Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Immanuel Saves

In Matthew chapter one we read of Joseph's plan to divorce Mary quietly when he discovers she's pregnant before they've been married. An angel appears to Joseph and tells him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife because her son has been conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. Moreover he is to name the child "Jesus" (rough Greek transliteration of the Hebrew Y'shua, "Yahweh saves") because he will save his people from their sins. Matthew then reminds us of the prophecy of Isaiah that the virgin will conceive and bear a son and his name will be called "Immanuel, meaning God with us."

These two names, Jesus and Immanuel, summarize the plan of God for salvation. Yahweh will deliver his people. Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. As He once carried the children of Israel up from their bondage in Egypt, so once more, God would reach down and save not only the family of Jacob, but would bless all the families of the earth by freeing them from their greater bondage to death and sin. And He would do it by coming among us. He would live the life of a man. He would suffer and be tempted as we are. He would take up into himself our broken, corrupted flesh. He would die our death accursed and forsaken and so pay the price of our sin. Then in that same frail, dead, human flesh He would rise again transformed and renewed, made perfect in obedience. He would receive from His Father the name that is above all names and be proclaimed in power as the one and only Eternal Son of God. In that death and resurrection and ascension and sitting at the right hand of the Father, He too would raise all those who by faith are found in Him to a new and indestructible life eternal.

Immanuel, God himself with us, was Jesus, the sign of salvation and deliverance for all.

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Judah's Praise

    Here's the second Jesse Tree entry, the one on Judah

    Judah was Jacob’s fourth son and the son of tag-on wife Leah. He wasn’t

in a position to compete for his father’s love like Reuben the first-born or Joseph and Benjamin the sons of beloved Rachel. As a young man he seems to have been resentful and scheming. It was Judah who realized that the brothers could still get rid of Joseph and make a profit if they sold him into slavery instead of killing him. Later he became a double crosser and a lecher who unknowingly slept with his daughter in law, whom he was cheating, thinking she was a prostitute. When his sin was made known, he had to publicly acknowledge the women he was about to burn for her sin was “More righteous than I.” He was the fourth in a string of disappointing sons for Jacob.

But there came a day when Judah’s story changed. In the face of a past of bitterness, greed, scheming, double-dealing and lechery there came a day when he offered his life for another. Judah, who had hated Joseph, offered to guarantee Benjamin’s safety so the brothers could return to Egypt and buy food for their starving family. When Benjamin was threatened with Egyptian slavery for theft, Judah offered to take his place and so save Jacob from fatal grief. At the end of his life, Jacob prophesied of Judah that the scepter would never depart nor the ruler’s staff leave his feet. From Judah’s son Perez, born of adultery with Tamar, came the line of David and the kings of Israel and the Savior of the world.

Judah seemed a failure, but God changed his heart and gave him a place in the plan of redemption. Is your life like Judah’s? Do you feel like you’ve let down God and those who have counted on you? Ask God to change your heart and renew you like Judah. Judah’s name means “praise.” Wherever you are in life, take the time to praise God for the redemption and freedom that come through Judah’s son Jesus.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mary's Road

This fall I got the opportunity to write two entries for our church's Jesse Tree Advent Devotional. The Jesse Tree idea is based on the prophecy of a shoot from the house of Jesse and looks at God's plan of salvation as revealed in the lives of those in Jesus' family tree. I got to write devotionals based on Mary and Judah. This is the Mary devotional.

One day a little while before Jesus was born the angel Gabriel appeared to a teenage girl in Nazareth. “Hail, you who are highly favored,” he said. “You will bear a son and call him Jesus, and he will reign on the throne of David forever.” Bewildered, she asked, “How can this be since I am a virgin?” “The power of the Holy Spirit will accomplish it.” “Let it be to me,” she responded, “As the Lord wills.”

Imagine what that moment must have been like. We know from Mary’s song when she visited her cousin Elizabeth that she expected and longed for the Lord’s deliverance of Israel from oppression by the Romans and the Herodians. But she could not have imagined that God’s answer to her and her people’s prayers would involve her so intimately and dangerously. Before that hour how could she know that she was the Virgin Isaiah had foretold who would bear the One in whom the presence of God would walk among us. She heard shepherds tell how an army of angels had appeared praising God that this child was “The Messiah, the Lord.” Simeon told her that this child was the promised salvation of Israel and a light to the Gentiles and a sword that would pierce her own soul. Could she see that the boy who so impressed the temple rulers would one day be accused by them of blasphemy and be condemned? Could she imagine that there would come a day when she thought he was driven mad? A day when she watched him die, accursed by God and man. A day of mourning and fear that began with preparations for embalming a corpse but ended with an empty tomb, angels, and the words “He is not here. He is risen.” Could she look to the day of prayer and the mighty rushing wind and tongues like fire that signified the Holy Spirit poured out on His church. She stood balanced on the edge of the ages and she said, “I am the slave of God. Let Him do to me whatever He wills.”

Mary longed to see God’s salvation. When it came it was not what she expected or could fully comprehend, but she said, “Yes.” What do you long to see God do? Are you ready and willing to say, “Yes, Lord, I’m your slave. Do what you will?” Mary’s road held fear, doubt, confusion, and pain, but it led to resurrection and glory in the Kingdom of God. Is there some other road you’d rather walk?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Simeon's Glasses

Our intern David preached an awesome sermon this morning from Luke 2:21-38 and the stories of Simeon and Anna's encounters with Jesus in the temple. Mary and Joseph take Jesus to the temple when he's about 6 weeks old so that they can offer the sacrifice for the firstborn and for Mary's purification according to the law of Moses. While they are there the old man Simeon sees Jesus and recognizes him as the promised Messiah. Shortly after that the old widow Anna comes up praising and thanking God for Jesus. It was especially funny hearing David wondering what one can see in a 40 day old baby. He's a young, single guy. Anyway, the gist of the sermon hinged on the description of Simeon in v. 25, "And the Holy Spirit was upon Him." David responded to three questions in the sermon: 1. How do I see Jesus? 2. How do I know it's Him? 3. How should I respond to the sight?

Simeon looked at a baby and saw the salvation of God, revelation for the Gentiles, and glory for Israel. He could see this because he looked through the lens of the Holy Spirit that was upon him. If we want to see Jesus as He is then we too need to look through those same glasses. Without the work of the Holy Spirit no one will see Jesus the Deliverer.

When Simeon saw Him, he saw salvation, but from vv. 34-35, we also know that he saw opposition, scandal and a sword. He looked ahead and saw the division that Jesus brings. Shepherds heard of his birth and rejoiced. Herod heard and plotted murder. Crowds later flocked to hear him but the people of his own home synagogue tried to throw him off a cliff. The poor rejoiced to hear his good news and the religious and political leaders conspired to put him to death. Eventually his friends abandoned him and the crowds cried, "Crucify!" The real Jesus brings division. He was a sign for opposition but also for the rising of many. If we see the Jesus that Simeon saw then we will see the opposition as well as the acceptance.

When Simeon saw Jesus he knew his life was complete. He blessed God and proclaimed what he saw. When Anna saw Jesus she gave thanks to God and told everyone about him. So we should respond. Glorify and give thanks to God and spread the news to all who are waiting for His deliverance.

David ended by pointing out the trinitarian aspect of this passage. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Simeon and Anna see the Son and give glory to the Father. Though only one became incarnate, the whole Godhead was involved in the work of Christ's life. After the sermon we had an open time for people to come for prayer. I got to pray with people to receive a new touch of the Spirit. I pray as well for all of us this Christmas that by the power of the Spirit we would receive a fresh vision of the glory and love of Jesus and give praise to the Father.

