Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pepe and the Beast

Late last week we headed off to bed but couldn't find the dog anywhere. So we called for him outside. He came, but. . . Pepe was alive, but it was obvious he'd had a run-in with some sort of wild beast out in the yard. Bite wounds on his head, claw marks on his side and belly, one leg hanging limp.

Thankfully we had a friend spending the night, so we could make the midnight run to the 'local' emergency vet (and by 'local,' I mean 30 minutes away in Tacoma). I expected him to be dead by the time we got there. But he made it. The vet took him in the back, then met with us to talk about process. And by process, I mostly mean how much it all would cost. All the time she talked we could hear Pepe yelping in the back as the technicians attempted to diagnose the extent of his wounds. (We'd later see on the admittance form where they wrote "unable to diagnose right front leg - he tried to kill us." Which, if you know our dog, you have to admit is kind of funny.)

He spent the night there, and once they sedated him they were able to figure out that it really wasn't all that bad - just a lot of surface wounds, cuts, bite marks, claw marks. He came home 1/2-shaved and with drugs, so he's kind of a punk dog right now. And all in all, it didn't cost as much as it could have, so we have that to be thankful for.

We still don't know what it was that got to him - we have raccoons in the yard, and I saw a fox run across our driveway the next day. I suppose he's lucky to be alive, considering how much this beast scarred him up. And we're lucky, too; I didn't want to deal with a dead dog right before Christmas. I wasn't too happy with him at first, but I guess I have to be proud of him, now. Our little Pepe scrapped with a ferocious beast and came out alive. I just hope it doesn't turn into a habit.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What kind of person?

Many years ago I flew from Sacramento to Seattle. When I arrived, I realized I'd left my PDA (remember those?) at the counter in Sacramento. I called, and they said they had it, and would hold it until I returned to pick it up. Two weeks later I flew back and went to claim it. . .but it had disappeared. The agent admitted it had been there, even placed in their safe, so all they could figure is an employee must have stolen it.

They were gracious enough to buy me a brand-new one, which I appreciated.

A year or so later I flew home from Knoxville to San Jose. This was following an exhausting week working as CHIC staff, working 20 hour days non-stop for a week. I was beyond wiped out. And in that exhaustion, I left my PDA in the seat pocket on the airplane.

Realizing my mistake a few hours later, I called the airline lost-and-found, but nobody had turned it in. I tried for a couple weeks, but it was never turned in. Whoever found it just kept it.

Last June we flew from Denver to Seattle. Somewhere in the process of checking into DIA Clara set down her 2nd-favorite blanket (thankfully we had left the most-favorite blanket at home) and forgot to pick it up. Even before leaving DIA we talked to some agents and the lost-and-found people, but it was nowhere to be found. For a few weeks I called, but nobody ever turned it in. Seems whoever found it just kept it.

A few weeks ago we flew from Ontario to Seattle. Somewhere south of Sacramento Olivia realized she'd left her most favorite stuffed animal at the airport. There were tears and sobs and anguish. But I told her we'd do our best to track it down.In Sacramento we started the process, calling the airline and the airport, but nobody had turned it in yet.

Unfortunately, it's now been three weeks, and it never turned up. We've called the airline lost and found, we've called TSA lost-and-found, we've called the airport lost-and-found. And nobody has it. Whoever found it just kept it.

Which I admit I don't understand. Don't people turn in things when they find them? I always do, if I can. I teach my kids to turn in found items. Just last week we were at Trader Joes and found a necklace in the parking lot. I had Olivia turn it in to the manager. I thought that's what people did.

If you find something, do you turn it in? Did I miss the memo that said "finders-keepers' is the expected behavior for us all?

Or maybe it's something about airports that cause people to keep things they find, even though it may be the most precious possession of a child, even though a dad may be spending a lot of time calling around trying to see if it's shown up. I really don't know. I'm beginning to wonder why we even have lost-and-founds, since in my experience people don't actually turn in things they find (or, when they do, somebody else just steals said item).

What kind of people just keep things they find, knowing somebody else may be looking for it?

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Book Review: Reaching Out

Loneliness, hostility, illusion - these things mark the lives of so many humans, wandering through life trying to survive, trying to find meaning, trying to make sense of it all. Broken by a sinful world, we find ourselves isolated and angry, living in illusions of our own making that cover over the reality of our pain.

Rather than avoiding all three, Henri Nouwen sees each as a starting place toward wholeness, as we realize each has something to teach us, and each can lead us deeper into the heart of God. In Reaching Out, Nouwen explains how our loneliness, painful and frightening as it is, can be transformed into solitude, the quiet place where we can know ourselves better, and the place where we can finally rest in the comforting presence of God's Spirit. "Instead of running away from our loneliness and trying to forget or deny it, we have to protect it and turn it into a fruitful solitude." The Christian life needs its time in the desert; by developing hearts that are comfortable with solitude, we can find again what it means to commune with God, and thus be better equipped to live with our neighbors.

This leads to the second movement - from hostility to hospitality. Because we are lonely we are protective of our space, and we often use others to fill up the empty spaces in our lives. "When hostility is converted into hospitality then fearful strangers can become guests revealing to their hosts the promises they are carrying with them." Hospitality, according to Nouwen, is "the creation of a free space where  the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy." Hospitality is a ministry in which the host creates space for the guest to come as they are and find themselves. Nouwen sketches this out in the context of the teacher/student, parent/child, and healer/patient relationships. In each of these, says Nouwen, "Affirmation, encouragement and support are often much more important than criticism. The good host is the one who not only helps the guests to see that they have hidden talents, but who is able to help them develop and deepen these talents so that they can continue their way on their own with a renewed self-confidence."

Unfortunately, our loneliness and hostility is often hidden behind a veneer of illusion. We have such a hard time getting to the heart of our brokenness. We live as if we are immortal. We cover over our hostility with sentimentality. We make idols of our dreams, thinking ourselves much greater and of more importance than we really are. The answer is found only in prayer - not the pious platitudes of religion, but open, honest communication before the God who knows us better than we know ourselves. "When, however, prayer makes us reach out to God, not on our own but on his terms, then prayer pulls us away from self-preoccupations, encourages us to leave familiar ground, and challenges us to enter into a new world which cannot be contained within the narrow boundaries of our mind or heart."

Like all of Nouwen's writings, this book is deceptively simple. It is a short and easy read, yet so rich and deep that it requires time to ponder, contemplate, and re-read. Even more, it requires action - not programs or plans, but action of the soul, as we seek to reorient our lives back into line with God's loving desires for us. It is an extremely helpful book for people whose lives have settled into religious routine, who feel stifled, who feel like it's time for something new but are uncertain where to turn. It's a book that requires a little maturity, but will lead to so much more.

