Sunday, February 28, 2010

Jesus is watching


A leftover from today's sermon. . .

Friday, February 26, 2010

Missin' Some Pickin'

I just realized Wintergrass is this weekend. I ought to be sitting there tonight, enjoying some sweet bluegrass. But no. . .they had to leave Tacoma and move to Bellevue (since when have yuppies liked bluegrass?). So instead I'll be sitting at home watching Bollywood movies with Karina's friends.

But. . .I noticed the Infamous Stringdusters have a new album coming out in April. And I noticed you can listen to three tracks off of that new album here. And I noticed they're playing in Kenmore this summer. And it's a free show.

Okay. I can be happy about that. 

Thursday, February 25, 2010

I guess there's always this

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

More on Sunday

KOMO 4 News in Seattle ran a story on Abbie's death. It begins with a couple shots of the baptism.

Monday, February 22, 2010


I have to be honest. If ever I were to lose my faith, it would be days like yesterday that would do it.

I don't get death. I can't wrap my head around it. I hate it.

Biologically, I understand how life ends. Even theologically; I can accept that we live in a broken world and bad things happen sometimes. But that age-old question of why the innocent suffer, why the meek have to go gently into that good night - I just can't live with it.

Old age is different. In that case, death is a release. A life well-lived is the legacy. Leaving behind an aged body for a new one in glory - that sits with me just fine.

Likewise 'deserved' death, if you can call it that. A life of drug or alcohol abuse, fast and hard living, ravaging the body until it can no longer sustain life; or the drunk driver who heads out and drives straight into a telephone pole. I may not like it, but I can accept it.

But days like yesterday, I just can't make sense of. A father and his family, all gathered in a hospital room, his infant daughter kept alive solely with the aid of machines. And his choice to keep her alive with those machines, or to turn them off and let her die. And this no sickness, no disease, no result of sin; this a tragic accident, a choking in the night.

The family held her and loved her. I baptized her, splashing the water on the wisps of hair covering her head. We prayed, I anointed her with oil, signing the cross of Christ onto her forehead. We claimed the promise that she belongs to God, is loved by God and her family here. And we released her into God's care.

Later her father held her as she breathed her last.

I'm going to say it here, for the world to see. I think God has got a lot of explaining to do someday. This is not how it's supposed to be. And any who would try to offer up an explanation will fall desperately short.

I don't doubt God's goodness. I don't doubt that eternal life awaits God's children. I don't doubt that the blood of Jesus still saves. Don't worry about that.

It's that place where answers evaporate and hope seems all that's left - I confess I don't like it. In fact, I hate it. I can't accept it. It's not how this world is supposed to be. The silence of God is thundering.

It was a hard day.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Movie Recommendation

If you haven't yet, you should watch The Singing Revolution. For us, it was one of those netflix recommendations that you keep putting off until you finally decide to take a risk. . .and as it turns out, netflix new best.

The Singing Revolution is a documentary telling the story of Estonia, from the German invasion of the late 1930s up through the end of Soviet occupation in the early 1990s. It's a piece of history about which I admit I was clueless, and therefore the movie is worthwhile in that it rounds out our understanding of this little-known part of the world.

But more importantly, The Singing Revolution tells the story of a revolution, the overthrow of the Soviet-backed government and the end of its tyranny - but a revolution like no other. Because it was a bloodless revolution. It was a revolution based on ideas and the risk of the spoken word, but mostly a revolution fomented and carried out in the songs of the people. That a choir would gather, sing songs of national identity, and bring down the reign of their communist oppressors is an amazing feat. And it's no fairy tale; it happened. And this move tells us that story, through historical archives, and interviews with the very people at the heart of this revolution.

It's an inspiring move, an uplifting move, and a hopeful movie, proving that victory doesn't always go to the one with the biggest guns; that sometimes, a song can truly inspire the way to freedom.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


We just received a call that Warren passed away a few hours ago, and is now in the presence of the Lord. Peace to his memory.

Another of our people, Maxine, was also on the verge of passing yesterday, but apparently is doing much better, praise the Lord. So today we mourn one, and rejoice that one seems to be on the road to recovery.

Blogs of note

Two more blogs I've recently started following:

Dale Kuehne's Signpostings, a follow-up to his Sex and the iWorld book.

Wes and Tammy's Plague of Buses, stories of their daily commute along the highways and biways of Western Washington.

Friday, February 12, 2010


I first met Warren a couple years ago, when he was volunteering in our church's ministry to the homeless and low-income of the Key Peninsula. He'd had a rough life, made some bad decisions, but was working to get his life back together.

