Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The power of words

Some time ago, a fellow preacher and I were talking about the power of words. In addition to preaching, my friend is an accomplished wordsmith and bibliophile. As we talked, he stunned me when, by way of illustrating his point he said, "For example, the word f--- is incredibly powerful." I agree with him and, in the conext in which he used it, the word was neither profane or offensive. Just, well, powerful.

Something I read today in Eugene Peterson's The Jesus Way reminded me of that conversation:
Everywhere and always as Christians follow Jesus we use words that were first used by God in bringing us and the world around us into being. Our language is derivative (as everything about us is!) from the language of God. Our common speech is in continuity with the language of God. Words are essential and words are holy wherever and whenever we used them. Words are inherently holy regardless of their employment, whether we are making up a shopping list, making conversation with an acquaintance on a street corner, praying in the name of Jesus, asking for directions to the bus station, reading the prophet Isaiah, or writing a letter to our congresswoman. We do well to reverence them, to be careful in our use of them, to be alarmed in their desecration, to take responsibility for using them accurately, and prayerfully. Christian followers of Jesus have an urgent mandate to care for language - spoken, heard, or written - as a means by which God reveals himself to us, by which we express the truth and allegiance of our lives, and by which we give witness to the Word made flesh. . . .

But by and large reverence for language is not conspicuous among us, in or out of the Christian community . . . . The consequence of that is that much of the talk in our time has become, well, just talk - not much theological content to it, not much personal relationship involved, no spirit, no Holy Spirit.
If Peterson is right, what are the implications for me as a parent? As a pastor? As a preacher?

Monday, November 26, 2007

That's it, exactly

John Piper says precisely what I've thought about the "name it and claim it" church crowd, but have been too inarticulate to express. (Thanks, David Willis for the link.)

Politically Correct Coffee

When I moved to Michigan a few months back I discovered Beaner's, the Wolverine state's version of Starbucks. They have great coffee (or so I'm told) tasty pastry and good smoothies. They also have free Wi-Fi - something we came to depend on when our Comcast was down (which was about all the time, by the way).

Recently Beaner's announced their intention to rename the chain. The new moniker: Biggby Coffee. Apparently "beaner" is a racial slur aimed at Hispanic folks. I never knew that. Neither did the coffee sellers prior to their growth into the souther US. They know it now.

Do we sometimes go too far with the whole race thing? As a "majority" I guess I don't have an adequate frame of reference to really make that determination.

Still, I have to wonder, along with our intern Josh who pointed it out to me, shouldn't I be offended that they named my favorite breakfast place "Cracker Barrel?"

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Finally . . .

We're finally getting Wi-Fi at our home. We had Comcast for 60 days, and it only worked about half the time. It was a horrible experience, so much so that I contacted the Better Business Bureau for the first time in my life.

Now Arialink has come to Grand Ledge, so we're hopeful that, when they hook it up later this morning, we can surf and email without complication. Yes!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Eternal life? Not so much, really . . .

Dick Novello, one of our elders at South, shared this devotional at last night's elder's meeting:
I recently read an article on high tech things to watch over the next couple of years. Under the heading of "Creamation Technology" (yes there really was such a heading) there were four companies listed:
  1. Eternal Reefs of Decatur, Georgia will mix your ashes with concrete to make an artificial coral reef that is then dropped into the sea. Creatures are then attracted to and swim around these reefs.
  2. Celebrate Life of Lakeside, California will scatter your remains in a fireworks display. It brings new meaning to "going out with a bang."
  3. Celestis of Houston, Texas has already blasted the remains of about 100 people into space. The most famous of these was Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, and James Doohan the actor who played Scottie on the series. You float in space forever.
  4. LifeGem of Chicago, Illinois has patented a process to manipulate the oxygen level during cremation to allow only carbon to remain. The carbon is then collected and heated in a vacuum until it becomes pure graphite. The graphite is sent to a lab to be compressed. In six to eight weeks, a gem is created. Grandma or grandpa then becomes a ring or a necklace. Mark Bouffard, a LifeGem spokesman says, "Each person has enough carbon to make 50 to 100 life gems. We'll store the remaining carbon just in case."
Now while this is interesting, there is a strong implication that these companies can create an e-t-e-r-n-a-l setting as your final resting place. But the Christian knows that isn't the case. We're told in Revelation 21 that this heaven and earth we know will pass away and there will no longer be a sea.

Paul writes these words in Philippians 3:18-21: "For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body."

Christ's physical body . . . was sacrificed for us and we look forward to His return and the transformation we'll all experience.
Good stuff, Mr. Novello!


Monday, November 19, 2007

Food as a delivery system

Let's face it: all food is one of a handful of delivery systems.

