Friday, March 20, 2009

Happy First Day of Spring!

Ahhhh...finally, the first day of Spring! This winter seemed kind of long. The sun is sunny, the breeze is breezy, the earth is earthy, hmmmmm...this is my kind of weather!

Today Emma and I did some leaf-raking while Eli napped. It was fun to be outside with her, working together, listening to her chatter about slimy bugs, prickly branches, and crunchy leaves.

The next big project is to rake up all the hickory nuts that are littered across the whole backyard. I've had a few people tell me I should harvest the hickory nuts and then use them for cooking or sell them. Does anyone know how to harvest hickory nuts so that I could use them for cooking or sell them? Otherwise I'm going to have to cajole my kids into picking up hundreds and hundreds of nuts. I can make it a game for about five or seven minutes, and then after that I'm on my own!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

And the Winner Is...Louisville!

Go Louisville!

I can't stand North Carolina, I'm ambivalent towards Duke, but I'd be okay if Memphis won.  I could care less about Pittsburgh or Oklahoma.  Obviously I'd love to see Michigan State or Purdue go the whole way...buuuut...I don't think that will happen.  

I like Rick Pitino, and I kind of like Louisville.  And they are a really good team.  I hope...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Saint Patrick

Did you wear green today? 

I didn't. Well, there was a bit of green on the bottom of my sandal. And I didn't drink any Irish beer today, didn't pin a shamrock to my shirt, and I didn't say any words with an Irish brogue. But I did do some searching on the person Saint Patrick, and on the background to the festive St. Patrick's Day.

Saint Patrick was born in Britain to a Christian family, was captured and enslaved by Irish raiders, and herded their sheep in the wild crags for six years or so. He had a vision from God, he then escaped back to his home, where he then had another vision to return to the land of his oppressors and introduce them to Christianity. After much training he returned and had great success in spreading the gospel of Christ to the Irish noblemen as well as peasants and slaves.

Pretty much a good guy.  

And if you read any of the material I've linked to below, you'll realize that historians quibble over all sorts of dates, and cast doubt on anything you'd like to think of as a "fact".  Try to look past that... :)

If you care:
Who Was Saint Patrick -

Saint Patrick -

St. Patrick's Day -

An interesting semi-historical novel on the life of Patrick, read the book by Stephen R. Lawhead.

The Teacher's Note

On Monday one of the preschool teachers for Levi and Isaac sent home another teacher's note. Usually getting a teacher's note indicates there is a problem, or that some issue needs to be resolved. Lucky for us, the Monday note made us laugh!

"Today at circle, a girl exclaimed, 'It's a beautiful day!"

In response, Levi burst into song in front of the whole class:
'It's a
beautiful daaaaaaay! That's a song by U2. My daddy has the CD!'

Isaac added: 'Don't let it get away!'"

Ah yes....I'm very proud of my boys!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Good Times in Lent

Tonight Anchor hosted four other neighborhood churches for our the third evening of our 5 Sunday Lenten Services.  Grace Presbyterian, First Mennonite, Trinity Lutheran, and North Highlands Church of Christ joined us for a soup supper (with lots of desserts!) and then for worship and a lesson about Jesus.  

We do the Lent services together for several reasons: first because our churches want to continue to partner together in serving our neighborhood.  In order to better serve our neighbors, we want to deepen our partnership together.  One of the best ways to do that is to not only serve together, but to feast and worship together.  We're getting really good at all three!

Another reason for meeting together has to do with Lent: this season of the church calendar can get pretty "me" focused.  It's often what "I" give up for Lent.  Which is good, but it's also good to focus on community.  Lent is a time for giving something up, but each Sunday of Lent is also like a mini-Easter, and what better way to celebrate a Sunday than with fellow believers from different church traditions.  

One more reason: we pastors can have a very lonely job.  It's too easy for pastors from different churches in the same neighborhood to get suspicious of each other, to get competitive, and to stay ignorant.  I don't want that - and neither to the churches we partner with.  By getting together like this, each pastor gets to host the other pastors and their congregations, each pastor gets to be under the teaching of the other pastors, and to experience their gifts and hospitality.  