Last year, on a walk with some friends around the town of Home, we saw Warren sitting out on his front porch in the sun; we had a good talk about the warm weather and God's goodness to us all.

He came to our Christmas Eve service this last December. One of our 'festive' pieces was a dramatic reenactment of the 12 Days of Christmas. Warren made a joyous and hilarious Partridge in a Pear Tree. 12 times, he played that partridge, as we counted down each of the days.

A few weeks ago he came to our church and asked for prayer; he'd had heart surgery and wasn't feeling well, wasn't recovering. So Howard and I prayed over him, anointing him with oil.

Shortly thereafter, he collapsed, and was rushed to the hospital. He's been there, in a coma, ever since. (editor's note: don't try to draw any conclusions from that sequence about the dangers of letting me pray for you)

This morning his son called, and let us know they expect Warren to die today. In the next few hours, most likely. So a few of our people are heading up there to be by his side, to pray with him as he leaves this earth and goes to be with the Lord.

It always amazes me how quickly some people go; full of life and energy one minute, gone the next. I expected Warren to stick around for quite a bit longer. But it seems life caught up to him; perhaps some of his old mistakes wore his body down too much. But Warren loved people, he loved serving others, and he loved the Lord, so I don't doubt that paradise awaits him, a place where all those old mistakes are washed away, where redemption replaces brokenness.

Our prayers are with Warren and his family and community today.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

News from the alma mater

Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, the school where I received my Masters Degree, is being absorbed by Fresno Pacific University.

I'm not exactly versed in MB leadership structures, but this seems a good thing to me. They practically share the same campus, they share classes and teachers and a common bookstore. So good for them to make significant decisions in tough economic and social times.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Television commercials are evil

Some of you know that we've gone four years now without being connected to any television source. We have a TV, but it's only connected to the PS2, which is really only used as a DVD player. And yes, in the spirit of confession, sometimes Karina and I watch a show or two via Hulu. Or, like recently, we've been catching up on Dr. Who via Netflix live streaming. So we're not complete Luddites. But still, we're pretty careful to filter what comes into the home.

Which is, I guess, why I'm always shocked when I sit down in front of a TV and spend a few minutes watching. And no, I'm not really talking about the Super Bowl; I knew what to expect there. Although it was odd to notice the theme of emasculated males working itself out in at least four different commercials. What was that all about?

I'm really referring to a night a few weeks ago when Doug and I were sitting in the hotel room in Denver, and I was trying to find something to wile away a few minutes before going to sleep. As usual, nothing was on that was worth watching.

But I did see this one commercial, which I shall henceforth refer to as "The Most Evil Commercial Ever." It was so ludicrous as to be almost unbelievable. Seriously. At least advertisers used to try to hide how evil they are; now they just come right out and admit it.

Here's the commercial:

Do you see why it's so evil?

Note how the kids playing outside look so somber and sad. Yes, kids, fresh air and playing in the park is so 1930s. It's so boring!

Note how the kids playing outside look with such envy on the happy kids inside the van.

Note the implication that being stuffed inside a van with free television is better than being outside on a sunny day.

Note that there are no adults interacting with these children. They're lost, lonely, depressed until the great god Television blesses them with Its presence.

Note the poor local children being blessed by the Shiny Blessed People, waving at these unfortunate souls like so many Rockefellers gazing down upon the huddled masses yearning to be free.

This is evil.

Let us renounce this evil by reminding ourselves that:
- play is better than television
- personal interaction is better than television
- outside in the fresh air is better than inside with television
- a slide is better than television
- a swingset is better than television
- a bike is way better than television

And, should you find yourselves in a vehicle with your family and friends, it's a wonderful opportunity to actually get to know them, create some fun and some memories. Do the human thing and interact.

If you really want my opinion, televisions built into vehicles are evil.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Random Thoughts on a Super Bowl

Was I the only one who thought Carrie Underwood went horribly out of tune at the end of the National Anthem?

I really thought the Colts would walk away with it, so the outcome was a pleasant surprise. Even being that close with only a couple minutes left, Manning driving for the tying score. . .that's the kind of drama a Super Bowl needs.

Unfortunately, other than that final drive, and a random play or two (onside kick, anyone?) the whole game seemed pretty bland. And not the best-played game, either. Can you say dropped passes?

Good job by the refs, though. Made the calls that needed to be made, but didn't change the outcome of the game.

Commercials? Were there any? I can't seem to remember any of them this morning.