Friday, December 02, 2011


- Prairie Bible College, the place I spent my first two years out of high school, is in a world of hurt. Although, like with many stories, the truth may not be as clear as some people think.

- Our friend Lori recently published an article about the building of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. She included a nice shot of Clara.

- I've gotten more positive feedback about my Christmas article in the KP News than for any other piece I've published there. In case anybody missed it, I'll post it here in a couple days. (I just noticed the KP News has a new website up and running. It's a big improvement over the old one. And it has a picture of me at the farm tour. I'm the one with the trumpet case, walking away from the pigs.)

- Fresno Pacific Seminary (my alma mater) and College have put out a devotional booklet for Advent. It looks nice. You can download a copy here.

- Thanks for asking. Thanksgiving week was good but busy. A 2-day train journey to L.A., a family thanksgiving celebration, a 40th-anniversary party for Karina's parents, an overnight trip to Las Vegas (sans kids!). . .lots of great memories. It all just swept by too quickly.

- Covenant Church in India burns down under suspicious circumstances.

- Missed in the busy-ness of the last couple months: Sumner Presbyterian chooses to leave the PCUSA and join the Covenant Church. (the article's mostly about Chapel Hill, but it throws in that little tidbit about Sumner). If it goes through, they would instantly be one of the largest churches in the North Pacific Conference. I have friends in the middle of all of this on both sides, and grieve for the pain it causes. But am also inspired by their good efforts at civility and love in the midst of great disagreement.

- This Sunday's sermon: What exactly does it mean to "Prepare the way of the Lord?"

- We're also throwing in two less-familiar favorites this Sunday. "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent" will be our communion song, and "Come, Messiah, Come," written by Cheryl Boydston, gets in there as well.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sometimes the river wins

I took some time to fish the Stillaguamish last Tuesday. I hadn't been there before, so picked a likely spot not far from Stanwood. Put on the waders, assembled the fly rod, and headed to the water. It was a beautiful northwest Autumn afternoon; the maples glowed orange while behind them rose the snow-covered flanks of the Cascade foothills. The sun glistened off the river as a donkey brayed somewhere in the distance. And I had it all to myself.

There was a small boat ramp leading from the parking lot into the river. Next to the boat ramp was a little trail climbing over the bank, and dropping to the river's edge. Seemed easy enough.

Except the downward slope was a tiny bit more slipper than I expected. Which is why I ended up sliding the final 2 feet down the bank into the river.

Oh, and the river was a bit deeper at the edge than I was expecting. No gentle dropoff; I found myself almost chest-deep though I was at the river's edge.

But, I was wearing waders, so not a problem. Except for some concern that I could get back out of the river, what with the steep dropoff and the slippery bank. I didn't feel like wading further out from the edge to get around a large tree, which was blocking my path over to the boat ramp. So I stood there about 10 seconds, pondering my predicament.

Because it only took about 10 seconds to realize that, as I slid down the bank, a sharp root had sliced a large hole in the waders, which were quickly filling up with water. (I should offer the observation that these waders were all of 2 months old, and this was only the third time they'd been in the water.)

Did I mention I was all alone and nobody knew where I was?

Quickly taking stock of the situation, I grasped a strong root just overhead and pulled/slithered/crawled up the muddy hillside to safety.

So what's a fisherman to do? Keep fishing, of course.

The hole in the waders was high enough that I could walk out the boat ramp a ways. And the water really wasn't all that cold, and the sun was still shining. Why let a little thing like this ruin the day?

Of course, the problem with riverbanks is they have overhanging trees. And the problem with not getting very far out into the river is that your backcast has a great chance of getting caught up in those tree branches.

And so I cast, and so my fly line was caught 15 feet up in a maple tree.

Which is right when the first person I'd seen in hours drove up in her car. And offered the helpful observation, "You're not supposed to catch tree branches! {chortle chortle chortle}"

I tried a few more times, got in some nice casts, watched a few sea lions float lazily down the river, even got a nibble or two. But wouldn't you know it, the second time I got my line caught back in that tree, two cars drove into the lot. It's like they were just waiting to humiliate me.

In August, when Mike was giving me my first fly casting lesson, he said something like "you will embarrass yourself. Just expect it." I guess this is all part of the learning process.

So I drove home, water still sloshing around my feet, counting up the cost of a new set of waders, sad that I hadn't caught a fish, but glad that I didn't drown. 

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

You know what else is offensive?

A couple weeks go I went to Target with the girls, to look for Halloween costumes (Clara ended up being Cleopatra, and Olivia was a black cat).

We had a hard time finding the Halloween stuff (remember this was a couple weeks ago) because it was way in the back, hidden by all the Christmas stuff.

Is it too early to remind you all of this?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Book Review: awakening the quieter virtues

We often define our faith by a big list of things we should do, and things we shouldn't do. Most of the items on those list also fall into the category of obvious and important things we should do (like go to church, love our mother, behave respectfully) and, more explicitly, the Big Sins we should avoid (murder, lust, pornography, addictions, voting for a Democrat, and stealing).

Gregory Spencer has written Awakening the Quieter Virtues, a very helpful book calling our attention to the fact that more often it's the little things that really count, the quieter virtues that really make a difference. It's the unseen practices that mold us and shape us as Christ-followers, and that slowly change the world around us. Much like yeast working through the dough, the quieter virtues act from deep within us, not calling attention to themselves yet all the while forming us and assisting us as we seek to be like Christ.

Not only does he point out this often-overlooked point; Spencer spends the bulk of the book working through these quieter virtues, explaining what they may look like in our 21st-Century lives. He peppers his work with stories from his own life and the lives of his friends and students (he teaches at Westmont College). The book is not an esoteric description of spiritual disciplines unattainable by normal, non-spiritual folks. He proves that with a little effort, anybody can put these virtues into practice and slowly see their spirit drawn closer to the Spirit who gives life.

Certainly these are important virtues for our world today, and if the church were to put these into practice, we would begin to shine a brighter light into a dark world. Virtues Spencer explores include discernment, innocence, modesty, reverence, contentment, and generosity. Each virtue is paired with a spiritual discipline that is useful to form that virtue in the reader's heart. However, I must say again that Spencer is not working toward a pious, self-righteous unearthly spirituality. He labors to plant these virtues firmly into the soil of our postmodern lives.

This certainly isn't a theological tome, and the fact that Spencer teaches college students shows up in his writing. Some may be put off by his attempts to be catchy, but in the end I appreciated his efforts to contextualize this work, making sense of it for our time and place. It reads lighter than Nouwen or Merton, but to that end would be especially useful for people without much (if any) experience with the concept of spiritual disciplines.

Awakening the Quieter Virtues was a gift given to Covenant pastors at last year's Midwinter conference. I appreciate that people within our denomination are generous in their gifts, and thoughtful in the books they send out way.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

This is Offensive

This was pointed out on a worship leader facebook group of which I'm a part. It's a brand-new album release. And it defines the word "hubris."

