Monday, November 30, 2009

12 Scams of Christmas!

On the local radio today I heard a chilling warning about the 12 scams of Christmas.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Step #2...the dog

This has been my tutorial year. I said that today in the pulpit. Officiating at the wedding of two children in one year and now planning for the third in January has been a major learning experience for me. I love seeing my children married and journeying with partners. I love having a son and daughter-in-law. It's kind of fun having another person caring for my child in their own unique new way. I love seeing them so happy!
Isaac and Anna just spent Thanksgiving with us, along with Anna's family's old dog Lilly. Anna and Isaac volunteered to take this nice old dog from her folks as they are getting ready to retire and relocate. So they brought the dog along with them during Thanksgiving. Martha and I have each grown up with dogs and cats and had two wonderful pets with our kids growing up. But we are enjoying "empty nest" these days, and that means empty of animals. We enjoy leaving the house for as long as we want and not worrying about letting the dog out or what sorts of surprises we'll find on the floor when we get back. We had those days and now it's nice having everything the same when we return as we left it.
Well, Isaac and Anna need to be away for a couple of more days and asked if it would be OK if "Lilly" stayed with us. We said "Yes" immediately. She shivered in my arms as they drove off, and then we went for a walk. She's now sleeping (really snoring) beside me as I write. It's really pretty nice. I guess I'll get used to having the dog stay with us for a while before we advance to step #3...grandchildren! Nice Lilly!

Christine Groppe: Nebraska fan at 98!!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Meaning of Evangelical Today

This morning's New York Times has a great article describing a young evangelical woman who is doing something with her faith. She is a poster child for every evangelical church: conservatively raised and educated at Wheaton (too bad it wasn't North Park!) and connected with World Vision resettling refugees. She clearly believes the right doctrines, but wants to put her faith into a practice that makes a difference where the world hurts.
When I read that article I thought of Jon Lemmond and the role of Pastor for Gospel Action. It's attempting the same thing: making connections between faith and action, launching believers into ministry areas where faith touches hurting lives. It's the right direction.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Advent #1 Gabriel to Mary

The text for Sunday is Luke 1:28 "Hail O favored One, the Lord is with you!" The message of angels is never something I really tried to dig into other than the expected announcements of the coming Messiah. But when you take Gabriel's words to Mary and personalize them for her....is it possible to personalize them for you and me? Is that exegetically honest and fair? Are those words meant to travel across time? What remains unique to that divine moment and what's eternal? Is Gabriel still speaking today? This is a fun adventure for me!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Swim

Thoughts on Church Thanksgiving Programs

Last night about 60 of us (+/-) gathered in the gym for dessert, singing and listening to four eloquent testimonies of thanksgiving from four seemingly random friends of MCC. We discussed (almost debated) on staff about when the best time is for a church-wide Thanksgiving service: the Sunday evening before Thanksgiving, when more students from Westmont are around or the night before Thanksgiving when everyone who is in town for the holiday are with their families and friends and that night really does "launch" the holiday out of the church? We opted for the Wednesday night this year. The numbers were lower (60 over about 80 last year) but the mood was rich and joyful. The downside was the compressed work-week for the church staff who were also trying to prepare their own Thanksgivings in their homes.
I like the proximity of the celebration to the holiday. Putting it five days away from the actual day makes it a bit more distant. But setting it up the night before puts a lot of pressure on participants and means those who normally attend the church from Westmont are probably at home with their families.
What works at your church?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How's this for JUMBO?

Silent Choir!?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I helped with a new ap

A graphic designer from our church, Casson Demmon and his computer programming friend Zach approached me a couple weeks ago to give them a tutorial on Advent and provide them with some resources. We spent about an hour together and they worked non-stop to get the above ap approved by Apple. It's called Advent2009 and you can download it for free, but it doesn't start up (at least mine hasn't) until December 1. I received this link to the ap's web site. Check it out.

African Childrens Choir here with energy!

Africa Children's Choir Here Today!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Walking paths in Santa Ynez

Martha and I attended a house-warming party for Kalon and Ruth Kelly who moved out of Santa Barbara on to a 20 acre ranch in Santa Ynez. Lots of wind and lots of view!

Happy Birthday Luke!

I wish we could be together today to celebrate Luke's birthday. But I'm guessing a disc will be involved in whatever he does!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Luke 1: 5-25...an angel!

