Friday, October 22, 2010

Mea culpa

I have a cold (or the flu, or an allergy to something, or just possibly pneumonic plague). At any rate, I'm not feeling well -- and since the antihistamines I'm using specifically warn me not to use heavy machinery while I'm taking them, I will belay posting until I feel better.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Odds & Ends

  • I am thankful for the fact it was sunny and warm at the Oregon Garden; I am trying hard not to complain about the rain now that I'm back home at the Oregon Coast.
  • Preaching this week on James 5:7-20, I'm struck by the juxtaposition of patience and prayer. One is passive, one is active, but we need both in order to make it through tough times.
  • 80% of your church's work is done by 20% of your church's members, and 80% of your church's troubles are caused by 20% of your church's members -- but ideally, those should be two separate groups. If they're not, then you probably need to pastor another church.
  • Teaching this week's Sabbath School lesson on Hannah -- do you focus God's gift of what she wanted, or Hannah's willingness to give up what she she wanted?
  • And I'll close with this quote from Mark Twain: "Anytime a fellow says, 'It's not the money, it's the principle of the thing,' it's the money."

    Friday, October 08, 2010

    Autumn haiku

    North winds bring gray skies
    and a gift from Tillamook:
    the smell of wet cows.

    Thursday, September 30, 2010

    Odds & Ends

    • We've had beautiful weather these past few days, with blue skies and temperatures in the 70s. As one of my church members remarked, "Some days, you're almost ready to forgive the Oregon Coast for what it put you through last winter."
    • Preaching this week on James 4:1-12 -- a passage that reminds me most church fights are not about music or evolution or the color of a new carpet; they're about power, i.e. who has it and who wants it.
    • Speaking of which -- I'm told Stalin loved to pick fights over arcane points of Communist philosophy that nobody really understood. If people agreed with him, then he knew they did so out of loyalty (and not personal conviction); if they disagreed, then he knew they were a potential rival (and should be eliminated).
    • Reading John Noble Wilford's The Riddle of the Dinosaur, it strikes me that one of the biggest problems we've had with this subject is just how quickly it developed. Radiometric dating wasn't common until the 1950s. Plate tectonics didn't catch on until the 1960s. Alvarez didn't come up with his theory for the extinction of dinosaurs until 1980. It's hard to know how you should react, in other words, when the environment is changing so fast.
    • Viz. this week's Sabbath School lesson: if I had to do it over again, I'd preach fewer sermons and tell more stories. As Philip Pullman points out, "Thou shalt not is soon forgotten, but Once upon a time lasts forever." So . . . ask the members of your class: "What stories in the Bible have been important to you -- and why?"
    • I'm slowly pulling together a resource-bank on ministry to senior citizens -- reason number one: there's going to be a lot of them. Reason number two: nobody else seems to be doing it. And reason number three: I'm not getting any younger myself. So far, one of my best sources for ideas has been this blog in The New York Times: "The New Old Age." 
    • Teaching high school Bible, I've learned you need to do something new every ten minutes or you've lost them. I wonder if that is true of preaching too?
    • And I'll close with Murphy's Sixth-Law of Combat Operations: "If it is stupid but it works, then it is not stupid."

    Friday, September 24, 2010

    Odds & Ends

    • It is raining, with the temperature in the mid-50s. Add ten degrees, and it would be summer. Subtract ten degrees, and it would be winter.
    • Preaching this week on Luke 2:41-52, i.e. the time his parents lost Jesus. I used to wonder how they could have done something that stupid . . . but lately, I've been discovering just how easy it is to lose track of God.
    • I love the way Paul ends Romans with a long list of his friends in Rome; it's a reminder that truth isn't truth unless it's connected with people.
    • When did "loyal" become a synonym in our church for "conservative" (as in, "he's a loyal member of the church")?
    • And I'll close with this quote from Thomas Schelling: "There is a tendency in our planning to confuse the unfamiliar with the improbable. The contingency we have not considered seriously looks strange; what looks strange is thought improbable; what is improbable need not be considered seriously." 

    Thursday, September 16, 2010

    Odds & Ends

    • Oddly enough, the weather here on the Oregon Coast has been exactly the same as the weather currently being enjoyed by my youngest daughter in Poland, i.e. it is cool and gray, with lots of rain.
    • It's difficult for me to preach on James 3 without feeling like a total hypocrite -- and maybe that's a good thing?
    • Regarding this week's Sabbath School lesson: the biggest problem with Paul's advice in Romans 14-15 is that it can turn into emotional blackmail, i.e. "I'm easily offended, so you must give in to me." So . . . how do we help the "weak" among us to grow up?
    • Having lugged two big bags of books around Vancouver Island on my last vacation, I finally broke down and bought a Kindle.  My first download: H. G. Wells' The Time Machine. It was free -- and besides, it seemed appropriate.
    • If I'm not chairing a meeting, then I find it helpful to be the one who takes minutes. First reason: nobody else wants to do it. Second reason: it needs to be done. Third reason: it reminds me that I'm not in charge. And last reason: it provides an fairly unobtrusive way to coach a new chair through the process of running a meeting.
    •  And I'll close with this quote from George MacDonald: "God is easy to please, but hard to satisfy."

    Thursday, September 09, 2010

    Odds & Ends

    • Blue skies and warmer weather, just in time for this evening's "Pizza Picnic" at our school. (And yes, it's probably just a coincidence -- but I'm still grateful.)
    • I'm preaching this week on James 2. Reading the text, it struck me how closely "the rich" of his day resembled the organized crime bosses of today. Like them, "the rich" were wealthy, powerful, and violent -- this was a time, remember, when landowners used hit men to keep peasants in line. In short, it's no wonder believers fawned over "the rich" when they visited church; if John Gotti had shown up for a potluck, then we'd probably have done the same.
    • In last week's Sabbath School lesson on Romans 9, Paul stressed God's control -- so much so, that you might think he believed in double-predestination (i.e. God chooses who will be saved and lost). Now in Romans 10, Paul emphasizes our responsibility; far from being puppets, we can choose our destiny. And while it may seem strange that Paul believes in God's sovereignty and our free will, most of us do the same. Looking back, after all, we have a sense of being led; looking around, we realize that we have choices to make. 
    • Pacific Press says my Quickstart Guide to the Bible is now out of print -- but if the past is any guide, about 50-100 copies get bought every year for pastor's classes, college classes, and the like. Question: with this kind of market, is it worth self-publishing my book?
    O it is a living, busy, active thing, this faith. It is impossible for it not to be doing good things incessantly. It does not ask whether good works are to be done, but before the question is asked, it has already done this, and is constantly doing them.
    Whoever does not do such works, however, is an unbeliever. He gropes and looks around for faith and good works, but knows neither what faith is nor what good works are. Yet he talks and talks, with many words, about faith and good works.

