30 July 2005

Please just a few more minutes

...of sleep. Or, San Francisco! Hooray for photjournals!

San Francisco=Scionland

We're going to the Tonga Room, a swank-but-kitschy San Francisco attraction, located in the Fairmont hotel downtown. The dancefloor is built on the deck of an old ship and the band sings from a boat in the middle of a blue lagoon which used to be the hotel's swimming pool.

On our way we pass through the Castro district...

City traffic at night

Flags fly outside the Fairmont Hotel

Charlotte looks like she belongs here.


Just in case...

you're checking back in to see if I've posted anything new recently, the answer is no. No I have not.

25 July 2005

Thank you so much!

To Faith Lutheran Church in Pleasant Hill: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ!

Thank you again for welcoming the opportunity to share the gospel. I am truly blessed to have been a part of worship and fellowship this past weekend. Thank you also for the gifts received thus far! I pray that the Spirit would grow in you as your church flourishes in ministry. I look forward to sharing the state of the Gospel in Taiwan with you.

21 July 2005

Screaming into the Abyss or My First Podcast

A brief introduction: This is an interview of a youth and family minister at the close of two weeks of VBS. Adult beverages were involved. Enjoy, everybody!

this is an audio post - click to play

...and the next thing she says is "Screaming into the Abyss". And then we both realize our time is up! And that's it from 40 Borica, San Francisco!

19 July 2005

Scene 53, in which...

If I haven't said it already, VBS is going on here at Faith Lutheran Church; that's part of the reason I'm helping out answering phones this week. I mention this to make sense of Char's entrance into the office a moment ago:

CHARLOTTE: (crawls under desk and curls up) I just want water and sunscreen.

And, scene.

18 July 2005

Wanted: More Jesus

Recently I've made a concerted effort to keep from ranting when something raises my ire. However, as Solomon reminds us, there's a time and place for everything. Buckle up. Now is that time.

Every generation has it's shortcomings. Arguably, one of my generation's is the tendency to point out the shortcomings of older generations and thus refuse any of their wisdom. One place we see this most contemporarily is in the church. Let's take a poll here. Anyone know or happen to be a young adult who has left the church because they didn't feel the church could handle their struggles or understand their 'idiom", so to speak? Okay, how about this: raise your hand if the following response is familiar:

Q: So, you're like, pretty religious?
A: Well, I would use the term 'spiritual' instead of 'religious'.

I should see all of your hands up. Heck, I've said this before.

What we see in that last comment, whether we like it or not, is a Christian pointing to something other than the cross. In this case, Christians are starting to make a case for themselves in order to appear more marketable and friendly to a world without Jesus. Maybe it started out as a good intention, the fallout here has not been about Christ. It's been about us. We want to resonate with pop culture too! It becomes popular to give up on meeting with a community of believers because we begin believing they aren't meeting all of our needs. In short, we're a generation focused on individual needs and images.

Need a solid example? Take the most recent issue of RELEVANT magazine, wherein the ONLY article mentioning Jesus Christ in any conspicous manner (Ironically titled "O Jesus, Who Art Thou?") lists all the personalities that culture has assigned to Jesus over the years but offers nothing, NOTHING to draw readers nearer to the true heart of Christ. This article might as well be in Time magazine. What's biblical here?

Just a quick glance at the RELEVANT magazine website offers nothing to set it apart from the rest of pop culture, or as RELEVANT publishers might call it, "progressive culture". They're selling t-shirts, they're flashing newsbriefs, they're reviewing releases of the most popular bands. Now, that's fine, that's all fine, unless "they're" a magazine laying claim to offering insight about the Almighty and Eternal God, (and they are) in which case they're just wasting their time marketing God when normal people everywhere need to hear about Jesus' sacrifice and what it means.

Sure, read that article about God; you'll only get a run-down of how we [Christians] fail to uphold His commands. While this is true, what's fundamentally different here from other works-righteousness-based faiths? Nothing. Christ's death and resurrection are nowhere to be found.

Just about anything else; click on the link to our web-store...

Jesus doesn't fit anywhere in this economy. Christ died for us because in the depth of our sin, we can't reach, buy, or win audience with God. Spiritually, we're corpses. Just like a corpse, we can't change that, either. His death and resurrection alone make it possible to reconcile with the Lord. Of course, this leads us all onto a discussion of law and gospel. This is really a life-long discussion, but for a start you may want to check out a frequent ranter's outline of law and gospel here.

