Friday, April 27, 2007

The Beautiful Song of Sensuality

Song of Songs 1-2

Legend has it that young medieval monks were not allowed to translate these eight chapters of the Bible, for fear of arousing illicit thoughts.

It is an arousing book. But not of illicit thoughts. It awakens people like you and me, it whets our appetite for a delight in sensuality that is beautiful, pure, overwhelming, and potent. One read through the poem and we realize there aren't any marriages that match up to what is written in these lines. But instead of pouting or bemoaning what we don't have, we can celebrate what we do have with our spouse. The God who inspired in this couple a love of immeasurable intensity is our God. His love for us is beautiful, pure, overwhelming and potent - but you'd never know it if your life is always fueled by something other than Him. And same goes for your relationship with your spouse - if you are not intoxicated with the one you married, you'll get drunk on something else.

Maybe we'd all be better off by committing some of these ancient love lines to memory, and instead of reciting them in intimate moments, live them out in the everday moments. Start your day with the opening lines: "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth - for your love is more delightful than wine." (How's that for the first sentence of a book in the Bible?) Any husband or wife getting/giving a smooch like that as they walk out the door for work - well they're going to have a great day...and they won't be late for dinner!

It's not only that the book is it explicit, it is refreshingly open - reminisent of the wonder and awe Adam and Eve would have experienced in the Garden of Eden. The first paragraph of this poem ends with these lines - one can imagine the first man and woman, having just met, and Eve whispering to Adam as she tugs on his forearm: "Take me away with you - let us hurry! Let the king bring me into his chambers."

There are many common elements - like the sweet and playful flattery they throw at each other; He says: "How beautiful you are, my darling!; She says: "How handsome you are, my beloved! Oh how charming! And our bed is verdant." Many a husband and wife that I know would enjoy each other so much more if they would generously sing these words to one another.

Note how this beautiful darling sings about herself: "I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys". Maybe you don't find many woman enjoying this kind of healthy self image because they don't have husbands who also sing their praises: "Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the young women."

All of this adds up to a sex life for this couple that is of mythic experience. She writes in her of their night together: "Let him lead me to the banquet hall, and let his banner over me be love. Strengthen me with raisins, refresh me with apples, for your lovemaking wears me out." And when they awaken from their sated slumber, they whisper with a knowing smile to one another: "Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires".

This first section of the poem is coming to a close, and with it comes some levity and vulnerability: the husband pleads with the wife for the both of them to put and end to those mean words, thoughtless actions, selfish thoughts, and apathetic attitudes that slowly erode what is beautiful, pure, overwhelming and potent in a marraige. He elegantly and gently writes: Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom." And her generous response: "My beloved is mine and I am his."

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Go In Shalom

Luke 7

The story of the Centurion and the Sinful Woman bookend this riveting chapter. In the middle is a story of John the Baptist, of his doubts, and his place in God's Coming Kingdom. And at the end of it all, Jesus tells the Sinful Woman what he said in essence to the Centurion, John's disciples, and to the widow's resurrected son: Go in Peace/Shalom.

Interestingly it is the seventh chapter, a number noting completion - it is God's number, and this seventh chapter concludes with the overarching theme of Jesus' message: God in God's Peace/Shalom. Go along with the God who makes all things Right; go in wholeness/reconciliation with your Father; go bathed in God's grace and redemption, freedom and beauty; go in the righteousness and truth and commands of God. Go as one healed and forgiven, as one restored and reconcied.

The Centurion's favorite servant is dying - and uncharacteristic for a Roman soldier, this one calls out to Jesus to help out his slave.

A widow is walking out past the city walls with her dead son, and Jesus comes across their path - and his heart-strings get tugged big time.

John wants to know if Jesus is the One Who Was To Come?

Tax-collectors hear the words of Jesus and affirm whole-heartedly that God's way is Right.

The Sinful woman weeps and wipes Jesus feet with her hair.

Go in Shalom.

Maybe you are like the Centurion, wanting Jesus to help out a dear friend.

Maybe you are like the widow, walking with an empty, broken, lonely heart.

Maybe you are like John, struggling to accept a Jesus who doesn't quite fit your conceptions.

Maybe you are like the tax-collectors, deeply aware of their failures and ready to find another way to walk.

Maybe you are like the sinful woman, eager to lavish your gratitude upon Him.

"Your trust/faith has saved you; go in shalom." It wasn't easy for the centurion to trust Jesus - he was shocked by the soldiers faith. It wasn't easy for the widow trust God as she trudged along the funeral bier, but everybody was glad beyond description when her son started jabbering again. It wasn't easy for John to not have the answers, but he trusted Jesus enough to ask him. It wasn't easy for the tax-collectors to trust a God who had religious people running around giving Him a bad name. It wasn't easy for the sinful woman to love so vulnerably infront of such unthankful men. It is not always easy to trust, but we know deep down that we want to go in shalom. And that is what Jesus offers: the way to shalom with God.

What's keeping you from going in shalom?

Sunday Sermon Notes - 4.29.07

When's the last time you observed/kept/remembered the Sabbath Day and kept it holy?

