31 December, 2005

The American Express Game

Here we go. I have always been nervous about the blog games, but I'll give one a chance.

A post by Kansas Bob prompted this. I saw these adds in Tennis magazine, and frankly thought they were pretty cool. I'm not creative enough to come up with the idea myself, but I'll go with it.

My childhood ambition ... Middle linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers. No other position, no other team would do.
My fondest memory ... The day my mother in the Lord sent me home with my first stack of books.
My soundtrack ... Anything I can sing from memory. Right now I'm working on Redemption Songs by Jars of Clay.
My retreat ... Alone on a tennis court, nothing but me and the backboard, hitting that stupid little ball as hard as I can. I find winter a little crazy-making.
My wildest dream ... To know, love, and fellowship with every Christian who lives within a half mile of me.
My proudest moment ... Saying, "No" in 1997.
My biggest challenge ... Ummmm. In case you didn't notice, this is about the most social thing I've ever done in my life.
My alarm clock ... My (company provided) BlackBerry PDA. It's also my cell phone, email fix, prayer journal, blog idea log, ....
My perfect day ... 4 churches get together and share the best of 2006 with each other. I just want to be a part of it.
My first job ... Sandwich maker at Rax. Loved every second of it. 14 hour days, 5 days a week. It was a blast.
My indulgence ... Right now, it's my new Tilley winter hat. As soon as I overcome my guilt, though, I am going to buy a tennis ball machine. I love hitting the backboard, but a machine! Ooohhh!
My last purchase ... Pizza for the kids for New Years
My favorite movie ... Braveheart, but I just finished Serenity with the kids, and DOGGONE! What a flick! I may have a new favorite. Nah. But, CLOSE!
My inspiration ... Trouble. I love trouble.
My life ... Work
My card ... The Jack (of all trades, but master of none)

30 December, 2005

Church or church?

Alan, over at the Thinklings has posted on George Barna's book, Revolution. I have not read Revolution, but I was stirred by one of Alan's questions in the comments to the post.

Do you have some idea why you don’t attend church? What is it?

I am now attending a church, but I have lived without attending any church for years at a stretch - intentionally.


The body of Christ is the most beautiful thing on earth. The people with whom I fellowship now are wonderful. Scriptural teaching is edifying. The Lord's day might even be an implied day of worship in the New Testament. None of those things are why I attend a steeple church.

I attend because I love the Lord and they do too. I wish there were somewhere a little more natural to be with His people, but I'll take what I can get.

My top 10 reasons that I did not attend a steeple church:
  • 10) The liturgy is not listed in Romans
  • 9) Driving from all over the city and racing back home again after the meeting is not praised in Corinthians
  • 8) Meeting exclusively with people with whom you agree is not found in Phillipians
  • 7) An emphasis on right belief over faith and love is not found in Thessalonians
  • 6) The thought that every single week, week in and week out, come flood, fire or storm, the Holy Spirit will always inspire the same man to bring exactly 45 minutes of wisdom is not found in Ephesians
  • 5) Hoping that the love of the saints for each other can be most perfectly expressed while looking at the back of each other's heads is not found in James
  • 4) The holy priesthood offering up the sacrifice of sitting quietly and listening is not found in 1 Peter
  • 3) "Feasts of charity" consisting of a wafer and a thimble of grape juice are not found in Jude or 1 Corithians
  • 2) The main thing one brother knows about another being his attendance record is not found in Galations

    And finally, the number 1 reason I spent so much time outside of "the church," and just may again someday....
  • 1) The thought that in a congregation there is only one person who has anything of value to share with the entire church is explicitly contradicted all over the New Testament.

Yeah, I know why I didn't attend a church for so long.

I thank the Lord that this little body of believers has accepted me. Getting to know them is wonderful, and I am happy to be gathering with them every week. Couldn't we just try something a little more scriptural, though?

29 December, 2005

Trust a Theologian?!

I trust 'em about as far as I can follow them.


Because over-engineering is still the #1 mistake of smart people.

