Thursday, July 31

Frederica Mathewes-Green, who is an Eastern Orthodox Christian, has an interesting column highlighting the differences between the Eastern and the Western perspectives on salvation. Her characterization of the Western view is really a characterization of the Western view as it is misunderstood by many people. And Anselm gets trampled on a bit. But the column is good in that gives a general overview of the differences in emphasis. Link

Wednesday, July 30

I got up early this morning to drive five kids (including two of my own) to the San Francisco airport. They're off to CHIC for a week. I got home in time to have lunch with Kirk at the new A&W Rootbeer/KFC.

It was finally cool enough in the evening that I could ride my bike down to Jubilate pratice in the Fellowship Center at Cornerstone. I think we topped out at just under 100 degrees today. But it was unusually muggy.

Tuesday, July 29

Finally science is proving what we all knew to be true -- neckties are not good for human beings. High blood pressure and glaucoma have been linked to the wearing of ties. Link to Reuters story / Link to British Journal of Ophthalmology report

I can see the labels now:

Monday, July 28

It’s barely noticeable but when I was grilling hamburgers tonight the fire flared up and singed the tips of my eye-brows. They were getting too long anyway.

Sunday, July 27

The General Convention of the Episcopal Church USA starts on Wednesday. It appears likely that they will ratify the election of an openly homosexual bishop and that will lead to schism. I doubt that the US church will break apart anymore than it's already broken. The conservative and orthodox Episcopalians that are inclined to leave have already left to form continuing Anglicans groups.

However, the schism will be felt most throughout the world-wide Anglican Communion. Ninety percent of the Anglicans in the world are evangelicals (most live in Africa and Asia). They have made it clear that they are no longer going to tolerate the direction of the Canadian and US churches. Link

I'm not an Anglican, just an Anglican watcher (my interest in ecumenics has lead me to keep an eye on lots of different Christian groups). So I'm not emotionally invested in the fight. Frankly, I don't think it's going to make a lot of difference in the future of the Church. The Episcopal Church has pretty much already made itself irrelevant to the advancement of God's kingdom. And God will move forward without them. Still, there is a certain sadness in it all -- and a realization that the rest of us are not all that far away from a similar fate should we drift from our biblical moorings. Irrelevance is scarey.

Saturday, July 26

No one showed up to cut our athletic field behind the church building today. So, since I had some unscheduled time this afternoon I decided I'd do it. As soon as I got the shed open and was getting ready to go Greg Page showed up, having had similar thoughts. But he let me do it.

You've got to understand that riding our Jacobsen diesel powered mower over the two acres is actually pretty fun. It took me about three hours to finish but it was the most relaxing three hours I spent all week.
A few days ago I posted on the Abet list about the changes in the Christian Science Church. They are trying to reinvent themselves as a postmodern kind of new agy operation. Within the past 25 years 1/3 of their churches have closed and they expect to close the rest within the next 25 years -- replacing them with "Starbucks" discussion groups.

There was a story on All Things Considered that is worth a listen. Even Leonard Sweet checks in on the trend in the NPR interview.

The Christian Scientists (which as far as I can tell aren't either Christian or scientists) actually have a video interview with Leonard on their site. It's interesting how he tries to balance his "open system" and "closed system" approaches. Sometimes he's so on the mark. Sometimes he just makes me nervous.
Dan Whitmarsh, my pastoral partner at Cornerstone, has been secretly blogging since the beginning of July. He has now come out of the closet. Link

Friday, July 25

Karl Naslund's new blog continues to make me chuckle. I don't know if it's because I know the guy and can hear him saying all the wacko stuff he writes or if it's just plain amusing. Anyway, he's a good guy with a great heart for the Lord. Link

For those who don’t know him he’s the weekend desk guy at the Covenant Village of Turlock. He is also starting at California State University Stanislaus this fall.
I'm finally able to catch up on some of my blog reading. Karl Thienes, who is thoroughly Orthodox in his thinking, is having an interesting discussion on the difference between individual and personal as it relates to the spiritual journey. Link

As I see it "journey" in popular culture has grown more and more individualistic. Whereas historically the church has seen the journey in collective terms, with personal implications -- the complete opposite of contemporary culture (modern or postmodern or otherwise). My beef with a lot of the pop-postmodern thinking, in that it tends to feed the individualism that has surfaced in our era, all the while claiming to be a break through in community. Of course, if you point out that things don't add up you are chastized for missing the paradox because you are too linear in your thinking.