Simeon's song:

"Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word;
For my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
A light for revelation to the Gentiles,
And for glory to your people Israel."
Luke 2:29-32 (ESV)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Winter Wonder/Horror Land

Walking out of work this afternoon was great. There was a light snow falling heavily. That it to say there was a lot of snow falling but it was just coming down in tiny flakes steady and sure blanketing the trees and the campus. I love the silence of snowfall. It was really beautiful. The snow was so light I could almost blow it off the car.

Of course, then I had to get in the car and drive home. In any winter storm it's a challenge getting on IL-22 westbound from Trinity. It's even more so this year since they've got 22 down to one lane in either direction for bridge construction. I decided to go east and try a different route over the tollway. Naturally I almost spun out on the bridge. I finally got back to 22. Then I ended up spending at least an hour and fifteen minutes on a three mile stretch of US-45. It took two hours to get home. With no snow it might have taken just over half an hour.

Still I'd rather have the beauty of the snowfall with the long, tense commute than not have the snow at all. Besides I got to spend two hours listening to Dallas Willard's The Divine Conspiracy on CD. I don't mind waiting in traffic if I get to hear Willard talk about the Kingdom of God, the eternal kind of life now, and the authority of Jesus while I wait Some people on the expressways were looking at four hour commutes tonight. I don't mind two.

If only there were some way to keep the snow from falling on roadways, then it would have been perfect.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Blogging

Poor neglected blog.

I've been thinking a lot about Christmas this year, probably at least 1/2 as much as anybody who's liable to read this blog or maybe half again more. So I thought I'd do some blogging about it. Today I want to talk about my all time favorite Christmas gift.

I've gotten a lot of gifts over the years. I've forgotten most and have broken or lost most as well. Some really stick out. Granny and Grandaddy gave me a Star Wars Death Star one year. That was pretty sweet but it had too many parts to survive for long. I'm pretty sure there are a couple of fragments that remain in one of my boxes of toy soldiers. I got a cool castle set that even more parts survived from. I got Axis&Allies once after I helped Mom pick it out. I've gotten some nice sweaters and shirts (actually almost any sweater I have is likely to have been a Christmas gift. I'm not a natural sweater buyer or wearer, but I like some of them and wear them occasionally). I think I got a sled when I was real little. That was a great gift for many years and useful even in Kentucky winters. There have been many other wonderful gifts.

But my favorite gift was the Alamo that my Dad made me. I think this came up here once before after Jenn took me to the Alamo when I visited San Antonio last year. I've always had a thing for the Battle of the Alamo and by extension other desperate last stands. I defaced a children's library book about the battle when I was little cutting out all the cool pictures to play with. I got the John Wayne Alamo movie for Christmas a few years ago. I remember seeing and wanting an Alamo toy set that I saw in the Sears or Montgomery Ward catalog and asking for it a few times. Finally one year I found an Alamo under the tree. It's not real fancy. It doesn't have a lot of detail. It's really only a wooden model of the chapel building (of course that's the iconic part of the whole thing. A wooden model of the corral wouldn't be nearly as impressive.) It's not really to scale with either size of toy soldiers I routinely played with being too large for both (unless you consider it's size in legend in which case it works pretty well). However, it was made by my Daddy and it was exactly what I wanted. Also it was essentially one piece so I couldn't accidentally lose the south wall or the bell tower and it was mostly unbreakable within the scope of uses to which I was likely to put it (I did drop it and break it once but we were able to restore with wood glue made from my tears--or by a wood glue manufacturer). It served as a fantastic fort and storage container for small toy soldiers for many years and still serves in the latter capacity somewhere at Mom and Dad's house. It has served even better as a symbol of my Dad's love for me. It wasn't showy or extravagant but it was simple and tangible and real and virtually unbreakable and, if not perfect, sufficient.

Each year at Christmas we remember an even greater gift from an even greater Father that is far more lasting and perfect. Sometimes we want to shout about the great gifts we receive and sometime we want to just sit quietly and appreciate them. I hope you find the time this Christmas season to do both. To shout with joy from the mountaintops that Jesus Christ is born and to sit in silent awestruck wonder at His love.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Gazing Steadily on the Glory of Christ and Being Changed

We got the chance to hear a great sermon from Nate at the church yesterday. He spoke on Revelation 1:9-20. The main point was that we are changed by gazing steadily on the glory of Christ. In this passage John describes the beginning of his vision that was a revelation of Christ to the seven churches of Asia. It was encouraging to hear about the glory of Christ. As we look on Him we are struck dead and renewed through His Spirit. He is the one we turn to for wisdom and rely upon for deliverance and judgment. He is the one we seek to emulate in our lives. He is the one whose words are a sharp two-edged sword that divides between bone and marrow and soul and spirit yet bring life in obedience. He is the one whose eyes see straight to the heart and see both the good and the sin that lives there. He is the first and the last, and the author and finisher of our faith. It was especially inspiring to hear how He will meet and renew us in our worship.

During the communion time we sang Ryan Flanigan's song, "Up from the fall". As I broke the bread and repeated to myself the words "On the night in which Jesus was betrayed" and thought how I had betrayed Him I also remembered the words of the Eastern Orthodox communion liturgy "Or rather, the night in which He gave Himself for us all." As I thought that, the worship team sang the words "I have nothing to give to you, but Jesus came and He gave it all." I was struck by how I truly have nothing to offer God but what He has first given me. Then as I reflected on the cup and the words, "This is my blood of the new covenant poured out for the forgiveness of sins," the worship team finished the verse of the song, "He takes our blame and up from the fall we rise in Christ." Somehow I felt Jesus inviting me to drink up, to drink a cup of joy and celebration like a shot at a party. Instead of drinking as repentance it became a drink of affirmation of the pure, new life in Him.

The remainder of our worship continued in that vein, alternating joy and repentance with words from Lord calling us to enter deeper into worship and expect His presence among us. We ended with a call for all who wished to come and pray for a renewal of His presence in our church. We prayed for another half hour after the service. It was a great morning.

"And all of us have had that veil removed so that we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect His glory even more." 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NLT)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Good Movie Night

Friday night the College Union at Trinity rented a screen at a local movie theatre. They showed The Fellowship of the Ring. Dr. Fratt from the college gave a short introduction beforehand and there was a trivia contest wherein I won a Starbuck's gift card and bag of skittles bite size candies (Taste the rainbow) for knowing the name of Tom Bombadil's wife. I was astounded at how much the movie affected me. It has been 59 months since I last saw FotR in the theatre (special showing of FotR extended ed. up in Wisconsin on the way to which I got my first speeding ticket). I was blown away by what an amazing film it is. I've come to realize that I think it is my favorite of the LotR movies even though RotK got all the Oscars. There's just something about seeing Rivendell and Lothlorien (even the brief glimple you get in the theatrical ed.), the Argonath and hearing Saruman welcome Gandalf to Isengard, Boromir's death and Sam's devotion. I loved it. For the first time I noticed the village of Bree behind the Hobbits as they head into the wilderness between Bree and Weathertop. I also noticed the chimes as they approach Lothlorien. It's hard to believe that after seeing the movie as often as I have in the theatre and on DVD there were still things I'd never noticed but these were new to me. I also enjoyed some of the filming errors that were mostly edited out of the DVD's, like the Nazgul's horse materializing out of nothing behind the tree the Hobbits are hiding under and car that drives by while Frodo and Sam are in the cornfield. The icing on the cake was that it was the version of Fellowship from late in the theatrical run that included the extended trailer for The Two Towers. That was a real bonus but a little bittersweet. There are shots of scenes in that trailer that never made it into even the extended ed's of TTT and RotK. That trailer gives you a vision of movies to come that are greater still than what came. The LotR theatrical trilogy is greater than all other movies combined and cubed but the extended TTT trailer shows a glimpse of how great they could have been. Still I just sat there and listed to "May It Be" and "In Dreams" over the credits and nearly wept with joy at what I'd just seen. The plan is to do the same thing with TTT and RotK next semester. I can't wait. Until then I'll have to console myself with my friend Sarah's LotR marathon in two weeks after Turkey Bowl VIII.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Happy Birthmonth

Thanks to all who wished me a happy birthday. It was a fine day. We had cake at work--eventually I might even get a card (it was still being signed, last I heard). After 3-D, Dianne and other friends took me out to Baker's Square. I had a very good cheeseburger and chocolate cream pie. One of my all time favorite desserts was Aunt Ethel's chocolate pie. Dianne got me a t-shirt that says
"Haikus are easy
But sometimes they don't make sense.

