Saturday, October 31, 2009

Thanks, Christian Radio

One of the 'marker' points throughout the year is the first Christmas song I hear on the radio. Usually, it's right around Thanksgiving, and usually it will be a traditional Christmas tune. Think Bing Crosby or Nat King Cole. It's one of the moments that releases me into the fulness of the Christmas season, setting the tone for the weeks to come.

Imagine my chagrine when, pulling away from the recycling station this afternoon, I flipped on the car radio and heard Christmas music. On Halloween. "Is this a commercial?" I asked myself?

Nope. Apparently the local Christian music station has decided it's fun to play Christmas music all day long on Halloween. Talk about upsetting the base forces of the universe. Talk about utterly ruining my tradition. Talk about abusing an entire season for a 'cute' marketing gimmick.

Maybe if it had been Sinatra I might have been a little more open to the idea. But the worst of it was that the first song I heard was that horrific, awful screaming metal guitar version of "Carol of the Bells." An idea that never should have left the recording studio in the first place.

Now I'm trying to figure out if I can give myself a mulligan. . .or if the die has been cast and I'm stuck with that song, on this day, as the first Christmas song of 2009. This is not the predicament I wanted to be in today.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Real Question of Ref. 71

Note: the following is my own opinion, and does not stand for the official position of the church I pastor. In addition, it is an invitation to conversation. Those who disagree (as well as any who agree) are asked to respond in civility and with an eye toward mutual edification as we all journey down this path together.

On the radio Sunday afternoon the discussion was on Washington's Ref. 71, the 'Everything but Marriage' act. And the callers were angry. Over and over, the challenge was laid out: "Somebody needs to show me how giving gays the same rights as heterosexual couples affects their marriage. How does a gay marriage harm a straight marriage? What right do people have to vote out the civil rights of others?"

This seems to be the idea and the question at the heart of it all: What couples do in their bedrooms ought to be left to them and not the government. The lifelong commitment of marriage (or, in this case, civil union) ought to be up to the individuals involved, not the rest of society and certainly not the government. If two people are in love, who's to stop them from marrying? And how could those against gay marriage/civil unions be so heartless as to hold back basic rights (hospital visitation, insurance benefits) from two people who love each other? And, ultimately, what does it matter? Two men marrying, two women entering a civil union won't threaten 'straight marriage.' In fact, if any man or woman suffer in their marriage just because gays are given the same rights, than that couple had bigger problems to begin with.

I get that. In fact, should Ref. 71 pass, and should Washington eventually pass legislation recognizing gay marriage, it probably won't affect my marriage in the slightest.

But I think that's asking the wrong question. The assumption is "if what I do doesn't hurt you, then what right do you have to stop me?" Especially when the cause seems so noble - the extension of civil rights to a minority group within society.

The real question, though, is not how it affects me. The real question is how it affects society. And not just tomorrow or next Tuesday, but the days, months, and years to follow. And, theology aside, this is the reason I'm reticent to support Ref. 71.

Let me explain my thinking:

The healthiest place for children to be raised is within a family led by the father and mother who created them.

Already, some people are offended, because that statement is judgmental. For that, I am sorry. I don't mean to denigrate adoptive parents, nor single parents. Right now I know personally a half dozen or more mothers attempting to raise kids alone - some because of divorce, some through adoption, and various other reasons. And they are all doing an admirable job. In no way do I want it said that they aren't honorable or doing a wonderful job.

In addition, I know there are gay and lesbian couples raising their kids in a loving, caring environment, doing their best to support their children, loving them with a fierce and passionate love to rival the love of any straight couple. I recognize that reality.

But, in the end, I can't get around the fact that, of many 'good' possibilities, the 'best' possibility is a household with two parents of different gender, esp. if those parents are the actual biological parents of their children.

Of course, life is broken, and we do what we can to make the best of brokenness. Marriages fail, children are born into untenable situations, spouses die, some people can't conceive, others can't (or aren't ready to) care for the children they do conceive. And we do well to honor those who exist in these places of pain, to care deeply for single mothers or fathers, to support adoptive parents, to love kids who can't be with their birth parents.

At the same time, as a society, do we not have the right to strive for "the best," to create systems that push toward the ideal? Just because the ideal isn't always achievable, does that mean we don't work creatively to assist people in pursuing that ideal? (Which is why I'm perversely intrigued by the anti-divorce proposition making the rounds in California. It started out as an ironic statement. . .but I think just maybe we ought to take it seriously.)

