Monday, June 29, 2009

Getty Villa Malibu

In spite of horrendous traffic a few brave souls joined us for an
adventure at the Getty. We looked at artifacts from AD 40-120 to
explore what was the stuff in Paul's world.

Why Macs Rule: Eugene Cho

MacBook New Feature from COREANOMAC on Vimeo.

My friend Eugene Cho recently posted this video in a confessional tone, admitting he made a mistake staying with a PC over Mac. It's in French, but it will make sense.

New Liturgical Day: Gun Sunday

Nothing catches my eye more when reading the news Monday morning after a full Sunday than a new idea how to boost attendance and add a difference twist to Sunday worship: Gun Sunday! A Kentucky Assembly of God pastor thought this would be a good focus for a service, though he did not call it a worship service. Huh?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Ordination Service live-streaming

From our laundry room Martha and I watched with joy the live
ordination of Lisa Holmlund and our former confirmand from Salem
Andrew Stonina. How sweet!!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Age: a matter of the mind

I went swimming again this afternoon, but this time with my 86 year old father-in-law. I'm especially appreciative of his presence after losing my dad this past spring. John insisted on taking a dip in the ocean and swimming out a ways. On the way in you can see the wave he caught. Pretty good!

Facts to speak to a Trend

A good friend gave me Wayne Jacobsen's 2006 book "So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore" this summer. It's a quick narrative read. The main character is a burned out staff pastor of a non-denominational community church. The staff cowers under the mercurial senior pastor and our character leaves, disillusioned with church as building, box, organization, meeting place and program. Through a series of encounters with a mysterious character, our character discovers that knowing and loving Jesus does not require the traditional church and all of its organization. It's pretty compelling argument, leaving me to wonder if I, a well-paid senior pastor, am part of the problem or part of the solution.
It's all the more challenging for me now here where a number of good friends and active believers will not join a local church but instead work among believers in many churches. I think there is a need for a reworked ecclessiology for these days and this generation.
Then I read Evangelical Covenant Church President Gary Walter's annual report and was rocked by some facts that are realities in this little denomination. Look below:
The Covenant has grown 53 percent in the last 10 years
The number of all ethnic and multiethnic congregations has grown from 81 to 186 in between 1996 and 2008
Nearly 24 percent of all Covenant congregations are multiethnic
Sixty-nine churches are in process of being planted
The Covenant is planting about 20 churches every year – an average of one every two to three weeks
Forty-six churches have average attendance of more than 600 people
Swedish Covenant Hospital, Emanuel Medical Center, and Covenant Retirement Communities provided $33 million in free care
Covenant World Relief was engaged in 31 projects with the poorest of the world’s poor
Break the Chains, the human trafficking initiative, begun in the Department of Women Ministries, has raised more than $350,000 to date
Representatives of 330 churches benefitted from seminars given by various departments in 2008
National Covenant Properties loaned $46.3 million to 71 churches in 2008
Why are these facts important? Because they come out of a community of churches that take discipleship on the local level seriously.
The Covenant has grown 53 percent in the last 10 years
The number of all ethnic and multiethnic congregations has grown from 81 to 186 in between 1996 and 2008
Nearly 24 percent of all Covenant congregations are multiethnic
Sixty-nine churches are in process of being planted
The Covenant is planting about 20 churches every year – an average of one every two to three weeks
Forty-six churches have average attendance of more than 600 people
Swedish Covenant Hospital, Emanuel Medical Center, and Covenant Retirement Communities provided $33 million in free care
Covenant World Relief was engaged in 31 projects with the poorest of the world’s poor
Break the Chains, the human trafficking initiative, begun in the Department of Women Ministries, has raised more than $350,000 to date
Representatives of 330 churches benefitted from seminars given by various departments in 2008
National Covenant Properties loaned $46.3 million to 71 churches in 2008
Why are these facts important? Because these facts are fruits from a denomination composed of local churches that take discipleship on a local church level,person-by-person, seriously.
“Are we developing disciples of such depth and radical obedience that we are able to engage the world, and address the profound brokenness we see around us? Is our interior life of faith sufficient to sustain our mission?" asked Gary Walter.
It would be great fun to have Wayne Jacobsen speak sometime soon to a gathering of Covenant pastors (maybe the Midwinter?) and talk about the trends and the facts.