I was 25, and still a wet-behind the ears mechanic when the new rig rolled in. We were a Caterpillar truck engine shop, and this Freighty had the new 3176 model in it. None of us had ever seen one. (I mean none of the real mechanics had ever seen one. I had barely seen a 3208, and they had been around for decades.) It was in for its initial service, and still in pristine condition. The yellow paint still smelled like acetone.

Pete got the honors. He removed the air ducting, and popped the valve covers. I know this happened because the silence that fell over the shop distracted even me. Not an air wrench was humming.

Papa, Snuffy, Dave, and Bill were all standing on leaf springs and looking down into the new wonder of the world.

I wandered on over.

Their assorted cheap cigars were bouncing up and down as they made meaningful grunting noises that I was still too ignorant to understand. Papa got down first muttering something about pushrods. Snuffy and Bill quickly agreed. Pete added a comment about the cast iron head and an aluminum block spacer. Snuffy wondered whether they would be able to keep oil the in the block from coming out under the spacer.

In 30 seconds 5 old men who wouldn't know a heat expansion coefficient from a differential equation had just condemned the work of some of the best engineers in the world. This was not some third world operation here. Caterpillar was the best, and they had put millions into designing and building this engine.

I did not have any clue what to think.

I was just learning to respect these men, but I knew what an engineer was. "Anyone can build a bridge that will carry anything. An engineer will do it with the minimum of materials and tell you when it will wear out." The best minds Caterpillar could hire had built an engine that produced the right amount of horsepower for fleet trucking, with a minimum of materials and weight.

I was inclined to trust the engineers, but the men leaning over that engine were no slouches.

I just kept my mouth shut. There would be time enough for gloating or learning after I knew who was right.

Those old men had the engineers' lunch.

For the next 5 years, we ran overtime shifts:
  1. Replacing aluminum spacers after a valve pushrod had fallen down between the cam and spacer and been shoved out the side of the engine.
  2. Replacing head gaskets with new, upgraded versions after the aluminum and cast iron walked the old one out with their differing heat expansion coefficients.
  3. Replacing the spacer to block gasket with upgraded versions, because the block was cast iron, too.

There's nothing divine about a theologian, no more so than those Caterpillar engineers. I don't care whether you're John Calvin or Jacobus Arminius, Augustine or Pelagius. If you roll out some over-engineered, too intelligent solution to a problem I didn't know I had, you're going to have a hard time keeping me for an audience.

All they had were 1's and 0's

Joel Spolsky has got to be one of the best writers on programming on the Internet. I would rank him up there with Steve McConnell.

He goes on a rant today on how Java is being used to dumb down the computer science degree. There's some really good stuff in this article, like griping about recruiters who use "grep" to evaluate resumes, and how Google has taken the lead in all things mental because of their straight-up engineering skills.

The very fact that Google invented MapReduce, and Microsoft didn't, says something about why Microsoft is still playing catch up trying to get basic search features to work, while Google has moved on to the next problem: building Skynet^H^H^H^H^H^H the world's largest massively parallel supercomputer. I don't think Microsoft completely understands just how far behind they are on that wave.

Great stuff.

27 December, 2005

... assembling ...

Hebrews commands that we forsake not assembling ourselves together. Another day I will, no doubt, post on the many things assembling means. Today, I want to talk about what one meeting of a church could look like. Some of this is imagined, but not as much as you might guess. I lived it for 10 years, and I know it works.

I miss it so bad I just have to write about it a bit.

