Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Dollies are back

Since late March I’ve been going down the block to see if any fish were out in the waters yet. I didn’t see any signs of them until yesterday afternoon when I saw schools of fish jumping about, but I didn’t catch anything.

This morning I changed the lure from a colorful spinner to a basic, metallic spoon. I went out and on my third cast caught my biggest Dolly so far – 17 inches long and 19 oz. I don’t have a pan big enough to fry it in, so I’ll have to either fire up the outside grill, or broil it in the oven.

I will be participating in the annual Blessing of the Fleet this afternoon. I hope the weather holds out for that. The forecast is rain, and the service is typically held outside.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

A week of sun

Today marks over a week of continuous sunshine at this rainforest island. The temperature is in the lower 50s. I finally took down my bike for a spin out the road and back – about 1-1/2 hours. I caught a cold late last week and hadn’t felt completely well until today.

Shelley has been in Haines since the beginning of the week at ArtFest, a gathering of Southeast art teachers and students to learn about making different kinds of art. She is on her way back now and will arrive very early tomorrow morning.

This Saturday the Medical Center is hosting a Health Fair. We will have a booth there handing out small loaves of homemade bread.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


On top of all that is already going on, I was involved in a minor auto accident yesterday. And then this morning I noticed that the water pressure was low. I made sure no fixture inside the house was running, then looked out the front window to see water running out of the ground…

It almost seems like life, the universe, and everything has decided to conspire against me.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Went to the clinic

Elise made me go see a doctor yesterday :)

A hypothesis from the visit is that the northern latitude and the associated darkness may be depleting Vitamin D stores and affecting serotonin levels, contributing to some of the problems I’ve been experiencing. We shall see how things go after a few weeks of treatments to begin correcting this.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Is it okay to take a break from religion?

When religion, its routines, traditions, and the whole culture around it becomes a source of negative stress, is it okay to take a break from it? What if God becomes so hopelessly intertwined with the sources of stress? Is it okay to let God go for a while?

This is basically where I am at now. I think that in order for spirituality to return to something healthy in my life, I may need to cast off all the religious traditions that have negative associations. I may need to start in a new place where I can view my past religious experiences as an outsider. Is it possible to get to a place where I no longer have any emotional attachments to religion?

I am well on my way to fearing daily living: interacting with people, phone calls, talking, sleeping. I want out of this misery and pain.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Spiritual leadership != business leadership

Mike Bonem over at writes in his article “Good to Great to Godly”:

"We need more structure in our decision making. Without that discipline, we'll never accomplish anything."

"We're a church, not a business. We need to rely on God. We can't operate like the corporate world."

Ever been on one side or the other of this argument? Or perhaps in the middle? The tensions are present in most churches in America today. As corporate "best practices" are applied to church life, church leaders struggle to make sense of it all.

In the church, the "bottom line" is life transformation, which defies simple cost-benefit analysis. We wonder whether it's better to see one new convert or five believers who grow significantly in their faith. Or whether the dollar spent on children's programming produces more fruit than one spent on youth ministry. Or how to make the trade-off between music ministry or benevolence. So we wrestle with priorities and resource allocation, trying to make the right choices as we pursue a goal that is sometimes vague and elusive. What kind of leadership is needed to move from blurriness to clarity, from seeing through simple business lenses to seeing more as God sees?

My experience is that church leaders—senior pastors, other staff, and laity—need a style that transcends both of these, a leadership approach that is spiritual and situational (sometimes legislative, sometimes executive). Even as we create structured processes for making important decisions, we must allow time and space for God to speak into the hearts of leaders. Sometimes it's the pastor who hears God most clearly; at other times one or more lay leaders may have a divine insight. In other words, the "best practices" from business have much to offer regarding decision making, but they omit the greatest asset available to congregational leaders—the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Jim Collins' monograph Good to Great and the Social Sectors has an interesting line before the title: "Why Business Thinking Is Not the Answer." Is Collins right? Yes and no. It's clear that the unfiltered, wholesale adoption of best practices from business is not the answer. The church is not a business, and if we run it like one, God might end up as just one of the constituents to be considered, not the One for whom the whole thing exists.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Easter Sunday, Pt. 2

Three of us, Shelley, Amy, and myself, went to the Presbyterian church for brunch, an egg hunt, and service. (Elise went to bed.) The brunch was good, then Shelley and Amy got roped into helping hide the eggs for the younger children. We watched them look for the hidden eggs, some which were up on low roofs and in trees. We got to watch a young girl with her Easter dress go scamper up a tree in pursuit of eggs… Shelly and Amy returned home after that while I stayed for the service.