I love it. She also got me a birthday card in Greek, one of the best cards ever. The translation on the back of the card was lame but I managed to work out something I liked using a Greek dictionary.

I got a nice blog post from Mom that was very touching and comments from Lydia and Ann.

Steve gave me The Tick on DVD, which is another truly great gift.

The celebrating isn't even over. On Thursday I'll be having delicious belated double-decker birthday pizza from Bill's Pub in Mundelein, indirectly thanks to Mom and Daddy. On Friday I'll be spending the day hiking at Moraine Hills State Park on the Fox River near McHenry, Illinois, and hopefully going to the world's largest corn maize Friday or Saturday.

I've also added a feature on the side of my blog. The LibraryThing Random Books from My Library widget is now there doing what it says, showing some of my books. It also includes a link to my library on LibraryThing, so if you ever want to know if I have a certain book, you can just click there to find out.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Looking for Causes and Goals in Life

I found this on the blog Stuf Christians Like. It's an exhortation to make seeking God the cause and purpose of our lives. I thought it was pretty good. There's a lot of good stuff on there, both satire and encouragement.

Trying to find a cause

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Humanism and Vanity, Oh my Droogies

I wanted to get down some thoughts about A Clockwork Orange, which I've just finished listening to on cd and Burn After Reading, now that I've seen it a couple of times. I've been interested in ACO since reading an old Mad Magazine parody many years ago. I first saw the movie the summer after my freshman year at college and have seen it a few times since. At its heart is an interesting story of dystopian, anti-heroic humanism that resonates loudly in some ways with C.S. Lewis' The Abolition of Man and That Hideous Strength. Burgess' point in ACO is that man is not a creature to be wound up like clockwork and let go to live a determined life whether by the state or by God. Alex is a vicious criminal and hoodlum but he is that way because that is what he wants to be. If he wanted to be good, he could, and it is the very choice that makes him human and makes his actions good and evil. If society wants to "cure" him so that he not only cannot do evil but also must do good to when he desires evil then it achieves a certain short-term goal of reducing crime but does not truly thereby make itself better. In so doing it devalues the individual life it exists to protect and perhaps, to draw conclusions from the ways in which the third part of the book plays out, it may create an even worse evil. It has not eradicated Alex's desire for evil only frustrated it. It seems implied that through a bit of personal application he may in time develop a means of circumventing his conditioning. Interestingly, despite his appy polly loggy for the necessity of the final chapter to his argument (Burgess claims his American publisher originally rejected it because it was too hopeful and Pelagian) in Alex's conviction that his future son will follow in his criminal footsteps and reject his fatherly advice because that's what teenagers do, there seems to be an undermining of the whole theme of freedom. Still its a very interesting story, not least because of the invented Nadsat language that Alex and his droogs use. It was fun to listen to and I'm always open to good dystopian humanism.

One of the other things that I'm always open to is good absurdist humor a la the Coen Brothers. However, one thing Burn After Reading is not is humanist. It seems much more Ecclesiastesical. There's a definite feeling of vanity, vanity, all is vanity. It would seem that all is much ado about nothing as the different characters pursue various ends to often brutal conclusions while in the dark about what is really going on. BAR is definitely in the Fargo vein of absurd and brutally violent comedy. But it likes the stabilizing presence of a Marge Gunderson or even the tired despair of the Sheriff in No Country for Old Men. It just has that feeling of one damned thing after another with no one really knowing what is going on, even the people who are payed to know. Fargo and Lebowski are Coen movies that I'm somewhat repulsed by still enjoy either because of particular characters or techniques. No Country has a power in that it's played straight. After BAR I just want to throw up my hands in frustration and confusion like the chief spook. It doesn't make sense and those poor people are dead and it's such a nice day and there you go (that's Marge Gunderson of course, not the spook). Vanity of vanities, all is vanity under the sun.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Recent Rain and Men's Breakfast

It rained here last weekend. Apparently it rained enough that people elsewhere got worried about me even though I own a bumbershoot and am not water soluble. Still it rained from Friday to Sunday, records were set and small rivers flooded. I don't live in a place that's susceptible to flooding and never have other than the localized kind caused by bad pipes or other leaks. It was a good chance to test our library's new roof to see if it would hold up against serious rainage. Turns out all that time spent with noise and without air conditioning this summer has not fixed the main leak. It might have fixed some of them, but new leaks opened up so I'd say it's a wash.

I got to speak to a few brave souls at our church men's breakfast on Saturday morning. I talked about the importance of studying the history of the church as the story of what God has done and is continuing to do. In some ways the benefits are the same as studying any kind of history, viz. there's lots of good stories and you can learn from others' mistakes. There is an added layer as well. Throughout scripture there is an emphasis on telling what God has done. Jesus tells us that he will be with us always, even to the end of the age. By looking at our past we see the works of God in the lives of his people, sometimes despite the lives of his people, and are encouraged to worship him. A second focus was on the importance of telling our own stories to one another. The vast majority of the life of the church is not made up of Francis of Assisi or Polycarp or Jonathan Edwards but of unknown people who live day-to-day lives full of God's grace. We are those people and by telling of what God has done in our lives we glorify him and share his work with others. I also like to remember that though most of our stories are forgotten here, "The Lord knows the way of the righteous." He remembers our stories and so they are preserved forever.

Random quotes:
"Those who don't study the past will repeat its errors. Those who do study it will find new ways to err." I believe my St. Olaf History Dept. t-shirt attributed this quote to Charles Wolfe.

"In the end nothing is lost. For good or ill every event has repercussions forever" Will Durant on the fall of Babylon.

"It's like watching Shakespeare." An anonymous friend on watching British movies starring Jason Statham (her intent was to compare the experience of being unable to figure out the language at first and then somewhere in the middle realizing that you're understanding. I can see the point and I am a Statham fan but I bet it's pretty rare that Snatch or Mean Machine get compared to the Bard)

Worship haiku:
Miraculous grace
Drips from the wounds of Jesus,
Healing His broken.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Cohen's Dedication

This morning I got to be part of the dedication for my nephew, Cohen. Cohen will be four weeks old tomorrow. Geron and Lydia decided that since we'd all be down for Cora's birthday this weekend they would go ahead and dedicate Cohen as well. I was really moved as Pastor Matt spoke about the dedication and it being an act in accord with Jesus' welcoming of the children and as Geron's dad, Preston, prayed for Cohen and the family. I was particularly challenged when Matt charged us as the family to see that Cohen be reared in the way of the Lord. I love Cora and Cohen but I hadn't considered my responsibility toward them before. As their uncle I too am called to instruct them and to encourage and support Lydia and Geron as parents. Obviously the distance involved limits what I can do directly but that only increases my call to prayer for Geron, Lydia, Cora and Cohen. Cora's not just this cute little girl that's fun to play with, she is a precious child to be reared in the love and fear of the Lord. I wasn't there for her dedication, but I am committed to her as well. I love them both and am honored to be a part of their lives even from so far away.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Inadvertently Profound Quote and Leaders' Retreat

We had our Trinity Community Church Student Ministries Leaders' Retreat this weekend in Round Lake, IL. It was a really powerful time. Friday night after we ate we started at 7:30 into a time of intentional encouragement. Nate had asked us to write something encouraging down beforehand for each of members of the leadership teams for 3-D (middle school ministry) and/or Third Place (high school ministry) depending on our involvement. During the encouragement time we went around and people shared their encouragements for each leader and often pitched in even if they hadn't written anything. This time was scheduled for about 90 minutes. We finished around 12:30 a.m. It was amazing listening to the student leaders encourage one another and the adult leaders. It was a powerful and convicting time as I realized again how much influence God has allowed me to have in the lives of the students and leaders in 3-D. I love watching kids that I knew as shy or goofy 6th graders grow into leaders in the church and in their schools. Later that night we watched Juno until most people were asleep.

