Sunday, December 24, 2006

380 Volunteering at the Lutheran Food Pantry

Tuesday I had the opportunity to work at the Lutheran Social Services of Central Ohio newly remodeled Choice Food Pantry. I was very impressed with the new layout and system which I believe provides the client with more responsibility, dignity, and less waste. The food is now all arranged on movable shelving units (can be stocked in the back and moved to the client area), color coded by USDA food pyramid graph. After the client is screened and approved by an experienced staff member, the volunteer picks up the card with the amounts allowed (a family of 10 with 6 children would have very different needs than a retired couple), and walks with the client through the aisles and they pick out what they know their families will eat. People with diabetes or cholesterol problems stop and read the labels. It takes a little longer than the old method where the volunteer selected the items, but in the long run there will be less waste. Tuesday had a special treat that I would have loved--30 piece slabs of wonderful, fresh corn bread from a local restaurant. Only one family unit turned it down. Each family can have as much bread (muffins, bagels, rolls, buns) as they can use up without it counting as a choice.

Because it is the Christmas season, each client also received age and sex appropriate gifts purchased, packaged and wrapped by the churches of central Ohio. Some families received table decorations and stockings with personal care items until we ran out. Adults received knit hats and gloves if they wanted them. Each child in the family received a very nice selection of new books, including a hard cover children's Bible.

Did you know that the "working poor" families and the welfare families in this country have about the same income, but the working families by percentage of income are the most generous of any group? Yes, they donate a higher percentage of their incomes than do the wealthiest income group; and welfare families with about the same income give almost nothing to others. There is dignity in work and self-sufficency. Occasionally, something happens to people of limited means--maybe grandchildren have to be taken in, or a heating bill is outrageous, the support check doesn't come, or there's an illness, so they need a little boost from the food pantry.

LSSCO distributed 2,416,715 lbs. or $2.8 million worth of food, and used 28,000 volunteer hours in 2006. This time of year 80-90 family units are being served at the location where I worked. The poor in the USA are not underfed or poorly clothed; many are overweight or obese, they dress well and have access to or own an automobile. For whatever personal circumstance, they are in a moment--or a month--of hardship. However, the Bible says in Matt. 25:35 that it is the ones feeding the hungry who are benefiting, because they are meeting Jesus, the Son of Man, who will be separating the sheep and goats. Keep that in mind the next time you are needed as a volunteer. There are no goats in heaven; only sheep.

Cross posted at Collecting My Thoughts

Saturday, December 02, 2006

379 Review of the Nativity Story movie

Pastor Mark Roberts has an excellent review of the movie (making headlines for being banished from Christmas displays by Chicago's Mayor) here at his blog.

". . . if you're looking for an excellent bit of creative filmmaking that affirms but goes beyond the biblical material, then you'll be quite pleased. Is this movie exactly what I would make if I had the chance? I doubt it. Is it better than what I would make? No doubt about it. Is it well worth seeing? You bet."

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

378 Why make the Gospel so difficult?

"Franklin Johnson was a professor at the University of Chicago. His book, The Quotations of the New Testament From The Old – Considered in the Light of General Literature, is a valuable resource in discerning the manner in which the New Testament writers employed texts from the Old Testament in the propagation and defense of the gospel.

While reading this volume recently, I ran across a rather unusual statement. Not unusual on its merit, but unusual from the vantage point of issuing from a distinguished professor in a prestigious institution such as the University of Chicago. More than a century ago, Professor Johnson wrote:

"The New Testament was not written for a limited number of learned men; but for the great world, and for the churches gathered out of it, and thus for people of ordinary intelligence" (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1895, p. 19).

I was struck by the dramatic contrast between this statement, and the rarified stratum in which many "scholars" currently operate, speaking in "unknown tongues" of technical jargon that virtually none, outside the cult of sacred intelligentsia, can decipher."

Full article here.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

377 Dress up for Jesus

I've composed a hymn which can be sung to the same tune as Stand Up Stand Up for Jesus.

Dress up, dress up for Jesus, ye women of the cross
Pack up designer blue jeans, it will not be a loss.
From picnic unto ball game His army you can lead,
But please for Sunday meeting, let Christ be Lord indeed.

Dress up, dress up for Jesus, don't let me be alone;
Your flesh I'm tired of seeing, you cannot trust your own.
Put on a suit or dress, each piece put on with prayer;
When playground duty calls you, then let your jeans go there.

Dress up, dress up for Jesus, each fam'ly to its post
Go forth into the conflict, and shout with all the host
You will not look so casual, from head unto your toes
Let grace and taste and beauty, give strength to trend oppose.

Dress up, dress up for Jesus, the skirt need not be long,
But please a little coverage, will be this matron's song.
You think you look so humble, I see a sloppy mess,
You're with the King of Glory? Why should we have to guess?

This is cross posted at my regular blog with the full explanation.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Upper Arlington Lutheran Church

is a suburban congregation with three campuses; the original site which is in Upper Arlington, 2300 Lytham Road, Upper Arlington, OH 43220; the building that opened in 2000 near the Mill Run shopping center, 3500 Mill Run Drive, Hilliard, OH 43026; and a very pretty older Lutheran church on Columbus' west side which we absorbed a few years ago so we could have an urban ministry, 12 South Terrace Avenue, Columbus, OH 43204. However, we have a phone listing problem. If you are looking for an ELCA congregation, I invite you. Call 614-451-3736, or visit our web site for a map.

I don't know why it takes me, who is not an employee, to figure this out. Just list the Lytham Road address with our ONE phone number, instead of listing no address at all. Giving the cutesy catch-titles or acronym with no address in the telephone white pages or yellow pages is not helpful, because who is going to be looking for those? So what if they show up at Lytham for one of the four Sunday morning services? Do we only get one chance? The Mill Run campus is visible for miles, both from the free way and the shopping center and the park. You'd have to be blind to miss it. Lytham is very difficult to find because it is tucked into a residential neighborhood.

Besides, it's the Lytham folks who are keeping the budget afloat. At least use our address.

Please, can't someone get this right?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Akron area Presbyterians revolt again "Mother Child and Womb" (Trinity)

The Akron Beacon reports that "The pastors of Stow Presbyterian and Hudson Presbyterian churches said the decision to break away from the denomination came after much prayer and deliberation.

"The denomination has been in turmoil for years," said the Rev. David Weyrick, pastor of Stow Presbyterian Church. "We're not going to spend any more time, energy, money and emotion on a dysfunctional organization. We're jumping off the Titanic and swimming on our own because it's going down." "

"The denomination's 2001 General Assemblyactually held a formal debate on whether Christ was Lord and the only way to salvation," Weyrick said. "There are those in the denomination who would deny the Lordship of Christ and view him merely as a moral teacher. We simply cannot agree to unscriptural interpretations."

The Rev. D. Wayne Bogue, pastor of the Hudson congregation, echoed Weyrick's sentiments.

Story Here.

HT Dunker Journal

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

374 Family Man Librarian

A father agonizes over evil in the aftermath of the murder of school girls:

"I haven’t felt this way — highly concerned and anxious about the state of affairs around me — since September 11, 2001. I know who is the author and promoter of evil: Satan. I know that his power is great and that his weapons include fear, doubt, and destruction. But I also know that his power is in no way comparable to God's; that his efforts are ultimately fruitless; that the only sure thing I have in this world is the promise that God will never leave me or forsake me. Jesus said to his followers: "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)" Family Man Librarian

Cross posted at Collecting My Thoughts

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Talent on loan from God

While I was on my walk today I was listening to Christian radio, 880 am Columbus. The commentator, Bob Burney, disagreed with a caller who said Mark Foley needed our prayers and counseling. The host said that without redemption, he was still lost in sin, and counseling would just encourage him to reach deep down for his own goodness or god spirit or likeness (I'm paraphrasing). Then he said something that surprised me. Burney said that after Rush Limbaugh returned from time in drug rehab for his prescription drug problem, he noticed a distinct change. Rush's signature statement, "talent on loan from God" which used to be a shtick to irritate his enemies and gives his friends a chuckle is now dead serious, said the host. Burney believes that counseling had changed Rush--and not in a good way.