Boomers + Gen "Y"

I knew there was something funny out there. I had so much more fun with the young, recently graduated college students than I did with folks who were more my age, parents of confirmands and high schoolers. I attributed both the cohesion and friction to personalities. One guy just did not trust anything I said and dismissed me with a "whatever!" while another young guy came into my office and said "I completely don't understand why you wear robes and stuff, but I am so loyal to where you are going, I'll do whatever it takes."
Now a study was just published in the most recent Harvard Business Review titled How Gen Y & Boomers will reshape your agenda by Hewlett, Sherbin and Sumberg. It studied 3,782 college graduates in 2008 and then re-surveyed them again in 2009 and found four major similarities:
1. a desire to contribute to society through their labor
2. seek flexible work arrangements
3. value social connections at work and loyalty to a company
4. prize other rewards of employment over monetary compensation
It also employed a new acronym: KIPPERS (Kids In Parents' Pockets Eroding Retirement Savings). They found that Boomers who contribute to their adult children do so at the average amount of $471 in direct relief!!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Tweedledee & Tweedledum

Tim Burton's new movie on "Alice in Wonderland" Scheduled for release in March 2010 looks like it will have some great imagery! Know any guys like these?

Habitat for Humanity's Cool New Venture

It began with an innocuous invitation from a church member involved with Habitat for Humanity. "Have you seen our new ReStore operation out in Goleta?" he asked. I said "no", and we made an appointment to go out to a warehouse near the airport and see this new thing

It's actually not new. Habitat for Humanity now operates almost 500 of these retail stores that recycle building material at deeply discounted prices. It works like this: You are remodeling a room and putting in a bathroom. The doors and windows in the old room are good, but need to come out. You call ReStore and offer them the old doors, windows and cabinets. They come out with a truck, and pick up the gently used items (no old junk) and they take them to the warehouse. At the warehouse they are priced using the internet to find the approximate value....then they discount it for quick sale.

I'm adding a bathroom and need a sink and toilet. So I drive out to the ReStore (not just contractors) and I look at their inventory and find the sink and toilet I want. I buy them very reasonably. But I'm not sure how to do the plumbing. The ReStore also offers regular classes in how to set a door or window, install cabinets and simple plumbing on Saturdays.
The manager told me the number of tons (that I've forgotten now) that they divert from landfills with perfectly good material. What profits these stores make go right into operating Habitat for Humanity projects locally or regionally. What a great idea!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Journeys of Paul Trip: 9 out of 25 needed

2009 might not be the best year to plan a trip to Greece to follow the journeys of Paul as he planted and nurtured churches in the Roman empire. So far, 9 of the necessary 25 passengers have registered for the trip. If you are at all interested in joining this group who will leave the USA on October 1 for a 10 day trip that will change the way you red your Bible, look at the Educational Opportunities web site for details and instructions how to sign up for the trip. The deadline is July 1 for Educational Opportunities to purchase the tickets in bulk. If you have any questions, contact me via email at donnjohnson@mac.com.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Summer Treat: no evening meetings

I have a great leadership team! When I went through my performance review in the Spring, one question that came up was how I was going to care for myself given the wacky year this has been in our family (2 deaths and 2 weddings) and in our community (2 evacuating fires). I quickly responded that I would like to have a summer off of evening meetings. They quickly responded: DO IT. So I have. Since Memorial Day, I have had only 2 evening meetings (a Church Council meeting and and Adult Sunday School meeting tonight).
Why is this a big deal? When we were in France, a common question my French friends ask is this: "Is it really true you have dinner and then go back to work? Why?" When I try to discuss our culture of evening meetings, they just roll their eyes. For them, the day ends at dinner, where family and friends gather for a long, slow meal, full of talk and laughter and maybe a walk and game, even singing together (among Christians). I found that my times in France refreshed me more for the evenings at home than any other single thing.
It's probably not possible during the school year, where working folks do not have free time during the day (except breakfasts and lunches) for meetings. Evenings are the time for Confirmation, Councils, Personnel and Finance meetings. But ah, during the summer, it is really nice to have this respite. More churches ought to try a summer sabbath from evening meetings and see what would happen to fellowship, fun and great eating!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Memory and Age

Martha's dad, John Ensign is with us for about a week. John is a recent widower of 87 years old, voracious reader (he reads the NYT's as a full-contact sport. If I don't get to it first I find it in dismembered pieces in other rooms), and an intriguing conversationalist. He is an unapologetic liberal of the old school, studying with Neibuhr and Tillich, and personally acquainted with Bonhoeffer. He's a southern gentleman who travels in full suit and tie, yet he fought the KKK to integrate Christian camps, paying the price with a burning cross in the front yard.
Tonight we went for an after-dinner walk, talking about a wide range of things. On the way home, we talked about memorization and how hard it is to get kids to memorize anything. John then said he had to memorize 500 lines of Shakespeare before he could graduate from high school. No way! 500 lines? I pursued him; which play? "MacBeth" he said, and launched into a soliloquy of Shakespeare planted deep into his memory. I was transfixed by his eloquence and power of memory.
I guess it's not too much to ask for the books of the Bible from 7th and 8th graders!

