Friday, June 30, 2006
On this week's trip to the grocery store, we found blueberries on the shelf for the first time this season.
Our family loves blueberries. We bought 9 boxes. We freeze a bunch of them, so we can enjoy them throughout the year.
There's nothing like popping a bunch of fresh blueberries in your mouth. Some are mild, some are tart, all are sweet. Together, the combination of mild and tart is a wonderful taste collage.
The body of Christ is a lot like blueberries. As Ephesians 4:7-13 declares, everyone is different. Each has their own gift. Together, we are a delightful, tasty bunch.
Time to go. I need to eat some more blueberries.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
RULES TO ENTER KANSAS
Applies to each person as they enter Kansas. Learn & remember: East Coast and California-types pay particular attention!
1. Pull your droopy pants up. You look like an idiot.
2. Let's get this straight; it's called a "gravel road." I drive a pickup truck because I want to. No matter how slow you drive, you're going to get dust on your Lexus. Drive it or get out of the way.
3. They are cattle & feed lots. That's what they smell like to you. They smell like money to us. Get over it. Don't like it? I-70 goes east and west, I-35 goes north and south. Pick one.
4. So you have a $60,000 car. We're impressed. We have $200,000 combines that are driven only 3 weeks a year.
5. So every person in every pickup waves. It's called being friendly. Try to understand the concept.
6. If that cell phone rings while a bunch of pheasants are coming in, we WILL shoot it out of your hand. You better hope you don't have it up to your ear at the time.
7. Yeah, we eat catfish and mountain oysters. You really want sushi & caviar? It's available at the corner bait shop.
8. The "Opener" refers to the first day of pheasant season. It's a religious holiday held the closest Saturday to the first of November.
9. We open doors for women. That is applied to all women, regardless of age.
10. No, there's no "vegetarian special" on the menu. Order steak. Or you can order the Chef's Salad and pick off the 2 pounds of ham & turkey.
11. When we fill out a table, there are three main dishes: meats, vegetables, and breads. We use three spices: salt, pepper, and ketchup.
12. You bring "coke" into my house, it better be brown, wet, and served over ice. You bring "Mary Jane" into my house, she better be cute, know how to shoot, drive a truck, and have long hair.
13. High School Football is as important here as the Lakers and the Knicks, and a dang site more fun to watch.
14. Yeah, we have golf courses. But don't hit the water hazards - it spooks the fish.
15. Colleges? Try K-State or KU or abunch a' others. They come outa there with an education plus a love for God and country, and they still wave at passing pickups when they come home for the holidays.
16. Anhydrous Ammonia is used as a fertilizer! Let us catch you trying to "cook" something with it and we will "cook" your you-know-what!
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Turner, a long time member of the Episcopal Church, observes that there's a huge gap between the stated beliefs of a denomination and its "working theology"--that is, the everyday beliefs of the church as revealed in the resolutions it passes at official gatherings or what you hear preached weekly.
What does Turner hear in Episcopal pulpits? An extended quote from his article:
"The Episcopal sermon, at its most fulsome, begins with a statement to the effect that the incarnation is to be understood as merely a manifestation of divine love. From this starting point, several conclusions are drawn. The first is that God is love pure and simple. Thus, one is to see in Christ’s death no judgment upon the human condition. Rather, one is to see an affirmation of creation and the persons we are. The life and death of Jesus reveal the fact that God accepts and affirms us.
From this revelation, we can draw a further conclusion: God wants us to love one another, and such love requires of us both acceptance and affirmation of the other. From this point we can derive yet another: Accepting love requires a form of justice that is inclusive of all people, particularly those who in some way have been marginalized by oppressive social practice. The mission of the Church is, therefore, to see that those who have been rejected are included—for justice as inclusion defines public policy. The result is a practical equivalence between the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and a particular form of social justice."
Considering my own denomination, when you look on the official website of the United Church of Christ and its "testimonies, not tests of faith," you'll see included the Apostle's Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Heidelberg Confession.