On Saturday morning we had a great time of worship and prayer (originally scheduled for the night before) and then had a discussion about what kind of students we wanted to see graduate from our ministries and what kind of disciplers we needed to be in order for that to happen. After lunch we had a brainstorming time to determine our fall teaching series for the two groups (for organizational purposes we teach the same series in both groups, though we adjust the material to the different age groups) and then split into ministry groups to dream about possibilities for our ministries. This was also a very encouraging time as we shared about how we can be more intentional about connecting with the 3-D kids outside of our Wednesday night group time.

During one of the morning sessions one of the adult leaders mentioned that "Shame is often a major tenement in many religions." Obviously he meant to say "tenet." Nobody mentioned the mistake at the time (amazing for me) but as I thought about what he said I realized it carried a lot more meaning than he intended. I had this image of decrepit, neglected building in a slum filled with people who had moved in but were unable to move out because of their poverty and life circumstances. For a lot of people their shame is a really nasty place that they can't see any way to move out of so they live in the squalor and despair. I don't want to say which religions he was referring to, but that can often be very unfortunately and ironically true of evangelical Christianity. Even though we claim to be "evangelical," i.e. gospel based and oriented, too, too often we load people down with a weight of shame instead of the gospel of freedom. As another friend said a couple of days ago our guilt is often more powerful than others' because we get it both ways. We feel guilty for what we've done wrong but then we compound that by feeling guilty about feeling guilty since we're supposed to be all about grace. We just don't believe Jesus when he says, "It is finished!" It's time we piled our stuff on Jesus' back and moved out of the tenement.

Anyway, this retreat is becoming one of the highlights of my August. It's really only surpassed by the annual Labor Day trip to Tennessee to see Ann and Daniel and Lydia and Geron.

Verse of the Day:
"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:1-2 (ESV)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


I'm remiss in not having posted this sooner. I have a cute new nephew. Cohen Preston Brown was born to Lydia and Geron on Monday morning. Welcome and Congratulations. You can read him and see pictures here.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Random Thoughts and a verse of the day

Warning: This post is not mistitled. There is no thread.

I played Wii and guitar hero over the weekend with some friends from church. We bowled, golfed, played tennis, and some short weird Japanese games. It was fun and I can imagine how it could become seriously addictive. Fortunately, Steve and I don't have one. I also discovered a fun Yahoo word game called Bookworm. It's like a version of Boggle. It too is seriously addictive.

In my LIFEgroup we've been studying The 10 commandments. The last two weeks have focused on the first two commandments. I was struck by the idea that in prohibiting the worship of other Gods and of the use of idols in worship, God is reserving to himself the right to define himself. We are not to worship our ideas and desires, or imaginings of God, but only the true God as He reveals Himself. It's a very logical extension of His response to Moses. Moses' asks God's name at the burning bush and God responds, "I am Who I Am." It's only in the context of His relationship with Israel, the incarnation in Jesus, and the presence of His Spirit in the church that He will reveal Himself and be encountered.

I think it's neat the way different babies can be cute in different ways.

One of the things I've observed while being part of weeding over 11000 items out of our library in the last three months is that at some point in the 1930's several American publishers of religious books began using Roman numerals instead of Arabic for the publication dates. Books published by Doran, Revell, or Abingdon-Cokesbury in the 1910's or 20's and later in the 50's have publication dates like 1923 or 1918. Books published by those same publishers in the 30's-40's have dates like MCMXXXVIII or MCMXLV (Yale books have MDCCCCXXII). I just find that a curious practice. It might be an interesting thing for someone to research sometime, but I can't think of a good reason to.

One of the books I weeded today was titled That They May Have Live. I had to search that title three times. The first time I entered "That They May Live." That got no results. So I looked at it more closely and realized my mistake. I entered, "That They May Have Life." Again no results. My mind couldn't wrap itself around the apparent typo.

I finally got around to reading Ender's Game this summer and have gone on to The Speaker for the Dead. I've liked the other Orson Scott Card stuff I've read and I was tired of having my sf fan credentials questioned any time I mentioned I hadn't read any of the Ender books. I'm really impressed. I enjoyed Ender's Game, and I really enjoyed TSftD. I would never have expected to like a book that focused so much on interpersonal and family relationships as well as I did. I think Card does a good job setting up the parallel of the humans inability to understand one another with their inability to understand the aliens. I also enjoyed the way biblical allusions fall seamlessly into the story, especially this one about Ender's role in the xenocide:
"Yes, well, it's nothing mystical," said Ender. "I think of it as being like the mark of Cain. You don't make many friends, but nobody hurts you much either."

Have you heard about Cuil? It's a new search engine built by some former Google employees. Supposedly it indexes 3X as many web pages as Google and is attempting a completely different approach to determining relevance and claims to be less reliant on popularity. I like some of their ideas but I've gotten nothing out of performance. So far it's taking forever for me to access the search screen and I've only seen numbers of results, no actual links. I hope that it can get better and maybe if traffic slows down the site'll work better in the Trinity environment. The general consensus on the cataloging lists I follow says, "Wait for 'Cuiler.'"

That's it for today's episode of "Random stuff bouncing around Everett's head."

Verse of the day:

"And God spoke all these words, saying,

"I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

"You shall have no other gods before me.

"You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments." Exodus 20:1-6 (ESV)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Bought With A Price

From Nicolas Cabasilas The Life in Christ, bk. 7, s.13:

"The blessed Paul makes all things clear in a brief saying, 'You are not your own, you were bought with a price.' He who has been purchased does not regard himself but him who has purchased him, and lives according to His will. In the case of men, the slave is bound to the wish of his master, but only in body; in his mind and reason he is free and can use them as he pleases. But in the case of him whom Christ has bought it is impossible for him to be his own. Since no man has ever bought a complete man, and there is no price for which it is possible to purchase a human soul, so no one has ever set a man free or enslaved him save with respect to his body. The Saviour, however has bought the whole of man. While men merely spend money to buy a slave, He spent Himself. For our freedom He surrendered body and soul by causing the one to die and by the depriving the other of its own body. His body suffered pains by being wounded; His soul was troubled, and that not merely when the body was slain, but even before it was wounded as He said, 'My soul is very sorrowful even to death.'
"So in giving Himself completely, He purchased the whole man. Therefore He has purchased the will too, and it especially. In other respects He was our Master and had control over our whole nature; but it was by our will that we escaped from His service, and He did everything to capture it. Because of the fact that it was our will which He was seeking, He did no violence to it nor took it captive, but He bought it. Thus of those who have been bought, no one will do right by using his will for himself , but will commit an injustice to Him who has bought him by depriving Him of His possession. It is by the self-will and by rejoicing in that which is one's own that one would use one's will for oneself.
"So it remains that none of the virtuous and righteous loves himself, but only Him who has bought him. It must be that at least some, if not all, of those who have been purchased should be thus disposed. How could it be reasonable for such an awesome purchase to have been made in vain? For those who love only Him it follows that they should enjoy all pleasure unalloyed with trouble, since He whom they love does nothing contrary to their desires. They are moved with an exceedingly great and supernatural divine power of joy and this power finds complete fulfilment, and that which delights them surpasses every abundance of grace."