What holds marriage together

The text for today, Fathers' Day, is Matthew 5:27-32, where Jesus talks about adultery, marriage and divorce...yikes! But in the context of the Sermon on the Mount, I can't help but think he is point us to what it means to be "blessed" in a a broken world. He calls us back to covenant commitment and his profound forgiveness of broken ones (John 4...woman at the well and John 8...woman caught in adulter). In both cases, he brings a quality of forgiveness and restoration to bear that is unheard of.
I am well aware as I get ready to preach that defense walls are high when it comes to marriage, divorce and adultery. It's epidemic in our culture and in our churches. May the 3-strand cord speak of the Father's love that interweaves a couples' commitment to each other, giving them a greater tensile strength than there 2-stranded lives can provide.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Density in some ponds is so great turtles must sun themselves 2-high!
Something must be done!

San Juan Capistrano

Yesterday Martha and I visited the historic mission of San Juan Capistrano for the first time. What a great site, with reconstructed buildings and a beautiful garden. Some of the original and historic bells are still there along with the outline of the original mission, abandoned for a long time, rebuilt, destroyed by an earthquake and now rebuilt again.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Suicide is (not) painless

I loved MASH. The movie came out when I was in high school and I loved its dark humor and great sound-track. In fact, for many years "Suicide Is Painless" was one of my favorite "oldies." But suicide is painless for only one person; the one killing himself/herself. Today was the one year anniversary of one of the toughest suicides in my life; a friend in the church who took his life last year while we were in France. His death has been like a dull toothache in my heart for a year...and I was not that close, not as close as his family and long-time friends.
Today I began the day with a close friend of his (and mine) for a long and vigorous walk, reflecting on what his suicide has done in our lives this year. It's made me care more seriously about discipleship and less about my list and my things. It's made me look hard at what we do in the church and whether our impact will keep people alive or just busy and happy. I'm kind of done with busyness and happiness (I still have lots of fun) and am more concerned with getting the life saving message of Jesus anchored in hearts and lives to keep them alive.
Tonight I closed the day with a beach walk and bumped into another long-time friend whose life was rocked by the suicide. We sat and watched the wind blow and sun set...and had no answers, but a lot of pain still. Nope...it's not painless by a long shot.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Martha gets recruited for Lakers!!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Father O'Mahoney's retirement

Season of Camping

The parking lot was buzzing with students and parents, volunteer leaders and a nurse. Jr and Sr High students are heading off to Hume Lake Camp for a week together. Some of the students grew up here, others are new in the last year and a couple were here for the first time with friends. It's amazing how the very act of traveling together can cement new friendships and open hearts to God's love.
That's one of the things I love about church in the summer; it's a whole different pattern and routine. Instead of the regularity of meetings and gatherings, there is lots of one-on-one time and then group events like camps and retreats and, later this summer CHIC. It's an easier time for new people to connect in as opposed to entering into some long-standing established group. But it's also expensive; taking a whole week away. Bless these camps around the country and the leaders who get it and care!

Light in the Oaks

Sparkling Morning Light

Shortly after taking this picture I watched two humming birds fly among the blooms that surround the fountain. It's amazing to watch and hear humming birds buzz between flowers with their long beaks. They stop in the air, their wings buzzing furiously. and they slowly extract nectar from flowers. When done, they fly backwards out of the flower and dart to the next sight. It's both relaxing and furiously fast.
But this morning, as I watched, one humming bird flew up to the top of the fountain where the water comes out. He (or she) parked on the edge of the hole and stopped flying. Then he dipped his head into the flow of water and shook it, much like I shake my head coming out of the ocean. He did this several times, spraying water all over his body (and no doubt drinking at the same time). Then after no much longer than a minute, his wings began buzzing and off he (or she) shot. It was as if I saw a model for sabbath rest.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Beach picnic

Friday, June 12, 2009

Jesus on Anger: Matthew 5:21-26

This has been a rotten week for me. In preparing for worship this Sunday, I have spent way too much time in Matthew 5:21-26 and too much time being forced to look at anger....my anger. I'd really rather focus on and comment about your anger or about anger somewhere else in someone else's life.
The problem in this text is the 2nd person singular. It's not about a group, but about a person; about me. The altarpiece imagery is illustrating what Jesus tells us to do. If on the way to offer our sacrifices we realize a brother or sister has anger toward us (note this is not about me dumping my anger toward anyone else so I can get it off my chest) we need to leave our sacrifice, get ourselves reconciles (2nd person singular aorist passive!!!) and then go back to worship.