I've always laughed at that phrase, because the joke is (to me) all our talents are on loan from God, not just his. I wonder who the host thinks gave him his talents? And does he think they belong to him or are on loan for the glory of the kingdom?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

372 Back in the fall routine

Well, not quite. Last Monday I forgot to go in and shelve books at the church library, but at least I remembered the mail run on Thursday. Today my husband and I were communion servers. It is the week-end of the Jubilee Celebration (50th anniversary of the founding of the congregation). Nice commemorative stories in the church newsletter by some of the founders who met in the basement of the first pastor's house before we ever had a rented location or building.

I'm still not over my anger at our former senior pastor (see previous entry). I'm still grieving for his wife and family, I think. I'm wondering if the huge debt (building program) he led us into was a result of God's direction, or his own desire to have a legacy. Or maybe guilt. A number of the women I've talked to have commented that they always felt he was smug and arrogant, and talked like he was right up there with God. One said he all but patted her on the head and treated her like a child when she came to him with an idea. Yes, that's how he treated women--well, most women.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

371 If it hadn't been in the paper

I wouldn't mention it. A lot more people read the Columbus Dispatch than my blog! The former pastor of our church committed adultery. That's bad. Really bad. Particularly since he was quite a finger wagger from the pulpit, and helped the church establish a position paper on sexuality. He formerly was with Missouri Synod, and I always had the feeling he didn't think our synod (ELCA) was quite "Lutheran" enough. And he was a charismatic. You know, the joyful ones who get a special word from the Lord on how to be a dynamic Christian the rest of us aren't privy to. The affair happened during the early years of his "reign" and he was with us quite a while. In 2001 we probably had kids going off to college whom he baptized as infants. Unlike Jimmy Swaggart, the televangelist who got caught, he didn't go public and tearfully confess so we could have booted him--after we forgave him, of course.

Anyway, my computer spell-check tries to change his name to weasel. And I'm not going to correct it.

Cross posted at my other blog.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

370 Does this ever happen to you?

I didn't go to church this morning--still sort of sniffly from my cold. Our flowers were up there for our anniversary and later my husband went and got them. "What was the sermon about?" I asked when he came in the door. He stopped, paused and said, "I don't remember." Now that was about 10 minutes after the service, because we don't live far from the church. Then he remembered: it was about a new program. Figures.

Friday, September 08, 2006

369 The Spiritual Dimension of Excercise

There isn't one. Let's not confuse our bodily functions here. The buzz and mild euphoria when chemical compounds flood the bloodstream and perk up your brain during vigorous exercise is physical, not spiritual. Same with swinging, swaying, clapping, shouting and stomping with the music team backed up by electric guitars and drums waving their arms in front of the congregation. That outpouring of the spirit you feel is probably your own endorphins gushing with each repetitive chorus. It's about as spiritual as the guys who say they can worship on the golf course while getting their exercise.

Monday, August 14, 2006

368 The first shall be last?

I'm still hoping this article about First Class Kids at Abilene Baptist is a joke, because it sounds really awful. For a $15 fee, you can drop your little one off in first class where she'll get special treats and treatment while you attend church.

"Some families complain that separate nurseries create a two-tier church. But many like splurging once or twice a month on the first class service. Others even buy the First Class Kids annual pass.

"Once my grandkids experienced first class, they cried when their mother tried to put them into economy," says a grandmother who bought annual passes for her four grandchildren.

[Pastor Ron] Jacobs says offerings are up considerably since families have gotten hooked on concierge-style Sunday school. The premium service fee counts as offering and is tax deductible."

Story at Lark News.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

367 Ka Boom, Bang Thud Crash

When I stepped outside the coffee shop this morning at Lakeside, I heard a very loud "worship" band practicing at the Pavilion. Inwardly I groaned for the folks trying to sleep-in at the hotel, and for those of us planning to attend a peaceful morning worship service with communion at 8:30 by the lake. I walked back to the cottage and told my husband I just refused to go and have my ears assaulted and my heart rate changed by the thud-thud-crash of a loud contemporary worship band. It is always a contemporary service, but usually just with happy Gwen playing simple little songs at the electric synthesizer. No drums. No electric guitars or ampilification.

Part of my distaste was recovering from last night's concert by CeCe Winans. She is a fabulous singer, a terrific preacher, and a great performer, but the lights were blinding and the amplification painful. Just as distracting were her backup singers, all overweight and looking like they were dressed to chop cotton on a cool day--faded boot cut jeans two sizes too small and black jeans jackets over t-shirts. What ever happened to glamor--usually African American women can sweep us out the door with their fashion flare! This is a summer vacation spot and the audience in capri pants and shorts was dressed better than the performers!

When she performed for the President it was much quieter and more glamorous.

Cross posted at Collecting my thoughts.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

362 First Christian Church, Columbus, Indiana

Columbus, IN is the fifth most important site in the United States for architecture, and it all started with this congregation hiring Eliel Saarinen to design the first truly modern church building in the U.S.

Those of us on an architectural tour were very disappointed to see banners hanging in the sanctuary, and the altar removed to make room for a drum set and speakers. Stickers were on the windows. Why do worship committees and musicians think interior visual spaces don't matter?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

361 United Brethren in Christ

They are not the EUB and they are not the BIC, but it is a small U.S. based denomination (Huntington, IN) and one of my links at Collecting my thoughts is to Steve, at Random Pokes, who writes about his activities in the Anchor Church. (His parents are recently retired pastors.) The story of Anchor Church reminds me a bit of UALC's Hilltop Lutheran congregation. A graying church was closed, and then was restarted with leadership from a larger, thriving UB church, Emmanuel.

"Everything was different--the leaders, the style of worship, the music, the appearance of the facility. There were plenty of kids once again. And the people of the neighborhood soon discovered that the red brick church down on the corner was alive and kicking. Over the next few years, most of those original 50 core-group members returned to Emmanuel or relocated to different towns or states because of work. Only about ten of them remain. But the church has grown significantly, averaging about 130 people now."

Steve's site is worth a visit, and I'd recommend his church if the website would just mention what city it is in! I found a map after about 6 clicks, and I think it is Fort Wayne, but can't be sure. Church websites and libraries often make it very hard to discover what town they are in. Didn't Paul always mention this in his epistles?

But here's the headquarters:
United Brethren Offices
302 Lake St.
Huntington, IN 46750
Phone: (260) 356-2312

Update oops: I just clicked back through and found the address of Anchor:
1529 Third Street
Fort Wayne, Ind.

During the summer there is just one service--9 a.m., but the rest of the years there are two.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

360 Here at Lakeside

Enjoying the breezes and programming at Lakeside--Millie, Norma and Valerie. Before Millie had kids, she was my daughter's confirmation sponsor--now hers are in college. Valerie and her husband teach Sunday school at our church--she's awesome. Some kids are so lucky. Millie and her husband work with the college age kids and have moved in across the creek from us in Columbus. Last year they were living in New Orleans when Katrina hit.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

359 Singing in the choir

Teddy Roosevelt enjoyed singing boisterously in church. While he was President, the following joke circulated:

On T.R.'s first day in heaven, he told Saint Peter that the choir was quite weak and should be reorganized immediately. Saint Peter quickly assigned the task to T.R.

