Friday, June 20, 2008

Mighty fishermen

I mentioned a few posts back that I had taken a salmon fishing trip with the CBC men, plus my Dad, my brother-in-law Buddy and a few others. My boat caught the 2nd most fish on both days I fished, outdone by Dad and Buddy's boat. Still, we had fun, as the photo hopefully attests.

Friday, June 13, 2008

"Pastor, I need more 'meat' from the Word."

Okay, since it's been a while since my last "serious" post, I decided I was due for another. And to break the drought, I've decided to post a little bit on a pet peeve of mine.

Over the course of my seven years as a pastor, I've been told several times by someone who should know better that what they really need to grow in their spiritual life is "more meat" from my sermons and/or teaching. I'm never quite sure how to respond to this, because I'm not quite sure what they mean. Do they mean that I should translate more Hebrew or Greek or Aramaic words directly and give more of a flavor of the underlying text of our English translations? Do they mean I should give them a full bore, highly intellectual presentation of the text in a way that dazzles through a combination of complex structure, polysyllabic vocabulary, and a minimum of illustrations? Perhaps they mean that I should spend more time on some of the complex theological issues, like sovereignty/freedom, the Trinity, or the degree of identity between our current physical body and our new spiritual body. Or maybe they mean something else altogether.

Regardless, I am convinced of a few things:
  1. The Scriptures are meant to be understood and for that reason are not overly complicated or hard to understand. Thus, past a certain level of Christian experience and biblical teaching, there isn't some sort of mystical "higher" or "deeper" teaching to attain.
  2. What is complicated and hard about Christianity isn't the informational aspects, but the transformational aspects. That is, what the Bible says isn't hard to understand; it is doing what the Bible says that is difficult. In my view, a Christian has attained true understanding of the "deep truths of the faith" when he/she is able to successfully do what the Bible commands in all of the major areas of his/her life.
  3. This is not to say that it isn't important to engage our intellects. Far from it, in fact. Intellectual knowledge and inquiry is an important aspect of forming the theological grid that we use to shape our lives. But it is to make clear that the formation of said grid isn't the end, but only the means. We're not to work hard at becoming smarter sinners, but to use what we know to become sanctified saints.

Water, water everywhere...

...and not a drop to drink.

Ironic as it might seem, our old stomping grounds of Cedar Rapids is running out of water in the midst of a 500 year flood. Seriously. According to the most recent reports I have, there's at most a two day supply left for people to drink, shower, wash clothes, and use the toilet. Residents are now being told to use water for drinking and nothing else. How that is possible simply baffles.

At least one of my closest friends from our Iowa days has a house under water. As you hear more on the flooding, please pray for safety and protection. Pray too that God will abundantly supply all the needs of those displaced.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Early Morning Nathan

This morning Nathan crawled into bed with me for some pre-breakfast time with his Daddy. This usually lasts about 30 seconds before he has decided it's too boring to simply lay there and talk and ever so much more fun to either jump on Daddy or sit on his head while laughing his head off as Daddy tries to wake up. This morning I was prepared in that I was actually awake when he came in. The talking portion of our morning routine consisted of Nathan saying, "Daddy, when I get bigger, I'm going to go to work at my office in a green truck." Apparently, green trucks are much cooler in Nathan's mind than my black one. Still, it makes me happy to think of my son doing what I do. Perhaps God will similarly call and equip him for ministry...

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Happy Anniversary

Regular readers of this blog will note that my profile has changed. As of June 1st, Karen the Fair and I have been married for 12 years. As of this moment, I'm not sure what is more amazing to me-the fact that 12 years have passed so quickly and so blessedly with the woman I love or the fact that she has been patient enough to put up with my many flaws lo these many years.

We spent our anniversary by first going to Wildlife Prairie Park to walk, talk, and look at the animals. Since we were there in the evening, the animals were all out and active. We got to stand with about three feet of a black bear boar as he stood up on his hind feet and scratched against the fence, within about 10 feet of the park's pair of cougars, and close enough to a gray fox that I could have reached down and touched him had I felt sufficiently foolish to try it. Karen also was the first to notice a thoroughly wild and uncaged black snake (about 4' long) whose presence on the path in front of us she duly alerted me to. After we left the park, we ate greasy cheeseburgers at Steak 'N Shake and caught Prince Caspian at the local stadium style movieplex. The movie was a triumph! It's significantly different from the book I remember, but the changes made don't detract from the story so much as advance it more quickly to make for a "tighter" movie. As always the company was superb, and left me scheming ways for more time alone with my lovely bride apart from the Horn Herd.

All of this is to say, thank you Karen for making the last twelve years of my life more wonderful than they ever would have been without you.

Tolkien and politics

Now that the political contest for POTUS is down to two major party candidates, I think it's wise to start reflecting on the underlying philosophy each brings to the table. In general, I find both men to be deeply flawed at that level. I wish for a leader who doesn't have "grand plans" for all of the rest of us little people. This reminds me of something I read recently by someone writing about modern politics through the lens of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy:
In his books, the Enemy always starts with seemingly fair motives, even to himself; motives of ordering the world, crafting it into the ideal, mastering the convulsions that threaten to rip it apart. But, being as there are free creatures in the world (Elves, Dwarves, and Men), their willing subservience too is needed to achieve the overall goal. If assent is not achieved willingly, then it is attempted via deception, and at the last by force if nothing else will do. The ideal and its achievement, and thus the glory of the one or ones achieveing it, is placed above all else. This seems to me to be why every movement that progresses from liberalism to socialism to fascism (meaning, for my part, an increasing continuum in state control) is essentially and increasingly anti-religious. Religions, particularly Judeo- Christianity, teach us that the ideal world cannot be achieved by man, and that, in fact, he is the very reason it cannot be achieved. Fascism denies this wholesale. It not only believes that the ideal world can be achieved if everyone works together, but also that it should be achieved and must be achieved - often by any means necessary when it comes down to it. Eventually the leader is held in god-like awe. The followers become fanatical in their zeal to carry out the vision and preserve the perceived foundations of the immient paradise about to unfold. It, ironically, becomes a kind of religion unto itself. Heresy is punishable by death.