  • You might plan a meeting for Feb 11th, today being Dec 28.
    That gives you 5 weeks to get ready for it. The theme of the meeting might be God's romance with His church, since Feb 11 is almost Feb 14.
  • One couple is chosen to be Masters of Ceremonies (MCs). They will not "do" anything during the Feb 11 meeting, but they will make sure everyone knows when, where, how, etc. for the next 5 weeks. They will also set the order of worship for that meeting.
  • Break the church up into 4 groups.
    Grouping everyone northwest, northeast, southwest, and southeast of some central intersection, for example, might be convenient.
  • Sunday, Jan 1st, one of the elders preaches a rousing sermon on Eph 5:31,32.
    Sure, there might be a pastor to do that. That's cool. The point is that everyone should have a central passage of scripture on which to focus for the next 5 weeks.
  • Each group goes away and plans a presentation for Feb 11.
    This is the heart of the next 5 weeks. What they are doing will be clear later.
  • Weekly, the church gathers. There are several things that can be done between Jan 1 and Feb 11, but let's pretend that we are not worried about those. Let's just say that someone preaches a sermon every week, and everyone is edified. Let's also assume that the Wednesday night services have been given completely over to each of the groups to prepare for Feb 11.
  • Feb 11 arrives.
  • Everyone has received a flier from the MCs. They know to be at the church building at 6:00, and to come hungry.
  • The MCs meet each member in the foyer, and once there are a few people there, they start them singing. Nothing dramatic, just slow, centering songs that everyone knows.
  • At 6:00, the MCs turn the meeting over to the Northwest group. The Northwest group takes everyone down to a large classroom, but not the sanctuary. The Northwest group spent their 5 weeks writing a song about the Son's love for His bride, given by the Father. An introduction to the song is given, and a couple of their members sing it through once. Handouts are then given to everyone, and everyone sings it through a couple times.
  • It's about 6:30 when the MCs hand the meeting over to the Southwest group for dinner. The singing was intentionally planned by the MCs to precede the meal, because who wants to sing on a full belly.
  • The Southwest group takes everyone into the dining room. They have set up a meal filled with symbolic foods. They open the meal with a special prayer, and at each course they explain the significance of the foods.
  • A little before 8:00, the meal is over, and the MCs hand the meeting to the Northeast group. (The dishes will be cleaned by the Southwest group, but not until the meeting is completely over, some time from now.)
  • The Northeast group has written a skit showing just how perfectly suited Jesus is to be the Bridegroom, and performs it in the sanctuary. At the conclusion of the skit, they lead everyone in a time of praise.
  • Closing in on 9:00, the MCs hand the meeting over to the Southeast group. They knew it would be 3 hours or so before they were up, so they have some refreshments ready to go.
  • After a 10 minute intermission, everyone comes back to find that the chairs have been rearranged into 2 groups, facing each other. They are asked to sit with brothers on one side, and sisters on the other.
  • The Southeast group has prepared a responsive reading. The men read the Bridegroom's part, and the women the bride's part. Between the readings, there are songs for everyone to sing too.
  • The evening ends with everyone singing the song the Northwest group brought again.
  • The elders in each of the 4 groups, and most of the people who had "starring roles", stay after the meeting to clean up after their groups.
  • The Sunday morning meeting is led by the MCs. They were privy to everyone's plans for the night, so they are in the ideal position to bring the message that ties the whole weekend together for everyone.

Key points:

  1. This is fun!
  2. Everyone is involved in actually edifying the church with something of real worth. It's not just a couple of select elders who preach every week.
  3. Everyone has something important to do for 5 solid weeks. It takes time and effort to pull this kind of production together. Everyone will not contribute equally, but that's OK. Everyone will have the chance to give as much as they are able.
  4. The song the Northwest group wrote will be added to the church repertoire. If it is good enough, it may even become a part of the worship service regularly, and that is way, way cool.
  5. Note that since the meeting is on Saturday night, there won't be any "walk-in" unbelievers to be confused by the strange happenings. It's not an important point, really, but it relieves one little burden. The whole meeting is addressed to the saints.
  6. There will be 5 weeks of friction, and it will get worse as the clock winds down to 6:00 PM, Saturday, Feb 11.
    This is a huge point, obviously. Some people fear this friction, and I cannot blame them. It is really the best part of it all, though. Here is a chance to work through conflict, and to really get to know the people you worship with. Just the act of working together makes this whole idea worth its risks.

There's no reason this pattern could not be used in any traditional church. It just takes a little of the ol' spirit of adventure.

26 December, 2005

Bad Doctrine Does Not Make Heretics

So, let's quit treating people who disagree with us as heretics.

3 churches I attended in the 70's would bar me from membership today because my beliefs have changed. I was saved in '72, and am still saved in '05, so that's not the issue. The issue is doctrine. '72 Kevin would be allowed to fellowship at XXXXXX Bible Church, but '05 Kevin would not. This amuses me! And it disappoints.