At the end of the day, society has the right to formulate policy that is in the best interests of society as a whole. And, if the best possible scenario, if the healthiest situation is for children to be raised in the home in which they were born, raised by both the father and the mother whose genes they carry, then it seems to make sense that we would want policies supporting that ideal, while still showing kindness and consideration for those who can't achieve that ideal.

Sometimes, it seems we're almost ashamed to hold up an ideal, for fear of offending people who can't reach it. In this age of self-esteem, we dare not label something as 'best,' because all the other variations will somehow feel slighted. But this is not a pathway toward sustainable health; it achieves temporary good feeling while ignoring a deeper problem.

So my disagreement with Ref. 71 is not based on any effect it will have on my marriage. My disagreement is that it continues the falsehood that "any scenario is fine, so long as we call it so." Rather than pushing society in a direction of health, it sends the message that any option is just as healthy as the rest. And with that, I would disagree.

Let me flesh this out just a tiny bit: imagine a world wherein the vast majority of kids have been raised by the parents who conceived them, where they have known the loving hand of both father and mother, growing up in the presence of a healthy male role model AND a healthy female role model, where they have learned to respect both genders, where they have grown up within the sphere of influence of a man and all that he brings to the table, and a woman and all she brings to the table.

That, to me, is the healthiest option, and will create the healthiest society. And, as a society, shouldn't we be making policy that pushes us in the healthiest possible direction? Or do we settle for second-best (which isn't the same as 'bad,' mind you) just because everybody wants to be treated equally?

Post-script: These are not easy words to write. They are controversial; by some they could be conceived as an attack. I have friends who are gay and lesbian, I have former youth group kids who are now firmly on the other side of this issue. So I'm torn between my personal conviction and my love for them, recognizing that, even in posting this, I may be stretching the bonds of our friendship. On the other hand, we're all given the right to share our opinions in this political system, and too often I've been disheartened by the discussion on both sides. Too many on the one side take to name-calling and Bible-bashing, too many on the other take to bullying and lumping all on 'our side' into one pile. What I'm trying to do here is, in as few words as possible, explain my position without resorting to biblical texts or fear-mongering, trying to be a civil voice in the wasteland of 'activism by shouting,' offering up some thoughts for consideration without 'spreading the hate.' Obviously, I'm only touching the surface of this issue; had I nothing else to do in life I might have written a book. Unfortunately, that's not my calling, so, for now, these few thoughts will have to suffice.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Amazon box just showed up

Like an early Christmas!




Friday, October 23, 2009

Two Ways

I should point out that "The Way You Look Tonight" is 'our song.' The song we first danced to at our wedding, the song I requested while riding the Portland Spirit on our 1st Anniversary (the guy had to go through three fake books to find it). The song that still takes us back there. . .

Two Winding Rails - Sierra Hull
Union House Branch - Alison Krauss and Union Station
Up on the Roof - James Taylor
Virginia Reel from Hell Medley - Peter Ostroushko
Walk Down this Mountain - Bebo Norman
Walk Right Back - Nanci Griffith
Walkin' Down The Line - The Dillards
Wasn't That a Mighty Storm? - Nanci Griffith
Watch at Breakdown - Chris Thile
The Way I Am - Jennifer Knapp
The Way I See You Now - Infamous Stringdusters
The Way You Look Tonight - Steve Tyrell
The Way You Look Tonight - Tony Bennett

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Television Geography

Karina and I caught the most recent episode of Fringe last night. And were happily surprised to see that most of the action was centered in Seattle.

Until the final climactic scene, in which the dream-stealer had taken over the mind of a Kenmore Airlines pilot, causing him to veer left and drive straight toward disaster.

See, the plane was first shown departing from south Lake Union, which makes perfect sense. That's where Kenmore Airlines has a seaport.

Only, shortly into the takeoff run they switched to a shot from the rear of the plane, looking forward through the airplane windshield. And straight in front of the plane was the Tacoma Narrows Bridge (still under construction, based on the lights lining the support cables). This shot appeared more than once - the plane on Lake Union, then looking ahead at the Narrows Bridge.

Further into the takeoff run, as the plane was reaching takeoff speed, they switched to an overhead shot, where we saw the plane zooming along in front of the Seattle waterfront. Which is on Elliott Bay. On Puget Sound. Not Lake Union.

Finally, as to the impending disaster. . .the plane was driving straight into a cruise ship, one I've often seen parked out there in Elliott Bay. Only now the cruise ship was supposed to be sitting in Lake Union. (I don't think the Locks are big enough to allow a cruise ship through. . .).

So, to review. . .Taxiing through Lake Union, heading north toward the Tacoma Narrows Bridge (which now must go over Gasworks Park?), along the Seattle waterfront into a cruise ship parked in Elliott Bay/Lake Union.

