June 19, 2008

I remember looking at my father when I was a child…

I used to look at him with awe and wonder. He was really something. We had old photos of him when he was a young man in the Bronx. He was an athlete with an amazing physique which still could be seen despite his older pot belly. He won awards in handball and basketball… I was so proud of him and so wanted to be like him.
I knew he could take any of the other dads in the neighborhood. He could run faster, jump farther, even leap tall buildings in a single bound…

I saw him as I wanted to see him… but it wasn’t true. He was older than my friends dads… close to 50 when I was born. He was a manual laborer and tired all of the time. He wasn’t educated (I thought he was) and he had psychological problems with a variety of fears. Sometimes I would hear him wake up screaming in the middle of the night. It frightened me terribly. I was just a kid. I didn’t understand.

When I got older and knew the truth and I was angry at him. He hadn’t met my expectations… in fact… it was all a lie. He wasn’t what he was supposed to be… he wasn’t Superman… he wasn’t infallible… he was human.

The last time I saw him he was dying. He had lost that magnificent physique as well as his bright smile and sense on humor. He was thin and drawn… demanding, crass and self absorbed… But he was my dad… and I loved him.

And I know that he loved me. It is the little things that he said and did that remind me of his imperfect love. The way he defended me against the onslaughts of older brothers or even an angry mom. The encouragement he gave when he looked at one of my drawings or listened to early attempts at being musical. The pride in his eyes after a school concert or Music competition. I wish I had treated him better, respected him more, honored him for his efforts for me despite his personal battles.

Some of you may not have had the dad I did… maybe better… or maybe worse… or maybe none. I am sorry if that is the case. But, the answer to the father issue is the same for us all… For us, as well as for our dads…

Only God is the perfect Father. Only He will never fail us.
Only He can meet our internal needs.


What is the Church

May 12, 2008

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Church lately.  Since it was the Church’s birthday yesterday (Pentecost) I decided to preach about it.  In the midst of that I was looking for a definition of the  Church and found a number of them.  Some were good and others not so good so I thought I’d give it a try myself.  After my  first draft I showed it to Joel.  His comment was that it was in theological christianeze and regular folk wouldn’t get it.  I reworked it into American English and hope it works.  Here it is…
The Church is the community of people who were purchased for God by the payment of Jesus’ blood.
It is where Jesus lives by His Spirit;
It is where the spiritual gifts, given to the people of God by the Spirit of God, are seen and active;
It is where the Word of God (the Bible) is faithfully and accurately taught and applied;
And it is where the Sacraments (the grace giving rites of the Church) are given, shared and enjoyed.

It is through the Church that the ministry of Jesus continues on the earth;
That the Good News about who Jesus is, and what he did for us, is brought to others;
That the restoring of our broken relationship with God is offered and given,
And that God’s Kingdom is declared to the whole world.

Let me know what you think.

Big Change

April 28, 2008

I announced it Sunday.  Our new name for the Church.  We are no longer St Michael’s Church.  As I was a little unsure of how the congregation would react and then pleasantly surprised at their  positive response.  So far so good.  Oh yea…the name.  We are now Lifepath Church.  This really makes sense since we have been using the slogan “Together on the Path of Life” for the last two years.  The response from our local and blog friends has also been good.

We had been struggling with an identity problem for a long time. Most people in the area think that we are an Episcopal Church.  In fact, when we first arrived we discovered that some of the congregation thought so as well.  On the web we are listed on dozens of sites as an Episcopal Church.  Just as when Abram received a new name, and thereby a new identity, so we hope that it will be with us as well.  Hopefully it will remove what has been a huge stumbling block for the Aquidneck Island community.  Maybe now they will see us as we are.

If you’re wondering if St Michael minds… I doubt it.  He also is on the path of life.

Psalm 16:11 You have made known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

To sit, or not to sit

April 25, 2008

I am babysitting tonight.

A friend of mine who is the pastor of a local Church called and asked for help.  He is having meetings this weekend that requires everyone to attend so he needs sitters.  I know that I should delegate so that others would have the opportunity to serve, and I did send out an email to the congregation, but…I’m still going to babysit.  I could do it to be an example to others, or to shame some into service, or to impress some, but… I’m just going to babysit.  Why?

Some years ago I was invited to an event honoring a missiologist named Harvey Kahn.  He was a faithful missionary and teacher of missions who influenced many.  There was a large crowd of pastors and others in attendance.  After the dinner and testimonials it came to the time for the presentation of a plaque of some sort or other, but there was a problem… Harvey Kahn was nowhere to be found.  They looked in all of the likely places; bathrooms, sanctuary (he must be praying), offices, outside… but he wasn’t in any of those.  When they finally located him they were surprised to find that he was in the kitchen.  He was washing the dishes from his own testimonial dinner.  When I found out I turned to my wife and said, “When I grow up I want to be Harvey Kahn.”

Maybe I’ve grown up a little. I’d like to believe so.

I’m Back?

April 23, 2008

I know that some of you must be wondering where I have been since January 2nd.  I am not really sure.  I lost almost 4 blog months and I don’t know how.  Sure, there were things I did like going to Seattle to handle the death of my mother-in-law, visiting our best friends in Arizona, doing the whole Easter season thing, broncitus, pneumonia… but, I didn’t blog. I didn’t even read them.

It’s like I was abducted by aliens who replaced my brain with an alien one that didn’t understand the importance of blogging and then maybe the government noticed and wondered if we were being invaded or something so they gave me my brain to throw off the CIA or FBI or CNN or some organization like that. And here I am.

