Back from Catalina Island!

Just to let you all know, I’ve been away at Catalina Island with our 7th graders from the school.  I had an awesome time snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, and just hanging out with the kids.  Needless to say, I’m quite tired now, and will post some more thoughts maybe on Monday.  Hopefully by then, we’ll be celebrating another Red Sox World Series championship!

Doug Pagitt on Way of the Master Radio

Here’s an audio link to Doug Pagitt on Way of the Master radio on Monday, during the first hour.  It is absolutely startling!  I know the Emerging Church has a different way of dealing with doctrine, to say the least, but this is absolutely unbelievable.  If you aren’t convinced that the Emergent church approach to Scripture and eternity isn’t a problem, you MUST listen to the first half of this clip.  He didn’t stick around long enough to defend his view against actual verses.

So do I disagree on principle or because Pagitt isn’t my personal preference?

An Interesting Sound Clip

Here’s a sound clip from a talk station out here in LA.  It’s the John Ziegler show, which I listen to pretty frequently, and it is on a kid named Johnnie MacArthur.  He’s John MacArthur’s grandson.  What’s even more odd, is that I had this kid in Awana when I went to Placerita Canyon Baptist.  He lived in the area and came with a friend.

Check it out.  Pretty cool sound clip.

In Appreciation of New England: Part 2

There are some things that you just can’t do outside New England.  Drive without a seat belt .  Smoke in a restaurant.  (Although i hear that one may change, or already be changed)  Have a perpetual yard sale.  Talk with anyone you’ve never talked to before about the Red Sox.  Disregard the letter ‘r’. 

Another thing are things like fairs and festivals.  After having gone to the LA County fair, I was disappointed and missed the New England style festival.  This past weekend the my family and Leah’s family went to an apple festival in Hampton Falls.  We took pics of Micah in the pumpkin patch, took a ride on a wagon beind a tractor, ate some good food, listened to a bluegrass band, and shopped around. 

If you want to see pics of Micah, check out his blog.  If you don’t have the address, email me and I’ll email it to you. 

Here are a few pics from the day:

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I like the way I framed this one.

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Here’s the grilling of the corn.  Really gives the corn a diferent flavor.  You just feel more New Englandish if you eat stuff like this. 

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Here’s a look at the rest of the place.  There was the stage, a hay bale pyramid for people to sit on and take pictures.  They also had homemade donuts with cider.  One thing I miss a lot in California is apple cider.  We just can’t get it there.  And if, for some odd chance someone is selling it, its $7 a half gallon. 

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Here’s lunch.  One corn is husked, one isn’t.  Then there is the classic Sausage with onions and peppers.  This was my fair food, but couldn’t get it at the LA County fair.  Love the sausage with grilled onions and peppers. 

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Here’s my sister Beth, her son Nehemiah, Micah and I.  Niam didn’t want to be good for pics.  I think he felt the heat of competition from Micah to be cuter.  Couldn’t pull it off…

In Appreciation of New England: Part I

Deep on the inside, I guess I will always be an New England person.  There is something about coming back to the area that makes it feel so natural.  I haven’t been home in the fall in nearly 9 years, so early on in our marriage, we figured we would come back to New England when I finally wasn’t in school for the first time.

One of the biggest things has been the widespread support of the Red Sox.  When we got here, everyone was gearing up for the first game of the ALCS, which was still a few days away.  When I watched the news, the lead stories were all about the Red Sox.  What was parking going to be like around Fenway?  What was the weather going to be like at game time?  Does Cleveland have its own curse?  The first ten minutes of the half hour news was dedicated to the Red Sox. 

Then I was listening to the radio, and there were playing a remix of “Sweet Caroline”, which is played during the 7th inning stretch at each home game at Fenway.  Interspersed were sound clips of various calls of games, including the series sweep of the Angels.  It was played just like any other song would be played. 

When we go out, EVERYONE is wearing something with a “B” on it.  And everyone is talking about it.  The thing I may like the most is that you don’t see a lot of pink Red Sox hats.  Instead, the girls are wearing true, old school hats and shirts. 

Of course the Sox game is the topic on every TV show or radio show.  When the game went to almost 2am into Sunday morning, everyone at church was tired because they had to watch it.  Everyone was down because of the loss.  Yes, its October in New England, or Soxtober.  

“Evan Almighty”: Preference or Principle

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This blog is supposed to be presenting issues and using Biblical discernment to see whether they are good or not.  Unfortunately, I just haven’t do that too often, but thought this might be a good time.  When we were flying home, I ended up holding a slumbering infant on my lap while Leah slept, so the only thing for me to do was to watch the inflight movie, which happened to be “Evan Almighty”.  For those of you who don’t know, it is a sequal of “Bruce Almighty”, but with a different main character and situation.  Thought I did not see the first movie with Jim Carrey playing the main role, my understanding is that the sequal is more geared towards families than the first.