"Well," said the former president, "I need ten thousand sopranos, ten thousand altos, and ten thousand tenors."
"But what about the basses?" inquired Saint Peter.
"Oh," said T.R., "I'll sing bass."

"Prayers of our Presidents" Jerry MacGregor & Marie Prys. Baker Books, 2004.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

358 Advice from Pastor Petersen

At his blog, he has a link to his advice for pastors. He is at Redeemer's Lutheran in Fort Wayne, IN.

"They come looking for marital advice? Tell them about Jesus dying for them. They come looking for sympathy and a listening ear? Tell them about Jesus dying for them. They have a new baby, lost their jobs, are afraid of retirement? Tell them about Jesus dying for them. No matter what the circumstances, what the situation, you preach Christ crucified. Never compromise the simple Truth that has saved you."

Monday, June 12, 2006

357 The Church Library

We are fortunate at Upper Arlington Lutheran Church to have a fine church library--because our local public library doesn't actively collect much that is specifically evangelical (one magazine, denominational titles that are a half century old, and a few blockbusters like Jabez and Purpose). Twenty some years ago I was the church librarian, but now I just volunteer occasionally to check-in and shelve books. So this morning to took a few photos after I put the books away.

There are also collections at our other two locations, so the church could really use an on-line circulation system, and indeed the librarian has been promised one for many years. About two years ago, the volunteer staff discontinued typing cards thinking a computer system was eminent--so now we don't even have a current card catalog, and still no computer.

Circulation desk and bulletin board, fiction to the left

Reference collection and study desk

reading area, next to large selection of audio tapes and CDs

Children's area with many videos and DVDs

I'm guessing the media to book ratio in this library is much higher than public libraries. It gets heavy use from families. I started the video collection back in the mid-80s when it was still fairly unusual and we weren't even too sure how to catalog and circulate them. There is also a small but growing home-schooling section. It's my personal opinion that the most critical quality for a church librarian is someone who is able to inspire, motivate and work with the volunteers--not necessarily someone who has taken course work in or worked in libraries.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

356 A good display becomes wallpaper

when it is up too long. I think these missions posters have been hanging for about 2 years. Probably will be permanent. Photos are a bit fuzzy, but I think you get the idea.

355 Are expectations too high for young families

Shelly and her family aren't attending a church right now. She muses:

"One thing that has me church spooked is the whole "expectations" thing about belonging to church. Now I don't have a problem pitching in, but guess what, with two little kids and a dh that works mega hours, our contribution will be minimal in the physical sense. One of the things about our current/old church is the HIGH expectations from the pulpit on involvement. Cell groups. Kids ministries. College ministries. Meals ministries. Classes. Evangelism. Prayer Army. The list goes on and on. Once you say "yes" to one thing, ever darn ministry is beating on your door. It's like recruitment."

Shelly's Journal

Monday, June 05, 2006

354 Alpha

The Nov/Dec 2005 issue of Outreach had an article on Alpha.

7 million participants
32,000 churches
152 countries
7,500 U.S. congregations
54 languages and braille
395 youth courses
69 prison groups
10 military courses
10 workplace courses
172 campus courses

Our church (Lutheran) offers Alpha several times a year, and the small groups use the tapes for refreshers and discussion.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

353 Dan Brown's Truthiness

Rodney Clapp in the May 16 Christian Century writes about the errors in Da Code. It's not a journal I regularly read (too liberal most of the time), but I thought he had some good points. Be careful--this may hurt some conservatives' feelings.

1. The book is written like a movie script.
2. The characters have no inner dimension.
3. It's designed for tourists.
4. It is the striptease of truthiness--the seductive solving of obscure and opaque puzzles.
5. Resembles the "Left Behind" series which decodes the Bible through dispensational theology.
6. Plays to a culture that stays close to the surface--a sand castle on the beach that will erode and melt from view.
7. People most drawn to Da Code tend to be ex-Catholics.
8. The anxiety and urgency of the post 9/11 world made it easier to tap into fears of dungeons and theocracy.
9. As a novel, it is a cop out--the hero never locates proof.
10. Brown's claim to doing research--39 books--is nothing in the academic world. [I used that many for just a journal article in library science.]

This is cross posted at Collecting my thoughts.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

352 Children's sermons

Last Sunday (Mothers' Day) I attended both the traditional (some liturgy and hymns) and informal (contemporary songs, no liturgy, no robe for the pastor) services, so it was the first I'd noticed we didn't have a children's sermon. I suppose I'd been thinking it was still being offered at a service I wasn't attending (we have 11 services at 3 locations). But then I read this article on 20 reasons to ditch the children's sermon, and the first point was "This practice is a fading fad of the 1970's and 80's, along with avocado-colored appliances." Followed by this: "Children don't miss this practice when it's discontinued. Indeed, some are relieved that they don't have to be nudged into the aisle."

This article is from a defunct Wisconsin Synod journal called the Motley Magpie, and they wouldn't approve of anything we do at our Lutheran church, but still, it is an interesting view point, most likely shared by pastors of many denominations.

There were no children's sermons or children's church when I was growing up. We were expected to draw pictures and fold the bulletin into little boats.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

351 A completely biased review

Reviewing the book or the movie The Da Vinci Code would never be assigned to me; I haven’t read it and don’t intend to see the movie. Why? I don’t like the thriller/mystery genre--never have--codes, corpses, and clues aren’t for me. But more importantly, once I know an author has lied to me about the structure on which he hangs his story, I’m not about to spend my time with him. And Dan Brown is a liar, a cheat, and a tool of Satan. Well, so much for being an unbiased reviewer!

Brown asserts that Jesus never claimed to be God; that this was settled 300 years later by Emperor Constantine for evil purposes; that he was married to Mary Magdalene and she was supposed to lead the church; and that the Gospels are a fabrication designed to meet masculine power grabs. There’s other nonsense, but you can see how this would appeal to nominal Christians who have grown up with the "Jesus is my best friend" theology and unbelievers who rarely have any exposure to the Christian faith except on holidays. So IF you go to see the movie that is being released to the glare of an adoring public and press in May, put on a little son screen by watching a new DVD by Lee Strobel first.

Although I’m not going to the movie, I will recommend "Discussing the Da Vinci Code" (Zondervan, 2006, $19.99) which is a package of a DVD with four sessions, a discussion guide and a small book you can use for personal outreach. I think it would work best with a group that meets weekly--just for the pacing and holding people’s interest. However, if you have a group that is willing to stay on task and spend 90 minutes together (skip the snacks and chit-chat that evening), you can go through all four sessions together in one sitting. You'll have time to touch on the guidebook's questions, and you'll still send your folks out into the world semi-prepared. It is beautifully done, well-paced, and really held my interest. Lee Strobel, the narrator and interviewer, talks to his audience against a background of Paris and London and allows his guest scholars to speak to the issues.

Chicago Sun Times story on what churches are doing about the movie.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

350 Finally, The Dispatch has noticed us!

After seven years of pretty much ignoring the wonderful art shows our Visual Arts Ministry has provided the community, Felix Hoover, who writes for the Faith and Values section, has found us. I'm so excited. Now, I don't think he's ever actually seen any of our shows, but he thought it was really significant that we rejected a painting of an artist of the Upper Arlington Art League. Actually, VAM didn't reject it, but one of our pastors did. And that is very clearly stated in our guidelines--either the ministry or the pastoral staff can decide what is appropriate to hang in our home. That's what a church building is, isn't it? It's not THE "church" because that is God's believing people on earth, but a church building is our members' home where we gather for teaching, fellowship and support. It is the home of our church family--and like it or not, Mr. Hoover, we get the say on what goes on our walls. We're not required to accept art that is in conflict with what we teach our children, and the art gallery is in the Sunday School area.