      Thursday, September 02, 2010

      Odds & Ends

      • Blue skies and a warm breeze, but just offshore is a bank of clouds that will surely come this way. And yes, that describes both the weather and my ministry just now.
      • Paul believes in free will -- but in Romans 9, he focuses on God's free will, and not our own. So how will your Sabbath School class find a way to reconcile God's ability to act with our ability to respond? When you pray for somebody to be converted, in other words, just what are you expecting God to do?
      • I was expecting Ruth Downie's Persona Non Grata to be a great detective story; it's the third in her series about Gaius Ruso -- a Roman army doctor c. AD 118. But who knew it would give such an accurate (and moving) picture of early Christianity?
      • My wife has been visiting her parents in Australia; meanwhile, the lunches around here have pretty much consisted of "stuff over rice." My favorite "stuff" so far: Cuban-style black beans with banana chips.
      • And I'll close with this quote from Karl Barth: "Faith is not only God's gift, but God's assignment."  

      Thursday, August 26, 2010

      Odds & Ends

      • Blue skies. Warm weather. Yup, things turned nice, just in time for the beginning of school.
      • I am puzzled by this week's Sabbath School lesson on Romans 8. A chapter about God's grace in the face of human suffering has become a pep talk -- one that says little more than "Jesus will help us try harder." Just as a suggestion, try including verses 18ff in this week's discussion; they add a lot (even though the quarterly did not think them worth mentioning).
      • I love what Eugene Peterson says about the Psalms of Ascent in his book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. Unfortunately, I'm not finding anything in this book that I can use in a sermon . . . so I guess I'll just have to read it for my own benefit. (Sigh.)
      • I don't know anything that causes more headaches (and heartaches) than our local church's Student Assistance Fund (i.e. the program that grants scholarships to our local SDA school). I guess it's one of those things where you do it, not because it makes you feel good, but because it's the right thing to do.
      • And I'll close with this quote from the United States Marine Corps: "If you want it bad, then you get it bad."

      Thursday, August 19, 2010

      Odds & Ends

      • The weather here on the Oregon Coast continues to be gray and cool, with temperatures in the mid-50s. The main difference between our summers and winters, in other words, is 15 degrees.
      • This week's Sabbath School lesson on Romans 7 can easily lead to despair. Tell people it is possible to overcome sin, after all, and you risk discouraging those who find this difficult -- but tell them it is difficult to overcome sin, and you risk discouraging those who hope it is possible.
      • The Oregon Conference will sponsor a Creation Summit, March 30 to April 2 -- and for my own benefit, I'm putting together a reading list. Any suggestions as to what should be on it?
      • Speaking of which, I'm enjoying Three Views on Creation and Evolution -- a book that gives evangelical scholars a chance to explain, defend, and critique views such as young earth creationism, old earth creationism, and theistic evolution.
      • In his discussion of legalizing cannabis, libertarian (and Atlantic columnist) Mark Kleiman points out that 10% of American adults drink half the alcohol sold in this country, while another 10% accounts for an additional 30%. Only 20% of American adults, in other words, drink 80% of the alcohol . . . which is why he says:
      To the consumer, developing a bad habit is bad news. To the marketing executive, it’s the whole point of the exercise. For any potentially addictive commodity or activity, the minority that gets stuck with a bad habit consumes the majority of the product. So the entire marketing effort is devoted to cultivating and maintaining the people whose use is a problem to them and a gold mine to the industry. . . . [That's why] “an innkeeper loves a drunkard,” says the Yiddish proverb, “except as a son-in-law.” [h/t to Brainiac]
      • And I'll close with this quote from Mencius: "Before a man can do things, there must be things he will not do."

      Thursday, August 12, 2010

      This week's lesson: Romans 6

      It's an issue we deal with all the time as parents, on school boards, and with our worship team leaders: it's the issue of what happens when we start changing things.

      When Paul wrote about "the law," after all, he didn't just mean the Ten Commandments -- or even the Old Testament. No, Paul was talking about the whole system of written and unwritten rules that made up the Jewish way of life. In our language, we'd say he was talking about The Way We've Always Done Things Around Here (or TWWADTAH for short).

      Then as now, some people feared any change of TWWADTAH. "You let people start messing around with the rules," they'd say, "and people won't know what to do. No, you let them start reading novels/drinking coffee/wearing jeans on Sabbath, and it won't be too long before this place starts looking like Ft. Lauderdale during spring break."

      In truth, these people have a point. People need rules, after all -- especially children. And a culture that doesn't provide clear rules for its children shouldn't be surprised if they act as as though there are no rules at all.

      Fortunately, Paul provides a way to deal with these issues.
      • To conservatives, he says that TWWADTAH doesn't work any more; it needs to be changed.
      • To the liberals, he says that change is no good unless we make sure it is a change for the better.
      • And to liberals and conservatives alike, he points out that our behavior will always fall short of God's expectations -- and that's why we will always need God's grace.
      In short, there may be times we need to change The Way We've Always Done Things Around Here.

      But God never changes the way He deals with us.

      Wednesday, August 04, 2010

      I'm back!

      Yes, I've been on vacation.
      Yes, Canada was wonderful.
      No, I did not try poutine.

      Tuesday, July 20, 2010

      Odds & Ends

      • Tourists began coming to the Oregon Coast because it provided a refuge from the heat. But with this week's day-time temperatures in the mid-50s, I've had just about all the refuge I can stand.
      • Yes, we should ordain women . . . but while we're at it, let's see some more women college presidents. And academy principals. And Vice-Presidents for Education at the conference and union levels. These are all areas, after all, where we have lots of women working, but not enough women leading.
      • I'm puzzled by the Sabbath School lesson's insistence that "the righteousness of God" (Romans 3:21) is not the righteous nature of God, but the righteousness God gives the believer. Yes, Luther would agree -- but what about Wright
      • And I'll close with this quote from Dale Dauten: "A meeting moves at the speed of the slowest person in the room."