(What does this do to Calvin's belief that the catholicity of the church spans time as much as space?)

I contend that doctrine is secondary. Most people will testify to this to some degree, but in the end they join a denomination, making doctrine primary in their practice.

Doctrine is not an end, but a means (and sometimes it is just plain mean.) The end is knowing Jesus Christ, and we know Him by living with Him. That's why no one can "test out" of life. You can't prove you have all the doctrines right, and go straight to heaven. Life is hard, much harder than straightening out some twisty doctrines.

Doctrine's proper application is helping us to navigate this fallen world.

Disaster strikes, and we become confused. Did God predestine this disaster? Does He care about it? Bring out the doctrines! They can really help us understand life, and react to it wisely. A wise brother can use a correct doctrine of predestination to be a tremendous comfort. He can straighten the path for that confused saint.

Assume, though, our wise brother was not available, and our confused saint did not have a solid understanding of predestination. Is it time to excommunicate him? Is it time to brow-beat him about his muddled thinking, the drivel he calls doctrine, and wolves that must be driven from the fold?

There is a time for rejecting a heretic. The time is when the man cannot release foolish questions and needs to strive. That man is still in his sin.

Titus 3:9-11 But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.

Gal 6:1 is much more commonly useful, though: Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

We need to quit running each other off when we disagree, even about the big things of doctrine. Denominating is sin. Wrong doctrine is just wrong doctrine.

Recipe: Scones

Day 1:
3 1/2 cups of fresh ground whole wheat flour
2 cups of buttermilk (Live buttermilk from the previous post)

Mix them into a bread dough. Add more of whichever to make a pretty wet, easy to work dough.

Cover and leave on the counter. The buttermilk cultures are going to work on the flour overnight. I sometimes let this stand for a couple days, and don't even worry about anything going bad in there. Overnight won't hurt a thing! (Unless you are using store-bought buttermilk. That goes bad pretty quickly.)

Day 2:
3 tablespoons of bacon grease or butter, melted. (Remember how your parents used to keep their bacon grease? This was why! It's good stuff!)
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoons of baking soda

Just mix 'em, shape 'em, and bake 'em for 30 minutes at 350. They have way more staying power than the average breakfast, and taste good too. They also make a great before tennis snack when combined with butter. Complex carbs=good. Fat=good


No, I am not kidding. This post is about buttermilk.

The living things in buttermilk do good things to flour, and good things to meat. Here is how to make it.

1 cup of cultured buttermilk from any old store.
The culturing is the thing that matters. When you buy the buttermilk in the store, you are buying the cultures of bugs that live in it. "Gourmet" buttermilk is milk with butter, guar gum, and flavoring added. It's thick, but it ain't buttermilk. It's just thick, dead milk with flavoring.

3 cups of raw milk.
Yeah, raw. It's hard to find. Unpasteurized and unhomogenized. People have been drinking it for 6000 years. It really won't kill you.

Mix them in a quart jar, and let it sit on your counter for a day or two. Shake it morning and evening. After a day or two, the bubbles won't rise to the top like they used to, because the buttermilk is getting too thick. This is the first stage of clabbering. The cultures from the buttermilk have taken hold in the whole container, and you are good to go. You now have live buttermilk to be used in making scones.

Why go to all this bother?

Because if you leave store-bought buttermilk out on your counter for 3 days, it is just plain nasty. If you leave live buttermilk out on your counter for 3 days, it is just more buttermilky. I don't like my buttermilk straight, but I know the difference between nasty and buttermilky.

Try it some day. Live milk is better. It tastes better, and does not go bad the same way the "safe" store-bought milk does.

What to eat? What to eat?

Weight is not a constant concern of mine, but diet is. What I eat, and what my kids eat, is of great importance to me. My diet is simple, though, so I can keep up with it. Here it is:

God made us to eat, and made a world of things for us to eat.
If people have been eating a food for the last 6000 years, I try to eat more of it.
If it was invented in the last 200 years, I try to eat less of it.
I only eat it if I like it.
I like almost everything.