The main premise is that God appears to Evan Baxter, a former newscaster, now elected to Congress.  He moves his family to D.C., and soon God appears to him and tells him to build an ark.  Baxter fights God’s command, but soon realizes he doesn’t really have a choice.  He eventually wins over his family, and builds the ark despite an absence of support from the community and the threat of losing his job.  Mixed in is a lot of humor focused on Baxter’s appearance morphing into what they presume Noah would have looked like as well as plenty of animal humor. 

When I first saw this movie coming out, something inside of me asked why most Christians had no problem with a movie where they had God being played by Morgan Freeman.  I just didn’t think that God was particularly honored by being portrayed like this.  It isn’t even like he was a disrespectful figure, but it still did not take the holiness and righteousness of God seriously, but rather perpuated an idea that God wants to be your buddy. 

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Interestingly, the only people who were really upset as God being portrayed like this was mostly the Islamic crowds in other parts of the world.  Doesn’t really surprise me that not many Evangelicals in the US were even asking the question of whether this is acceptable.  My view of God is too big for this to be ok in my view.  I still am pretty uncomfortable with such a relaxed picture of God, but I also had a few other concerns about the movie:

1. It seemed to basically not get the idea of the Biblical account of the flood.  The point of the flood was that Creation had reached such a sinful climax that God decided to destroy it and preserve Noah and his family.  The nations had become such an insult to God that they were condemned and destroyed.  For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, it is basically about a Congressman who is responsible for destroying a pristeen landscape so he could make money on building developments.  So much for focusing on real sin issues.  This has become Al Gore’s idea of sin issues. 

2. Another thing that bugged me was how Evan Baxter was obviously not a believer.  He did not pretend to have a relationship with God, and this is demonstrated in the fact that he didn’t know how to pray to God and didn’t see the need to include God in what he was doing in his life.  Then in a dialogue, God tells Baxter that “Whatever I do to you, it is because I love you.”  This sent shrills up my spine, and continues to perpetuate that God is just the big brother in Heaven who loves anyone, despite their feelings about Him. 

3. I was waiting to see what would happen to the people who mocked Baxter throughout the family, then was disappointed to see that they made it on the Ark.  So much for following the original story.  Imagine being Noah, and seeing people cry out to be saved and then watching them drown.  I guess that’d be too harsh for a family movie. 

4. God didn’t close the door to the Ark.  This may seem like a small detail, but it was God who shut the door, not Noah. 

5. The movie was full of seeming contradictions and unanswered questions that beg to be asked.  In the end of the movie, the whole development is destroyed, as well as a lot of damage brought to D.C. through the collapsing of a damn.  They basically ignore the question of what happened to all of the families in the homes that were destroyed.  Were they killed because God was trying to teach a money hungry politician a lesson?  The movie ends with the Baxter family going on a hike.  Did they forget that their house was destroyed in the flood.  The movie doesn’t answer or attempt to answer how God gets people through the tough times.

 This may seem like nit picking, but our country is full of people who are ‘good intentioned’, but have no idea what it means to actually live for God in all circumstances. It was all about doing small things to help out your community, and then everything will work out.  It is shallow to just leave it at “God does good for those that he loves” and then show a Hollywood ending.  That’s not life. 

6. It was obviously not a global flood, just a local flood.  So depending on your view, that may be a good thing for you. 

7. The thing that is most disturbing is that this had just enough of the shallow “christianese” that plagues our country that it was widely accepted by mainline Christianity.  Check out the review on Christianity Today.  I wasn’t expecting to read that. There was just enough in there for people to not ask the questions that need to asked.  Was God honored by this.  I doubt it.  This begs a larger discussion, that maybe I can talk about soon:

Is God either honored or dishonored, or is there a ‘neutral middle ground’. 

A successful week, but also a tiring one

Its funny how some weeks in ministry can be so successful, but so dramatically draining at the same time.  This past week would be one of those.  Here are some of the highlights:

1. This week was the week that The Master’s College team came out and helped for their Outreach Week.  Projects in the past have consisted of helping remodel a meeting lounge at the church, initially cleaning out my office, then later doing some demo and painting in there, and every few years we have them work on the Shelter, where our Jr High meets across the street.  This year they gave it a good paint job and cleared out the jungle that had grown behind it.

The paint job is great, and it matches the church, now.  It is an off-white with dark green trim on the wood and a dark red, maroon on the metal awnings and such.   It looks great!  We’re going to use the area cleared out in the back to store bottles and cans, so we don’t have to keep them in the kitchen.