But when you read the resolutions passed at General Synods and listen to what is preached in most UCC pulpits, what you hear is a very different message. Turner argues that the central problem of the mainline church isn't its morality or its ethics, but rather its theology. It is embracing a theology of "divine acceptance" that is antithetical to the church's historic theology of "divine redemption."
Consequently, Turner writes: "This unofficial doctrine of radical inclusion, which is now the working theology of the Episcopal Church, plays out in two directions. In respect to God, it produces a quasi-deist theology that posits a benevolent God who favors love and justice as inclusion but acts neither to save us from our sins nor to raise us to new life after the pattern of Christ. In respect to human beings, it produces an ethic of tolerant affirmation that carries with it no call to conversion and radical holiness...We must say this clearly: The Episcopal Church’s current working theology depends upon the obliteration of God’s difficult, redemptive love in the name of a new revelation. The message, even when it comes from the mouths of its more sophisticated exponents, amounts to inclusion without qualification."
This article resonates with me because this is the "gospel" I often hear within the United Church of Christ (and elsewhere)--a message of inclusion, with no mention of redemption. In my ten years in the UCC, I can't recall one preacher who called on his/her audience to repent of their sin and turn to Christ and his cross for salvation.
When it comes to redemption, evangelicals, conservatives, orthodox, and traditional believers are prone to believe a gospel that says, "Jesus will pay for your sins if you believe." But Romans 3:21-26 affirms that the gospel is this: "Jesus has paid for your sin. Will you believe?"
God in Christ has already forgiven your sin. But experiencing this grace comes through faith--trusting in the sacrificial death of Jesus--because you're convinced that you need Jesus' righteousness credited to your sinful account (John 1:10-13). Will you entrust your life to this Good News?
That's a workable theology.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
There was a certain professor of religion named Dr. Christianson, a studious man who taught at a small college in the western United States. Dr. Christianson taught a required course in Christianity at this particular institution. Every student was required to take this course regardless of his or her major.
Although Dr. Christianson tried hard to communicate the essence of the Gospel in his class, he found that most of his students looked upon the course as nothing more than required drudgery. Despite his best efforts, most students refused to take Christianity seriously.
This year Dr. Christianson had a special student named Steve. Steve was only a freshman, but was studying with the intent of going on to Seminary. Steve was popular, well liked and an imposing physical specimen. He was the starting center on the school football team and the best student in the class.
One day, Dr. Christianson asked Steve to stay after class so he could talk with him. "How many push-ups can you do?" Steve said, "I do about 200 every night." "200? That's pretty good, Steve," Dr. Christianson said. "Do you think you could do 300?" "I don't know," Steve replied, "I've never done 300 at a time." "Do you think you could?" again asked the professor. "Well, I could try," said Steve. "Can you do 300 in sets of 10? I have a class project and I need you to do about 300 push-ups in sets of ten for this to work. Can you do it? I need you to tell me you can do it," said Dr. Christianson. Steve said, "Well... I think I can... yeah, I can do it." Dr. Christianson said, "Good! I need you to do this on Friday. Let me explain what I have in mind."
Friday came and Steve got to class early and sat in the front of the room. When class started, the professor pulled out a big box of donuts. Now these weren't the normal kind of donuts, these were the big fancy kind, with cream centers and frosting swirls. Everyone was pretty excited that it was Friday, the last class of the day, and they were going to get an early start on the weekend with a party in Dr. Christianson's class.
Dr. Christianson went to the first girl in the first row and asked, "Cynthia would you like one of these donuts?" Cynthia said, "Yes please." Dr. Christianson then turned to Steve and asked, "Steve, would you please do ten push-ups so that Cynthia may have a donut?" "Sure." Steve jumped down from the desk, did ten quick push-ups, and then returned to his desk. Dr. Christianson put a donut on Cynthia's desk.
Dr. Christianson then went to Joe, the next person, and asked, "Joe do you
want a donut?" Joe said, "Yes." The professor asked, "Steve would you do ten
push-ups so Joe can have a donut?" Steve did ten push-ups and Joe got a donut. And so it went, down the first aisle. Steve did ten push-ups for each person before he received a donut.