I confess it. My angelology is kind of thin. I revel in the mysteriousness of God who is both invisible and makes himself known in fires, clouds, and still small voices. I'm ok with the numinous and ethereal. I get the word: dabar....logos. I love the power and elasticity of words, especially spoken, read and written. Words are portable and transferable from one person, one generation to another. I love Jesus of Nazareth, of God taking on flesh and becoming one of us. That's why trips to Israel get richer and richer for me. I imagine him walking the roads and standing by the shore line. I understand one person's touch, voice, suffering and pain. But angels!
I just don't always get angels. They seem to be distracting presences. Where were they before they showed up? What were they doing? Where do they go after their appearance? What are they doing right now? Where do they come from? Where do they go? And what's with their names? Gabriel, Michael?
So much of my reaction to angels comes from the extra-biblical, cultural sentimentality we have associated with them. Cherubs, wings, guardian angels, Christmas tree ornaments and sparkling dusted cards. I recoil against the Baroque frills and filagrees of angels floating around everywhere like wallpaper. Maybe my masculine identity does not related to the over-feminization of angel imagery. So if it were my preference, I wouldn't deal much with angels, much less preach about them.
Yet...they are there in Scripture. And they are especially present in and around the birth of Jesus. So, for the next five weeks each Sunday will be devoted to an angelic appearance and experience.
This week we will explore what really happened to old Zechariah in the Temple when Gabriel showed up.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Anointed One

The text for this Sunday's sermon is Isaiah 61:1-4. The prophet speaks of being "anointed" by the Spirit, as Jesus himself takes this text on to describe his calling in Luke 4. How does this apply to the individual believer and the corporate church? Because of the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, is this out mutual heritage, calling, responsibility?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Half Moon Bay

I had the best time with Isaac and Anna Thursday through Saturday. I saw their new apartment, hung out with Anna, saw 2012 with them both Friday night after a Turkish dinner. Then today they introduced me to Half-Moon Bay. It was cold and overcast with some drizzle; not bad weather for Minnesota boys in November. So we did what we planned to do...we went swimming. I chickened out and used a wet suit while Isaac just dove in! Yikes it was cold and the current was impressive.

Two boys who had too much fun.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Opening Night of 2012 with a full theater of teenagers!

Ever Need to Move Fast?

In Isaac's cube

Oracle Americas Cup boat!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thank You from Zambia!

Remember the M-4 projects that the four churches of Montecito did a couple of years ago twice? We raised funds for, packed and sent first 1,000 and then the next year 2,000 AIDS/HIV care kits to World Vision care providers in Uganda. These kits take care of 7 HIV/AIDS patients with palliative care for about 3 months.
At the M-4 monthly lunch meeting this past Tuesday, Jeff Witten from World Vision gave each one of the churches a delicately wrapped package. Inside were sculptures like the one above, made by Charles Mwanjeleka, a Zambian artist as a way of saying thanks to the M-4 churches from African christians! Pretty cool thank-you!

Eugene Cho: a different kind of battle

Check out this compelling video interview with Eugene Cho, Covenant pastor and founder of "One Day's Wages" and Dave from "Not For Sale" on what they are doing to combat human slavery!

Thank You Veterans!

In our guest bedroom (the one we call the boys' room) is an old oval photo of my dad's dad, E.R. Johnson. It was his discharge photo after WW I. He was a Swedish immigrant who landed with his parents in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (Gladstone). His family was so poor he left school after the 8th grade to work in a barrel stave factory. He enlisted in WW I not having a clue about the nature of the war and the geography of Europe. He was deployed to the trenches of France where he carried bandoliers of machine gun bullets to the gunners through the trenches and mud. He survived numerous gas attacks and shellings. But he loved France and would regale us (his grandchildren) with stories of life after the war in France and the words he picked up.
But when we would ask him to tell us battle stories, he would shudder and tell us in no uncertain terms how awful war was. Which made it all the harder when my dad went off to WW II in the Army. He too was pretty naive about the geopolitics of WW II and the layout of Europe. He was stationed in Berlin when the orders came to go immediately south to a town called Dachau. There he saw first hand the hell of concentration camps and the horrors of Nazism. He told us all later that at that instant, seeing the corpses piled high and the scarecrow like prisoners clinging to the wires, that this was a morally right war against a hideous evil.
But Dad, too, would later shudder about the terrors of fighting and tanks, of foxholes and bombardments.
These are my two heroes I think about today, not unlike those men and women who serve all over the world today, under arms to make peace.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Great thoughts from Brad Boydston