Popcorn - Classic salt and butter delivery system. (The same as lobster, by the way.) The whole point of movie popcorn is the butter and the salt. That is why air-popped corn stinks. No butter. No way for the salt to adhere. An exception - a couple of ladies here at South made chocolate covered popcorn the other day. Not salt and butter but a delivery system none-the-less.

Turkey, dressing and mashed potatoes - Simply put, a gravy delivery system. It's all about the drippings, mixed with heavy cream (or 2% milk if you're a Weller), a dash of corn starch, and simmered until thick. For better delivery, chop up the giblets and include.

Dessert - Cake. Pie. Ice cream. The vehicle is irrelevant. What we're basically talking about here is a sugar delivery system. Granulated, powdered, brown - it doesn't really matter so long as it is sweet.

Anything fried - Is a grease delivery system. That is what makes popcorn so tasty. When cooked in peanut oil it is a dual purpose delivery system combining grease with butter. French fries, fish, battered deep fried twinkies (another dual delivery system). Tasty, tasty, tasty.

Salad (including fresh veggies) - A salad dressing delivery system that serves as an alternative oil delivery system for those who are concerned about the DC (delectable correctness) of eating fried foods. Try serving a veggie tray this Thuersday without that Marzetti stuff in the middle and see how far you get.

Meat - Sauce delivery systems. My preference is barbecue for pork and Heinz 57 (with a twinge of guilt regarding John Kerry's wife) for beef. The less mature palates among our family settle for ketchup. Chicago's Wrigley field recognizes this immutable axiom and delegates to the lowly hot dog the exclusive mustard delivery system rights.

All food is a delivery system. Think about that this Thursday as you sleep off your tryptophanic overdose

Random thoughts on leaving Butler . . .

The realtor called today and told us that we have an offer on our home in Butler - one that we have accepted. We're praying (spiritual-speak for keeping our fingers crossed) that the buyer's financing will all work out and that we'll close in mid-December.

Selling 205 W. Oak Street fills me with random thoughts. . .

First, it really is an end. While I'm certain we were supposed to move from Indiana, selling the house means we really have "burned the ships."

Second, I feel that I've not yet developed a these-are-my-people sense. That is not the case here at South Lansing Christian Church, of course. I already feel a strong connection to the congregation, staff and leadership. They're "my people," and I am theirs.

But in Grand Ledge that is a different story. Butler is a small enough town that I knew most folks by name and they knew me. I knew their kids - where they hung out, what their activities were, who was dating who - that sort of thing. A victory for one person in Butler was shared by all. When one felt a loss, I felt it with them. The struggles and triumphs that the people in Butler shared were my struggles and triumphs, too. In short, they were my people.

I don't have that yet in Grand Ledge. I suppose it takes time to develop that sense. Selling our house leaves me feeling like I don't have any "my people" anymore. Time will change that.

I hope.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Lloyd Knowles was right

Earlier this evening I had a great conversation with a guy who plans to be immersed this coming Sunday. I asked him what drew him to South Lansing Christian Church. He told me that he travels down Aurelius Road all the time and decided to stop in because he saw the building and the sign that said, "Christian Church."

What is so special about the name "Christian Church?"

Some time ago this fellow asked his mother, "What are we? Are we Baptist or Lutheran or what? Because I've always just thought of myself as a plain old Christian." He's right. We're just plain old Christians at South. A Christian Church for those who claim to be "Christians only, but not the only Christians."

I like it that the stuff I learned in Lloyd Knowles Restoration Movement History class in Bible college is true still today. There are still men and women who desire to be known simply by the name of Christ.

Where's my stinking Rolls Royce?

The Charlotte Observer is detailing a new Senate probe into the finances of a handful of "word of faith" pastors who have reported incomes in the high seven figure range. Chief among these is Creflo Dollar, the preacher at an Atlanta megachurch that took down $69 million last year. Creflo's church gave him a Rolls Royce last year, which he uses only on special occasions.

There are plenty of people who take exception to the aptly named brother Dollar. As my co-minister Wally observed, "When did Jesus get his Rolls Royce? The only disciple to get any money was Judas - and a fat lot of good that did him."

In fairness to Creflo, he's not all about money. According to Wikipedia, he's also about his "two Rolls Royces, three private jets, a million-dollar home in Fayetteville, and a US$2.5 million apartment in Manhattan. " And a partridge in a pear tree. (I made that last one up.)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Emma Jean Wagglesworth 1998 - 2007

Nearly a decade ago my wife, Tracy, went to Edon, Ohio to have some curriculum translated into Spanish. She came back with a dog. We were preparing to fly to Tijuana for a mission trip when our friend, Nancy, told us that she knew a woman from her home school group who could translate for us. Tracy took her lessons with her and they were dutifully translated. While there, however, she fell in love with a litter of fluffy golden retriever puppies. One – the runt as it turned out – stole her heart.

