Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween

This was the first year I have done Halloween with my kids. I'm not much of a Halloween fan (secularization of an ancient occultic tradition mixed with market exploitation), so I wasn't too excited about doing Halloween...until this year. Anchor hosts an event on Halloween night, and the year that Emma was born, I was helping organize that event; I kind of felt bad about not being there for the photo shoot at Grandma Karen's house - 7mo old Emma was very cute in her Tiger costume. The next year was the same deal. Last year I had class in Chicago, so I missed the photo shoots and the handing out of candy.
These are pictures of the 2006 photo shoot...which I conviently missed...they did it on Monday when I was in Chicago.

This year was different. Levi and Isaac definitely understand the concept of getting free candy. Emma is a master teacher! They also were very excited about handing out candy. So this year I stayed home and helped my three kids hand out candy to our neighbors. What fun! The three of them would crowd the door, stuffing M&M's into the pillow sheets and plastic pumpkins being shoved into our doorway. Sometimes the neighbors would come so fast that I felt like a drill sergeant, trying to help my threesome keep up with demand.

With a lull in the action, my three kids went next door to our neighbor Steve and Heather's house to go trick or treating. Tara made cute M&M costumes for them - Emma was yellow, Levi was orange and Isaac was red. They really liked getting free candy! We then piled into the van and headed to church for the big party. Emma found the moonwalk and went nuts, the guys found the duckpond and were very happy. They also got more candy.
Here they are pictured with Salma and Isaiah...

All in all, a fun event; as I write this my wife is asleep at the kitchen table, too tired to finish grading papers. We both should be in bed...it is after 10:30pm and the kids have just quieted down after an hour of playing loudly in their rooms. Too much candy! Listen to me, I sound like a parent! But I shouldn't complain, Dave Ward gave me a Coffee Crisp!!!!!

Kierkegaard Quotes

Last Sunday's message instructed us to endure hardships, to "eat the worms God gives us", to carry on. Jeremiah wrote beautifully painful words in Lamenations, bold and blunt words of anguish directed at God...Yet...Yet...Yet God's mercies are new every morning, great is His faithfulness.

Kierkegaard writes brilliantly concerning suffering and hardship in the life of following Jesus Christ. May these words be used by the Spirit to help you see life from His eyes...

"To suffer patiently is not specifically Christian - but freely to choose the suffering is."

"To be an alien, to be in exile, is the mark of Christian suffering."

"Adversities do not make a person weak, they reveal what strength he has."

"He who himself does not wish to suffer cannot love him who has."

"God punishes the ungodly simply by ignoring them. This is why they have success in the world - the most frightful punishment, because in God's view this world is immeresed in evil. But God sends suffering to those whom he loves, as assistance to enable them to bcome happy by loving him."

"To suffer rightly is to have a secret with God!"

- Provocations: spiritual writings of Kierkegaard, ed. Charles E. Moore; pgs 384-386

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Wedding Song & Dance

Saturday evening was a delightful time with my wife and children. My wife and I attended a beautiful Catholic wedding in Huntington, and then later in the afternoon we took our children to a wonderful reception at the Coliseum in Fort Wayne. The Schortgen family has been a longtime friend to my wife. Tara began babysitting for them while she was in middle school. The family at the time had four children - one girl and three boys, the youngest being a baby. In the following years three more boys were born - the last two being twins.

My wife was one of those babysitters that kids adore and mothers celebrate. They played games, ate meals, read stories, did naps, nursed wounds and even discipline once in awhile (they were great kids, they have great parents). Tara only has fond memories of them, they only have fun and fond memories of her. I had an opportunity to get a glimpse of how great a family they are: while in college, over a Superbowl weekend Tara and I babysat the kids all day. It was a beautiful snowy day, we played games inside and outside (I pulled the kids around on a sled in the snow!). What a blast.

In that time we've attended their high school graduations and now their weddings. Zach is the second born, the oldest son. Abbey is the first born, and it was at her wedding two years ago that my daughter Emma and I first danced together. She was just learning to walk confidently, and she was getting bored at the reception. I took her out on the dance floor for something to do...little did I know how much Emma would enjoy it. Since that time Emma and I regularly dance (I am the Prince and she is Ariel, or Snow White, or Cinderalla...etc).

So at Zach's wedding I was looking forward to dancing with Emma again at a wedding. This was also the first wedding reception we'd been to with Levi and Isaac. I was looking forward to seeing what they would do. Basically dancing ending up being alot of me holding Emma in one arm, Levi in the other arm and Tara dancing with Isaac. The five of us would dance together for one song at a time, then we'd have to take a break...it's hard work dancing holding two kids! The next song Tara and I would sit at the table next to the dance floor and turn the three kids loose, it was so much fun to watch Emma experiment with her dance moves, and the guys basically walked around in circles, all smiles!

I'm not a dancer, but I do like to have fun. Dancing with my kids and wife at wedding receptions is alot of fun. Luckily there are five more Schortgen weddings coming up - we plan to be there for all of them.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Tigers Lost...

Another baseball season is over...and my fairweather team - the Detroit Tigers, have lost the World Series. The St. Louis Cardinals win their tenth franchise WS, the second most in the MLB (Yankees are first...duh!). I just couldn't bring myself to watch this last game, I was afraid that the Cardinals would win it, and I couldn't handle it. I watched bits and pieces of it, channel surfing during commercials and purposefully missing the beginning of each inning. I even missed the first three innings by running errands with my kids.

I'm glad for Tony LaRussa, Albert Pujols and David Eckstien. They played well, and they deserve the title. Eckstien is a great baseball player, he was great to watch when his Angels won the WS in 2002, and it was fun to watch him play the game this year as well. What a sweet yellow Corvette - it's his first ever brand new car...can you believe that out of a pro sports player?

What was up with all the Tiger pitcher errors...I know that it can be tricky for them to make a simple throw to first base...but five errors that led to runs? You can't make those kind of mistakes and still win the WS.

Oh, and the extended break for the Tigers was the reason why they lost...they lost their momentum.

Well, now another long season of winter...but hey, there's NFL! And if I'm really in the mood, NHL!

Friday, October 27, 2006

How To Start The Day - w/ Psalm 19

I finished reading Psalm 19 this morning, and the thought struck me, "This is the perfect Psalm to recite as you walk out the door to your car, or as your car pulls out of the garage down the driveway, on your way to work."

It starts out, "The heavens declare the glory of God, the sky above proclaims his handiwork." What a way to start your day - with worship. So here you are, pulling onto the street, driving to work and you've glanced at the sky, to see what kind of day it is going to be, and instead of predicting how the day is going to go based on the weather, you anticipate the day based on the Creator.

Then in verse seven, midpoint of the song, the psalmist writes, "The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul." As a Christian, we never think of the Law as perfectly refreshing, we categorize it as a burden, as something to be freed from. Yet Jesus said that he did not come to abolish the Law, but to complete it. The Law of the LORD is meant to bring joy to our heart, to bring people together in right relationships. And at work, or school, or whereever you spend the bulk of your day, everybody needs wisdom on how to deal with difficult (aka jerks, meanies, snobs, etc) people.

Near the end of this poem we read, "Who can discern His errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults." Whoa..... how about that for a prayer at the beginning of the day, as you pull into the parking lot of work. It takes two to tango, and if there is someone you perceive at work who is annoying, is there anything you do to contribute to that evaluation? My friend Ken Clark asked me once what his blindspots were. I turned around and asked him about mine. You ought to find out what yours are. A good person to ask is the one who annoys you. Or not...

So the psalm ends with these beautiful, famous, inspiring, lifegiving words: "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer." I'll never forget the most recent time when I heard someone utter this verse. Chris Kuntz was leading our singing on Sunday morning, and as he was getting ready to start the first song, he shared this verse with everyone, it was more like a prayer that came from his soul. It struck me as the completely right thing to say, and the words that I wanted to be beating in my heart - not just every Sunday when I preach, but all the other days when my lifestyle does the preaching.

Note that the last word is "redeemer"; very significant. For all the ugly words that come out of my mouth, and all the meditations that rot in my heart, God can redeem the bad situations that result from my "hidden faults". He can bring beauty from ashes, strength from fear (Crystal Lewis song). He can't help you take the words back, but he can help you make things right. Hence our need for the law/rule/command/direction/instruction/guidance/oversight of God everyday.

The first person to memorize this Psalm and recite it to me on a Sunday, I'll take them out to Texas Roadhouse, my treat!


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Wrappin' Up John

The last three chapters of John's Gospel wrap up pretty quick. Jesus gets interrogated, killed, mourned, resurrected, misunderstood, celebrated, and minimized.