Twice in the Torah we are given the Ten Words (or commandments), within which we find the invitation, the instruction, the imperative to live according a Sabbath-rhythm in life. For whatever reason, growing up, thoughts about the Sabbath Day tended to dredge up feelings of restriction, legalism, boredom, etc. But now, amidst a busy life, the Sabbath looks different to me.

Here is the fourth commandment/word - translated in The Message version (copied/pasted from; it is found in the book of the Exodus, and the book of Deuteronomy:

Exodus 20:8-11
Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Work six days and do everything you need to do.
But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God, your God.
Don't do any work
—not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your servant, nor your maid, nor your animals, not even the foreign guest visiting in your town.
For in six days God made Heaven, Earth, and sea, and everything in them; he rested on the seventh day.
Therefore God blessed the Sabbath day; he set it apart as a holy day.

Deuteronomy 5:12-15
No working on the Sabbath; keep it holy just as God, your God, commanded you.
Work six days, doing everything you have to do,
but the seventh day is a Sabbath, a Rest Day—no work:
not you, your son, your daughter, your servant, your maid, your ox, your donkey (or any of your animals), and not even the foreigner visiting your town.
That way your servants and maids will get the same rest as you.
Don't ever forget that you were slaves in Egypt and God, your God, got you out of there in a powerful show of strength.
That's why God, your God, commands you to observe the day of Sabbath rest.

Did you note the similarities and the differences? Both accounts note that the Sabbath/Seventh day is Holy - which means set apart, sacred, belonging to God, different. Both accounts require cessation from work, the original Hebrew uses the word labor - a reference to slavelabor, out of which they were redeemed. But note what is different: the reasons for why they should remember/observe/guard/keep God's Day holy. In the Exodus account, God uses his Creation work as the reason; in the Deuteronomy God uses his Exodus work as the reason. We cease to work so that we might remember our Creator, and we cease from our slavelabor to observe our Redeemer. God's Creation work was a delight, pure joy, a ton of fun; and yet it had boundaries - there needed to be a season/time for creation, and then it was time to stop. God's Redemption is from the unending yoke of sin, represented in the story of the Exodus, the release from a enslaved way of life to one of freedom, where you work for the Creator of all that is good, true, beautiful and free; not laboring and working for the Slavemaster of the Darkness.

Your work can be good, you still need to stop and remember the Creator; your work can be awful, and you need to stop and observe your Redeemer. And when you stop, not only are you creating space to remember and thank God for his good gifts in your life, you are also able to make space for the people God brings into your life.

I remember stories of how Christians would sit on a bench all Sunday afternoon, excluding all fun and play out of the day. The kind of work that prompts this Sabbath day to play and pray is God's playful work of Creation and his prayerfilled work of Redemption. We find new energy to Create God's way when we live by the Sabbath, and we find new energy to Redeem God's way when we live by the Sabbath. And since there are people that God wants us to be connected with - for Creation and Redemption purposes, for playing and praying, we need to make some changes in how we schedule our space.

I want to play with my family and friends. I want a whole day spent celebrating God and this life He's graciously lavished on us with fellow believers and neighbors around a table.

What do you want?

Maybe more importantly, what does God want?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Your Word Stands Firm in the Heavens


Twelfth letter of the Hebrew Alephbeth

The whole of Psalm 119 is one long song of a man belonging to the decrees, commands, promises, word of God. Made up of 22 stanzas of eight verses each (the verses being an acrostic of Hebrew letters, eight verses starting with the same letter), the poet works hard to find just the right word to express reality.

But what he describes is not always easy to does God's Word stand firm in the Heavens? It has not legs, how can it stand? A word is first a sound - does he mean that it can be heard in the Heavens? The Universe is enormous...mindboggling in its vast scope...does God's word find footing on just one planet or star, or does it stand firm as it fills up our millions of galaxies?

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth...God said...let there be light...and it was good.

God's Word/Command/Promise/Decree is what brought life to reality, is what put the billions of stars and planets and comets and moons into their blazing place. Just as a sun stands in the sky as a testament to God's word, so God's word shines into our life as a promise of His good work.

What God has spoke endures until the End of All Things. His word will outlast my life on this Earth-as-it-is...but His word is what breathed life into me, and it is what will save me. To know the words of God, to delight in them, to seek them out, to listen and follow them...the words that bring light and put darkness in its place, that push back the floods and put me on dry ground, that enrich soil which gives birth to the sustenance of birds and beasts, the words that give me life and a partner.

The Way of God is navigated by the starlight of his Word, when life is dark - find your next step in this beautifuly, terribly vast universe by hearing His command/promise for you and all people.

What's Up with Eli?

Here's an assortment of Eli pics from the last week or so. He's a pleasant baby, except when he's hungry or tired or bored or in need of a good burp. And he sleeps quite a bit too, except when he is hungry, or overwhelmed by his doting siblings, or when he is in need of a good burp. And he even smiled a few times this week. YES! Even if Dad is a wee bit tired...

Last Sunday Amy and Jamil had us over for dinner. Emma, Levi and Isaac had lots of fun playing with Alia and her toys, but Eli and Hannah only saw each other in passing. This pic was from when everyone got together at our house for the Nursery picture. The two of them have really hit it off.

Emma enjoys Eli very much. She was so excited to get to hold him, Emma did a very good job. She got to burp him, calm him down when he started to cry, and cuddle for a bit. While bupring Eli, Emma declared that now she was a mommy!