Thursday, July 24

One of the families in our church was robbed early this morning. The robbers showed up about 3 a.m., forced entry, tied up the whole family, and took money and jewels (they didn't have that much!). Apart from some bruises and numbness where they were tied up everyone is okay -- and grateful to be alive.

I got called about 6 a.m., a few minutes after they were released, and arrived to find the place swarming with police. It took them until almost 2 p.m. to process the "crime scene."

There are just some seasons where dealing with crises is a major component of pastoral service. Then there are some times where nothing seems to happen (and you can get all your reading and and studying done)

Tuesday, July 22

The new Eudora manged to filter out 95 pieces of spam today. I'm still going through the junk box at this point working on getting the settings right so it doesn't filter out too much. I haven't figured out why on occasion some posts end up in the junk box when they are coming from the same listserv as others which do not. They're even on the same subject. Neither contains words like "refinance" or "viagra."
Karl Naslund, a 20-year-old from our congregation, has started a blog. Fortunately he's a little off the wall.

Monday, July 21

The Culture Ministry of France has banned on the word "e-mail" in all government commication. (I wonder if email without the "-" would make them happier). Apparently, the word e-mail is considered too English. Instead, the word "courriel" (manufactured from "courier electronique") is preferred. Link

If they had invented email in the first place they wouldn't have had this problem.
For years I've been a pretty solid Eudora fan. This morning I downloaded the latest version of the email client (6.0 beta). So far the new spam filter has caught 48 pieces of junk before it got to my in box. I checked the junk file and there were a few emails that were classified as junk that should not have been. So I'm training the system to recognize those senders. Only four pieces of spam slipped through the system. Very satisfactory.

Sunday, July 20

For example, in response to the Supreme Court ruling on the Texas sodomy law:

Does this mean that I agree with the Chicken Little response of Focus on the Family, that the ruling lifts “the boundaries that prevent sexual chaos in our culture”? No. What boundaries? Where is the evidence that these laws have prevented sexual chaos? What have we been living in for the past thirty-five years, except sexual chaos? It looks as though some conservative Christians who have watched, and then participated in, the failure of law to prevent fornication, adultery, and illegitimacy, are still trusting in the legislatures to do their work for them. When have legal boundaries ever prevented sexual chaos? Ethical standards personally held, and religious discipline voluntarily submitted to, have limited success; laws alone, never. Link

And then he is advocating for stateless marriage -- that is for the government to get out of the marriage business. A bit on the libertarian side but it makes as much sense as the the crazy state of things now. Link

Saturday, July 19

I was so exhaused yesterday that I slept 12 hours (!) last night. I usually function well on 7 hours.

This evening we went to Faith Home Teen Ranch for their open house cook-out. Great time -- even if it was 103 degrees.

I went back to my study to do some more prep on my Mormonism seminar for tomorrow. When I came out at 8 p.m. it was raining -- not a lot but it was rain. It generally doesn't rain here at all (period) between May and November. So it was novel.

Bill Bright died today. Fortunately I don't have any responsibilities for his memorial service.

We've set Myrtle Leaf's service for 2 p.m., Wednesday, in Berg Hall at Covenant Village of Turlock.

Friday, July 18

Myrtle Leaf died last evening. This afternoon we had the memorial service for Wilbur Westerdahl. Both have been wonderful to have in our congregation. And they will both be missed.

As soon as I catch my breath I think we're going to have to have a Cornerstone orientation seminar so we can get some new members. (grin)

Thursday, July 17

We topped the centennial mark on the thermometer in the shade on the back porch. All my cacti loved it! And it wasn't at all uncomfortable -- dry heat, and all that bit.
There is a 20% chance... Link (Thanks Darren)

Wednesday, July 16

Ted Olsen says in his "Go Figure" column that 85% of the members of Yale's Campus Crusade for Christ chapter are Asian. "The university's Buddhist meditation meetings are almost exclusively attended by whites." Link

Tuesday, July 15

I came across a quote in an article that was attributed to St. John Chrysostom, but there was no source listed. And I haven't yet found it in my searches. Anyone know the origins?

"I do not believe in the salvation of anyone who does not try to save others."