Dr. Christianson continued down the second aisle until he came to Scott. Scott was on the basketball team, and in as good physical condition as Steve. Scott was popular and never lacking female companionship. When the professor asked, "Scott would you like a donut?" Scott's reply was, "Yes, if I can do my own push-ups." Dr. Christianson said, "No, Steve has to do them." Scott said, "Then I don't want one."
The professor shrugged and then turned to Steve and asked, "Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Scott can have the donut he doesn't want?" With perfect obedience Steve started to do the push-ups. Scott yelled, "HEY! I said I didn't want one!" Dr. Christianson said sternly, "Look, this is my class, these are my desks, and these are my donuts. Just leave it on the desk if you don't want it" And he put a donut on Scott's desk.
Now by this time, Steve had begun to perspire and was starting to slow down a little. He just stayed on the floor between sets because it took too much effort to get up and down. As Dr. Christianson started down the third row, many students were beginning to get a little angry. Dr. Christianson asked Jenny, "Jenny, do you want a donut?" Jenny's answer was a firm, "No!" Then Dr. Christianson asked Steve, "Steve, would you do ten more push-ups so Jenny can have a donut that she doesn't want?" Steve did ten. Seeing this, Jenny changed her mind and got a donut.
By now, a growing sense of uneasiness filled the room. The students were beginning to say "No" and there were all these uneaten donuts on the desks. Steve also had to put forth a lot of extra effort to get these push-ups done for each donut. There was a pool of sweat on the floor beneath his face and his arms were beginning to turn red because of the physical effort being put forth. Because Dr. Christianson could no longer bear to watch Steve's hard work go for all these uneaten donuts, he asked Robert, the most vocal unbeliever in the class, to watch Steve do each push-up to make sure he did all ten in each set.
As the professor started down the fourth row, he noticed some students from other classes had wandered in and sat down on the steps along the radiators that ran down the sides of the room. He did a quick count and saw that there were now thirty-four students in the room. He started to worry that Steve would not be able to make it. He went on to the next person and the next and the next. Near the end of the row, Steve was really having a hard time. It was taking a lot more time to complete each set.
Just then, Jason, a recent transfer student, came to the room. He was about to enter when at once all of the students yelled, "NO!! Don't come in!!" Jason didn't know what was going on. Steve picked up his head and said, "No, let him come." Professor Christianson said, "You realize that if Jason comes in you will have to do ten push-ups for him?" "Yes, let him come in. Give him a donut."
Dr. Christianson said, "Okay Steve, I'll let you get Jason's out of the way right now. Jason, do you want a donut?" Not even knowing what was going on, Jason said, "Yes, I'll have a donut." "Steve, will you do ten push-ups so that Jason can have a donut?" Steve did ten very slow and labored push-ups. Jason, bewildered, was handed a donut and sat down.
Dr. Christianson finished the fourth row and started on the visitors seated by the radiators. Steve's arms were now shaking with each push-up in a struggle to lift himself against the force of gravity. Sweat was profusely dripping off of his face and there was no sound except his heavy breathing. By this time, there was not a dry eye in the room.
The very last two students in the room were two young women, both cheerleaders, and very well-liked. Dr. Christianson went to Linda and asked if she wanted a donut. Linda said, very sadly, "No, thank you." The professor quietly asked, "Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Linda can have a donut she doesn't want?" Grunting from the effort, Steve did ten very slow push-ups for Linda.
Then Dr. Christianson turned to the last girl, Susan. "Susan, do you want a donut?" Susan, with tears streaming down her face pleaded, "Dr. Christianson, why can't I help him?" Dr. Christianson, with tears of his own, explained, "No, Steve has to do it alone. I have given him this task and he is in charge of seeing that everyone here has an opportunity for a donut whether he wants it or not.