Eli is going on his first walk! The pics of the other kids is worth a whole other blog entry. He did fine, except his brothers are too pokey, and Eli needs some speed in his stroller ride.

Eli happily relaxing on his soft blanket. The world is as it should be...

Eli tentatively awaiting for his warm, soapy bath to begin. He's not skin and bones anymore, he's getting to be a little on the chub side; he's weighing in at around 10lbs 4oz or so. There's more of him to wash every week!

Sometimes Eli likes the swing, sometimes he doesn't. We're really really happy when he does like it.

Papa Jim and Naomi brought a tasty meal over last week, and Eli got some smiley cuddle time in with Tara's dad.

It's never easy getting everyone to look at the camera, we just hope nobody is crying. At least the grandparents are smiling...

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Porn and Pancakes

8am this morning: I'm standing in the foyer of Emmanuel Community Church chatting with Dennis Miller, the pastor - we're glad to see the hundreds of men streaming into the gym. Dozens and dozens of tables are filling up fast with men and boys with plates full of pancakes, eggs and sausage. I greet a bunch of my friends from Anchor - Russ, Steve, Terry, Allen; and friends from ECC - Brad Camp, John Downey, Neil Warner; and other friends: Brian Smeltzer, Pat Rowland, Nate Hasty.

Why were we and about 500 other guys gathered in the gym for a porn and pancake show? Because porn is probably one of the most poisonous activities pulling apart families - addicting senior citizens and college girls, middle aged men and teenagers...and it is getting worse. So this morning members of did a classy, funny, engaging, sobering, inspiring presentation about the truth behind porn (thanks to comedian David Dean for getting us going...) and how these young women are destroyed.

You only browse through the free porn sites? They produce more money for the porn industry then paid sites. It's a normal adult male activity? Then why the secrecy and isolation? The women are professionals, it's just a job. Then what if it was your daughter or sister or mom? Or your neighbors, or's still okay?

The damage done to these young women - daughters and sisters and moms - are brutal, and the the resulting porn addiction of men and women is bad for building a happy family. As Craig Gross says: porn leads to a dead-end.

If porn is pulling your life apart, get help. Contact me, contact Craig Gross of, contact Dan Boen of CCCOI.

Jesus loves porn stars. Jesus loves porn addicts. Jesus' love can set you free, but you have to want the forgiveness, and the freedom. Let others help you get real, good, God-love; no more of the fantasty, fake, foolish stuff that wrecks your life.

Porn and Pancakes was a good-God event...if one comes to your community, GO.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Sunday Sermon Notes 4.22.07

Acts 2:41-47 is our text for Sunday's message, the second in our Get Connected Series. Last week we walked through 1Peter 4:11-14, thinking through the need for being connected - both for Peter's friends, and ours. This week we explore being connected through Refrigerator Rights, and we can see what it looked like in the earliest church of Jerusalem in the days following Pentecost.

What is Refrigerator Rights?

It is a way of describing the kind of relationship you have with family, friends, fellow-believers and neighbors - that they could stop by any time and help themselves to the leftovers in the fridge. No need to ask, you spend so much fun time together anyway, it's almost expected that they'd help you get rid of last weeks spaghetti.

The description we have of the early church in Acts 2:41-47 is chock full of what we call "koinonia", a Greek word used describe generosity, sharing an item in common, enjoying each others company, being connected in a deep and delightful way. To have koinonia is to have Refrigerator Rights. This early church met formally in the temple courts for the prayers and preaching, but they met informally in homes, sharing the Eucharist together, a simple meal, lots of laughter and life. They didn't have refrigerators back then, but they hung alot of their dried food from the ceiling (to keep it away from damp dirt floors, rats, you know, that kind of stuff...). So I'm sure that when temple court prayers were over, people ambled over to their assigned households, enjoying the setting sun, the coming on of dusk with a bright moon, and multiple colors of dark blue emerging against the hilly Jerusalem countryside. The slip through the narrow doorways of the homes, and everyone just starts grabbing for the ceiling, getting food ready for the evening meal.

Without trying to sound to idyllic or idealistic, I think there is a powerful connection between the koinonia of the early church and the power of their gospel witness. And I think there is a connection between our lack of koinonia/refrigerator rights and our at times anemic preaching/living out of the gospel in our homes, cubicles, neighborhoods and churches. We are lonely, lonely people, how can you be strong and servant-leading, how can you be a healer and a hero when you walk with a heart full of shadowy secrets, a soul stewing in quiet despair?

Koninoia/refrigerator rights make up the bulk of the story of the early church, and I think it ought to make up more of our story at Anchor. Come Sunday to connect...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Accept One Another

Romans 15 is the final chapter of instruction in this long letter to Gentile and Jewish Christians scattered around the Imperial City. It is a transition chapter, ending the instruction and then moving into his reason for why he wrote it: a brilliant letter requesting their support for his upcoming mission trip to the Iberian peninsula. You don't see many mission-support letters like Romans anymore! Most of the modern ones stress prayer and finances, and they always piously note how prayer is always more important. It's true, but they can't go without money, so they shouldn't be embarrased to ask about the money. Here's what Paul does: 15 long chapters full of deep and difficult, inspired and intriguing theology - and then at the end: will you please help support my mission trip to Spain?