I suppose, if you had no concept of Seattle geography, it all makes sense. But why go there in the first place? Knowing that everybody in the entire Puget Sound region would see it and know what they did? And lose the plot while asking themselves "wait - did Seattle steal the Narrows Bridge?"

Seems they could just as easily have made it accurate, and saved all the trouble.

But then again, what do east coast TV executives know about Seattle, anyway?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

But we have a strong trumpet section

Nice article in the Tacoma News Tribune about this Saturday's concert of the Gig Harbor Symphony, and the challenges of the current season.

Take special note of the line "but we have a strong trumpet section."

Something's messed up

I sent our church email newsletter out the other day, and a whole bunch came back to me as undeliverable. I tried again to all those that came back, but was rejected again. And all are either netzero or juno addresses.

So, if you didn't get the newsletter, and if you have a netzero or juno address, you may need to adjust your spam filter to let me through. Otherwise, you'll miss all that exciting information every week.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Politics on the Key Peninsula

Apparently somebody doesn't like Sheila Hunt. And somebody doesn't want the fire lid lift levy to pass. Hooray for civilized discourse. . .


h/t Colleen Slater for sending out the email, and Hugh McMillan, who took the pics.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Surprises in Worship

In case you missed it yesterday. . .

We were in the midst of our great boom-chuck medley, coming out of "I'm gonna sing, sing, sing" and going into "I'll Fly Away." During rehearsal, we had clearly worked out that, at this transition, I was to take the mandolin break. So I lept into my solo. . .and Holly kept on singing. And the congregation did, too. During my solo.

So. . .there I stood, concentrating on the fingerboard, working out the solo, all the while thinking "Now what do we do? Do they forget the solo? Will Duncan come back around and go into the instrumental section after the chorus? What's going on?"

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed Duncan edging toward me. Was he trying to tell me something? Were we going to make a change on the fly? So I glanced at him (all the while still furiously playing "I'll Fly Away"), but couldn't make sense of what he was saying. I looked beyond him at Holly, wondering if maybe she and Duncan had decided to jump ahead with the song, or if she simply forgot in the moment, or if she just felt the people were ready to go on and so kept singing. . .but couldn't get a read on her.

I don't mind flexibility, you know. In fact, I think the best bands/worship teams are the ones that can communicate on the fly, and make changes as the moment needs. But this was my big mandolin solo. And my poor brain was trying too hard to process both the solo and the unexpected singing.

All that happened in the verse. We hit the chorus and I gave up, going back to playing rhythm, jumping in with the bgvs. . .and finally looked out at the congregation. It was a sea of white.

A few weeks ago we sang another gospel song - I think it was "When We All Get to Heaven." And everybody was hootin' and hollerin' and stompin' and clappin'. It reminded me of a day on choir tour, a stop in Houston, when the choir launched into "I'll Fly Away" and all the ladies in the congregation whipped out their hankies and started dancing and waving them in the air. It was a wonderful, fun, inspiring moment. It was pure joy.

So, sometime that morning a few weeks ago, I mentioned that I had this dream that someday I'd be in a church where all the ladies would wave their hankies when the music started rockin' and the Spirit started movin'.

Apparently, somebody took that to heart. Somehow, unbeknownst to me, they handed out white napkins to everybody and told them to whip them out at "I'll Fly Away," waving them in the air. Which they all dutifully, and joyously, did.

Of course, I missed it, lost in my confusion over the missed mandolin break. At least, I missed that moment when they all came out. I didn't catch on until 30 seconds had passed.

But when I looked up, ready to dive into the chorus, there they all were, waving their 'hankies' and having a lot of fun in the moment. And worship was joyful and the singing was ecstatic and it was a moment nobody will forget.

The cool thing was, they did it through the rest of the medley. It wasn't just "well, we surprised Dan so let's put them away because we all look silly." Nope, they just kept waving and hootin' and stompin' and laughing and smiling and singing, all the way to the end.

Last week I challenged our church board with the thought that we need to have more fun. We need to laugh more. We ought to be marked by joy and excitement, not dreariness and too much seriousness.

But that's the problem with challenging people. They take you seriously, and you end up with a crowd waving napkins in worship.

And I was happy. And, if I may say so, I think God was pleased.

So to whoever came up with that crazy idea, and whoever implemented it, thanks. It meant a lot to me.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Time to get rid of the hymnals

No, not because they're old-fashioned, not because they don't fit with our new "contemporary postmodern relevant hipster uber-cool" image.