AND having...

a great time.

So if I'm going to get used to writing travelogue, you're going to get used to reading it. I'm still in San Francisco. But the drive here affords one the pleasure of passing over the Altamont Pass, littered with windmills. When they're all moving at once, it's breathtaking. When they're not it's like an alternate energy graveyard.

Pictured above: Anne and Caitlin may be closer than they appear

Caitlin's dog Bonnie is a slobbering, energetic ball of mess. With ADD. You can imagine she likes the beach. Pictured is Charlotte, with whom I like to kick beached jellyfish. At the beach.

The next picture is of my personal assistant at work. You might not expect it but he's a bit of a control freak. Once he has an objective in sight, nothing can sway his mind from the task. In fact he can frequently be heard to repeat a "goal word" over and over again. Very task oriented. It's as though he's got something up his rear end...anyway, sometimes the tensions get heated between my personal assistant and Caitlin's. Charlotte often has to mediate, as neither of them have the best communication skills.

14 July 2005

God the Holy Spirit

One of three new stained glass masterpieces--the others being, you guessed it, God the Father and God the Son--paning St. Peter Lutheran Church in Lodi, California. We learned this past Sunday from Rev. Robert Newton that in days when common people did not have the scriptures in their language, windows were used to tell the stories and illuminate Christ's message in their hearts. It's true, no picture in glass could replace his Word, but the messages in the windows remind of of some elemental truths about the Lord's interaction with us.

For one, many times our understanding or experience with Jesus surpasses words, just as we know that he has written eternity in our hearts. Knowledge of the Lord cannot always be written down.

Additionally, we can keep in mind that as much care as was put into making these windows, still more was put into creating each one of us, even those who do not know Jesus. Further, Jesus lights us like the sun lights the window. Without light, neither has meaning. Jesus, who lives in us, reveals himself through us. We can bring the message too.

10 July 2005

This is what this looks like

I'm just so amazed what I can do with my new little soul-stealing machine! Today I took my camera to San Francisco and almost got myself killed taking pictures from the driver's seat. All for you, my faithful readers!

This is what the toll gate at the Bay Bridge looks like.

This is what the toll gate attendant at booth number eight looks like.

This is what the City of Lights being enshrouded by fog at about 6:48 PM, Pacific Standard Time.

This is what I look like after locking my keys in my car, engine still running.

This is what Charlotte's growing-back toenail looks like after having scraped it off on my fireplace about a month ago.

This is what the more distinctive part of Charlotte looks like at Java on Ocean.

Anybody know how they get those pieces of paper between the slices of cake?

09 July 2005

Bells and Whistles

Lookee what we got here, a shot of my bathroom mirror. And what's that in the mirror? That sleek black rectangle? I wish this photograph were capable of communicating just what a tasty little piece of equipment this camera is. I'd like to thank my parents and my godparents for this graduation gift; it'll help me bring you all to Taiwan with me! Or...to my backyard in sunny Lodi, California! That's right; I just couldn't wait for the golden hour for this shot. It's so bright you almost have to put on sunglasses.

Tomorrow I have the pleasure of officially speaking to my entire home congregation. I'm planning to show a DVD I made about Taiwan; specifically it's about me going there. The sound is a little off so it kinda looks like it was dubbed. This is what gives it character. Alright! That should be enough text to make this post look aesthetically pleasing!

06 July 2005

Title Goes Here

One little item of housekeeping: I notice that my hit meter is actually decreasing, so all of you who regretted reading my blog enough to go back in time and not read it, that hurts my feelings.

Actually I attribute the quirk to the Classic Mac platform web browser I use here on the homestead. Now, I would usually use this as an opportunity to write unflattering things about the town I live in, Lodi, California, but I've kind of gotten sick of hearing myself do that. Beside that, God's really given some blessings here and I've been taking my precious time thanking him.

One of these blessings, however, I don't really understand. In fact, things like this have occured my whole life long and I've never quite gotten the hang of them. Was there ever the week of camp where you met a really cool person that you thought you really clicked with and you hang out all week long? Then you promise to write and maybe you do, a couple times, but within the context, you can't really extend the friendship. Or maybe you made a good friend toward the end of high school or college who, had time allowed, could have been a really important person in your life but really just ends up being a "could-have-been".