Cabasilas has been my breakfast reading for the past few months (I don't eat breakfast regularly) and has been an interesting read. Essentially The Life in Christ is about the power of the sacraments in the believers' life. As a 14th century Orthodox Greek, Cabasilas has a much different view of sacraments and how they work than we do. Nevertheless, there have been times when I've found some of his ideas showing up as part of my own worship, especially during communion. The idea that in communion God is joining me together with the rest of the worshipping body has been a powerful one. As we share the one bread, we become one body. The last book (chapter) focuses on the joy and perfection of a man who is shaped by the Spirit's power through the sacraments. The whole is more perfectionist and works oriented than I am but it has been interesting and encouraging. Especially when I read the quoted passage above and then heard a message on 1 Cor. 6:12-20 the next morning. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who sends His Spirit that ruined sinners might become His temples.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Extreme Build 2008

We're back from the Extreme Build. It was an amazing week. It was sunny and hot, but not humid, all week. When we showed up for work on Monday the walls were build but lying on the ground, the foundation and basement were in place, and there were floor boards on the house. We had to get the floor laid and the walls up. By the end of lunch that stuff was in place and Daddy had almost passed out from exhaustion. Mostly I helped carry things and pass flooring and walls up to the house. Still it was a lot of fun watching Bessie, Sarah, and Jacob drive the first nails on the front wall of what was to be their new house. On Tuesday we built scaffolding and began putting on OSB and insulation. It was fun climbing on the scaffolding as we put it up on the back of the house. Wednesday and Thursday were taken up with putting on siding (several false starts) and soffits. Thursday also involved bending metal to cover the face boards of the roof. Friday involved repairing the siding on last year's Extreme Build house. I got to be the crew chief for the scaffolding portion of that job. "I don't know anything about that. Scaffolding I can do. It's like tinker toys." (my response to a question that morning). Friday afternoon and evening afforded the pleasure of working with daddy on building a door for the crawl space and working on the side porch. Saturday involved more porch work including digging "China-holes", building the stairs, and some more metal bending. Saturday also involved the house dedication where we prayed for the house and handed Bessie her keys.
Highlights included getting to know the GBC crew better, especially all the time we spent with Ken, Gina, and Taylor Whittle, and watching 88 year old Vic Carr (who still remembers me as the little boy crawling under the pews at Gano Avenue) build a house. Other highlights were listening to stories from Bob Durbin from Irvine and a lot of the other crew members, learning to use the brake for bending and cutting aluminum, getting to know Fred Doyle, Jim, Mary, Drew, Bob Jones, the Texas crew, getting busted for using an effective but very non-standard scaffolding extension ("No. You can't use the ladder like that." "We've been using it all morning." "Well, now you've been caught."), watching Jacob's joy when Daddy presented him with an engraved hammer, seeing Bessie and her kids working so hard on their house and the support from their family, seeing Mom start to take charge of the rest tent and nagging everyone to drink more water and Gatorade, the trips with the Whittles to Cumberland Falls for supper at DuPont Lodge and to see the moon bow, and to Natural Arch the next night even though we were all wiped out from our first full day of work--the first three days we did half days.
Over the course of a week a crew of 150 volunteers made of Baptist groups from all over Kentucky, from Indiana and Texas, a couple of Habitat teams from Louisville, a work crew from the local housing organization, and the Watson family built most of a house in order to show the love Jesus. We were disorganized and snippy at times and we didn't get it all done, there's a crew coming down today and tomorrow to try and complete it, but it was a good work and I'm glad to have been part of it. It was a good vacation. Of course it was also a special blessing to get that time to spend with Mom and Dad and to see how happy Daddy was to be carpentering again. I know he loves working at Toyota, but in his heart he'll always be a "hammy saw man." I took some pictures and if any of them survived the disintegration of the disposable camera I'll see about getting them up here.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


There are two other new posts before this one.

Last night I was reading in Nicholas Cabasilas' The Life in Christ. Cabasilas was an Orthodox Archbishop of Thessalonica in the 14th century. The Life in Christ is mostly a work on the power of the sacraments for Christian living. The final chapter focuses on joy in Christ. As I was reading I was really struck by his discussion of 1 Corinthians 6:19b-20a, "You are not your own, for you were bought with a price." (ESV). I left the book at home, so sometime after vacation I'll have to post the pertinent paragraphs. Basically he observed how no one really knows what a man is worth because no one has ever really bought anything more than a body. No one has ever purchased the whole man, body, soul, and spirit. No one, but Christ, who paid an infinite price to redeem the whole man.

This morning at our monthly church men's breakfast, my friend Matt, who is moving away (sob) to plant a church (Huzzah!), spoke on 1 Corinthians 6:19b-20a, and how we were bought with a price. His message was titled, "Gospelizing Your Sexuality...and Everything else." "Gospelizing is a great word. It's a nice Anglicizing of Evangelizing. (Incidentally, I think "holification" is also a fun Anglicized substitute for "sanctification"). His message took in the whole of 1 Cor. 6:12-20 and how the point is not to focus on right and wrong, but to focus on the truth of the gospel for all of life. Namely, that God has purchased us and owns us absolutely but his slavery is freedom (cf. Romans 6). With that in mind, how can we possibly turn from Christ, our master and lover, to immorality. Not only is that an unhelpful thing to do, but, more importantly, it just doesn't make any sense. We need to constantly gospelize our lives so that we remember the truth. After the message we talked some about how we can have that gospel perspective on our lives. I thought, though I didn't say it, that it would be helpful to walk around wearing a sticker that said, "Sold." Then I realize that I already wear a cross all the time. I wear my price tag daily. Unfortunately, it still tends to become more of an accessory than a reminder as does my daily recitation of the Jesus Creed. It's easy for reminders to become background and lose their meaning. The word "phylactery" also came to mind. Various guys mentioned different things they do, such as listing reasons for thankfulness to God or meditating on the obedience of Christ. Ultimately it comes down to two things. The power of the Holy Spirit and remembering. Without the regeneration of the Spirit we're spiritual corpses and nothing matters. Without actual deliberate remembering, howsoever you do it, no reminder will help. It's not technique, it's action.

Some quotes/thoughts that struck me:
-The chiasm of v. 13. The Lord is for the body as food is for the stomach. We are meant to be filled by Him.
-We think about God coming to fill a hole in our life, but God's not that small. He invites us to be part of his plan and kingdom work for the whole world.
-In the context of accountability groups we need to preach the gospel to one another rather than just confess sins. And in gospelizing one another we need to move beyond just proclaiming forgiveness to the whole work of the gospel: You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.
-Matt has given us permission to use other adjectives for the blood of Jesus than precious. It is "effective blood", "powerful blood", "costly blood". I like "strong blood".

I think over this next week I will work on memorizing 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 while I'm on vacation.