Below is a copied post from Brad Boydston's blog on the whole nature of "frugality" and, by contrast "generosity." As we face the holidays and church budget-making, what do you think?
I've been collecting a few of my thoughts on frugality recently:

1. If you talk a lot about how frugal you are people will assume that you're cheap.

2. If you talk a lot about how frugal you are you are not.

3. Frugality at the expense of others is cheapness.

4. The wise and affluent person who can afford an extravagant lifestyle still practices frugality to free up additional resources for what matters in life.

5. The truly fugal are also outrageously generous.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Monday Question: How was Sunday?

I sat with a friend this morning over coffee. "How did you think Sunday went?" he asked. It took me a long time to answer. I ran through the laundry-list of items that the staff reviews on Tuesday; logistics, light, sound, music, announcements, classes, messes, soloists, typo's, on-time/over-time, A/C, etc. Seldom does the staff comment on the sermon nor do I. I don't think it's off limits, but they give me distance to critique it myself. Finally, after this long pause, I said "OK".
Monday's are the best and worst times to evaluate Sundays. The weekend totally wipes me out (a wedding and reception on Saturday) and a Greece trip reunion feast Sunday night till late. It's all good stuff, but I'm pretty much toast on Mondays. I tried working a Monday a couple weeks ago and I was useless.
As we talked about stuff, he said that when his heart is right with God and he's hungry, it really doesn't matter who preaches or what the music is; it all blesses him. And when he's in a funk, he is critical of Billy Graham himself. So we revised my evaluation to this: it was really good, and it could always get better.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Mocha Club Video

MARTIN: songwriter with a dream: Webisode 4 from Mocha Club on Vimeo.

This is great video/mission work. Take a look and listen to this young man with a dream!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Hope for Dry Bones

Ezekiel 37:1-14

Thoughts on the church gym

Is the church gym good news or a headache? The past three churches I've served all had gyms. They were really multi-purpose rooms that were used for banquets, receptions, graduations, Sunday School classes, concerts, worship sites, and sports (especially basketball and volleyball).
Church buildings should be used and used hard. But to what end? Our leadership is now getting a clearer focus that the aim and purpose of our space is disciple-making (broadly interpreted). When a request comes in for the use of the gym, the entire staff asks the question: how does this help make disciples? The responses contain great creativity from direct disciple-making (a Christian concert) to more indirect (being a good neighbor to dads, hosting an after-the-fire meeting for the community, letting the area sheriffs play basketball away from their stressful jobs). In fact, the staff likes a good, creative use of the space that demonstrates a new way to use that space to further the kingdom of God.
The challenge comes from those who feel entitled to the space: you have a basketball court, I play basketball, therefore if it's empty I should be able to play! In fact some go so far as to demand that they be allowed to play. Does the community outside the church have an entitlement to gym-space because basketball courts are hard to come by?
I'd be interested in how other churches and leaders approach the use of their gym/play space. How do you assess use fees to cover costs and insurance?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Bad-Driving Day!

Who said BBC news was stiff and boring. This came in tonight at the end!

Death Thoughts

The culture surrounding death has changed for me. Maybe it's the move from Minnesota, with the strong Scandanavian, Lutheran, Roman Catholic culture where formal rituals were practiced with somber duty to the more informal, laid-back "warmer" culture of California, where everyone stays young as long as possible and conversations and images of death are avoided. Maybe it's also a culture morph that has more to do with these times than a region of the country. I don't know. What I do know is that dying is different our here than back there. Oh, the dead are just as dead. It's just that we go about it differently.
As a pastor, one of the chief responsibilities is to identify with and understand the culture in which you serve. There was a cultural difference between rural Indiana and industrial Muskegon and large city, high-tech Minneapolis. But all were clustered in the same midwestern environment. I'm far from done enjoying examining the way life works here in California. But an article by Thomas G. Long in last Sunday's New York Times (another culture altogether!) reflected on the way we bury our dead and the way we care for our living. Take a look.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Harvest Moon over Santa Barbara

Martha saw it as we were driving home from some errands. That large moon just hangs over our city. Pretty sweet!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Mocha Club Adventure

Here's what Charlie Beck is off doing...today!

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