Easter Sunday

It was a frigid morning. Right at the freezing point. But unlike yesterday afternoon and evening, the clouds broke and the rains stopped. It was quite a picturesque morning.

There were perhaps close to 100 people at Sandy Beach Park, looking out over Frederick Sound and to the Horn Cliffs. It was mostly cloudy, but enough breaks in the clouds to let shafts of sunlight through onto the mountains and the water.

The sunrise service (okay, technically not sunrise since that is about 6 a.m. and the service started about 7 a.m.) was a reading of the resurrection account of John 20 with singing between passages.

I got to provide the reflection at the end of the service. Here is the text of what I spoke.

  • I'm sure we've all had our times of disappointments and discouragements
  • Losing a job, or not getting the one you really wanted
  • Receiving notice that, regrettably, your application was denied
  • A word from the doctor: I'm afraid there is no cure
  • Losing a home, car, a boat to an accident, or even worse, to someone else's negligence
  • Watching your child suffer; bad enough if they made the wrong choices that got them into it, but worse when it appears there is no good reason, or because of someone else's malice
  • Or how about when you're hoping and praying God will work things out and things don't turn out that way? When things seem to go from bad to worse?
  • Have you ever felt like hope died?
  • I wonder what kinds of emotions and thoughts the women watching the crucifixion and burial had
  • Disbelief that it even happened…
  • Grief that their loved one was no more…
  • Anger at those that caused it: Judas, the Jewish leaders, Pilate, the Roman soldiers…
  • Anger at God for not stopping it?
  • Sense of betrayal by God…?
  • Sense of betrayal by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus for not stopping it…?
  • Discouragement…
  • Depression…
  • Emptiness…
  • Loss of hope…
  • After all, this was the Messiah, the Christ, the One that they had pinned their hopes upon
  • Hopes for a brighter future -
  • A future free from foreign occupation and oppression
  • A future where nothing bad would happen again
  • A future where righteousness and justice would reign
  • In their minds -
  • All of that died when Jesus died
  • All of that was buried when Jesus was buried
  • All of that was sealed away when the Roman seal was placed upon the tomb
  • Yet something brought them back to the tomb on Sunday morning, in the wee, twilight hours
  • What was it?
  • A sense of duty, of needing to finish the burial rituals left incomplete?
  • A feeling that they, the long-time, public followers of Jesus ought to perform the final burial honors, instead of those secret disciples who hurriedly buried the body on Friday?
  • Simply the Jewish tradition of mourning at the burial site for three days? Perhaps
  • But perhaps it was because they wanted to be with Jesus again, even if just his body…
  • A hope that being near his body would bring back good memories -
  • Of being loved and accepted,
  • Of having worries and anxieties banished,
  • Of receiving a sense of confidence and courage
  • That somehow being reminded of Jesus and his presence
  • Would bring back hope, and meaning, and purpose
  • As the women approached the tomb they are stopped in their tracks by an earthquake
  • "This can't be good," is probably the thought that goes through their minds
  • Their fears are confirmed when the tomb is open and the body is gone
  • "Who stole the body? Who would dare take away from them the one last reminder of Jesus?"
  • The little bit of hope they had left is quickly extinguished
  • Then they encounter an angel
  • "Don't be afraid," he says, "Jesus is alive, just as he said he would"
  • "Look inside and see where he was laid, then go tell the disciples about what you have seen"
  • One by one, the women examine the tomb
  • It is empty, except for the burial cloths and the face cloth
  • No grave thief would unwrap the body before taking it…
  • Could it be true?
  • Is Jesus truly alive?
  • A breath of fresh air seems to bring life to the dying flames of hope
  • With cautious expectation, the women leave the tomb and hurry to tell the other disciples
  • But before they are even completely out of the grove, they come upon Jesus
  • "Greetings," he says and they recognize him immediately
  • They rush up to his feet and clutch it, afraid to let go, afraid to lose him again, afraid that their hopes might be dashed again, afraid of being afraid again
  • Jesus knows what is going on in their minds, in their hearts
  • "Don't be afraid," he says
  • "Go on and tell the disciples and I will see them - I will see you"
  • Jesus had never lied to them
  • Even his death, they now realize, he had spoken about it many times before it happened
  • Confidence is recovered
  • Faith is restored
  • Hope is renewed
  • Prior to the resurrection, the women had hoped for a particular future of their own understanding
  • A faulty hope
  • Even though the object of hope was based on Jesus
  • After the resurrection, the women begin to understand that Jesus is the hope, that Jesus is enough
  • The cross served to crucify false hopes and expectations, to tear away facades and masks
  • The resurrection gave birth to genuine hope
  • Genuine hope is -
  • A hope that is as much about the present as it is about the future
  • A hope where the future outcome is absolutely certain
  • A hope where we are free to live in the present because we have no worries about the future
  • A hope where we are able to overcome suffering, struggles, and trials of the moment because there is no question about the final result
  • A hope where even if things don't get better in this life, even if we don't understand the why's of this life, we don't give up because being with Jesus is enough to give us ultimate meaning, purpose, and direction for all that happens
  • A hope that frees us to really live
  • "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." 1 Pet 1:3