Is Jesus really telling us that our sacrifices and worship are ineffective so long as we allow anger to dwell between us? Is that possibly the reason many believers have such poor prayer lives and boring worship experiences? They just don't want to let go of their anger? What would happen in my life, in my marriage, in our staff, in our congregation if we would choose NOT to let anger reign and run rampant? It would be sweet! Dump the anger on the floor!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

YouTube Authority

An article in today's New York Times features a new trend in child-birth education: youtube videos of live births! The article began with a curious assumption: we all go to youtube to learn how to fix a computer problem, install a window or test a new product. As I read that I realized what a new authority youtube has become in our culture. It is the visual reference point for any new thing: Susan Boyle, Steven Colbert, breaking news, events we want to see (extreme sports to gourmet cooking). We don't read, we watch. We watch clips, brief ones of what we want. We don't background but just the immediate facts in question. That's why Wikipedia is so attractive, because it takes so little work and is filled with hyper-links.
Question: How does the church (pastors) champion the authority of the Word in a Youtube environment?

Smart-Phone Hygiene

An article I recently read talked about a woman face-booking friends while she was riding in the car with her husband. Ooops! Something's wrong with this picture. I admit that I have not been the best model of smart-phone hygiene, but I'm learning. It would be fun to develop a list of do's and dont's regarding smart-phone hygiene. Why? Because with all the attractive apps, it's way to easy to instantly check the stock-market, weather, news, sports, facebook, twitter, tide charts, currency rates, or the relative level of the table you are sitting at.
So here is when not to use a smart-phone:
1. In the bedroom with spouse (still awake)
2. During a date-night at the movie (or restaurant)
3. Any time during a family meal
4. At children's recital, concerts or plays
5. During a board or committee meeting (especially if you are chairing it)
6. In class during a long lecture
7. During a long pastoral prayer
8. On a walk with spouse (or boy/girl friend)
9. In the car (especially when driving)

When it's OK:
1. While the other person is shopping for shoes (women) or tools (men)
2. Airports
3. Alone
4. Any waiting room
5. Before anyone else is awake
6. After everyone else is asleep
7. When you are with anyone under 20 (excluding elementary children)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Interested in Greece?

This is a blatant announcement and advertisement for anyone interested to join a group from Montecito Covenant as we travel to Greece Oct 1-10, 2009 to trace the journeys of Paul. The group that leads the trip is Educational Opportunities and you find out more about this specific trip here. Right now we have only one person signed up to go. That might be the economy, family schedules, or lack of leadership. EO told me that we need a threshold of 25 travelers to make a trip happen. So, if you are interested in such a trip, let me or EO know soon.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Simplicity and Contentment

I love sitting on the couch with the computer connected to wi-fi and writing blogs about things that fumble around in my head. Only we had a power-outage due to construction after the Jesusita fire and the wi-fi was disconnected. This was last Thursday. I called both Cox Communication to get the cable modem back up (talking with a computer voice for 45 minutes) then another half-hour with an Apple tech guy from Canada who got the Airport eExtreme (pictured above) back up and running. But it went out again Saturday morning. I tried re-doing it through all the internal prompts and screen instructions for a couple hours...no luck!
Monday I took the Airport Extreme in to an authorized Apple repair shop. Sure enough, it was broken and two years old and out of warranty. But my laptop has AppleCare so they told me to go to the Apple Store in Santa Barbara to see if my AppleCare would not get me a new Airport Extreme. Long lines because of the new iPhone on sale. But they quickly told me that they would not replace the old equipment. So I bought a new one for almost $200 with the assurance it was plug-n-play.
I went home and followed the instructions from the cd in my laptop....nothing. It would not work! I called our tech guy from church to come by. An hour later...no luck. I had to go for a walk. I felt way too stupid.
Late in the afternoon I called AppleCare and a calm guy (again from Canada) talked me through a whole series of maneuvers to rest the modem and manually restart the wi-fi box. This time it all worked. But I still feel technologically stupid and in awe of people like my sons who routinely fix these sorts of problems and worse for friends and, for Isaac, a huge corporation.
It made me think about simpler days with a thermos of coffee, some books and a pad of paper!