There is plenty of irony in these last chapters as well. For example...

Jesus is crucified (a gory, gruesome, ghastly form of torture and murder) in a garden. I've been to that garden, it's a nice little garden - quiet, meditative, well-tended.

Pilate declares to the religious leaders and crowd, "Behold your king." (A politically dangerous comment - King Herod might object to Casear...not a good situation for Pilate).
They reply, "We have not king but Ceasar". (A religiously blasphemous statement - God might object to their allegiance...wait a minute...aren't they accusing Jesus as guilty of blasphemy?).

Jesus the innocent man who is murdered must be taken down prior to the Sabbath so it is not desecrated...wouldn't want to violate THAT particular law now, would we?

Jesus appointed twelve men to be apprenticed to him, but following his resurrection he appears first to a woman. And they won't believe her good news. Funny how things don't change.

Jesus reinstates Peter (following the three denials...a cowardly, awful thing to do...), calls Peter to call him again, and describes his future death. And Peter asks about John, "What about him?" He just doesn't get it, does he.

Fortunately Christianity today is devoid of irony.

P.S. Did you know that in the NT, whenver a gospel writer (oh, say someone like...ummm...John!) says "that the Scripture might be fulfilled" and then gives a small quote; the point is not that Jesus fulfilled that "out of context" verse, but rather John is pointing to a whole section of OT scripture. In chapter 19 John refers to a verse in Exodus and in Zechariah. Go to those books and read the whole chapter that the quoted verse comes from. The whole chapter/context is what John is referring to, not the partial verse written in the NT.


Now that some of you are spending time reading the Bible alot, you are finding it harder to understand then you imagined (or hoped). Even if you are reading these blogs, reading commentary notes in your Bibles, or even journaling about the Scriptures, actually reading the Scriptures isn't always the easiest thing. One way to make it more understandable is find a different translation of the Bible.

Copy and past the following link into your browser and visit...


There you will find a site where you can read any passage of the Bible in over two dozen translations of English. There you will find the KJV, the Message, NASB, and others. For some of you, reading from The Message might be a good alternative. It is a very readable English translation that puts the Scripture in very modern mode of speaking/story telling. I have used the Message for years and highly recommend it. You can read your weekly assignments online through this website and see if you like the translation. If you really like it, you can go and buy your own copy, or just keep using Biblegateway.com and get it for free.

A link is available on the blogsite. Enjoy!

The Plagues of Egypt

For those of you who have read this story many, many times, this too familiar story might be one you read through quickly. A helpful way to go through it (again) is to pause and imagine what it must have been like for families to have only bloodwater, frogs everywhere, or monstrous hail falling. Taking time to put yourself in their shoes, and imagining the impact of such a cataclysmic event can help the story come alive. Also try and imagine how the Egyptians are reacting to Pharoh, to Moses and the people. What kind of misinformation is spreading about the cause of these problems? How is it that such amazing things can happen and people will still not turn to God? What would it take for God to get someone's attention?

There is some speculation about why God used plagues to force Pharoah to let the Egyptians go, and why there were ten of them. One popular theory is that each plague was an attack on an Egyptian god. The god of the Nile is shown to be impotent when Israel's God turns it to blood; the god of the livestock is shown to be a nothing when all the animals die, etc. There is probably some significance with the number ten, since God would give Moses the Ten Commandments (why ten, there were plenty of commandments they were given...).

Whatever the reason for these ten plagues, part of God's purpose was to reveal his superiority to the Israelites. They had not heard from him in over four hundred years (a long, long time...easy to forget your past in that amount of time.) God is about to take his people through the Wilderness to a new land...he has to show his power and care for them, and his ability to conquer their enemies. The plagues establish this...sort of...the people of God have great capacity to doubt him...especially in the face of difficult situations...even on the heels of dramatic interventions.

What do you think it will take for God to prove to you that he is strong enough, and bigger than your problems? In the work of Christ on the cross, He has demonstrated both his love for you, and his willingness to take care of your problems. If he is willing to take care of your eternal problem, he is willing to help you through your current problems.

Don't always be looking for God to do the big spectacular stuff, look for him to be doing the quiet, subversive stuff in your life. The longer the cure, the more complete the healing. Quick fixes won't cure long-term problems. Diets don't help you lose weight. Lifestyle changes do.

Where are you at these days? Stubborn like Pharoh? Following like Moses?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Detroit Rescue Mission and the Detroit Tigers

At the beginning of October I wrote about the Detroit Rescue Mission, my Grandpa Stucky's uncle founded it almost a hundred years ago. You can read about it in the blog titled "Ministry on 3rd St and Third Avenue"

Today in the Sports section of USAToday, on an article about the Detroit Tigers and the impact the World Series is having on the city, they mentioned the Rescue Mission. Had I not had the history lesson from my mom, I would have ignored the reference.

Apparently the Detroit Rescue Mission set up a huge big screen TV in their center so that all the homeless people they serve could enjoy the whole series. They provided places to sit, free healthy food and drinks, and they decked out the place in Tigers stuff. What a great idea!

Pretty cool Rescue Mission. You can visit their website at www.drmm.org

Makes me proud to be a Stucky.

Emma & Levi - the TechnoKids

Saturday evening Tara and I upgraded our wireless phones. Tara's mom came over to watch Emma, Levi and Isaac for the hour, while we drove to Jefferson Pointe, to the Verizon Wireless store to check out a new phone model.

So we get into the store and look at the gajillion models in there. Thin phones, fat phones, tall phones, phone gadgets for your ears, for your waist, for your purse, games and software for your phone. We just wanted a phone...that's it - a simple cell phone. No picture taking, video recording, music playing, game playing phone. Just a normal phone. Apparently they don't make those kind anymore.

So we get the phones, each of us have one, and we drive home. Tara and I walk in the door, Emma and Levi come charging at us. Emma runs up to me and asks where we were. I reply that we went to get new phones. Her reply: "Did you get one that takes pictures?"

How did she know to ask that?!?

We asked her to repeat her question, just to make sure we heard her right. So then we grilled her about how she knew that there were phones that took pictures. We didn't get a good answer. I don't even know that she's ever seen a phone that takes pictures. Amazing.

Then she wants to see my phone, as if she is going to examine my purchase and grade me on my choice of upgraded technology. It's as if she is comparing my phone to all the other ones that she has reviewed. She looked it over, trying to figure out how to take a picture. I couldn't believe it. I get my phone back from Emma by declaring that I don't know how to use my new phone - I'm technologically stupid. Give me back my phone before you embarass me.

Of course Levi has observed the whole thing. So when Emma finally gives me my phone back, he grunts and indicates that now HE wants to examine my phone. He flips it open, starts punching buttons and is totally engrossed in this new toy. Amazing.

I had to persuade him to give me my phone back so that I could learn how to use it. He relunctantly assented.

On Sunday evening Emma was helping type in info for my hotel reservations. She then told me she wanted to practice her typing on my Mac laptop. As she was working on her composition skills (at three years old) I tried to explain to her the significance of her actions, tried to help her understand her place in human history as a child typing on an advanced computing machine that could accomplish amazing feats. She gave me a blank stare.

Emma then asked me how to send an email. Amazing.

Job's Friends

What do you say to a man grieving amidst a trajedy? What words do you use for a woman with a broken-heart?

Job is a lesson in what NOT to say to someone enduring a difficult time.

In our Scripture reading through Job, we've read the first response of Eliphaz to Job, and we've read a portion of Job's response to Eliphaz. Argumentative would be a good adjective for Job's response. Accusatory would be a good description for Eliphaz's.

Maybe this style isn't so bad, sometimes the awkwardness that people demonstrate around grieving, hurting people is worse then the controversial statements that some venture to make.

No... after thinking about it for a minute, I'd prefer silence. If you don't have anything helpful to say, don't say anything at all. Of course this phrase wouldn't apply to anyone because everyone qualifies their statements to people in pain as "helpful."

But for those thoughtful people who know that they have nothing to say, they make the other tragic mistake: they don't show up! They figure that if they have nothing to say, they should stay away. Yes, that is so helpful, stay away so that the struggling person can add lonliness to his long list of woes.

Eliphaz and his friends show up and spend SEVEN DAYS in SILENCE with Job. What a gift they are to him. Now if only they had left after the week of weeping. But then again, the dialogue they have with Job is essential to all of them gaining a better understanding of what is going on. Only in dialogue can people try to make sense of their complicated lives. If Eliphaz and friends had not shown up, God would not have shown up.

Note throughout the book of Job that the four friends who make speeches are trying to help Job understand why he is suffering; AND they are trying to figure out why Job is suffering. It doesn't make sense to them, and his suffering messes up their understanding of how the world works, and how God works.