Saturday, April 03, 2010

The problem I have with tech support

Yesterday, the cable Internet connection was not functioning correctly for a couple of hours. All I wanted to know was if the company was aware of the problem.

I call up the toll-free support number and go through the multiple menus to get to tech support. The response I get is, “No, we aren’t aware of any problems.” That was exactly what I expected, but not what I wanted to hear.

At this point, support has two options: 1) go find out if this is a widespread problem, or 2) assume the problem is with my connection and go through the scripted steps to try to resolve it.

Of course the support side has no idea that I used to be a professional in the network and PC security business and I don’t call support unless I’ve exhausted the obvious and not-so-obvious solutions and workarounds. I don’t call unless I’m pretty certain the problem is not with my end of things. (After all, I hate wasting my time with support – and their time too…) But support opts for option two, when I would much rather have them go with option one and call me back. Even an, “I don’t know. We’ll look into it,” would be more welcome than patronizing the support rep and pretend to go through the useless steps.

Yesterday’s example is with the network connection, but I’ve also experienced similar things time and again with other pieces of hardware and software. The assumption is that if I am experiencing a problem, then the problem must likely be with me.

On the other hand, with less experienced and knowledgeable customers, it probably is helpful to look for some obvious failure points: Is the cable connected and secure? What are the status indicators? Did you make any changes recently? Does the Cable TV work?

In my ideal world, when someone calls tech support, the support person would already know the background and experience of the customer and can begin at an appropriate level. They would have already seen me going through troubleshooting procedures so they won’t ask me to repeat them. But it isn’t an ideal world and customers and tech support don’t have an ongoing relationship (well, I hope they don’t…) where that base of knowledge is learned.

I write this because it seems like there are some applications from this experience and these thoughts that might carry over to the arena of church and spiritual communities and life. And that will be left as an exercise for the reader, because I don’t have answers and some of the ideas I have, I haven’t fully thought through yet.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Good Friday

I was part of the annual, Community Good Friday service held this evening, as has been for all the years we’ve been here, at the Lutheran church.

This year, we changed the format from the seven last words of Jesus to taking the account written in Luke 23:26-56, dividing this up into four and having four speakers provide short sermons on each.

I also volunteered to sing a solo. I chose The Weight of the Cross by Christopher Machen. This was placed near the beginning of the service.

The passage I was given to speak upon was Luke 23:50-56. What follows is the detailed outline of the sermon on this passage.

