Thursday, November 29, 2007

Mike Huckabee Wins Republican Debate

Wednesday evening CNN's Anderson Cooper mediated a Republican Debate in Florida. What made it fascinating was the YouTube entries, some of them very provocative, others thoughtful, a few were funny.

What struck me was how calm, thoughtful, and engaging Huckabee came across, no matter what the question. Other candidates seemed obviously embarrassed, struggling for right words, stumbling out phrases trying to answer very, very carefully.

For example: one YouTube entry asked the candidates if they believed every word of the Holy Bible. It was an "in your face" question, almost arrogant. Unfortunately for Rudy, he got to go first and he didn't do so well. He mentioned that he read it occassionally, that it was helpful to him in his hard times, but that some of the Bible was allegorical, not all of it was literal...basically he was trying to find a way to say that he found the Bible helpful, without going so far as to say he believed every word - he came out and said No, even though it was a qualified no.

The Mormon Mitt used the phrase Word of God, he believed the Word of God, but he also quaffled at the phrase "believe every word". Mitt did point out that he believes the Bible, but interprets it differently then the others; when Cooper pressed him on "believe every word" Mitt got testy and replied with an almost exasperated voice: I believe the Word of God.

And then it was Huckabee's turn, the guy with the theological degree - which he deftly pointed out. Mike basically gave a smooth, heartfelt, personal explanation of what the Bible means to him, how he understands it to be revelation, and basically put the question in context. Good answer, even if the non-religious didn't quite understand what he was getting at.

Another good response by Huckabee was a YouTube question concerning the Log Cabin Republicans: would he accept an endorsement from them. Mike said, "Look, I need all the endorsements I can get!" He noted that of course he would accept it, but that he wouldn't change his position, and that he wouldn't expect them to either - they'd learn to dialogue and argue in a civilized manner.

The best retort by Mike was in regard to what would Jesus do about the death penalty. Upon being asked the question, Mike went on about how he views the death penalty, it is to be used in only extreme cases, but that there is a place for it. At the end Cooper pressed him to answer the specific question: what would Jesus do about the death penalty. Huckabee answered brillantly: Jesus was too smart to get involved in politics!

Meditation for Tracy Flynn's Funeral

On Monday I officiated at the funeral of a former Anchorite, Tracy Flynn (mentioned in a post a few days ago).

Here is the transcript of that meditation; maybe there is someone that will find it comforting in their grieving of those that they have loved and lost.

I’m thankful for the time that Tracy’s spiritual journey and my spiritual journey crossed paths. I’m thankful for the time that she journeyed with me and others at Anchor Community Church.
Anchor talks about our spiritual journey like this: we encourage you, we want to help you take your next step with Jesus Christ.
This is at the heart of what we believe it means to be a Christian – that at any point in your spiritual journey, you are choosing to take your next step with Jesus Christ.
I’m thankful for the steps that I was able to encourage Tracy to take with Jesus Christ. I’m sure that Tracy was thankful to those of you who also helped her take her next many steps with Jesus.
Part of what it means to be a Christian, to take our next steps with Jesus is to trust his way of living, and believe his words to be trustworthy.
Part of what it means to follow Jesus, to take your next steps with him is to believe his words about God: that Jesus is what God would look like if He came to our world and lived amongst us as a man.

One of Jesus’ followers, John, wrote in a letter to some friends - friends whom he was encouraging to take their next steps with Jesus – and he described God as Love.
So we could say that Jesus – His words, works, His Way – is a living example of what God’s Love looks and sounds like.
Maybe part of what it means to be a Christian hinges on what we believe about Love: Does God as revealed through Jesus Christ have Anything to teach us about Love? I believe Yes.
If you believe that God is Love, and that Jesus is an example of what God’s Love looks like in our world, then you may also believe that what God teaches about Love through Jesus is crucial to our next steps in loving others as God loves us.
God’s love for us – as demonstrated through Jesus – is characterized by: Generosity, Forgiveness of Sins, Patience, Humility, Wisdom, Compassion.
God invites us to love in Jesus’ name – to love others like Jesus loves, like God loves us.
I think many of you would say – as you reflect on how Tracy loved you – with Generosity, Forgiveness of Sins, Patience, Humility, Wisdom, Compassion – that surely this was one of the ways that God was loving you.