"When I decided to have a party this last day of class, I looked at my grade book. Steve is the only student with a perfect grade. Everyone else has failed a test, skipped class, or offered up inferior work. Steve told me that in football practice when a player messes up, he has to do push-ups. I told Steve that none of you could come to the party unless he paid the price by doing your push-ups. He and I made a deal for your sakes. Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Susan can have a donut?"
As Steve very slowly finished his last push-up, with the understanding that he had accomplished all that was required of him, having done 350 push-ups, his arms buckled beneath him and he fell to the floor.
Dr. Christianson turned to the room and said, "And so it was, that our Savior, Jesus Christ, pleaded to the Father, 'Into Thy hands I commend my spirit.' With the understanding that He had accomplished all that was required of Him, He yielded up His life for us. And like some of those in this room, many leave the gift on the desk, uneaten."
Two students helped Steve up off the floor and to a seat, physically exhausted, but wearing a thin smile. "Well done good and faithful servant," said the professor, adding, "Not all sermons are preached in words."
Turning to the class the professor said, "My wish is that you might understand and fully comprehend all the riches of grace and mercy that have been given to you through the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God spared not His only begotten son, but gave him up for us and for the whole world, now and forever.
"Whether we choose to accept His gift to us, the price for our sins has been paid. Wouldn't it be foolish and wouldn't it be ungrateful just to leave it laying on the desk?"
Monday, June 26, 2006
Afterwards, she told me, "I'm really glad you invited me Pastor Ted. I've been praying for some opportunities to sing outside my home church."
It's nice to know that sometimes God uses you to answer someone else's prayers.
Makes me think that God isn't done with me yet.
Friday, June 23, 2006
It also fried my church computer.
It was working fine Wednesday night before the storm and Thursday morning it was dead. The telephone modem--that wasn't plugged into the surge protector--is probably the culprit.
I intended on a nice relaxing summer day on Thursday. Instead, I spent most the day trying to recover data since my last backup.
I asked my wife, "Can I cuss?" She said, "No."
"Obviously, this is what God intends for you to deal with today," she continued. "You can fight Him or go with the flow."
Uuuuggggh. I'm still fighting.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Apparently, Jesus' very own words are no longer good enough.
Delegates of the Presbyterian Church (USA), meeting this week in Birmingham, AL, voted to receive a policy paper on gender-inclusive language, which permits local churches to use alternative language in describing the Trinity.
According to AP religion writer Richard Ostling's report:
"One reason is that language limited to the Father and Son 'has been used to support the idea that God is male and that men are superior to women,' the panel said."
So if people misapply Scripture, that justifies changing the language of Scripture?
"'Mother, Child and Womb'? That's even more sexist than the old patriarchal Trinity. We suspect God will be quite angry at the suggestion that she is no more than an Incubator. It ought to be 'Woman, Fetus and Body.' [Besides,] 'Rock, Redeemer, Friend' is much better, and it's easy to remember. Rock crushes Redeemer, Redeemer cuts Friend, Friend covers Rock."
Our methods must change, but our message? Never.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
These were the words I overheard a physician tell his patient this morning, as I sat in the adjoining patient room waiting for the doctor to conduct my annual physical.
I don't know what problem the patient had that prompted the doctor's words, but I can make one diagnosis--the patient must be near deaf.
Getting old can get discouraging. One of my senior saint friends puts it this way: "Golden years? Hell no, these are the rusty years!"
After visits to the nursing home, I sometimes wonder, "Which is worse: To have your mind, but not your body; or, have your body, but not your mind?"
Whichever way I end up in my old age, the Lord in Isaiah 46:3-4 makes a promise to all who are His:
"Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all you who remain of the house of Israel, you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth.
Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you."
Yes, dear patient, your life has value.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
I have an entire dresser drawer full of T-Shirts.
There's all the Vacation Bible School shirts I made over the years. Camp White shirts for each year I went to serve the developmentally disabled. The "Sticks and Stones" 77s shirt I bought at Cornerstone Music festival in 1990. Two Charlie Peacock shirts, created before he ever made a name for himself as a Nashville producer. The Sun Ra shirt I bought in Columbus, Ohio after seeing the uniquely odd jazz pianist in the late 80's. The Suicide Trail Run shirts for each I ran the local 5k race.
