Saturday, February 28, 2009
I really thought I was going to make it through the winter without a cold. I suspect this one came from New Jersey, as the day after my dinner with my coughing friend I began to feel it coming on, throat to head to chest, misery compounded by a completely unexplainable rash all over my body. This compounded by a two day commitment to play in a golf tournament, preventing me from seeking medical attention before the weekend. My sympathy to all of you who have battled through these things, pass the kleenex.
I may have mentioned this before, but, when sleep eludes me, I play a quiet genre of Ipod songs that fill me with good vibrations until I fall asleep. I have heard many say the ipod earpods are uncomfortable but I can put them on and relax completely.
Friday, February 27, 2009
The Campus in this picture was my place of ministry for seven years. We made enourmous improvements while I was there. and raised the money to have their first New Building on the property. Seven years later I see our vision improved, more paving and an actual addition on the orginal new structure. I was trying to decide how to feel about this church thriving after I left. I could feel proud that I had played a role in the movement of God in this place. My friend who is a bit worn out on the organization church says church buildings are all pretty much driven by the flesh.
What survives in my memory is the fun we had reaching our goals, and making do with what we had while we planned and saved for more space. I remember quiet, peaceful country days, a real hitching post for horses riding to church, pig roasts, volleyball and softball games. I am grateful for those seven years.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
We had a nice wet bar, which was nothing more than storage, and now we have a larger living room/entertainment area. The ceiling was raised and now we can fit a regular sized couch their and also see our fireplace. Yippee. 20 years ago the wet bar was an add on and very classy. Just not us.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Stumbled across this blog entry about photography as a sacred practice that is beautiful. I am eagerly anticipating spending time capturing some of the spring flowers and life around the desert Southwest in the next few weeks.
Had a Deja Vu moment recently. When I first began my working life, I bought a Ricoh SLR for the enormouse price of 250 bucks and spent some happy hours photographing Crystal Springs Mississippi. Until my second toddler grabbed the camera off a shelf and dropped it. For the next 30 years I went through a succession of cheap cameras until digital. This Canon XSi is my return to lens photography.....and, last week my grandson almost pulled my camera off the counter. Deja Vu all over again, so goes the silly statement.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Here is what I think I wrestle with in this crazy existence. I am probably not alone in this. I want a combination of justice, and fairness in life's accidents. If someone is going to die young, please make it the child abuser or the Fidel Castro, not the Christian doctors or JFK.
If you heard me preach, you would find the theme of justice quite often. because I belief God is just, and that justice is important, and not even something to be feared. I also believe that God's justice is heavily tinged with new covenant mercy. ie. he forgives, he does not hold our sin against us. But there is this thing within me that also hopes for fairness, you know, the good rewarded and the bad punished. Now God agrees with me generally on this, but insists that I wait patiently for this to happen in another age, while now, the whole stew looks pretty messy.
This is why I have developed a fail safe doctrine, hinted at in scripture under the under examined idea of "the restoration of all things". I won't go into it, but I believe that those unjustly robbed of life, like aborted babies, crime victims, accident victims, handicapped, etc. will be given a better life in ages to come, and I mean a life with beauty, music, and ice cream, and of course love, unhindered. Don, thanks for talkin to yourself today, I feel better.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
In discussing the tragic collision in Jackson between Christian couples, I reflected this week upon the women who beat me at the bowling Alley last week, who underwent a double heart valve repair/replacement in her mid 80s. One women is given opportunity to extend a long life, one couple is suddenly unable to continue a young life, through no fault other than being in the wrong place at the wrong instant.
Todays photo of happy desert eating, was taken during a reunion with a women who decided to move back home to New Jersey and live with her daughter. Her decision changed our relationship, her daily world, her place of worship, and her experience of winter that has driven her back to the valley for relief for a few weeks.
Has God given us freedoms that impact our lives, or did that couple who died a fiery death have a times up moment delivered by an omniscient and all powerful God?
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Four pictures in the hometown paper. I knew one couple. Wealthy and generous, a part of my cities leaders. I had watched them grow up at church, about ten years younger than I. The other couple, also dedicated Christians, not raised in wealth, it took him over a decade to work enough to finish medical school, he had not seen his fiance since Christmas, she too was finishing her residency as they anticipated marriage, a joint medical practice, and happiness and service, both mid 30s.
In a fraction of a second couple #1 crossed a lane and hit couple #2, both cars hit a fence and one car exploded in flame, killing our young doctor and his fiance at the scene. Couple #1 recovering. Some questions about the drivers control or speeding or drinking yet unsolved, and for me, just another question I cannot answer about why that particular couple, who so long had delayed there dreams to accomplish a worthy career goal, are gone, forever, completely innocent of anything except being on that road at that instant. Two families devastated.
I do not know what kind of answer I am looking for. It just stuns me, when so many little things happen to assure us of God's love and presence, why, why, why them?
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Burying the Unchurched and speaking to their friends.
