Friday, May 28, 2010

I met Gary Coleman once

Well, sort of. More like we were in the same location for half an hour.

I was leadinga day-long youth group bike trip, riding from Long Beach down to Seal Beach and back. At the midway point we stopped at a shopping center that had a video arcade (remember those places?). Some of the kids went inside while I waited outside to flag down a few lollygaggers who had fallen behind.

Into the parking lot pulled a Hummer. One of the originals. This is around 1994, so this is back before Hummers became suburbanized. The Hummer parks in the middle of the lot. Not in a parking spot, but right in the middle of the driveway. Right behind two cars, blocking them in.The door pops open. And out jumps Gary Coleman. (Stop there for a minute, and just picture Gary Coleman jumping out of a full-size Hummer.) He walked into the arcade, which, it turned out, he owned.

He went into the office, then came out and sat at a table, in the middle of the room, to look over some paperwork. A few people approached him, but he blew them off. He seemed to be enjoying 'being seen' by the lowly people, but he couldn't be bothered to actually interact with them.

Of course, we had Todd in our group, and he wasn't one to give up easily. This is the same Todd who showed up Weird Al and Bob Saget. So Todd walked up to Gary and asked, with enthusiasm, "Hey, do you know who you are?" He was relentless, prodding and pleading with Gary to say it. His one line. "What you talkin' bout, Willis?" But no, Gary wouldn't budge. He just pretended to concentrate all the harder on his paperwork, looking annoyed.

I should mention that, about this time, the owners of those cars in the lot were trying to leave, but couldn't, because of the large Hummer planted directly behind them. But who's to rush Gary Coleman? Who's to speak ill of Gary Coleman and his ginormous 'car'?

After 20 minutes or so, either Gary was finished or he was tired of Todd, because he said goodbye to a couple employees and left. Stop for just a minute, and picture Gary Coleman hopping up into a Hummer. Yup. Took a couple more minutes to get situated, and then drove away.

And life went on as normal, and we all had a good story to share at the next youth group meeting.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Make Yourself At Home?

Note: this was originally printed as the lead article in our May/June church newsletter. I thought it deserved a little bit wider play.

At a recent meeting, one of our board members made an interesting comment. “I never want Church to feel like home.”

It seemed almost heretical, at first. But then they explained. “Home is the place where I get comfortable. It’s the place where I kick my shoes off and relax in front of the television, or with a book. Home is the place I go to get away from the stresses of life. When I’m home, I don’t want to be bothered by people or problems. Home is my space.”

The light started to go on in the hearts of those gathered.

“Church should be the opposite. Church is a place where we get to work, where we create space for all sorts of people. Church isn’t a place to get comfortable and relaxed, it’s not a place to get away from it all. Church is about action and service.”

Wow. I wish I’d come up with that. It’s pretty much genius. And it shows a lot of insight into Kingdom values.

When it comes to Christianity, one of the most difficult aspects for us to embrace is the idea that this isn’t about us. That this isn’t about our comfort, our tranquility, our well-being. This Christ-walk that we are on does come with the promise of blessing, of joy and peace and healing and provision. But it is not primarily a call to comfort; it is instead a call to a task. To a mission.

It is a call to serve the world. This is a fact we must never forget. We have been saved by God, filled by his Holy Spirit, and created together to be the Church, His presence on earth. But just as quickly, we are called and commissioned to serve Him by serving the World.

In other words, Lakebay Community Church doesn’t exist primarily for you and me (technically speaking, it exists AS you and me). It exists for those people out there who don’t yet know the joy of salvation in Christ. Yes, the church exists to glorify God. Yes, many in the church have gifts that are used for the good of the Body – gifts like prayer and encouragement. But all of these exist so that we can serve Christ by serving the world (go read Ephesians 2:10, paying special attention to that part about the good works God has prepared for us to do).

It is all too often the case that, when we start talking about the future direction of the church, or the current worship, or the paint scheme, we use too much “me” language. As in, “this isn’t convenient for me.” Or “this isn’t comfortable for me.” Or “I don’t really like that” or “this isn’t what I want.”