        Wednesday, July 14, 2010

        Odds & Ends

        • Beautiful weather here on the Oregon Coast -- sunny and clear -- but with temperatures in the mid-50s, you'll want to bring a sweatshirt when you visit.
        • I'm preaching this week on I Samuel 12, i.e. Samuel's farewell speech. And no, he's not happy with the Israelites -- not happy at all . . . which leads to the topic of how we deal with people who disappoint us. 
          • What I learned from this week's Sabbath School lesson: the easiest to make ourselves look good is to "dumb down" God's demands. I may be no good at loving my enemies, after all, but at least I don't eat cheese!
          • And I'll close with a quote from Sir Paul David Hewson: "Just because you have a past doesn't mean you can't have a future."

          Tuesday, July 06, 2010

          Odds & Ends


          • You remember me saying the GC Session in Atlanta really needed some vuvuzelas? Well . . . who's laughing now?
          • We're having gorgeous weather here on the Oregon Coast, with blue skies and temperatures in the low 70s. (But there's a fog bank on the horizon, so I plan to enjoy it while I can.)
          • I'm preaching this week on I Samuel 10-11. Right now, I'm struck by the fact that Saul was called -- and his call was confirmed by both miracles and a public proclamation -- but he still needed to act on that call. (And yes, this is all tied in with this week's second reading of the report from our church's Nominating Committee.)
          • Alberto Angela's A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome is cheap, readable, and thorough; having read it, I now understand why Paul said some of the things he did in Romans 1. Be warned, however -- parts of it are definitely NSFW.
          • What should a pastor give for a wedding gift to church members when somebody else does the ceremony? (I used to give them a set of kitchen knives, but the factory-outlet store that sold them has closed.) Any thoughts? 
          • Ask most church members what will happen to those who've never heard the name of Jesus, and they'll respond with something to the effect that "they'll be saved if they lived up to the light they had." It will be interesting to see how they reconcile that with this week's Sabbath School lesson; if there's one thing on which Paul insists, after all, it's that nobody lives up to the light they had.
          • And I'll close with this thought from William Goldman: "There is one crucial rule that must be followed in all creative meetings: Never speak first. At least at the start, your job is to shut up."

            Tuesday, June 22, 2010

            Odds & Ends


            • From Mitchell & Webb comes this warning for all you church innovators out there: great ideas are useless without a context in which they can be used.
            •  We've had three days of glorious weather here on the Oregon Coast. Unfortunately, this meant the local casino was able to celebrate its 15th anniversary with a fireworks display. My dog was not amused.
            • You know what they need at the General Conference session in Atlanta? Vuvuzelas. Just saying.
            • And I'll close with this quote from Bertholt Brecht (and no, I haven't yet figured out if it is a promise or a warning): "Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are."

              Tuesday, June 15, 2010

              Odds & Ends

              • My eldest daughter spent a couple of months counting sea cucumbers in the Philippines; fortunately, she got back in time to graduate with a degree in biology from Walla Walla University.
              • It's been cool and rainy here on the Oregon Coast -- in fact, it's been one of the wettest years in history! And if that wasn't bad enough, the deer ate all my trillium. Stupid deer.
              • Two things I learned from Soul Searching: the religious and spiritual lives of American teenagers. First, the importance of parents in forming their children's beliefs. (Like the book said, "We'll get what we are.") Second, most children (and presumably, most adults) are what the book calls "Moral Therapeutic Deists" i.e. they believe God wants them to be good and God wants them to be happy -- but aside from that, God pretty much leaves them alone. (Oh yes, they also believe that bad people go to Hell. Salvation by grace, in other words, has been replaced with salvation by nice.)
              • Viz. this week's Sabbath School lesson: if you heal someone who's sick, then you're being merciful. But if you try to prevent someone from getting sick by asking them to make changes in their diet, then you're meddling. The first is thought to be good, while the second is thought to be bad . . . even though meddling would probably save more lives than mercy ever could.
              • Map lovers should check out Valpairaso University's on-line collection that tells you who believes what and where in the United States.Who would have guessed, for instance, there were so many Muslims in Oregon's Union County?
              • And I'll close with this quote from Martin Luther King Jr. -- and I should add this is one quote I never expect to hear at a graduation service: "Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted."

              Tuesday, April 20, 2010

              Marjorie Mae Brothers
            • July 4, 1928 - April 14, 2010
            • Even when she was a small child, Marjorie Mae Brothers wanted to be a teacher.
              At the time, this must have seemed like an impossible dream. Marjorie was born in 1928, the second of John and Hattie Burch's four children. And even though her father was a mason skilled in brick and stone, the Great Depression made it hard for him to find work. There were times, as a matter of fact, when the only way the family survived was Hattie's job sewing sacks of sugar at the mill in Loveland, Colorado.
              Yes, money was tight – too tight, it seemed, for someone like Marjorie to attend college and become a teacher.
              But then she found out that all you needed to teach at that time in Kansas was a two-year degree . . . and with Marjorie working full-time in the college cafeteria, and her mother putting in a second-shift at the sugar mill, she was just able to get that degree in teaching from Southwestern Bible College in Waxahachie, Texas.
              Other degrees would follow: a bachelor’s degree from Fort Hays State College, a master’s degree from Portland State University, and a doctorate in education, awarded jointly by Portland State University and the University of Oregon -- all gained in her ongoing efforts to become a better teacher.
              In return, teaching gave her meaning . . . and purpose . . . and a family.
              At her first teaching job, you see, she would be out on the playground with her children during recess, and the man who delivered milk to the school for the children’s lunches would whistle at her when he saw her. One day, this man asked her out on a date; his name was Robert J. Brothers. And just one month after their first date, the two of them were engaged to be married. This August, Robert and Marjorie would have celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary together.
              Together, they would raise their children: Greg and Jana.
              Together with those children, they went camping just about every place you could camp here in the West – everyplace from the Oregon Coast to Banff. 
              And when their children moved out and started lives of their own, then Robert and Marjorie traveled to places they’d always wanted to see – places such as Mexico and Norway and Greece.
              Yes, it’s a long ways from Haddam to places such as these.
              But the same God who gave Marjorie the dream of teaching . . . that God was with her all through her life.

              Friday, April 02, 2010

              Check back in May

              Sorry, but there won't be any posts this April; I'm going to be busy enough taking care of a family emergency.

