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.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Well, hello there!

Didn't I see you in a movie once?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Breaking Up

I once had a girlfriend who I treated rather poorly. Not so much during the dating part; I think, overall, I treated her pretty well. It was the breaking-up part that I handled in such a way that she could rightfully call me a "jerk."

Somewhere along the line, a couple months into the relationship, I realized I wanted out. I still appreciated her as a friend, but the whole 'dating' thing just wasn't working for me. No fault of hers, there. I just needed to end the relationship, but didn't know how.

So I started ignoring her. I found ways to be busy, ways to keep myself some distance from her. It was the classic conflict-avoidance strategy, wherein the hope seems to be that the other party will 'get the message' and just go away. It was horrible, I know. But I wasn't quite mature enough to recognize that.

She eventually bailed me out, bless her soul. She chased me down and forced me to spill it; we had a good heart-to-heart talk and broke off the relationship there in the student lounge at Azusa Pacific University. And I can say with all honesty that she deserved better. And that I'm glad she had the emotional security to demand I talk, recognizing that the news probably wouldn't be what she wanted.

Many years later, following a Sunday morning worship service, a man from our church family came up and asked if he could talk with me. He was blunt: he loved our church, but for reasons which he explained (mostly dealing with the health of his wife), he had to leave and seek out another church to join. He was clear about his reasoning, he answered all my questions, but at the end of the day, he was gone.

I appreciated his honesty. I appreciated his heart. I appreciated that he did the tough thing and spoke to me about it. And I was able to pray for him and bless him as he went on his way. From time to time we'd run into each other, and it was always a good reunion. with no hard feelings.

All too often, that isn't the case. In many (most) instances, families and individuals choose to leave churches in the same manner in which I (sort-of) broke up with my college girlfriend. As in, little or no communication. They just disappear. Wander away. All is smiles and happiness one week. . .and three weeks later people start asking "Does anybody know what happened to them?"

I suspect I know the reason why, if even because I recognize it in my younger self. People don't naturally like conflict. People don't like hurting others. People don't relish having difficult conversations. So rather than address their desire to move on, they simply drift away, deciding it's easier to ignore it than deal with it. And hoping that time will pass by and this unfortunate incident will soon be behind us all.

Unfortunately, the easy way is never the healthier way. It's certainly not the mature way. One of the marks of maturity is knowing how to deal with the hard decisions, how to speak hard truths to those around us. Back to my college sweetheart - in my strategy I was avoiding the hard truth I needed to speak, a conversation certain to disappoint her - but I was really just prolonging the pain, and causing her more anxiety and confusion along the way. How much better was my church friend who spoke the hard truth, but removed any need for self-doubt, fear, or confusion?

So let's be clear about this: the mature, clean, healthy way to leave one church family for another is to simply speak the truth. Let the pastor and leadership know exactly why you are leaving, where you think you might be going; let them know if there are issues that need addressing. No, it's not healthy to use this time to take unfair parting shots as you run out the door, but it is healthy to let everybody know not to expect you around any more.

Because slinking out, simply disappearing leaves everybody wondering why. It leaves room for accusations and gossip, it leaves room for people to make up their own reasons for your leaving. It leaves leaders wondering if they've somehow failed you. It just leaves way too many unanswered questions, too many dangling emotions. And then. . .when you run into each other at the grocery store, it's all just so awkward, dancing around questions that you've already shown you don't want to deal with.

In case I'm not being explicit enough, let's summarize it this way: mature adults know how to break relationships off cleanly, be they dating relationships or church memberships. On the other hand, the "let's just stop going and hope nobody really notices" is a mark of immaturity. You may think you're letting people off easy, but in reality, it's the exact opposite. It only makes things worse.

So, from this pastor's heart to the church at large, I make this suggestion: grow up and learn how to handle conflict in a mature manner; speak the truth in love, as it were. Just make your thoughts and feelings known, be ready for some hard questions that may come back to you. Please, don't force your pastor and church family to try to guess where you went and why you left. Better a short, decisive pain than one that lingers on for months and months and months. . .