Our gallery space is also the absolutely best hanging space in central Ohio, and the rejected artist has taken advantage of that--I think he's had at least 12 pieces hanging there in the last two years. He's also been rejected twice. The first time was for a painting that showed adults drinking and smoking. Well, do you want that in your Sunday School space and risk having a parent say, "We can get this on TV; I don't bring my kid here for this." The second was a painting designed to look like the 10 commandments, but was about "tolerance." Painted by a guy who was feeling a bit miffed, but not enough to refuse to show anything at our church--just enough to want to rub it in a bit? I'm just speculating here, since I don't know his motives. Perhaps these 10 principles of tolerance weren't thought up just for this painting; maybe they are truly his own personal beliefs, taken in at his mother's knee. However, the artist isn't tolerant of others beliefs and neither is Mr. Hoover when they make a mountain out of a dollop of paint.

The Visual Arts Ministry spent many hours and multiple drafts developing our guidelines (which include our right to reject inappropriate material), and if anyone would like a copy for their own church ministry, I'd be happy to send as a Word attachment. Truth be told, most of the pieces we've rejected have been because they are unsafe or unhangable with our wonderful Arakawa system--and artists get mad about that, too. Our mistake here was not having a copy of the guidelines available at sign-in for those artists who have joined UAAL recently, since we have accepted this group for many years and most of their artists are extremely cooperative and grateful for the exposure in this high profile space with a lot of traffic.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

349 Even the devil knows Scripture

Our church is in the middle of a series discussing from the pulpit and in small groups, "Seven questions Christians hope you never ask." Pastor Paul was preaching at Lytham Road Sunday (we have 11 services at 3 locations) on "How can you trust a book written thousands of years ago." I jotted down a few notes, but the best I can recall on Tuesday something said on Sunday, is that if a believer wants to convince a non-believer of the authority of Scripture, he or she needs to be reading it, because using passages about its truth for someone who doesn't believe in its value is not terribly useful. In other words, the unbeliever needs to see the truth of Scripture in our lives too. Being able to read the Bible in our own language is one of the gifts of the Reformation, but although we have a high view of Scripture, we have low use, he said.

When I look over to my bookshelves, I can see nine (9) Bibles, and there are others throughout the house. Now, not all these are used--some are sentimental, like my mother's, and the first Bible I received from my parents when I was in first grade. And then there are perhaps six (6) lineal feet of books about the Bible and our faith--concordances, dictionaries, handbooks, and histories with titles like "The art of reading Scripture," "Knowing Scripture," "Church history in plain language," "The meaning of the millennium," and "The top 100 questions."

If the printed Word were calories, I'd be obese. But like many Christians, I can starve if I don't open the Word and let God speak to me in that special connection.

"Let me be 'homo unium libri', a man of one book." (from a prayer of John Wesley)

Monday, May 01, 2006

348 Responding to DaVinci Code

When I hear advice that Christians should use the DaVinci Code movie as a witnessing tool, I just sigh. First off, I'm not going to give these Hollywood hacks $6 or $7 for denying Jesus. Secondly, most Christians couldn't do battle in theology or apologetics. If all you can do is give your own "personal experience" story, you aren't going to win against Tom Hanks and Hollywood. The Gospel isn't the Good News about Norma, it's the Good News of Jesus. Witnessing about our own experience has never been the point--not 2,000 years ago and not today. If you don't have on your full armor(Eph. 6:13)--don't go to the movie. You'll be slaughtered. See DaVinci Dialogue. Comments at my other blog.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

347 A fresh look at the good book

Our church has been having a mission fair for two weeks. The booths are rotated between two of the three campuses so members can meet the various ministry leaders. I noticed one called "168 Hour Film Project" that I didn't remember from the last fair. This mission was founded by John Ware, a former UALC member, and he now lives in Burbank, CA. The idea is that a short film is made based on a Bible verse and it is completed in 168 hours--or one week. For instance, one of the verses for 2006 is 2 Timothy 4:7: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness…" I'll bet you're already seeing a little film clip forming in your mind. Read the FAQ on how this is done.

The idea of this ministry is to help young Christian film makers. There was a screening on March 11 in Glendale of these entries for 2006 awards.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

346 Bill, Hillary and Al

Usually, I don't pass along jokes, but I thought this one was sort of cute. I saw it at Magesterial Fidelity.

God addresses Al first. "Al, what do you believe in?"

Al replies, "Well, I believe I won that election, but that it was your will that I did not serve. And I've come to understand that now."

God thinks for a second and says, "Okay, very good. Come and sit at my left."

God then addresses Bill. "Bill, what do you believe in?"

Bill replies, "I believe in forgiveness. I've sinned, but I've never held a grudge against my fellow man, and I hope no grudges are held against me."

God thinks for a second and says, "You are forgiven, my son. Come and sit at my right."

Then God addresses Hillary. "Hillary, what do you believe in?"

"I believe you're in my chair."

345 Upper Arlington Art League Spring Show

was hung today at The Church at Mill Run, 3500 Mill Run Drive, Hilliard, OH 43026. That is one of the three campuses of Upper Arlington Lutheran Church. This looks like it has an addition, but it doesn't. That's modern design.

There is a city park next to the church so I was walking there this morning before I went inside to help with the show. Arranging a show is an art by itself, and my husband is our master arranger. There are 79 pieces in the show and the building is open 8 a.m.-8 p.m. every day. We'd love to have you stop by.
Check in time

Discussions with the juror

My favorite is the purple cows

Thursday, April 27, 2006

344 Thou shall not

I just tried unsuccessfully to download some software from my service provider. I read through all the instructions, inserted the secret password it e-mailed me, and waited through a long download, only to have a message pop-up that it had been interrupted. Well, nice try, but no thanks. I won't sit through that again. However, the "I agree" statement was instructive. It made me wish that Christians had to sign something like this about the Bible and the basic beliefs of whatever Christian group they are joining:

You may not
  • decompile
  • reverse engineer
  • disassemble
  • reduce
  • modify
  • sell
  • rent
  • lease
  • transfer
  • resell for profit
  • distribute or create derivative works
Holy Scripture or the Christian faith.

And have you seen the rules Verizon is developing for Wireless content? I know churches who aren't that strict! The list of prohibited words is up to 83. (See the Wall Street Journal story, April 27, 2006)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

343 Advertising: Wal-Mart and UALC

Wal-Mart is changing its advertising tactics and quietly dropping the yellow smiley in favor of low-key smiles that induce warm feelings and memories. The Smiley had taken on a life of its own and had become a distraction, according to Tuesday's WSJ. Wal-Mart is very successful, so I'm not sure why the change was needed.

Nor do I understand why our church is changing the name of Vacation Bible School (VBS) to "Adventure Week." It's not like we need to attract a bigger crowd of kids. Anyone I've asked is baffled. But since I'm not one of the volunteers, I'll just throw it into the orange barrel category along with other programs that come and go that I don't understand. Our VBS draws 2500-3000 children from toddler through 5th grade and many people plan their own vacations around it. It must be a nightmare of logistics of morning and afternoon and evening sessions in three locations. It is staffed by members of many churches, and the support group (snacks, materials, scheduling, t-shirts, registration, parking attendants, babysitting for teachers) is enormous. I think the planning starts in October.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

342 Wishing. . .

I saw this at Father Hollywood, a Lutheran Pastor's blog:
". . . during the War Between the States. As the Confederate Army marched through Maryland, a couple Yankee ladies were watching the gray column marching through, led by the gallant General Lee on horseback. One woman said to the other: "Oh how I wish he were one of ours!"