              Monday, March 29, 2010

              Odds & Ends

              • This is the time of year that gray whales migrate north past the Oregon Coast. The good news is that I finally took time to go look for them. The bad news is that the storms we'd had this past week meant they'd moved offshore a couple of miles . . . which made them very hard to see. Stupid whales.
              • Something to consider the next time you preach on the parable of the talents -- the annual revenue of Herod Antipas from his tetrarchy was 200 talents; the annual revenue of Herod Agrippa I from all Palestine was 2,000 talents.
              • I'd avoided C. S. Lewis' Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer because I thought it nothing more than a collection of letters. As it turns out, the joke is on me -- the book is an "epistolary essay," i.e. like the Screwtape Letters, Lewis deals with a topic by giving us one side of an imaginary correspondence. And yes, it works . . . though I'm having a hard time figuring out just how necessary his Platonic views are to his apologetics.
              • And I'll close with this quote from Miroslav Volf: "To make a difference, one must be different."

                Thursday, March 25, 2010

                This week's lesson: godliness

                It's a commonplace notion that our gods resemble us.

                But it's worth pointing out the reverse is also true -- that as time goes by, we grow ever more like our gods.

                Albert Schweitzer makes this first point in The Quest of the Historical Jesus -- the book in which he points out that most attempts to tell us what Jesus was really like usually end up telling us more about the author than the subject.
                • When a socialist writes about Jesus, for instance, he will tell us the Son of Man was a true friend of the working class.
                • But when a conservative writes about Jesus, it turns out the Son of God was a big fan of the free market.
                • And if I graduated from college believing that Jesus was a mild-mannered teacher with a strong interest in ethics . . . well, right there you can guess what most of my professors were like.
                Yes, Schweitzer was right: we do create God in our own image.

                And then He returns the favor.

                Consider the impact of social networks -- those communities of like-minded people who are united by their love of Farscape, for instance, or their belief that Sarah Palin should be the next President of the United States.

                Now if you don't share this point-of-view, then you probably won't join a group that does.

                But if you join a group that does, then you're going to believe this point-of-view all the more.

                That's one reason why groups of like-minded people tend to become even more extreme over time -- an effect called "group polarization."

                So the left gets leftier . .

                And the right gets rightier . . .

                And since it's clear to one and all that God is on our side, that gives us all the more reason to . . .

                Okay, I'm going to let you finish that sentence -- but for now, it's enough to point out two things:

                You're not god.

                So try not to follow a god who is.

                Tuesday, March 23, 2010

                Gone fishing

                It's spring break here on the Oregon Coast, so there won't be much in the way of posts this week.

                Thursday, March 18, 2010

                This week's lesson: truth

                This week's lesson is about truth.

                Honest.

                And no, this doesn't mean your Sabbath School class needs to have a long, earnest discussion about how we know when we know what we know. Philosophers have spent the last hundred years hashing out the details of epistemology, remember -- and thus far, they haven't done much better than that old, old story about the blind men and the elephant.

                Then too, I'd suggest you avoid the question of just how much "truth" someone needs to believe in order to be part of your particular group. In theory, this could be helpful -- but in practice, I've found that nothing makes people more set in their ways than a discussion of just how open-minded we should be.

                Instead, you might want to point out that ἀληθείᾳ ("truth") can be more of an adjective than a noun -- in fact, it often used to describe someone who is honest, reliable, and trustworthy. When Paul said ἀληθείᾳ is a fruit of the Spirit, in other words, he didn't just mean Truth; he also meant truthfulness.
                • If a mechanic says your car will be fixed by Thursday, in other words -- and it actually does get fixed by Thursday -- then that's ἀληθείᾳ.
                • And if you have a witness on the stand who honestly, accurately, describes what she saw, then that's ἀληθείᾳ.
                • But if you have a church where people "talk the talk" but they don't "walk the walk," then the people in that particular church may have plenty of knowledge . . . 
                But they don't have ἀληθείᾳ.

                And you can trust me on that.

                Monday, March 15, 2010

                Odds & Ends

                • This past week we've had hail, wind, sunshine, rain, and regular warnings to stay off the beach because of the unusually high surf. Must be time for spring vacation.
                • Any suggestions on a nice place to spend a week? Thanks to our VISA card, we can get free plane tickets to any place in the contiguous United States . . . but we've no idea where to go! (And yes, whatever place you suggest does need to have a good used-book store.)
                • The average American walks 1.4 miles per week.
                • I'm not sure why the language of business has been so steadily infiltrating our church, but I've found the Ridiculous Business Jargon Dictionary to be helpful -- both in understanding what some denominational leaders are saying, and in making sure I never say anything similar.
                • And I'll close with this quote: "Maybe you can't make a new beginning to your life. But you can make a new ending."

                Thursday, March 11, 2010

                This week's lesson: righteousness

                Look! Up in the sky!

                It's a bird!

                It's a plane!

                No, it's the subject of this week's Sabbath School lesson!

                To be sure, δικαιοσύνης ("righteousness") does not sound like the kind of word that belongs in a comic book. No, it's a "church" kind of word -- a word that summons images of people whose shirts are white, whose shoes are polished, and whose meals consist of tofu and tapwater.

                Reason enough that Batman and Superman were never joined by "Righteousnessman."

                But as the NIV Theological Dictionary of New Testament Words points out:
                All the words in this group derive from dikê (justice, punishment). Dikê was the daughter of Zeus, who shared in his government of the world. . . . in order to make human life possible, he gave dikê, justice, whose implacable enemy is bia, violence.
                The Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology adds that:
                [Dikê] was the enemy of all falsehood, and the protectress of a wise administration of justice. . . . [She] appears as a divinity who severely punishes all wrong, watches over the maintenance of justice, and pierces the hearts of the unjust with the sword made for her by Aesa.
                Kind of like Wonder Woman, only without the Lasso of Truth.

                Now obviously, the concept of  δικαιοσύνης is going to develop and change before it finds a home in our Bible -- but even there, it is more active, more public, and much more concerned with the state of our society than we usually give it credit for.

                In short, the superheroes' "Justice League" was a league of δικαιοσύνης.

                And this week's lesson tells us δικαιοσύνης is also something that God's people should encourage.

                Even if we don't wear a cape.