Sugar kind of = in
High fructose corn syrup, 0 calorie sweeteners, highly refined sugar = out
Meat = in
Fat = in
Veggies = in

"Bread" is where I am going with this post. I am going to post 2 recipes, so that I can can link a couple of my friends to them. Bread is obviously in, but only with caveats. Bread is better when it is better for you. Soooo, I eat my sourdough, and my buttermilk bread whenever possible.

Fiberless white bread digests easily, but is really, really low on complex carbs - no staying power. Store bought brown breads are really colored white bread. They add token fiber, so they are "whole wheat", but only in name. Home made brown breads don't digest very well. There's lots of nutrition and fiber in them, but the body can get overloaded with them.

The answer is fermentation. Sourdough. And not sourdough-flavored white bread. Simple bread leavened with sour starter. Very cool stuff.

The other practical answer is buttermilk biscuits. Again, not buttermilk flavored biscuits, but serious buttermilk biscuits, left out to ferment for at least 12 hours before cooking.

Good stuff, Maynard.

Why am I here again?

On earth, that is.

To learn to trust God.

I own 3 cats. More specifically, I inherited 3 cats. One is my darling. One is cute. One is the dumbest, most aggravating being ever to stalk a crumpled piece of paper. All 3 know exactly why I am here.

They don't "believe" anything about why I am here, they know it. There is no other imaginable purpose for my existence.

I am here to make their dreams come true.

And it's not that this is their purpose for me. They know this is my purpose for me. I want to get up every morning, because that is my chance to meet them at the food bowl. (It's also my chance to meet the cute cat at the toilet for some heavy petting, but I digress.)

As I sit here at the keyboard, with the cute cat slowly sneaking her way into my lap, I see her gazing knowingly into my eyes. Her gaze says, "I know you are waiting for the right time to scratch me between the ears, and that the clicky thing is keeping you from your truest desire, but now - Now - is the moment that you could fulfill your inner desire and bless me." It's not that she is trying to change my desires and will, but that she is trying to educate me how to fulfill my own desire to please her.

And so I find myself a little embarrassed when I recognize my prayers to the Father in her gaze toward me.

I amaze myself because I really do have this little fuzzball's interests in mind, and I am sinful and hardly care for her as I ought. Even so, I know what she needs before she does. (In fact, I know when she really wants food, but settles for affection, and vice versa.)

God astounds me, because He has my best, deepest interests in mind. Still, He will not grant me the "gift" for which I pray until it suits both of our purposes. Just like my cat is purring away in my lap now, even though she is not getting the scratching she really wants, God grants me intermediate graces to hold me over until the time for His planned gift is right. He really wants my best.

Ah, let me carry this just a little further, though my original point is made.

I sometimes worry that I should pray for what God wants. I'm not much of a mind reader, though, and vastly less of a "Mind of God" reader. I know what He has revealed in His Word, and beyond that I'm just guessing.

Grace means I can leave off from the sport of mind reading. I don't expect this silly kitten to wish that this post would turn out well. I just expect her to be happy with what I have given her until I can give her more. I'm sure God understands what He can expect of me. His ways are above mine, but He has declared that I can place faith in them because He is FOR me.

He cares for the sparrows (and I keep the cats inside as much as I can to help Him a little bit.) How much more can I place my trust in Him?

Now, I have kitten who needs her head scratched.

25 December, 2005

Twas The Night Before Jesus Came

Twas the night before Jesus came and all through the house
Not a creature was praying, not one in the house.
Their Bibles were lain on the shelf without care
In hopes that Jesus would not come there.

The children were dressing to crawl into bed,
Not once ever kneeling or bowing a head.
And Mom in her rocker with the baby on her lap
Was watching the Late Show while I took a nap.

When out of the East there arose such a clatter
I sprang to my feet to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash!

When what to wondering eyes should appear
But angels proclaiming that Jesus was here.
With a light like the sun sending forth a bright ray
I knew in a moment this must be The Day!

The light of His face made me cover my head.
It was Jesus! Returning just like He said.
And though I possess worldly wisdom and wealth,
I cried when I saw Him in spite of myself.

