Thursday, January 31, 2008

You learn something new every day

I discovered something about myself this morning...I have a goofy laugh. For those of you who know me well, this may not come as much of a shock, except for the fact that I am just now realizing it. This revelation came as I was listening to a sermon of mine that Karen had just downloaded. It's a sort of weird, high-pitched cackle, not at all the sort of deep, sonorous, basso-profundo that I wish God had given me.

Ah well. I have already joke with my congregation that I have a great face for radio. Now I guess I can joke that I have a great voice for silent movies.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

How to stop gossip in the church

One of the perennial complaints about churches is that they are an attractive location for gossips, so the following story gave me quite a chuckle:
Mildred, the church gossip, and self-appointed monitor of the church's morals, kept sticking her nose in to other people's business. Several members did not approve of her extra curricular activities, but feared her enough to maintain their silence. She made a mistake, however, when she accused Frank, a new member, of being an alcoholic after she saw his old pickup parked in front of the town's only bar one afternoon. She emphatically told Frank (and several others) that everyone seeing it there would know what he was doing. Frank, a man of few words, stared at her for a moment and just turned and walked away. He didn't explain, defend, or deny... He said nothing. Later that evening, Frank quietly parked his pickup in front of Mildred's house...walked home...and left it there all night.

You gotta love Frank.

Following Christ

"Jesus promised those who would follow him only three things...that they would be absurdly happy, entirely fearless, and always in trouble. " -Gregg Levoy
That sounds about right to me.

Friday, January 25, 2008


Life in Galena with Karen was a pretty sweet few days. Nothing to do but take naps, exercise, swim, talk, play board games and cards, soak in the hot tub, watch movies in front of our in-room fireplace, eat out and enjoy the wonders of a couple vacation. Our home base for all of this was a nice (and cheap, for Galena!) hotel called The Stoney Creek Inn.

This kind of thing is something that Karen and I try to do at least once a year simply because we enjoy it and it is good for us and our marriage. By "good for us," I don't mean in the sense your mother used to refer to the broccoli on your childhood plate, i.e., it's not much fun, but it is beneficial. No, I mean that it's just good for us to re-connect, relax, and recreate. It's good just to be a husband and a wife again away from our kids for a few days.

Since I'm a pastor, let me offer a gentle pastoral admonition to all the married people reading this: If it has been a while since your last couple's getaway, get one on the calendar now. The blessings to your marriage are worth the costs in time and money. Who knows? Maybe you'll find that the flame of romance you enjoyed when you were first married hasn't burned out but just needed fuel.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Introducing: Miss Lydia Yang

Here is a lovely photo of my new niece, Lydia Yang, firstborn daughter of my little sis Kristen and her husband He Shu Xi.

In which, I do not lose weight.

This week, I had the distinct honor of losing not a single pound, despite keeping my found intake per Weight Watcher's online specs and exercising 4 times. Was this fun? Not so much. Especially when I spent the past three days on vacation with Karen in Galena, IL, one of our favorite retreat spots. Vinny Vannuchi's Italian is not near as much fun when you have to limit your garlic bread and pasta with cream sauce intake, after all.

Much to my chagrin, I discovered that the original program Karen and I used a couple years back (to great success) was different than the one currently in use. So I have played with the computer version to reflect the original plan and look forward to better results from here on.

All of which is a long way of saying I have fallen behind the dw in the weight loss challenge to this point. Which I sort of expected, though I thought it would take longer than it has.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Knights of the Cross

