just talking about a product, but a person who spent a lot of time creating that project, a person who invested a lot of love and passion into the product. And then in 15 minutes I come along and rip it up one side and down the other.

The old adage "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" might seem appropriate here. So why do it? Why take the time to be so overly critical of another's work (especially when, one might point out, it's not like I've ever actually written anything close to a novel. . .)?

I think in the end it's because I care what other people think about us. What "those people over there" think about the rest of us "in here."

A while back I made a choice to spend more time outside the Christian camp. Some of that was intentional from a missional perspective: I wanted to understand how non-Christians think, what they dream about, what they hope for, in order to be better equipped to share the gospel in their context. But some of it was intentional from an artistic context: too many times, the world does better than the Church. There's an awful lot of really great music produced by 'the world,' and not so much great music over here. I just really like Counting Crows and REM and The Infamous Stringdusters. . .and grow tired so quickly of the blandness that is CCM. And as to literature. . .the world has spellbinding novelists like John Irving, Tom Wolfe, Ian MacEwan. . .and the church has Jerry Jenkins.

Over the last few years I've also spent a lot of time with people of an artistic bent, both non-Believers and, unfortunately, a lot of I-used-to-believe-but-now-I'm-really-cynical folks. And I find myself wishing to put something in their hand to draw them back, something to prove that, in fact, Christians are capable of fine art, of good writing, of inspiring composing, of challenging painting. I wish to say "For your Twilight we have a _____." But all we have to offer is the dreadful Left Behind series and a host of Christian Romance Novels.

Whatever happened to C.S. Lewis? To Tolstoy? To John Updike? To Christians who understood the craft of Important Literature? That's what I want the church to produce - stories that move and inspire, that shine with the Light of their Creator.

And that's what's so frustrating about "the norm" of Christian lit. It settles for too little.

If I could talk to Michael Snyder again (and, who knows - he was here already today, so maybe he'll come back (if you do, Michael, thank you for your graciousness and strength of fortitude to say hello, even after I wrote some less-than-happy things about your book)), I'd say that this book really does have the potential to be really good; in fact, the plotline is intriguing, and the characters do reflect much in the way of modern angst. I'd say it already rises above the level of the afore-mentioned Jenkins and Christian Romance Novels. You do tell a good tale; it was just frustrating to me to see that tale sunk down under all the details I chose to criticize.

And, I would say, keep at it. We need good writers to write good stories, stories that are real and stories that tell the gospel without telling the gospel, if you know what I mean. But to get there takes an awful lot of work - I don't know if you read Annie Dillard's "The Writing Life," but it would scare off any but the most dedicated to this craft. And yet it's where we must go if we're going to be able to stand up in the world of literature, push back against the tide of less-than-stellar lit we've become known for, and capture the world's imagination once again.

No More Mary

More then a decade ago, I went with friends to see Peter, Paul, and Mary live at the Hollywood Bowl. Not as a diehard PPM fan, more so to see a cultural icon, to see a piece of history. And, yes, to sing along with "Leavin' on a Jet Plane."

Part of the thinking behind going was the knowledge that, someday, when they were no more, I could say "I saw them once at the Hollywood Bowl."

That day has come, as Mary Travers died this morning.

I said I wasn't a diehard fan, but that's not to say I didn't enjoy their music, nor that I don't realize their impact upon popular music. At times they could be hokey, at times Mary's voice grated on my nerves, and occasionally I think I disagreed with her politics, but they certainly found a way to use music to change the social consciousness of a generation, something that is sadly lacking in so much of pop music today. And they created tight harmonies long before the invention of electronic voice harmonizers and instant tuners. It was a treat to see them that night, singing all their hits backed up by a symphonic orchestra.

So, yes, Peter, Paul, and Mary will never be again. But I saw them once, live at the Hollywood Bowl. And it was a good night.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Peaceful Morning

I wandered out this morning to put some scraps on the compost pile; as I walked across the driveway I heard a crunching in the forest to the south.