We meet next week (3.22) at Grace Presbyterian - 6pm; then the week after (3.29) at Trinity Lutheran.  Join us if you can!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Free Garden Huckleberries With Any Order!

Yes!  You too can now grow your very own huckleberries!  Or not. I'm getting ready to order some stuff from Burgess Seed and Plant Co. so that I can get a free packet of huckleberries!  I love buying plants: trees, flowers, shrubs, bulbs, seeds...ahhh the joy of digging in the dirt. It's fun to grow stuff - stuff with color, stuff with scents, stuff with flavor. It's also a lot of fun to order this stuff and then to wait for the mail to come and get the packets and then looking for a sunny day to start planting.  I'm ready for the rain to go away and the sun to warm up the ground.

What are you going to grow this season?

Sunday Sermon Notes - 03.08.09

Jesus, Sin, and the Paralyzed Man

Luke knows how to tell a story well.  This particular one has several layers of intrigue and tension to it - as well as some humor.  At least I think so!

To put this account in it's co-text: Jesus up to this point has done many healings amidst crowds of people.  He is well known across the nation.  He's done a lot of teaching - proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God - but he's not yet taken the next step: forgiving sins.  And that is what he initiates in this story of the Paralyzed Man.

Let's call him Bob.  Bob the Paralyzed Man.  We don't know whether he was severely crippled from an accident, born a paraplegic, or paralyzed due to a disease.  We do know that he had at least two friends who were willing to haul him to Jesus.  One has to wonder how it is that this man in this condition had friends willing to do this.  Being paralyzed, he would been likely cruelly impoverished, a beggar, completely dependent on others with nothing much to give back.  Nonetheless he had two friends who had compassion on him, were committed to him, and courageous enough to creep through the crowds and get to Jesus.

Imagine hauling a man on a flimsy cot, a man with no ability to balance himself.  Through a rough and raucous crowd, up onto the roof of a craggy house, lowered with ropes (where'd they get ropes from?) down in front of Jesus.  You can imagine the excitement of the paralyzed man at having survived his friends attempt to get him to Jesus!  You can imagine the excitement of the friends finally getting Bob the paralyzed man to drop right in front of Jesus!  With Jesus' track record, everyone - Bob, the friends, the crowd, the Pharisees and lawyers - is expecting a healing!  We expect Jesus to laugh, and cry out: "Friend, I see your faith - you are... healed!"  

But that's not what he says.  The place is abuzz with seeing Bob lowered from the roof, the place is already electric with the prior healings having taken place, and Jesus is then so anticlimatic: "Friend", he shouts out, "your sins are...forgiven."  

What?  Sins forgiven?  No! No, no, no...I want healed!  Heal me!  Ack!  This isn't supposed to happen!  We went through all of this to get healed, not forgiven of sins. What's Jesus doing?

Interestingly, it's not the paralyzed man who is recorded as protesting the forgiving, but the Pharisees and Torah-teachers.  They correctly state: only God can forgive sins.  If only they could see with faith...

Jesus uses this moment (he is so brilliant...he knows how to get a crowds attention: always expect the unexpected!) to reveal his next strategy: I'm here to forgive sins.  The healings - they establish my authority from God - and now I'm using that authority to heal people of their sins.  

We want God to heal us of our physical ailments, our economic woes, our relational trials: but do we want his forgiveness of our sins?  Will we come to him for the real healing?  God cares about our bodies, our homes, our families, our vocations, all the stuff of earth.  But God also knows that it is sin that is at work in us, enslaving us, wrecking and cracking up our lives.  And so if we want healed, restored, renewed, we must begin with forgiveness of our sins.

As a follower of Jesus, in what way are you furthering the good news of forgiveness of sins?  Who in your life do you need to teach how to forgive others?  Who in your life could benefit from receiving forgiveness of sins from God?  