Ever since I was a little boy, I have had a fascination with knights and the age of chivalry. According to The Compleat Gentleman, every knight was supposed to embody four sets of personal characteristics:
  1. The Gentleman: A man of honor, personal integrity, and courtesy.
  2. The Warrior: A man of prowess, skilled and victorious in battle.
  3. The Lover: A man who passionately, yet purely, pursues one woman for his entire life.
  4. The Monk: A spiritual man, devoted to the things of God.
Though it might seem to us that at least some of these characteristics are mutually exclusive and contradictory, the medieval knights nonetheless aspired to and were judged by this ideal. And though in many cases, the reality of knighthood fell far short of the ideals, I still think that its ideals were noble. In fact, with some modifications and adaptation, I think something like the knightly ideal provides an excellent goal for the Christian life as well. As I see it, the fully mature Christian should likewise embody four sets of character traits:
  1. The Monk: Though in my view the monastic concept is a deeply flawed idea in that it is based on the false belief that the truly spiritual life is best lived withdrawn from the world, it’s goal of living each day fully devoted to serving and loving God is something all Christians should pursue. Every believer should have some regular period in which he or she withdraws from the distractions of life in order to seek the Lord and His will.
  2. The Scholar: I believe it is completely impossible for a person to live a successful Christian life without knowledge of the Scriptures. Yet every survey of American Christians reveals an epidemic of Biblical ignorance. Every Christ follower should read through his/her Bible multiple times and be not just familiar with its contents, but fully immersed in them and able to use them as the filter through which to pass all of life’s decisions.
  3. The Lover: In addition to a love for God and His Word, a fully mature believer must have a deep love for God’s other children. After all, the Christian life was never intended to be solitary enterprise and none of the Biblical images used to describe the Church (e.g., Body, Temple, Family) allow for the “rugged individual” approach to the faith. And that love for fellow believers should be evident in how mature believers live—serving the church with their spiritual gifts and caring for the hurting among us.
  4. The Warrior: Just as the Knights of the Round Table devoted themselves to grand, life-altering quests, so the Christian believer has been given a quest by our King. And the goal of our quest is to bring more people under His rule and into the Family of God by sharing with them the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection for our sins.

Slimming down

Over at the dw's blog, she has thrown down the gauntlet. Apparently out a desire to encourage me to take up her challenge, she has updated our photo there to one in which she looks her typically gorgeous self and I look like a pudgier, lumpier version of the Michelin tire man. Nevertheless, the whole point of losing some weight (other than the health benefits, obviously) is so that such unflattering photos do not make me permanently reluctant to be photographed, like some sort of preacher version of Howard Hughes.

At any rate, like the dw, I have decided to join Weight Watchers online. Since I am doing so today, my weigh-in day will be the same as hers and the competition better aligned. Incidentally, I found out that the top end weight (according to WW, at least), for a man my height is 167 lbs., a weight last seen somewhere around the time I was working summers at my dad's old lumber company. Nevertheless, I have reset my goal weight accordingly, though I may have to start moonlighting as either a roofer or a lumberjack to attain it.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Dark Side of Christianity

Something to ponder, especially in light of the fact that we live in a day where seemingly countless preachers expound on the idea that God wants all Christians to be healthy and wealthy and who say that any problems a believer experiences are due, not to a God who cares more about character than comfort, but due to the believer's own lack of faith:
Honestly, I want to be like Christ.

But honestly, I want to be like the Christ who turned water into wine, not the Christ who thirsted on a cross. I want to be the clothed Christ, not the one whose garment was stripped and gambled away. I want to be the Christ who fed the five thousand, not the one who hungered for forty days in the wilderness. I want to be the free Christ, walking through wheat fields with His disciples, not the imprisoned Christ who was deserted by them.

I want to be the Good Samaritan, not the man who fell among thieves. But if the man had not fallen among thieves, been beaten, stripped, and left for dead, the good in the Samaritan never would have emerged.

This is the dark side of Christianity, the side we don’t see when we sign up. That if we want to be like Christ, we have to embrace both sides of His life. What else could it mean when the Bible talks about “the fellowship of His suffering?” How could we enter that fellowship apart from suffering? How could we truly know the Man of Sorrows acquainted with grief if we had not ourselves known grief and sorrow?
-Ken Gire, The Reflective Life

That Persistent Divine Foot

Given the popularity of recent books like atheist Sam Harris' Letter to a Christian Nation and Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, here's a little insider's perspective about the reasons for the energy behind the effort to ensure that our society does not embrace a theistic view of the origin of life:
Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen. -Richard Lewontin, "Billions and billions of Demons," New York Times Review of Books, January 9, 1997.
Pretty much gives the game away, doesn't it? To summarize, what Lewontin (who is a leading scientist by the way, not a fringe crackpot) is saying is this: We believe in evolution based on philosophy, not based on science. Science is supposed to be a search for truth about the way the world really works, but certain explanations are rejected out of hand a priori. That's not science, that's a philosophical commitment masquerading as objectivity.

