Saturday, June 28, 2008

My Mennonite Heritage

The message of the Mennonites - and the Anabaptist tradition - has taken on a renewed interest for me.

My church denomination was founded by two ministers - one a Reformed minister the other a Mennonite - both from Europe. My mother grew up in Wilshire, but her family was from the Berne area - which is a Mennonite enclave. In reading through my mom's family line, there are many Mennonite ministers listed. My father grew up in Southern Ontario where there were also many Mennonites - a few of them shared the last name of Hallman as well.

But I really don't know that much about the Anabaptist tradition that gave birth to the Mennonite faith. So I asked Scot McKnight (a scholar who holds to an Anabaptist faith) who to read to get up to speed: John Howard Yoder (The Politics of Jesus), Ron Sider (Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger) and Stanley Hauerwas (Resident Aliens). I already owned (and had read major sections of) Sider's book, and I'd always wanted to read Yoder's. The reading has been very illuminating. I also found Menno Simmons' complete collection of writings online, so I've been reading through it. McKnight also has a link on his site to an older article about the Anabaptist distinctives compared to the Catholic and Protestant faith.

I didn't know/realize that Anabaptists are not considered Protestants. They weren't part of the Reformation...they consider themselves part of the Radical Reformation: radical meaning "root" - they alone went all the way back to the foundational teachings of Jesus to shape their personal and political lives.

Apparently phrases I've been using like: Following the Way of Jesus; Loving God/Loving Neighbor; these are very Anabaptistic ideas. There is a resurgence of Anabaptist ideals...and Greg Boyd has this insightful blogpost on it: Cherish Your Treasure

If you know of some good Anabaptist stuff to read, let me know. So far it's been a fascinating journey.

Friday, June 27, 2008

California Nostalgia...

Last year on the 27th of June we were wrapping up a fun day at the world-famous Monterrey Bay Aquarium. Later that afternoon while the kids took a nap I was able to sit by the pool and read my Michener novel for a couple of hours. That is what I call vacation.

Ever since Father's Day (which is when we left for CA last year) we've been saying stuff like: "Hey, we'd be in Colorado tonight!" or "Is this when we got to Monterrey?" It's been fun remembering that California Trip!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Welcome Tooth Fairy!

Here's Tara's humorous account of Emma's tooth story:
On the way home from Family Fusion tonight, Emma calmly announces, “I have exciting news – my tooth came out, but now I just have to find it!”

Since she had a red snow cone at the church, I wasn’t sure what was running down her chin. But she had indeed lost her tooth! First from her mouth, and then SOME place in the van!

She had been chewing on Isaac’s snake (don’t ask…) and she said it just “popped right out” but she didn’t know where… She was so excited though that she didn’t seem phased it couldn’t be found (Thank goodness for that!)

Upon returning home we all spent time searching for the tooth! Of course you would think it wouldn’t be too hard- but it didn’t seem to be in an obvious place (and I might mention we also had just been munching on popcorn… and amazingly popcorn kernels can look a lot like a tooth!) and so Tim and I, even after getting a flashlight, were about ready to assume it had fallen into some crack or crevice never to be found

Emma was still fine with this - we had already talked about her just writing the tooth fairy a note if she would happen to swallow it (a small fear of hers…). The boys, of course, kept yelling “Wade a minut – me think I see it! Just keeding! hee, hee, hee…”

Since the mosquitos had found the van, and we had already stripped Emma down to make sure it wasn’t “hiding” there, we headed the boys into the house… (Where Eli managed to knock open a can of pop, cause it to start spraying, and proceed to walk to the garage to show us… however having slipped in his own mess, ended up just getting really mad…)

However, before Tim and I totally admitted defeat, we went to look one more time… and while in the van we hear Isaac yell, “Wade a minut” and Emma say “Let’s ask mom if this is how a tooth feels” and sure enough they had found the tooth while in the kitchen!

When asked where Isaac found it, he laughed and said “In my shoe!”

As he retold the story at bedtime after I asked if it was in his sandal or on his foot, he said he had taken off his shoe and looked down and thought “Hmmm, what’s this? And it was Sissy’s tooth!”

It was too funny to hear him tell it! And to her credit, Emma had announced earlier in the van that whoever found the tooth could be the one to put it under her pillow and she kept to her word!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Happy for Habitat

Today I was fortunate to participate in a dedication program for the most recent Fort Wayne Habitat for Humanity Home. This was house number 118 in the past two decades, quite an accomplishment.