It's just that, seriously, at least 5 times a Sunday our kids and/or youth drop them onto the floor. At random moments throughout the worship celebration. . .BOOM! goes a hymnal onto the floor. It got to the point I wondered if a couple high schoolers weren't doing it on purpose. I mean, once or twice a month, maybe? But this is getting ridiculous.

Right in the middle of prayer - BOOM!

Right in the middle of the sermon - BOOM!

Right at a quiet moment in our singing - BOOM!

It's causing me to have a nervous tic. It's causing my joy to turn to irritation. It's causing me to lose my patience. And the only answer I can see is to get rid of 'em for good. Maybe we can join that church in North Carolina for their book burning.

That or we need to cover our hymnals and our kids with velcro.

(I know - today was our pastor appreciation celebration, and I truly felt loved and appreciated. So now isn't the time to be ranting. Ought to be a time of thanksgiving. And I am thankful. . .but did I mention I'm getting a nervous tic over this?)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Through Two

What do you know? A couple songs about trains. That first song there won the 2008 IBMA Song of the Year award. . .

Discovered while putting this together that Mindy Smith has a new album out, and that Norah Jones has one coming next month. Need to find a couple bucks now.

And Tramps and Hawkers? One of my top 3 favorite songs on this iPod. "Like ghosts we roam without friends or home, these tramps and hawkers and me."

Through the Window of a Train - Blue Highway
Toes - Norah Jones
Tomorrow is a Long Time - Nickel Creek
Hanging by a Moment - Lifehouse
Tragic Life - Infamous Stringdusters
Train Song - Mindy Smith
Tramps and Hawkers - Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum
Trust and Obey - Sierra Hull
Try the Love - Nanci Griffith
Turn Me On - Norah Jones
(Twilight) on the Sangre de Cristos - Peter Ostroushko
Two Soldiers - Blue Highway

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Somewhat excited. . .somewhat nervous

About a year ago I joined the Gig Harbor Peninsula Symphony Orchestra. I was quite happy to audition for, and be accepted to, the 2nd Trumpet chair.

I don't know if you realize that that's a little odd. . .trumpet players tend to be on the cocky side, and don't usually 'settle' for anything other than lead. In any given band, there is a pecking order, and the lead trumpet stands at the top. The top to which the rest enviously aspire (note: this is the position I have acquired in the Down Home Band, and am enjoying all the glory and glamor there, thank you very much). So to be happy for 2nd trumpet. . .I realize I'm letting the brotherhood down, ruining our reputation.

1) The lead trumpet, Manny, is a really nice guy. And a good player, too.
2) My life is stressful enough, and there's something to be said about the lack of pressure in that 2nd trumpet chair. No expectation, no blame if things go wrong. I just show up, toot a few notes, receive the same applause as everybody else, and go home. It's actually quite relaxing after a long week of ministry. So I'm content.


This year, we've lost some players, and are fighting a tight budget, so the orchestra is taking a little break. Instead of regular concerts with the full symphony, each concert will be made up of smaller ensembles, mostly playing chamber music. Oct. 24 is the first show, and it will be our clarinet section playing . . .wait for it. . .clarinet music. Solos and trios and such.

The Christmas concert is in the final stages of coming together. Louie Labayen, our director, has hired in Jeff Orr, an organist par excellence, to play a few numbers (Jeff played in last year's holiday concert as well). In addition, he wants the trumpets to play some brass numbers, creating a festive feel for this Christmas season. It looks like, in addition to the organ numbers, there will be some trumpet solos and duets, and some brass quintet stuff, as well. We're talking about Charpentier's Te Deum, Handel's The Trumpet Shall Sound, perhaps a little Ave Maria or Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring. Maybe Handel's Alla Hornpipe.

In other words, lots of high brass, lots of exposure, lots of exciting playing. Exactly what Christmas ought to be.

But also, a lot of pressure. A whole lot of practicing. A lot of getting the lip back into shape for some piccolo trumpet work. Essentially, going from being the lowly 2nd trumpet player tooting a few notes, to being one of two or five carrying the whole show.

Of course, Manny's still lead, so more of it falls on him. But I'll admit it - I'm both excited and nervous at the same time. Excited because I love Christmas and I love Christmas music and I picture in my mind a glorious night celebrating music and the season (and yes, the birth of Christ). But nervous because I've got a lot of practicing to do in the next two months if I'm going to be ready for this.

So much for my peaceful little world.

The concert will be Saturday night, Dec. 12, 7:00 p.m., at St. John's Episcopal Church in Gig Harbor, so if you're in the area, come on by. I'll be the guy in the tux.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Just so you know

I've been hoping to post some pastoral thoughts on Ref. 71, the 'everything but marriage' law that is up for a vote here in Washington.