The could-have-beens haunt me. I don't always know what to do with them when I first meet them, and I marvel at myself when I begin to let them into my life. To bring this discussion into more concrete terms, (some background first) I used to dread coming back to the hometown because it usually meant social confinement as far as people my age were concerned. No one from high school is around anymore. I used to shame at coming back to get stuck in Lodi...again. Only if you live in Lodi as a twenty-something will you know how miraculous it is that I have fallen in with an all-star circle of friends. I know there has been some care in assembling this group, and I know said assembly wasn't achieved by mortals. So, if I'm (we're) here on purpose, what's the point if my plane leaves for Taiwan in forty days?

Recently someone said something about depth versus width of friendships, depth betimes transcending years of "quality time". I can roll with this, definitely. Without wading too deeply into the murk of destiny and its doctrinal applications, though, I want to know what to do with the could-have-beens in order to somehow realize the spiritual potential. Why now, Lord, when I was just getting a handle on keeping in touch with the people I know? Why now, when my chargepack of moral support is full? Am I to learn to rely on these people too?

And let's be real: it's the second time this has happened to me in the last 30 days. Many of my readers were in St. Paul at missionary training; they know. Now we're all apart from one another. What should we do when a meaningful friendship doesn't turn out "best friends forever"?

I only have one idea. Pray with each other. Pray for each other. Be as deep in these peoples' lives as they need. Sometimes we don't get the deeper attention from people who "know us so well". I do not write this to advocate any sort of spiritual fling (...I don't know what I meant by that, you can think about it). Remember that people need us as much as we need people.

Finally--all of this is occurring to me as I type it--as a missionary I suppose I won't have a lifetime to spend with each person I meet, but the Holy Spirit will provide inroads for Jesus' love where appropriate. Maybe this is what's going on here (among other things), in a laboratory-like enviroment. The dry-run, if you will. The Spirit teaching us to get down to brass tacks when it really matters. I could be mistaken but I say this calls a hearty hot-diggity-dog.

Anyone rarin' to hand me the "reason, season, lifetime" line in my comment box can please save it. It's this blogger's opinion that such labels rather confound us further about the nature of our relationships when they don't exactly fit, and upon examination, they never really do. The more I encounter love in mysterious and permutinous shapes, the less I want to christen them. It. And I won't stand by and watch it happen, either.

04 July 2005

Declaration of Dependence

And then there's always that stage, in the life of a blogger, when there's nothing in particular going on that really "relates" to the theme of the blog, but if you don't post, then people give up on you and stop reading your blog. This is the fear I live with daily, but this is mostly because it's summertime, the time when worthless conflicts fly clean under the radar. Or don't exist at all. The only lemons are the ones you've already used to make lemonade and are currently digesting. But I mix my metaphors.

Bloggers have certain tricks up their sleeves to avoid the void: commenting on relevant (or not) articles of news, ranting when something gets under their skin, and (my personal favorite) elaborating on an otherwise mundane story for entertainment's sake. And really, what else do bloggers have? What is a blog?

I say this question stems from a source not altogether unlike the question of our faith, and with it coupled the fear that when we stop knowing what to do with our spiritual lives, reach a lull in posting, if you will, God will stop being interested in us as followers in favor of the more "self-motivated" ones. In training to become a teacher, I learned the push was always to encourage students to become independent learners. This is the kind of thing we prize here in Planet America, not only in children but throughout life; in fact it's what we celebrated all day today.

Independence is a funny thing. Let me tell you some of the acts of independence I exercised today, know-it-all twenty-something that I am. I ate to the point of sickness, just because it was a holiday. I neglected to reapply sunscreen, just because. I've been neglecting my prayer life (gasp) for nigh on a week now, just because my way seemed pretty much aligned with God's way, and I don't have to pray every day...

Something I'm learning as I step out to make a life for myself is that independence doesn't guarantee wisdom; it sends up a smokescreen. Now, because of my independence, I'm sick to my stomach, tender to the touch, and out of touch with the Lord. Some aloe and some time will heal my physical indulgences but I just can't medicate my wickedness. Can't even send up a proper flare without the indwelling of the Spirit, so inextricably bound to Christ as a disciple. This bond to Christ is, then, my only hope for freedom from my foolish, sinful nature.

Now, I know I've not been painting this well, but here's what I'm laying down: I can declare freedom only through utter dependence on Christ. Ka-boom! Fight a war over that one!