He was writing about Pope Benedict's Good Friday message.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

341 Preaching to the Choir

is the title of a new movie starring a few folks you'll recognize and some you won't. I remember Eartha Kitt and Patti LaBelle, but you may know some of the others. The credits say Ben Vereen, but I didn't see him in the bios. It is a story to two brothers who take different paths in life--one becomes a preacher the other a criminal. A story of redemption with music. It was reviewed in one of our local free-circs by Chad Dull who liked it, but thought the writing was weak. Still, when was a reviewer right or happy with the writing? Here's how he concluded his generally positive review:

". . .if you feel a little out of touch with the man upstairs but don't feel like getting up early on Sunday morning and throwing out your back by sitting on wooden benches for a few hours, make amends by grabbing a comfy theater seat at your earliest convenience and taking in "Choir" as a substitute."

Where's he been attending church? At our church he could have the choice of 12 services (more tomorrow which is Easter) at three locations, with 4 different worship styles (traditional, blended, praise/contemporary and ear blasting loud/progressive), and for the loudest service, he'll get hard, plastic chairs. Our sanctuary pews at Lytham Rd. are padded, as are the kneelers. The sanctuary chairs at Mill Run are cushioned, however, the floor slopes like a theater which makes standing for the Gospel reading and praise songs very uncomfortable, unless you're wearing athletic shoes.

Many church plants do worship in theaters not only because they need space to rent, but because young people can relate to that environment. They are often located in malls with good parking and restaurants near-by for lunch with friends after the service. At the price of real estate, I think a young church is smart to go this direction.

Preaching to the Choir is also the name of a Christian blog, who is probably getting a lot of pings from folks looking for this movie. That's how I found her.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

340 Attention Lutherans

Do you know where your church is?

"Supporters of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender causes in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America say the denomination is at a "tipping point, a critical juncture" for "full participation of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities" and so are asking for major donations as part of a four-year campaign.

Based on an email sent out by ELCA ministers in and near New York City to potential donors and synod pastors, three pro-gay, -lesbian, -bi-sexual and -transgender support groups are working together to raise $2 million to further their cause for change in the denomination.

They have already garnered $1 million in pledges."

From the WordAlone newsletter, March 9.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

339 Make a joyful noise

Last week for Thursday Thirteen at Collecting my thoughts I wrote about 13 things I like about singing in the choir. What surprised me were the warm responses the readers posted about singing in church choirs when they were young and how they miss it. Today I came across an article in Catholic Online where the writer, Mary Regina Morrell, tells about looking through an old children’s hymnal published in 1895--over 110 years ago.

“Flipping it open I came upon the Editors’ Preface. It read, in part: “In a Hymnal intended especially for the use of young people, the brightness and happiness of youth should find full expression; hence . . . the Editors have been selected only those hymns and tunes which they know, from personal experience, to be thoroughly singable, enjoyable, inspiring, and worthy to be cherished in the hearts and memories of children.”

The last phrase stuck out: “worthy to be cherished in the hearts and memories of children.” Thinking back to the media and the proliferation of baseness to which our children are subjected, I reflected on how wonderful it would be if our culture and our adults had as much concern for the welfare of our children.”

How different she says, are the images our media presents to children: the American idols of fame, money, power, perfection, and having the competitive edge.

She summarizes as she finds an old favorite: “One of my favorite hymns, “When Morning Gilds the Skies,” included these soothing words: Does sadness fill my mind? A solace here I find, May Jesus Christ be praised: Or fades my earthly bliss? My comfort still is this, May Jesus Christ be praised. The night becomes as day, When from the heart we say, May Jesus Christ be praised: The powers of darkness fear, When this sweet chant they hear, may Jesus Christ be praised.”

When, as adults, we regain the wisdom of replacing our American idols with prayer and praise of the One who loves us most, then perhaps we can begin the healing process for our children by leading them to Christ.”

Obviously, things weren't perfect for families and children in the 1890s. Children were exposed to many horrible realities then also. But in any era, children deserve beautiful, sound hymnody to help shut out the noise of the world.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

338 When the youth leader stopped the fun and games

As Christian tells it, the new youth leader, Wayne, stopped all the shallow stuff and threw the youth group into the deep end of the pool, with word by word Bible study.

"Within a matter of weeks, attendence dwindled to 2 or 3 of us hardy souls who where willing to endure potential embarrassment for the sake of learning how to study the Scriptures. As you might guess, parents in the church were in an uproar because their kids refused to attend. But they couldn't fire Wayne, because a) they hadn't hired him in the first place, and b) no one else wanted to lead the youth group (for all their spiritual disinterest, the kids in our group were serious pros at burning through volunteer youth leaders as if they were substitute teachers).

So even though just about everyone in the church was seriously dissatisfied (except for the 2 or 3 of use who actually wanted to learn how to study the Bible), Wayne stayed on.

And then something truly remarkable started happening, something no one expected.

Kids started showing up. They didn't go to our church (many of them didn't go to any church). A lot of them weren't Christians. But they were fascinated to hear this Wayne guy unpack God's Word in a way that challenged everything their lives were about.

So they came. And they brought their friends. And those friends brought their friends. And within about a year and a half, we had over 100 kids showing up every week for an hour and a half Bible study."

Read the rest of the story here. It doesn't always turn out as you would expect.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Turning the other cheek

If you've ever had a problem with the persecution for Jesus' sake verses (and who hasn't), you'll need to read LaughWrinkles blog about being public in her faith in India (she's a missionary) where she experiences the persecution trifecta--she's a woman, a westerner and a Christian missionary. One of the best I've read on this difficult topic.

She reviews all the "blesseds" and then asks herself if it includes ignorance and bigotry:

"But how am I blessed by some ignorant people believing and telling me that I'm a bigot and a prostitute? And what practical good would "turning the other cheek" do here, anyway? Women's rights, the abolition of slavery... all good things are thanks to strong people who did and said strong things (am I starting to contradict myself?) I won't ignore it! It has to stop! For the sake of Indian women... for the sake of a good gospel message who's reputation is in shambles. After all, the text does go on... "And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you..." The point is to show your opponent the generosity which faith has placed inside of you-- to speak well of God. How does the reign of ignorance speak well of God?"

She writes very well, is 21, a prostestant, Canadian, and is living with Catholic nuns, so I look forward to reading more entries in her diary. HT, Ginger, Joyful Woman.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

336 Baptizing adults in the Lutheran church

Our pastor announced at the Ash Wednesday service that he hoped for 100 adult baptisms next year. At least I think I heard that correctly--something about the period of Lent set aside for catechumens. I googled that, and found a reference at a Roman Catholic site, but not much for Lutherans--actually nothing. Like many large churches (we have 3 campuses and 11 services) ours takes in a lot of transfers, and even the "unchurched" new members were often baptized when they were infants or very young, but had parents who didn't bring them up in any faith family.

I've seen one or two adult baptisms and a few teenagers in my 30 years as a member of this church, and of course, many infant baptisms, always a lovely service. Lutherans don't rebaptize since it is a sacrament and believe that we don't get "do-overs," when God has done something. Your pleas that you don't remember, or that you want to "experience" something will fall on deaf ears in our new member classes.

Other denominations do it differently, and getting rebaptized is sort of like restating your marriage vows for your 25th anniversary. This certainly adds to their adult baptism roles. Our local Grace Brethren Church would probably want me to be rebaptized even though that denomination is a "granddaughter" of the Church of the Brethren where I was baptized at age 12. The word "anabaptist" the label for that faith family means, "rebaptized."