In the Book of Life which He held in His hand
Was written the name of every saved man
He spoke not a word as He searched for my name;
When He said, "It's not here", my head hung in shame.

The people whose names had been written with love
He gathered to take to His Father above.
With those who were ready He rose without a sound
While all the rest were left standing around.

I fell to my knees, but it was too late:
I had waited to long and thus sealed my fate.
I stood and I cried as they rose out of sight;
Oh, if only we had been ready tonight.

In the words of this poem the meaning is clear;
The coming of Jesus is drawing near.
There's only one life and when comes the last call
We'll find that the Bible was right after all.

(Reprinted for Fay Palmer, my mother in the Lord. Author not known to me, but maybe to her.)

24 December, 2005

King Kong lives

I can't do movie reviews, but I won't let that stop me. I enjoy the story, or I don't, but I just am no connoisseur of characterization, acting, or cinematography.

King Kong was worth 3 of 4 stars to me. I would watch it again, but I wouldn't swim through shark infested waters for the chance.

The kids figured today was the day to see it. (I would have waited 'til it hit the dollar theater, but a movie has to be Braveheart to get me to spend $8 on my own.) It was a blast. I laughed through the whole movie at all the little conflicts. They were well done, and just fun.

It was not, however, an action flick. The movie even says that it is not an adventure story at one point. What it was was 1) a chick flick with a big fuzzy leading man, and 2) an American tragedy.

Taking a cue from National Review Online's pre-review, I enjoyed watching Kong as "everyman". Like the rest of us, Kong has a hard time figuring out how to deal with the woman in his life. She has a hard time figuring out what chest thumping means. It all works out in the middle.

It's the end that's so hard.

And that is the tragedy part. I enjoyed the fact that everyone knows that this relationship doesn't end so well. Each step of the movie is another step closer to the end, and Jackson does a great job of reminding us of that from time to time.

Fun stuff.

Come Unto Me

In this Christmas season~
what do you celebrate?
In the birth of Christ~
does your heart relate?
The Son of God~
does He shine through?
Is He the saving grace~
that is living in you?
Or is there something lacking~
and you keep looking for more?
The cross of Christ~
has opened a door.
He was born to earth~
not of natural seed,
but to open the door,
for humanity.
Do you banish God's riches~
by the hindrance of pride?
Refusing to believe~
that He can fill you inside.
Or do you know Christ Jesus~
does your heart want to sing?
Are you humbled with praises~
Is your heart a fresh spring?
If you know Him, give thinks,
for sending His Son
for the Union with Him
that has made you One.
But if you don't know Him~
and your heart is in despair,
His arms are open wide~
to embrace you with care.
"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son,
That whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."
John 3:16
By Donna McGinnis - 2005

23 December, 2005

So, Familyhood Church?

The familyhood church does not exist, and chances are I will never see one. :`(.

A familyhood church would be a real, live church but its members would not gather around a denomination. They would gather around the Lord and each other, and become a family. Every Christian living in a single neighborhood would gather and "be" the church. No one would ever drive across town again to find Christians with whom they agreed. Instead, they would meet with the people they live with.

The church is the most beautiful thing on earth, but she still suffers. She suffers from 2 things.

1) Belief that doctrine is salvation.
Honestly, I have heard someone talk about "a saving knowledge of the Trinity." Bzzzzt. Wrong. There is a saving knowledge of Christ, and it ain't head knowledge.

2) Belief in going to a church that believes "rightly"
How do you go to church at all? You are the church, and I have great news for you. All of the Christians that live in your neighborhood are the church with you. Only, you don't know them, do you?

On our ways to church, we drive by the houses of people we could know and love, because they have been born of the same Spirit as have we. They are members of Christ just as we are, but we don't even know their names. They are my brothers and sisters, and they live close enough to me that I could see them every day. But they are Assemblies of God, and Presbyterians, and Baptists, and I am not, so we go on not knowing each other.

This must change.

22 December, 2005

Hello World

I have given myself a Christmas present this year ... this blog. Now, to see whether I use it!