I found it in an article by Fr Luke Veronis in the June/July issue of the Orthodox Observer (p. 10). Fr Veronis is responding to the ongoing murmur of Greeks who are concerned that all the converts are taking over THEIR church! Part of the problem lies with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America leadership. Up until recently they have publically stated that one of their purposes is the advancement of Hellenic culture. So when their people see non-Greek influences they are concerned.
Call me dismissive, but I cannot get beyond the notion that pop postmodernism is little more than the triumph of popular culture with its obsessions with technology, mass communications, mass marketing, the therapeutic orientation, and conspicuous consumption. Postmodernism -- or whatever one wishes to designate our brief moment in history -- is the culture in which Sesame Street is considered educational, "sexy" is the term of approbation for everything from jeans to doctoral theses, watching sit-coms together at dinner is called "family time," abortion is considered "choice," films sell products, and a barrage of images and sound bites selected for their entertainment and commercial value is called "news." This easily translates into hipper-than-thou clubs passing for youth ministry, informal chats passing for sermons, and brazen marketing passing for evangelism, where busyness equals holiness and expository preaching is considered too intellectual. It can account in part for homes where disciplined habits both of general domestic culture and of instruction in Christian faith and practice give way to niche marketing and where churches become theaters of the absurd.

If modernity is pictured as the crusty tyrant, wrinkled with the fatigue of old age and faded dreams, postmodernism's visage is that of a child who refuses to grow up and accept the challenges as well as the opportunities of wisdom, truth, righteousness, and having responsibilities as well as having a good time. Stated in such intentionally simplistic terms, one can hardly distinguish postmodern from boomer -- that post-war generation that has been so aptly described by David Brooks, in his Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There, as one who insists on having his cake (the fruit of hard labor and genuine community) and eating it too (absolute freedom of individual choice).

Link to Modern Reformation article (There is no basis to the rumor that the magazine will soon be renamed "Postmodern Reformation")
It's spring in Iraq and the wild flowers, long dormant, are starting to bloom. Link

Monday, July 14

It's been one of those days -- or actually afternoons. The morning went smooth enough but it was one crisis after another in the afternoon -- including the death of one of our Cornerstone pillars, Wilbur Westerdahl. Sometimes it just happens that way. We'll certainly miss Wilbur.

Sunday, July 13

Burglars broke into the church's lawn equipment shed on Friday night -- got the lawnmower, weed-eater, edger, and one of the blowers. Link
It went well today. We spent most of the time talking about the history and characteristics of their unique story. We'll do some more of that next Sunday. I'm hoping that people will realize that in order to understand Mormon thinking you have to first understand what their story and how they developed their unusual theology. I'm sure, though, that there are some people chomping at the bit to get in there and deconstruct the theological system. But I don't think that we can fairly do that until we understand the context out of which it arises.
Our friends Rob & Nancy Reed are planting a church in northern Spain. Nueva Vida now has a website. Link
I installed the new Google toolbar (beta) this afternoon. So far, so good. Pop-up blocker works well. I can even post to my blog from an icon on the bar. Link

Saturday, July 12

Tomorrow morning during our 2nd hour at Cornerstone I starting to teach a new seminar on Mormonism. I'll be using the Bridges curriculum developed by Salt Lake Theological Seminary. It's well done, civil in tone, and respectful of the Mormon people and culture -- and not driven by the conspiracy theorists.

I'm hoping that this will help people out since I get lots of questions about Mormonism.
Last Sunday Kurt Fredrickson resigned from his long held position as pastor of Simi Covenant Church to become the director for the Doctor of Ministry program at Fuller Seminary. Link

Thursday, July 10

I'm feeling much better today. Yesterday I had a root canal (on #15 for you dental types). Since I'd never had a root canal before, the whole thing was all new. The dentist and his assistance were talking in terms I had never heard and using new-to-me tools to perform unknown procedures. I kept wanting to ask for play-by-play descriptions but my mouth wasn't available for conversation. That was frustrating. I felt like I missed out on an education.

It wasn't at all painful but sitting there for 75 minutes with my mouth propped open was pretty wearing (I'm a squirmy person by nature). Usually dental work doesn't bother me that much. I've had so much over the years that I'm just thankful that the dentists and hygienists are there doing their thing. I'd be in horrible shape without them.

Link There is a video clip at the bottom of the article.

Tuesday, July 8

"...Scholars have developed a computer algorithm that can examine an anonymous text and determine, with accuracy rates of better than 80 percent, whether the author is male or female." Link
Cheryl and I are seriously thinking about taking a vacation trip to Florida in September (hurricane season!). She's never been there and I haven't been there since I was in junior high school. So, we're wondering what people consider to be the "must see" sites. We would rent a car so we would have mobility.
"In addition to being annoying, emailed spam costs American businesses billions of dollars in lost time, productivity and e-business as it reduces consumer confidence in the Internet, officials told lawmakers Tuesday." Link

Of course, there is another side to the story. There are still some people who respond to spam. The Direct Marketing Associaiton says that email ads produce more than $7.1 billion in sales annually. No wonder they want to flood our mailboxes with more and more trash. People keep encouraging them.