There are several reasons why this was a special project:
* the family moving in are former refugees from Northeastern Africa
* many local-aid agencies who have been working this this refugee family
* many Christians and churches worked together to bless this family with help and a home
* this was Anchor's first Habitat project
* and we made new friends.

Louise McCracken - a member of Grace Presbyterian Church, is a board member for the FW/HH, and at the dedication today she told two stories of two different volunteers that participated in the build; it just so happened that these two vols were both Anchorites! Louise told these two stories to help highlight the joy and sacrifice that many vols experienced in making this house happen.

The first story was of Joanna Herrrick - surprise, surprise. Louise remarked that Joanna, upon bringing the meal this past Thursday for the workers who were cleaning the house, walked into the home and declared, "This is a God-thing." This tickled Louise and resonated with what we hoped and knew to be true.

The second story was about the sweet and giving spirit of Sarah Palmer. Sarah, an employee of the West State Scott's store, bought four bags of fruit, donuts, juice and supplies to bring to the build where she was also going to work with a hammer and nails. Sarah doesn't drive, so she was hoping to get a ride with another Anchorite - which unfortunately didn't work out. Being a determined sort of person, Sarah took the bus from the corner of State Blvd and St. Mary's Avenue to the corner of Anthony Blvd and Paulding Rd - the other side of town. Not an easy trip with four bulging bags of food. When Sarah showed up, Louise was surprised and delighted and overwhelmed by the gift and determination of Sarah.

As our Lord Jesus taught and demonstrated: it is more blessed to give than to receive. Thanks Joanna, Sarah, and all the other Anchorites who did their part in putting together a house by which we can bless refugees from Africa. And thanks for Habitat for making these kind of projects possible. Happy are the merciful!

Here are some pics:

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Knock, Knock...Who's There?

Wouldn't you know it, but my daughter Emma is hooked on these Knock, Knock jokes.

Here's a typical one:

Knock, Knock.
Who's There?
Banana Who?
(this is where it tonight, for example, on the way home for the lake): Banana with a steering wheel on it's head!
(this is followed by all sorts of giggles!).

On and on this goes in the van:
Banana Who? Banana sitting on a steering wheel!
Banana Who? Banana coming out of a steering wheel!

My family informs me that when I was Emma's age, I also told these kind of nonsense jokes.

I actually think Emma's jokes are funny...up to a point: like after the eighth version of bananas and steering wheels I had to try and introduce anything different for Emma to make a joke about. I finally had to tell here to stop with the knock knock jokes.

She agreed.

Then she smiled.

"Hey Dad...why did the banana cross the road?"

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Poverty and the Church in the USA

The issue of poverty is coming up more and more in church ministry discussions. As it should; any self-respecting group of Christians who claim to follow Jesus ought to care for the poor. But the question is often: what does it mean to care for the poor? The poor are not a monolithic group. You have white poor, black poor, hispanic poor, asian poor; northern poor and southern poor; single mother poor and widowed grandfather poor, disabled poor and uninsured poor, lazy poor and working poor. What connection is there between caring for the poor of our day and region and the poor of Jesus' day and region?

And where does caring for the poor require the church and the corporate world to work together? How can religion and economics partner rather than spar or succumb?

I'm a regular reader of Imprimis: a publication of Hillsdale College. The May 2008 edition included excerpts from a speech given by the president of the Club for Growth, Patrick Toomey. In talking about the "greatest story never told" - the greatest period of prosperity in human history - he lists too many statistics to prove how the world's economy is expanding. I was struck by the statistics he shared about American families who live below the poverty line. the early 1970's, less than 40 percent had a car, almost none had color televisions, and air conditioning was virtually unheard of; in 2004, 46 percent owned their own homes, almost 75 percent owned a car (indeed, 30 percent owned two or more cars), 97 percent had color TV's, and 67 percent had air conditioning. The poor in the U.S. have an average of 721 square feet of living space per person, as compared with 430 in Sweden and 92 in Mexico.

Who are the poor that the church is to care for? And what is the point of caring for the poor? Alleviating their causes of poverty? Lifting them out of poverty? Or caring for them whether they choose to stay in poverty or not?

What is the moral/religious obligation to end poverty? Does our spiritual call to care for the poor require economic saviness and sociological wisdom? How much of poverty in America is a moral problem, and how much of it is a sin problem, and how much of it is an economic reality? And what should the church do?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Saleh Swimming Pool

Sunday for lunch we went to our cousin Nathan's house for his high school graduation party. Excellent Texas Sheetcake!