I wandered over to the edge and peered into the trees, where I saw three deer making their way through the brush down our gulley. The mom and little one glanced up but continued on, the father kept his eyes on me until the others were safely beyond a small ridge. He and I stared at each other for five minutes, neither moving, neither feeling the need to end the moment.

But I had kids to get to school, and so I flinched first, walking back to finish the compost job and pick a few ripe tomatoes on the way back.

It was a peaceful, magical moment, and another reminder of why I'm glad we moved out into the woods, on the peninsula, across the water from the Big City.

On another note, today was a momentous day - Clara's first day of preschool. And so it begins. And so it ends.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bike Ride Report

Distance: 10.2 miles
Time: About an hour (plus a 30 minute pause at Penrose Pt. State Park)
Route: KPH south, Creviston south, Erickson Rd. east, KPH north, Reeves Rd. east, 158th north into Penrose, Delano Rd. back to the house.

Number of cars passed along the way: surprisingly few
Number of people out and about: again, surprisingly few
Number of people in the Penrose Pt. campground: zero (well, I did pass one ranger on his bike)
Number of sea lions I watched swimming through the bay: 1

All in all, a beautiful, cool, late-summer evening for a ride, and a peaceful, quiet time to think, reflect, and blow off some steam.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Kimberly Joy

I suppose, like teachers, youth pastors ought not to have favorites. But let's be honest. . .having spent 15 years in youth ministry, spread over three different churches, I can't help but have special memories about those few special kids who endeared themselves in so many ways. Yes, we've loved all 'our kids,' but in the midst of those have been a handful that ended up being more loved than others.

Kimberly Joy is one of those kids.

Kim was in my first youth group, at Foothill Bible Church, in Southern California. But it's not really fair to say Kim was a "part" of that group. . .it was more like Kim and everybody else. Bright, energetic, prone to more than her share of embarrassing moments and awkward conversations, Kim was a friend to any and every person who crossed her path. One of our earliest events with that group was our summer camp trip to Hume Lake. That trip still comes up in conversations; especially memorable is Kim's 10 minutes of terror at the top of the Pamper Poles - a telephone pole you climbed as part of the high ropes course. She couldn't seem to take the last step to reach the top, choosing instead to cry, to panic, to beg and plead to be let off. Of course, this being Kim, she fully enjoyed every second of attention she received up there, as well.

Kim was on our student leadership team, she went on most of our beach trips and snow retreats. She was the recipient of too many practical jokes, but secretly relished the fact that, even in those jokes, she was the center of attention.

I was single at the time, but Kim (along with her sister Erin) took pity on me, regularly inviting me over to their house for spagghetti or pancakes.

Of course, like most high schoolers, Kim had her struggles. I remember one Sunday when Kim and her boyfriend Sean sat in the front row of church, she with blue hair and he with a chunk of steel through his septum. The pastor asked me later "what are we going to do with these kids setting such a bad example in worship?" I could only respond "how about we love them?" Because if Kim was anything, she was loveable. She could be funny, she got frustrated and angry perhaps too quickly, she never met a rule she didn't want to break. . .but she was a fiercely loyal friend, and she cared, deeply and passionately, about the people around her.

One winter we took a weekend trip into Los Angeles to do an urban mission trip. When I first announced it, she, in her usual blunt fashion, blurted out "you expect people to pay money to go serve homeless people?" And yet she went on that trip. And I remember one moment, when a homeless man came to the van and asked for money. . .after sending him away I turned around to discover Kim weeping in the seat behind me, her heart broken at the thought of this man sleeping on the streets. Kim desperately wanted to make people happy, and sometimes she struggled when confronted by the pain and sorrow of others - especially in those moments when there was nothing she could do to ease that pain.

Kim and Sean were the 2nd wedding I performed, on a sunny day on a Southern California beach. Shortly after we moved to Oregon, they came up and spent a week with us, visiting Tillamook and Multnomah Falls and meeting Ed the Grumpy Landlord. And so Kim (and Sean) transitioned, to us, from 'youth group kid" to true friend.