But, I had to write two articles this week. And I have to write an annual report by tomorrow. And I have to write 4 sermons in the next two weeks. And I have a pastor cluster meeting in an hour. And an appointment 2 hours after that. And another appointment 2 hours after that. And I still need to get out the music for Pioneer Clubs tonight.

And tomorrow all the Covenant pastors are coming over for lunch, and I have to get all the music prepared for Alpha tomorrow night, and keep working on those sermons.

Oh, and I'm working with Manny on putting together all the music for the GHPSO Christmas Concert (which will be Dec. 12, if you're interested), which means lots of emails and time spent on the sheet music store website.

Did I mention I may need to add in one more leader training session before the Alpha weekend away?

So excuse the lack of any significant content here. Other things beckon. . .

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rainy Tuesday Poem

From John Greenleaf Whittier's "Last Walks in Autumn"

  Then let the icy north-wind blow 
    The trumpets of the coming storm,
  To arrowy sleet and blinding snow 
    Yon slanting lines of rain transform.
  Young hearts shall hail the drifted cold 
  As gayly as I did of old;
And I, who watch them through the frosty pane,
Unenvious, live in them my boyhood o’er again.

  And I will trust that He who heeds 
    The life that hides in mead and wold,
  Who hangs yon alder’s crimson beads, 
    And stains these mosses green and gold,
  Will still, as He hath done, incline 
  His gracious care to me and mine;
Grant what we ask aright, from wrong debar,
And, as the earth grows dark, make brighter every star!

  I have not seen, I may not see, 
    My hopes for man take form in act,
  But God will give the victory 
    in due time; in that faith I act.
  And he who sees the future sure, 
  the baffling present may endure,
And bless, meanwhile, the unseen Hand that leads
The heart's desires beyond the halting step of deeds.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Tension Three

"What can we carry, what will stay with us, what will shine like gold when the story's told? Some things will tarry, some will return to dust. There are things we can and things we cannot keep."

Tension is a Passing Note - Sixpence None the Richer
That's All I Can Say - Sierra Hull
That's What the Lonely is For - David Wilcox
Thief in the Night - Leeland
Things we Can and Cannot Keep - Alli Rogers
This is Our Father's World - Mars Hill Worship
This Old Guitar - John Denver
This Sad Song - Alison Krauss and Union Station
This World - Derek Webb
This World is not my Home - Blue Highway
Those Sweet Word - Norah Jones
Three Days in July - Infamous Stringdusters

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Thursday Stuff

Maestro Louis Labayan, conductor of the Gig Harbor Peninsula Symphony Orchesta, has asked Manny Garcia (First Chair Trumpet) and myself if we could come up with some exciting music for trumpet and organ, to be performed at our Holiday Concert in December.

So yes, that is Christmas music playing in the background. I was going to hold off until late November, but this is an unfortunate research-related necessity.

Currently, I'm listening to Brass Mosaic's A Brass Christmas.

I was playing around with some ideas for an updated church bulletin, and came up with a new revised version of the Covenant Affirmations. What do you think?

As part of the Evangelical Covenant Church, we affirm:
1. People ought to read the Bible
2. People need to get converted
3. People need to listen to the Holy Spirit
4. We need to do stuff for God
5. The Church is God's people
6. We all need to play nice

This morning, Wes, Tammy, Ron and I went and toured Camp Colman, in preparation for our Alpha retreat there in a couple weeks. I'm excited. . .

The Gig Garbor Gateway published a very nice article about last Sunday's Blessing ceremony for Fire, Law, EMT, EMS personnel, and included a lovely picture of Olivia and Clara climbing into a fire truck. The only problem was that the Gateway gave our girls boys' names on accident.

Lakebay people: we're going to be singing a new song on Sunday. If you want to learn it ahead of time, watch this:

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

bikini stands, a retrospective

Since some have asked, I did submit a slightly edited version of my screed against bikini espresso stands to the local paper. However, since the stand most central to the KP closed shortly after it opened, the paper has chosen not to run the article. They have, instead, invited me to submit another piece for consideration; I will then be in the running to be a regular guest editorialist for the 2010 year. We'll see.

I did see, however, that "anonymous" left a note disagreeing with me in the comment section following the original post. It is generally my habit to disregard anonymous notes; if they come to me in writing, I promptly throw them away. If they appear on my blog, I generally leave them as part of the discussion, but I usually don't respond.