He was a man I had never met. A longtime retiree who loved people, and golf. The family hired a pianist and a soloist who sang Amazing Grace and How great Thou Art, beautifully, I might add.
I opened with the usual Verses, read Psalm 23 and I Cor. 13, and gave the words of committal from the classic church of England liturgy.
There was a time I would have struggled with this and tried to put the best spin on a man whose lack of hunger for God must indicate a date with outer darkness and gnashing of teeth.
A few years ago I underwent a wonderful paradigm shift when I realized that the New Covenant was made with sinners, and that Christians are the ambassadors of that good news that God has in Christ reconciled all of Adams race, propitiated their sin, and that he is in the business of fulfilling the better promises of the new covenant that will eventually reconcile all things in Christ. I spoke of the gift of life, love, family, and God Himself. I wanted to build bridges to those fellow golfers, not to accuse, judge or threaten them. The response was interesting and encouraging.
I did not put the man in heaven, I put him in the hands of God.
An inclusive love is a very powerful thing, and it is there, a bit deeper in the story, but loud and clear.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Lately I have not taken some opportunities to leave my normal routine and do something different. It has been a life long tendency. I had a roomate in college who was always cooking up ideas and going places and I was always hanging back. He was good for me in his grab for the gusto approach. I tend to settle into a chair and read a book.
Over the weekend some of the finest Native American Flute artists gathered at Casa Grand Monument. Scott August, Carlos Nikai etc. It was cool but sunny, it would have been delightful to take pictures, enjoy the instrument that reintroduced me to the sound of wind. But.....I dawdled and end up on my butt. And I feel sad for that.
Irony, or course, is that my college roomate left this earth very early, at 26, but with a zest for life that filled his short time with memories. Anyway, we are building trip anticipation for our annual trip to Disneyland and California Adventure early next month. With two grandkids we will walk through those gates and become four kids together. Its magic.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Patrick Pang and his wife Rose heard the message of God's love in Singapore as teens. They believed and followed. Eventually they moved to America to live out their Christian journey as Pastor, and in Development ministry. Ie. raising money for worthy Christian ministries. We see them once a year and speak on the phone. Today he spoke of helping plant churches in Cuba with a ministry called "growing healthy churches" I do not know what the church will look like in the next few decades, who can? But looking at God's faithfulness I know it will involve the reproduction of followers like Patrick and Rose, who, like he spoke of today. take what they have and give it to Jesus, and watch him mulitiply what they have given.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
I was looking for a picture that represented the love I have for my wife, Laura. This period of our life, our second Arizona home, is special. The home was pretty much our affordable dream home. 3100 sq. ft., this nice pool, and this backyard which we designed and built. I loved those Saturday mornings after chores were done and we relaxed with a freshly mowed lawn.
We had come through a difficult time before those years, and this was special, as our kids were happy in schools, and I was enjoying the ministry. We had room to spread out, a floor for guest entertaining and an upstairs room for family. And Laura, the constant, the cleaner, the enforcer, the home maker. Be my valentine.
Friday, February 13, 2009
I love having a camera in my bag everyday. Good days, not so good. I saw two baby lambs today and missed the shot. All I took was me after emmerging from oral surgery.
Did you know that the original laughing gas formula was used extensively among the wealthy in Europe to produce a high that was believed to bring inner enlightenment. Apparently the brain under nitrous oxide forms perceptions that are like momentary enlightenments.
When under the influence I ask God for deeper answers. Could be nothing to it. The absessed tooth is gone, so far residual pain has been negligent.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
It's a long sad story of a root canal that started hurting, a second root canal that must have cracked the root, and a couple more years of flare ups and periods of ignoring the problem.
Tommorrow I am having Oral Surgery to remove the tooth, good old #30 bottom right, a major cruncher of steak and the masticator of many healthy foods and many less than healthy ones. Then they rebuild the bone line and prepare for my first dental implant....all of which will make a significant contribution to the dental economy.
I may not feel like posting for a day or two, and I have a guest preacher coming, so, see you on the flip side of this.
My picture today is about why we need good teeth.....good food. This is my favorite lunch at a Chinese place near the hospital where most of my folks get treated. Chicken with vegatables. It is very hot, very crisp and fresh veggies, and a delicious sauce.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
We enjoyed a Valentine dinner Sunday evening. Someone created napkins that were heart shaped, very nice. The original Valentine stories were all about persecution, and preaching the gospel against Romes permission, they were about the pure love of children and pastor types. As usual we have managed to turn it into chocolates and romantic love.
It was enjoyable to hear a couple of enthusiastic non professional singers put together love songs that use locations, and the spirituals at the end were uplifting.
For us, this is like a pot luck, but no one enjoys cooking anymore so we pay our country club to prepare a delicious meal, and we have a great time.
So, keep it pure and Christlike and full of love for spouse, family, others. Happy Valentines Day.