Paul ends his theological and missional masterpiece with this command: accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

An odd piece of advice: it almost sounds like the tolerance speeches of some today. Except the major difference is Jesus...we accept based on how Jesus accepted...some today only accept just because they don't want anyone to deny them their desires. Big difference. Paul is requesting his fellow followers - people who live in a tension-gripped city of racial strife, gender oppression, disgusting entertainment, gross economic inequalities, brutal warfare - to accept one another just as they are...just as Jesus accepted people right where they were.

Jesus accepted people up in sycamore trees, people about to be stoned, people collecting taxes, people catching fish, people blind by the road, people crippled by the pool, people in the city and the suburbs and the villages. He accepted people. They just couldn't always accept Him. He accepted people, and then he did something to them. What Jesus did with people that He accepted, and who in turn accepted Him, becomes the core of Paul's concluding prayer for his treatise:

May the God of Hope
Fill you will all Joy and Peace
As you Trust in Him,
So that You May Overflow with Hope
By the Power of the Holy Spirit.

This is what makes it a brillian mission letter: Paul remind his readers what kind of Gospel they are not ashamed of...and the Gospel he is preaching. And it is beautiful. Paul is proclaiming the Way of All Joy! the Way of All Peace! the Way of Overflowing Hope! the Way of God in Jesus! the Way of the Potent and Pure Spirit of God! No wonder Paul is eager to get to the desolate Iberian shore...all those people who God wants to fill up with all that is beautiful in Him.

May Paul's prayer become true for you.

Anna's Update

Anchor is glad to support Anna Geivett in her mission work through Food for the Hungry in the South American country of Peru. She is a UB sponsored missionworker, and comes out of Emmanuel Community Church (so did Anchor)! Recently she sent her friends an update following a Huntington University (her and my alma mater!) team's missiontrip, it included this piece:

The members of the Huntington team greatly encouraged our promoter within this particular community (Betty). Food for the Hungry has a promoter in each community that focuses on building relationships, discipleship , offering a variety of programs, meeting with and training mother leaders and community. Through the team, Betty was given a fresh enthusiasm for her community and her daily work (which at times feels discouraging and unsuccessful). We always pray that teams will be an encouragement to our staff and we saw that occur in Betty’s case. It’s been a few weeks since the team has left and she’s still talking about them.

This community is truly embracing the Vision of a Community that Food for the Hungry desires to see accomplished. Leaders are serving their people, men are becoming more actively involved in the community and initiating prayer, and families are working together to see their community progress beyond meeting their basic needs. They have vision for a better life. They have a vision for the future of their children and community.

Anna is a team coordinator for groups like HU students. She is a vital link between those called to do mission work, and those communities that could use some loving. Anchor supports Anna along with the other churches in our cluster, it's neat to see what teams can do, and it is neat to see what Anna can do through teams. What Anna is working towards in her Peruvian neighborhood is similar to what we want to do in ours: serve, strengthen, save kids, youth and their families - in the name of Jesus. It's one of the reasons why we're so glad to be a support to Anna. If you would like to support Anna, let me know and I'll get you connected to her.

Beautiful Feet, Good Tidings of Peace

Isaiah 50-54 is a proclamation of good news: The cup of wrath that Jerusalem has drained to the dregs, that cup has been taken out of their hand. Salvation is on the way...if they will walk that way of peace with God.

How much of the tragedies that we get caught up in are somehow tied to our own lives, how much of what is awful about your larger life is rooted in the cruel cyle of reaping and sowing?

But now, all you who light fires
and provide yourselves with flaming torches,
go, walk in the light of your fires
and of the torches you have set ablaze.
This is what you shall receive from my hand:
You will lie down in torment.

This is how the world works. But even God can work in this kind of world. These torch-holders took God in a garden and nailed him to a tree...that's the way of their life. And out of that evil comes beautiful feet with good news: You who walk by your own dim torch light - you can walk in the light of a Son who will never scorch or burn. No matter how blind you've been, no matter how long you've stumbled, no matter how little you've taken responsible for, God offers a new light to hold in your hand.

After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many
and he will bear their iniquities.

God is willing to rescue his people, the very people that he punished with atrocities...that says something about God. And some of what it says is difficult to accept and understand. But we find in Jesus, God's suffering servant, one who bears punishment and atrocities. God is in Jesus, and so we find God willing to take upon himself the kind of atrocities he poured out on his people in ages past. The Assyrians were despicably cruel to the Ten Tribes they carted off, the Babylonians were just plain mean in their subjagation of the other two tribes. Disgusting crimes against humanity. And Assyria and Babylon were instruments of God, brought upon His people because of their stubborn rebellion, their own cruel treatment of neighbors, and hardened disregard for what was just and merciful.

It seems that what God's people were guilty of, what they had been punished for by Assyria and Babylon were the same things they were guilty of during the days of Jesus, and Jesus bore the brunt of that fury and previously condemned sins. I recoil at the remembrance of the atrocities God's people experienced because of their rebellion, but God let those same kind of atrocities be committed against him in the flesh. That says something about God.