Tracy came to my office begging to buy the dog. The $200 was more than we could afford, but I love my wife and wanted her to have this small joy. We paid a deposit, tied a ribbon around the pup’s neck, and waited for her to be weaned. “Adoption day” finally arrived, and we eagerly gathered in our energetic ball of fur with her non-stop tongue. As we wrote the check to pay for her, the breeder told us, “I could have sold this one five times over. Everyone seems to want her.”

We took her home and gave her a name: Emma Jean Wagglesworth.

For 9 ½ years Emma has been a part of our family. We dressed her up at Christmas as a reindeer and took her to the nursing home. She wore Colts gear along with the rest of the family during last season’s Superbowl. Quiet and obedient, Emma Jean understood her place in our family: companion, foot warmer, fetch player and entertainer.

When, four years ago, Maggie Sue came to live with us, Emma finally had a canine companion – someone to tussle with when the humans were away. Emma and Maggie went everywhere together. On one occasion, when the backyard gate was left open and the pair had the opportunity to get into mischief, they instead walked around to the front of the house, plopped down on the porch, and waited for someone to open the door and let them in.

We noticed Emma slowing down this last year. Before our move to Michigan, she looked like she was losing weight. When the dogs received their “pre-move checkup” we discovered Emma had diabetes. She lost weight rapidly, began losing fur, struggled to swallow her food. With her prognosis grim and her condition worsening, we determined to make her death merciful and asked my veterinarian cousin to help us to ease her passing.

Our dear friend Emma died today. She passed on surrounded by her family, sleeping on her dog bed, wrapped in Tracy’s arms.

I am going to miss her more than I can express.

I grew up on a farm – the son of a farmer, the grandson and great-grandson of farmers – so the living and dying of animals is nothing new to me. I supposed that I would take today’s passing of our pet in stride like I did when I used to sell my 4-H animals at the county fair.

I was wrong.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Deer camp

The boys and I are headed north to deer camp next week. My son's blog describes the experience to perfection.

Me and the Mrs.

Mrs. Frankly and I recently had our portrait taken by Andrew at Canfield Jenkins Photography in St. Johns, Michigan. Andrew and his partner, Jacqueline, are artists. They are amazing with a camera. We're settling on portraits, and I think the leading candidate is this one:

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Dudes with scarves

What is it with guys who wear scarves? Saw Sugar Ray Leonard on the tube today wearing a black velvet suit coat with a white (angora?) scarf draped around his neck. He reminded me of Pepe Le Pew.

Since when do dudes wear scarves absent a winter coat?

Financial Fallacy

I saw about three minutes of ESPN's The Contender earlier today while sitting in a pizza joint during a meeting. The sound was turned off, so I read the subtitles. They were interviewing who I can only assume was one of the contenders. Speaking of winning the competition he said something like, "If I win the $750,000, I can get a good education for my son; I can get a beautiful house; and I can be happy for the rest of my life."

Man, is that guy going to be disappointed. Happiness for the rest of your life? If $750,000 is the cost of happiness, then why don't I see a lot more happier people here and there? No, happiness costs everything you've got. In fact, if you want to be truly happy (living a life that is eternal), a first century rabbi names Yeshua taught, "go and sell everything you have and give it to the poor."

750K. Not even close.

Greg Stauffer told me to read . . .

I'm reading Eugene Peterson's book, The Jesus Way, right now. It is top-notch stuff. The sort of reading that challenges my thinking and my acting. Check out some of these yanked-from-their-context quotes:
"We can't proclaim the Jesus truth but then do it any old way we like. Nor can we follow the Jesus way without speaking the Jesus truth." (p. 4)

"The North American church at present is conspicuous for replacing the Jesus way with the American way." (p. 5)

"A consumer church is an anti-Christ church." (p. 6)
You can see, I imagine, why I was so taken with the book after just a few pages. Peterson contends that the Jesus Way is the culmination, or better put perhaps, ultimate expression of the faith that is exhibited in the Patriarchs. In writing about Abraham, for example, Peterson shares the "way of faith":
A sacrificial life is the means, and the only means by which a life of faith matures. By increments a sacrificial life - an altar here, and altar there - comes to permeate every detail of life: parenthood, marriage, friendship, work, gardening, reading a book, climbing a mountain, receiving strangers, circumcision, and getting circumcised. Abraham did not become our exemplar in faith by having it explained to him but by engaging in a lifetime of travel, life on the road, daily leaving something of himself behind him (self-sovereignty) and entering something new (God-sovereignty).

Sacrifice is to faith what eating is to nutrition . . .
Good stuff!