Not that I am surprised. I too have my pre-existing worldview that I bring to the data. And my commitment to that worldview is not fully rational (in the sense of being fully explained by some sort of "view from nowhere" logic), just as theirs is not. I just wish more scientists were willing to admit that their philosophy/worldview colors their observations and interpretations of what they see no less than the most "rabid creationist."

Crossing the Finish Line

Yesterday marked a momentous occasion in my life and ministry. As of today, I have preached all the way through an entire book of the Bible! 1 Peter has been an exhilarating and challenging book for me personally and, I hope, for the people of Chilli Bible as well. But praise God that it is now complete. One down, 65 more to go to "preach the whole counsel of God's Word."

Big Fat Loser

One of the favorite TV shows at the Horn house is The Biggest Loser. For some reason, Karen can never remember the name, so it has become known at our place as Big Fat Loser, a much better name in my book. This week, I am the Big Fat Loser at our house, having lost 5 pounds through diet and exercise. I'm excited, because this means there's probably only another 51 weeks of courageous self-discipline, agonizing exercise, and the complete absence of bacon double cheeseburgers to reach my goal weight.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A wee bit of fun

A buddy of mine from Iowa sent me a brief, animated video about the perfect couple and their perfect life together. Trust me. It is well worth following this link for the laugh about the differences between men and women.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Run Fatboy, Run!

The title of this post is not just the title of an upcoming film by the same folks who brought the world that inimitable film classic, Shaun of the Dead, it is also a rather blunt way of referring to my New Year's resolution. I am a good deal heavier than I should be, and given a family history of diabetes and heart disease, that doesn't bode well for my long-term future. Consequently, Karen and I have decided to slim down this year and are going to register for a 5k run over Labor Day weekend. You can track my progress towards my goal on the new feature at right labeled "Goal Weight Progress."


Robert Howard was a nerdy little fellow out in Cross Plains, Texas that was borderline schizophrenic. He lived in his own world with no friends. He did not marry and he lived with his mother. He did odd jobs and didn’t relate well to people. When his mother (who was the only friend he’d ever had) died, Robert took his own life.

When relatives went through his meager possessions, they found great bundles of writing. And in his writing Robert had erected his own personal world. In that world little Robert Howard was a different fellow. He was no longer a frightened little nerd from Cross Plains, Texas. Instead, he was a bold, strong, handsome adventurer who did not live confined with his mother. He knew no fear. He was loved by women, revered by men; the master of his domain.

Except in the stories, the hero's name wasn't Robert, instead it was Robert's alter ego: Conan the Barbarian. His relatives published his works because they found them so interesting and now his estate is in the multi-millions. Yet Robert never enjoyed any of it, because he was scared and stayed in his house.

At the end of my life, when I stand before God, I don't want to be like Robert Howard. I don't want to have let fear get in the way of experiencing the blessings of the life I could have had, if only I had been fearless enough to trust God. I don't want to miss out on the joys of the roller coaster at the center of the theme park because I was content to ride the "granny train" around the perimeter.

Marriage, Iranian style

According to a September 22, 2004 article published by Reuters,
An Iranian woman, beaten every day by her husband, asked a court to tell him only to beat her once a week. Maryam, the middle-age woman, said she did not want to divorce her husband because she loved him. "Just tell him to beat me once a week ... Beating is part of his nature and he cannot stop it," Maryam told the court. The Tehran court found the man guilty and banned him from beating the wife, the paper said. "If I do not beat her, she will not be scared enough to obey me," the husband said.
What a messed up world we live in.