So, if you are suffering, let people be with you, and let them make stupid comments; they are only trying to make sense of the complicated situation. If you have a friend going through a hard time, it is essential that you show up; say something if you want, say nothing if you want - either way it may be awkward...BUT IT IS BETTER THEN NOT SHOWING UP!!!!!

Enjoy Job...it is classic ancient poetry - you renaissance man you!


Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Gospel of John

Did you notice how much the topic of truth came up in the gospel reading this week?

Chapter 16 talked about the Spirit of truth, getting in trouble because of the truth

Chapter 17 Jesus prayed that the truth might be made known

Chapter 18 Jesus declares to Pilate that whoever knows truth knows Him - to which Pilate famously replies, "What is truth?"

When you think about Jesus' murder from a human perspective, it was his truth-telling that got him killed. From a religious perspective they labeled him a blasphemer. From a political perspective they labeled him an insurrectionist. If you are a religious leader with political power, Jesus is a huge threat. Jesus is more popular with the crowds then the religious leaders in power, and thus Jesus could undermine the influence and prestige of these leaders. The religious leaders murdered Jesus more so for their own positional security then for blasphemy (that was their key word for smoke-screening their real motives). Jesus' actions and words exposed the motives of the leaders, he was such a contrast and elicited such a hateful response from them.

So that is an overgeneralized overview of why the religious leaders with political power wanted Jesus assasinated (funny how assasination is still a popular form of silencing opposing voices...); but why did the crowds clamour for his death?

Maybe it was disillusionment. Maybe it was because they couldn't handle the truth? Or, what I think is more likely...they didn't like the reality Jesus was offering, so they silenced his voice. They wanted Jesus to say what they wanted him to say. And the only way to stop Jesus was to terminate him.

The Jesus of John 16-18 is a fascinating character. His final speech in chapter 16 just doesn't have the same ring as William Wallace at Sterling, of Aragorn at Helm's Deep. His speech actually leaves his disciples confused and more worried then when he started the speech, and then when they do think they understand him and declare some kind of tentative confidence, Jesus admonishes them and then tries to comfort them. I'm not sure Jesus the Good Shepherd means that he was cuddly and patted people on the head when they got a right answer. I think Jesus was hard to take sometimes, he just didn't seem to know how to say the right thing at the right time, not what you'd expect. Take his speech to Pilate, no wonder Pilate said what he said, he probably didn't understand what Jesus was saying.

Chapter 17 is called Jesus' Priestly Prayer - it is the longest prayer of Jesus recorded in Scripture. Just as the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6 is often described as a pattern of prayer, the same could be said of this prayer - except it's alot longer. Maybe this was the pattern of prayer Jesus used when he would get alone in the mountainsides. Beautiful prayer.

So, don't put Jesus in a box.

Jesus will usually act contrary to popular opinion and wishes.

Jesus gets along with children just fine, but he gets under the skin of religious adults.

Jesus only speaks the truth and always has greater power then the people he is around, which means others get jealous of him and resent him.

Jesus sees right through you - there is no posing, no ulterior motives, no masks, no faked naivety, no false pretensions...he sees it and usually calls you out on it.

If you pursue truth, you'll find Jesus. If you find Jesus, you'll find truth. This is a hard road to take. Narrow, I believe he called it. Not many people really want to know the truth - they just want the world to make sense, and often times the truth of something is too hard to work into the preconceived ideas people hold in their heads about this life.

But the truth will set you free, especially if it is truth grounded in Jesus. (This is not a religious statement, it is philosophical).

In the words of Jesus, "I give them a mission in the world. I'm consecrating myself for their sakes. So they'll be truth-consecrated in their mission." (John 17, The Message).

Friday, October 20, 2006

Islamic Middle East, Christian America, 9/11/01

This fall at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School I am taking a course called Anthropology for Missions, in it we learn how to study culture. One of our assignments is to read anthropological journals and find articles with insights for ministry. The article below is a revised version of one I found in American Anthropologist, Vol. 104, No 3 September 2002. It concerns Ameria's view of Muslims and gives some (not all) of the reasons for why "terrorists" exist and why "they hate us."

The article at first was a bit hard to read, but once into it I found myself disgusted, enlightened, and perplexed. America is not what you think. Global Islam is not what you think. Global Christianity is not what you think. Everything is more complex than one realizes, which is why people resort to overgeneralizations as a means to make some kind of sense of the world.

I hate what terrorists (who are Muslim) did to American on 9/11.

I hate what intelligence operatives (who are Chrisitans) did to Afghanistan in the Cold War.

You reap what you sow.

Blessed are the peacemakers.

Blessed are you when people persecute you for doing what is right.

I'd be suprised if anybody reads this whole article, it is lengthy...but if you want a fresh historical perspective on how Terrorism and America met on 9/11, do read this article.


Good Muslim, Bad Muslim – An African Perspective
Mahmood Mamdani, Herbert Lehman Professor of Government and Anthropology, Columbia University

Ever since September 11, there has been a growing media interest in Islam. What is the link, many seem to ask, between Islam and terrorism?The Spectator, a British weekly, carried a lead article a few weeks ago that argued that the link was not with all of Islam, but with a very literal interpretation of it. This version, Wahhabi Islam, it warned, was dominant in Saudi Arabia, from where it had been exported both to Afghanistan and the US. This argument was echoed widely in many circles, more recently in the New York Times. This article is born of dissatisfaction with the new wisdom that we must tell apart the Good Muslim from the Bad Muslim.

Culture Talk

Is our world really divided into two, so that one part makes culture and the other is a prisoner of culture? Are there really two meanings of culture? Does culture stand for creativity, for what being human is all about, in one part of the world? But in the other part of the world, it stands for habit, for some kind of instinctive activity, whose rules are inscribed in early founding texts, usually religious, and museumized in early artifacts?

When I read of Islam in the papers these days, I often feel I am reading of museumized peoples. I feel I am reading of people who are said not to make culture, except at the beginning of creation, as some extraordinary, prophetic, act. After that, it seems they just conform to culture. Their culture seems to have no history, no politics, and no debates. It seems just to have petrified into a lifeless custom.

Even more, these people seem incapable of transforming their culture, the way they seem incapable of growing their own food. The implication is that their only salvation lies, as always, in philanthropy, in being saved from the outside.

When I read this, or something like this, I wonder if this world of ours is after all divided into two: on the one hand, savages who must be saved before they destroy us all and, on the other, the civilized whose burden it is to save all?

We are now told to give serious attention to culture. It is said that culture is now a matter of life and death.

But is it really true that people’s public behavior, specifically their political behavior, can be read from their religion? Could it be that a person who takes his or her religion literally is a potential terrorist? And only someone who thinks of the text as not literal, but as metaphorical or figurative, is better suited to civic life and the tolerance it calls for?

How, one may ask, does the literal reading of religious texts translate into hijacking, murder, and terrorism?

Some may object that I am presenting a caricature of what we read in the press. After all, is there not less and less talk of the clash of civilizations, and more and more talk of the clash inside civilizations? Is that not the point of the articles I referred to earlier, those in The Spectator and The New York Times? After all, we are now told to distinguish between good Muslims and bad Muslims. Mind you, not between good and bad persons, nor between criminals and civic citizens, who both happen to be Muslims, but between good Muslims and bad Muslims.

We are told that there is a fault line running through Islam, a line that divides moderate Islam, called genuine Islam, and extremist political Islam. The terrorists of September 11, we are told, did not just hijack planes; it is said that they also hijacked Islam, meaning genuine Islam!

Here is one version of the argument that the clash is inside – and not between – civilizations. It is my own construction, but it is not a fabrication. I think of it as an enlightened version, because it does not just speak of the other, but also of self. It has little trace of ethnocentrism. This is how it goes.

Islam and Christianity have one thing in common. Both share a deeply messianic orientation. Each has a conviction that it possesses the truth. Both have a sense of mission to civilize the world. Both consider the world beyond a sea of ignorance, one that needs to be redeemed. Think, for example, of the Arabic word al-Jahaliya, which I have always known to mean the domain of ignorance.

This conviction is so deep-seated that it is even found in its secular version, as in the old colonial notion of “a civilizing mission,” or in its more racialized version, “the White Man’s Burden.” Or simply, in the 19th century American conviction of a “manifest destiny.”

In both cultures, Christian and Muslim, these notions have been the subject of prolonged debates. Even if you should claim to know what is good for humanity, how do you proceed? By persuasion or force? Do you convince others of the validity of your truth or do you proceed by imposing it on them? The first alternative gives you reason and evangelism; the second gives you the Crusades.