2. This week was also a success, as it saw two kids make a profession of faith.  The first was one of our regular Jr Highers.  I have been taking the boys out to eat during the school week, and we walk to the KFC across the street and talk.  I’ve been going after these boys because they haven’t shown the kind of growth we’re used to.  Basically, we started talking, and he was way upfront with his lack of faith.  he said he always just went back on whatever decisions he’s made.  From speaking with him, it was clear that these decisions have been more about avoiding Hell, rather than falling in love with the Lord.  So after speaking for awhile, and me talking to him about what it means to be saved, he said he wanted to get saved.  So we prayed and talked some more.  When we were walking back to church he made sure I knew that he wanted to do this again sometime.

The other one came on Saturday night, during our Battle of the Bands.  Tim, our Student Ministries intern, got into a conversation with someone who had never come before, but was brought by a friend.  He was immediately intrigued, and wanted to learn more.  This turned into a conversation that spanned a couple hours, including a time where he professed salvation.  Please pray for both of these boys, as they are in difficult situations and need to be encouraged and followed up on.
3. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, we also had our Battle of the Bands.  We had about 200 people here for it, and everyone really enjoyed our new additions.  We had an addition to the Battle this year, with a promenade area.  We had some acoustic acts perform before the actual Battle, had an art show where kids displayed their pictures, paintings, sketches, and even an American flag made out of red, white and blue duct tape.  We also had a coffee shop, where everyone got a free drink with admission.  This was a huge hit.  We had caramel and mocha fraps, tea, coffee, slushies, and soda.  We also had cookies available for free.  Our desire was to be gracious and godly hosts who were generous.  We had tables and couches set up, with games out so people could hang out if they didn’t want to watch a band.

It all went very, very well, and we’re already excited about some changes for next year!

4. Another highlight was the Red Sox games.  Thanks to the genius folks at MLB, they didn’t have the games on network TV, but only on TBS. (that’ll change for the LCS and WS)  So we didn’t get to see any of the games.  But the good news is that they were playing the Angels, so we had all the games covered well on the radio.  And plenty of highlights on the news (or low-lights, depending who you were cheering for).  So we pretty much stuck it to ’em.

The funniest thing may have been listening to all the callers on “Angel Talk”.  They were all sad and depressed.  One caller actually blamed the lack of the ‘Rally Monkey’ that the Angels put up on a screen to tell the fans to cheer.  She blamed the fans for not cheering and giving the players the energy they needed.  She said they didn’t perform because the fans didn’t cheer because the Angels didn’t put a stupid monkey jumping up and down on the screen.  That’s why she’s a stupid Angels fan.

The thing that cracks me up is its always the same thing for the Angels.  They need to get a back in the offseason or trading deadline, but never do.  Then the real season starts and they don’t hit and get bounced.  When are they going to learn?

5. As far as a Micah update goes, he’s mostly better.  He is now just not sleeping, meaning that we (and when I say we, I mostly mean Leah) don’t get much sleep.  So the main prayer request is that Micah sleeps well.  Leah is completely drained and needs rest badly.

Merely Odds and Ends

You’ll notice that I haven’t written anything really substantive in quite awhile, and that isn’t necessarily for lack of time.  I have been making a better effort at helping Micah update his blog, since he needs to be speaking with the rest of his family.  I’ve been trying to do some more things with the family, which means learning to schedule my job better.  My job presents an interesting situation when it comes to office hours.  My days off are Saturdays and Mondays, but since so many of the events land on Saturdays, I have to try to find time earlier in the week to get time off.  So its all a part of learning to do the job.

Ministry

I have also been busy with some philosophical issues when it comes to the ministry.
We’re changing the way we do small groups.  We’re moving to a system that doesn’t break them down by age, which is pretty unpopular with the juniors and seniors who have really grown together as a group.  We’re moving to smaller, mixed groups, purely focused on discipleship, rather than an entry level system that it had become.  My prayer is that this will help kids get to know other students not in their grade and will help them to know how to use their gifts and talents to serve the church as a whole.  So you can be praying for that.

That, and today a group is coming from The Master’s College for their Outreach Week.  That will climax on Saturday with our Battle of the Bands.  This is an event that usually brings in 200+, most of whom wouldn’t normally come to church.  This year we’re adding a promenade outside first.  This will feature some acoustic acts of kids that don’t have bands, but still want to play.  There will be a coffee bar outside, where each ticket that gets you in also gets you a free coffee drink.  And in addition, Lord willing, will be an art gallery displaying some of the high school and college student’s artwork.  Its all in an effort to get more kids there and give them the ability to show their artistic gifts.  But the gallery isn’t going too well.  We have some kids bringing stuff, but not much.  If its not enough, I’m not going to set it up, and we’ll try again next year.

Along with this is also the loss of an office mate of mine, Paul Hoover.  He’s gone to take a position at a church plant.  If you’d like to keep in touch with whats going on with him, I linked his new blog to the right.  You might even be able to see a couple pics of me and Micah there!   To add to new websites, check out our church’s new website!