It could’ve happen!

Sad News

January 2, 2008

Sunday I had to drive my wife to the airport so that she could go and see her mom. We had received a call from the hospital in Seattle that she had taken a turn for the worst and would not make it more than a few days. Bonnie died last night.

Although they were never really close, I could hear sorrow in my wifes voice when she called to tell me. Both her parents and her sister are now gone. Nan is feeling that aloneness. I will be going out on the 8th for 10 days to be with her and so we can put things in order.

Please pray for her comfort and for safety in our travels.

A Real Men’s Night

December 19, 2007

Last night we had a great men’s ministry meeting!

For the last 6 weeks we have been going through the ‘Wild at Heart’ video series by John Eldridge. It’s been really good. There has been open sharing from every guy in our discussion time and a new comradeship among us. Some have even been going out afterwards for a continuation of the fellowship.

Last night we took a break from the series and had a movie night. We ate deli sandwiches and watched ‘Live Free, Die Hard’, the most recent Bruce Willis film.
My sons and I wore ripped, bullet ridden, bloody (not real of course) tee shirts designed and created by us just for this event. What can I say, IT WAS AMAZING! Not just the film, but the connection it brought to us men. We delighted in the explosions, the chases and crashes,the ridiculously impossible second chances, the stupid one liners, the incredible anger unleashed and most especially the impossible survival of Willis through it all. It was awesome and a great shared experience.

I’m not sure that I would be able to explain the fellowship part to most woman. My wife often asked me after playing a round of golf with the guys, “What did you talk about?”. “Golf” would be my response, and then I’d tell her what a great time we had together. She would ask, “Well didn’t you talk about….”, bringing up all the important stuff. “Nope, we played golf together. It was great.”

She doesn’t ask anymore.

The 23rd Channel

December 17, 2007

This is something I received as a fax many years ago. I don’t even remember who sent it. I have to say that I am convicted as much now as I was then.

The TV is my shepherd, I shall not want. (read, pray, care, etc…)
It makes me lie down on the sofa.
It leads me away from the faith.
It destroys my soul.
It leads me in the path of sex and violence,
For the sponsor’s sake.
Yea, though I walk in the shadow of Christian responsibilities,
There will be no interruption,
For the TV is with me.
It’s cable and remote, they comfort me.
In the presence of worldliness,
It anoints my head with humanism and consumerism.
My coveting runneth over.
Surely laziness and ignorance shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the house watching TV forever.

Psalm 119:37
“Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
preserve my life according to your word.”

Psalm 101:3
“I will set before my eyes no vile thing.
The deeds of faithless men I hate;
they will not cling to me.”

Job 31:1
“I made a covenant with my eyes
not to look lustfully at a girl.”


Golden Compass Review

December 10, 2007

As promised, here is my review after seeing the film.

The Golden Compass is a dark fantasy revealing a world of personal animal spirits, talking armor clad polar bears, amazing flying machines, witches, and as always good guys and bad guys. It is often stunningly beautiful in it’s visual representations of this other-dimensional world. I am always amazed at what CGI can do. The film is well cast, and Dakota Blue Richards performance is a stand out as the 12 year old protagonist Lyra who must rescue children from their kidnappers. As a children’s film I would not recommend that children under 12 see it. It is very dark and at times violent and frightening. An example of this is a machine that separates children from their souls (you’ll understand this if you see it). I think it would be very disturbing to young children.

As for me, I only somewhat enjoyed it. Not because it wasn’t good… it was very good…but as usual, a movie cannot be compared to the book, and I had recently read the trilogy. There is so much missing and changed that I found it distracting. It made the film feel to me as if it were chopped up. This feeling was not true for the 3 others I went with who had not read the books. They enjoyed it thoroughly.

Now about the controversy, The Golden Compass is a movie based on the first book of Phillip Pullman’s trilogy ‘His Dark Materials’. (Check out my Nov 13th post on the books) The books can be called an atheists response to C. S. Lewis’ ‘Chronicles of Narnia’. There is clear anti-God, anti-religion and anti-Catholic overtones to them. New Line cinema has sought to soften the message of the books by creating a generic religious organization. I am of the opinion that without the protests and media coverage, no one would have thought from the seeing of the film that it was blasting Christianity. Unlike the books, there is no mention or clear allusion to Christians or the Church.

Personally, I have no problem with people seeing it. In fact, I think soap operas are more problematic than this kind of fantasy. No one is going to think The Golden Compass is reality, but many think ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, ‘Desperate Housewives’ and ‘Days of our Lives’ are. Now that’s dangerous. My suggestion is that you see it with others and discuss it afterwards, especially with the teens.

Radical Christianity?

November 20, 2007

I’ve been thinking about the expression ‘radical Christianity’?
It kinda bothers me since it insinuates that being a Christian isn’t necessarily radical. In my reading of the scriptures I don’t see non-rad as one of the choices for God’s people.

Christians who are living the life, stand out in the culture. They are extremists and outspoken in their views. Their behavior reflects a counter culture to the one in which they live. They stand for change and will fight the spiritual battles that would bring real change to the people and culture around them. They are not after the American dream. They will not accept mediocrity or passivity in life. They will not sit back while the world goes to hell. They are Christian.

Isn’t what we are actually saying that there are Christians who are doing Christianity and others who are not? Aren’t we saying also that the non-doers outnumber the doers thereby making the doers seem radical?

I guess the big question is…If we are not doing it, if we are not radical, then what exactly are we?