Tuesday, March 30, 2010

How to find a leader

From this week’s Leadership Journal Weekly e-mail newsletter is an article, “How Do We Hire? What happens when we let gifts and relationships define our organizational structures?” by John Ortberg.

“We have to break old models of church leadership—not to go to new models, but to go back to an even older model—organization around gifts.”

“But I do have a conviction that when it comes to getting leadership right, 98 percent of the ballgame is relationship. I believe where there is a relationship of joy and commitment and mutual submission and trust and authentic love—then the division of labor issues can flow freely and effectively. But where the relationship is broken, all the org charts in the world can't save it.”

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Stormy, stormy

Last night was a very noisy night. The wind was strong and driving the rain into the windows and roofs. I guess it sounded like there was more rain than actually fell since the basement floor wasn’t nearly as wet as I thought it might be. The forecast for this week doesn’t look very promising: quite a bit of rain.

The forecast for Easter Sunday looks decent. The churches hold a sunrise service at a beachside shelter, and driving rain and wind would not be very pleasant. I’ve been asked to give a short sermon right near the close of the service.

Good Friday is also coming up this week and I will be providing a vocal solo and one of the short sermons as part of the community Good Friday service.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Nice weather is not taken for granted

After some rather heavy rains the past several days, today is dry with some sun.

I took advantage of the weather to ride the bike out to milepost 9 and back, a total distance of 20.3 miles. I took it at a moderate pace – not easy, but neither was it too hard. It was the longest time so far this calendar year at 1 hour 20 minutes.

I could be wrong, but I think this may be one of the longer rides I’ve done in March anywhere. Back in Oregon, March was just about the time I put away the indoor trainer and started getting outside. After all, I thought riding outside for fun in temps less than 50 degrees was a bit extreme. Not here though. If it isn’t icy and/or snowing and the sun is out, it’s good enough to go out.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Over the last several weeks things have been going from bad to worse. My anxiety has gotten so high that I cannot even enter the Adventist church grounds without feeling a wave of panic that forces me to leave after just a few minutes. I have been experiencing regular nightmares. If this continues, I don’t know if I will be able to function as a normal person.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Shelley’s artwork


Here is Shelley’s latest work, a hummingbird. It will be submitted to another art contest.

Once I get a new PC to replace the one that died a couple months back, get Photoshop installed on it, and printer hooked up to it, I’ll be able to create prints. Until then, it is only available online.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sermon: True Treasure

(Click HERE for MP3 sermon audio.)

Text: Luke 12:13-34

Luke 12:31 reads, “Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things [food, clothing; i.e., material needs] will be added to you.”

For those of us in the developed nations, this isn’t a terribly difficult promise. We have not gone without basic needs. But what about Christians, not to mention nonChristians, in areas of the world where hunger and exposure are daily concerns? Did Jesus not really mean what he promised? Is God not powerful enough to keep his promises? Or perhaps, my understanding is deficient…

This sermon, given at the Presbyterian Church, explores this promise in the context of the passages that come before and after. The passage begins with a man coming to Jesus, asking that his inheritance be divided between him and his brother. Jesus, instead of doing that, tells about a parable of a rich, foolish, landowner. In that context Jesus exhorts his disciples to not worry about their basic, daily needs, and instead seek (or pursue) God’s kingdom. Jesus continues his exhortation by saying that his disciples ought to sell their possessions and give to the poor.

By understanding the surrounding context, I believe we can better understand how God has designed the fulfillment of his promise to provide for the basic needs of his children.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Another spring day

Today turned out to be sunny and warm. Okay, so 45 degrees may be cold for many people, but it is definitely spring temperatures here. After Bible study this morning followed by a rather substantial lunch, I went out for another hour long spin on the bike.

After the rather large lunch I thought my body might feel sluggish but that was not at all the case. Rather I felt the best I have in many rides. (Maybe Wii Fit with the Yoga and strength exercises are helping with flexibility and core strength.) In spite of the somewhat breezy conditions I was able to average 16.2 mph over the whole hour, remaining in a low, tucked position for a great part of the ride.

While on the road heading out, just a little ways away from the house, I saw a couple of kids casting out for some fish. Fishing season must be here…

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Another spring-like day

This week has been rainy and icy for much of it. Then today came with bright, sunny skies (after the fog burned off).

I walked over to the Presbyterian church in the morning to pick out some hymns for this upcoming Sunday’s worship (where I will be giving the sermon), and also to practice a couple of piano duets that will be played during the prelude.

In the afternoon I took a bike ride out the road to mile 6.62 and back; a total of a little over 15 miles in a little under an hour. This was the longest ride so far this winter and this calendar year. I was feeling pretty good on the bike, getting down into the drops and motoring along at a fairly good pace. I am feeling the effects of the position now though. My sit-bones feel a little sore and my back feels a little stiff.