                Monday, March 08, 2010

                Odds & Ends


                • I've been known to mutter that people who buy Apple Computers have joined a religious cult. "You buy a Mac," I'd say, "and the next thing you know, they have you out on a street corner selling carnations." These remarks were grossly unfair and unkind, of course . . . so as a gesture of peace, I am running a video about Apple computers from the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theater.
                • We had gorgeous weather on Sabbath -- but a cold-front blew through on Saturday night, and took away all our warmth.
                • On average, American adults in 1820 drank one cup of whiskey every day -- roughly five times today's consumption. (Now you know why the Temperance movement got started!)
                • My schedule has changed enough that I won't be able to post anything on Sundays for some time to come. So . . . expect a post of "odds and ends" on Mondays, and a reflection on the Sabbath School lesson every Thursday. 
                • And I'll close with this quote: "Just because you can't do anything doesn't mean you're doing the wrong thing."

                  Thursday, March 04, 2010

                  This week's lesson: self-control

                  Anyone who talks about "getting in touch with your inner child" should try teaching high school.

                  I do.

                  To be sure, high school students are wonderful people -- but as any neurologist could tell you, their brains are still getting wired for concepts such as "doing this could put me in a world of hurt." Now add surging hormones (not to mention their almost perennial lack of sleep) . . .

                  And the results can be kind of like driving a Toyota, i.e. lots of accelerator, but not much in the way of brakes.

                  Never mind graduation, in other words -- simply keeping them alive is a matter of replacing the external controls of childhood with the internal controls of adulthood; it's teaching them that urge to "go for it!" may not always be a good idea.

                  In short, they already have passion; what they need now is something that will let them use that passion (instead of the passion using them). Yes, they need something the Greeks called ἐγκράτεια, or "self-control."

                  And no, there's nothing wrong with being spontaneous and passionate and hopelessly idealistic -- in fact, these are the things that make high school students so much fun to teach.

                  But if you're going to "get in touch with your inner child," then trust me:

                  That's when you need to make sure there's an adult around.

                  Tuesday, March 02, 2010

                  "Pastor, I'm wondering if we could get together and talk . . . "

                  Sometimes it's a phone call; sometimes, it happens while I'm shaking hands after church . . .

                  But always, it's a church member asking that we get together and talk. Something has come up, in other words -- something heavy that requires my advice.

                  And I'm always glad to help -- but 90-percent of the time, they don't need to make an appointment. No, I can usually deal with it right then and there.

                  If I'm on the phone, I'll say something like, "I'd be glad to get together and talk; why don't you give me some idea of what's going on, so that I can be thinking about it."

                  And if it's after church, I'll say something like, "Well, I should be finished shaking hands in about five minutes or so -- if you're willing to wait here with me, we can talk about it then." (You'll notice, by the way, that I don't usually ask them to wait in my office; that's because I've found they tend to disappear before they get there. Instead, we usually end up talking on the front steps of our church.)

                  Now if turns out they need to make an appointment, then well and good.

                  But most of the time, as I said, I can get them the help they need, right then and there, in five-minutes or less.

                  (And next Tuesday, I'll talk about what to do when a stranger calls and asks for an appointment.)

                  Sunday, February 28, 2010

                  Odds & Ends

                  • It's raining . . . now the sun has come out . . . now it's raining again. Oh well -- at least our camelias are in bloom.
                  • Fox Conner's Three Rules of War for a Democracy are also pretty good advice for a pastor: 1) Never fight unless you have to. 2) Never fight alone. 3) Never fight for a long time.
                  • When it comes to small groups and house churches, keep in mind that "flexible" easily morphs into "unstable." Just saying.
                  • Looking for something to do? Go to Charity Navigator, and look up the salaries of people who work for non-profit agencies.
                  • And I'll close with this quote: "The best of all prayers is: 'Bless them; change me.' "

                  Thursday, February 25, 2010

                  This week's lesson: meekness

                  "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."

                  Okay -- been there, done that.

                  It's worth remembering that some of this past century's nastiest governments did not come crashing down through violent means. No, it was not nuclear war that ended the Soviet Union; it was not guerrilla war that ended apartheid in South Africa. Instead, it the stubborn decency of million that brought down these regimes -- and others besides. 

                  Think of "People Power" in the Philippines.

                  The Civil Rights movement in this country.

                  Mohandas Gandhi in India.

                  Or the "Bulldozer Revolution" in Serbia, the "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine, the "Cedar Revolution" in Lebanon, the "Rose Revolution" in Georgia . . .

                  Well, you get the idea.    

                  In short, the "meek" have been pretty busy lately -- busy enough to dispel any idea that "meekness" is a synonym for "weakness." No, as The NIV Theological Dictionary of New Testament Words points out:
                  In Classical Greek, praus [meekness] means friendly, mild, gentle. . . . Words of the praus group are used of things (e.g., mild words, soothing medicines), animals (tame), and people (benevolent). It is a quality shown by friends, while stern harshness may be expected from an enemy. . . .
                  [Both praus and its synonym, epiekes] are opposed to unbridled anger, harshness, brutality, and self-expression. They represent character traits of the noble-minded, the wise who remain meek in the face of insults, the judge who is lenient in judgment, and the king who is kind in his rule. Hence these words appear often in pictures of the ideal ruler and in eulogies on men in high positions.
                  In a world full of harsh and violent people, in other words, it is only the strong who dare to be meek.

                  To be sure, they've not inherited the earth -- not yet. And if the past is any guide, then the "powers that be" won't give let them have it without a fight.

                  But the meek can afford to be patient . . .

                  Because history is on their side.

                  Tuesday, February 23, 2010

                  Dare to Putter

                  The last few months have been busy. Crazy busy. Oh-my-goodness-why-did-I-ever-say-I'd-do-this? busy.

                  Which can be kind of fun. Not only did it mean I got a lot of stuff done, but it gave me bragging rights with other pastors. (And have you ever noticed how often we try to justify our existence by carefully explaining just how busy we've been lately?)

                  But not this week. No, this week I can breathe in. Relax. Putter around the office. Read that stack of magazine articles that have been accumulating by my desk. And avoid that nagging feeling there's something important I really should be doing right now.

                  Because what I'm doing right now is important -- in fact, it's a process I compare to gardening.

                  For the last few months, you see, I've been planting, growing, harvesting; yes, it's been go, go, go, do, do, do, and rush, rush, rush.

                  Nothing wrong with that.

                  But now it's time to sharpen tools. Look through seed catalogs. Turn over the compost heap. And do all the other things that help me plan-without-planning for that next busy time.