Thursday, April 07, 2011


- -Last Thursday, we woke up in sunny Southern  California. By mid-day, it was approaching 96 degrees. Did I mention it was sunny? Then on Sunday we strolled the beach in San Simeon under a clear blue sky, with temperatures in the mid-70s. Did I mention the sunshine? Tuesday I took a walk with Clara along the rim of a large reservoir in Upland under a brilliant blue sky, the sun shining down on us, temperatures hovering in the mid-80s. Yes, I got a little sunburned, but most of that came Monday as we wandered around Disneyland under - of course - clear blue skies and warm sunshine.

Arrived in Seattle yesterday. Got in the car and headed up toward my parents' house in Shoreline. Somewhere along that way, as we headed up Aurora north of Woodland Park, it started to rain. Hard. Only it was cold rain, mixed with snow. And the sky was black. Driving south toward Tacoma we passed through a blinding, dark rainstorm. By the time we hit Gig Harbor there was quite a bit of snow mixed in there. And the bank at Key Center was brightly proclaiming a temperature of 36 degrees.

- - While waiting in line at Space Mountain I noticed the man behind us was wearing a T-shirt with the name "Megan Whitmarsh" on it. So we struck up a conversation. Turns out Megan Whitmarsh is his sister, an artist in Los Angeles. I don't know that I've ever met another Whitmarsh that I wasn't related to, and there we were, next to Whitmarshes in the line for Space Mountain. Unfortunately, just as we started talking he received a phone call, and then we got pushed through the entrance and we never saw him again.

- - -I'm listening to the new Alison Krauss And Union Station album, which is streaming live at NPR until it releases on April 12.

- - -I missed the first few days of baseball season whilst on our journey, but I'm happy to see the Mariners picked up right where they left off. We did drive by the new Rainiers Stadium last night, and it looks like they've done nice work. I'll have to schedule a game in sometime soon.

- - -It was kind of a rough flight from Oakland to Seattle yesterday. When I looked in the cockpit, I saw why. Pilots are looking younger and younger these days.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

It's been a week (and then some)

Sitting in the Oakland airport, waiting for our plane to Seattle. We flew down last Wednesday, and have been in California ever since.

During that time, we:
- enjoyed breakfast at Some Crust Bakery in beautiful downtown Claremont
- had dinner at the Bass Pro Shop out in Rancho Cucamonga (the setting was fun, the food not so much).
- drove up the coast to stunning Cambria. Sunshine, the California ocean, Santa Barbara and wine country and SLO and Morro Bay. . .it was all good for the soul.
- had breakfast with Dax and Anna, rich with talk about old times and all that God is doing in our lives today.
- performed a windy wedding on a bluff overlooking the Pacific, sharing a blessed day with Jason and Michelle as they became husband and wife
- reconnected with Erin at the reception (and met her new sweetie Phil (not Phil. R. Up., in case anybody's wondering))
- had brunch at the Madonna Inn in SLO.
- Drove past Azusa Pacific University, my alma mater.
- Spent a day at Disneyland with the kids. The girls had as much fun as possible, and I found myself thinking 'this is what it's supposed to be like, watching the fireworks from Main Street with your daughter on your shoulders.' I also got sunburned. And we got to spend the day with this kid, since he's the cousin of a friend of ours. He kept our kids entertained, which helped in those hour-long lines waiting for Autopia.
- Bugged Erin at Starbucks, where she didn't make us cry.
- Cooked up a carne asade feast for dinner with the family.
- Had breakfast (once more) at Some Crust.

And now we're heading home after a full week. It was a good week; we got lots of sunshine and some beach time, we shared some marvelous days with some quality people, we enjoyed the beach and the desert, we played and we rested, we had time with family and time with some old friends. And now, as we sit at the airport, Clara's wearing her pink Minnie Mouse ears and we're enjoying the last bit of sunshine before heading north again.