Monday, February 9, 2009
Ten years ago my wife and I attended a weekend conference that no one wants to attend and many should. The conference leader was a successful pastor whose daughter had a drug addiction. Rather that hide it and pretend, he decided to write about it, learn what he could do, and reach out to Christians in leadership who were struggling with their children in this area.
Today I thanked this man for his influence in our lives and in helping us to help our son. Thank you John Vawter for honesty, transparency, and gracious spirit.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
God has been gracious to us. The Churches I served enabled us to raise a family, eventually own a series of three homes, gaining some modest equity, and start a nest egg for retirement. But, the periods of unemployment, underemployment, multiple employments were so full of tension, struggle, and uncertainty that they dig a furrow that leaves scars that still hurt. The thought of going that way again truly paralyzes my sweet trusting and hardworking wife.
I am so deeply affected to see families that have had to retrain, to downsize, to suffer sometimes for the failures of others in their field. Even worse is to see people who trusted others with retirement funds only to be defrauded by greed and lies.
In your wrath O Lord, remember mercy. Hear the prayers of hurting people, and raise our consciousness of poverty and struggling economies all over the world.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
I hear a lot of God talk, and have done some in my life. We make statements that help us to help us interpret what's going on. "God was ready for him to come home".
While bad times get our spiritual attention, I resist saying "God did this because we failed to do this", or "we are being judged".
My reasoning, the new covenant love of Christ, the inequities in world economies that make all our complaints about financial hard times look rediculous when compared to world poverty and world standard of living.
I am thinking of three parallel ideas. What should we (I) be learning during this time? Will you guide us out of this? "Thank you Lord, for my daily bread."
Friday, February 6, 2009
Hardworking, skilled, experienced people are being laid off all around the nation. My son was the last hired and first laid off at the French Restaurant that pays his bills in Manhattan. I am thinking about how to think, live, and have faith during this trial. Most of my seniors have been through hard times. I am learning from them. The noise from living in a 24 hr a day news environment is not helping. The rants of the right against the new majority is not helping. The rhetoric of our new young president is not helping. I will let you know if I have any insights.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
My father loved bowling. I have memories of hanging around the Lanes when I was a kid, searching under the lockers and in the machines for coins. The atmosphere of a Bowling Alley brings back those memories.
As a Youth Director, a night of Bowling was always standard fare. I used to buy cokes for the kids that could beat me. It was always a safe bet. It is really hard to get good unless you bowl regularly. So today I was beaten soundly by Senior citizens who bowl regularly. One of my new friends had a 246. I started with a 131 and went down each game. I don't feel the same passion and joy as I do with golf, so this will remain an occasional hobby.
Here is a snap of me cleaning up a spare. If you invite me I will go bowling. It was fun.
When you have more than one hobby you find yourself spending more time in one than another in your moments of free time. The commitment to have a camera with me at all times is a pleasure because you are looking for things that a physically beautiful, or odd, or memorable. Driving home from a Dental Visit, mouth numb, I drove through a Catholic Cemetery in Gilbert and shot these icons.
Flickr and the other picture sites help you enjoy what others are seeing. The creativity and awesome majesty of nature, the moments of humanity, families capturing their celebrations. It's very life affirming for me.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Our choir director suggested a Dixieland Music Day last year. Everyone is in kind of an up mood with Super Bowl Fever. This year it was so powerful. America's unique art form consists of an ensemble group carrying a rhythm with individual instrument improvise upon that music with their individual talents, the improvisation was called "jazzing it up" and it spead from New Orleans to Memphis, Chicago, and New York in the first decade of the last century.
When applied to a hymn it can raised the emotions and envelope you in the drama of the song. We did Softly and Tenderly, Nearer my God to Thee, and of Course When the Saint and Battle Hymns. Our musicians were very talented and very innovative. The choir pieces celebrated a number of negro spirituals and southern gospel greats.
I mentioned that jazz celebrates the hope that sustains us through trial and suffering and that we are responsible to discover the joy unspeakable that is ours in Christ, to give our own unique voice to the problems we face and the way we respond.
Monday, February 2, 2009
I was proud of the way the Cards made it a game and almost pulled off a win. What is it about the last two minutes of football that creates those comeback opportunities?
It seemed as if the Steelers were the team of destiny this year, and I am happy for them, although in recognition of their win I am taking my official Ground Hog prediction from Unadilla, Nebraska, where Unadilla Bill, a stuffed Ground Hog that sits atop the coke machine in the town of 300s cafeteria. Each year with great fanfare they take the statue out to the street and observe the shadow or lack thereoff at 7:30 am. I think they do that somewhere else, but I have forgotten where??????
Great weekend, we had DixieLand Jazz Sunday.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Today, after we gather for worship, excuse me if I join my fellow transplanted Arizona Cardinals, in forgetting about the sad economy, the duties of the Christian life, the cares of this world, so I can enjoy watching our Cinderella team give a shot at the Super Bowl title. Either way, it's a memory I will cherish.