  • Joseph of Arimathea "was looking for the kingdom of God"
  • This is the final mention of "the kingdom of God" by Luke in his gospel account
  • The kingdom of God is one of the major themes in Luke
  • By placing Joseph's request of Jesus' body immediately after "looking for the kingdom of God," Luke may be saying that somehow, in Jesus and in his death, the kingdom of God is realized
  • Just a few minutes ago we heard that one thief asked Jesus for entry into the kingdom, and Jesus promised that he would be
  • What is this kingdom?
  • We need to turn back to the very beginning of Jesus' ministry
  • Luke 2:43, Jesus said, "I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose."
  • This good news describes the kingdom of God
  • What is the good news?
  • Luke 2:18-19, Jesus, in Nazareth read from Isaiah, "18The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor."
  • This is the kingdom that Jesus proclaimed and which now Luke portrays as being realized in Jesus through his death
  • Why do I say this?
  • The final sentence of Luke 23: "On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment."
  • Here is the Sabbath commandment in Deuteronomy 5:12-15
    • 12"'Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. 13Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. 15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.
  • Did you catch the last two sentences?
  • Are the similarities between this commandment and the last part of Luke 23 coincidental or intentional?
  • The command to rest on the Sabbath is tied to deliverance from slavery
  • This deliverance was accomplished through an outstretched arm
  • Jesus' mission was to "set at liberty those who are oppressed"
  • Jesus outstretched his arms on the cross and had his hands nailed to the tree to deliver us from slavery to sin
  • Heb 4:9-10, the author of Hebrews writes, "9So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his."
  • Through Jesus and the cross, God completed the work of making freedom from sin available to us
  • Jesus, having completed his work through his death, rested on the Sabbath
  • The choice is now ours to make
  • Do we enter the kingdom of God and the Sabbath rest it offers?
  • Will we choose to cease our attempts to save ourselves and instead, rest in God's completed work of salvation?
  • May each of us here this evening enter into the promised Sabbath rest

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Maundy Thursday

Today is Maundy Thursday. Most Adventists would say, “Huh?” The word Maundy is derived from the Latin mandatum, meaning “command” (or “mandate”), which is the first word of the commandment (in Latin) in John 13:34 found in English as, “A new command I give you: that you love one another as I have loved you.” Maundy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper and the giving of this “new commandment.”

I attended the worship service at the Presbyterian Church. It was a nice, reflective service. The core of the service consisted of hypothetical reflections on this evening by seven of the disciples that were present. This was followed by communion around the table up front.

Now the reason I’m writing this post is that up until today I hadn’t thought much about the actual setting and how this Passover meal (because that is what it was) would have played out. Even if I had, I hadn’t given it much notice. But I realized how much my particular religious tradition colors how I view this event.

The gospel writers would have assumed their readers already understood, if not participated in, the Jewish Passover meal. So they had no reason to go into all the details, elements, and order of the various components. They only wrote about the key points in the meal where Jesus said or did something significant. (See the present-day Seder order for an idea of the Passover ritual.)

One of the big revelations for me is that the foot-washing was probably not the first thing that happened. Rather the first occurrence of the meal was a blessing offered for the wine. Hand washing then follows the initial blessing. According to one historical resource, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, what Jesus did was instead of performing the ritual hand washing, he stood up to wash his disciples’ feet. Following this, the rest of the meal continues, including breaking the bread, additional drinking, and more blessings.

In my newly acquired copy of The Didache, what I found interesting in the instruction regarding the Eucharist is that rather than the bread followed by wine, it is wine followed by bread. This follows the traditional Jewish Seder order rather than the order given by Paul (1 Corinthians 11:23-26) and the one used by most present-day Christian traditions. What is interesting is Matthew and Mark only record the bread followed by the cup (Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25) but Luke records the cup, followed by bread, followed by the cup again (Luke 22:14-21), giving weight to the impression that what is recorded is just a small part of the whole meal.

Another interesting item I discovered is found in Numbers 28 (particularly v. 7, “strong drink” for a daily drink offering; and v. 24, the daily drink offering is to be continued during Passover and the weeklong Feast of Unleavened Bread). All these years I thought that nothing fermented (with yeast, or leavened) was permitted during Passover, but what is this that I read…? Maybe with our modern-day scientific understanding, we’ve over-generalized the term “leaven” that is used in the Bible. Could it be that the Bible really only refers to bread and its associated dough when it says to clean out the leaven for Passover?

As for the idea that Communion is part of the church liturgy, where did that come from? From the picture we read in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 and also from what the Didache describes, the early Christian community simply met together for meals. During that time, someone would take the bread and wine and bring to remembrance Jesus and the Last Supper. Communion or Eucharist (which simply means “Thanksgiving” – the other “baggage” associated with this term came much later) apparently came to be a ritual around the year 100 with Ignatius of Antioch and the associated strengthening of ecclesiastical authority (c.f,

I’m not writing this to say that our interpretations and what we typically do in regards to Communion is wrong. I am writing this to show how our present-day traditions and and assumptions can color how we read Biblical accounts.

It is a revelation to realize that Communion was probably never intended to become a ritual. Rather, the interpretation I have now of Jesus’ words are to simply remember him and remind one another of him whenever we get together for a fellowship meal and share bread and wine (grape juice…).