It was hot weather for the party, and we needed a place to cool down. Our home was without functioning A/C, so Amy invited us over to their home, which was nice and cool. Funny - we hardly spent anytime indoors. Jamil had bought a big swimming pool and the kids played in it for a long time. Good fun.

At one point Emma decides to have Alia baptize her. Emma crosses her arms and gets on her knees and then instructs Alia on how to dunk her down. Emma comes up squealing and smiling. Very cute. Then Emma seeks to baptize Alia - except she has zero interest in her cousin putting her face under water. So we tell Emma to baptize herself. Which she does. And then she does it again.

I tell Emma: "You sure like getting baptized, don't you?"

"Yeah," she quips, "I really love God!"

Saturday, June 07, 2008

I Will Show You

Genesis 11v31 - 12v4

Sunday begins the event: OnePrayer!

Over 1300 churches are joining together under the banner of OnePrayer - Craig Groeschel and others are spearheading this movement of bringing churches together to pray. I'm all for joining other churches in Gospelwork, and I think prayer is a pretty good idea also.

The four-week series centers on this one prayer: Lord, make us...

Each church - starting this Sunday, will inspire their congregation around their one prayer. For Anchor, our one prayer is: Lord, make us courageous.

It seems to me that most people I know - especially the ones going through difficult times (pick an issue...), they know what the right thing to do is, but they are afraid to do it (or afraid to ask for help...). Somehow it is easier to keep doing the familiar things that contribute to the problem, than do the next right thing that would move them towards grace and peace.

I came across this ancient Irish prayer the other day:
Lord, make us keen to discern your will,
make us wise to understand it,
and grant us courage to follow it wherever it leads.

Reading the ancient - Irish prayer, I thought of Abraham. Specifically when God called him out of Haran to Canaan. Lots of interesting nuggets about the story, but a few that are pertinent to our one prayer: Abraham had never heard God's voice before, Abraham was totally ignorant of God, of even his name. But the text says that upon hearing God's promise, Abraham went.

Here's the thing: God promised the very thing that Abraham wanted more than anything. Abraham had left Ur for Canaan with his father Terah many years ago, but they stopped halfway and settled in Haran. Settling wasn't a long-term option for Abraham. So when God gave permission to Abraham to complete his journey, Abraham was delighted.

The courageous action on Abraham's part was not that he left Haran for Canaan. Lots of people did that - merchants, soldiers, refugees, etc. The courageous part was Abraham's reliance on God. The key to God's promise was this: " the land I will show you." It was if God was co-opting Abraham's dream, as if God was saying - "I need you Abraham, I need you and your dreams/desires. Let me lead you into the future, let me lead you into getting what you want more than anything." A God he did not know or understand gives him permission to fulfill his dream...and he trusts that God! Amazing.

Lord, make us courageous like Abraham...willing to follow you to the land you will show us. Grant us the courage to trust your ways, the courage to leave behind a settled life for a blessed life, the courage to become your blessing to the world.

C.S. Lewis points out in his famous sermon The Weight of Glory that far too many people have desires that are too weak; they settle for a safe, predictable life when they could've entered into a blessed life that pours out grace and peace into their neighborhoods.

What fears keep you from having that necessary conversation with your spouse? What fear keeps you from engaging your children? Your parents? What fear keeps you from standing up to your boss? What fear keeps you from using your God-given talents and gifts to bless others? What fear keeps you from trusting? What fear keeps you from following God's way?

Abraham went - he overcame his fear to follow the Way of the LORD, and it made all the difference. Stop taking the well-traveled road of fear, take the path less travelled - courage will make all the difference.

Lord, make us follow your Way wherever it leads.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Worth of a Life

For Christmas 2006 my Dad gave me a wonderful gift: A Year with Dietrich Bonhoeffer -daily meditations from his letters, writings and sermons. I read a couple of entries each month, and this one today was illuminnating. Bonhoeffer's quote on life and love caused some good reflection in me; may it be so for you.

The worth of a life is measured by how much love it has.

What do happiness and unhappiness mean, what do wealth and poverty mean, what do honor and disgrace mean, what does living at home or abroad mean, what does life and death mean where people live in love?

They do not know.

They do not differentiate.

They only know that the sole purpose of happiness as well as unhapppiness, poverty as well as wealth, honor as well as disgrace, living at home or abroad, living and dying is to love all the more strongly, purely, fully.

-- from A Testament to Freedom, 241