Some label out there has just released a CD entitled "Let's All Worship." It's the subtitle that is evil: "The Very Best Worship Songs of All Time."

Think about that for a second. The Very Best. Of all time.

Hmm. I doubt it. Especially when the 'old ones' include 'Shine, Jesus, Shine.' Let alone that 'Shine Jesus Shine' should never end up on any album with the title 'best' in it. That's as historic as they get.

Somehow I think Bach might have something to say about this. Or, say, Handel? Mozart? Tallis? Rutter? Or someone more 'modern,' like John Wesley or Fannie Crosby? How do they not rate on the list of "The Very Best Worship Songs of All Time" ? How is Messiah not on here? Or Vivaldi's Gloria? I enjoy Paul Baloche as much as the next person, but is he really one of the 25 best worship music composers OF ALL TIME? I highly doubt it.

Oh, and this. As a selling point, they mention their international flavor, with music from Australia to the UK to Ireland to the U.S. Yep. Truly international. Although. . .pretty white, too. Funny how nothing by any Mexican composer made it here. How do we know "The Heart of Worship" is definitively better than a song being sung in an underground Chinese church right now? Or something being sung under a tree in Africa? Or in the jungles of New Guinea? Being a Covenanter, I should point out no Swedish songs made the list either.

Seriously. This is offensive. (the fact that if you follow that link, the album shows up under a banner ad for a new Casting Crowns CD is offensive, too, but that's a different story for a different day).

Who sits in a room and comes up with this stuff? They ought to be smited.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Friday, September 30, 2011

A Psalm for B of A, et. al.

I remember being a kid, and going with mom and dad to open up a bank account. I remember that little passport-like book they gave me, where we kept track of how much money was in my little account. From time to time I'd earn some cash and we'd go give it to the nice bank teller, who then stamped new numbers in my book, and off we'd go into the big bright world. I even remember getting notices of the tiny bit of interest I'd made over the last few months.

I learned that banks were trustworthy, that they were reputable, respectable organizations who cared about little people like me. I gained a worldview that said "Banks are good! Banks can be trusted! Banks are here to help!"

It's taken a lot of time for me to let that image go, and replace it with a much more realistic one. One that says "banks are evil and satanic and vile and despicable and untrustworthy and willing to walk all over the little people to maximize their profits on behalf of the wealthy and powerful."

Yes, we dropped out of that system when WaMu was sold off to Chase, and are now happy members of the local credit union, where they still know us by name and where they still give lollipops to our kids. And I'm looking forward to the day we take our daughters down there to open up a savings account.

In the meantime, based on the news of B of A's intent to steal money for their customers by charging a fee to use debit cards, I offer this (slightly out of context) Psalm to the fatcat bankers trying to gouge hardworking Americans just to pay for their vacations in Bermuda:  

They encourage each other in their evil plans,
they talk about hiding their snares; 
they say, 'Who will see it?" 
They plot injustice and say, 
"We have devised a perfect plan!" 
Surely the human mind and heart are cunning 

But God will shoot them with his arrows; 
they will suddenly be struck down. 
He will turn their own tongues against them and bring them to ruin; 
all who see them will shake their heads in scorn. 
Psalm 64:5-8 (TNIV)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Movie Review: Thunder Soul

Thunder Soul is the story of a reunion 30 years in the making. It's a story of music. It's a story of race. It's a story of culture and fashion, and a story of hopes and dreams. It's a story about the power of education.

In the late 60s and early 70s, funk was a powerful influence in music. The stage band of Kashmere High School in Houston, TX, came onto the scene bringing that funk with them. Playing far above the level most people would find believable, they won multiple national competitions, recorded any number of albums, toured Japan and Europe, and changed a generation at their school.

In 2008, they gathered again, putting on a reunion concert to honor Professor Conrad Johnson, the band director responsible for making it all happen. This film chronicles that reunion, but it also takes us back into a world of their youth, a world in the midst of war and fresh out of race riots, a world awash in afros and bell bottom jeans, a world of James Brown and Sly and the Family Stone. We learn the stories of kids growing up in the hood, kids heading down dark paths only to find their meaning in life through the mentorship of Johnson. We see how this band became a family to so many kids struggling to come of age in a difficult time.

We also see just what a difference music can make in the life of kids and the culture of a school. Unfortunately, we also see the dark side - the place where jealousy and pettiness on the part of administrators can eventually destroy that which is so good (and yes, I've seen that happen to good friends of mine).

Thunder Soul is a moving example of the power of mentors, of the need for arts in education, and of the ability for young people to do so much more than we usually think they can. It is full of great music and interesting characters; best of all, these are real people sharing their real lives, and not actors living out a feel-good script. It's well worth watching; in many ways the answer to last year's Waiting for Superman.

And, of course, not only is it worth watching; it's worth a listen, since it's really about the music these kids, now adults, create. Exciting, fun, full of pizzazz and humor and life - it's enough to make you smile, just a little more hopeful that there is still good in the world.

Thunder Soul opens September 23 in select theaters - check their website for a screening near you.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Leftover from Sunday

Toby Keith: "We'll always recognize when we see old glory flying, there's a lot of men dead, so we can sleep in peace at night when we lay down our heads."
( from the song Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue)


Psalm 4: "In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety."

It's an either/or, not a both/and. And as Christians, we're called to live according to the gospel of Jesus, not the gospel of Toby.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Family Camp

Family Camp: where you can ride horses through the woods, swim in the lake, take long bike rides, jump off an inflatable iceberg, take a night trip down a waterslide lit by tiki torches, stand in a field and look at galaxies through telescopes, sleep in a train car, catch a large mouth bass, hang out with some downright nice people, sing some fun songs, listen to some good teaching, play with your kids, listen to the song of geese over the water, eat pancakes in the shadow of glorious Mt. Rainier, shoot off model cars with rocket engines, hang out by the beach, eat too much popcorn and cotton candy. . .and still not have time for every option available.

Friday, September 02, 2011

changes in the air

In a Bible study a few weeks ago, we talked about how people react to change. Specifically, that many people don't react well. Their status quo is threatened, so they push back. They fight. They belittle the other. Rather than receive the possibility of something new, they prefer to stay in their comfortable little world, and thus become bullies toward anybody who threatens their world. This goes a long way in explaining the Taliban and Muslim terrorists. It explains the passion and vitriol of certain young Calvinists who post on internet message boards. It explains so-called Christian extremists who go on shooting rampages. It explains kids on the schoolyard.

note: I know in some of those cases, it goes beyond simple self-protection. Some form of mental illness is often necessary before people go on shooting rampages. But that's beside the point for now.