This time, however, I thought it might be 'useful for instruction,' as the saying goes. So, at the risk of giving 'anonymous' more exposure than they deserve, here is their response:
wow, Dan this looks more to me like it is easier for you to take on others "sins" than look at your own. Was it not Jesus himself that said "Judge not" I think you should take a look at your own life and not rag on others untill you yourself are perfect. I hope that along with talking about these stands you write an article about why you shouldn't take your kids to wild waves for fear of what they may see women in their bikinis or for heavens sake the purdy spit *gasp a bikini honey get the kids were not ever comming back here!!!!!
So, let's talk about it.

First, I'd like to point out that 'anonymous' fell into the classic logical fallacy of completely disregarding my logic, my reasoning, the evidence and argument I brought. Instead, 'anonymous' resorted to an ad hominem attack, choosing to paint me as a judgmental prude, more quick to call out the sins of others than deal with my own. This is not a reasoned response, it is an emotional sideswipe, calling into question my motives and integrity without ever answering the original charge. I said "Bikini coffee stands are bad because A and B." A reasoned response would say, "I disagree. I think you are mistaken when you say A, and you never even considered C." But, instead, 'anonymous' responds with "I don't have to listen to what you say because I think you're a bad person."

Of course, 'anonymous' has no way of knowing whether or not this is true. They don't know if I regularly confess my sins to another, they don't know how I respond when I am held accountable for sins I commit; they know none of that. They presume to assume a few things based on my choice to share my dislike of bikini espresso stands, but they have no proof one way or the other. So they fail on the first point.

Next. . .

The most mis-used verse in the entire Bible must be "Judge not. . ." Yes, Jesus did say that. Right in the middle of the sermon on the mount. But if anything is true of biblical interpretation, it's that context is everything. And, taken in the context of Jesus' full life and message, he certainly never intended a world in which no person ever shared their unhappiness with another person or situation. Jesus called Peter "Satan." Jesus called out the religious leaders with his infamous "woe to you" diatribe. Jesus' cousin John called the Pharisees a "brood of vipers."And the rest of the NT reveals quite a bit of judging going on.

When Jesus said "Judge not," he went on to say "because at the same measure, you too will be judged." He was speaking about a kind of self-righteous attitude that perceives oneself as perfect, while everyone else is Less-Than-Perfect. Of walking around feeling (and acting) smugly holier-than-thou. Of lacking any humility. And, quite possibly, of making eternal pronouncements over people instead of leaving that up to God. But the biblical witness is far greater, from Amos preaching judgment over a people who refuse to care for their poor, to Nathan rebuking David, to Paul rebuking Peter and Peter rebuking Ananias and Saphira. The book of Revelation is one long judgment against the Roman Empire.

The heart of the issue is this: are we simply judging so that we can feel better than others? Or are we engaging society, calling our community to be better and stronger? If all we do is sit back and complain, then yes, we're guilty of judging. But if our desire is to point out sickness so that it can move toward healing, then we are behaving righteously. Imagine it this way: if your doctor discerns that you are extremely overweight and at great risk for a heart attack, it may sound judgmental for him to say "cut back on the twinkies and Big Macs and eat more vegetables." In fact, it is judgmental, insomuch as it makes a negative judgment toward your eating habits. But it's a judgment based on his desire to see you move toward health, and so it is a good judgment, and not the kind Jesus was talking about in the Sermon on the Mount.

And, yes, this is exactly the point I was making in the original post. I believe these types of businesses are unhealthy for us as a community, for the people who live here and the people who work in the stands. Thus, I speak out not as a prude, but as one calling my community to seek health.

"Anonymous" fails on the second point.

Finally, the comments about Wild Waves and going to the beach misses the point. At bikini coffee stands, bikinis and the flesh they don't cover are the attraction. They are the selling point. They are the main thing. At Wild Waves, at the beach, bikinis are simply the by-product of people's desires to enjoy the sunshine and get some Vitamin D in the process. At the beach, people are expected to wear less clothing than normal, and while there are still some lecherous people who go to ogle, and while there are still girls who go there to 'strut their stuff,' those people don't define the moment. The intent of people at the beach is not primarily sexual. Thus, when I and my family visit the beach, there are no sexual undertones; we're all there to enjoy the water and the sun and the sand.

Bikini coffee stands are inherently sexual, because sex is the motivating factor in their advertising. "Come and see sexy girls" is the call going out. And, naturally, those who go in expecting to see sex - well, that's exactly what they're going to see.

It's somewhat like the difference between nudity in art and pornography. For all but the most base minds, nudity in art can be a celebration of beauty, of the human form, of life, of a lot of things, but it's not about sex. We can look at a statue of a Greek goddess and not be turned on, even though the statue is nude. I have family members who are photographers; they see (and sometimes judge) photographs of nude people. I've been to art galleries that contain nudes. And most (except those with a junior high mentality) enjoy it as art without turning their minds toward lustful, sexual thoughts.