Take the example of Islam, and the notion of Jihad, which roughly translated means struggle. A student of mine gave me a series of articles written by the Pakistani academic and journalist, Eqbal Ahmed, in the Karachi-based newspaper, Dawn. In one of these articles, Eqbal distinguished between two broad traditions in the understanding of Jihad. The first, called “little Jihad,” thinks of Jihad as a struggle against external enemies of Islam. It is an Islamic version of the Christian notion of “just war”. The second, called “big Jihad,” thinks of Jihad as more of a spiritual struggle against the self in a contaminated world.

All of this is true, but I don’t think it explains terrorism. I remain deeply skeptical that we can read people’s political behavior from their religion, or from their culture. Remember, it was not so long ago that some claimed that the behavior of others could be read from their genes. Could it be true that an orthodox Muslim is a potential terrorist? Or, the same thing, that an Orthodox Jew is a potential terrorist and only a Reform Jew is capable of being tolerant of those who do not share his convictions?

I am aware that this does not exhaust the question of culture and politics. How do you make sense of politics that consciously wears the mantle of religion? Take, for example the politics of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida, both of whom claim to be waging a Jihad, a just war against the enemies of Islam? How do we make sense of this?

I want to suggest that we turn the cultural theory of politics on its head. Rather than see this politics as the outcome of an archaic culture, I suggest we see neither the culture not the politics as archaic, but both as very contemporary outcomes of equally contemporary conditions, relations and conflicts. Instead of dismissing history and politics as does culture talk, I suggest we place cultural debates in historical and political contexts. Terrorism is not a cultural residue in modern politics. Rather, terrorism is a modern construction. Even when it tries to harness one or another aspect of tradition and culture, it puts this at the service of a modern project.

In what follows, I would like to offer you a perspective on contemporary terrorism from an African vantage point.

An African Perspective on Contemporary Terrorism

Eqbal Ahmed writes of a television image from 1985, of Ronald Reagan meeting a group of turbaned men, all Afghani, all leaders of the Mujaheddin. After the meeting, Reagan brought them out into the White House lawn, and introduced them to the media in these words: “These gentlemen are the moral equivalents of America’s founding fathers.”

This was the moment when official America tried to harness one version of Islam in a struggle against the Soviet Union. Before exploring the politics of it, let me clarify the historical moment.

1975 was the year of American defeat in Indochina. 1975 was also the year the Portuguese empire collapsed in Africa. It was the year the center of gravity of the Cold War shifted from Southeast Asia to Southern Africa. The question was: who would pick up the pieces of the Portuguese empire, the US or the Soviet Union?

As the center of gravity of the Cold War shifted, from Southeast Asia to Southern Africa, there was also a shift in US strategy. The Nixon Doctrine had been forged towards the closing years of the Vietnam War but could not be implemented at that late stage – the doctrine that “Asian boys must fight Asian wars” – was really put into practice in Southern Africa. In practice, it translated into a US decision to harness, or even to cultivate, terrorism in the struggle against regimes it considered pro-Soviet. In Southern Africa, the immediate result was a partnership between the US and apartheid South Africa, accused by the UN of perpetrating “a crime against humanity.” Reagan termed this new partnership “constructive engagement.”

South Africa became both conduit and partner of the US in the hot war against those governments in the region considered pro-Soviet. This partnership bolstered a number of terrorist movements: Renamo in Mozambique, and Unita in Angola. Their terrorism was of a type Africa had never seen before. It was not simply that they were willing to tolerate a higher level of civilian casualties in military confrontations – what official America nowadays calls collateral damage. The new thing was that these terrorist movements specifically targeted civilians. It sought specifically to kill and maim civilians, but not all of them. Always, the idea was to leave a few to go and tell the story, to spread fear. The object of spreading fear was to paralyze government.

In another decade, the center of gravity of the Cold War shifted to Central America, to Nicaragua and El Salvador. And so did the center of gravity of US-sponsored terrorism. The Contras were not only tolerated and shielded by official America; they were actively nurtured and directly assisted, as in the mining of harbors.

The shifting center of gravity of the Cold War was the major context in which Afghanistan policy was framed. But it was not the only context. The minor context was the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Ayatullah Khomeini anointed official America as the “Great Satan,” and official Islam as “American Islam.” But instead of also addressing the issues – the sources of resentment against official America – the Reagan administration hoped to create a pro-American Islamic lobby.

The grand plan of the Reagan administration was two-pronged. First, it drooled at the prospect of uniting a billion Muslims around a holy war, a Crusade, against the evil empire. I use the word Crusade, not Jihad, because only the notion of Crusade can accurately convey the frame of mind in which this initiative was taken. Second, the Reagan administration hoped to turn a religious schism inside Islam, between minority Shia and majority Sunni, into a political schism. Thereby, it hoped to contain the influence of the Iranian Revolution as a minority Shia affair.

This is the context in which an American/Saudi/Pakistani alliance was forged, and religious madresas turned into political schools for training cadres. The Islamic world had not seen an armed Jihad for centuries. But now the CIA was determined to create one. It was determined to put a version of tradition at the service of politics. We are told that the CIA looked for a Saudi Prince to lead this Crusade. It could not find a Prince. But it settled for the next best, the son of an illustrious family closely connected to the royal family. This was not a backwater family steeped in pre-modernity, but a cosmopolitan family. The Bin Laden family is a patron of scholarship. It endows programs at universities like Harvard and Yale.

The CIA created the Mujaheddin and Bin Laden as alternatives to secular nationalism. Just as, in another context, the Israeli intelligence created Hamas as an alternative to the secular PLO.

Contemporary “fundamentalism” is a modern project, not a traditional leftover. When the Soviet Union was defeated in Afghanistan, this terror was unleashed on Afghanistan in the name of liberation. As different factions fought over the liberated country – the Northern Alliance against the Taliban – they shelled and destroyed their own cities with artillery.

The Question of Responsibility

To understand the question of who bears responsibility for the present situation, it will help to contrast two situations, that after the Second World War and that after the Cold War, and compare how the question of responsibility was understood and addressed in two different contexts.

In spite of Pearl Harbor, World War Two was fought in Europe and Asia, not in the US. It was not the US which faced physical and civic destruction at the end of the war. The question of responsibility for postwar reconstruction did not just arise as a moral question; it arose as a political question. In Europe, its urgency was underlined by the changing political situation in Yugoslavia, Albania, and particularly, Greece. This is the context in which the US accepted responsibility for restoring conditions for decent life in noncommunist Europe. That initiative was called the Marshall Plan.

The Cold War was not fought in Europe, but in Southeast Asia, in Southern Africa, and in Central America. Should we, ordinary humanity, hold official America responsible for its actions during the Cold War? Should official America be held responsible for napalm bombing and spraying Agent Orange in Vietnam? Should it be held responsible for cultivating terrorist movements in Southern Africa and Central America?

Perhaps no other society paid a higher price for the defeat of the Soviet Union than did Afghanistan. Out of a population of roughly 15 million, a million died, another million and a half were maimed, and another five million became refugees. Afghanistan was a brutalized society even before the present war began.

After the Cold War and right up to September 10 of this year, the US and Britain compelled African countries to reconcile with terrorist movements. The demand was that governments must share power with terrorist organizations in the name of reconciliation – as in Mozambique, in Sierra Leone, and in Angola.

If terrorism was an official American Cold War brew, it was turned into a local Sierra Leonean or Angolan or Mozambican or Afghani brew after the Cold War. Whose responsibility is it? Like Afghanistan, are these countries hosting terrorism, or are they also hostage to terrorism? I think both.

Official America has a habit of not taking responsibility for its own actions. Instead, it habitually looks for a high moral pretext for inaction. I was in Durban at the World Congress Against Racism (WCAR) when the US walked out of it. The Durban conference was about major crimes of the past, about racism, and xenophobia, and related crimes. I returned from Durban to listen to Condoleeza Rice talk about the need to forget slavery because, she said, the pursuit of civilized life requires that we forget the past.

It is true that, unless we learn to forget, life will turn into revenge-seeking. Each of us will have nothing but a catalogue of wrongs done to a long line of ancestors. But civilization cannot be built on just forgetting. We must not only learn to forget, we must also not forget to learn. We must also memorialize, particularly monumental crimes. America was built on two monumental crimes: the genocide of the Native American and the enslavement of the African American. The tendency of official America is to memorialize other peoples’ crimes and to forget its own – to seek a high moral ground as a pretext to ignore real issues.


I would like to conclude with the question of responsibility. It is a human tendency to look for others in times of adversity. We seek friends and allies in times of danger. But in times of prosperity, the short-sighted tend to walk away from others. This is why prosperity, and not adversity, is the real litmus test of how we define community. The contemporary history of Southern Africa, Central America, and Afghanistan testifies to this tendency.