Part of what it means to be a Christian is to believe that God’s love is generous enough to forgive us our sins.
And part of what it means to be a Christian, to take your next steps with Jesus, is to forgive others their sins as God in Jesus forgives yours.
Part of what it means to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus, is to also love the orphan and the widow, the poor and the oppressed, the abused and the neglected, the marginalized and the outcasts.
We believe that this is part of what it means to love others like God loves us – and when you reflect upon Tracy’s life, you see this kind of forgiving, compassionate love given to her, and given through her. Just as there was much in her life that needed forgiving, so she forgave much; and just as there was much compassion that she needed, so she gave much.
When you saw Traci loving the orphan and the widow, the abused and the neglected, the outcasts – you saw God’s love at work in our world. And you would say that this kind of love is a gift; and so we would say that Traci was a gift – of God, of love.
Many of us, when we pray, are asking – in one way or another – for more love: more generosity, more forgiveness, more patience, more humility, more wisdom, more compassion. And many times, when you prayed for this kind of love, God gave you Tracy. So we could say that Tracy was an answer to prayer; Tracy was often God’s answer to your prayers.

As we mourn Tracy’s death today, and as we celebrate her life today, we also consider how we might honor Tracy best everyday.
We honor Tracy best by how we live with the days we have left.
You honor Tracy’s death and life by loving others the way God has loved Tracy; you honor Tracy’s life by loving others the way God loved you through Tracy. We honor Tracy best by loving with the words and works of Jesus all the days we have left.

When given the opportunity to love generously in the Way of Jesus: Just Do It!
When given the opportunity to forgive sins in the Way of Jesus: Just Do It!
When given the opportunity to be humbly compassionate in the Way of Jesus: Just Do It!
When given the opportunity to take your next step in the Way of Jesus: Just Do It!
When given the opportunity to thank God for the gift of Tracy, Just Do It…

Scripture that I read that morning that you may also find helpful: Psalm 23, Psalm 17:1-8, 1John 4:7-21, 1Corinthians 13, Matthew 5:3-16

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Monday was a good day.

At 10am I met with Huntington University students; Ruth Ann Price invited me again to join their class to help discuss Reggie McNeal's helpful book, The Present Future. Jeff Carroll of Union Church joined us as well. It's fun to talk about Anchor with the students, to get good ministry questions, and think through with them how Anchor is seeking to do effective ministry in these days.

At 11am I officiated the funeral for Tracy Flynn. Tracy attended Anchor for about two years back in 2002 or so. She also played softball with my aunts and mum way back when, so there was a neat family connection. Many of her friends shared very beautiful stories of Tracy. Her death was unexpected, and her loss is felt deeply. Though I didn't know much about her spiritual journey, it was a good opportunity to encourage her family and friends to continue in theirs, to take their next step with Jesus in the days they have left.

Shirley and Faye were at the funeral, they spent some time with Tracy back when she was in high school. We did lunch together and it was helpful to talk about how they felt the funeral went. They are so sweet!

2pm was homework time; this was my day to study for my final exam. The professor of our Gospels class provided some quizzes (not for credit) that we could take to prep for the final exam. I really want to get an A in this class. It took about four hours to work through the eight quizzes, but I got through them and feel good about the content and the upcoming exam.

6pm: dinner time with Mum, Emma and Eli. Tara took Levi and Isaac to participate in a TV commercial. Raymond James is getting ready to run a commercial and they wanted twins in it; Levi and Isaac were some that were selected. They had fun, maybe they'll actually get to be on TV! Mum stuck around to help with dinner, and then afterwards Emma invited Eli and I to play up in her room. We played Beauty and the Beast; she put a flannel shirt on me so that I would have a Beast costume, and then we packed a bag for the beach. But then I had to be the diving board at the pool, she made me lay down so she could stand on me and then jump into the imaginary ocean. Crazy kid. By this time Tara is home with the guys, so now Levi and Isaac are taking turns jumping...but they tended to jump on me, not off of me. Ha!