As the paralyzed man, what needs healed in your life?  Are you willing to receive forgiveness from God as the starting point for that healing?  Or will you protest and refuse to see the sins at work in you?

In the Luke story, it's possible that the paralyzed man was healed the moment his sins were forgiven.  Jesus saw his faith, his trust, his openness and rewarded it with forgiveness and healing.  As the man lay there, the effects of the healing began their work, the Pharisees argued with Jesus.  Jesus answered them with both his words and actions - by the time the Torah-teachers were done talking, the paralyzed man was ready to stand up and go home.

The starting place for healing of hearts and homes, of souls and cities is in repentance of sins for forgiveness from God.  This then prompts us to forgive those who sin against us.  To not confess sins, to not repent is to become full of a sin which paralyzes our abilities to give mercy, to act justly, to walk humbly.  A quick look around will show you how many paralyzed people there are in our lives.  

Be a friend and help the paralyzed walk again.  

Set them free by teaching them how to receive forgiveness from God and how to forgive others. 

Monday, March 09, 2009

Is the world going to end in our lifetime? Probably not...

There are plenty of people who think that the world may end in our lifetime. This is due primarily to their understanding of the Bible - especially Revelation. Who knows, they may be right. But I have my doubts, since every generation seems to think this - for the past two thousand years or more.

Scot McKnight is posting once a day for five days on his understanding of Scripture and what we call "eschatology" - the fancy theological word for "study of last things." Professor McKnight works hard to understand the teachings and life of Jesus in its original culture - and new insights are being discovered regularly about the world Jesus lived in. With what we've learned about that world, it gives us new insights into the teachings of Jesus - and Paul - and John - and thus new insights into what they meant about "last things."

Click here for the first post - it will lead you to the next posts as well (as they are posted...).
And for the third post...
Here's the fourth and fifth post.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

More Happy Birthday #4 to Levi and Isaac

Levi and Isaac had some friends and family over on the Saturday following their birthday - January 10th. We had a very good time!

Hey Emma- Get On Your Boots!

We've had a great time listening to the new U2 album!  When I drive Emma to school we listen to the catchy and inspiring song Get On Your Boots.  It's also the same phrase I repeat a dozen times to Emma in the kitchen so we're not late for school - "Hey Emma, for the third time, get on your boots!"

The boys are getting into the song too.  If I don't play it loud enough in the van, Eli yells and jerks his thumb up in the air!  Levi likes to bob his head along with the thumping bass, and Isaac grins real big when I turn it up!

The other night Emma asked me what the song was about...she wanted to know why Bono was singing about a submarine and gasoline.  I think she understood my answer.  I think...

The next song I'll get them hooked on is Magnificent.  The boys kind of like Stand Up Comedy - mostly because I have to tell them constantly to stand up and get their coats on, or stand up and put your shoes away, or stand up and quit sitting on your know, stuff like that.

Sunday Sermon Notes - 03.01.09

Jesus, Sin, and Simon the Fisherman.

As Luke tells the story, Jesus is intent on "catching" Simon Peter.  And Jesus intends to use Simon to "catch" others.  Jesus initiates his "catching Simon" plan by coming to Simon's hometown of Capernaum.  Once there he begins to teach with authority in the synagogue, cast out evil spirits, and thus attract quite a crowd.  Just before dinner Jesus makes a bee-line for Simon's home, the crowd in tow, and heals his mother-in-law of a fever.  She gets up, gushes out gracious hospitality, and then after the meal, during the cool of the day, even more people came to Simon's house to have their friends healed.

Jesus definitely had Simon's attention.

The next day Jesus shows up at Simon's boat - his home away from home.  Another crowd is there, listening to him teach.  Jesus asks to borrow Simon's boat as a floating pulpit, to which Simon agrees.  Once in Simon's boat, and finished with his sermon, challenges Simon to take the boat out fishing again.  Simon used nets, which worked best at night.  Simon protested Jesus' apparent ignorance, but there was something about Jesus that prompted him to go along with him.