Isaiah writes down these stirring words of God:
In a surge of anger
I hid my face from you for a moment,
but with everlasting kindnes
I will have compassion on you
says the LORD your Redeemer.


Monday, April 16, 2007

When Will You Comfort Me?


Eleventh letter of the Hebrew Alephbeth

The writer is wringing his hands, his soul is weary and his eyes are weak.
"My soul faints with longing for your salvation, My eyes fail, looking for your promise."

Though I don't often feel that kind of deep despair, I have felt it. I've mostly felt it in mourning the death of my two brothers. I also feel twinges of it when I hear compelling stories of the kind of suffering fellow believers endure around the world.

Suffering at the hands of vicious militias, suffering for lack of clean water and nourishing food, suffering in the absence of a sustainable economy and bustling marketplace, suffering with no school, suffering under an oppressive regime that lies, tortures, ruins and gobbles up natural resources. Suffering in the aftermath of wretched tsunami's and hurricanes. Suffering under the whistling bullets and deafening suicide bombs. How often those believers must feel faint, must look at the world with failing eyes.

My trials have not been even close to being as horrible as many martyrs and others who suffer as Christians, who suffer as humanity. In fact almost two billion men, women, children suffer what was just described above. And many of those are Christians. And Christianity is thriving in these awful conditions. For many of the believers sing with the psalmist: BUT I have put my Hope in your Word. What a tough hope they possess, though they ask hard, hard, hard questions of God: When will you comfort me? How long must your servant wait? When will you punish my persecutors?

It seems that Christianity thrives amongst the soul-weary, the bone-tired, the hope-starved, the heart-whipped, the mind-crushed. When all the gods of this world have wrecked their havoc on humanity, when they have fled their scene of slaughter, the cries of humanity reach the ever-present, ever-listening, ever-redeeming, ever-rescuing God in Jesus.

When will you comfort me?

That's the haunting questions that so many of humanity cry out to God in Jesus. Sudan's Darfur; Iraq's Baghdad; America's New Orleans; Asia's Indonesia; India's Calcutta. They also cry out to us. And for some of us, we will be God's answer to that question. How long will we let them wait?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Merry Anchor Easter Kids

Anchor hosted a fun Easter service for the kids. We started the service with a rousing Egg Hunt. But not just any eggs, these were Resurrection Eggs - 12 eggs that each contained an item representing the story of Jesus Crucifixion and Resurrection.

Marsha Biard hid the eggs throughout the Sanctuary, and then for my Kids Lesson, they had to go find the eggs. It worked out that about all the kids found an egg. We started with whoever had egg number one, and the kid would open the egg, show me the item and then I would remind them about that part of the story.

The first egg had a donkey, one had linen cloth in it, another was empty - it represented the tomb. Pretty neat. The kids had fun with it, and so did I. Kids Lessons used to be a staple of our service, but we moved to a Kids Church format, then Kids Sunday School.

I kind of miss it, the unpredictablity of the kids was fun and sweet. This Easter Kids Lesson was special, it was my first one with Emma, Levi and Isaac up there with me. They did so good up there, so eager to show me their egg. Maybe I can be persuaded to do Kids Lessons during first service a little more often!

Following the service we took pics of some of the little kids at Anchor.

Salma, Emma and Emily always get a pic together, as well as Isaiah, Levi and Isaac.

They are always cute, but never - well rarely, looking right at the camera.

That is what makes for a Merry Easter, especially with the snow and everything.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Vinh Phuc's Beauty & Tabbie's Blessing

Tabbie, one of the fantastic mission-teachers that Anchor loves and supports, sent out this letter and pictures. The pictures are beautiful and the description of the trip she took is fun. Being a mission-teacher in Vietnam requires courage, trust, and endurance...and Tabbie inspires me. It is hard to be immersed in mission, yet there are moments where it all comes together...and you just know that no matter the doubts, the fears, the wearisomeness, this is the right place.

Enjoy the story, enjoy the pics, and continue to cheer on Tabbie.


I was invited a few weekends ago to go with one of my classes to Vinh Phuc, a small province south of my city.

It was a long and tiring day, but a gift from my students. I learned a lot about them, and a lot about my ability to walk six kilometers into His creation and back out into "normalcy" again. I came home and literally slept for the next 14 hours! It was that tiring of a day.

We woke up at 4:30 am, traveled by bus for three hours, walked literally all day, traveled back by bus for three hours, and arrived at our school gate at 8pm that night. What a day!

Add in the fact that I get car sick, and that I had to help carry another car sick girl up a mountain when we first arrived --- and you get mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted Tabbie! It was a great experience, and one I will never forget. However, probably one that I will never do again either ;)

Actually, I am taking a rather long day trip with that same class this weekend, but I don't have to go by bus. I get to go by bicycle this time, and not nearly as far. :)

So, the pictures attached are from the Vinh Phuc trip. I hope you enjoy them and you enjoyed this...update. I am thinking of you all, especially right now. Blessings to you!

Sunday Sermon Notes - 4.15.07

We start a new series this Sunday called: Get Connected.

The call to Get Connected is two-fold: change your lifestyle so that you can get connected with family, friends, fellow believers, neighbors; and get connected to God through your connections through other people. You can't know or love God apart from your relationships with others. If you've developed a lifestyle that connects you with others in a refreshing, fun, and nourishing way, you'll also have gone a long ways in connecting to God.

