Monday, June 30, 2008

Wondering About the Wonders of Technology

Did you get my email? someone asks. Uh, no. When did you send it? I reply.

Here's the deal. Several weeks ago, our little office (two computers) got new hardware outfitted with the Vista OS. My co-worker set up the configuration by which all of our files were transferred to our new network. It looked great.

But since then, I've had a few conversations like the one above. I've also noticed that some emails that have made it to my inbox have since disappeared. By using the magic of Google Desktop, I've been able to locate them. But I usually don't want things to start hiding from me. Certainly not emails. Of course, my bigger concern has to do with emails that never arrive at all.

Has anyone out there had this or a similar problem? Got any advice? Suggestions? (Yes, I've called the tech support at my ISP but haven't heard back from them yet).

Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday Potpourri

A Pretty Day in the Texas Panhandle

It's going to get hot in Amarillo this afternoon. But the forecast says it won't quite reach 100 degrees. There are lots of light clouds in the sky, and the air feels like it's got a little moisture. Best of all, it's calm. A beautiful summer day.

Jerome-n-Stone on the Sweets of Hebrew

Every once in a while, I push the study of biblical languages here, especially Hebrew which, compared to Greek, is sort of like The Beatles compared to the Dave Clark Five. Mind you, the DC5 were great. Anyway, for those who need a little extra inspiration, a couple of quotes:

What efforts I spent on that task (i.e., learning Hebrew), what difficulties I had to face, how often I despaired, how often I gave up and then in my eagerness to learn began again … I thank the Lord that from a bitter seed of learning I am now plucking sweet fruit! -- St. Jerome, Epistula 125.12.

. . . a Prussian doctor, a Jew of great learning, came to Lexington, and proposed to teach the Hebrew language in a short time. A class was soon made up of a motley mixture of preachers, lawyers, and others. He taught by lectures; and in a very short time we understood the language so as with ease to read, and translate by the assistance of a Lexicon. This was a desideratum with me, and was of advantage ever after in reading and understanding the Scriptures.

--Barton W. Stone, The Biography of Eld. Barton Warren Stone, p. 69.

Time for a New Motto?

Like the subtitle of a book, the motto or tag line of a church often gives off more accurate information than does the congregational name.

One church I visited years ago carried the tag line: The Bible is Right; Somebody is Wrong. True enough. But what that said to me was, We're not the ones who are wrong, so if you're not one of us, come on in and be corrected!

Another church currently announces the motto, Let Us Think Souls, Not Bodies. I've lived around that mentality long enough to know that it promotes a mindset that says, We're not here to help you; we're just here to get you into heaven when you die, or when Jesus appears, whichever comes first.

Because the bifurcation of body and soul is a lie; because it is not the case that we have bodies but rather that we are bodies (among other things), the anthropology behind this church motto cannot be consistently applied. And who would want to?

Got a good alternative for these two? What's the best church motto you ever heard?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Blogs to Check Out: Latest Adds

I now have four more deserving names in the sidebar under Some Bloggers I Read. Others belong there too; all in good time. In random order, the new ones are:

Adam Gonnerman, who describes himself as a "once-and-future missionary to Brazil, currently working bivocationally in northern New Jersey with Brazilian immigrants. . . . " He goes on to explain that he has ties to both the Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ and the a cappella Churches of Christ. To top off the both-and thing, Adam's blog, Igneous Quill, is written in English, but also includes a bit of Portuguese as well.

Brian Nicklaus, the Blog Prophet. I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I had met Brian while the two of us were at a men's retreat in Connecticut. Nice guy. The fact that he was looking through used books when we met gave him a certain measure of instant credibility.

Paula Harrington say she's a "a Christian wife and mother of five trying to live for Christ, raise my children for Christ and be who He wants me to be." And if that didn't rate, she's also into Vacation Bible School and is Brian's sister.

John Mark Hicks is a former-and-current teacher of mine. Back in the day, I took several of my classes at Harding Graduate School of Religion with Professor Hicks; and he's still teaching me. He epitomizes what the Churches of Christ need from their college faculty: scholars who know God, who know a lot about Scripture and Creation, who know the good-and-not-so-good history of their people, and who teach and promote what is best among the churches.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Christianity in China

A massive wave of Christianity has been sweeping across China in recent years, and the Chinese ruling party, officially atheist, is now struggling to figure out how to control it.

So begins the introduction for a video produced by Frontline/World and The Chicago Tribune, Jesus in China: Is Christianity Transforming China?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Anglican Church and Same-Sex "Marriage"

Countless weddings have taken place there. But this wasn't just another one at St. Bartholomew the Great in London. On May 31st, two male Anglican priests were "married" at St. Bart's in a traditional ceremony conducted by a fellow priest.