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Sunday of the Prodigal

"The Sunday after the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee is the Sunday of the Prodigal Son. This parable of God's forgiveness calls us to come to ourselves" as did the prodigal son, to see ourselves as being "in a far country" far from the Father's house, and to make the journey of return to God. We are given every assurance by the Master that our heavenly Father will receive us with joy and gladness. We must only "arise and go," confessing our self-inflicted and sinful separation from that "home" where we truly belong (Luke 15:11-24)." Orthodox Church in America

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

334 Must the church always be a follower?

It won't be next year, or maybe not even 2016, but eventually church musicians and pastors will wake up about the noise and volume of their CCM rock, hip-hop and heavy metal music and the damage the blasting loud speakers cause to hearing just as they realized the dangers of smoking and second hand smoke 20 years ago. Too bad they can't be leaders instead of followers in this important health issue.

When we joined UALC in 1976, every meeting room and event was filled with the blue haze of cigarette smoke (with the exception of the sanctuary). I'd grown up in the Church of the Brethren, so smoking was just a plain old generic sin--below adultery and theft maybe, but certainly right up there with swearing and drunkeness. But Lutheran smokers 30 years ago believed in "freedom in Christ," and you were considered a Pharisee if you mentioned it made your clothes stink or burned your eyes. I'm not sure what turned the tide, but gradually smokers went to one room to breathe each others poisoned fumes, and then outside, and now I never see anyone smoking on the property.

What I remember most about this very serious health issue is that the church was not the leader. It was the follower.

How many of our babies and children and teens will need to lose their hearing in the low and high ranges incrementally, to be tested and fitted for hearing aids by age 40? Noise in the church is the latest blue haze that Christians think they can't do without. "Give me Jesus, but don't make me change anything," could be our motto.

I actually shudder when I see young parents taking small children into our X-Alt services because the parents identify with the music and our leadership knows this is a way to fill the seats. People who will floss for dental health, do pilates and kick boxing for exercise, and watch their cholesterol and calories seem oblivious to protecting their ears.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

333 Choir

I covet your prayers for our choir--because I've joined! It's been many years--probably more than you've been on this earth--since I've sung anywhere but the car or shower. I used to be a soprano, but something happens to your voice as you age. A nurse friend of mine explained yesterday that as the estrogen level goes down, the balance between the estrogen and testosterone changes and women's voices deepen. Oh great.

Anyway, I went Wednesday night for the first time and the director doesn't make you audition or try out for any parts, I just sat between two strong (fabulous) sopranos and hope that I can make a joyful noise for the Lord this morning. I now have a folder with my name on it just like the big kids.

We sing at both the 8:30 and the 11 traditional services which means I'll be at church all morning. I can either sit in on the 9:45 service (informal) or attend a Sunday School class, or eat donuts and drink coffee.

The choir is a very warm, welcoming group--you would have thought I was the prodigal daughter when I walked in. We opened with a beautiful prayer by the director, and closed with devotions by a member who is 92. Afterwards we also had a birthday party for a member who is 80. After going to the balcony to rehearse today's anthem (the choir loft is in the balcony space), the director asked for comments on what the words of the song meant (the tune is Finlandia, but I don't remember the title). A number of people gave wonderful testimonies of their faith and how God has led them through difficult times.

So, my prayer request is very specific: restore and heal my voice (and protect the choir!)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The fifty most influential Christians

The Church is an on line Christian resource for leaders, pastors, and parachurch executives. The January 2006 issue was about the fifty most influential Christians. Dr. Phil was #50. I had no idea he was a Christian. Joyce Meyer was rated higher (#7) than Beth Moore (#45) or Anne Graham Lotz (#14), both of whom could preach and teach circles around her and (snarky alert) are better dressed (no bling bling). Plus she's been investigated for some funny finances. And that theology! Whooeee.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

331 Super Bowl Sunday

Pornography receipts are greater than all professional sports. The 1950s Playboy centerfolds, which were kept from children, would be mainstream entertainment today, regularly viewed by children. Gene McConnell, Veritas Forum.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

330 The paucity of Christian material in public libraries

Recently I did a quick survey of our town library shelves (suburban, about 40,000, predominately white, college educated (96%) and Christian) for Christian material. There was one book published in 1964 on Lutherans, although we have one of the largest Lutheran churches in the country, and two smaller Lutheran congregations (these were founded when the synod make-up was different). There was one evangelical Christian magazine (but 40 magazines on theater, film making, movies, video, and computers). So I visited the periodicals librarian, requesting an increase in this area. I left her some samples, not to be added to the collection, but so she could familiarize herself with the vocabulary, values, book reviews, etc. My request was denied. I won't bore you with my entire response, but here's part of it:

"I’m sorry to hear, but not at all surprised, that you were unable to add even one more title to your ONE evangelical Christian title in the serial section because “these titles are carried by academic libraries or church affiliated institutions but no public libraries of our size. . . and these titles are not indexed in our periodical database which would make finding articles in the future difficult.” I’m impressed you are concerned about your future readers; I am not impressed that your current readers, the ones who support the library with their taxes, are being under served. Approved lists and accessible indices are wonderful, but they don’t take the place of representing the interests of your community. Also, most library users by-pass those indices and go right to Google, blogs or keyword searches."

"Librarians are 223:1 liberal to conservative on the political spectrum--more imbalance than Hollywood, the legal profession, or probably even the ACLU. This is not to say that there are no politically liberal Christians, nor liberal Christian librarians, but often collections in public libraries reflect not the community’s needs and wants, but the librarians’ beliefs and values, ergo, no evangelical magazines appear on any of the recommended lists which make up the recommended titles for databases from which you make your recommendations. It’s a closed loop."

When I was the veterinary medicine librarian at Ohio State, we had almost no breed books for dogs or cats, because they aren't considered "academic" or "scholarly." This meant non-university people and children doing school projects were coming to the library to use material way over their comprehension level when they wanted to learn about Cushing's Disease in dogs or hyperthyroidism in cats. This put more pressure on me and my staff to help them find something appropriate taking time away from our regular clientele. So I purchased many breed titles, because often diseases and conditions are specific to the breed due to inbreeding. Librarians are allowed to purchase for the need of the people using the library, despite the collection guidelines, or they aren't worth the little they are being paid.

329 My Prayer job jar

At today's Thursday Thirteen I wrote 13 things about my prayer job jar--where it came from, earlier uses, what goes in to it, what gets answered, and what it looks like.

Monday, January 30, 2006

328 Chinook hymnody

A few posts back at my other, other blog I mentioned the "fun" of browsing the Yale Beinecke Library uncataloged database and trying to discover the keywords that might bring up some entries. I used "horse," "letters," "manuscript," "woman" (didn't get much, which may mean those were rushed right to cataloging), and today I tried "hymns." I thought perhaps that genre would languish in a Yale backlog. I found a first reading book for Chinook that included hymns. Interesting. So I Googled Chinook because the only chinooks I knew about were strong winds and helicopters. There apparently are still a few Chinook Indians in the Pacific Northwest, they helped Lewis and Clark, and their language became the lingua franca jargon of the area. So I peeked around and found some interesting bibliographies, and eventually came to "Early Canadiana Online" and found some wonderful Chinookiana full text, online.

Now to the point of this blog, which isn't about Indians in the Pacific Northwest. I'm a Lutheran and although I love singing camp songs at informal gatherings in the woods and after potlucks, and I can swing and sway and raise my hands, I'm less than thrilled to stare at an overhead screen on Sunday morning and sing ditties that repeat and repeat. Here's what they were writing in the 19th century about teaching the Chinook Indians Christian hymns:

"These hymns have grown out of Christian work among the Indians. They repeat often, because they are intended chiefly for Indians who cannot read, and hence must memorize them."