Dodger Game

Last week, the family did a few things together.  We went to our first baseball game as a family, and while it wasn’t a Red Sox game, it was still fun.  We saw the dodgers play the Rockies, then saw another game later in the week against the Giants (sans Barry Bonds).   Leah and I were again marveling at the stark contrasts between games at Dodger Stadium, (which is only 15 minutes from our place, which is nice) and games at Fenway Park.  Obviously we’re both a little biased, and there is a difference between a team that has the best record in baseball and one that is wallowing in another disappointing season and have had one big win in about 20 years.

I’ve always thought that so much could be done with Dodger Stadium.  In the top levels at least, they still have troughs in the men’s rooms, instead of urinals, but I hear they are sinking millions of dollars to outfit the whole stadium with urinals.  But besides that, the stadium is just odd.  It seems like a big concrete block with no personality.  The sound system is bad, the scoreboard is outdated and not even quaint.  The stadium has the same colors as Dolphin Stadium, and looks like it hasn’t had much money put into it since the 1970’s.

When we pulled in, they make you park in a certain place near the entrance, instead of being able to drive around to the gate to the park you are entering (you used to be able to do this).  So the gate that we come in is on the complete opposite side than the place where we’re sitting.  Dodger Stadium is kind of built on a hill and if you are on the upper deck, you just walk into it, while you can do the same on the opposite side with the field level.  So that means that we had to walk around the stadium, and up too many stairs to count. Its a good workout, but annoying when you get up there and see the spots you should be able to park in.

Besides that, the only environment outside are giant sized pictures of players, regardless of their talent level.  For example, Brett Tomko is up there, but he got traded for a pile of baseballs to the Padres.  Then there are players like Jason Repko, who hasn’t played at all because of injury.  It seems like they could do a mix of good players, like Russel Martin, along with Dodgers of the past.  There is a lot of history to work with, and they should do more to push the Dodger brand, rather than individuals that are fairly poor ball players.

We walked past an empty game program stand.  At Fenway you’d have a guy yelling out to buy the program, saying who is pitching and other things.  There is little to nothing going on before the game to encourage fans to come early.  Souther California fans are notorious for showing up in the third inning, but they don’t really encourage them to come early.  Leah and I got there about twenty minutes early and got to watch 3 ‘first’ pitches.   The last being Emeril Lagasse.  There was a free gift, but they didn’t even bother handing them out to the first 20,000 fans, but handed them out when you left.

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LA County Fair

One thing I miss about not being in New England is the fair season.  It was such a huge part of my life growing up, and hasn’t been something I’ve done in awhile.  So we went out to the LA County fair, which I hear is the largest county fair in the country.  the grounds are six times bigger than Disneyland.  The thing I was most excited about was seeing the animals and I even brought my old 4H sweatshirt to represent.  But the animals were largely boring.  There was no 4H, which makes sense, due to the fact that this isn’t prime farm territory.  There was a large pen with goats and sheep that we brought Micah in, and you will be able to see those pics on Micah’s blog soon.

Most of the animals were mutts, crosses between Dorsetts and Hampshires.  There was one that I couldn’t tell if it was a goat or a Cheviot.  We eventually found the Hampshire sheep, and they were way off by themselves, in a concrete floor pen with metal bars.  it was like they were in jail.  I missed the 4H-ness of it all.  There were no signs on the breeds, wool breeds vs. meat breeds, yarn, or sheep shows.  This may sound odd to a lot of people, but there was nothing very personable about it all.  Disappointing.

There are some other differences between the LA County fair and fairs back in New England.  One is the food.  There aren’t any fried dough places, but funnel cakes.  We actually bought a Mexican Funnel Cake, which was basically strips the size of churros. Check out the link if you don’t know what those are.  They’re good stuff.  There weren’t Italian Sausage booths or any chowders, but plenty of burritos, tacos, tortas, and the like.  And about 14 Hot Dog on a Stick places.  Another interesting addition was their ability to deep fry anything.  We dined on deep fried oreos, while they also had Snicker’s bars, Twinkies, and even deep fried Coke.  I don’t know how they did that.  Here’s a couple pics of the oreos.

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Another difference was in the shopping areas.  There weren’t really many quaint mom and pop places, but mostly infomercial stuff.  We saw insurance booths, miracle mop booths, back rub places, polishing booths, vacations to wine country, wine of the month, and a mattress dealer.  They had about five huge buildings filled with these things.  We walked through, but nothing to really look at.  One thing we did see was a Ken Crane’s tent, which is a dealer that sells TVs and other electronics.  They had the 103″ plasma tv, which is the worlds largest plasma TV.  It costs a mere $69,990.  Impressive TV.  I told the man working that if he wanted to donate one to a church youth group, I would gladly take it.  He didn’t.

Here’s one last pic to enjoy:

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