I pointed out that this is more true of the rest of us than we'd like to admit. It's true of Christians in America, and it's true of people here in our own church. The root of the decades-old worship war isn't really about what kind of music is best-suited to praise God, it's really more a territorial battle over who gets their preference when it comes to music. Many in the church today are nervous, worried, and angst-ridden at all the 'change' in the church; they do their best to push back and return us to a more traditional Christianity in the name of restoring something good and holy; in reality, they just don't like it that some emerging trends in the church threaten their worldview, their sense of well-being (Brannon Howse over at Worldview Weekend is a great example). Change in practice, or questions to traditional theological (or social, or political) positions is taken as a threat (after all, if those people are right, it would force me to change my belief system, which would cause me to change my lifestyle, which would just make me uncomfortable).

So the question was asked, why are people grieving this change? What have we lost that is causing us to fight back, to feel all this tension and anger and worry?

Two articles came to mind.

First, there was the church in Olympia that was told by the state they couldn't hold their baptism at a local state park. A picnic and barbecue was okay, but not a baptism, because, according to the state's General Administration office, a baptism is a religious activity, and the state constitution doesn't allow for state property to be used for religious activities. (Side point A: actually, a picnic is a religious activity, too, since fellowship is a central core of Christian practice.) (Side point B: this article stuck out to me, since we do a baptism service at our local state park every year, we just don't get a permit).

The church, after looking at all their options, decided being good neighbors was important, so has chosen not to sue, even though it would seem they have a good case.

Then there was the article my friend Stan wrote for the Covenant News website, which talked about a recent court decision in New York forbidding schools from renting their facilities to churches during non-school seasons. The court decision said it is "reasonable for the board to fear that allowing schools to be converted into churches might foster an excessive government entanglement with religion that advances religion."

It's those words "fear" and "entanglement" that jumped out.

So this is what I pointed out in our Bible Study. The wind has shifted. Back in the day, being a Christian was respectable. Sometimes it was necessary, if you wanted to be part of the social and business societies in town (one could argue that that was unhealthy in its own way). Being a minister was respectable. The church held pride of place in society. And some of us still remember those days.

But things have changed. The church is being shoved aside. Christians are to be feared (just go read the comments section in this recent article about Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church. But put on your flak jacket first).

I know this isn't news to many of you. But for some who've been in the Church for a long time, who don't really pay attention to popular culture, all they sense is that something has changed, and it doesn't feel good. So some fight back, be it politically (see Dobson, James) or theologically (see MacArthur, John). Many others fight back in their local churches whenever and wherever the younger people try to make adjustments befitting the times (and no, I'm not saying every change those youngsters make is good). The landscape is littered with pastors who have made missional moves to better reach the world, only to be attacked by people more interested in maintaining a comfortable status quo.

It's a complicated situation, but we have to face the reality that, while the Church is eternal, the age of respect for the Church in the U.S. has passed us by. And we need to name it and grieve it, but then move on. God still has a work to be done in and through us. The playing field may have changed, but the Spirit is as powerful as ever.

Oh, and this. The discussion we were having was around the church in the 1st Century, the church in Jerusalem. God was doing an amazing new thing, but it was happening within the world of Judaism and synagogue. Most chose to reject this new movement, kicking these upstart Jesus-followers out of their world. And the church split from its historic Jewish roots, and the two have been uneasy with each other ever since. And, at the risk of sounding a little offensive, Judaism lost the chance to experience this amazing new Messianic wind. Imagine if rather than rejecting God's work, they had embraced it with open arms? History would be different.

God is still at work around us, but it looks different than before. Are we going to shut ourselves off to it, and lose the chance to be part of this Spirit Work? Or are we willing to be a little uncomfortable, to try some new things, to accept a different landscape, and to carry forth with God's mission? Are we going to keep fighting to keep things as they are, or, in fact, to push things back to 'the good old days'? Or are we willing to be like Peter, and realize the landscape has changed, and all that's left is to trust the Spirit and ride this train wherever it goes?

I'm no fan of those who ridicule the church; I'm not happy with court decisions marginalizing the church and Christianity. But it is what it is. At some point, we just have to stop worrying about all that, and instead look around to see what God is doing anyway, climbing on board and being part of his work. Because he's not going to be held up by court decisions or public opinion. He's just going to keep at his work of saving this world, whether we want to join him or not.

Friday, August 19, 2011

August 17

Clara, the youngest, will have many adventures and achievements in her coming years. But forever and always, when she looks back on her life, she will have this: August 17, 2011, the day her dad took her to her first Major League Baseball Game.

The trip was really in honor of Olivia's 11th birthday, so she should get most of the press here. But it was Clara's first-ever MLB game, so that added to the specialness of the day.

Right over the top of Olivia's head there is grandpa, my dad. And my brother there on the other side of him. I got to figuring we've been going to Mariners' games for at least 3 decades now, so it was all the more poignant for them to be part of Olivia and Clara's day.

Here's Safeco Field on a sunny Seattle evening:

Really, for all the bad press Seattle gets about weather and such, there's no prettier place when the sun decides to come out. And almost no better place to enjoy it than sitting in the bleachers at the ball park.

Uncle Michael decided to buy the kids dessert.
Cotton Candy.

Dippin' Dots

As to the game. . .as I said, my dad and I have been doing this for 30+ years. And in all that time, the one certainty is the M's will lose more often than they win. And this was a normal night in that regard.

We showed up in time to kick a family out of our front-row seats (out in the left field bleachers) just before somebody sang O Canada (we were playing Toronto, and I think there were more Canadians there than Americans) and the National Anthem. Watched the first inning. Went to find hot dogs and fries. Came back and it was already 4-0 Toronto. And that was pretty much it. A little exciting later on when the M's loaded the bases with 1 out (the last guy got on when Brandon Morrow beaned Caspar Wells in the face with a fastball), but then Ichiro grounded into a double play, and that was it. Typical Mariners baseball.

But then again, a bad night at the ballpark is better than a good night sitting at home watching movies on netflix, so it was worth it. And to spend time with dad and Michael, and to celebrate Olivia's birthday and to take Clara to her first-ever professional baseball game, that was all wonderful.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Book Review: The Pastor

Ever pick up a book and realize it's written directly to, and about, you? Ever have a book that comes along at just the right moment, perfectly matching your situation, essentially changing your life?

I'd been meaning to get to Eugene Peterson's memoir The Pastor ever since it came out, but had a large pile of unread books I was working through. Then Ron came in and dropped a copy on my desk. He had no idea I was about to enter into a long summer of introspection and assessment. He had no idea I was going to need a friendly voice to sit with me as I sat and pondered my ministry and my life this summer. He just knew I probably needed to get to this book sooner rather than later.

And so Peterson has been a voice speaking into my life all summer, whether sitting in the quiet of my living room, or flying with me on the way into Chicago, or sitting beside the Skykomish River waiting to catch a fish. And his truly has been a helpful, and necessary, voice.