I’m starting to wonder if there are any herring to be found in the harbor. I am itching to go out and catch some fish. Typically the dock and shore fishing doesn’t really begin until April, but with the warmer winter, I wonder…

Monday, March 15, 2010

Chicken in Creamy Red Curry Sauce

It’s been quite some time since I posted anything cooking related.

For this evening’s meal I put together chicken cooked in a red curry sauce. I browsed a few recipes to get some ideas and refresh my memory as to the different spice combinations and cooking methods.

I had some bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs in the freezer. I have plenty of potatoes. I also had about a cup of cream left in a container. Finally I had a few carrots in the refrigerator. All of that combined with the usual suspects –onion, garlic, ginger, spices – should do the trick. I wanted red curry, not yellow curry, so I used some bright, red paprika and omitted the turmeric. One of the recipes employed white vinegar, but I had a can of diced tomatoes lying around, so I used that to add the acidity to the curry.

If the chicken was already defrosted and I had enough time, I probably would have marinated the chicken, or at least let it sit in brine, but I didn’t have time for that so the chicken turned out a bit bland all by itself. It was fine though eaten with the sauce.


  • 1 lb. potatoes
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 inches fresh ginger, roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 1 large onion, chopped medium
  • salt
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. cardamom seeds
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cayenne
  • black pepper
  • 4-5 carrots, large dice
  • 1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes (with juice)
  • 1 cup whipping or heavy cream
  • More salt to taste


  1. “Bake” potatoes in microwave (many microwaves have a “baked potato” setting – that is what I used). Let cool. Peel and dice into 1-inch chunks.
  2. Place garlic and ginger pieces in food processor. Add 2-3 Tbsp. water and process until paste is formed. Set aside.
  3. Heat oil in a large sauté pan (I use a 13-inch pan with 2.5-inch high sides with a lid) over medium-high heat. When hot, place chicken pieces in pan and brown, about 5-6 minutes per side. (Use a splatter screen.) Remove and set aside.
  4. Without removing pan from heat, add onions into the chicken juices and fat, sprinkle with about 1 tsp. salt, and cook until they become slightly softened. Move onions to the sides of pan and in the open space in center, pour in the garlic-ginger paste. Stir and fry until most of the liquid has evaporated. Combine with the onions and continue to fry until onions are translucent.
  5. Move the onion mixture to the sides of pan once more. Pour in the spices (cumin through black pepper) in the open area, stir and fry for about half a minute, then combine with the onions. Stir and fry another minute longer.
  6. Add the tomatoes, their juice, cream, and carrots. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low. Add potatoes and stir gently to combine. Taste sauce and add more salt if desired.
  7. Return chicken pieces to pan, skin side up, creating holes in the pan contents so that chicken sits well in the sauce, but without covering the skin. Simmer 18-20 minutes until chicken is fully cooked.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Winter is back

After an almost spring-like January and February, we have been getting snow storms this week. The snow accumulated a several inches on Monday, but by evening the rain started falling, the wind blew and most of the snow melted away.

The snow returned last night but the temperatures were just a little too warm for it to stick around. The snow kept falling through the day, but again, too warm to stay. I did go out for about forty minutes on the bike, braving the strong gusts of wind and the snow.

The weather forecast for the rest of the week calls for more of the same.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Plug: Did God Really Say All That?

James Coffin, senior pastor of the Markham Woods Church of Seventh-day Adventists in Longwood, Florida, writes over at Spectrum, Divining the Voice in My Head.

I often hear the expression (used rather glibly, I must say): “God told me.” The words are typically the preamble to a description of some strongly held conviction. But the expression leaves me uncomfortable…

Anyway, as I read the scriptures, I wonder if maybe the people in Bible times weren’t given to the use and misuse of the “God told me” expression just as we are now. Maybe even more so. “God told” people a lot of things back then, it seems. And judging just from the context and the ethics of the advice given, I think it possible that there may have been times when God gets the credit for something that came from other sources…

I find it fascinating that we attribute actions to God that, if they were engaged in by any human, would call down the strongest of denunciations. Yet we commend God for them. If, for example, any humans had caused another to suffer as Hagar was suffering there in the desert, we would find their role despicable. But we never even blink when suggesting that God told Abraham to take steps that were going to bring such pain to another human. Why…?

Could it be that it was because Abraham [in justifying sending away Hagar and Ishmael] too willingly attributed his own thoughts to God? Could it be that if Abraham had removed the “God told me” phrase from his vocabulary, he would have been forced to ponder more deeply and more critically the thoughts that were running through his mind? Could it be that he would have behaved in a more moral, more ethical, more loving manner if he knew that he personally had to accept responsibility for his actions and couldn’t hang the blame on God?

And could it be that we today need to face up to that same reality?

[Click for article.]

The Suffering of Affliction

This psalm describes my feelings at the present time.