Modernity in politics is about moving from exclusion to inclusion, from repression to incorporation. By including those previously excluded, we give those previously alienated a stake in things. By doing so, we broaden the bounds of lived community, and of lived humanity. That perhaps is the real challenge today. It is the recognition that the good life cannot be lived in isolation.

I think of civilization as a constant creation whereby we gradually expand the boundaries of community, the boundaries of those with whom we share the world – this is why it is so grotesque to see bombs and food parcels raining on the defenseless people of Afghanistan from the same source.

Social Science Research Council | 810 Seventh Avenue | New York, NY 10019 USA | 212-377-2700/2727 fax

I Love Coffee Crisp!

NESTLÉ ® COFFEE CRISP™ bar is finally coming to the USA!
For years you've been waiting for COFFEE CRISP to cross the Canadian border and come to the US. Many of you have called our offices, written letters, and even created a COFFEE CRISP fan website! We're thrilled to let you know that at last we're heeding your call. After all this time, we're finally bringing COFFEE CRISP to the US.

You can find COFFEE CRISP at the following stores near you - like Scott's on 14/Scott Rd.

Clink on the link below to visit the Official Coffee Crisp website.


Click here (or copy paste into your browser) to visit the Fan Club of the Coffee Crisp

What other candy bar has a fan club like Coffee Crisp!

If you've never tried one, and you like coffee, you'll love Coffee Crisp too!

Having grown up in Canada, we took our Coffee Crisp for granted. When we moved to Michigan, we were distressed to find a famine of Coffee Crisp in America. Funny how Americans can act so snobby towards Canadiens, and yet they don't have any Coffee Crisp...wierdos.

Several weeks ago I went to Scott's on an early Saturday morning run to get maple syrup and maple link sausages for our weekly tradition of pancake and sausage breakfast (Emma, Levi and Isaac all help make it), when in the foreign food aisle (it was a shortcut to the back of the store), there laid a Coffee Crisp...not just one Coffee Crisp, not just two Coffee Crisp, but almost a dozen of them!!!!! I bought five of them on the spot and took them home and held them up for my wife and children to see...my eyes glistened as I announced with great pride "Coffee Crisps are in America!!!!!". I bought a Coffee Crisp for each person in my family. Then I made Isaac and Levi split one so I could secretly eat theirs later!

I hear that Meijers may carry them as well...at least that is what the website said.

The next time you're out, grap one, buy it, unwrap it and savor the light chocolate and coffee wafer delight that millions of Canadiens have savored for decades. They cost about $1.29. It is worth it!!!!! I just bought three more the other day (one for me and for my parents...they weren't quite as excited as I was about it, but they smiled when I told them about it). Since my wife is pregnant, maybe I'll let her have mine...which shows you how much I adore and treasure my wife.

In case you missed the point of this note: I LOVE COFFEE CRISP!


P.S. October is Pastor Appreciation Month...If everybody in the church bought me just one Coffee Crisp apiece, I'd be set for the rest of the year!!!

P.P.S. Cut and paste this link to read a Fox News report about this candy bar:


I Can't Believe the Mets Lost!!! Aarrgh...

What was Willie Randolph thinking? Why oh why did he stick in Billy "I let people hit homeruns off of me" Wagner? Wagner lost if for the Astros last year...no wonder they let him go. I'm sure he's a nice guy, and I'm sure he feels real bad about letting Molina hit a two-run shot over left field...but why did he have to throw such an easy pitch to crush...in the ninth inning, no less. And what was Beltran thinking...he gets struck out looking? He's paid millions of dollars to hit RBI's, two men on with two out, bottom of the ninth...you don't go out looking at strike three!

Chavez redeemed himself by snagging a homerun from Rolen...Chavez popped out in earlier innings with two outs and with bases loaded, and prior to that at-bat, popped out with two men on base. Mets had their chance to win it...they let the Cardinals back into the series. Oh well...

Go Tigers!!!!!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Psalms

What do you think of the Psalms?

I know of some people who don't really care for them that much, they prefer Proverbs or Ecclesiastes instead.

What about you?

The Psalms are emotional, intense, creative, expressive, direct, bold, sometimes unnerving and uncomfortable. But they are enduring...some of these Psalms date back to David, King of Israel around 1000BC! That is over 3000 years ago...you are reading ancient poetry...don't let that fact slip away too easily. Yes it is Scripture, so it is timeless, but it is also a product of human imagination, devotion, hopes and fears, etc. It is rooted in a culture, a society, a worldview, a set of values, a frame of mind, an attitude that is unique to humanity. The Psalms can be meaningful without knowing the context under which it was written, but they can't really be understood. If you want to match understanding and meaningfulness to your Psalm reading, do some background study on the Psalms.

The Psalms are poetry, they are songs used for worship in the Temple of God. They are not ditties put together based on musical preferences (we prefer music based on music style - country, rock, jazz, etc). For us it doesn't really matter what the words say in a song, as long as they are catchy and true and the melody is palatable. With Hebrew singing the rhythm of the song was not that big of deal, but the ideas expressed in the song meant everything, they were the point of the song/psalm/poem/hymn.

Psalms fall under several different categories: Psalms of Lament (expressing sorrow, grief, etc); Psalms of Praise/Thankfulness (expressing gratitude towards God, exalting His characteristics and actions), Psalms of Wisdom (expressing the right way to live); Psalms of Royalty (expressing God's rule over His people). These are the basic categories, so now when you read a Psalm, try and identify what category it fits in and see if that opens up some more meaning to you...what is the psalmist lamenting? for what is he praising/thanking God? etc.

The Psalms are a legitimate source of theology - they are not just overexaggerations about God and his work. The Prophets and Jesus and Paul all quote the Psalms to make theological points about God and his Work in the world.

What a people sing is what a people value. (It was not uncommon, and even today it is not uncommon for devout orthodox Jews to memorize all 150 psalms. People memorize/remember what they value. (That is why wives always hit their husbands when they can't confidently state a birthday or wedding anniversary date at the spur of the moment).

What do you remember or memorize? Is it worth it? What benefit might come for you to remember or memorize differnent ideas/truths about life/yourself?

Maybe you need to reread Psalm 1 - it is the gateway for understanding the purpose of the Psalms. (Be sure to note the tree metaphor.)

Peace to you...


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

From Genesis to Exodus

The last two weeks of reading takes us from the story of Jacob and Joseph to the story of Moses and Aaron. Israel leaves the Promised Land and takes refuge in Egypt (like Jesus). While in Egypt they flourish, and then face brutal racism. And God hears their cry.

Several things to note in this story transition: remember that one of the purposes of Genesis is to give background to future characters, families and nations. The part of the story where Jacob blesses his sons and describes their futures was significant as background to future events (like Judah, for example...do you know why?). When Jacob blessed Ephraim instead of Mannaseh, did it remind you of another story? Again, this recorded event will come into play later in the life of the nation.

Did you know that the ancients would place their hand on the thigh of another man to make an oath - the thigh is the strongest muscle in the body, so it was figured that this act signified a strong bond of trust (we think it is normal to shake hands...an act that might strike them as very weird, if not wrong).

The Israelites were shepherds, do you remember what Joseph said about Egyptians and their view of the Israelite preoccupation? Sheepherding is an ancient occupation, one that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob prospered at, as well as cattle ranching and farming. But by the time we get to Exodus, there is no mention of Israel as shehperds, but as brick builders and slaves for the great construction projects of ancient Egypt. Why do you think they made the transition from prosperous shepherds to enslaved construction workers? Remember the famine, what did people have to do to get food to eat (thanks to Joseph's own policies!).

Egypt is a very dry place, except for where the Nile River runs through it (do you know which direction the river flows?). Egypt would be the home of Jacob's family for around 400 years...that is along time...along time for people to remember their God, their heritage, their historic occupations, their destiny, their identity. Egypt will take on much significance in the stories to come...

What about Moses, did you notice how often God got angry with him...what foreshadowing does that have for the nation as a whole? Note the confusion the people have, when they trust God and Moses, life gets harder before it gets better...how is that true in your life? Are you in Egypt? Do you need an Exodus? Do you need a New Genesis?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Hey Jude!

I have to admit...I'm behind on my reading. This past week was crazy. I'll get caught up soon though. Are some of you struggling with getting started? Staying with it? Catching up? Just do what you can. Read some everyweek. Tim Bauman suggested reading some sitting in your car before you head into work. Any other ideas to suggest?

About Jude...did you enjoy reading this short letter? It's kind of a weird epistle, the content includes a fascinating list of legendary, historical, and spiritual references to make a point: keep the faith, don't lost heart, stay holy, stick with Jesus.