Peterson has written a lot of books during his storied career as pastor, writer, and professor; now that he has laid most of those titles aside, he has chosen to look back over the last decades and find the places God was working, using them as signposts to the rest of us, clues to the ways God might be working still. He points out quickly that Pastor has never been an easy title, and is probably more confusing now than ever. "North American culture does not offer congenial conditions in which to live vocationally as a pastor. Men and women who are pastors in America today find that they have entered into a way of life that is in ruins."

Thankfully, Peterson chose another way, a non-comformist way; or, as Peterson would probably say, God led him through this vocation to another way, a way of life in which he learned to live as Pastor to a specific people in a specific place over a long period of time.

I liken it to a long walk through a dark wood. There is beauty and terror along the way, with no clear path, no obvious trail. But God has left markers along the way to keep us on the path. Peterson has gone ahead of us, sometimes failing and sometimes succeeding, but he's now teaching us how to live in this forest. No quick plans to bring the forest to submission, no designs on fame or fortune; instead, an attentiveness to God's provision in the moment, and his people traveling with us.

One of the most helpful pieces throughout this book is Peterson's attempt at reclaiming the role of Pastor, a role this world can't seem to figure out. Whereas often the role of pastor is co-opted into CEO, therapist (my personal temptation), or simply village dimwit (Rev. Lovejoy, anyone?), Peterson works hard at drawing healthier, more vibrant pictures of what it means to represent Christ, to serve a people, to become part of a place and witness to what God is doing there. It certainly challenged me to consider why I'm in Lakebay, and what, in the end, God is calling me to do here.

So I need to thank Ron for dropping it on my desk, I need to thank Peterson for writing it. . .and now that I'm finished, I think I need to read it again. And again. And again.

Friday, August 05, 2011

hither and yon

Sometime back there in late June, my family left Lakebay for Colorado, and the Covenant's Feast and Annual Meeting. The end of that week, Olivia took off for Southern California and time with Nana and Tata, while Clara and I came back home.

A few weeks later Clara headed to Southern California to see family and friends. The next week I flew off to Chicago for four days of meetings and such. While I was gone, Olivia flew back to Seattle, where she stayed with Grandma and Grandpa for a couple days. Last week I flew home and picked up Olivia. She was back in her own room all of one day, because the next day I dropped her off at Cascades Camp in Yelm.

Monday I headed up into the mountains for 4 days of camping, fishing, train watching, and solitude. It was good. But this solitude thing is getting a little old.

So. . .tomorrow morning Olivia comes back from camp. Tomorrow evening Clara flies home. And tomorrow night, for the first time in over a month, our family will all be together, in our own home. And hopefully it will remain that way for a while.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Stuff of Note

Do you know Caspar Babypants? You should. Chris Ballew, singer and guitarist for that other band known as The President of the United States of America, heads off in a different direction and starts recording/performing children's music. Talk about a 180-degree turn.

But it works. It's got so much going for it. It's children's music that I, as an adult, still enjoy. Almost as much as my 6-year old loves it. It's the opposite of that Disneyfied, overproduced gunk that sells so much. No slick vocals, no overdubbed, auto-tuned harmonies, to attempts at sounding cool. Just fun, intelligent music. Lots of ukeleles, hooters, saws, and guitars. It's also the opposite of the Barney genre, where everything seems dumbed down and goofy. This is smart music. It catches you off guard. It actually surprises from time to time.

It's mostly original stuff, but there are covers along the way (3 Blind Mice, Frere Jacques). There are lots of songs about bugs and creepy things. And enough catchy little hooks to keep you (and your kids) singing along.

This is currently Clara's favorite:


Just got my copy of the 2nd edition of Mark Baker and Joel Green's Recovering the Scandal of the Cross. Mark was one of my profs in seminary, and this book was important in helping me understand the dynamics of the ongoing conversation on the Atonement. It ought to be popular among us Covenanters, because it fits well with P.P. Waldenstrom's challenge to the same thing so many years ago. Look for a review sometime soon.


I just read where they've closed the Camp 6 Logging Museum at Pt. Defiance Park. One more victim of a bad economy and changing entertainment choices. As a kid I loved going over there and riding the train through the woods. A couple years ago I took our two daughters over and we rode it again, albeit with the diesel engine this time around. But apparently they don't have enough money to keep it running, and fewer and fewer people are coming out to visit. (Insert snarky comment about how people would rather play video games than get out and experience history.) They're looking for a buyer, if anybody's interested in a 1:1 scale model railroad.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Dan's Eye, Installment XVII

Just because some of you keep asking. . .

I went to the eye doc today. It was becoming apparent that the latest and greatest (and last and best hope) contact lens wasn't working. Vision-wise not so bad, but fit-wise, it kept migrating inward and downward, and thus was uncomfortable to wear. Eye doc took one look through the magnifying lens and agreed. So out goes this lens.

Which pretty much shattered any hope of working with a hard (RGP) lens, which would give the sharpest vision in this eye. So just for the fun of it, we're going to try a soft lens - a specialty, back-toric soft lens - once, and see if that works. If it does, I'll have decent (but not great) vision. If it doesn't, then we're going to have to look at glasses from here on out.

In the meantime, I'm back to being one-eyed for the next three weeks (just in time for a trip to Chicago and a camping trip - yeah!), and then we'll give the soft lens a shot.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

This is summer?

Went to a wedding yesterday. The post-wedding celebration was marked by an impressive thunder shower, with rainfall levels just a little below Noahic proportions, I do believe. Although the sun peeked out for a bit, most of the afternoon was cold and rainy.

Drove home from Seattle this morning, through rainshowers the whole way. Karina turned the furnace on when we got home, the house was so cold.

Played with the Down Home Band at the Longbranch Croquet tourney this afternoon. We had to play under a portable tent cover, since it was drizzling the whole time. And these aren't your Miami-esque, soft and warm afternoon showers that give way to beautiful sunny evenings. These are more like March rain showers. Cold and miserable.

I'm thinking it's time to sacrifice a goat to the weather gods. We must have done something to tick them off. Anybody want to join me?

Monday, July 11, 2011

The summer of growing up

I had some free time in Tacoma a few weeks ago and wandered into a Big Lots!. I don't tend to spend much time in Big Lots!; I'm not sure I've been in one since we left Turlock. But I found myself in the back corner, back where they sell the cheap plastic toys made in China and shipped over here to fill our closets. And I had a flashback to visiting Big Lots! back in the day, when we'd wander in there with Olivia in a stroller, and we could spend $.95 and it made her happy for a couple days. Back when we'd push the shopping cart back there and her eyes would light up at the splendor of plastic cars and dolls and dogs and buckets and such. Back when we could buy one of those cheap plastic things and give it to her in the car, and all would be well.