I hear you. I understand you. I’m just as tempted to think about my comfort, my preferences, the ease of my service here. I would love to come and be well-fed, sitting in my barcalounger singing Maranatha! hits from the 1980s. I’d love to take in all the blessings and simply forget about the hard work ‘out there.’ But we can’t. The church isn’t our home. It’s a mission station. Or, to be precise, it’s a people on a mission to seek and to serve and to share the love of Christ.

The good news is, all those blessings still come to us as we serve. Lakebay can be, and is, a home for many. It is a place of comfort and blessing, a place where joy can be felt and peace can be found. It is a place of respite for weary saints and sinners. It is a place where we meet our God.

But we must never confuse all these blessings with our primary identity, we must never grasp after these blessings as if they are the Main Thing. And we must never allow our desire for comfort to be the primary guide in our decision making. We want God to bless us; we desire God’s blessing on Lakebay; we must then be about the business of serving him by serving those around us, giving up our own wants, wishes, and desires. We can’t kick up our feet and relax. Instead, let’s get busy serving the world around us.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

So, in the last day

The door of our bathroom closet fell off, with the help of a certain small child.

The alternator on the Jeep decided to stop working while I was driving home, in the rain, from Gig Harbor. When your alternator stops working, your windshield wipers tend to stop, as well. Did I mention I was driving home, in the rain?

The wind brought down a tree in our yard. Only it didn't come down. It's hanging up in another tree, making it much more difficult to take out safely.

At least I got to share a rich lunch with a wonderful group of fellow pastors. . .and a car ride to Aberdeen and back as well.

And the alternator breaking led to some time spent with Doug while fixing it. And the tree led to some time spent with Mike, who came to offer his professional opinion on the matter. And the bathroom door meant some time with Chuck, who's always a joy to have around. So all was not lost. Except for most of my plans for the past two days.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


We've been going through a fair amount of change over here at Lakebay Community Church. A few little things, a few bigger things, but enough that it all adds up. Last year we began a new ministry when we introduced the Alpha Course. At the beginning of this year we moved our church newsletter to an electronic format, and stopped mailing out 250 paper copies every month. Our Maundy Thursday service gave way to a Seder dinner this year. We produced a Stations of the Cross installation. We added a small orchestra to Christmas Eve and Easter.

This last Sunday brought about two large changes. First, we changed our schedule, moving everything up an hour. With Sunday School coming to a close, we decided to take advantage of these long summer day by holding morning worship at 9:30, instead of the usual 10:30. In addition, we stopped taking an offering. Not that we're no longer receiving people's tithes and offerings. We've just placed some donation boxes in the back of the sanctuary (we're calling them "Cheer Boxes," since 'the Lord loves a cheerful giver'), and are asking people to drop their tithes there, rather than passing a plate. And yes, we bit the bullet and are encouraging people to consider giving electronically, either through their own banks, or through

Change is hard a lot of the time. Even these changes haven't been completely smooth; a few people have been hurt, a few people have been scared, a few are worried that our church today isn't the same church we were a few years ago. Personally, I'm learning some lessons about leading through change, on listening to people who are uncertain, on hurting for people who are left out by new schedules, new technologies, on aching when change causes separation, and yet on leading through disruption, of following God's leading and trusting we're all in his hands. I'm naturally a peace-maker, one who wants to minimize stress and disruption so that all can live in peace and harmony. It's difficult to be one of the agents of stress and disruption causing stress and pain.

And yet I believe God is at work in our church, that he's leading us to days of expanded ministry and presence here on the Key Peninsula. I think we're digging up fallow ground, creating space and energy for new life ahead. I'm convinced God has had his hand on us up to this point, that we've been following faithfully, that these changes have been made with prayer and wise deliberation. And so we move ahead in faith and trust.

And if Sunday morning is any indication, the people of Lakebay have again proven their flexibility, their willingness to try something new, their willingness to follow the decisions of their leaders. Because by 8:45 people were pulling into the parking lot, by 9:30 the sanctuary was filling up, and instead of tired, grouchy faces I saw smiles and laughter and joy. I felt excitement. The singing was full and rich; I couldn't get them to sit down after releasing them for the morning greeting. It was good.