What I do remember was the cringe-inducing half-time show. This is the curse of Janet Jackson - grandpas horribly singing songs from too-long ago. I know, I know. The Who is an important band in the history of rock-n-roll. But their voices are shot, their energy is gone. I'd have preferred Up With People - at least they have that certain air of spryness in their bodies.

I thought CBS did a good job, overall. Good, tight shots, not a lot of 'zap-pow' graphics or sound effects. Although they could have used a few more people sitting in their booth for the pre-, post-, and half-time, don't you think? Why stop at 5 guys shouting at each other?

While I found myself wondering whatever happened to smash-mouth football, I do have to admit that New Orleans put on a masterful display of ball-control offense. Poor Manning never had a chance to get in any rhythm. Must be a bitter taste in his mouth this morning.

Finally, I noted an ad near the end for the NFL Network, saying something about it 'always being football season.' Well, no. I think Spring Training is right around the corner. And the Mariners look like they might be contenders this season. So yesterday was nice and all, but I think I'm about ready for some baseball.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

To all our east coast friends

I was feeling a little invigorated this morning - maybe it was the beautiful sunrise over top a cloudless blue sky. So I went out and chopped some firewood, working up a sweat in the warm, spring-like weather. A few clouds rolled in, but still the sun shone brightly, revealing a small clump of crocuses poking their heads through. The kids joined some friends at the local play park where they ran around for hours in the warm weather. Everywhere we went, people were out and about, walking along the shoreline or greeting friends down in our little town.

I know it's early February, but it sure feels like spring. Did I mention all the finches that were playing in the driveway? They think it's spring, too.

So sorry about that whole snowstorm thing. Rest assured that we'll be thinking about you when we're tossing a football around, outside, during the game tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Book Review: Kem Meyer's "Less Clutter. Less Noise."

Marketing and promotion aren't exactly a favorite subject for churches and pastors. For one, it seems somehow kind of dirty; the gospel should speak for itself and not need any P.R., right? For another, it's one more thing for which pastors don't have time. We spend so much time preparing sermons, counseling people in crisis, reading and studying and praying (and blogging) - who has time to think about websites and promotion and bulletins and newsletters? And for another, too often we in the church become so insulated in our little worlds that we forget to think about the image and message we present to the world. It's just comfortable here in the world of simplistic websites, clip-art, and lo-fi audio.

Whether we like it or not, though, we all send messages to the world around us, to people looking for hope and answers, to people trying to decide whether or not the church ought to play a part in their lives. We're also sending messages to the people already inside the building. And too often, those messages are confusing, overwhelming, difficult to follow, stale, and even cheesy.

Which is where Kem Meyer's book "Less Clutter. Less Noise." becomes so valuable. In even drawing our attention to the issue, if even for forcing us to think about the ways our public message impacts our people and the larger community, this book is well worth the price.

This is a book about communication. About messages. About putting the best possible face forward. About treating our people with respect. About creativity. About clarity. About reducing clutter and confusion and overkill. About using best practices to streamline our communication, to reduce white noise, to focus on what's important and not bury our people in overkill.

Meyers takes us into the wonderful world of church newsletters, of websites, of bulletins, of physical location and flow, of Sunday morning announcements, of blogs and social networking. And she does it with whit and humor, using plenty of real-world examples, both good and bad. She brings her expertise into the church and shines the light around, which can be uncomfortable at times. Yet her attitude is winsome and self-deprecating, making it easy to laugh at ourselves.

She also gives resources and recommendations.. There's a whole seminar and a half in here, with links to books and websites; in addition, the last 35 pages are full of lists, samples. and examples of how to do it right and how to do it wrong. And each chapter ends with a series of questions to further discussion and action.

The simple fact is, our people are living in a world flooded with noise. All too often, our efforts at communication either add to that noise, or are lost within it. Our websites turn people away, our newsletters don't have the impact we desire. Sometimes we're so excited about ourselves that we forget to consider our audience. Sometimes we offend that audience through insensitivity to their situation. And most of us don't have the time to become well-trained communications directors; most of our churches can't afford even a part-time communications expert. Which is why I recommend most of us take the time to read this book, and allow it to stimulate out thinking. To teach us bow to better communicate in this world.

And why I recommend we have all our administrative assistants read it. And maybe our ministry directors. Not every piece is relevant to every ministry, but the heart is challenging and overall, very helpful. It's going onto my shelf, with the plan to pop it open every couple months and read a piece here or there, just to make sure I'm staying on track.