Cross posted at Collecting My Thoughts.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The glory of the heavens

grabbed BenZ while stepping outside in his flip flops to take out the garbage one night. After viewing the magnificent stars he went back in to check out his astronomy textbook:

"So, when I got inside I ran to my textbook and counted 11 of 24 chapters and numerous uncounted passages that discussed a Secular explanation for the origin of our universe. Literally, well over 1/2 of the text was dedicated to origins. However, what percentage do our churches dedicate to origins? Why don't we hear about Genesis and the story of our Creator and His marvelous creation?"

You can read Ben at Worship Driven Missions.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

326 George Washington's Prayer for our Nation

I'd thought about saving this for February 22, but decided we need to hear or read this every day.

"Almighty God; We make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy protection; that Thou wilt incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government; and entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellow citizens of the United States at large. And finally that Thou wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without a humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation. Grant our supplication, we beseech Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

This was in an e-mail circulating the internet about the called "God in Washington DC" or "Laus Deo" which are the words (Praise God) on the top of the Washington Monument (and there can be no building or monument higher). I haven't researched this, not even with Google, but thought it a good prayer for our country. Prayers of and for our nation by Presidents and statesmen will also be an interesting topic to research, don't you think?

Sunday, January 22, 2006

325 A paraphrase

Yesterday I heard some younger mothers discussing what to do about their pre-teen daughters listening to the currently popular music (degrading to women, bad language, violent and anti-everything). They were distressed and unhappy with the situation but seemed helpless to provide guidance for 9 and 10 year olds. "All their friends are allowed to listen to it, and they hear it at their homes, dance class, etc." When I expressed some surprise I was told "it isn't like the 50s." Think about this:

"Those who live according to the whims and likes of 10 year olds, have their minds lowered to that level; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires." Romans 8:5 (my paraphrase)


"Those who immerse themselves in the values of Hollywood, have their minds lowered to the level of Desperate Housewives and MTV; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires." Romans 8:5 (my paraphrase)


"Those who read only the current newspapers and blogs (regardless of their political slant) for knowledge of how we should live instead of reading Scripture, have their minds lowered to that level; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires." Romans 8:5 (my paraphrase)

Monday, January 16, 2006

324 Is it just me

or is this sentence trying too hard to be obtuse?

"Cornelius Van Til’s presuppositionalist apologetic has often been understood as a critical rejection of the classical apologetic of Old Princeton stalwart Benjamin B. Warfield in favor of the viewpoint of Dutch statesman/theologian Abraham Kuyper."

Anyway, it is at Reformata. He started nailing it to the door in October 2005.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

323 Missionaries are Amazing

We're having a warm January after a cold December, but compared to Yakutsk, Russia, we have no concept of cold. I know nothing about this missionary family, but doesn't this photo just tell it all about devotion, obedience and following God to the ends of the earth?

This is Valentin and Liuba Nikonenko of Yakutsk, Russia.
Valentin is a leader and head of the department of Education at Association of Evangelical Churches of Yakutia. The website says it can get to -50 C in Yakutsk.

Monday, January 09, 2006

322 Peeking in the freebie box

Yesterday at the church library I looked in the free box--although I'd vowed not to. I came away with two fairly substantial books. Anne Graham Lotz' 2003 title, "My Heart's Cry," and "The art of reading scripture," an Eerdmans title, 2003. The Lotz book, in hard cover, I assume was withdrawn from the church library because several years ago the women's group used this and they may have bought multiple copies. She is Billy Graham's daughter and in my opinion, the best preacher in the whole family. The Eerdmans title is probably a donation, and the librarian didn't select it. It is a compilation of essays by scholars.

This morning I took the Eerdmans title to the coffee shop and enjoyed the essay, "Reading scripture in light of the Resurrection" by Richard B. Hays, pp. 216-238. It confirmed what I've often thought. We need to hear about the Resurrection all year long, not just at Easter. I think it may be the most under preached and under discussed topic in Christian churches.

"Many preachers and New Testament scholars are unwitting partisans of the Sadducees. Because they deny the truth of Scripture's proclamation that God raised Jesus from the dead--or waffle about it--they leave the church in a state of uncertainty, lacking confidence in its mission, knowing neither the Scriptures nor the power of God." I've never heard a better description of why so many Mainline protestant churches are struggling to find an audience and a message!

I haven't attended a liberal church in 30 years, and you probably haven't either if you're reading this blog. Yet I think we evangelicals don't hear this message often enough. He specifically points out three texts, John 2:13-22 with Psalm 69, the identification between the temple and Jesus' own body; Mark 12:18-27 where Jesus goes to the heart of God's self-revelation in the Old Testament; and Luke 24:13-35 where Jesus opens the scriptures to his followers after the resurrection and points them to the prophets.

Hays then goes on to list nine implications of reading Scripture in light of the Resurrection, and points out again that most New Testament scholars are not believers--but would be if they'd open their eyes and hearts to reading Scripture this way.

I love it when someone agrees with me, don't you?

Sunday, January 08, 2006

321 Obedience

Our Women of the Word (WOW) study this winter at Upper Arlington Lutheran Church (UALC) is Priscilla Shirer's "He Speaks to Me." This is a Lifeway publication, so if you are familiar with their DVD/video + workbook format (Beth Moore), you know the drill. I had to leave after the DVD yesterday to hang the quilt show, but I think Priscilla is a dynamic speaker. She fully engages with her audience. So far, her examples don't speak to me (about small children), but at 66, I'm not the target audience. However, this morning in preparing day 1 of week 1, I noticed on p. 10 this phrase: "obedience requires sacrifice," followed by her examples of serving family before her own desires, time with the Lord, not overeating, controlling spending and honoring her husband's authority. I'm not sure I agree--that this list could be called "sacrificial." Well, only in upper middle class America.

This is a list of joys, in my opinion. 1) She has a family to serve. So many don't. At my age, I know many widows. I visit nursing homes filled with people whose self-worth as Christians was built on serving others, and now are tasting the bitter fruit of no purpose to live. 2) She has a Bible to read and lives in a country where that is permitted and protected by law. So many don't. 3) She has enough food available that she can choose to overeat. So many don't, or may have only one or two staples to choose from. 4) She has a good income--a dual income in fact, which creates discretionary spending. So many don't. Their choices are all made for them--pay the minimum and hope the bill collectors don't call. 5) She has a husband who loves and protects her and enables her to have a Christian ministry. She is an African-American in a country where the marriage rate for blacks is 39%, down from 80% a hundred years ago.

Sacrifice? What do you think?

Friday, January 06, 2006

320 Postdenominational Christianity in the 21st Century

The title of the article I took to the coffee shop this morning is a mouthful: "Postdenominational Christianity in the twenty-first century," by Donald E. Miller, Annals, American Academy of Political and Social Science, 558, July 1998. I was sort of afraid this was going to be one of those "new paradigm," "seeker sensitive," "new reformation" dirges that are announcing in the death knell of liturgy, hymnal singing, and music that doesn't grow tumors in your ears.

And I was right, and it did confirm that the Lutheran (ELCA) church I attend is "postdenominational." However, the article was very reader-friendly and I think quite accurate from what I've seen at the webpages of the churches of other bloggers.
See if this doesn't sound like the successful churches you know (I've added a few white spaces to make it easier to read):

"The revolution that is transforming the Protestant landscape does not have to do with the content of Christianity so much as it does with the envelope in which is is placed. The gospel being preached is biblical and rooted in the first century, but the medium of presentation is contemporary and postmodern.