Each shirt is a story--a memory. How can I just pick one and ruin it?
In Joshua 4, after God had miraculously led the people of Israel across the Jordon River, God told Joshua:
Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan...Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, 'What do these stones mean?' tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever."
If God was giving this command today, he might have said, "Print a T-shirt for everyone."
Monday, June 19, 2006
According to a Reuters report, the newly elected leader of the Episcopal Church, Rev. Jefferts Schori, told CNN that she doesn't believe homosexuality is wrong: "I believe that God creates us with different gifts. Each one of us comes into this world with a different collection of things that challenge us and things that give us joy and allow us to bless the world around us," she said.
Looks to me like the Episcopal church and the worldwide Anglican community is heading for a split.
Meanwhile in my denomination, the United Church of Christ, an entire conference has withdrawn due to General Synod 25's endorsement of same-sex marriage last summer.
The Puerto Rico Conference, consisting of 68 congregations and a membership of 6,000, voted itself out of the United Church of Christ on June 10th. UCC President John Thomas in a statement said Puerto Rico's withdrawal is "is deeply painful and profoundly disappointing."
Indeed it is. James Hutchins, moderator of UCCTruths.com (an outstanding website that serves a loving critic and watchdog to the UCC) observed that:
Puerto Rico has been a focal point for the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries for some time. Whether the UCC was opposing the Navy's use of Vieques as target practice or the defense of Puerto Rican FALN terrorists, the UCC was serious in it's commitment to justice issues that were significant to Puerto Rico and to the conference. Even the boilerplate footnote on UCC press releases distinguished Puerto Rico from its mainland brethren. For many in the UCC, Puerto Rico defined our social witness of opposing colonial power and abuse and we dutifully defended David against Goliath. No one can question the UCC's commitment to Puerto Rico. But, in the end, it wasn't enough. At the end of the day, theological division about "Marriage Equality" trumped the commitment of our denomination to Puerto Rico. With this history of commitment, if the entire Puerto Rico Conference can leave the UCC, any church can leave the UCC.
Hutchins believes the path to a peaceful co-existence on this very divisive issue lies with everyone in the UCC--beginning with the national leadership--respecting our polity that holds the local church ultimately responsible for deciding this and all moral issues. In other words, the national setting of the UCC should quit speaking and advocating on behalf of everyone and instead be quiet.
Meanwhile, in a recent speech to UCC delegates at the Wisconsin Conference annual meeting President Thomas said, "A church in conflict that stands for something is better than a happy and comfortable church that stands for nothing."
True. But only if you're standing on the right side.
Friday, June 16, 2006
Two days after the last photo, the wheat was cut on June 9.
While yields across the state are expected to be down this year compared to last, farmers around here have been pleasantly surprised. In fact, one Little River farmer had a field with a test weight of 65, a record for this area.
"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. " --Galatians 6:9
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
This is the third in a series of chronological pictures of a growing wheat field.
The above picture was taken in mid-May. The wind blows the tall wheat grass back and forth (think, "Amber waves of grain" in Katherine Lee Bates' "America") and encourages the head of the wheat stalk to pop out. Then over the next few weeks, the head fills with kernels (wheat berries). As you see above, the wheat then starts turing from green to amber yellow.
"But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen." --2 Peter 3:18
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
This is the second of five chronological pictures of a wheat field near my home.
This picture was taken in April--a beautiful time in Kansas when much of the landscape is a beautiful green.
"The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever." --Isaiah 40:8
Monday, June 12, 2006
Farmers in Kansas and Rice County are now cutting their wheat. They're starting early. Usually, harvest doesn't begin until around June 14th. This is the earliest start that anyone can remember.
I admit: Until I came to Kansas, I didn't know a thing about wheat. I've learned a lot since then.