Some interesting things to note: He is the brother of James (they guy who wrote the book you just finished reading the week before, which makes him a brother of Jesus Christ! Kind of a neat legacy for Jesus, two brothers contributing to the NT).

He says that Jesus led the people out of Egypt, though in Exodus it says that Moses did it.

He uses Sodom and Gomorrah as an example of how not to live.

He includes a legendary story about Michael the Archangel and the Devil - nowhere in Scripture does this little tiff get mentioned except here- and Jude uses it to teach how to respond to blasphemy...interesting use of legend.

He refers to Cain, Balaam, and Korah to discourage rebelliousness - do you know who he is referring to?

And the reference to Enoch? The quote comes from the Apocraphya...writings that Protestants don't include as Scripture, but the Catholics and Orthodox do.

Last observation, the prayer that Jude gives us to wrap up his letter is one of the most beautiful of the testament.

Why is this letter of Jude in the NT? You (and Jude's friends) live in a world where it is hard to stay with Jesus. It is easy to drift from Him. Do you feel like you are drifting? You never know you're drifting if you're eyes are on the boat or the water, only if you have the eyes up on the horizon... Have you been downcast lately? Downcastedness usually leads to drifting... Look up to Jesus. Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling...


Monday, October 16, 2006

Eight Years @ Anchor...

Sunday was a fun day for me. Parties are always fun, and I always enjoy our potlucks - especially the desserts. I was a bit disappointed there weren't more of them at this last potluck...there certainly was plenty of main courses though. Potlucks are always somewhat nostalgic for me, I remember as a kid meeting in the church basement, hanging out with all the other fifth graders, eating way too much good food. And desserts. Sometimes there were more desserts then main course...just the way I like it.

Hey, this post is supposed to be about Anchor...anyway, good potluck on Sunday.

Eight years...It's been a great time at Anchor...some of it has been very hard, but a lot of it has been very good.

If you want to walk down memory lane, go to the Anchor website and check out some of the pictures, there are lots of them there organized by year and event.

I think for me there have been different phases of my experience at Anchor. There was the start-up phase October 1998 - Summer 2000. There was the Hard Times phase Summer 2000 - Winter 2003. There was Lots of Change phase Spring 2003 - Spring 2007.

It's been a huge learning curve, being a pastor and starting a church. I've learned alot about people, about religion, about organizations, about expectations, about sin, about sorrow, about joy, about patience, about anger and frustration, about reconciliation, about deliverance, about failures, about getting back up, about trust, about letting go, about being content, about being ambitious, about being a leader, about being a teacher, about being a student, about being a husband, about being a father, about being a son, about being a brother, about being a nephew, about being an uncle, about being a friend, about being an acquaintance, about being...and becoming.

Some of my good memories of Anchor: the 2001 Mexico Mission Trip, the first Anchor anniversary 1999, the Tony/Marsha wedding 2005, softball and soccer, mens discipleship group, the Willow Creek Conference in 2003, the Neighborhood Relandscape Project 2006, and singing in church with my kids and wife. I also like to preach...I really, really enjoy it, alot.

What are some of your memories from the past eight years? We've had a lot of people come and bless Anchor, and Anchor has seen a lot of people go, to bless other churches and people. And we have lots and lots of people here as Anchor...which keeps me grateful and glad.

By the way - the best years are yet to come!


Saturday, October 14, 2006

Tigers Win! Tigers Win! Tigers Win!

Did you see Ordonez's homerun? What a swing! What a hit! What a run!

Normally I would despise the Tigers. The animoisty was stoked while in middle school. I had just moved from Ontario, Canada to Michigan, USA. At that time, the Blue Jays and Tigers (1987) were both very competitve and big rivals. I was persecuted for my beliefs in the superiority of the Jays, but the infidel supporters of the Tigers could not dampen my enthusiasm for my team. But now almost twenty years later (did I just write that...twenty years!!! that's two decades...that's a long, long, long time...anyway), the Jays aren't able to compete with the Yankees or Bosox (teams which are a disgrace to the MLB).

So now the Tigers are hot, and I'll cheer for them instead of the Jays. I am a fan of the Cubs, but only because I like rooting for the underdog...which means I'll always be a Cubbie fan. The Tigers have been underdogs for years, which makes their spot in the world series so cool!

I love MLB playoffs...I try to watch all of the games, it's nostalgic. I remember watching MLB games as a little tyke up in the cold hinterland of Canada...we'd only get three channels in those days, and one of them was in French. Fortunately MLB was in English! Go Tigers!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Visitation in a Hospice Home

Today I visited in a hospice home with a long time member of our church. I've never been in a hospice center before. This particular one in Fort Wayne - Visiting Nurse and Hospice Home - is a beautiful facility on Homestead Road.

What was more beautiful was the atmosphere in the room, the attitude of Phyllis and her family. You only enter a hospice home if you are on the verge of death. You don't normally walk out of one alive, unless you went there prematurely. In hanging out with the Helvie family, I was moved by the total comfortableness they had with being there. Phyllis even said she had perfect peace about coming there... later she retracted the word perfect - at least she's honest. But it was easy to laugh about memories, talk candidly about facing death, to speak movingly about appreciating each day that comes.

Phyllis' daughter-in-law remarked that God must still want them to be together, since she'd been in the hospice home for over two weeks. It was clear that there was much affection and kindness being exuded in a most natural fashion amongst everyone. Life is on hold for the whole family, on standby, waiting for the phone call to come to the hospice home for that last moment together this side of heaven.

We talked about the advantage of taking plenty of time to prepare for death. Of making the choice to come to hospice and wait to die. But in this case, the waiting is reminescent of a daily family reunion and walks down pleasant memory lanes. And there is a strong anticipation of waking up one day adn instead of focusing eyes on the fluorescent lights on the ceiling, the eyes will be adjusting to The Light of the World...what a day that will be. Phyllis will be moving from one family reunion to another...she commented that she knows more people in Heaven than on Earth.

I read some Scripture with her - the text I am preaching from on Sunday. My theme for the sermon: become wise by binding up the brokenhearted; gain wisdom by attaching your life to one who suffers. My visit on Wednesday reminds me that this source of wisdom doesn't have to be morose. God gives beauty for ashes, joy for tears.


Joseph's Story

Have you ever seen the show, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat? I have once, while in college. My wife was played/danced in it - I think she was Zebulon's wife. Great show. I bought the soundtrack for my wife several years ago for Christmas - and my daughter "swiped" it and ended up listening and dancing to it all the time - great music. If you don't have the soundtrack - get it; if you've not seen the play, see it. And if you're like me, you've not read the story in Genesis for too long - what'd you think? Who could make up that kind of story?

Remember that one of the functions of this story is to provide historical background to how the Israelites ended up in Egypt. Moses (the supposed author) is writing this story (either while a student in Egypt or the leader in the wilderness) for his people. They've kept the oral tradition alive (who couldn't keep telling these stories!), and know he's putting it down on papyrus. People need to remember their past - where they've been, where they've come from, what they used to be, who they used to be... so that you can understand who you are becoming, where you are going, what you are doing. Joseph is what is best about Israel. Compared to the faults of Levi, Simeon, Reuben and Judah (do you remember what they're faults were? Do you know what the significance of Levi and Judah will be in the future?), Joseph is a saint. Notice that Joseph had the hand of God on him - for such a time as this (like Esther).

Do you know how Joseph proved who he was to his brothers? He lifted his skirt to show he was circumcised. (No wonder he told his attendents to leave the room!).

The phrase in chapter 37 "but his father kept the saying in mind" sounds a lot like Mary and her response to Jesus at the Temple (did you find any parallels between Jesus and Joseph...do you think Jesus annoyed anybody by being so brilliant...surely somebody got jealous!)

I found it interesting that Judah is interceeding on behalf of another, offering his life for the life of Benjamin (Judah is the ancestor of Jesus...not Joseph...how interesting!).

Joesph's name means "may he add" - how did Joseph live up to his name?

Judah's name means "praise" how did Judah not live up to his name?

Did you notice that Joseph told his brothers not to fight with each other while on their way home...what was that all about - he sounds like their father getting them ready for a long car ride.

What about Joseph's interpretation of God's reason for why Joseph is in captivity? Does that give you hope for your situation?


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Final Chapter of James

James hits the rich with a right hand hook, and then comes back with a left jab to the oppressed. This last chapter shoots straight - don't read through it quickly, unless you don't want to be convicted.

Verses 1-6 are for the rich. That is you and me. If you live in America, you are rich. Don't measure your're wealth compared to where you live in Fort Wayne, or in Indiana. If you own a car, compared to the 92% of the world's population that does not own a car - YOU ARE RICH. Which means you ought to be convicted by the words of James in this chapter. Take it personally. Go ahead and be offended...and then repent.