1 Cor. 6:12-20 (ESV):

2 "All things are lawful for me," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful for me," but I will not be enslaved by anything. 13 "Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food"—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, "The two will become one flesh." 17But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Feed My Starving Children and Extreme Build

On July 9th I got the chance to go with 16 kids and 6 other adults from the 3-D, our church ministry to middle school students, to Aurora, Illinois. We went to volunteer with an organization called Feed My Starving Children. You can read all about them here. We joined with 26 other volunteers from BP and another youth group and for about an hour and a half we boxed up 15000 meals that will be sent to Haiti. Our meals will feed 42 children for a year. It was a good time and the youth really seemed to enjoy it. On the way out the kids were asking when we'd be able to come back and do it again. Apparently some children will even have their birthday parties there. It's a great operation.

Next week Mom and Dad and I will be down in McCreary County, Kentucky. We'll be working with a team from their church on the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship's and Mountain Hope's Extreme Build project. It's a Habitat for Humanityish style project where we go in a build a house for a needy family. I'm looking forward to it. It's Mom and Dad's first short-term mission trip. You can follow our progress on those two sites. I'll be having to get up before it's day. That's o.k. I'm prepared to suffer for the cause.

"There is no charge for awesomeness...or attractiveness"

That's not entirely true, as I paid six dollars for the awesomeness that was the best kung fu movie of the year, viz. Kung Fu Panda. He's not a big, fat panda, he's THE big, fat panda. Anyway, Cindee, Marie, and I saw that last night and it was great. But that's not even the best of the recent awesomeness.

If you read Jim's blog, and some of you might, then you know that last week I almost gave him a heart attack by walking into his house unannounced at about 11:20 p.m. on July 3rd. There he was, minding his own business sitting in his living room wondering why his wife was just sitting there not going to bed, when he heard the back door open. Then it closed. Then there were heavy footsteps in the kitchen and no response to his queries. Apparently it's unusual for people to walk into farmhouses in the middle of the night in the middle of corn fields west of Rochester, MN, without some sort of greeting. Who knew? Anyway as his "Who's there?" sounded way more stressed than his "Hello?", and since he didn't appear rushing out to great me with open arms, I thought it best to throw in a "Hey, Jim." Cue relief, puzzlement, and the open arms bit. Meanwhile, Tara, who'd thought this up and instigated it, sans the middle of the night terror (I told her I'd be there around 10. I don't know how long it takes to get Trinity to their manor house.), held her peace. The next morning I got to surprise each of the children as they came down for breakfast. It was a fine evening and morning of surprising.

Friday we celebrated Jim's birthday and threw a shout out to the country while we were at it. We had a small party with some of his friends and relatives and a trip to Wannamingo for a parade--mostly trucks, tractors, oddities, and, especially, much candy. That night we took a family ride on the trailer, shot the bb gun, and made a fire for s'mores. The older boys got to play with sparklers and Jim and I sat out and talked. He and Evan and I also went through a catechism Jim developed as a means of teaching the Faith to his nephew. I was impressed. Saturday I went out with Friendly Jim in the morning and helped clean a gutter, cart trash to the dump, and move a washer and dryer. We had a good time and I almost did a header into a dumpster. In the afternoon I helped Jim while he cut down a dead tree in his back pasture and we cut up the wood for the winter. Evan also developed a new game of ping-pong wherein he hangs on the tire swing and Jim and I push him back and forth. That night we attempted to watch Big Fish, an interesting movie, but confusing if you keep dozing off. After church and lunch we hung out at the house and played in the yard for a while until I finally headed back to Illinois.

I always have a good time with Jim and Tara and the kids. It was fun this year to see Avery toddling about and being all smiley. She can even say, "Bubba." Of course, almost all babies can, but I was still impressed. I enjoyed when Toby told us that we should stay hydrated or we'd feel sick as we headed out to the pasture to cut down the tree. "Hydrated" is a good word for a three year old, and it is good advice. When I told him that it wasn't cool to take keys out of his daddy's van, he replied, "It's cool for me." We had fun. I enjoyed helping Aidan work on his bounce pass. At 4, he's not yet ready to shoot to the basketball but he's working at being a point guard. On Sunday afternoon while Evan was potting hostas to be sold at the farmer's market, Aidan was rubbing dirt on his hands. I asked why. "So I'll be ready when we dig the next hole." I was really touched when Evan told me having me around was like having a second daddy. It's a lot of fun just hanging out and playing with other people's kids. Especially when they're as smart and cute as Jim and Tara's kids.

It was a good trip, and I was glad to get up there. I was planning to go anyway, but I was especially glad with the way Tara's surprise worked out. It's fun being someone's birthday present.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Free Rice Vocabulary Game

If you want to build some vocabulary, show off your own, or just get better at Balderdash and help feed the poor at the same time check out Free Rice. It's a great site for someone who remembers that "a baloo is a bear" or "a yonker is a young man". Where else would I have learned that a fleam is a type of lancet. So bulk up your semantic muscles and help some people out.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Worship Haiku

A couple of weeks ago at our LIFE group we studies Psalm 121. As part of our worship for the night I asked people who were there to think of a Bible verse that was meaningful to them and write a haiku inspired by that verse in praise of God. I ended up doing three.

"Glorious are you, more majestic
than the mountains of prey." Psalm 76:4 (ESV)

Resplendent with light,
Rocky lairs of deer and goats
Kneel before you, Lord.

"All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
and like the wind our sins sweep us away." Isaiah 64:6 (NIV)
"'Come now, let us reason together', says the LORD:
'though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.'" Isaiah 1:18 (ESV)

Filthy rags, my good.
Cleansed in the fire of your blood
I wear robes of grace.

"I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth." Psalm 121:1-2 (ESV)

Mountains firm and strong
Seem immovable but melt.
True strength is from God.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Feeling Pretty Good About This One

Your English Skills:

Grammar: 100%

Punctuation: 100%

Vocabulary: 100%

Spelling: 80%

Monday, May 19, 2008

Evidence I Need to Grow Up

I really ought to have grown out of this but I couldn't resist. I'm weeding a book called The Church Ministering to Rural Life. It was published in the 40's by The Home Mission and Church Erection Society of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ. Perhaps they were too united? It also reminded me of an art history lecture from my freshman year of college where the professor, a Norwegian old enough to have been in a Nazi concentration camp referred to the feat of constructing a gothic cathedral in a relatively short time (less than fifty years?) as "a very speedy erection." I shouldn't, but I still get a chuckle from that sort of thing.

Friday, May 16, 2008

ACTS prayer

Last week my friend Eric spoke to the youth group about James 5:13-18 primarily focusing on the idea of effective prayer. He went through the ACTS prayer model with kids but gave it a twist I hadn't noticed before. The acronym ACTS is:
Adoration (Eric described this as focused on Who God is)
Confession (Who we are)
Thanksgiving (What God has done. "Part of prayer is worship. The two can never be separated.")
Supplication (Trusting God to supply or as I phrased, What we hope God will do)

Eric also talked about a fifth element, Lamentation, which involves bringing our sadness and pain to God. I've heard the model many times before but I hadn't heard it described in terms of the relation of each element to its focus in God or us and found that very interesting. I hope to incorporate that way of thinking more in my own prayer life.

Eric went on to talk a little about what made Elijah's prayer effective. It was effective because Elijah knew God's will as expressed in scripture and prayed confidently in line with that because he believed what was written. Therefore in our own prayer lives we should know and trust the promises of God. In turn that will direct us in how to pray and what to expect. I thought it was a very helpful discussion of prayer. Afterwards as small groups we took 15-20 minutes to just pray through the model. The guys in the group I was with really seemed to be grasping the basics of the idea and it was encouraging to pray with them.

Eric graduated from seminary last week and has returned home to North Carolina to start an internship in a church. I'll miss him. He was a fun guy and genuinely interested in the youth and in helping them to grow in their relationship with God and especially in the area of worship. I hope he's blessed in his new church and that church is blessed with him.

