Saturday, March 31, 2007

No Way to Vicariously Experience This

I went out in front of the house about dusk tonight to let our dog Buddy perform his ritualistic necessities.

The open-air ambiance was almost indescribable. Let me try to set the tone for you.

Spring flowers are in bloom, giving off their fragrant bouquet. Freshly cut lawns are emitting their own perfumes. The earth has been tilled, releasing enzymatic aromas into the air.

Light, pungent smoke from a beach campfire was wisping by. And the distinctive whiff of the salt water below provided the perfect accent.

Inhaling deeply almost made me giddy. The crisp, cool and moist evening air, full of the sum of the fragrances, is something I’m not sure can be replicated anywhere else. At the least, it’s a northwest treasure.

And I’m fortunate enough to live here.

I wish everyone could have the chance to awaken their senses in this fashion. Because there’s no way to experience it vicariously.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Spring Break In An RV

How many school kids can spend Spring Break with their family in a comfortable RV at their favorite spot on the coast?

Probably kids whose parents own one, for an obvious answer.

Well, my son Gregg owns one (pictured), and he and Elaine and our granddaughters are spending a few fabulous days this week at an RV resort right on the shores of the Pacific Ocean.

They’ll hike along the sand, search for crustations when the tide is out, and gather sea shells to bring home. Dad may even throw a fishing line far out into the surf.

At sunset they’ll build a campfire, roast marshmallows, sing songs, and then snuggle up cozily inside when the night chill hits the camper.

Hard to beat that for a spring break treat. Those “lucky dogs.” I’m jealous.

Click here to see a post on Gregg's blog that shows how he's spending his time at the beach.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

What To Do With “The Bug”?

It happens every year about this time.

I get “the bug”. To go fishing, that is.

Every time I return home from anywhere, I see the boat just waiting to be spruced up for Spring. And, in case you hadn’t noticed, Spring is here.

Trout in nearby lakes are stirring from their winter limbo, and the current blackmouth (chinook salmon who don’t venture out of Puget Sound) season has been gang busters just a few miles away.

However, there is one problem. Time.

What with taxes, business challenges, some writing tasks and increased volunteer church activity, days have become quite full lately. No one is complaining, but it would be nice to be able to deal with “the bug”.

Guess I’ll just have to swat it for now and see if it revives next month.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A Blessed Advantage

Whenever I have ambiguity regarding a theological notion, I have a blessed advantage.

I can talk to my sons.

Both have post-graduate degrees in theology. Additionally, one has the seasoning of almost 14 years in church ministry, with almost eight of them as a pastor. The other, after earning his PhD, has been teaching theology at the university level for five years.

If that’s not a resource pool of religious thought, I don’t know what is.

I have “tapped” this resource pool often in the past 15 years. Gregg and Doug are always gracious and willing to engage their father, even at times with rather elementary or even na├»ve inquiries.

They’ve helped me to formulate a good number of beliefs in which I now have a greater degree of confidence. One thing I’ve always appreciated: they never tell me what I should think; they simply help identify what the options are, based on their vastly superior knowledge base.

One thing has emerged for sure. And someone smarter than me has said it better than me. That is, the more we know, the more we realize we don’t know.

Some of the recent conversations with my sons have included topics such as: a) the distinctions (and mutualities) of salvation and baptism, b) what it means to “present our bodies a living sacrifice” (to God) from Romans 12:1, c) the history and denominational lineages of the Christian church, and d) the recent film on the “discovery” of the supposed tomb of Jesus’ “family”.

In fact, flies have been vying for position on the walls at our recent family dinner discussions. Thankfully, there have only been a few.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Buddy Loves Family

Our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Buddy, has an open invitation to come along whenever we visit either of our sons and their families.

Buddy loves it when he can visit family and receive pampering like our granddaughter Aubrey is giving him in the photo.

Just this past Monday we made a trip to Oregon to celebrate granddaughter Hayley’s 10th birthday. When we arrived there, Buddy literally went crazy with joy, leaping around with happiness, when he finally got to see all three granddaughters and his friend, Jack, a JR Terrier who also lives there with Gregg and Elaine.

Later in the afternoon we’re going to hop the ferry and visit Doug and Jamie in the big city for a dinner get-together at their house. We told Buddy earlier today that he gets to go along once again, and his tail has been in motion all day. He’s already anticipating the special attention he gets there.

When it gets close to the time for us to leave, and he knows he can come with us to one of our kids’ places, he always sits and waits at the top of the stairs. You can read his eyes. “Don’t forget me,” they say, as the tip of his tail signals his happiness.

Yep, Buddy loves family, and there's a good reason why.

Friday, March 09, 2007

“March Madness” Redefined

Most sports fans look forward to the month we’re in because of “March Madness,” the nickname given to college basketball’s national tournaments.

Not me.

One reason is that I was never that much of a basketball player nor have I been much of a fan. Mostly, I think, because I never learned to dribble well with both hands nor to make a good off-handed lay-up – both skills essential to being even an average player.

For me, “March Madness” is gathering information for preparing income taxes. This is best described as the intense, arduous process of checking every nook and cranny in the house for tidbits of information that affect our tax liability.