8pm was Monday Night Football - I assumed that the Steelers would kill the Dolphins, and thus Ben and Hines would get tons of Fantasy points so that I could defeat Faye and move one spot closer to a tie with her in first place. But alas, it was a three point game - no touchdowns, and thus no win for me. Argh. There's always next week.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

We're thankful here at the Happy Hallman Home!

Emma is watching the Macy Day's Parade, Eli is smiling and rolling around on the floor, Levi and Isaac are playing with the food supplies for our feasts later today. Silly boys.

Today we do lunch with Grandma Karen at her home, the Simmons come on over and we eat, laugh and maybe even get in a Euchre game amidst the squealing of the six kids four and under!

For supper we head to Huntington, Shirley and Faye host the Hallman Thanksgiving Feast; more delicious food, plenty of homemade Grandma Rozer pies, and then the we try not to step on six kids four and under as they run through the house.

This year there are three great football games on Thanksgiving: Green Bay, Detroit and Indianapolis! So much to be thankful for...Go Gretroitpolis!

Hope you find a way to be happy and thankful on this National Holiday.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sunday Sermon Notes - 11.25.07

Religion is getting a bad name these days.

Some like Dawkins, Harris, and Hutchens argue that religion is useless, dangerous, and that humanity would be better off with the elimination of religion. Obviously they only cite material that supports their claim. Unfortunately they do not have to work hard to come up with ammunition.

But if religion has been around for a long, long, long time; and if it shows no signs of disappearing, then by what criteria does one judge the usefulness or purity of a religion?

James the brother of Jesus puts forth this visible criteria: Religion innocent and untainted before God our Father is: to take care of the orphans and widows distressed in our world; to keep oneself untainted by the world.

Who would be opposed to religious people who took care of the poor, the abused and broken, the orphan and widow? Who would despise religious people who walked in humility; being honest, generous, faithful, forgiving, strong, wise, patient?

What is religion that matters? Religion that produces in people the kind of words and works of God the Father and Creator: all that he produced was good, and all that he gives his children is just enough. Religion would oppose evil and overcome it with good; Religion would produce shalom and truth, not pursue it at the price of the shalom and truth of others. Religion would not hoard and condemn, but respond to others as Jesus did upon this earth.

Religious people who follow Jesus ought to reconsider how loud they want to confess their faith, maybe they ought to first produce the fruit of faith before they say anything else. James does point out that a loose tongue leads a heart astray; loose lips reveal a person who understands little and understands themself less.

So for those of you out there like me who are leary of being labeled religious, consider another alternative: pray for wisdom that God might direct you (me) towards orphans and widows, and then that he would give us wisdom on what to do with who we see.

Oh, and maybe James and Jesus care for widows so much is because of the hardship they endured when Mary's husband died. Sometimes personal experience can soften a heart. Instead of waiting for tragedy to strike your heart, pray for the Spirit's wisdom and courage instead.

Check out this link to read of a Jesus follower loving widows in Burundi.


Friday, November 16, 2007

Mmmm...Huckleberry Pie!

Earlier this week I finished up the last bites of my scrumptous Huckleberry Pie. It was a sad moment, I must wait another year before I taste my pie. It was also a satisfying moment, savoring those tart berries, eight months of patience and anticipation culminated in that last bite.

Yes, I know I take my Huckleberry Pie to seriously. Why not?

Levi and Isaac helped me cut down the stalks - about a dozen or so, and they put them in a laundry basket so we could pick the berries in our warm and cozy kitchen and not the dark and chilly backyard.

Dad and Isaac were a team, Levi and I paired up to pick the priceless berries.