I don't know how many times Tara and I have talked about having so and so over for dinner, or getting together with so and so for the day, or traveling to such and such a place with so and so for a good time. But we, like so many others, are living out a way of life that is quite normal, quite explainable, quite understandable, but quite disassociated from too many of the people that we really need to be with more often.

A book we'll be using throughout the series has been very helpful to me in re-imagining how to change my way/pace of life so that I can follow Jesus while enjoying a lifestyle connected with others. The book - Making Room for Life: Trading a Chaotic Lifestyle for Connected Relationships - will be available at Anchor to borrow or purchase. If you feel like you're too lonely, if you feel like you just never get to spend much time with your friends or neighbors, if you really want to get together with family more often, this book will help you think through how to make that a reality. I want to point out, however, that we're not talking about having more picnics or trips to the zoo just so we can better live out middle class leisures. We're having these conversations because we've absorbed a busy middle class life that wears us out and leaves us with thin souls and lonely homes.

The Scripture text for this Sunday, which will also be the overarching theme for this series comes from 1Peter 4:7-11. The fellow believers reading this letter were scattered all over Asia Minor. Groups of Christians in small villages and bustling cities struggled at times to live out their faith, for they often met stiff resistance and even opposition. Peter is teaching them how to react to outward hostilities. But he is also teaching them in the text we are examining, how to knit their lives together in such a way as to overcome the overwhelming pressures, but also how to thrive and enjoy their life together as examples of Jesus Christ. He envisions that they would be the kind of Christians who "love constantly, for love covers a crowd of sins"; he envisions a community of believers who offer glad and generous hospitality to newcomers, to strangers, to drifters and seekers. What connects the Chrisitians is not navel-gazing and bemoaning how bad the world is; what connects them is their obvious and difficult acts of love towards each other in light of personal sins, as well as welcoming sinners into their midst. And since they met in homes, it was about letting people into your life, and getting into their life, carrying their burdens and helping them walk in the light.

We need to get more connected with our family and friends, our fellow believers and neighbors: more BBQ's, more picnics, more trips to the lake and the zoo...because we need to be in proximity with people we care about, and we need to be making room at a table or in the van for those that are looking to connect to God through a community of believers. Jesus promised his followers much suffering, but also much joy; this joy came not from some mystical spiritual solitude, but from the joys of sharing life with others - the good times and the hard times. And like the early Christians, we need to be more loving, more personal in our love, more loyal in our love, more forgiving in our love, more generous and servant-hearted in our love. This is not a call for more programs, but a reorientation of your lifestyle so that you are available with time, energy, and money to invest your life into others for God's glory and our joy.

Why Do You Judge? Why Treat With Contempt?

Romans 14 begins the conclusion of Paul's letter to the many Christians scattered in a smattering of homes around the Imperial city. Because of the great diversity of believers, Paul needs to address some ethical and moral issues that were constantly arising. Being in Christian community has never been easy, and apparently from the very beginning different people had very different and stron opinions about what was - not just approrpiate or polite - but morally right or wrong, ethically offensive to God.

Here Paul specifically addresses the controversy around eating meat and only vegetables; and around regarding one day special and regarding every day sacred, but the real issue is around the food and drink. Many devout Jews have converted to Christianity, and they have brought with them their rich and enormous food traditions/taboos with them. Some of the Jews want to incorporate the Torah/Talmud regulations on food into their new Jesus-faith; and other Jews want to leave them behind. To make it more complicated, some Gentiles who had converted to Judaism, have now converted as Gentiles, out of Judaism into Christianity, and some of them have left behind the food regulations and others haven't.

I can't imagine how hard it must have been for observant Jews/Gentiles to eat what they considered unclean meat. Unclean meat could be that which was improperly slaughtered, or it could be that which was sacrificed to an idol and then sold in the marketplace. And I can't imagine how gleeful some observant Jews/Gentiles were to leave those regulations behind and enjoy their new found freedom in Christ. They, like Paul, were fully persuaded in the LORD Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself. All things are permissible, though not all things are beneficial. What freedom.

So it seems only obvious that those new believers who are drawing upon a rich and extensive religious heritage would judge other believers who eat and drink regardless of unclean/clean issues; and how these new believers who are enjoying their freedom would be contemptous of those old fuddy duddies who aren't flexing their new muscles of faith in Christ.

The judging and contempt hasn't stopped amongst Christians today. Music style - contemporary or traditional; Preaching style - expository or topical; ministry strategy - seeker, emergent, or believer-sensitive; church location - urban, suburban, small town or rural; money issues- high quality (building, grounds, equipment, etc) or pragmatic/benevolence; theology - literal or modern.

Who do you judge? Who do you treat with contempt?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

For I Knew How Stubborn You Were

Isaiah 45-49 contain vivid poetry concerning a salvation-generous God summoning stubborn-hearted citizens.

How generous is God's salvation? He chooses a man named Cyrus the Great - a mighty Persian king - to release the Israelites from cruel Babylonian captivity. How stubborn-hearted are the citizens of Israel? They attribute their freedom to their gods of wood and stone, and then they refuse to leave Babylon.