Read an interview with Ronnie Scelson, the "Cajun king of spam."
McDonald's is expanding its wireless Internet access program to dozens more restaurants in the San Francisco Bay area. If you order a combination meal you are offered one hour of free high-speed access. Link

Monday, July 7

Brave new world -- now on sale in Taiwan. Coming soon to US pet stores. Worry not. They can't reproduce -- or so we're told. Link
Karl is calling on Protestant missionaries to excercise a little humility when they are evangelizing in traditionally Orthodox areas. "You can never understand the local people and their religion until you have become one of them. You should never attempt to be a missionary until you have been truly integrated into their vision and way of life. You certainly won't win them over to your point of view with a few pages of mediocre history under your belt and a plethora of straw man arguments."

Good words.

Saturday, July 5

It's a pretty dumb idea -- that is, trying to recall a governor that was just re-elected 8 months ago. Now, I'd never vote for the guy but it seems to me that he is not significantly different in competence or character than he was when he was re-elected. This recall nonsense just sounds like it's a large financial flushing sound.

However, if everyone persists in this ridiculous pursuit I am willing to let my name stand on the ballot for governor of the State of California. My 17-year-old son asked me this evening to consider it, so I assume that there is significant backing. Here are my qualifications:

1. Having never run for public office, I am truly a political outsider. (To say nothing of the fact that I live in Turlock).

2. I am an independent (equally annoyed with the Republican and the Democratic parties).

3. I've worked on 20 church budgets.

4. I know what it's like to have a lot of bosses.

5. I was recently elected president of the Covenant Ministerium. (Talk about political clout!)

6. I've been cleared by the California Department of Justice. (In our church we do a background check on EVERYONE who works with children).

7. I was educated in California before Prop. 13.

8. I'd be willing to telecommute from home so we won't have to run the A/C in that big Sacramento building.

9. I'd be willing to volunteer for the position -- as long as I don't have to work more than two nights a week or half a day on my day off from the church (gotta have sometime to cut the lawn).

10. I've never had political aspirations. (Which clearly separates me from all the other potential candidates)

I understand that whichever candidate gets the most votes wins -- no simple majority required. This should be a snap.

Friday, July 4

We had a great informal "tailgate" party at Cornerstone this evening. People brought food and chairs and blankets and we all hung out until the fireworks show. The fireworks at the university, a block from Cornerstone, were pretty spectacular.

I rode my bike home, avoiding the auto gridlock. But I had to maneuver around a lot of personal fireworks in the street. I can't remember ever having so much firework activity in the streets. People were having fun.

A lot of the neighbors are doing fireworks in the street on our cul-de-sac. The Sikh neighbors across the street are having a big bash and they're all dancing to Indian music in their garage. However, that pales to the Assyrian party in the house behind us. There must be 100 people back there doing Middle Eastern line dancing to a live band, chanting, rolling their tongues, beating drums (all a little more than 50 feet from where I am currently sitting).

I wonder if the founding fathers ever envisioned Indians and Assyrians celebrating the 4th.

"There has never been a comparable crisis in California's history, not even during the Civil War when people imagined California might become an independent country. In 1879, we had a crisis in the context of a small frontier society. Now we are talking about the fifth- or sixth-largest economy in the world in the context of globalisation. The crisis necessitates nothing less than the refoundation of our state." -- Kevin Starr, California State Librarian

Complete story in the Economist

Personally, I think we've gone downhill since Prop 13 (a dynamite solution to a firecracker problem) dismantled the state's financial infrastructure.

Wednesday, July 2

After 9-11 Americans were asking "Why do they hate us so much? What did we ever do to them?" Of course, we're still asking those questions even as we occupy Iraq. Philip Yancey takes a stab providing an answer --

Because I frequently travel overseas, I am struck by the difference in how Americans perceive themselves and how those of other nations see us. We think of ourselves as generous, compassionate, good-natured, slow to anger, and committed to justice. Some overseas see us as arrogant, selfish, decadent, and uncaring. They judge American values by our rap music and television shows, most of which glorify sex, wealth, and violence. They know that the U.S. military possesses more weapons of mass destruction than all other armies combined. And they note that the world's wealthiest nation contributes only half as much foreign aid as Europe.

Link to complete story

Tuesday, July 1


Today is Canada Day. The Canadians aren't quite as nationalistic as Americans (the world says "thank you!") but they do enjoy a day off. Here are a few sites to help you enjoy their day off.
Simpsons, Eh! -- The truth is out. Homer Simpson is a Canuck.
Joe Canadian -- Famous (at least in Canada!) beer commercial rant -- streaming media