Over the last years, as Karina and I had two daughters and moved a couple times, and as Kim and Sean had a daughter and lived through struggles of their own, we talked less; we moved on with our lives. But we never could forget. Whenever we talk about "the old days," Kim (and Erin, too) somehow ends up central to those conversations. And, with the help of Facebook, we still said "hello" occasionally, keeping attuned to where she was in life, her joys at parenting, her excitement at Erin moving back to town and being able to play Aunt more regularly.

But Kim had long had significant health struggles, as well. . .and a couple nights ago those caught up with her. Kimberly passed away early Sunday morning. I found out by reading Sean's facebook update; for five minutes I stared at the screen, wondering what kind of sick joke he could possibly be playing, not believing that one so full of life, energy, passion, and love could be gone. But of course it wouldn't be a joke; she truly was gone. Yesterday afternoon Sean and I shared a hard, wonderful conversation, in which he gave me the fuller story. Mostly, though, we just shared memories. And there were so many. . .so many.

Kim was many things. She could be a complicated person. Sometimes I think even she was still trying to figure out who she was. But in the midst of it all, Kim was a friend. Kim was a ray of sunshine to every person who had the privilege to meet her. She even pushed me to be a better youth pastor; I'm sure much of who I am today as a minister traces back to those first days of youth ministry, and Kim was a manifestly important part of those days. Yes, she made my life difficult, she TP'd my office and house multiple times, she organized a group of friends to steal my SPAM collection, she always asked the wrong question at the wrong time, she did things her own way regardless of our wishes. . .but she also lived life out in the open, fearless to state her opinion, to challenge any perceived wrong, to try something new. She forced me to realize that ministry wasn't about any skill-set, but in being the human being God created me to be, ever being vulnerable and honest while living along those God has placed in my charge.

When Olivia was born, Kim and Sean gave her a copy of Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree. Inside she wrote "Always remember that God is like the giving tree. . ." I think, perhaps, this is where Kim most reflected the image of God. Even in her moments of brokenness, even though she has such a propensity to seek the spotlight, she was still one who would give anything and everything to make other people happy. Kim couldn't stand to be in a room where anybody was upset; she had to find a way to cheer them up. It's just who she was.

Including sending cheerful little notes. I found one of those notes in a file last night. Enjoy. . .

May the Lord have mercy on Kim's parents Van and Debbie, on her sister Erin, on Sean and all those who mourn, and, most especially, on her daughter Robyn. And may the Lord finally give Kim the health and peace she so longed for in this world. She will be missed.

Kyrie eleison
Christe eleison

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fun at the Fair

We went to the opening day of the 2009 Puyallup Fair yesterday. On opening day, admission is free if you get there before noon. Considering it costs a small fortune to park, go on rides, buy some food, and hydrate yourself. . .getting in free is a nice perk. And so we went.

Things got off to an ominous start when we  witnessed a large black lab fall out of a pickup heading our way on the KP Highway, rolling into the ditch and bounding back up into traffic, looking stunned and confused.

We should have recognized the next warning sign as we passed the scene of a rollover accident on the 512, about 3 miles from the fair. They only got worse when the highway turned north and we first caught sight of the mile-long backup getting off the freeway.

But we fought our way through, got to the parking lot, and made it inside well before noon. We set off to find my parents, and located them easily enough, standing in the shade of a tree talking to our Lakebay friends Harvey and Carla Roberts.

First item of business: lunch. Well, that was ours. The kids thought rides should come first. And they showed it by pouting through lunch. But I enjoyed my BBQ chicken sandwich (and 1/2 of Clara's, too) very much.

Then, to keep the kids happy, off to the rides. The shortest way was cutting through one of the exhibit halls. . .or so we thought, until we entered and found 10,000 other people crowding the aisles, enthralled by towels and veggie choppers and electrostatically charged bracelets and emu-oil lotion. Slogging our way through that crowd I did happen to run into the KP's most famous physician, Dr. Roes, and we had a quick chat before losing our respective families.