God comes across as vulnerable in these poems, almost wounded by the rejection of His special nation. He takes great pains to point out His appointment of Cyrus to conquer Babylon, He spends quite a few words describing the impotence of the oppressor's gods.

But no matter how much God extols himself, his superiority, his generous salvation, his mighty power to deliver - he notes with some cynicism the expected reaction of his stubborn-hearted people: anything/anyone but God was responsible for their freedom.

God says of them - in strong, visual verbage:
For I knew how stubborn you were;
the sinews of your neck were iron,
your forehead bronze.

Yikes! Yet, despite their iron-obstinancy, God extends to them Himself! And why? He writes:
See, I have refined you, though not as silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this.
How can I let myself be defamed by another?
I will not yield my glory to another.

God's glory is so grand...inconceivably so...beautiful and mind-boggling...and it is greater then our stubborn-hearted, stupid-brained responses to God's work in our life. Which should give you hope for yourself, if you are despairing of your own dumb mistakes. And it should draw out patience as you respond to others acting stubbornly and stupidly.

For God knows how stubborn you were...and are...and yet:
Shout for joy, you heavens;
rejoice, you earth;
burst into song, you mountaints!
For the LORD comforts his (stubborn-hearted) people
and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Each Year His Mother Made Him a Little Robe

1Samuel 1-4 begins the story of the kings of Israel. Samuel is the the judge and prophet God would use to anoint the first king. Samuel - whose name means "heard by God" (in Hebrew the name would be pronounced something like...Shemuel), is the first man in a long time to hear God speak.

Shemuel's name carries several meanings. Hannah gave him that name in response to his birth, for she had prayed to God for a son. The oppressed and hungery and impovershed were also crying out to God, and Shemuel is the answer. And little Shemuel also heard the LORD, and answered, "Here I am; you called me."

Hannah had prayed for many years for a son, and finally the LORD opened up her womb. Hannah was so grateful that she dedicated little Shemuel back to God - literally. Shemuel would grow up serving in the temple, and Hannah would go on to give birth to three more sons and two daughters. Once Shemuel was weaned, Hannah took him up to Eli the priest at the temple to hard that must have been to give up her three year old son, who would be bright enough to know that Mommy is not coming back tomorrow. But each year she lovingly made a little robe for him. When he first put it on it probably hung low to the ground, around his ankles, and by the time she came back the next year it was below his knees. And it was in deep gratitude that she made the robe, not bitterness.

Amazing. Hannah didn't know how her extraordinary gift would be used by God in the great history of Israel. But she did know how it important it was to her to give a generous gift to God in grateful response to his beautiful gift to her.

What's the extraordinary gift that we've always wanted to give to God, but haven't?

Monday, April 09, 2007

In Faithfulness You Have Afflicted Me


Tenth letter of the AlephBeth

Affliction is a theme that runs throughout the twenty-two acrostic poems of this Psalm 119. It is affliction that gets my attention, it is through hardships that God shapes my heart, it is pain that God uses as a megaphone - to paraphrase C.S. Lewis. This author understands his suffering like this: I know, LORD, that your laws are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.


In faithfulness you have afflicted me?

He goes on to write - almost paradoxically: May your unfailing love be my comfort. In faithfulness, God afflicts me; by unfailing love, God comforts me. Why would God afflict me, and then comfort me?

God afflicts me when I don't love my neighbor...when I grow apathetic, lazy, indifferent, haughty, mean towards any neighbor, God may need to afflict me...make sure my sins find me out so that I can be humbled, become merciful, and love my neighbor.

When would God comfort me? When my neighbors are apathetic, lazy, indifferent, haughty, mean towards me. I need my neighbor to love me. I can't make my neighbor love me, and God can't make my neighbor love me, but he can induce my neighbor to love...but not out of vindictiveness or pettiness. God is good, so whatever hardship he brings, it is such that it is good, and can produce good, if I don't fear it or hate it.

So if you find yourself mired in affliction, take a moment to consider how it is connected to the neighbor(s) you are apathetic, lazy, indifferent, etc towards. And then be the answer to their prayer: Let your compassion come to me that I may live, for your law is my delight.

It Was Good For Me To Be Afflicted


Ninth letter of the Hebrew Alephbeth.

Good is the main word of this acrostic song, in Hebrew the word "good" begins with the letter teth...the word is "tov".

The poem begins with a plea: Do good to your servant...; it continues: Teach me knowledge and good judgment. He reminds himself: You are good, and what you do is good; It was good for me to be afflicted, so that I might learn your decrees.

What is the definition of good?

Good is personal: it is God.
Good is objective: it is commands, decrees, prcepts, law, word.
Good is existential: it is what God does.
Good is...good: I delight in your law.

We live in a messed up world. There are things I have messed up. I share a last name with those who have messed up. I pastor messed up people. I carry wounds because of others who are mess-ups. But for all the ways that our world is messed up, there is a way that is good...there is a good judgment to be found, a good God to be reconciled with, a good deed to be done. As hard as it may be to know and do what is good, like the psalmist we go to God often and intensely: Do Good To Your Servant.