                  In short, the work of Creation will go on.

                  But as for now, I'm enjoying a Sabbath.

                  Sunday, February 21, 2010

                  Odds & Ends

                  • We have daffodils! On the Oregon Coast! In bloom!
                  • 21% of Americans surveyed believe the lottery is a good way to save for retirement.
                  • The good news: it turns out that pastors can apply for as much as three months in family leave if they need time-off to take care of a spouse, child, or parent. The bad news: once your vacation-time runs out, you don't get paid for it (and it doesn't count as sick-leave). The good news: you still have coverage for health insurance. (Talk with your conference's HR director for details.)
                  • Want to make big bucks as a blogger, but you don't know how to attract readers? The Boston Globe tells you how to write an incendiary blog post.
                  • In 1908, the average American washed their hair once a month. The average in 2009 was 4.59 times per week.
                  • And I'll close with this quote from  Paul Koptak: "You can tell who you will be in five years by looking at the people with whom you spend time now."

                  Thursday, February 18, 2010

                  This week's lesson: faithfulness

                  Begin.

                  A sower went forth to sow . . .

                  Stop. Given current demographics, farming is no longer a useful source of metaphors. Try again.

                  He walked into the classroom and sat down, just in time to catch the shy smile of the woman sitting next to him. He could have said something. He could have introduced himself. He could have invited her to grab a cup of coffee with him after class -- and there, they would have discovered . . .

                  What?

                  We'll never know. Instead, he put his head down on his desk, and fell asleep.

                  Unsatisfactory. Try again.

                  Sitting there with a cup of coffee, he looked at her and realized, "This is it. This is the real thing. This is the kind of love that makes poets write, musicians sing, and movie producers try to sign somebody like Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts ('only younger') for the starring roles."

                  And then?

                  Well, the next two weeks were pretty intense -- but then they got tired of each other, and moved on.

                  Unsatisfactory. Try again.

                  They dated. They got married. They had kids, bought a house, worked hard . . . and then one day, they looked at each other and realized . . .

                  Please tell me this has a happy ending.

                  No. They looked at each other and realized . . . that somehow, over the years, they'd grown apart from each other -- and now they didn't love each other anymore.

                  Unsatisfactory. Try again.

                  They looked at each other and realized . . . they'd had their good times. They had their bad times. But through the years, their faithfulness to each other had been the soil in which their love had grown.

                  And great was the fruit of that love -- Amen..

                  Tuesday, February 16, 2010

                   
                  Okay, just so you know where I was last weekend -- here's a picture of my church's Sabbath afternoon hike to the Stein's Pillars near Prineville, Oregon. (This was part of our church's annual ski trip to Mt. Bachelor.)
                  And yes, I'm wearing ear-muffs.

                  Thursday, February 11, 2010

                  This week's lesson: goodness

                  Is it good to be excellent?

                  When the Greeks talked about "goodness" or agathos, after all, they meant more than just moral worth. No, they used the word to describe anything done well.
                  • When everybody went back for seconds at a church potluck, for instance, then you could say the food was agathos.
                  • Or when your child graduates from high school with a full-ride scholarship to a competitive college, then you could say their education had been agathos.
                  • And when the person giving special music in church finds a way to move you, enlighten you, and help you see God's grace in a whole new way . . .
                  Then some might say that was unusual.

                  But all would agree it was agathos.

                  So when Ephesians 2:10 says "we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do," then it suggests we are called to do more than just slop through life with the attitude that "anything is good enough for God."

                  No, there is a call here for agathos in everything we do -- in our potlucks, in our schools . . . and yes, even in our worship services.

                  To be sure, God doesn't need our agathos to make Him look good.

                  But I'm not sure our lack of agathos makes Him look any better.

                  Tuesday, February 09, 2010

                  Just say "yes"

                  Something to remember in these uncertain times:
                  • If your Conference "suggests" it's time for you to move . . . 
                  • But the district to which they tell you to move is the worst possible match you can imagine -- the kind of place that make you wonder what were they thinking when they decided to move you there . . .
                  • Then you first words that should come out of your mouth are, "I'm always happy to go wherever the Conference sends me."
                  Here's why: at least twice I've seen church employees offered this kind of call -- the kind where you can't blame them for turning it down.

                  So they turned it down.

                  And then they were laid off.

                  And when they asked about a severance package, they were told, "I'm sorry, but you were offered another job . . . and when you turned it down, that meant we could eliminate your job without any need to pay you all of that other stuff."

                  So . . . make it clear that any place the Conference wants to move you is just fine and dandy -- in fact, it's downright peachy.

                  Mind you, there are a few questions you have . . . and you'd like to work through a few details before the actual move takes place . . . and you may even want to explore the thinking behind this move . . .

                  But would you actually turn down a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity such as this?

                  Certainly not!

                  Sunday, February 07, 2010

                  Odds & Ends

                  • Blue skies and temperatures in the low 50s -- with any luck, this is the start of that week or so of good weather we usually get this time of year, i.e. "The Thaw."
                  • By the power vested in me as the author of this blog, I declare February to be "Super Simple Month." As defined by unclutterer, this means no new projects, no big events, no major purchases -- just stay home, hunker down, and catch up. (h/t to Lifehacker)
                  • The Scots drink more alcohol than anyone else in the world -- and as the New York Times notes, the effects are only worse when they add caffeine to the mix.
                  • If you were to pick one book that every Adventist pastor should read this year so that we could get together and talk about it at Campmeeting, then what would it be?
                  • I finally broke down and bought the SDA Bible Commentary on CD -- and yes, I spent the extra $20 to get the complete writings of Ellen White as well. And while I agree that nothing will ever replace real books, I must admit I'm using the CD version more than I ever did the hardbacks.
                  • According to the Boston Globe, three things make it easy to believe something is true: repetition, clarity, and simplicity. (What does this suggest about preaching?)
                  • And I'll close with this quote from John Malin: "The secret of a long life is to contract an incurable disease at an early age, and then look after oneself."

                  Thursday, February 04, 2010

                  This week's lesson: kindness

                  "If only I had known."

                  We've all said it, of course -- usually after we gave somebody exactly what they deserved for being such a jerk.

                  But then we discovered (too late!) they'd just lost their job . . . or their father had just died . . . or they'd just found out they have Lou Gehrig's disease.