Oh, and for a moment I thought there was an additional blessing, that somebody had donated a $40,000 truck to our ministry. But no, it was simply a stolen truck somebody left in our parking lot Saturday night. Which gave us a wonderful opportunity to do the right thing and call the police, so it could be returned to its rightful owner.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Stuff worth sharing (sort of)

Bruce and Katy's trip to southern Mexico.

How about a church that reads through the entire Bible together, not once but four times?

One of the songs we have on tap for the Saturday night show. Except we're doing it without the organ.
In the "nothing is ever at it seems" department, a recent episode of the Fox show Fringe took place in Noyo County, Washington. But Noyo is a river and region in Northern California, not Washington. Then again, the whole thing is filmed in Canada, so who cares, eh? It's a little like the outside scenes they shoot for The Office, where you can occasionally see palm trees in the background (since it's filmed in L.A., and not Scranton, PA).

Anyway, one day in Iceland we found ourselves conversing with a group of Icelandic teens in one of the lovely geothermal pools in Reykjavik. Another American was taking part of the conversation; it came around to entertainment options in Iceland. They mentioned that they were fans of "Dr. House." Our American friend, who lives near Princeton, mentioned that almost every day he drives by the hospital used as the front for House. The Icelandic teens were more than a little excited by that factoid. Until our American friend said "but it's not really a hospital" and I said "and it's all filmed on a sound stage in Los Angeles, 3000 miles away." They seemed a little disappointed.
Speaking of which, it's amazing how much San Francisco looks like Vancouver, Canada, in that other new Fox show "Human Target."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Want some Good Music?

The Gig Harbor Peninsula Symphony Orchestra Presents

Season Finale Concert 

Saturday, May 15, 7:00 p.m.

Mozart's Serenade in Eb, arranged for Five Clarinets

Doppler's Flute Duettino

The GHPSO Brass Quintent (that's me!)
playing selections ranging from Bach to Gospel, from Baroque to Jazz

More information can be found at the GHPSO website

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Our Volcano Video

Just ignore the fact that I was operating an electronic device while taking off and landing. . .

Sunday, May 02, 2010

My intersection with the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

One fun memory of our recently-completed European Vacation. . .

Following a trip to Buckingham Palace to watch the Changing of the Guard, and a mosey over past 165 Eaton Place (anybody know why that's important?), we made it to Harrods. Wow. Lots of . . . everything. Lots of Turkish Delight. Lots of cheese. Lots of $8000 clocks. Lots of toys for the kids. An opera singer in the escalator. An opera singer making pizza. It was a little bit of overload to my tired mind. But we headed upstairs to grab a quiet moment of tea and scones and sandwiches. Which was very nice.

About the time we were finished, I noticed a man standing off to our right. He had That Look. The rigid backbone, the dark suit, the piercing gaze, the wire heading up toward the hidden earpiece. Like secret service or something.

That piqued our attention. Especially when, upon further examination, we realized there were 3 or 4 of these guys around the room. "Wonder what's going on?" I asked myself. Perhaps the queen was stopping by for tea? Or is Harrod's so swank that they hire security guards just to watch over their tea room.

But then a nice-looking older gentleman entered the room, and the security swarmed to him. Our waiter told us "That's Mohammed Al Fayed, the owner of Harrods." Yes, That Mohammed Al Fayed. One of the richest men in the world, and father of Dodi Al Fayed, the man dating, and killed alongside of, Princess Di.

He strolled across the room and was heading out when he glanced our way. Clara and Olivia waved to him. He said something to his security detail, and waved us over. He said hello to our girls, asked them a few questions, and gave them each a kiss and a sucker. He gave the wife a kiss on her hand. He told us we had beautiful children and should keep making them. Then he handed me something and said "this will help later tonight." It looked like a breath mint.

With a twinkle in his eye, he said "It's a viagra."

So there you go. One of the richest men in the world gave me a viagra pill.

It's still in the medicine cabinet, by the way.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

So, quickly

We're home. I'm going to bed. But first, here's a picture of me looking grizzly in front of Buckingham Palace. Except Buckingham Palace would be behind you, if you were taking this picture.