My mess ups may mess me up for awhile, but I - like many of my friends who have messed up...we will someday say (hopefully sooner than later) It was good for me to be that I would learn from my mess ups and learn your good decrees/commands/judgments/law/word.

Ironically, my mess ups are my means of attaining what is good...if I take what God his timing, from his people that he sends to me.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

A Black Sabbath Made White as Snow

Today is Holy Saturday, also known as Black Sabbath - the darkest sabbath of the year. Jesus was placed in a tomb Friday evening, thus he was entombed the whole sabbath day, God in Jesus tasted death...rather death consumed him and bound him in cloth and laid his still body on cold stone. The Son of Light saw none in that dark cavern on Black Sabbath.

So today, as I meditated on the event (or non-event) of this day, I watched with dismay as snow fell softly - sometimes furiously - to the ground. Snowing on Easter just didn't seem right. But Jesus dead in a tomb doesn't seem right either. And as the snow fell, making our world white...I obviously thought of how the blood of Jesus can cleanse us from our sins and make us white and pure as snow.

To be honest, I was quite irritated with the snow. It is supposed to be sunny and warm, my tulips and daffodils are supposed to be blooming soon. I planted a Bleeding Heart earlier in the week, and now it is wilted and frozen to death. Stupid freezing weather. But my irritation sooned turned to meditation as I sought to redeem the uncharacteristic weather: Jesus' heart was cold on this day as well, and his bleeding heart eventually ceased, as if frozen to death.

And so I wait. If I wait as a character in that first story, I wait with no end in sight. The end has already come and gone: Jesus is dead and God is further away then possibly imagined. There is no hope anymore. Let winter reign for a hundred years. It is a cold, bleak sabbath - with a kind of resting from which one does not get up from again.

But it uncharacteristically snowed, and so there is faint hope that God will uncharacteristically show us a miracle: it is life will emerge. All that was dead and dirty is made white as snow...and the melting provides the moistness out of which tulips and daffodils can break forth from under the frozen crust. Today was a bleak, black sabbath made white as snow...a foretaste of how Jesus will cover over my darkness and bring forth a spring full of redeemed beauty.

Come, Lord Jesus...

Friday, April 06, 2007

Eli's Friends and Family

Eli enjoyed meeting so many new friends and family members while at Dupont Hospital. Here are pics of some of our visitors...we didn't get everyone...sorry! It was fun to have so many of you stop by to visit with us to share the joy. Thanks!

Our nurse Kelly and Doctor Garner were wonderful! They were our newest and first friends to hold little Eli! Grandma Rozer and Grandma Karen soon held Eli as well, at 1am early Monday...but instead of including the groggy pictures, I used some others ones...see below!

Aunt Faye and Eli..the aunt who doesn't do dirty diapers, little babies and feedings. Ha!

Aunt Shirley and Eli, the aunt who does do dirty diapers, little babies, and who ropes Faye into it as well!

Grandma Karen and Eli later Monday afternoon, after everyone went back to bed and got some rest.

Dawn, Maddie and Josh came up in the afternoon to visit, Eli enjoyed hearing Josh chatter away!

Papa Jim and Naomi stopped by for a visit, Eli is looking forward to homemade ice cream soon...well actually his Dad is...

Annie stopped by afterwork to cuddle with Eli, we missed Brett though...he apparently had to go to class, or wash his hair, or mend his belt...something like that...

Glennis and Heather eventually found their way to the right hospital together, Eli enjoyed their smiles!

Mark and Tami got to spend some time with Eli, and everyone else got to smell their famous Solak bread...that's why we have babies, so we can get that tasty homemade bread. Chris and Lisa Kuntz also enjoyed smelling the bread, and holding Eli...but our camera broke when we took a picture...well not really, we just got so busy chatting, we forgot...sorry! Jamie was also there but declined a picture - and after hearing about her story of congratulating the wrong grandpa on the way to our room, we decided to let her off the hook!

Amy showed up later that evening with no baby Hannah or's always nice to hold someone else's baby!

Khara, Jesse and Kennedy stopped by for a late visit - along with Amy there, it was fun swapping baby stories!

Dad and Eli are singing some kind of song together, probably teaching him O Canada!

Mum and Eli, enjoying a quiet moment - exhausted after the rousing rendition of the Canadien national anthem.

Jerm, Maria, Eva and Lydia stopped by while Dad and Mum were there, and Eli's sister and was party time! Lydia and Eli enjoy a cousin moment.

Kalvin stopped by to drop off cigars (chocolate of course) and flowers (all of which for Tara) and chit chat with the new Daddy but go figure Daddy was taking 3 very tired children back home for naps!

Tammy Ray and Elana stopped by to watch Tara eat lunch and snuggle with Eli.

Michelle and her daughters stopped by to visit, moms of twins always have special stories to tell! Patti and Barb were also here during this visit but we missed getting their pictures too! Jeff and later Michele also missed out on the photo shoot...

Bridget stopped by for a too-brief visit to hold Eli and see Tara, so much to catch up on, and not enough time...

Aunt Lauretta and Uncle Dan swung in for a visit with Eli, they made it for every birth...even with the ice storm when Levi and Isaac were born, what troopers!

Emma has been waiting and waiting and waiting to hold Eli...finally after we were all home, she got her chance to really get close...she loves her brother, and he loves her.