All this week, I'll be posting chronological pictures of a nearby wheat field. Today's picture was taken in March. The seeds were planted in October-November.
"I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed." --Jesus in John 12:24.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
I provide a guitar and a voice. Shari provides the vocals. We sing from a songbook called, "Songs and Creations." The book contains a unique mix of over 1,000 songs, with music you won't find together in any other songbook--from classic hymns and kids songs, to American folk songs, to pop hits from the 60's and 70's. The signature songs of Shari and I are, "If I Had a Hammer," "Do Lord," and "This Land Is Your Land."
Yesterday we sang while the residents were eating their lunch. Some of the residents ignore us and eat. Others don't eat and sing along.
One resident was having such a good time singing, her dentures fell out!
And I guess that leaves me speechless.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
You probably already know that, but if you need additional proof, just click on "Next Blog" in the upper right hand corner of this blog to see a random selection of the millions of blogs out there in cyber space.
Now through the end of June, you can laugh at blogs with the comic series Zits. It chronicles the antics and angst of 15-year-old Jeremy, his family, and friends. It's by far the best comic strip in the newspapers today. At the Kings Feature site link here, you can read a week's worth of laughs about blogs.
Zits' co-creator is Jim Borgman, editorial cartoonist for the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Why? Because today is 6-6-06 and the devil's number, according to Revelation 13:17-19, is 666.
Wow. Today's numerical date and the numerical number of the Beast happen to be the same. You know what I call that? A coincidence. But that's not stopping people from seizing this day to draw attention to themselves.
So today, the town of Hell, Michigan is embracing the moment with a party. In Holland, a group is calling for a "violent day of worship" (golly, I've thought of a lot of adjectives for worship, but never "violent") so that Satan's plans on this day will be destroyed.
When it comes to numbers, our culture thinks like the Greeks. We see numbers as something that indicates quantity. But according to historian Ray Vanderlaan, Hebrew people (and the Apostle John who wrote the beast's number in Revelation was a full-fledged Hebrew) often used numbers to describe a quality or a symbol.
If something dramatic happens today in the plan of God, so be it. But I'm not anticipating it.
LATE DAY POSTSCRIPT: Saw this story on the Drudge Report. There's a 6' 6" man who turned 66 on 6-6-06. He must be the anti-Christ!
Monday, June 05, 2006
All the activities of spring--Lent, Easter, Baccalaureate, graduation, Mother's Day, and VBS--are completed. While farmers are gearing up for wheat harvest--their busiest time of the year--this is my opportunity to gear down.
I always look forward to this 3-month window--June, July, and August. It's my chance to take vacation time, evaluate the past 9 months of ministry, and make plans for the next months--from September '06 to May '07.
Usually I enter this time of year tired and worn out. That's why I took particular note of something that the Fitz Family's "Father Fitz" said during their juggling show on Friday for our VBS kids.
He read from Colossians 1:28-29, where the Apostle Paul says:
We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.
Mark, the real name of "Father Fitz", commented, "It's interesting that Paul doesn't say he struggles with all of his energy, but rather the energy of Christ."
Indeed, that is interesting, for it reveals the way in which we should do our work--and it shows Christ's desire to give us his strength for our physical and mental tasks, particularly in the work of discipleship.
It makes me wonder, how much of my labor has been according to my strength and how much the Lord's?
Friday, June 02, 2006
As I was saying that, another 5th grade friend--Reagan--walked up. I said the same thing to her. And she smiled.
A few moments later, Katelynn came back. This time, she brought along her friend Leisha. Then Katelynn looked at me and said, "Go ahead Pastor Ted, tell her too."
Let a kid know they're precious.
Thursday, June 01, 2006
As a pastor, I love VBS. It's my one chance to act like David in 2 Samuel 6:13-15. I get to wear jeans and tie die T-shirts all week long (the past VBS shirts). And, I get to dance at the altar (with the kids as they learn their VBS music).
VBS is the one time of the year that I can dress weird and act weird--and nobody thinks I've lost my marbles.