And what timing. In three more weeks, many of the world's Anglican bishops--some are refusing to attend--will gather at the University of Kent in Canterbury for the Lambeth Conference, held only once every ten years. They've got a lot to talk about. Their fellowship seems on the verge of becoming two different churches.

Henry Orombi, the Anglican Archbishop of Uganda has called the wedding "blasphemous." An out-spoken critic of creeping liberalism in his communion, he's also called on Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of world-wide Anglicans, to do something decisive.

Tom Wright, the celebrated New Testament scholar and Christian apologist, has spoken of what he understands as biblical condemnation of homosexuality. Now that he's the Bishop of Durham (appointed in 2003) he's one of the highest-ranking leaders in the Anglican communion. One can only wonder how far his influence and persuasive powers will go on this question.

In the meantime, conservative churches in the United States may see a few of their Episcopal neighbors showing up at their worship services. (The Episcopal Church is the name of the American segment of the larger Anglican fellowship). When Gene Robinson, an openly-homosexual priest, was elected Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003, at least two members of nearby Episcopal churches showed up at the Church of Christ where I was then the preacher. I don't think they cared much for our low-church "liturgy." But they cared even less for what they saw as their church's abandonment of the Bible.

Stay tuned.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Oh, Yes! V.B.S.

We just completed a Monday-through-Thursday Vacation Bible School at the San Jacinto Church of Christ in Amarillo, TX. Here are a few photos, courtesy of Fred Cox . . .

Pictured here with their students, Lawanda Moore and Lynn Duncan are true Christians. They're typical of the teachers we have at San Jacinto: kind, thoughtful, Word-focused, organized, and effective.

The opening and closing assemblies included lots and lots of non-stop singing.

Getting to lead the songs at V.B.S. is pure joy.

Vacation Bible School has been a part of my life since before I can remember. I've mentioned this in my posts here and in my comments at other blogs: I think V.B.S. is one of the greatest church traditions ever. When it's done well, V.B.S. is a powerful time of teaching. It generates enthusiasm, promotes goodwill, creates lasting memories and, above all, leads to many Good-News moments.

We plan to extend our V.B.S. through at least the end of summer. All ages are welcome to join us each Wednesday from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. Those in the Amarillo area who are interested in being a part of "Camp Wednesday" can get more information by calling the church office at 372-4682.

Got a V.B.S. story to tell?

Friday, June 13, 2008

From Laugher to Loser, and More!

I couldn't believe what I was watching last night as the L. A. Lakers fumbled a sure win to the Boston Celtics in Game 4 of the NBA finals. Boston's come-back set some sort of record for that sort of thing. Credit has to be given to the Celtics for what they did in the second half of the game. It was nothing short of amazing. Can you imagine the frustration of Kobe Bryant?

I think one reason we love sports so much is because it often mirrors life. Sometimes you think you'll never make it, but with persistent effort you make it (the thrill of victory). Other times you think you have it made, and everything just comes to pieces (yep, the agony of defeat).

- - - - -

It's neither hot nor particularly windy in Amarillo today. (Here, wind speeds under, say, 25 miles per hour qualify as breezy. More than that, but less than a tornado, is called windy or gusty). Today's high is supposed to be 89. So I rode my bike to the Bible Chair in some of the most beautiful weather I've seen here in a while. Yea! Now if we could just get a soaking rain. Still praying for that. . . . .

- - - - -

We're having Vacation Bible School at the San Jacinto Church of Christ next week. I'm leading the opening and closing assemblies. In between, Michele and I will teach the 4th and 5th grade class. I started going to V.B.S. about 45 years ago. Most summers since then, I've attended or worked in at least one. Some years, I helped to conduct as many as three or four. I love V.B.S. I think it's one of the greatest church traditions ever.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Benjamin's Baptism

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
--Romans 6:4

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

ResQ Online

Restoration Quarterly is the name of a 50-year old academic journal. It's written and read mostly by scholars and preachers from Churches of Christ. Every time a new issue shows up in my mailbox, I want to read it cover to cover. Right then. Few other publications are that important to me. Anyway, for a long, long time RQ was available only in print. More recently, some of its content from the past half century has been made available online. Check it out.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Two Weekends in New England

My week and a day in Connecticut went by so fast.

Yesterday was my twelve-hour travel day back to Amarillo. That's not the funnest experience (and, yes, funnest is a word), but it was sweet to see Michele when I got off that last plane.

Quick question: Does Chicago's Midway Airport just have short runways, or what? Landing there always feels like we're coming down on an aircraft carrier.