The good old days.

While in Colorado, Olivia officially became eligible to join in for the Middle School activities. Even Clara is mostly past the stage of being fascinated by cheap plastic trinkets. The back corner of Big Lots! has lost its hold on our kids as they move into more complicated things, like puzzles and tree houses and books and lighting fires in the back yard.

The kids are growing up and the wonders of toddler-hood have been left behind. And that just makes me a little bit sad.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Book Review: The Way of Simplicity

This was one of those books I picked up at the "Borders is Going out of Business Sale" a few months ago. I've been refocusing my reading lately, digging into books on prayer, simplicity, and heart-work. And this was a nice counterpoint to so many books on the latest fads in Christian ministry.

Going back a millennium, the Cistercians are the Catholic order that gave us both Bernard of Clairvaux and Thomas Merton. With a focus on living out the Rule of St. Benedict, focusing on communal living and simple faith, the Cistercians offer a deep, rich faith that speaks well to our fast-paced, disposable society.

In The Way of Simplicity, Esther De Waal mines the writings of the Cistercians to reveal the heartbeat of their order. These are a people grounded in a place (she spends an entire chapter speaking to Cistercian architecture), motivated with the simple desire of living as Christ, informed by the Word, seeking to love God and love neighbor in all they do. De Waal explains the prayer and study habits of these monks (and nuns); she shares their writings both to support her work, and as poetic prayer guides (a la lectio) in an addendum at the back.

The Cistercians teach us that the Christian life is not easy, but neither is it drudgery. We live in a tension of Mary (attentive to Christ) and Martha (attentive to the other). We are called to love, but only because we are first called forth by the great Love. We are called to live in a community of faith, even while we are all responsible to walk our own journey with Christ. Mostly, we are called to lay aside our own striving, our own desires for comfort and success on our terms, and allow Christ to mold us and shape us as he desires - a process that is never easy but is rich with reward.

The Way of Simplicity is but a mere introduction to a much richer, deeper tradition, and the book gives only a taste of those who have lived out its path. But it was certainly thought-provoking and challenging, as the men and women on its pages become a witness to 'forsaking all else' for the sake of Christ and his people.

Thursday, June 30, 2011


It's been a good week. Seeing old friends and making new ones. Enjoying the beauty of the Rocky Mountains. Witnessing the fruition of long-worked-on dreams and plans. Playing with the family. Being surrounded by the wonderful people who are the Covenant Church. It's been good.

The Feast was marvelous. Individuals and families experiencing the Spirit through learning experiences, worship, and play. Friendships breaking out all over. From early morning to late at night, people took advantage of opportunities to try new things out, to relax, to learn, to rest in the Lord. My part (Awakenings and Spiritual Learning Experiences) pretty much met or exceeded our expectations. Families did dress-up bible stories. Some learned of prayer through the music of Johnny Cash and Ralph Stanley. Others learned how to use a camera as an avenue of meeting God. Ancient prayers and prayer in a wired-world held the attention of small groups. Some met Christ in the pool, others on a morning jog. Attention was paid to the Spirit's presence along a mountain trail. And some learned better how to see God in the people around them. My only sorrow is that it was all over so soon.

The Covenant Annual meeting has been good, as well. We are a blessed people. Mission is strong, the budget is healthy, the leadership maintain a strong dependence on the Spirit. Worship remains rich. meetings are punctuated by lightheartedness. Yet there are painful moments - the list of those being removed from ministry roles included friends of mine. Time has been spent remembering ministers, missionaries, and spouses who have died in the last year. Churches have been closed.

Through it all, a strong spirit of unity prevails - that great Covenant freedom in unity.

Life is full of unexpected twists and turns; random conversations lead to entirely new worlds. I could be just about anywhere right now. And I find myself wondering how I am so blessed to be part of this great Covenant mission. How marvelous, how wonderful, is my savior's love for me.

Archived pictures of the Feast can be found here:

Archived video of the Feast (including the highlight video) can be found here:

Photos of the Annual Meeting can be found at:

Video of the Annual Meeting is being posted at:

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Speaking of gospel: an album review

I've been listening to Patty Griffin's Downtown Church for the last week.

She gets it. From the rocking gospel blues of Move Up or Wade in the Water, to the wistful We Shall be Reunited, this album is a marvelous collection of spirituals performed by an amazing group of musicians.

It's not all gospel, though. Broken relationships make an appearance in the angry I Smell a Rat. And high church shows up in the finale, All Creatures of our God and King. The pain of broken families and hope of restoration pours forth on Waiting For My Child. But mostly it's the old gospel of Never Grow Old and Death's Got a Warrant.

It's the kind of music you want to put on on a Sunday afternoon while sipping your iced tea on the back porch; it's the kind of music that makes you want to dance just a bit. It's church music for the big wide world.
And it's marvelous.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Movie Review: Rejoice and Shout

One of the most beautiful things about human life has to be our ability to soar above circumstances, to survive through trials and tribulations, to thrive even in the midst of great sorrow, to sing even in the darkness. Gospel music is a testimony to the Spirit at work in and through people who never seem to get a break, people who struggle under oppression, people who face death and sadness and injustice, yet people who refuse to give up, lose their hope or lose their dignity.

Rejoice and Shout (Magnolia Pictures) is a testimony to that gospel spirit, telling the story of a people's song as they traveled the difficult road of slavery, racism and oppression in the United States. It is also a veritable feast for the eyes and ears, using more than ample vintage audio, photography, and video. It's a history lesson into this wonderful music, taking the audience hundreds of years into the past when gospel songs were sung on plantations, up through the creation of early gospel quartets at the turn of the (last) century, right up into the gospel resurgence of the 60s and 70s and new gospel today. Old favorites are here, in the form of Mahalia Jackson, The Blind Boys of Alabama, and Thomas Dorsey; in addition, newer additions to the genre like Andrae Crouch, the Winans, and Kirk Franklin make an appearance.

It's a story of hope, of journeying toward a blessed reward for suffering faced here. The church plays a prime role, and gospel preachers get their say. The interplay of music, revival, and Pentecostalism is explored. Ecstatic experience gives way to exuberant singing, and joyful singing gives hope and joy to those experiencing it.

Especially important are the interviews with the men and women who lived through Gospel's growth in the mid 20th Century. Interviews with Smokey Robinson, Mavis Staples, and so many others give a unique view of the fertile ground out of which this beautiful sound grew. Their joy as singers and songwriters gives proof that gospel is first and foremost a music of the heart, and that those who have the privilege of participating are all welcome in the family.