In the place of organs and choirs are bands and singers. The beloved eighteenth-century hymns of the mainline congregations have been replaced with melodies drawn from rock and roll, blues, jazz, and country-western.

The hierarchical structures of decision making, including denominational polity and layers of internal congregational bureaucracy, have been radically simplified to encourage members to act in response to the leading of the Holy Spirit as they initiate new programs and projects, rather than conform to top-down management plans. This revolution in style and organizational structure is a rebirth of the Protestant principle of the priesthood of all believers." p. 197

"The fastest growing churches in America are independent congregations that typically share the following characteristics:

They were started after the mid-1960s;

the majority of congregational members were born after 1945;

seminary training of clergy is optional;

worship is contemporary;

lay leadership is highly valued;

the churches have extensive small-group ministries;

clergy and congregants dress informally;

tolerance of different personal styles is prized;

pastors are understated, humble, and self-revealing;

bodily, rather than merely cognitive, participation in worship is the norm;

the gifts of the Holy Spirit are affirmed;

Bible-centered teaching predominates over topical sermonizing." p. 198

And here's the author's final thought--one well worth considering.

"The most vigorous movements do not rely on social science research but instead depend solely on their vision of God's claim on their lives. Indeed, when churches start hiring demographers to plot their spiritual course, then, most surely, one is witnessing the evolution of a movement into a more routinized state of its existence. p. 208

Thursday, January 05, 2006

319 Give this article to your church musicians

There was a brief item in USAToday on Jan. 5 that should have been in the headlines: "Years of exposure to loud noise increases the risk of developing a non-cancerous tumor that could cause hearing loss."

We have a service at our church call X-alt and the music is too loud for me to even walk through the fellowship hall when it is being performed. It attracks many young people, and even some oldsters--both groups probably having already lost some of their sensitivity to sound. At our contemporary service (down a few notches from X-alt) I used to leave because the percussion would affect my heart rate even though I was on medication.

The tumor is called acoustic neuroma, a benign, slow growing tumor that forms on the sheath of the eighth cranial nerve. This tumor can cause hearing loss, balance problems, and facial palsy. Seems a high price to pay for blasting your congregation at the noise level of a jet taking off or a chain saw in operation. I'm fairly certain this is not what the Psalmist had in mind with "make a joyful noise unto the Lord."

See American Journal of Epidemiology, December 15, 2005.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

My 2006 Stop List for Christians

1) Stop focusing on what the non-Christians, humanists, Wiccans, ACLUns are doing, and clean up your own house. Turning a blind eye to gambling, drinking, pornography, divorce, wife abuse, child abuse, abortion, sexual infidelity and political corruption doesn't help the cause of Jesus.

2) Stop following the mainstream culture in music, gadgetry, films, TV, etc. I can't tell a Christian pop "artist" from a secular one.

3) Stop supporting politicians who focus on religious minutae for political gain and look for ones who are Matthew 25 oriented. Whether or not the 10 commandments hang in the school lobby or Intelligent Design is taught in biology won't matter in the plank and splinter events.

4) Stop squabbling over Bible translations and give people the Holy Scriptures in their own language, whether that is Swahili, Swedish, Erdu or English. Just make sure it is an accurate translation and save the paraphrases for rainy days when you're bored.

5) Stop your inconsistencies about the death penalty. If you want people to take you seriously on abortion, don't support capital punishment.

6) Stop the mega-church trend before all cities and suburbs are left churchless. If you need more space, repopulate an urban church where you can have some influence.

7) Stop letting 20 year olds design your church web pages making them so flashy and bouncy that they are difficult to navigate and make the reader motion sick.

I'd like to round this off at ten, so if you have any to add, I'm open to a few more.

Monday, January 02, 2006

317 A prayer for the President

from the website of All Saints Anglican.

"A Prayer for The President of the United States, and all in Civil Authority.

O Lord, our heavenly Father, the high and mighty Ruler of the universe, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers upon earth; Most heartily we beseech thee, with thy favour to behold and bless thy servant THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, and all others in authority; and so replenish them with the grace of thy Holy Spirit, that they may always incline to thy will, and walk in thy way. Endue them plenteously with heavenly gifts; grant them in health and prosperity long to live; and finally, after this life, to attain everlasting joy and felicity; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

"A Prayer for The President of the United States, and all in Civil Authority [and governor].

Almighty God, whose kingdom is everlasting and power infinite; Have mercy upon this whole land; and so rule the hea rts of thy servants THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, The Governor of this State, and all others in authority, that they, knowing whose ministers they are, may above all things seek thy honour and glory; and that we and all the People, duly considering whose authority they bear, may faithfully and obediently honour them, according to thy blessed Word and ordinance; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the Holy Ghost liveth and reigneth ever, one God, world without end. Amen."

316 What's private is also political

How many times have we heard or read that abortion should be private and not political? That's because the unborn in the minds of many are either property of the mother (but not the father), or a parasite living off the good graces of another.

Liberals are outraged by Alito's ruling that it was not an undue burden for a married woman to notify her husband that she was having an abortion. Now that notification didn't save the child's life, did it?

So the story of the antislavery saints of Ohio, "Beyond the River" by Ann Hagedorn reminds me a lot of the current "private vs. political" struggle.

"Their response was to tighten restraints, to raise the walls of confinement higher, to argue for laws to protect their human property, and eventually blame anti-slavery crusaders for fomenting revolt."

Anti-abortionists are painted as the personification of evil woman-haters by the pro-abortionist camp--and nothing Alito has done or stands for will ever be more important in their minds than abortion--not civil liberties, or the death penalty, or the 2nd amendment, or the 10 commandments in schools or Christmas trees in the public square. Just as in the early 19th century when slavery threatened the union, it has come down to one issue again in the early 21st century. And Christians are complicit now as then.

"Even though members of the church agreed with him [John Rankin, a Presbyterian minister] that the Bible was opposed to slavery, to say it publicly was a radical move, . . .never [to be] discussed from the pulpit." p. 31.

Cross posted at Collecting My Thoughts

Sunday, January 01, 2006

315 YouthWorker Journal

An interesting magazine was misdelivered to our home yesterday. Apparently, the label of one of my husband's journals stuck to the plastic wrapper of someone else's, because we found her label on the other side. We'll try to get it to the proper subscriber, but in the meanwhile I'm looking through it. I have an interest in magazines and serials and blog about my first issue collection at In The Beginning.

I remember when Mike Yaconelli was killed in an accident about two years ago, but since I have no connection with Christian youth ministry, I quickly forgot about what must have been a devastating blow to his family, friends, and co-workers at Youth Specialties.

As near as I can tell, YouthWorker Journal's editor, Will Penner, Youth Specialties and Salem Publishing/CCM Communications, the publisher of YWJ are parting company. I don't know exactly what this means for content or title (who owns that?) because Youth Worker Journal is produced by Youth Specialties. The associate publisher writes: "Youth workers need the hope that comes only from a personal and vibrant relationship with Jesus. We want to be a constant reminder of that hope." And Penner writes (both statements on pp. 70-71): "When I first got word that Youth Specialties would no longer be responsible for the editorial content in YouthWorker Journal . . ." He says they've tackled some tough issues, challenged a lot of people's thinking, and stepped on some toes. Mark Oestreicher, President of Youth Specialties, also has a farewell on the final page: "Youth Specialties wants to be both an encouragement and a prophetic voice. . .needs some rethinking. . .God calls us to constant change and evaluation, growth and revolution."

Yup. Prophesied and rethunk themselves right out of a job, and a nice magazine, apparently.