Friday, June 05, 2009

Trinity Sunday: Righteousness and Jesus

"Promise me you won't tell Dad?" I would ask plaintively to my mom when I did something wrong. Why? Because she was the "softy" in the family. If we could get Mom to advocate for us, whatever punishment would be softened. As a senior pastor for many years, I have seen the same thing in the church and among the staff. Members approach different staff persons for different things, sometimes getting access to me over a previous decision. Psychologists call it "triangulation" pitting one side against another on behalf of a third party.
The Trinity will not be triangulated. Jesus is not the good guy taking the heat for us from the angry and unapproachable father. The Holy Spirit is not the freewheeling force that lets us do whatever we want to make us feel good. They work together to accomplish one thing...righteousness.
The text for Sunday (not assigned, but part of our summer series) is Matthew 5:17-20 where Jesus answers his accusers' complain that he is "abolishing the Law" by his behavior. They see Jesus as acting contrary to the righteous character of God from the Law and the Prophets. Jesus answers them that he is not annulling the Law, but instead, fulfilling it (a favorite word of Matthew). Jesus becomes, on the Mount of Beatitudes, the "new Moses" for God's people, freshly interpreting the righteous demands of the Law.
The parallels for us today is that while we do not have Pharisees and Scribes who orally interpret the Law into a "Mishnah." We do have our own types of "mishnahs" that filter our behavior and views on everything from illegal/undocumented aliens to environmental issues to health care to abortion. We consistently line up with those who support and validate our views and don't listen to those who see life with a different lens. The question is this: does my lens line up with Jesus' lens? It's the only lens that really matters.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Choral Hunger: "Coro Montenero"

There is something about a choir that my heart/ears still ache for. I love what is happening musically at church these days. The energy and excitement, the new sounds to old hymns, the young people (and some not-so-young people) are sharing their gifts musically. I get it and love it. I am learning to worship in new and spontaneous ways, not driven by notes on a page, but words on a screen. I often make up my own harmonies as we sing through a familiar song. It is freeing and liberating.
But tonight at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the "Coro Montenero" from the Piedmont area of Italy gave a concert. It was an all male choir made up of Italian Mountaineers, the "Associazone Nazionale Alpini- Alessandria" who sang. The purpose of their tour was to raise funds to help the region in Italy destroyed by the earthquake L'Aquila.
But if you listen below to their acapella sound, it is glorious. There is something about good choral music that touches a part of my soul that nothing else does. It's the disciplined sound of voices, not competing, but perfectly blending together, enunciating words perfectly and soaring high and rumbling low. It was the glory of solid bass voices and the lyric heights of the tenors, and the solid middle voices of the baritones. All the way home I kept saying "Ah, that was good for my soul." I am grateful for the new sounds, electric sounds, acoustic sounds...and then the sounds of choirs.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

iPhone for All

Yesterday I bought Martha an iPhone. Not a big deal in itself, but a reflection of our family values and the culture of Apple. Martha's old phone went kaput. So I went to the AT&T store to find an upgrade for her that had a qwerty keyboard for texting but "was not complicated" in her terms. She is no techy, so would balk at anything complicated. Isaac assisted me by phone as we examined all the options on the wall. "Wouldn't you just like to buy her an iPhone?" the salesman kept asking? No, she did not want a "fancy" iPhone like ours, just a simple phone that worked. Well, I got one and took it home. It had a split body that turned into a keyboard and a touch screen, but it was SO CONFUSING. It was not as simple as the iPhone. The more I worked, the more confused I became. I worked to try to figure out the phone for 3 hours!
Martha needed an iPhone. It would work just the same as all the kids' phones (a big plus when I get in trouble) and I know how to use it and IT IS SIMPLE! So it looks like our family is hooked!

Monday, June 01, 2009

The Importance of Sacred Space

It sounds like an old record I know. But space matters. Where one worships makes a difference. Our surroundings impact our hearts because we are incarnational beings. Stuff counts. On the Christianity Today website there is a fascinating article on Holy Ground that reinforces my study and writing since 2000 that sacred space does have an impact on the hearts and lives of worshipers of all ages.
I guess that's one of the reasons why I am having so much fun at MCC; this church allows and encourages me to use the whole sanctuary space to help with worshiping God. Sunday we spilled 50 pounds of rock-salt from the altar onto the floor, reinforcing the call to be the salt of the earth. But the context was on a chancel with an apse capped with an evocative stained glass window with the Dove of the Holy Spirit descending on Pentecost.
May we who are entrusted with thoughtful architecture remain good stewards of the Holy Ground.

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