But pornography is different. It may be the same flesh, but the purpose is purely sexual, purely to titillate, to tickle that spirit of lust inside of us. It has no great purpose, no purpose at all other than to give a moment's pleasure to the viewer (and make money for the seller).

In other words, art has a depth that draws the viewer into a world wherein life is expanded; pornography flattens the world out, destroying the actors by turning them into 2-dimensional objects of my fantasy.

And so it is with this beach argument. Going to the beach is not about sex; going to Wild Waves is not about titillation, it is about swimming and enjoying the sun. Bikini coffee stands, on the other hand, are expressly about sex, and are thus destructive, in that they turn women into 2-dimensional objects with no purpose but to fulfill the fantasies of others, and they teach the shoppers that women are worth only one thing: what they are willing to put out.

So, no 'anonymous.' You fail on the third point, as well. I realize there are many who don't care, many who would just rather go ogle the girls anyway, who will deny the harm there. I can point out how dangerous it is to continually eat a high-fat, high-salt diet, but most will keep doing it anyway. I get that. But I won't feel guilty or wrong in telling them the truth anyway.

Just like I've learned to appreciate it when my friends do the same to me. It can be painful, but I cherish the times people who love me have taken the time to call me toward a better way of living, when they've pointed out ways I have sinned against them or others. Because those times have made me a better person. I am not perfect; I'm just trying to follow the One who is Perfect, and inviting the community to join me on the way.

I can see clearly now. . .

Well, not really.

But yesterday I tried out the new contact lens for my left eye. Which is the first time I've had any contact in that eye (other than quick fittings at the optometrist's office) since last October. Which means this is the first time I've been able to see clearly out of that eye.

Yes, it hurts a bit, as my eye is adjusting to this new lens, as a very sensitive cornea (with some still-healing scar tissue) gets used to this thing sitting on top of it. And, I think, we'll still need to make some adjustments, because it's not quite as clear as it ought to be.

But still. I put it in yesterday morning, and then drove Clara to preschool. I didn't notice much at first, other than excruciating pain, which slowly gave way to plain ordinary pain. But when I turned the car around and picked up some speed heading out the driveway. . .the mystics talk about creation becoming suddenly infused with light, with magic, with a sharper clarity, of seeing the world take on a new posture. It was like that. I was seeing in 3-D for the first time in over 11 months. I'd just gotten used to a flat world. All of a sudden that world was moving toward me. Everything from the way tiny pebbles sat on the road to the way trees waved in the forest was different, was sharper, was moving. The world took on a fluidity I'd never seen before. It was amazing. All the way to Clara's school I marveled at the way trucks drove past, the way clouds scooted overhead, the way birds disappeared into the trees. I don't know how to describe it, except to say it was a magical world, this 3-D world.

Maybe you could try it out, just to see what I mean. Simply cover one of your eyes for 11 months and then open it up - you'll see.

Anyway, I'm thinking to myself that it's a wonderful world. But, if I'm talking to you and squinting, or if you think I'm winking at you, don't get any wrong ideas. It's going to take a little time to get this thing right. At least we're on the way.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Bike Ride Report

Distance: 8.2 miles
Time: 45 minutes
Route: The shorter southern route - down to Longbranch and back.

This was one of those days that remind me of fall back in my childhood; warm sun cascading down, leaves beginning to turn, tall firs piercing a dark blue sky, blackberries turning over-ripe on the vine, the hint of autumn in the wind, people out for walks, the shout of children in the schoolyard playground, pumpkins lying in the fields and apples dangling from gnarled branches.

It was a beautiful day.


Yesterday, I had the absolute privilege of joining in with other local clergy and community leaders in leading a 'blessing ceremony' for the Gig Harbor/KP Fire/Law Enforcement/EMT/EMS workers. A good 200+people gathered together in the parking lot and front lawn of the GH United Methodist Church, where a number of games, face painting booths, food tents, and emergency vehicles were assembled. Music was provided by the GH Civic Orchestra (that's not the one I play in). The blessing ceremony lasted about 30 minutes, under a beautiful, clear blue sky. On the platform were various chaplains, fire captains, representatives of the different services, a couple of us clergy, and president of the local LDS stake. A local color guard presented the flags, a local fireman sang the Star Spangled Banner (complete with a 'random' wind gust unfurling the flag at the exact moment he hit 'and the home of the brave. . .'), a piper played 'Amazing Grace' as all paused to remember those fallen in the line of duty. Then the chaplains, clergy, and LDS representative led a responsive reading/blessing, and a few thank-yous were offered up to the community.