Psalm 88 (NLT)
For the choir director: A psalm of the descendants of Korah. A song to be sung to the tune “The Suffering of Affliction.” A psalm of Heman the Ezrahite.
1 O Lord, God of my salvation,
      I cry out to you by day.
      I come to you at night.
2 Now hear my prayer;
      listen to my cry.
3 For my life is full of troubles,
      and death draws near.
4 I am as good as dead,
      like a strong man with no strength left.
5 They have left me among the dead,
      and I lie like a corpse in a grave.
   I am forgotten,
      cut off from your care.
6 You have thrown me into the lowest pit,
      into the darkest depths.
7 Your anger weighs me down;
      with wave after wave you have engulfed me.

8 You have driven my friends away
      by making me repulsive to them.
   I am in a trap with no way of escape.
9 My eyes are blinded by my tears.
   Each day I beg for your help, O Lord;
      I lift my hands to you for mercy.
10 Are your wonderful deeds of any use to the dead?
      Do the dead rise up and praise you?

11 Can those in the grave declare your unfailing love?
      Can they proclaim your faithfulness in the place of destruction?
12 Can the darkness speak of your wonderful deeds?
      Can anyone in the land of forgetfulness talk about your righteousness?
13 O Lord, I cry out to you.
      I will keep on pleading day by day.
14 O Lord, why do you reject me?
      Why do you turn your face from me?

15 I have been sick and close to death since my youth.
      I stand helpless and desperate before your terrors.
16 Your fierce anger has overwhelmed me.
      Your terrors have paralyzed me.
17 They swirl around me like floodwaters all day long.
      They have engulfed me completely.
18 You have taken away my companions and loved ones.
      Darkness is my closest friend.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Ten Symptoms of emotionally unhealthy spirituality

  1. Using God to run from God
  2. Ignoring the emotions of anger, sadness, and fear
  3. Dying to the wrong things
  4. Denying the past’s impact on the present
  5. Dividing our lives into “secular” and “sacred” compartments
  6. Doing for God instead of being with God
  7. Spiritualizing away conflict
  8. Covering over brokenness, weakness, and failure
  9. Living without limits
  10. Judging other people’s spiritual journey

-- from Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Scazzero, p. 24

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Love of Unimaginable Proportions | What do to when you find yourself praying to the quid pro quo god

Love of Unimaginable Proportions
by Mark Galli of Christianity Today

A couple of recent conversations suggest how hard it is to exorcize the quid pro quo god. Quid pro quo is a Latin phrase meaning "something for something." The quid pro quo god is one who does something for us if we do something for him, and the one who refuses to do something for us, or even punishes us, if we fail to do something for him...

When we find ourselves explaining that God is "doing this for my own good," or secretly striving "to do better," or saying to ourselves that "I deserve my fate," you can be sure we are in the presence of the quid pro quo god, the god of fear and just desserts...

[Read full article]

Pre-show radio interview with drama cast

If anyone is interested in listening to it, KFSK, the local public radio station, interviewed the cast and staff of Alice in Wonderland prior to the show. Shelley is heard in the interview towards the beginning. There is also a photo of the cast in front of the set.

Protecting the Shine: Why Ministers Need Ministry, Too

A recent article from Crosswalk.com begins,

Stained glass windows are a lot like pastors. They're really good at hiding stormy weather. They always look beautiful; they always appear inspirational; you can even get them to glisten when it's pitch black outside by shining manufactured light through them. Stained glass, like pastors, appears to be immune from the roughness of life. But they're not—unless they're well protected…

The short article concludes,

I know the debates (and war stories) are lengthy and legendary about pastors opening up too much during times of personal need… However, despite the risks, it's essential that those of us in ministry allow others into our lives…

Click to read more…

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Ignorance or apathy, which is worse (or preferable)?

Reading List

I currently have a large number of items on my reading list.

So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore (Paperback)

Well-Intentioned Dragons: Ministering to Problem People in the Church

The Pastor's Survival Manual: 10 Perils in Parish Ministry and How to Handle Them

Clergy Self-Care: Finding a Balance for Effective Ministry

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: Unleash the Power of Life in Christ

The Hole in Our Gospel: What does God expect of Us? The Answer that Changed my Life and Might Just Change the World

Called to Worship: The Biblical Foundations of Our Response to God's Call

Armageddon's Children (The Genesis of Shannara, Book 1)

Transparency vs. Secretiveness

Some readers might question why I am so forthright and transparent in recording even my negative thoughts on this blog. Couldn’t someone take it and use it against me? Of course. I fully expect it could happen. I fully expect what I have written to be taken out of context and manipulated to say what I never intended. Do I care? Yes and no. Yes, I care that someone may be so insecure as to do that. No, because no power on on earth can change or destroy the confidence that I have in Christ’s love for me (Romans 8:31-39).

I write here because there just might be someone who is experiencing similar problems who can know that they are not alone. I write here because I don’t believe in hiding my thoughts, even negative ones. I don’t believe in pretending that everything is okay when everything is not. I believe there is more redeeming power in revealing our struggles and how Christ works through them than there is in the “nice Christian” stories and clichés (one might term that “Churchianity”). If you don’t agree, that’s okay. Just don’t be dogmatic about it.