Verses 7-12 are for the oppressed. The disadvanaged. The abused. BE PATIENT & DON'T JUDGE! DON'T CRUMPLE UNDER INJUSTICE - let your yes be yes and your no be no...no quibbling or buttkissing to those in power.

Verses13-20 is for everyone - if you are sick or unwell, before you go to the doctor, confess your sins one to another for healing. For those of you skeptical of this verse - it would help if you didn't automatically think of broken arms, cancerous masses, and other external wounds. Most people get sick and need healing because of their lifestyle and choices - STRESS, LACK of SLEEP, EATING UNHEALTHY FOOD, Not MEDITATING are major causes of MOST ailments: high blood pressure, anxiety, heart problems, blah, blah, blah. Holding on to hurts and grudges, staying bitter or fearful, being mean or coldhearted, staying bigoted or racist, etc will ruin your health and make you sick. CONFESS YOUR SINS - get a clean heart. Asking for forgiveness from God is good, but confessing your sins to God in the presence of other believers is how you experience the forgiveness.

As your pastor I am here to hear your confessions. If someone has wronged you, or you have wronged others, and you are holding onto those wrongs in your heart, you will make wrong decisions and stay burdened. You are driving a sinful wedge between you and God and you and others. STOP IT!!!!!!!! Oh wait, that's right, you don't really sin...at least no serious sins...you just get impatient once in awhile... nothing that serious.


There has got to be more to the Christian life then is evidenced by the Christians I know.


(Does this blog entry sound a bit...harsh? I'm just trying to match the directness of James - I don't want to soften the blow of his words of wisdom. And I don't write it with a chip on my shoulder or a sense of superiority...I write it as a seeker, one who is deeply aware of my sins, but one who is also deeply aware of God's grace. But sugar-coating your life, or trying to view it as more holy then it really is won't get you anywhere. Call it for what it is...then you can move forward in Christ.)

(I also realize as a young man there are many older Christians who are wiser and holier then I am. But those Xians are also the ones who acknowledge their shortcomings and gratitude on God's grace. It's hard to handle those Christians who never seem to do anything wrong. It's hard not to be skeptical.)

(Maybe I'm being too honest with my thoughts...but it's how I see things at this point in my life...and I know I still have a lot to learn about what Christiantiy looks like in my life and in the lives of others...especially with others whose story I only know fragments.)

Monday, October 09, 2006

Psalm 119 - Letter "He" (pronounced "hchay")

I just finished up my Old Testament class on the Prophetic Books. My professor has been elaborating the point that one cannot understand the New Testament apart from the Old Testament. At first this may sound somewhat biased...of course an OT guy is going to say that to be true. But a simple reading of Jesus and Paul should quickly alert the reader that the OT is important, it is quoted directly and indirectly repeatedly throughout their teachings. As this class progressed, it became clearer and clearer to me how muddled my understanding of the Scriptures is, even after all of my studies. At first this sounds discouraging, but it is actually inspiring. Like you, I want to know my Bible better. And like you, I have so much more to learn. And like you, the more I get into it and study, the more I understand, and the more I understand, the more illumination I receive upon the truth.

This takes me to our Psalm 119 reading this past Sunday. In the ESV reading, it goes "Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statues, and I will keep it to the end". That is what Jesus did...he says in John that He only did what the Father instructed him to do...and he taught us the way of God, that we might follow it to the end. Verse 34 ends with "observe it with my whole heart" which sounds like the Great Commandment.

Basically, the more you understand the Old Testament, the more you'll understand the New Testament. Right now, in your Scripture reading, you are reading a lot of OT stuff...just know that the more you "get" the OT stuff, the more illuminating will be your NT readings. When you read the NT, be looking for OT connections.

If you have questions, post them...others are sure to have similar ones.


Saturday, October 07, 2006

Emma's Haircut

1. Emma had her hair cut for the first time on Friday.

It was a Mommy/Daughter trip, but I at least was able to convince them not to cut too much of her golden locks off.

2. They had a wonderful time, Emma even had her fingernails painted pink! Very cute.

Emma is going to be 4 in March, so she's gone a long time without even a trim.

3. Now it is Saturday night and Emma is finishing her popcorn. She watched a Strawberry Shortcake movie. Every Saturday night is bath night, and movie night with popcorn - a nice little tradition.

4. After I finish writing this sentence Emma will be going to bed; she'll brush her teeth, we'll read a story to her, she'll receive a drink of water, we'll put the book away, we'll pray together, we'll hug and kiss, and then I'll turn on the music, we'll shut off the lights and then she tells me an impromptu story. It is always fun!

5. (the numbers were Emma's idea! - she even typed them herself...she insisted)


John 10-12

This section of the gospel is chock full of good stuff. As you read, you can sense the honest struggle that people are having with Jesus - what to do with him? Soren Kierkegaard points out that people living today would react the same way to Jesus if they lived back then, or if Jesus showed up now. Jesus would be just as confusing, just as brilliant, just as disturbing, just as free, just as powerful, just as frustrating, just as compassionate, just as infuriating, just as kind, just as patient, just as honest, just as itinerant today as he was then. When you read, do you just assume that you agree with what Jesus teaches and does?

Religious people had a hard time accepting Jesus- if you're religious now, you may struggle with accepting Jesus as he really is (you may prefer a sanitized version...) (see reaction to Jesus' Good Sheperd sermon)

Political people had a hard time accepting Jesus - if you're political now, you may resent Jesus since he can either make you look like power-grabber or a people-user. (see reaction to the Triumphal Entry & Lazarus' Resurrection)

Ordinary people had a hard time accepting Jesus - if you're part of the status quo, you don't want anyone to bring change that might result in you losing some of your preferred habits and privileges. (see John's quote of Isaiah)

JesusFollowers even had a hard time with Jesus - they often didn't understand what he was teaching, didn't know why he was doing what he was doing, bickered and argued amongst themselves; misunderstood what Jesus was all about (see Martha)

Maybe that is why belief is a main theme of these three chapters - what pleases Jesus is that we start off with belief...this must mean that belief is a radical step and is NOT as easy as we think it may be. "I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness." (John 12:48)

What do you think that verse means? If you are not sure, reread John 1. What lights up your life? Don't be too quick to declare Jesus as your light...it might be worth examining what flashlights you hold in your hands as substitutes for belief in Jesus. It is hard to believe in Jesus...that's why it is so easy to live in the light of something other then Him.

"Sir, we wish to see Jesus." (John 12:21)


Ministry on 3rd Street & Third Avenue

My Mum (Canadien for "Mom") sent me the following article about the Detroit Rescue Mission. A close relative of her father started that mission in 1909. I thought that it was a fascinating piece of personal history. Here I am, a hundred years later, trying to do ministry in the same spirit like my distant relative (my Mum informed me that David Stucky was her father's father's brother). The story is different, but the calling to serve is similar. It makes me proud to be a Stucky - even though I've not met many of them. I never knew my Grandpa Stucky, he died of a heart-attack when my Mum was in college. I hear lots of stories about him though...my Mum likes to tell stories of our family history. She likes to remind me that William Wallace, the Scottish liberator of the 13th century (fictionalized in the movie Braveheart) is part of our family tree! I'm glad my Mum passed this story on to me. It inspires me - you just can't know what God will do with you or your work a hundred years after you take the first step of obedience. Faith is the ground of action, and why obedience is the sign of love.


The Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, a non-profit corporation, is committed to sharing the gospel of the love of Jesus Christ, providing hope to the hopeless, disadvantaged, abused and homeless men, women and children of our community. In "rebuilding the inner-city, one life at time" by ministering to the total person - body, soul and spirit - we help them become faithful Christians, discipled into a local church, rehabilitated, employed and living productive lives in restored families.
The Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, one of the largest organization of its type in the country, helps over 900 individuals a day. It provides a variety of programs aimed at rebuilding lives "one life at a time". Our programs include emergency shelters, medical detox unit, residential substance abuse treatment programs, transitional housing programs, teen mom's program, Veterans programs, mental health programs, permanent housing and apartments, emergency food programs , prevention programs for children and summer camp opportunites . We also provide educational, tutorial and vocational services.

The Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries was founded by David C. Stucky on February 14, 1909. He moved his family to Detroit from Saginaw with a $1.50 to get medical treatment for his daughter who was stricken with polio. When he arrived here he felt that God wanted him to open a Mission. He rented an old poultry store to house the Mission. Mr. Stucky had to borrow and beg for chairs. He did not have music because he did not have $30.00 to purchase an organ. Following a strong prompting from the Lord, Mr. Stucky went home to find a letter containing a donation of $30.00. With a thankful heart, Mr. Stucky bought an organ for the first service on February 14th. The Mission grew over the years and moved to other sites to continue to help families in need. On January 30, 1963, the Mission moved into its present location at 3535 Third Avenue, in the heart of the Cass Corridor. While operating as a soup kitchen we began to notice that we were continually seeing the same people, we also noticed that many of these individuals were addicted to drugs and that the numbers were increasing. We were thankful to be able to provide services for these indivduals, however ... because we were Christians we wanted to do more to affect a permanent change in their lives. It was then that we began expanding our scope of services so that we could affect a permanent change in the lives of these individuals.

Today we are not only providing services for those who are addicted to drugs, we are also helping families who are homeless because of poor economic conditions and other social ills that plague our communities. We are currently operating out of 11 main facilites providing an array of services and programs to help the lost, the lonely abused men, women and children become rehabilitated, employed and living productive lives in restored families.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Why I Keep My Mustang

When I was 16 my Aunts gave me a 1966 Ford Mustang. It was one of those gifts I never fathomed receiving. It was a speechless moment. I didn't deserve that car. I received it on a February night, following one of my high school basketball games. They made me drive the van home, and when I pulled up to our house, there was this car sitting on the driveway cement pad all bathed in lights with a big red bow on it. At first I wasn't sure what was going on...why was this really cool car sitting on my dad's driveway. And then came the explanation: I was supposed to get it on my birthday, but the car was not ready yet. Also, I got a huge speeding ticket days after my birthday - my parents grounded me for three months - which covered Christmas. So my aunts couldn't give me the car till my jail sentence was over. It was a very fun gift to receive and use! I obviously always drove the speed limit and obeyed every single traffic law, since my car was a precious gift to me...

It was a fun car to have in high school and college. My friends would ask to use my car to take a girl on a date. Or we would pile lots of people into it, head for town to a movie or something like that. When Tara and I got married in August, we had her Omni and my Mustang...I obviously had the coolest car! It was too cool though, cause in January when the temperature hit freezing, my heater quit working, and I didn't have enough money to fix it, and the Omni wasn't working well, and my wife didn't like driving the Mustang for reasons I'll never understand (!), so we shelved the Mustang and bought a Geo Metro!!!!! (it was black, so it was still cool to drive).

That was almost ten years ago. In those ten years I haven't driven my car very much. I've been busy, not enough money, no good reasons, afraid of messing up the engine, etc. And the car is not holding up as well. Whenever I go to my friends house for one of his kids birthday parties, a relative of his always offers to buy my Mustang. I always tell him no, but I think my wife keeps encouraging him! I don't have the money to fix it up right, or to pay insurance for it, or to keep it running. So why do I keep it?

I like to entertain the thought that someday me and the boys will spend lots of time together under the hood. My mechanic friends tell me that a 1966 Mustang is the perfect car to tinker on...I almost believe them. So I hang on to the car, even though others could take better care of it. I hang on to it because it was a gift, and I hope to use that gift to build some neat memories with my kids. Maybe someday, in 2026 my boys will be driving around a sixty year old car that they helped fix up...and when they drive it - going the speed limit and obeying all traffic laws and environmental reguluations - they'll have just as much fun remembering the stories we generated in trying to fix the car up.

I think a neat use for the car would be this: when Emma starts dating at age 29, (okay, at least maybe when she is sixteen...) I'll let her drive the Mustang for the date...or if I approve of her boyfriend, he can drive the car...but on one condition: she has to let her brothers sit in the back seat and go along on the date. I figure that the boyfriend will love the idea of driving the Mustang more then he loathes the idea of having Emma's brothers sitting in the back seat. This way Emma stays out of trouble, the Mustang gets put to good use, and I have nothing to worry about...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Jacob's Story

So what do you think of Jacob, having read most of his life story? Please don't be pious or "spiritual" in your evaluation of him. Would you let this kind of husband or father be a member in your church?

As you read through Genesis, try to place yourself in the shoes (or sandals) of Israel - they are just settling into the Promised Land having spent 40 years in the wilderness. They are trying to remember their roots, trying to get a sense of who they are, how they got to where they are at now, and who they are to become. As you read Jacob's story, you find out where the nation Israel got its name...what does that story tell you about what the nation will become like? This is the man through whom a nation will be born that will bless the whole world...this is the nation that Jesus will come from...what does this tell you about whom God will use to bless the world? What does this tell you about Jesus?

What did you think of the stories about the women in Jacob's life? Very honest stories, did you catch any of the emotional depth rooted in the accounts? What must it have been like for Leah to be unloved? What was it like for Rachel to be loved, yet barren (a sign of cursedness - very undesirable)? What was it like for Dinah to be raped and then loved and then avenged? Why do you think that story is in there? What do the preceeding chapters and following chapters gain by having the story of Dinah included? (Hint, the story has alot to do with Simeon and Levi...this event will come up again near the end of the book).

Did you catch any of the humor? Rachel can't stand up off the camel saddle because it's "that time of the month" - what a deceiver, just like her hubby. Or the story of Jacob turning unblemished goats into spotted and striped ones. Or the story of Jacob convincing a whole town of men to get circumcised so the Prince can have Dinah. Or the story of Esau giving Jacob a big bear hug (who would have expected that?!?).

Did you also catch the "bartering" between Jacob and Laban and between Jacob and Esau?

Don't read the Scriptures as solemn words you have to read...these are ancient stories that have endured the ages because they contain profound truth - profound truth that is startling, disturbing, enlightening, encouraging, probing, memorable.

The story of Jacob is more then just about Jacob - it is the story of the foundations of Israel and Jesus; it is also the story of God. God identifies himself as the God of Jacob...so what kind of God do we serve? Do you remember the promise that God made to Jacob? It is a stunning promise that Paul rearticulates in Romans 8..."nothing can seperate us from the love of God"...Paul got most of his stuff from the OT - he didn't present much new material...he just understood Jesus as the fulfillment of everything in the OT.

Are you enjoying Genesis? What are you learning? Post a comment for others to read...


Monday, October 02, 2006

Poetry of the OT

As you read the Psalms and other poetry of the OT, try and catch the overall theme of the section, rather than focusing on one verse. Hebrew poetry is about ideas, and poetry is about ideas that can't be expressed in story form, instruction manual form, or as a list. When you read Hebrew poetry, try to identify what the emotion was that drove the poet to write. Sometimes the main point of the poem is at the beginning, often it is in the middle, and sometimes it is at the end. Sometimes a poem will say the samething at the beginning and end, and something unique in the middle. Hebrew poets love patterns: abab, or aabb, or abba, or abccba. These patterns mean line one (a) and line two (b) don't just stand by themselves, they are used by the poet in an imaginative way to convey thoughts that can only be expressed in art.

Hope this helps...I'll try to make Hebrew poetry a delight (but most of that depends on the Spirit and you!).


Sunday, October 01, 2006

Disturbed by God's Word...

It is just after 6am and I just finished my readings for last week and for today. I had about five chapters to read, so not much...but what I did read this morning is bothering me. Earlier in the week I read the assigned chapters for Genesis, except the last chapter - 27. It is the story of Jacob decieving Esau. I just couldn't bring myself to read it earlier in the week...I hate that story. Maybe it is because I'm an older brother like Esau, maybe it is because I know I can be like Jacob. I'm bothered by the brazen deceptiveness of Rebekah, the mother. I pity Isaac, being played as a fool by his wife and son. My heart was bothered by the violent reaction of both Isaac and Esau when they discovered they were tricked, and I felt sorrow for Esau as he begged for a blessing. Even now, as I write, I find myself sighing in annoyance at Rebekah and Jacob...and God. What kind of God uses people like this to accomplish his holy and sovereign plan? This isn't how the story is supposed to go? God is only supposed to use people like...um...uh...hmmm.....well all I know is that the story still bothers me. Did it bother you?

Job's speech in chapter 3 bothered me...what graphic poetic language describing his disgust at the day he was born...

Psalm 10 bothered me...here is a man praying on behalf of the oppressed, the orphans, the widows, the innocent, the cheated, the victims of abuse and injustice...and his prayers question God...question his availability, his goodness, his power. And yet the Psalm ends with the poet affirming God's coming vengeance on the wicked. What bothered me was this: when's the last time I prayed for the people this man prayed for with this man's passion and urgency and sincerity? I know when the last time I prayed for myself like that...but for those kind of people? I'm bothered by my callous heart...(Here again I am bothered with something about me....someday soon I'll be bothered on behalf of other people....someday...).

I was disturbed by God's Word...were you?