One moment in particular was poignant for me. Near the end I found myself sitting on stage, following the blessing, listening to a short speech by one of the fire chiefs - Mike Miller, the same man who led the search committee that brought me to Lakebay in the first place.

It was good to see others we knew from the community as well - kids who come to our Pioneer Clubs, fellow preschool parents, a few of our church members, and fire captains like Tom Lique and Chuck West, who both serve out here on the Peninsula.

The only disappointment I felt was the lack of participation from the church community. Two pastors from the GH United Methodist took part, and my colleague Arlyce from down in Longbranch was there (she and I to represent the KP side of things), and that was it, unless you count the LDS stake president. I was told by one of the event coordinators that over 80 local clergy were invited. If you remove the two from the church hosting the event, Arlyce and I were the only two to respond.

I know. . .Sundays are tough. And some will balk at the 'ecumenical' nature of the event, but it seemed in the end this was a great opportunity to show appreciation to many who serve in such dangerous and crucial places, and to let them know we support them. If anything, to keep the door open between the church community and the first responder community. So I was glad to take part, and hope more will at future events.

In the end, it was a perfect day, it was fun for the family, and a chance for me to represent Christ in the larger community. It was a blessing for me to have the chance to take part, and I hope it truly was a blessing to those who serve.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Still Tennessee

"Fall is walking us into a cold December wind, and maybe we won't last too long, But maybe we will make it to play a brave new song, mixing up the failure with the new, in hopes for something true. . ."

Still Burning - Sixpence None the Richer
Stories in My Pockets - Sarah Masen
Stumptown - Nickel Creek
Suavito - Arturo Sandoval
Sunrise - Norah Jones
Sunshine on My Shoulders - John Denver
Sweet Baby James - James Taylor
Sweet Betsy from Pike - Peter Ostroushko
Sweet Hour of Prayer - Iris Dement
Sycamore Hollow - Blue Highway
Take to the World - Derek Webb
Tennessee - Mindy Smith

Thursday, October 01, 2009

One thing I like about my life

If you walked into the front room of our house, you would see, front and center against the wall, our piano. It's an old German piano, like none I've seen before. We once had an old, grizzled piano tuner come, a man who'd spent 50+ years tuning pianos, and he'd never seen one like it before. It's slightly out of tune again, but it plays, and it gets played pretty regularly.

If you turned around and headed to the 'formal' room, you'd find my trumpet sitting in there, fresh off of an evening's practice. I bought it (well, I think my parents mostly paid for it) almost 20 years ago, and it's seen some good days, and had some lonely days back when we had babies around the house. But it still plays, and more and more is getting played with regularity.

Next to the trumpet is my old mandolin, which was old when my father bought it in Thailand 45 years ago. It's not the best mandolin ever made, but I had it refurbished when we moved back to Washington, and it does the job. It's more of a diversion, but slowly I'm figuring my way around it, and it does get played every couple weeks in church, at camp, and on camping trips.

At the moment, underneath that mandolin case is Olivia's violin case. She started lessons this fall with the Peninsula Youth Orchestra. She's just starting out, Olivia is, but still, that violin is just waiting to be played.

If you looked around the corner, you'd find the old family autoharp, which once belonged to my grandfather's brother - "Uncle Art." I looked it up in a book once, and as near as I could tell, this model was made in the late 1930s. It still has the original strings and felts (I think) and so plays a little rough, but sometimes, when I'm tired of the piano, trumpet, and mandolin, I'll pull it out and strum through a couple songs.

Finally, sometimes in my office and sometimes in the house you'd find my guitar, a Fender acoustic I purchased shortly after moving up from California. Yes, the old beater guitar I bought in California is also around someplace, but the Fender is a nice upgrade and fun to play. I'm no great guitarist, mind you, but there are those days when I need to sit down and play a little John Denver, and out comes the guitar.

In other words, our house is full of music and musical instruments. I don't remember ever making a decision to have all these instruments; they just came over the years, and I've had fun getting to know them all. There is a feeling of fulfillment to realize the impact music has had on our life and our household, and a feeling of hope that our girls are being raised surrounded by so much musical offering. In the end, I'd much rather Olivia practice her violin than practice the latest video game.

So, not to toot my own horn (aargh. . .); just to say it makes me happy to share my house with so many instruments, to wander around and pick one of them up and enjoy them for 10 minutes or a couple hours, or even Clara bang on the piano, knowing that someday it will be 'real' music. Just one thing I like about my life.