In other general life news Steve, a few other friends, and myself saw Iron Man two weeks ago and really liked it. Steve and I saw Speed Racer last week and liked it less than Iron Man but had fun anyway. Monday we took the day off and went to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. That was fun and educational and involved lions and tigers and tyrannosaurs, oh my! Btw, should a tyrannosaur named "Sue" be referred to as a tyrannosaurus regina? Though if the name was given by a deadbeat papa tyrannosaur as a way to make the offspring strong.... We also saw exhibits on Pre-Columbian America, the religious customs of various Pacific islands, Tibet, and a special exhibit on mythical creatures. We enjoyed it but it can be very tiring walking from Union Station to the Museum, walking around the museum all day, and then walking back to the station. Tomorrow we'll go see Prince Caspian and I'll enjoy it while Steve grumbles about things not being like the book. I also got to see some of the youth from church perform in a production of the musical of Alice in Wonderland. It was even weirder than the book. Still the did a good job and Amber was especially good as the Cheshire Cat doing some impressive soul music dancing. At work we've started another massive summer weeding project so I'm helping to shuffle up to 10,000 books off the mortal coil.

Verse of the day:
"Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops." James 5:13-18 (NIV)

Random Conversation and quote:
"Who knows what it means to adore?" leader
"It's like a dog." student
Blank look. leader
"Like love." same student after a whispered conference with her friend
"Exactly." relieved leader

"Kids connect to God through games." Unnamed youth pastor.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Life in April

I missed the second anniversary of my time on blogger. I'm a wee bit bummed by that. It's not as though there's much to celebrate, but still. Anyway, I've enjoyed April. On the 10th I got to visit Menno-Hof in Shipshewana, Indiana. That was a really interesting and inspirational time and involved meeting a TEDS alumnus from before I was born. On the 11th I attended the spring meeting of the Chicago Area Theological Library Association at Calvin Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I also hit some impressive used bookstores in GR on Friday night and Saturday morning, and B.D.'s Mongolian Barbecue. I was muy bummed when the Vernon Hills B.D.'s closed last year. On the 12th I also got to go for nice short hike at the Cowles Bog Nature Area in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. That was a cool rainy Saturday so I had the park to myself except for a couple of people on their way out that I encountered on my way in. It was very peaceful and a beautiful path through the woods and over the dunes to the Lake. Because of the weather the Lake was choppy with a mist blowing in. It was only spoiled by the big steel mill 300 yards away down the beach. Still I enjoyed it very much.

On the 16th I got to teach the youth on James 5:1-6 which is a very challenging passage to meditate on and to teach to suburban American middle school kids. The other youth leaders were encouraging about the message and how it challenged them and one of the parents told me that her daughter had one of the verse references from the message written on her hand when she came home so she could look it up and think about it. That was really encouraging. On the whole I hope I was able to challenge the kids to think about how they use what God has given them without being too condemning. On the 18th-19th we had a lock in at the church that was a lot of fun. Also on the 18th we had a farewell party for my friend Anthony who is moving to Florida to paint cars but who will probably be eaten by alligators. We'll miss him very much. On the 20th we had our annual church meeting where we learned of the elders' plan to form a leadership task force of members who will help our church figure out what sort of leadership structure we need in the wake of all the resignations last year. It's nice to have a plan, even if it's just to develop a plan.

This past week was fairly uneventful although it involved a few fun games of Ticket to Ride and at a game night on Saturday I learned to play Quelf, which is boffo, if bizarre. On Sunday we had a lunch for the college students that was hosted at the home of one of the families from the church. The food and fellowship were both good and the student's seemed to have a good time of respite from the end of the semester crunch. As we were standing around talking after the meal it was mentioned that the Sans' dog Snowflake, a German Shepherd/Samoyed mix, knew the word "squirrel". Linda told Snowflake to go get the squirrel, expecting the dog to go to the window and bark. Instead, Snowflake ran over and sat in front of me and barked. Steve, a.k.a. Hot Barbecue (or, possibly, Willow) is now threatening to nickname me "Squirrel". I find that amusing. Tomorrow, Monday, Hot Barbecue and I are joining our executive pastor and another man from the church and going to see the White Sox play the Orioles. We will be 14 rows back from home plate, using tix that were given to Eric by the singer of the national anthem at one of the Saturday doubleheader games. Woohoo! Go Sox!

In other news, Battlestar Galactica and Dr. Who have started their new seasons, which a friend is being kind enough to record for Hot Barbecue and I until she moves out of her satellite dish. Also I've seen Leatherheads, Forbidden Kingdom, and Expelled, which I may blog about some other time. It was a very interesting movie.

Verse of the day:

"They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings--and with him will be his called, chosen, and faithful followers." Revelation 17:14 (NIV) the theme verse from Eric's sermon this morning, about which I will be blogging anon, the third in a miniseries on spiritual warfare.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Quick Update and Amusing Quotes

I had a good time over the last weekend. Steve and I finished Battlestar Galactica season 3, so we should be ready for the premier of season 4 on Friday. I especially liked the use of "All Along the Watchtower" in the final episode. I got to hang out and go bowling with friends on Saturday night and then hang out at Denny's afterward. Sunday was a good church service. Tuesday afternoon I attended an informational forum on library school hosted by the North Suburban Library System with representatives from Dominican University and the University of Illinois. I'm feeling a more motivated toward applying. Now if only I can find someone to buy some of these arms and legs so I can afford it. Tuesday night we finished up our study of the life of Joseph, so that's been good. I've also been helping out with a display at work. You can see the web portion here. I think Matt did a good job putting the page together.

Random amusing quotes:
"I feel like March came in like a lion, then turned into a lamb. Then another lion came along and ate the lamb and I'm afraid there won't be any more lambs." JA on our recent weather.

"That could have been any short person with a head." My response to Steve in a discussion of how I missed that the car in front of us was driven by a friend. Sometimes it would be nice to think at least as far as the end of the sentence before speaking.

Happy Eastertide.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Psalm 22 for Good Friday

Every day is a day for remembering Jesus' sacrifice and resurrection, but this is the day set apart from all others especially for the remembrance of that sacrifice. I always try to do something special on Good Friday to help me contemplate Jesus' death. Given who I am that usually means reading and/or watching something. Today I read from G. Campbell Morgan's collection of sermons, Great Chapters of the Bible. In his sermon on Matthew 27 he says this regarding Matthew's lack of detail regarding the act of crucifixion:

"It would have been a great advantage if that reticence had been observed down all the running centuries. No painting of the crucifixion, and no verbal description of it has been, in the deepest sense, really helpful in understanding the Cross. Not that the physical was anything less than appalling, but that it is possible to be so occupied with it as to lose the sense of that which is infinitely more terrible, the spiritual side of it." (p.142)

I can see his point. The descriptions of the physical pain of the crucifixion that I've heard from time to time can be arresting, as can a cinematic depiction like The Passion of the Christ. Nevertheless, neither can capture what it must have meant for Jesus who had known perfect fellowship with God throughout his life, a fellowship and communion we can only imagine, and in His divine nature from all eternity, to have become sin and been accursed. We who are born in sin will never know the depth of rejection. We can only approach it in his cry, "My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me!", a cry from a psalm of rejection, but also of hope and promise.

To the choirmaster: according to The Doe of the Dawn. A Psalm of David.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
"He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him;
let him rescue him, for he delights in him!"

Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
On you was I cast from my birth,
and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
Be not far from me,
for trouble is near,
and there is none to help.

Many bulls encompass me;
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.

I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.

For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
I can count all my bones—they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.

But you, O LORD, do not be far off!
O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
Deliver my soul from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dog!

Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he has not despised or abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
but has heard, when he cried to him.

From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the LORD!
May your hearts live forever!

All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before you.
For kingship belongs to the LORD,
and he rules over the nations.

All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
even the one who could not keep himself alive.
Posterity shall serve him;
it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
that he has done it." Psalm 22 (ESV)

Again from Morgan,

"It is impossible to read this psalm, and believe that the singer understood all its meaning. It was a prophetic utterance. It was a case in which David, or some other poet, was caught up, borne along; and through personal suffering and deliverance from it through confidence in God, interpreted the ultimate, central, final sorrows of the Messiah; and how through them, and through them alone, deliverance should come to the meek, who seek; and the sovereignty of God, based upon His redeeming activity, should finally be universally established." (p. 54)

That is what is to celebrate Good Friday and to remember how an event of horrible physical, and unimaginable spiritual, pain should result in our salvation. Christ is dead. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Squirrel and Penguin Dueling Banjos and a Quiz

I saw this on Marko's blog. Here are two great animals, two fine instruments, and some confusing/disturbing yet hilarious imagery. My money is on Penguin.

Marko also introduced me to this book quiz:

You're A Prayer for Owen Meany!

by John Irving

Despite humble and perhaps literally small beginnings, you inspire
faith in almost everyone you know. You are an agent of higher powers, and you manifest
this fact in mysterious and loud ways. A sense of destiny pervades your every waking
moment, and you prepare with great detail for destiny fulfilled. When you speak, IT

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

As it happens, I've even read A Prayer for Owen Meany. It's a great book and way better than the movie based on it (as is almost always the case).

Saturday, March 08, 2008

This Film is Not Yet Rated and Making Money

It's snowing again.

Last Saturday I watched the documentary This film is not yet rated. It's a look at the MPAA rating system and particularly at the process of rating a film NC-17 and R. It includes interviews with various filmmakers who've had to fight the ratings board along with disputed clips from their movies. It also focuses on an attempt to identify the people who do the actual rating. Their identities are kept secret by the MPAA ostensibly to protect them from outside pressure. This part of the film involves the hiring of a private investigator and tracking her attempts to identify the raters. The final portion shows Kirby Dick's, the documentarian, own struggles with the MPAA over the rating for his film about the ratings. Not surprisingly given that he includes many clips that had caused their own movies to get an NC-17, Dick's movie does as well. His appeal was rejected and he released the movie unrated. The film is very interesting. It's hard to argue against its position that the ratings are often applied in a very inconsistent manner and that the appeals process is stacked against the appellant. It also makes some cogent points about the differing treatments of sex and violence in films and of independent and studio movies in the process. There is a self-righteousness and stridency to the movie that I did not enjoy. One of the rallying cries is that the ratings, especially the NC-17 rating, harm movies financially because NC-17's are locked out of most major theatres and rental/retail outlets. This is true as far as it goes but I found it interesting that the policy decisions of the distributors and retailers, despite John Waters attacks on Wal-Mart and Blockbuster, where largely left to the side, especially give the late revelation that the majority of the ratings appeals board consists of representatives of distributors. I know, it's a film about ratings, not film distribution, but that didn't prevent a lengthy digression about the MPAA's anti-piracy campaign, which has nothing to do with ratings. I was mostly amused by the apparent shock and outrage that there were two members of the clergy on the appeals board. Gasp! Horrors! One is a representative of the national Catholic bishops' board, the other represents the National Council of Churches, the primarily liberal old mainline Protestant denominations. Also not surprising was the general, apparently unquestioned, attitude that censorship of movies is bad because censorship, as such, is bad. There was an interesting suggestion that violence portrayed in Saving Private Ryan merited a less restrictive rating than that in e.g. James Bond or Arnold Schwarzenegger movies because SPR was more realistic while the others in not showing the true consequences of the actions involved were desensitizing. All in all it was an interesting movie, but once was enough.

I also read Terry Pratchett's book, Making Money last week. It was another amusing Discworld novel. Fresh off his success in reviving Ankh-Morpork's failing postal system, reformed conman Moist von Lipwig is thrust into the position of acting chairman of the Royal Bank of Ankh-Morpork and the mint. Moist has to call on all his wit and resources to fend off the intrigues of the family of the former chairman, to avoid his past, to get AM off the gold standard and onto paper money, and deal with the absence of his chain smoking sweetheart, Adora Belle, who prefers to be called "Spike." It's a fun book like any Discworld but many of the characters and ideas seem underdeveloped. It also reminded me that while Pratchett can set up a world and a situation his endings are often confusing and contrived. Still for me the main joy in any Discworld novel involves the interplay of puns and ideas and satire more than the plot so I enjoyed reading the book and will happily read the obvious sequel if it's ever forthcoming.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

February Books

One problem with reading (and/or listening to) short, easy books is that if you're planning to blog your books a bunch pile up quick. I'll have to remember to read longer books in March. Consequently, these observations will be short.

The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis, read by Alex Jennings. Of all the Chronicles of Narnia this has always been the one I've least respected because it seemed the least theological and the shallowest. Still I've always loved the story of the talking horse Bree and the boy Shasta and their flight from slavery in Calormen to freedom in Narnia and Archenland. It's a great adventure. It's also a beautiful picture of Aslan's (and hence God's) providence in Shasta's life. As Aslan explains Shasta's life to him in the mountain pass it's an invitation for us to look at our own lives and see God's hand at work to preserve us and bring us where we are today. Did I also mention it's a great adventure story.

The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis, read by Kenneth Branagh. This is the beginning of all the comings and goings between Narnia and our world. The image of the creation, of standing in black nothingness and then hearing the first notes of the song and watching a world come into being is amazing. Branagh's a good reader and really shines on Uncle Andrew's voice.

Night Watch by Terry Pratchett. I picked this up and reread it after an image in a Doctor Who episode tickled my memory. Night Watch is a Discworld novel focused on Sir Samuel Vimes and the Ankh-Morpork city watch. Vimes' wife Sybil is about to give birth and he and a few of his men are preparing to celebrate the anniversary of the Glorious 25th of May, a revolution they took part in 30 years ago. Suddenly he finds out they've cornered a dangerous, wanted criminal near the Unseen University. In the midst of apprehending the felon Vimes is caught in a magical storm and they are sent back 30 years in the past to relive the revolution. Vimes is probably my favorite Discworld character and it's a lot of fun to see him struggle with unrest leading up to the revolution and catch the criminal and try to impersonate the man who's training his 30 years younger, rookie cop self while trying to figure out how to get back to his own time. One of Pratchett's best.

Ambient Findability by Peter Morville. Morville is a librarian and information architect. The tagline on the cover of this book is "What we find changes who we become." The book mostly focuses on how we find things and what that can teach those of us who are interested in enabling things, e.g. information or books, to be found. What do people search for? How do they search? How is our knowledge conditioned by its sources and availability? The book discusses all kinds of things from ubiquitous computing via smart phones and wireless networks and radio frequency identification to evolutionary psychology and architecture. It's a very broad but interesting look at how we find our way through life and especially how we find information.

The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis, read by Patrick Stewart. I wouldn't have imagined that Patrick Stewart would be so good at reading talking dogs, but he's great here. The Last Battle is my favorite of the Chronicles of Narnia for its picture of heaven. I love how it expands as they progress "further up and further in" so that each ring of the concentric circles is larger than the one outside it. A couple of my favorite quotes:
"Then I fell at his feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worth of all honour) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him. Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him." Emeth on meeting Aslan
"'Yes,' said Queen Lucy, 'In our world too, a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.'"
It's hard for me to get through the end of this book without tears of joy. I love it.