                  In short, there was a reason why they were acting like a jerk.

                  That's why I try to remind myself just how much I don't know about rude and obnoxious people -- how much I don't know that might explain their behavior.
                  • Did they just get bad news?
                  • Are they off their meds?
                  • Is their behavior caused by Alzheimer's, a brain tumor, or some other medical problem?
                  And no, this doesn't excuse what they do; neither does it necessarily mean I let them "get away with it."

                  But it does help me keep their behavior in perspective, and not take it quite so personally.

                  Chances are good, after all, that even the person who's being a jerk doesn't know why . . .

                  But if they had known why, then maybe they would not have been such a jerk!

                  There's so much we don't understand, after all -- and so much we all would have done differently . . .

                  If only we had known.

                  Tuesday, February 02, 2010

                  More Odds & Ends

                  • We've had both sunshine and rain this past week -- and the weather's been about the same.
                  • It's easier to fire teachers than pastors -- but thanks to local subsidies and lower salaries, my back-of-the-envelope figures suggest you need to fire three teachers to equal the savings of firing one pastor. So . . . if a Conference needs to cut staff (and if it has already fired all the obvious people), then how should it divide the cuts between teachers and pastors? 
                  • I believe that some of the best books being written about the costs of following God in a fallen world are the novels of John le Carre. Case in point: A Most Wanted Man.
                  •  Anytime people tell me they love God but they don't like organized religion, I just steal a line from Sneakers and say, "Actually, it's not that organized."
                  • And I'll close with this quote from John Wooden: "Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."

                  Sunday, January 31, 2010

                  Odds & Ends



                  This week's project:

                  1. Watch this video explain the economic theories of John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich August von Hayek.

                  2. Prepare a similar video that compares and contrasts the two sides of a theological controversy. Examples could include:
                  • Calvinism vs. Arminianism.
                  • A forensic view of the atonement vs. the Moral Influence Theory.
                  • Creationism vs. Theistic Evolution.
                  3. Post, and await the applause. 

                  (h/t to Brainiac)

                  Thursday, January 28, 2010

                  This week's lesson: patience

                  Over the years, few things have tried the patience of the saints more than the patience of God.

                  Don't believe me?

                  Think of Revelation 6:9f.
                  When [Jesus] opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?"
                  Or Psalm 74:10f.
                  How long will the enemy mock you, O God?
                         Will the foe revile your name forever?
                  Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?
                         Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them!
                  Then there's the complaint of Habakkuk 1:2-4.
                  How long, O LORD, must I call for help,
                         but you do not listen?
                         Or cry out to you, "Violence!"
                         but you do not save?
                  Why do you make me look at injustice?
                         Why do you tolerate wrong?
                         Destruction and violence are before me;
                         there is strife, and conflict abounds.
                  Therefore the law is paralyzed,
                         and justice never prevails.
                         The wicked hem in the righteous,
                         so that justice is perverted.
                  And who can forget that final fit of pique in Jonah 3:10-4:3?
                  When God saw what [the people of Ninevah] did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.

                  But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the LORD, "O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live."
                  No, if we were running things, then judgment would be swift, sure, and automatic . . .

                  For other people.

                  Instead, we see God treating their sins with the same forbearance and compassion that He treats our own.

                  Needless to say, this really annoys us -- yet as we're reminded in II Peter 3:9 --
                  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
                  In short, God is patient with us.

                  That's why we need to be patient with God.

                  Sunday, January 24, 2010

                  Odds & Ends

                  • I may be wrong, but it looks as though we're going to make it through the Great Recession without any major changes in the structure of the Adventist church or the way it allocates funds. Is this a bullet dodged, or a crisis wasted?
                  • If there's no post on Tuesday, then you'll know my trip to the dentist took longer than expected.
                  • And I'll close with Matz's Maxim: "A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking."

                  Thursday, January 21, 2010

                  This week's lesson: peace

                  When it comes to church, there are few things that cause more trouble than our desire for peace.

                  We don't like trouble, after all. And we hate it when people argue with each other. No, that's not something that Christians are supposed to do!

                  So when somebody comes up with something that might upset the status quo, we hesitate. We wait to see who might object. We strive for consensus -- and lacking that, we give way to anyone who is willing to make a fuss.

                  The result is a church in which change is difficult, risk is shunned, and whatever conflict takes place is covert. Secret. Behind the scenes . . .

                  Until people decide that "enough is enough" -- and when that happens, then the gloves come off. A "holy war" is declared. And an issue that might have been settled with 25 minutes of heated discussion turns into our own, local version of Armageddon.

                  Not that this ever happens at my church, of course!

                  But I've found it helpful to remember that peace not the same as an absence of conflict. No, it is living life the way God wants it to be lived -- and sometimes, that means we need to work through some of the things that keep this from happening.

                  Just because we're not fighting, in other words, doesn't mean we're at peace.

                  And just because we are fighting, that doesn't mean we don't love each other.

                  Tuesday, January 19, 2010

                  Gray whales

                  Looks like I missed the gray whales.

                  Again.

                  Every year, they migrate south from the Gulf of Alaska down to Mexico -- and every Christmas, tourists come from hundreds of miles to the Oregon coast, where they can watch the whales swim by. It is a beautiful, magnificent sight . . .

                  Or so I am told -- but even though I live less than half a mile from the beach, I've never bothered to go look for myself. It's not that I have anything against the whales. One of these days, as a matter of fact, I fully intend to take a look.

                  But as the New York Times pointed out in a recent article, the world is full of wonderful things that we never quite get around to doing.

                  Because we're busy.

                  And we're sure that we'll have more time to enjoy them tomorrow. Or the day after. Or someday . . . soon. Really. We promise.

                  But if there's one thing I've learned from twelve years of not watching whales, it's that God's blessings can pass right on by unless we take time to notice and enjoy them.

                  Yes, this is the day the Lord has made.

                  Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

                  Today.

                  Sunday, January 17, 2010

                  Odds & Ends

                  • "It was Sunday, and it was raining, and it was Oregon" -- John Steinbeck's Travels With Charley.
                  •  For the past month, I've given my Bible commentaries a rest -- I just read the text, spend the week thinking about it, and write my sermon on Friday. I wouldn't do this all the time (or with every text), but thus far, it's been a nice change.
                  • The New Republic magazine has always been famous for its book reviews; I'm enjoying the way it has expanded this section online with The Book.
                  • No, I haven't seen Avatar; I did not see Titanic either. And I'm not watching either movie until James Cameron apologizes for the way he ended The Abyss.
                  • My wife and I spent the first part of this week in Astoria, watching ships sail up the Columbia River. Best place for conversation: The Astoria Coffeehouse
                    • And I'll close with this quote from George Burns: "I'd rather be a failure at something I enjoy than be a success at something I hate."

