Saturday, July 26

Brass eggs

Thirty years ago, the last week of July, 1984, Cheryl, Kirk, and I rolled into Selah, Washington, riding in our stuffed U-Haul truck with a wounded white Corolla in tow (a story for another time). We were arriving to begin a two year commitment to serve as the pastor of Selah Covenant Church. It was my first full-time post-seminary gig.

Well, we had such a great time with that terrific church that the two years stretched into five before we left to do our first church plant in Texas.

All those wonderful memories of Selah flooded back up to the surface today when a weighty package arrived in the mail from 98942. The packing job suggested that it was glass but it wasn't. Rather, it was brass -- a box of brass eggs in a brass bowl.

In January of 1987 my Young Life youth ministry background got the best of me and I offered to push an egg around the church building with my nose, on the first Sunday when there were 100 people in Sunday School (or was it 200 people -- I can't remember). That kind of challenge resonated in the context and on April 5, 1987 I got down on my knees and pushed eggs around the building. They kept breaking so it was a messy run. But I made it and it apparently left a lasting impression on some.

When we left Selah in 1989 for some reason they wanted to commemorate the egg push. And unbeknownst to me, they purchased a brass bowl with six brass eggs to give to me as a parting gift. Unfortunately, they had trouble finding someone willing to engrave on the eggs and bowl. The brass gift was never given and it all ended up in storage. But it wasn't forgotten.

Jim Lydigsen, who was the church chairman at the time, recently figured out that his college-age granddaughter was a capable artist and he pressed her into service to engrave the brass with biblical passages and the date of our service there. She did a beautiful job -- hard to believe she is not a professional engraver.

So, this morning I found a yellow tag in the PO box, went to the window, and they handed me a heavy box with a five page typed letter explaining the gift, taped to the outside. What a delight! I'm actually happy that it took 25 years. The timing coincided perfectly with the anniversary of our arrival in Selah -- and the beginning of my pastoral ministry.

Thursday, July 24

How playing an instrument benefits your brain

And if your instrument happens to be the ukulele neuroscience has discovered that it also enhances your aloha function!

Well trained AND well educated

MIT's Dr Woodie Flowers: What is the Future of Education?

My take-aways:
We've focused on training but have been neglecting education. Training involves skills that can be mastered in online modules. Education is more about developing thinkers and creative problem solvers. Education usually requires human interaction.

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