Thankfully, the kids were distracted by the honeybee display, and the Grange displays, and finally the hobby hall with its collections of My Little Petshop and Obama memorabilia.

But then, off to the rides. (On the way we ran into Harvey and Carla again).

Olivia and I got on the Mighty Mouse (video to be posted later). Clara and Olivia ran through a fun house. And then we decided to see the draft horse display.

Apparently, 10,000 other people also decided to see the draft horse demonstration. Including Lakebay's own Howard and Diane Johnson, we walked past our seating area whilst searching for empty seats of their own.

The draft horses were good. Unfortunately, 1/2 way through the show, we discovered that Olivia was running a high fever. So that about ended the day.

Except we'd promised Clara one more ride, so off to Kiddie-land we went. Clara chose the motorcycle ride, declaring "when I grow up, I'm going to be a motorcycle girl!"

The guy running the ride was pretty methodical. So the wait was interminable. But finally we got her on and situated. And the ride was about to start. . .when the kid behind her decided to open his bladder and pee all over his motorcycle. And since he was 3 feet in the air, it made a very sickeningly audible dribbling sound as it plummeted to the metal framing below. The horrified mother got him off, and the ride was about to start. . .when kid #2 had a meltdown, and his mother also had to get him off. At which point the ride operator decided to let another kid on, a kid whose mother proceeded to almost put him back on the pee-covered motorcycel. . .right up until all of us watchers shouted at her that that wouldn't be a good idea.

Finally. . .the motorcycle ride progressed, and Olivia decided she was going to throw up. Mom and Olivia ran off in search of a restroom, and when the ride ended, I took Clara to get her cotton candy. My poor parents just had to tag along through all the commotion.

So, cotton candy in hand, sick child in tow, we headed toward the exit, with one final stop in mind: the scone stand. Apparently, 10,000 other people also wanted scones, and the scone stand workers felt they needed to have personal conversations with each customer, because it took forever to get said scones. . .and all the while poor Olivia was suffering in Clara's stroller.

But we got the scones, we got on the road (by now Clara was wailing because she also wanted a scone, even though she'd chosen cotton candy instead. . .), and, eventually, we got home.

Oh. . .and about 15 minutes before getting home, Olivia woke up in her back seat and said "Hey - I feel better!" And sure enough, the fever was gone, her spirit was back to its perky self, and all was well with the world.

We even got to stop by a friend's farm on the way home and milk some goats and collect some eggs, so the "country fair" feel carried on to the end.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Round Selwood

Because I missed last week and probably won't have time tomorrow. . .and I still want to be finished by Christmas.

If you only have three minutes, check out the video of "Sawing on the Strings." It will make you happy.

Round Here - Counting Crows
Ruby with the Eyes that Sparkle - Stuart Duncan and Dirk Powell (Cold Mountain Soundtrack)
's Wonderful - Diana Krall
Sacagawea's Lullaby - Ken Burns' Lewis and Clark Original Soundtrack
Saint Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion) - John Parr
Sascha - Jolie Holland
Sawing on the Strings - Alison Krauss
The Scarlet Tide - Alison Krauss (Cold Mountain Soundtrack)
Scenes from an Italian Restaurant - Billy Joel
Seattle (The Fantasy Reel) - Peter Ostroushko
Secrets - Sierra Hull
Selwood Farm - Bebo Norman

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Thursday, September 03, 2009

bikini coffee stands

It was reported in the most recent online edition of the KP News that the Key Peninsula area now has not one, not two, but three new coffee stands, all in the 'bikini barista' tradition.

Considering we had none of those just a few short months ago, the change is dramatic. (note: one of these stands, Bare Espresso, had a brief opening run and now appears to be closed again. I heard through the grapevine it has something to do with a lawsuit against the former owner, but have no personal knowledge to corroborate that story).

It would be easy to become offended at this point; in fact, most might expect we Christians to get our noses out of joint, to become righteously indignant about the decay in morals in our society. It would be all too easy to go Church-Lady on these new establishments. But, no, I'm not going to be offended. I'm not going to thump my Bible over anybody's head.

