Monday, July 21

The Housetrike

The Housetrike is a fascinating camper bike idea for nomads. I like it a lot and I think I'd like it even more if it didn't look so much like a coffin. It seems, too, that it would be hard to stay under the radar if you're pedaling one of these things around town. Cities are growing increasingly hostile toward urban campers and homeless people so it is important to blend in. Still, it's a very intriguing tiny house -- very tiny.

Tuesday, July 15

New seminary degree program

The MABTS is one of the best programs we've come up with at PIU. It's designed around the needs of actual students with whom we already have relationships. And while it is rigorous, it is also highly relational and built on numerous mentoring relationships. That is, there is a lot of individual attention.

Pacific Islands Evangelical Seminary is the graduate school of Pacific Islands University, headquartered on Guam. Prior to Arizona I was full time at the university and helped launch the seminary. I still teach online and through in person intensive classroom courses for PIU. My goal is to be on campus for a couple of weeks each semester.

Teaching at PIU is still one of the most fulfilling things I do and I want to thank everyone, including MasterPiece Church, who helps us financially so that I can continue to do this missionary work. This week we received a major gift that will cover the cost of my air travel to Guam in November -- a definite answer to prayer.

This fall I'll be teaching the Spiritual Foundations for Ministry class and an independent study theological readings class for the seminary. In November I'll be on campus in Guam for a few weeks to meet with individual students for spiritual direction/coaching consultations and to hold some classroom sessions.

Dave Owen, president of PIU, writes about the new degree on his blog:
This Fall 2014, PIU will be launching a NEW MA program. The Master of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies will offer a more in-depth course of study that focuses on, at the student's discretion, either Church Ministry (Pastoral, Christian Education, Missions) or Biblical Scholarship.

This program will provide theologically, exegetically and practically trained male and female leadership (we want to train couples together for ministry) to the churches of the Pacific Rim, including pastors, Bible translators, biblical counselors, and missionaries to the unreached people groups of Asia, who are trained in a relational, mentoring, practical environment that will serve as the model for future ministry.

Future plans for this program include an emphasis in Counseling and another in Bible Translation. PIU provides an affordable seminary option for islander students (tuition at the same rate as the undergraduate program) and a place where those who plan to do their ministry in a cross-cultural, missionary context can already be doing missions while they are training.

Friday, July 11

Fantastic Fire Department

As I was out running errands on my bike this morning I noticed a fire truck at one of the child care businesses in Laveen. That either means someone is in trouble or that a lot of kids are having great fun. I took a second look and saw kids in firefighting gear shooting water from a hose.

Then I realized that it wasn't one of our local engine companies. I looked even closer and figured out that it's a private business that owns a refurbished engine that they take to schools and parties.

I stopped to take a few pictures. Children were climbing through the truck -- turning on the siren -- putting on gear -- hooking up hoses -- and listening to prerecorded fire safety songs blaring out of the on board sound system. What a wonderful business -- entertaining and educational. And it all looks top quality.

Fantastic Fire Department is based in Phoenix but they've apparently expanded into South Florida.

Monday, July 7

In my non-expert opinion

One thing which often confuses foreigners about America is our propensity to distrust experts.
 We know that we need experts and we expect them to be there. But then we enjoy showing how wrong they are.

We do this in medicine -- where reading three internet articles about a disease qualifies someone to challenge an MD.

We do this in theology where a high school drop-out with a Bible feels his interpretation of a complex passage is superior to a PhD in theology.

We do this in science, where people feel qualified to challenge the scientific consensus because they've been listening to pundits on talk radio.

I think it can all be traced back to our desire to elevate the common man. It's a lazy approach to egalitarianism. Instead of raising people up we tend to take everything down to the lowest common denominator. Thus the simplest most accessible explanation that bypasses the experts is usually the most acceptable.

The only other group of people I've seen do this kind of thing with equal passion to the Americans are the Australians. (I mentioned the Swedish idea of Jantelagen in a post yesterday but I'm not sure that they are as passionate about debunking experts as are the Americans and Australians.) Aussies suffer from tall poppy syndrome. If the poppy gets too tall above the rest it's best to cut it down so that it doesn't distract from the rest. This is one reason I think that the two cultures are cut from the same cloth. But, of course, I'm not an expert.

The power of love

Thursday, July 3

Fear and solar incentives

I've been trying to wrap my mind around some of the thinking that characterizes Arizonians in 2014.
Specifically I've been trying to figure out why we're working so hard to remove incentives for people to adopt alternative energy. The rest of the world is scrambling to find ways to become independent of fossil fuels. We're seemingly trying to discourage alternatives. Specifically we're removing incentives for residents to adopt solar power systems.

In my mind, we should be creating more incentives to give this kind of thing the edge it needs to gather momentum. We need to continue to incentivize behaviors which make a long-term contribution to the common good. The issue is long-term vs short-term thinking.

However, many Arizonians do not believe there to be long-term benefit in alternative energy sources. In their minds environmental issues of any sort are artificially contrived problems designed to empower left leaning political ideologies. That is the source of the push back and they will not be convinced by facts or studies or scientific consensus. They can't even see the economic benefits because in their minds this is all a passing fad. Once their political power grows to the point of total control the true nature of this environmental kookiness will be self-evident. Or so they assume.

This is why they do not want to have alternative power incentives. But in our state they take things even further and to vent thier political frustration -- and fight the environmental kooks who are trying to dismantle society as they know and like it -- they are actively trying to create disincentives for solar.

The real crux of the matter is that we're driven by fear. Fear drives much of what happens in our state. We're afraid of being overrun by immigrants, Spanish words, drug cartels, the media, Californians, the federal government, environmentalists, the economy, Obamacare, gun restrictions, taxes, and regulation.

We have to ask, then, why fear plays such a prominent role in Arizona thinking? Have we been baking out in the desert sun too long?

People tend to gravitate toward fear when they're looking for a lift. We enjoy scary roller coaster rides and horror movies. The fear makes us feel significant -- even alive. We feel like we're important players when we enter into the drama of fear. We enjoy getting worked up.

Somehow, we've become a magnet for fearful people. It certainly wasn't like this when I moved to Arizona the first time in 1975 and a Mexican immigrant named Raúl Castro was the governor.

I want to suggest that perhaps we can turn that magnet off and look to our risk-taking adventuresome, multi-cultural, pioneering roots to rise up out of the ashes of fear.

As FDR said in his first inaugural address (1933):
So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is... fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...
We need to spend less time and energy looking for things to be afraid of and direct more of our focus onto that which alleviates fear -- which builds a future. As St Paul says:
Be glad in the Lord always! Again I say, be glad! Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near. Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7, CEB)
Fear is a spiritual problem that is short-circuiting our social well-being. And there is a spiritual solution that starts with the sense of safety that we experience when we are living in Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, July 2

Close, very close

Perhaps Jesus' words to the lawyer in Mark 12:34 could be applied to this TED talk -- “You aren’t far from God’s kingdom.” Very on target and pretty consistent with Jesus' social agenda.

Tuesday, July 1

Bonne fête du Canada!

Perhaps a little over romanticized -- but, that's how Americans approach nationality. And Deborah Holland grew up American.

Culturally I'd fit into Canada well enough (hey, my wife is a dual US-Canada citizen and we get along great!). But I'm definitely a weather weenie and would be looking for palm trees within a week or two -- some place to go thaw out my arthritic joints. Other than that I'd be happy to spend my loonies on poutine.