Piles of paper pieces materialize through the month, sorted by importance and deductibility. Let’s see, how much did we take to Goodwill? Or give to our church? Or to other benevolences? Will there be enough to exceed the percentage reduction?

You know the drill.

What usually makes it “madness” is the knowledge that you did tax-consequential things last year and not being able to find the paperwork. For the years that I was responsible for filing things, we had a lot of “March Madness”. Fortunately, in recent years my wife has taken charge with dramatic improvements.

Which hopefully means that this year’s “March Madness” will have a little less madness.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Hayley Is 10

I can’t believe it’s been 10 years since our middle granddaughter Hayley was born. But it’s true.

My wife and I made a quick trip to Oregon on Monday afternoon for a family birthday celebration Monday night at Pastini’s Italian restaurant. Great choice, Hayley!

We got back home late yesterday in time for my Bible study on Tuesday nights.

Hayley's actual birthday was yesterday, but Monday night worked out better for all concened as a time to party. Pic above shows Hayley with her new i-Pod Shuffle, which was a gift from her mom and dad.

A great time was had by all.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

More On Faith Perspective

I just could be the “slowest” person ever, at times, when it comes to understanding the scriptures.

This morning, for instance, a light suddenly went on for me while I was in our adult education class. As I’ve thought about it through the day, I’m trying to figure out why I didn’t see it before.

Could it be I just (subconsciously) ignored it? Could it be our fresh, mainline Lutheran perspective? Could it be our recent switch to reading the NRSV Bible?

I’m not sure which, if any of these at all, are responsible. But I know the light came on.

From my youth I was taught that, according to Romans 12:1 (KJV), we should “present our bodies (as) a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is our reasonable service.”

For years I struggled with the manner in which this might be accomplished. Does this mean that I am restricted to be a monk? Or a preacher? Or a missionary? Or was it ok to be just a regular lay person? What IS the meaning of this verse?

Sermons I’ve heard on the text haven’t helped.

Well this morning our class (a Lenten series on discipleship habits) was about worship, one such practice. And once again, the Romans 12 text was recited.

But this time Romans 12:1 was quoted from the NRSV: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (bold mine).

Wow. The "pressure" is off. This verse is not focusing on the presenting of our bodies as a sacrifice, it is instead giving us a guide to how we should worship. To me (and to the way I process truth and practice the faith) this is a distinction of significance.

In reality, it may be just a distinction. But whether or not it’s a new faith perspective or a new Biblical translation, today’s small insight will refresh, enhance and enliven my faith journey.

At last, I’m gradually getting free of past encumbrances in the understanding of the scriptures.

Thanks be to God.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Another Pot-Shot At The Christian Faith

As if the falsehood-laced (but decent mystery plot) movie The Da Vinci Code wasn’t enough, we as people of faith now have to consider the elongated claims of yet another show, The Lost Tomb of Jesus.

Could this be a photo of Mary Magdalene's ossuary?

Executive producer James Cameron, the man who stretched a 45-minute or so incident into a boring four-hour melodrama with Titanic, is responsible for this new “documentary”.

In it, he is now testing our intellectual patience with claims that the “lost” tomb of “the family” of Jesus has been found in Jerusalem – supposedly containing the remains of Mary Magdalene, Jesus’ presumed wife, his mother Mary, his earthly father Joseph, and purported offspring.

All this despite the fact that Jesus' family home was in Galilee and that all reliable historians report that Mary the mother of Jesus died in Ephesus.

I’m sure not going to lose a wink of sleep over it, however. From what I’ve read about this film, at best it’s good entertainment. But don’t trust the story insinuations.

The “documentary” airs tomorrow night at 9 on the Discovery Channel on cable TV. To add a hint of contrived legitimacy, a “panel discussion” moderated by Ted Koppel will follow the airing.

If you care, and want a more sane and factual commentary on the “Lost Tomb” topic click here. You’ll discover quite a contrasting perspective from Lutheran theologian/historian Paul L. Maier. In fact, he lists no less than 10 logical reasons why the film's conclusive suggestions cannot be true.

As an aside, Dr. Maier is the son of the original “Lutheran Hour” founder and radio broadcaster, the late Dr. Walter A. Maier, to whom our whole family listened while gathered around the large, console radio on Sunday afternoons after dinner, back when I was a child in Chicago.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Church Dismantling Culture

Let me just say that as a layman I am ill-equipped to discuss this topic. My son Gregg, however, is a pastor who lives in the church/culture world everyday. And he is endeavoring to process the challenging related tensions.

If you're into serious contemplation, theologically and philosophically, about how the church (should) affect our culture and about how our culture may be affecting the church, check out Gregg's post today on his blog. You can click here to read it.

His thoughts best reflect my observances for today, as I could never come up with anything this insightful. But be aware. It could be the beginning of a fascinating journey.

March Brings Snow Shock

At the first stroke past midnight last night, when March officially arrived, it was snowing heavily in our part of the Pacific Northwest.

Not a great herald of Spring.

Did it stick? Pretty much.

Is it white outside? For the most part.

Fortunately for sanity, it’s warming, and the white stuff should all be gone by noon or so. Maybe we should tip our hats to Al Gore.