                    Thursday, January 14, 2010

                    This week's lesson: joy

                    Evening
                    by G. K. Chesterton

                    Here dies another day
                    During which I have had eyes, ears, hands
                    And the great world round me;
                    And with tomorrow begins another,
                    Why am I allowed two?

                    Sunday, January 10, 2010

                    Odds & Ends

                    • Here on the Oregon Coast, the skies may be gray but it's stopped raining, and the forecast calls for temperatures in the mid-50s!
                    • The emergent church is dead, Willow Creek is rethinking, and Rick Warren has stopped wearing Hawaiian shirts. As a result, I'm fast running out of places where I can go to steal ideas!
                    •  Did I mention we're expecting temperatures in the mid-50s today?
                    • Solid writing, careful attention to the text, helpful applications -- don't tell anybody, but I'm actually enjoying this year's devotional, Snapshots of God, by Richard Coffen.
                    • Take the number of active church members you have, and divide it by fifty -- if my experience is any guide, that's roughly the number of funerals you can expect in a year.
                    • Sure feel sorry for all those people at the Seminary who won't be enjoying temperatures in the mid-50s today!
                    •  We've been doing Exodus in the Bible class I teach; our final exam was to compare the text's picture of Moses with the one in Prince of Egypt. Bottom line: todays' consumers want a young, emo Moses with a sassy-but-beautiful sidekick. Coming up next: the story of Samson gets a happy ending!
                    • Don't expect a post on Tuesday -- I'll be celebrating the 273rd-birthday of John Hancock.
                    • And yes, it's so much easier to celebrate these things when you're enjoying temperatures in the mid-50s on the Oregon Coast.
                    • And I'll close with this quote from Colin Powell: "You can't make someone else's choices. You shouldn't let someone else make yours."

                    Thursday, January 07, 2010

                    This week's lesson: love

                    All you need is love . . .
                    • Unless, of course, you're part of your church's Student Assistance Committee . . . 
                    • And you're discussing a request for financial aid from parents who think the church should pay their child's tuition so that they can continue to afford their time-share in Cancun . . . 
                    • And if you don't approve their request, then they've stated they will pull their child out of school and stop attending church because you're all a bunch of meanies . . . 
                    • And did I mention that the child's grandfather is also the head elder of your church?
                    In short, love is patient and kind -- but sometimes, it is also perplexing. And figuring out just exactly what is the loving thing to do is not always easy.  What's more, saying and doing the loving thing is not always going to be popular . . .

                    Especially if there's money involved.

                    Or children.

                    Or money and children..

                    That's why love is essential, but it is not enough. No, it requires wisdom. It requires tact. And sometimes, it requires that you confront people who can't understand why you won't let them go on hurting themselves and others.

                    If we only needed to love our friends, after all, then philos would be enough.

                    And if we only needed to love the people whom it is easy to love, then eros would be enough.

                    But if we want to love all kinds of people -- and if we want to love them the way God loves them . . .

                    Then it's going to take more than just love.

                    No, it will take everything we have.

                    Tuesday, January 05, 2010

                    Taming the Web

                    The internet is a wonderful thing -- but it's also one of the biggest time-suckers in my life. Here's what I've done to keep things from getting completely out of hand.

                    Track use
                    Google lets you keep a detailed history of your time on the web . . . which comes in handy when you're trying to figure out why you didn't get anything done last Friday, and at least part of the reason is that you checked 172 web-sites after lunch. And just to keep me honest, I've asked my wife to check this on a weekly basis.

                    Time use
                    I keep a stopwatch by my computer. When I'm on the web, I start it. When I'm off the web, I stop it.  At the end of the day, I clear it. And no, I don't do this in an effort to limit my time -- I tried that, and it didn't work. But just knowing how the time adds up does help me to control it. 

                    Interrupt Use
                    I also keep a kitchen-timer by my computer --one that's preset to go off in ten minutes. When I go on the web, I start it. When it beeps, I reset it and keep working until it beeps again in ten minutes . . . at which point I usually say, "Okay, that's enough."

                    Schedule use
                    It's tempting to check favorite websites every 15-minutes or so, just to see if there's been an update. To avoid this, I've set up a "Daily Reading" folder for bookmarks to the sites I check daily (viz. The New York Times or Facebook), and a "Weekend Reading" folder for bookmarks to the sites I check Sunday mornings (viz. Lifehacker or Cool Tools). And yes, I suppose that I could still check those sites every 15-minutes if I wanted to . . . but just opening the folder is usually all it takes to make me pause and say, "not today."

                    Sunday, January 03, 2010

                    Odds & Ends

                    • Gray skies, but it's stopped raining and the temperature has warmed up to 53-degrees. (That's an answer to prayer for all the students driving back to Walla Walla today!)
                    • It never fails that, each and every Sunday morning, I feel like quitting the ministry and getting a job bagging groceries at Safeway. Fortunately, the feeling passes . . . which is just another reason why I try not to make any big decisions on a weekend.
                    •  There's good news and bad news in Barbara Stauch's article in The New York Times on "How to Train the Aging Brain." On the one hand, we're not as good as we used to be when it comes to remembering details. Then again, we get better at detecting the Big Picture.
                    • And I'll close with this quote from Stauch's article -- one that strikes me as offering some very good advice to preachers:
                    Jack Mezirow, a professor emeritus at Columbia Teachers College, has proposed that adults learn best if presented with what he calls a “disorienting dilemma,” or something that “helps you critically reflect on the assumptions you’ve acquired.”

                    Dr. Mezirow developed this concept 30 years ago after he studied women who had gone back to school. The women took this bold step only after having many conversations that helped them “challenge their own ingrained perceptions of that time when women could not do what men could do.”

                    Such new discovery, Dr. Mezirow says, is the “essential thing in adult learning.”

                    “As adults we have all those brain pathways built up, and we need to look at our insights critically,” he says. “This is the best way for adults to learn. And if we do it, we can remain sharp.”
                    Preaching as a "disorienting dilemma" -- I like that!