As the boat slugged into shore with it's huge load of netted fish, Simon falls to his knees and acknowledges his unworthiness of this gift.  He cries out to Jesus, "Go away from me LORD; for I am a sinful man!"  

This is a very different reaction than the village of Nazareth or the town of Capernaum gave to Jesus.  Both of those places wanted Jesus to do stuff for them, and then some more stuff, and then more.  At no point is there record that any of the people in Nazareth or Capernaum reflected on who Jesus was or what this meant for them - beyond personal benefit.  But Simon - he had a very different reaction.

What's our reaction to the good stuff that God gives us?  Are we like Jesus' hometown? Simon's hometown?  Are we interested in what God can do for us - is it all about us?  At what point have you received good gifts from God, and your response was like Simon Peter's: I'm not worthy.

For many of us, we think that the good gifts we receive from God are for us.  They are, but they are not.  The good gifts are for us, but they are also for others.  God pours good gifts into us, usually from others, so that he can pour them into others through us.  So when we receive good gifts from God, thank Him, and then go on our way, we really miss the point and reveal where our heart is towards the LORD.  

When we receive good gifts from God, realize they are good and that they are an undeserved gift, and when we respond to God in humble gratitude, then we are in a position to receive more good gifts - but not for our sake, but for the sake of others.  

Jesus poured good into Simon so that Simon could be used of God as a source of blessings for others.  God used Simon to "catch" many more people for the kingdom.  Simon used to catch fish, which meant death for the fish and life for the one who consumed it.  But now Simon was going to catch people, and rescue them from death and point them in the direction of a new life.

Let God "catch" you and use you as a vessel for much good.  Let him pour the good into you, and then let him pour it out of you unto others.

Or is it all about you?

Monday, March 02, 2009

What to do with what I read?

Beyond entertainment purposes, what is the purpose of reading for the sake of learning?  Is learning valuable for it's own sake?  Is the value of life-long learning quantifiable?

Some of you, like me, read a lot for the sake of knowledge.  We also read for entertainment, but we also read out of hunger to understand the world we live in.  We hold onto this hope that if we read to understand, that somehow that understanding will help us make wiser choices, become better humans, make a difference for good in the world.

But that is basically a belief that is difficult to prove.  How do you make the connection between reading some history or philosophy now with making a difference in a decade or two? Or: how do you avoid becoming cynical about the outcome of all this learning.  

So what if I better understand the cause of the housing collapse?  So what if I better understand the causes of global poverty?  So what if I better understand the philosophical underpinnings of our Constitution?  So what if I better understand the effects of consumerism on our religion?  If I am caught up in forces greater than myself, what value comes from trying to better understand it?

Maybe it's better to not seek so much understanding.  Maybe it's better to just live day to day and take life as it comes.  Maybe it's better to stay hungry for greater understanding rather than always trying to feed it.

I've read some great books in my short lifetime.  I hope to read many more great books.  But I read them in the hopes that I will have greater illumination, a better perspective, and thus a better opportunity to make better choices.  But is that what really happens?  Maybe I should just read for entertainment, and if I actually understand anything better, well then good for me!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Levi & Isaac - Happy Birthday #4!

On January 5th, Levi and Isaac turned four years old!  Today, March 1st, is Tara's birthday! Why did I wait over three months to post their pictures?  As the boys used to say, "I not know."

Happy Birthday Levi!
Happy Birthday Isaac!
Getting ready to open presents - oh boy!

A Lite Brite!  I haven't seen one of those since I was a kid...
A Color Explosion thingy...they never made stuff like that when I was a kid!

For dinner the boys requested IHOP!  Mmmmm...all you can eat pancakes.  

Last stop: Cold Stone Creamery.  In January.  When it's freezing outside.  Good choice!

Don't ask.  I don't know what they were doing.  Being silly, of course. :)