Anyway, here are just a few of the highlights from my trip, in random order and varying levels of importance:

1. As things turned out, I didn't take the course on "Judaism in the Time of Jesus." Sorry, nothing to report about that. However, if you go to the link for that course, you'll see another link that will take you to the syllabus, which is worth a look for those interested.

I hadn't realized until Monday morning that "Judaism . . ." was being offered as an afternoon class. I would have loved that one. But what I really needed was a morning class. I finally wound up going to a great alternative for me, a class called Reel Presence: Explorations in Liturgy and Film, taught by Dr. Teresa Berger.

Wow, what an interesting teacher. She's a German, Roman Catholic scholar, with two earned doctorates, who specializes in liturgical (worship) studies. As you might have guessed, everyone else in the class came from either Catholic or mainline Protestant backgrounds (Lutheran, Episcopalian, etc.). That's something I can count on at the Divinity School: always meeting up with people who come from places that are quite different from the places I know. That can be an education all by itself.

So, as it turned out, the movie buff in me got to learn a little more about reflecting theologically on the films we tend to watch as mere entertainment. Maybe I'll talk about that sometime. By the way, although most of what we actually watched in class were movie clips, one film we watched all the way through is called Whale Rider. Anyone else seen it? That could be a provocative one for churches, to say the least.

2. While in Connecticut, my kids and I got to visit some of our favorite places to eat, including this gourmet vegetarian place in downtown New Haven called Claire's Corner Copia. We followed that up with ice cream dessert at Ashley's. Woobie Doobie.

3. Over the weekend, Friday and Saturday, my boy and I got to attend the Northeastern States Men's Retreat, held annually at the Kent School up in the northwestern corner of Connecticut.

This year's speaker was J. J. Turner, a long-time leader among Churches of Christ and, yes, John Alan's dad. J. J. spoke about "activating Acts in the 21st century." In addition to presenting so many great reminders, he put his quick sense of humor to good use. It was good for me to hear those lessons, to sing with 250 other Christian men, to introduce my son to that experience, to see again so many church leaders from the Northeast.

Oh, and speaking of bloggers, late Saturday morning, as I worked my way through most of the items at the Kent Public Library book sale, I just happened to meet The Blog Prophet himself, Brian Nicklaus. Very cool.

4. Finally, last Sunday I had the exquisite pleasure of baptizing my son, Benjamin, into Christ. This was something he'd had on his mind for a long time, something we had talked about and prayed about and planned. How sweet. Photos to follow (when I can figure out how to copy them).

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Back in Connecticut

It's late Sunday night, the end of an unusual weekend. Saturday was one of those all-day travel days. From Amarillo to Dallas to Little Rock to Chicago to Hartford. Four flights, two plane changes, twelve hours, and I was back in Connecticut.

This morning, I drove from South Windsor to Rocky Hill, where I picked up Chloe and Benjamin, my two older children. The three of us attended worship at the Ward Street Church of Christ in Wallingford. It was the first time we'd been back in a year or more. It was good to be with the people who were there this morning.

Anytime I step inside that white, picture-postcard church built by German Lutherans nearly a century ago, I open up the book that is my life and turn to one of its most significant chapters, a time in my life with some of the highest highs and all of the lowest lows.

The selfish side of me always wants to be welcomed back to that place as though I were some kind of Christian hero. Good things happened at Ward Street during the more than ten years I preached there. We grew by more than 50 percent, revived Vacation Bible School, ordained elders and deacons for the first time in the church's history, purchased a tract of land on which to build new facilities, had a fairly-successful capital fund-raising campaign. The list goes on.

There's only one problem. Those aren't the only reasons I'm remembered there. You see, Ward Street was the scene of my horrifically-bad divorce. It's the place where, for all of my preaching and teaching about faith, hope, and love, my life and my marriage became a source of doubt, hopelessness, and anger. I was officially divorced on the day after September 11, 2001. (That was one ugly week). Along with the house where I used to live, the Ward Street Church represents my personal ground zero. So visiting there always evokes so much inside of me. I'm not always prepared to handle it well.

After driving around a little, we had lunch in Wallingford and then went to pick up my youngest, Abigail. Then, the four of us came to South Windsor. I'm staying here because of the hospitality of Michele's parents, George and Elaine Caruthers. They're some of the finest people God has anywhere. What a pleasure to be their guest. I drive their car, and my kids and I come and go as we please. It was beautiful this afternoon and we spent a little time just hanging out on their back deck, which is where George took the picture above.

Tomorrow, I'll get up early (for me) and make my way down to New Haven for the first day of class. The course on "Foremothers in Faith" was canceled due, I think, to low enrollment. So I've switched over to what was my first pick, "Judaism in the Time of Jesus." I think it will be a good class. What I'm really looking forward to, though, is spending the afternoons and evenings with my kids, once we all get out of school.