Instead I'm going to simply be honest, and say that I am utterly disgusted at the thought of these places doing business, here on the KP or anywhere else.

"Why are you so disgusted?" you ask.

There are primarily two reasons:

1) I respect women. I'm glad I live in a day when women are rising to some of the highest areas of leadership in our country. I'm glad to serve in a church that believes in full equal leadership rights and responsibilities for women. I believe women, like men, are created in the image of God, and are worthy of full respect. But even there, quite often 'respect' carries the wrong connotations. It can sound borderline patronizing. To put it simply, in God's eyes, women are the equal of men. And I'm glad I live in a world that is finally recognizing that.

To carry it a step further, believing that women are created in the image of God is also to believe they have enormous, immeasurable intrinsic worth. God's image is shown in their intellect, in their wisdom, in their leadership skills. Both women and men come to the table carrying around the image of God. We do well when we show each other respect and honor as humans created by, cherished by, loved by, and honored by our God.

All rhetoric aside, bikini coffee stands take us back to an uglier world, where a woman's primary worth is her attractiveness to men. Now, two of the managers of these new stands either lied or are just clueless, because they tried to deflect this view. "Don't be judgmental because of the bikinis,” [one] said. “The girls are nice, but our business is coffee." Sure. Go with that.

At least one of the owners was honest. "The girls will be our big draw," said Matthew, the owner. "And we aren't going to hide them. We'll have a four-foot by four-foot window to put them on display." 

It is obvious to anybody paying attention that there is a backlash, a dumbing-down, if you will, against many of the gains made by women in the last 50 years. For every Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton who have risen to Secretary of State, there is a Paris Hilton or Britney Spears, plummeting right back to the world where sex appeal and 'dumb blonde' is a badge of honor. For every serious female actor, working hard at garnering respect for her craft, there are hundreds of girls getting their 15 minutes of fame in a Girls Gone Wild video. For every image calling my daughters to find their worth in their mind, in their creativity, in their skills, there are too many more reminding them it's all worthless unless they look and act hot and available.

And lest you think I would promote a world devoid of physical attraction and admiration, I would add in the many marvelous examples of female athletes. WNBA stars, track and field champions, swimmers and gymnasts, tennis players and soccer players can all be admired for "their bodies." Not as primarily sexual creatures, but as powerful athletes who have created wondrous athletic machines with the bodies God has given them.

So why am I disgusted by bikini coffee stands? Because they stand as one more reminder to women that their worth is in their cleavage and their flat stomach, and (I'm assuming here), their ability to flirt with the men who drive through. And because they once again reinforce to the men who drive by the thought that women exist for their pleasure; that women are to be admired because of their sexuality, their bodies, and the way (I'm assuming here) these women flirt with them as they drive through.

Because, in the end, I highly doubt any guy's going to drive away from Smoking Hot Espresso thinking, "Wow, I admire her for her understanding of the geo-political situation in Central America." I even doubt most will drive away thinking "Wow, I admire the way she brews a cup of coffee."

2) I like sex. But I also happen to have a very high view of sex. To do the briefest of theological sketches, humanity (male and female) were (are) created in the image of God, and that image finds fulfillment in the sexual union. Genesis says the sexual union creates "one flesh." Paul use the sexual union of husband and wife as the model for Christ's union with the Church. He also goes so far as to say even fleeting dalliances with a prostitute creates a spiritual union between the partners. The church's aversion to sexual immorality and the cheapening of sex is not borne out of overly-sensitive sensibilities or old-fashioned, victorian aversions to anything tawdry, but instead out of a grander, more incredible vision of sexuality than anything the world can imagine. There is an incredible spiritual component to sexuality.

(btw - if I had more time and space I'd work that out to include all male-female relationships, not just the sexual act itself. This is not just the plane of the sexually-active; I think there is a component of healthy male-female friendship that exists even when there isn't sexual activity. But that's for another time and place).

Thus, any cheapening of sexuality is a cheapening of the deepest part of our very selves. Any divorcing of sexuality from true, abiding friendship and relationship does damage to who we are as humans.