I think Dad loves Huckleberry Pie more than me, but he is either to shy or too mature to gush! The guys are helping him pick off the stems - making sure the berries are just right for the next phase of pie-making.

Levi and the fresh berries...he is a great helper!

Isaac and the berries...I tried to get him to eat one, but he wisely refused...they actually taste disgusting right off the stalk -unless you are Emma, who was eating them right out of the container later that night. What a crazy sister Isacc has to put up with!

Mum and the kids are getting the berries ready to boil. It's a secret formula, huckleberries require special treatment to unlock their delightful taste.

Okay, I'll let you in on one of the many secrets: you must bring the berries to a boil such that they turn green. Mmmm...making you salivate now, aren't I?

Mum is such a good mum, and she's so skilled in her secret art of baking Huckleberry Pies

Emma, Levi, and Isaac were so proud of their pie - and they liked it too! Just not too much, otherwise their won't be enough for me!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Way of Anchor and Newbigin's Thoughts - Part Five

"Jesus did not write a book but formed a community."
So writes Newbigin in chapter 18 of his book The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. Newbigin - a missionary with decades of service in India - asserts that the only interpretation "of the gospel is a congregation of men and women who believe it and live by it."

He goes on to describe six characteristics of this kind of community that believes Jesus and lives by his words and deeds.

The first one: it is a community of praise and thanksgiving.
The second characteristic: it will be a community of truth.
The third: "it will be a community that does not live for itself but is deeply involved in the concerns of its neighborhood."

Fourth: "it will be a community where men and women are prepared for and sustained in the excercise of the priesthood in the world."
Not the most eloquent phrase, but it rings true for me. When is Anchor at its best? When is a disciple of Jesus at its best? On a Sunday morning gathering? Singing worship songs to God? Reading the Bible or listening to a sermon? No.

"It is in the ordinary secular business of the world that the sacrifices of love and obedience are to be offered to God. It is in the context of secular affairs that the mighty power released into the world through the work of Christ is to be manifested."

"It is only in this way that the public life of the world, its accepted habits and assumptions, can be challenged by the gospel and brought under the searching light of the truth as it has been revealed in Jesus."

Anchor is at its best when Anchorites are loving and serving as Jesus loved and served where they live, work, play and learn. With the people who God has caused you to notice in the many spheres of life you are part of, what do you do with/to/for them as a Spirit/wisdom filled follower of Jesus? That is way more important than gathering together on a Sunday.

But is there value in gathering on Sundays? Of course. It can be an imporant "place where its members are trained, supported, and nourished in their exercise of their parts of the priestly ministry in the world. The preaching and teaching of the local church has to be such that it enables members to think out the problems that face them in their secular work in light of their Christian faith."

The measure of a church's success is not how many people show up on a Sunday, how many programs are run during the week, or how well we're doing with money and buildings. The true measure of a church's success is how many members of that church are disciples of Jesus, living out the Way of Jesus at home, at work, at school, at church.

Anchor is at its best when its members are committed to living out the Way of Jesus with others in their everyday life, bringing hope and healing to Christians and pre-Christians - being a blessing and blessing others in the name of Jesus.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Celtic Woman & Huckleberry Pie!

Ah, what a day, what a day!

Tara and I enjoyed a beautiful concert with the Celtic Woman tonight. Gorgeous music, a thrilling fiddle, and some heart-thumping percussion! Back in September we discovered they were coming to town, and so we decided it would be a neat date for us - we only get a couple dates a year. Plus, it was a couple of days after my birthday, so it kind of extended the celebrations.

To wrap up the evening, we came home and sampled some Huckleberry pie. I planted the seeds in mid-May, transplanted them in early June, and last night Levi, Isaac and I harvested them with Papa Ger's help. Today the kids helped my Mum make the pie. Very, very tasty. I waited seven months for that first bite of the tart and creamy Huckleberry Pie. Mmmmmmm....