Rejoice and Shout is open in limited engagements, so you'll have to check out the website to see if it's playing near you. If you have the change, do go and enjoy this marvelous film. You'll be educated, entertained, and uplifted' probably, if you're like me, you'll come away with a song resonating in your heart.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Why I love living in the woods

Late yesterday afternoon I realized the well pump wasn't working. The lowering pressure meant water was slowing to a trickle coming into the house. That's bad enough. But our well also provides water to the church. If we didn't get this fixed, it would be difficult to expect people to come to church when you couldn't provide the basic necessities like flushing toilets. And coffee.

But it was Saturday afternoon, and time was running short. So I called Doug, the building and grounds guy for the church, and a man able to fix just about anything. No luck. So I called the church chair, just to give him something to panic about. Turns out he knew where Doug was. "He's out in his backyard on the tractor." That's the thing about small communities. Somebody always knows where to find the person you're looking for.

I drove to Doug's and went around the back, where I ran into Doug's lovely wife. Which afforded us time for a brief how-do-you-do. She pointed me over to the neighbor's yard, so I headed that way. Where I ran into the neighbor. I hadn't seen him since last year, when I was called over late at night after he had come home to find his father dead in the backyard. So we had a nice chance to catch up, and I was glad to hear how he was keeping his life together and making meaning of his father's death. And sad to hear that his dog is dying.

Finally Doug came around the corner; the problem was explained, he grabbed some tools, and back to our place we came. But not before I had the chance to play a couple of banjos that Dorene had been telling me about. Anyway, Doug got right to work and diagnosed the problem, but didn't have the parts to fix it. We called, but Home Depot didn't have the parts either. So he figured he'd go cannibalize the parts from his own well and see if that got our pump working. First, though, Ron showed up for dinner, so he got in on the conversation. And Megan showed up as well (for dinner), so she got to hear the whole story and to meet Doug as well.

Doug took off and I got to charring meat on the barbecue. Then Gene (the aforementioned chair), his wife, and the little girl they babysit showed up to get in on the action. We had a wonderful conversation before Doug came back. Then Gene and I watched Doug install the new power supply. Power was restored and we all rejoiced at the hum that marked the pump kicking back into action. Disaster averted, we had water, and church could go on.

For the record, all that means that just because the well pump went out, I got to spend quality time with Doug, Dorene, Steve, Bonnie, Gene, and Amber. And Doug got to spend quality time with Gene and Ron and I. Etcetera. It turned into a regular social event.

Oh, and this. Doug called the well pump repairpeople from his house. Their tech called him back. Doug described the part, and the repairman said "yep, I got one of those." So Doug said he'd run up to Port Orchard (40 miles round trip) to pick it up. But the repairman offered to bring it by. So they started exchanging locations. Turns out the repairman lives all of 2 miles from Doug, and was only 3 miles from home. So faster than you can say "How about that?" the guy got to Doug's house and dropped off the part. So nothing had to be cannibalized, and we got a brand-new part without having to drive 40 miles on a late Saturday afternoon.

That's why I like living out in the woods.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Book Review: 10 Power Principles for Christian Service (2nd ed.)

This has to be one of the worst titles for a book ever. I don't know about you, but 10 Power Principles brings to mind door-to-door insurance sales people, used car sales people, or multi-level marketing schemes. A title like 10 Power Principles reminds me of one too many seminars I've attended, promising magical practices that will transform my work and turn me into Joel Osteen.

And this book is nothing like that.

Instead, it reads like the wisdom collected over a lifetime of faithful ministry, of lessons learned through deep struggles and challenges, of basic, necessary, obvious and yet so often neglected practices at the root of God-pleasing ministry.

There's nothing surprising here. It could all be summed up as "Pray, spend time in the Word, rely on the Spirit, expect pain, rejoice when trials lead to growth, submit to God and his people; in other words, be like Christ." Written in the gentle, winsome tone of a seasoned minister, filled with stories that set these principles at home in the hearts of ministers, 10 Power Principles is one of the best books I've read on ministry and the necessary heart-work it requires. There is nothing here about church growth or magical successes, no promises of winning thousands to Christ, no lessons on marketing or sermon-writing or website development. Just a call to return to the foundational work of prayer. Of spending time in the Word. A call to lay aside dreams of comfort and prestige, replacing them with sacrifice and service. A challenge to live lives of honesty and integrity before God and others. And a reminder that our entire work is to bring people to growth and maturity in Christ.

This is one of those books that probably needs to be read every 5 years or so; especially when discouragement sets in, or the mailbox fills up with promotional material for one more ministry scheme, or when we've lost our way in the fog of herding ornery sheep. It's one of those 'reset' books, that reminds us who we are and what we're supposed to be doing. I certainly needed it right about now, and I do believe I'll be passing along copies to a pastor friend or two in the days to come.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Last Sunday

Thanks, dad, for the pictures!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Book Review: I See the Rhythm of Gospel

(Note: This was first posted earlier this week. Blogger seems to have eaten it, so I'm posting it again)

I See the Rhythm of Gospel is a richly textured tale of the African American experience over a 500+ year period, told through art, poetry, and song. Beginning with life in Africa, through the journey of slave ships and plantations, escape and emancipation, the community of church and the language of song, this story weaves Gospel - both the music of hope and strength, and the work of God to liberate people from darkness - throughout the long struggle faced by African Americans. It deals artistically, yet realistically, with the pain of slavery and the civil rights struggles of the 50s and 60s. I See the Rhythm confronts and laments the deep abyss of pain left over from centuries of abuse, and yet is ultimately a story of hope, that this people found a way to survive, to thrive, to overcome (a journey which sadly is still not complete). And the role of the Church, and gospel music in particular, can't be overstated in that work to overcome.

Many famous names are here - Mahalia Jackson, Thomas Dorsey, Shirley Caesar, Andrae Crouch - as are the old gospel quartets - the Soul Stirrers, the Dixie Hummingbirds. Along with the musicians are others we know of, from Nelson Mandela to Rodney King, from Harriet Tubman to Toni Morrison. More importantly, however, are probably the millions of nameless people whose faces have been lost to history. The ones who struggled and died, the ones who marched and sang, the ones who simply put food on the table for their children. These are the ones honored by artist Michelle Wood in the beautiful, colorful, profound artwork that graces these pages.

I was touched by the dignity and hope pervading these pages; I was educated about pieces of African American history I hadn't yet heard. This is a wonderful book for children and adults alike, and worthy reading by people of all ages as we all seek to understand our unique yet shared history.

A bonus CD is supplied with the book, containing five representative gospel songs, from the classic "Wade in the Water" by the Golden Gate Quartet, up through the Holy Hip-Hop of Cross Movement's "I Love You."

The music, along with the lyrical text and the lush, bright, powerful artwork, all combine to help us see the rhythm of gospel, and the way it has woven itself into the history of African Americans in the United States.

Special Thanks to Zondervan for Supplying a Complimentary Copy for the Purposes of This Review

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

It's the End of the World. . .and I feel just fine

I've seen the news scuttling about the internet. I even saw a billboard proclaiming the news down in Oregon last weekend. But now letters are beginning to show up.

In yesterday's mail, our church received a very official, earnest-sounding pamphlet declaring that, without a doubt, Jesus is coming back on May 21, 2011. Because, in fact, the Bible teaches that Jesus is coming back on May 21, 2011.

Well, no, it doesn't. There is no chapter and verse you can look to that will say "and Jesus shall return on May 21, 2011 A.D. according to the Gregorian Calendar." But these fine folks have put all the clues together and arrived at the definitive conclusion that that is, indeed, the Day of Judgment.

By the way, I should point out that this particular letter is a secondary source. The primary source of this revelation is one Harold Camping of Family Radio fame. This letter came from a church in Pennsylvania, who are quick to point out that they are in no way affiliated with Family Radio. They just happen to believe everything he's selling.

So let me step up to the microphone for a moment and make a declaration for all my friends, Christian and non-Christian alike: These people do not speak for me. In fact, they don't speak for the Church at all. Any more than Osama bin Laden spoke for Muslims. Or Miley Cyrus speaks for Rock Stars. They may think they do, they may earnestly believe they are speaking on behalf of the Church, but in reality, they're a fringe group that really does nothing but make everybody else look bad.

For what it's worth, Harold has done this before. Predicted the end, I mean. And he's been wrong before, obviously. Just like he'll be wrong this time. We'll all wake up on May 22 and these people will be sad, but rather than admit their wrongness, they'll make up some excuses and scurry back to their study rooms where they will try to pick the next can't-miss date.

What it really comes down to is how they treat the text. Unfortunately, the Bible doesn't come with an owners' manual, which leaves room for all sorts of people to read the texts in ways they weren't meant to be read. These particular people approach the text the way Nicolas Cage approached a treasure hunt in National Treasure. Find a clue here, uncover a clue there, discern the hidden super-secret message under that thing, and voila! You uncover the treasure trove. So they pick a verse here and a verse there, apply some really bad science, and voila! discover the date.

Here's the real difficulty with proof-texting. Camping and his followers point to verses like Isaiah 56:10-11 to show why people like me (pastors) don't know what we're talking about when we challenge them. "His watchmen are blind; they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark. . .they are shepherds that cannot understand. . ."  Oooh. That sounds bad.

But I could just as easily point our Jeremiah 23:26 to challenge their authority: "How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own mind?"

And on it goes, my prooftext against your prooftext, and none of us gets anywhere.

For now, I'm content to sit around and wait until May 22, when the world will see they were wrong. Although it grieves me to think of the money and resources wasted to this lie. And I grieve the faith of so many that will be lost when May 22 dawns, a faith that will probably be replaced with cynicism and doubt. And, of course, I grieve that these people give the rest of us in Christendom a bad name. Which is why I repeat: they don't speak for me. The don't speak for most of us.

In the meantime, it should be pointed out that Jesus' message was never about figuring the day of his return. It was always "be about my work until I get back." And that work was not proclaiming judgement. It was more important stuff like feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, taking care of the elderly, protecting children from exploitation, loving the alien in our midst, pursuing justice and righteousness, living lives of honesty and simplicity and compassion. That's the point of the text.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The cross proves us wrong

 An excerpt from my message at Lakebay's Sunrise Service  

. . .Sometimes we’re like those powers and principalities, thinking that our comfort and prestige are worth any cost. Our world is filled with tyrants and thieves, but we’re all sinners alike. We run around chasing our own pleasure, amassing our little kingdoms, mistreating our friends and co-workers; we live by the world’s system, we lie and cheat and think we’re good enough to win in the end. And Jesus stands there Easter morning in victory, telling us we’re wrong – that the cross and resurrection mean something, they demand something of us; that we lay aside our schemes and plans and self-satisfied lives, and embrace instead the life offered by the Lamb who was slain.

Sometimes we’re more like the disciples. We’re angry. We feel let down. We think we’ve been defeated. We feel betrayed. Sometimes we look at our lives and hate what we see. We think it’s all pointless, all worthless. We see the troubles in the world and we want to go away and and hide. We live in fear of all the pain and trouble in the world, we decide maybe it’s just not worth going on. . .and Jesus shows up Easter morning and tells us we’re wrong. Jesus comes to us this morning with victory in his hands, a victory that is already won and therefore assured and guaranteed. Life is worth living, victory is ours because Jesus defeated evil, he defeated sorrow and pain and all who come against us; Jesus won the victory, and he invites us to share it with him.

And sometimes we’re like the women. We’re just sad. We’re broken. Our emotions are seared – we show up to the grave expecting the worst. No matter how beautiful the sunrise, deep down inside we know it all ends up in the grave. Some of us have felt the sting of losing loved ones to death. Some of us mourn deeply this morning. And yet. . .Easter tells us we’re wrong. Wrong to fear death, wrong to mourn without hope, wrong to expect the worst. The empty grave proves that Jesus was right, that his promise of life and victory and joy and hope and peace and healing and love all come true. He is justified. Our doubt and fear, our posturing and vain attempts at ordering our own lives all come crashing headlong into the cross. . .

and here stands Jesus, risen, alive, and offering life and victory to all of us.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

And now, over to the health desk for our regular feature: "An Update on Dan's Eye"

A couple weeks ago I received the latest in a long string of contact lenses we've been trying in a vain attempt to make one work. I wore it for about a week, and, as has become a custom, it didn't work. But I have to wear it anyway, seeing if it will eventually settle down.

By last Friday (the day after Thursday and the day before Saturday, after which come Sunday) it was becoming quite uncomfortable. Actually, very painful. I assumed it was just because of a bad fit.

So I had an appointment set for yesterday, to see just how this latest lens was doing. As has also become our custom, I sat in the big chair, Dr. Ralph looked at my eye through the big machine, and, upon seeing whatever he sees, he swore. I've been through this enough times to know that that's not a good sign.

So, two things. First, the lens didn't fit like he had hoped.

But more. . .it seems sometime last week my body woke up and said "hey! there's some sort of foreign object here! We need to get rid of it!" So all that pain wasn't the contact lens, it was my body trying to reject the graft. All sorts of white blood cells were flooding the eye, trying to kill off this foreign object which was actually my new cornea.

It's never a dull moment in this ongoing saga.

The good news is it's treatable with steroids, and shouldn't cause any longterm issues. The bad news is that we can't move forward with lens fitting until this is over, since it could actually change the topography of the lens. Which. . .in a convoluted way, may end up being a good thing, since the current topography isn't working out anyway.

In the meantime, if I look a little bloodshot, don't think I've been out doing something I shouldn't. It's just that my cornea is feeling a little rejected.