And any usage of sexuality as an advertising ploy does great harm to our souls. And, no, it's not just bikini espresso stands. It's also Burger King and their "Paris Hilton washes a car" ads. It's the beer ads promising instant sexual satisfaction from hot girls (or guys) for all who drink their product. It's any and all advertisement that use sex as a gimmick. In fact, it's anytime anywhere in our culture when the sexual act is removed from a committed relationship, be it movie, music, or television. When we take what is perhaps the highest, most intimate connection between human beings, an act that goes back to the highest point in pre-fall creation, and turn it into "just sex," we deny ourselves as Human and move down the ladder to pure animal.

In other words, if you use sex, especially 'hot female sexuality" to sell your coffee, you are cheapening sex, and damaging your employees and customers by denying their humanity, their worth, and their ability to truly stand as whole, healthy human beings, knowing and being known by others in respect and true love.

That's why I'm disgusted with these bikini espresso stands. Not because I'm offended by sex, not because I'm frightened of female sexuality. Instead, it's because these places at their core cheapen women, turning them into one-dimensional caricatures for the enjoyment of so many men, and because they cheapen sex, the very thing they play on to draw the customers in.

One final thought: At this point, some would say "live and let live. If you don't like it, don't shop there. Don't judge others, don't foist your morality on others." Fair enough. Except for this: what these stands do cheapens all of us, it cheapens our community, it cheapens the lives of everybody out here. If I lived on the beach, and a mile or so down the beach a company was dumping raw sewage into the water, I wouldn't settle with "live and let live." What they do "up there" affects the environment down here. Any, be it bikini espresso stand owners or TV producers who use sex as advertisement, as ratings-producer, ultimately affect the larger culture. Even if I choose to ignore it, to turn off the TV, to drive by the espresso stand without stopping, those things still end up altering the world in which I, and my friends and family, live. So while I don't plan on standing outside with protest signs, I certainly do hope others will take all this to heart, and, eventually, these places either shut down or change their business practices. After all, we've got plenty of other coffee stands that are doing just fine without putting their girls in bikinis, tassels, and pasties.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Good meetings?

Lakebay Community Church begins our Alpha course in a little over a week.

Just typing that frightens me. Thankfully, God is big.

Last spring I put together a leadership team/steering committee to head up the program, and we've held a series of meetings over the spring and summer, in order to pull together all the details needed to run the program. They've been good, prayerful meetings, but also a little tedious as we've poked and prodded our way through all the what-ifs? and how-abouts?

Sunday night we had our first official meeting of the people who will be down in the trenches, the people leading small groups, the people greeting at the door, the people offering up prayer as the event goes on. The workers, if you will.

And I came home pumped up. Just looking around the room and thinking "these are the people God is going to use to change lives, to grow his Kingdom, to expand his ministry; these are the people who will be representing Christ to those who don't yet know him" was an exciting thought. And to see them perk up as the night went on and they caught a glimpse of what this could all mean for us as servants of God - that made my week right there.

I mean, I like, I enjoy the group that's over the whole thing, behind the scenes, covering the large-picture stuff. But these were the people who'd be actually in there, doing the face-to-face work, and it was good to see them begin to come together, perhaps with some trepidation but also with significant faith, willing to jump in and be whatever God was calling them to be.

It's not all that often I come home from a meeting and tell Karina "I'm totally excited because of that meeting." Sunday night was one of those times.

Bible Translations

The web is all a-twitter this morning with the news that Zondervan is pulling the plug on the TNIV translation.

Eugene talks about it

Brad talks about it

Scot talks about it

I've got a busy day to day and don't have time to talk about it. Except to say I'm disappointed, as I used (and prefer) the TNIV more than any other.

I just thought it was an odd juxtaposition that on the same day this erupted across the blog-o-sphere, Glen would choose to point me to the newest translation:

The lolcat Bible.

Gen. 1:1 - "Oh hai. In teh beginnin Ceiling Cat maded teh skiez An da Urfs, but he did not eated dem."