Also today I received my new iPod that Tara had me order for my birthday. The special edition U2 iPod that Anchor gave me a bunch of years ago finally died. It costs about the same to get it fixed as it does to buy a new one with cooler features and a boatload of more memory. I can't wait to use it - it's how I listen to my podcasts and most of my music, I've been without an iPod for about two months now. Oh, the agony.

So finally, my birthday celebration has come to an end. It began last Tuesday with a homecooked meal with my folks, continued to Thursday with Texas Roadhouse carry out with my Aunts Shirley and Faye; Friday was China Buffet with the kids, and Saturday Tara and I dined at Biaggis, and then spent about four hours relaxing in Barnes & Noble. Sunday was the celebrated Colts/Patriots game (arrgh - the Colts will Indiana find meaning in life, what is the point of our existence if we can't defeat the arrogant cheaters codenamed Patriots?); and then today...turning 33 has never been so much fun.

Thanks to my family and friends for the generous gifts and love - what would life be without you?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Rowling, Potter, Dumbledore: Who Are They, Really?

Rowling goes to church...maybe she's a Christian?

Potter's character and story was rooted in two Scripture verses? *see below

Dumbledore is gay?

In a previous post where I reviewed the last book, I mentioned the significance of the Scriptures used in the story, and the similarities between Harry's sacrifical love in overcoming evil with good, and that of Jesus. It seems that Rowling was intentional in this similarity - you can read about it at this link Here are two quotes from that article -
*While Rowling said that "Hogwarts is a multifaith school," these quotes, of course, are distinctly Christian. The second is a direct quote of Jesus from Matthew 6:19, the first from 1 Corinthians 15:26. As Hermione tells Harry shortly after he sees the graves, his parents' message means "living beyond death. Living after death." It is one of the central foundations of resurrection theology.

*"They're very British books, so on a very practical note Harry was going to find biblical quotations on tombstones," Rowling explained. "[But] I think those two particular quotations he finds on the tombstones at Godric's Hollow, they sum up — they almost epitomize the whole series."

I have to say that I was very surprised to hear Rowling announce that Dumbledore is gay. Apart from Rowlings disclosure, no one could have proved that Dumbledore was gay, though some claim they wondered about it. Dubious, I think. And of course, now people are going back through and looking for hints that support this claim; the LA Times (10.23.07) ran an article on seven clues that Dumbledore is gay. Some in the gay community are claiming Dumbledore as their hero, praising Rowling for her courage to insert a gay man into such a noble and famous position of influence on young children; the LA Times (10.22.07) printed a story asserting as much (along with many other newspapers - see links at bottom of post). Some in the gay community are diappointed by this revelation - the timing and the thinnes of the character's gayness; and Christians opposed to the series anyways have another piece of ammunition to add to their arsenal of arguments.

Here's my take on it, on why Dumbledore is the ideal Christian gay man, and why the gay community can't claim him.
Dumbledore was chaste.
Dumbledore's love of another man was his downfall.
Dumbledore remained committed to chastity in his life, in his school; he committed to righting his wrongs and convincing others to overcome evil with good and love.

Rowling is clever, but I still haven't heard a good reason for why she made this announcement now. Some denounce her for cowardness in not revealing it before the final book came out, accusing her of crass marketing ploys. Others praise her savviness, recognizing that this kind of announcement made too soon could have hurt record sales. It seems that Rowling has known for awhile that part of her background character plot required Dumbledore to be gay, but it is also clear that his being gay was not part of the actual plot.

But since so much Christian and Scriptural influence is imbedded in both the plot and the characters, is it possible that Rowling introduced the most famous gay man in literary history that was chaste and apolitical - influenced by Jesus' singleness, betrayal, temptations, love of men, and willingness to live and die for others? Could it be that Rowling imagined a way for millions of gay men to follow the way of Jesus which includes -amongst many other things - choosing chastity on purpose? Did she create a character to inspire gay men to follow the royal law like Jesus, but to deflect focus from their sexual orientation and instead insist on overcoming evil with good and love for neighbor?

Things aren't always what they seem...

Here are some links on this story: