Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2 Bowls in a Row


My Ducks won in a shootout over Oklahoma State. In the process, they proved that the Pac-10 is not soft or weak, even though they play fast-break football. GO DUCKS!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Doubt: The Movie


Last night I went to a movie to mother and wife. We watched the Movie "Doubt". The Movie "Doubt" is based upon the play "Doubt".

Doubt has a stellar cast. The characters that play the minor roles do a good job with the parts that they play. But Meryl Streep and Phillip Seymour Hoffman do a superb job with their lead roles. So much of the acting in this movie is based upon subtlety--the looks and expression someone gives, or the little cues about what is going on between body language between two characters. Thomas and Streep pull this off brilliantly.

One scene in particular that is fascinating in this regard is when the nun decides she is going to confront the priest about something she feels he has done wrong. The priest begins the situation by taking the nun's seat at the desk. Then there is this subtle dance where the nun attempts to and finally does take control of the situation. The tension of the scene in palpable, and the subtle ways each person tries to take control of the situation is so brilliantly written and acted that is just sucks you in.

The movie did well in letting non-human "characters" speak. For instance, the light in the mother superior's office keeps going out at important times. The wind blows at points in the movie, and you wonder how the director intends that wind to speak to you.

The movie, says the author, is really about what the title says it is about--the relationship of doubt and certainty. It is set in a post Vatican-II catholic church in Boston, with the incoming of a new priest of a church and perochial school in the 1960s. At some point, the mother superior suspects the priest of an inappropriate relationship with a student, and the nun and priest get caught up in a power struggle. This power struggle escalates throughout the movie, and does not have a "disney" conclusion.

It also touches on the issue of homosexuality.

The role of the young boy's mother is also played brilliantly.

If you want a movie that will challenge you and make you think, watch the movie DOUBT.

Lower Arkansas Valley


Black and white when it is almost night
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Sunset


This is a picture of a sunset between Avondale and Fowler, Colorado.
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Hwy 50


This is on the road from Fowler to Pueblo on Highway 50, just east of Avondale, CO.
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Monday, December 22, 2008

Phrases or Subjects that make me change the channel

1. In this post 9-11 world... This declaration is a red-herring and merits an automatic changing of the the channel. As long as we mire in self-pity and depravation of civil liberties after 9-11 we let Osama Bin Laden win.

2. Any combination of these three words: Rick Warren, gays, prayer: This issue is also total bull. If the democrats cave on this, they will show that they are simply panderers and slaves to self interest. The gay lobby is flexing its muscles hoping to bully Obama around. I hope Obama is strong enough not to cave here, or he is going to be bullied by every other special interest.

3. Exit Interviews and (insert member of Bush administration)...An exit interview is something done by supervisors on a job. The media (conservative and liberal) has set themselves up as supervisors of politicians, and thus, they believe, as rulers of the world. I will not play their game anymore. Media members do not offer "exit interviews". They do not run the White House. I hope they never do.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Middle Road on Gay Marriage: Respecting Civil Rights and Religious Freedom

I remember having a conversation with a leader in my former church that advocated pretty strongly for our church to be a welcoming and affirming church. Welcoming and affirming in Baptist cirlces means that you both welcome homosexuals into you chruch fellowship, and affirm that their lifestyle choice to be engaged in homosexual behavior can be both moral and healthy. I often disagreed with this person, I think it is clear that homosexuality is incompatable with Biblical teaching and Christian witness. However, we both agreed that we should extend the same welcome to gays as we do to anyone else. We both also strongly agreed that gays should be treated equally under the law.

As we discussed the issue, we got to a point where we discussed gay marriage. He shared with me a proposal that I thought was intelligent and reasonable, and I think in the end is the direction that both conservatives and liberals should aim for. He stated that legally marriage and civil unions should be separate institutions for both homosexual and straight couples. Civil Unions should be a legal partnership and open to people of all sexual orientations. Marriages should not be civil unions at all, but should be strictly religious institutions. In many cases, through common law marriage legistlation, this civil union/marriage separation is already a reality. I know several couples who would be recognized as common law in court, or who even have common law papers before they get married.

Why is this a good idea? It allows gays the rights that any couple in their position should have. The ability to visit loved ones in the hospital. The possibility of having equal parental rights in adoption situations. To have shared life and property together. There are a lot of heterosexual marriages that are less than ideal morally, but they still have these rights as well.

On the other hand, it allows religious groups the right to understand marriage as their theology allows. It allows these churches to perform marriages for who they feel comfortable marrying, without the drawbacks of government oversight. It lets the church better understand its theology of marriage and divorce without having to deal with the legal ramifications that homosexuality brings up. For instance, when someone chooses to follow Christ, and as a result wants to leave the homosexual lifestyle, what does the church do if the homosexual person wants a divorce? Divorce and homosexuality are both morally problematic for many believers. This would create quite a moral dilema. If it were simply a relgious ceremony, maybe it would be easier for the church not to recognize.

Anyway...these are just a few thoughts as I think through some of the challenging issues of our times. What are your thoughts?

HGTV Effect

Lately I have been watching HGTV. There are a number of consequences from watching several shows about home buying and home renovation:

1. You feel like you are smart enough to take on all sorts of projects when you are really not able to really begin.

2. You long to buy a home, even when you cannot afford it.

3. You start finding fault with the design of where you are living. Currently, in the parsonage we are in, each room had been revovated in a different era.

4. You learn the infinite value of a fresh coat of pain on about any wall.

5. You start wondering if you will ever be able to buy a home

6. You develop a strong distaste for people in their 20s and early 30s who seek to buy their first home and demand the PERFECT house.

7. You want to have a large account at home depot

RIck Warren and Barack Obama

It seems that it is a controversy for Rick Warren to pray at the innauguration. What do you think?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

International Version of Street Musicians singing Stand By Me

Quote from The Jesus Way by Eugene Peterson

When we pray, we cannot be too careful about our verbs. Are our prayers a means for putting us in charge of kingdom affairs, or making us the person through whom God can reveal himselv or bring his will into being in this world? Are our prayers assertive and demanding: "O God, make me like Herod and I'll do great things for you!"? Are prayers self-serving, separating ourselves from others:"O God I thank thee that I am not like this tax collector"?

Or are our prayers acts of submission that shape a life of willing obedience in the kingdom of God: "Let it be to me according to your word"?

(p. 219)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Czar

Lately, people have been discussing having a "car czar" for managing the automobile industry bailout. I think this is interesting.

Why do we use the metaphor of Russian despots from the middle ages to describe reformers in our government? Does this language help or hinder the accomplishment of the goals that we have "czar"s for? Which of the government "czar" positiions have really had a lot of success?

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Sermon on December 7, 2008

Family Matters

 1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham:
2 Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. 3 Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram. 4 Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon. 5 Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, 6 and Jesse begot David the king.

   David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife[
a] of Uriah. 7 Solomon begot Rehoboam, Rehoboam begot Abijah, and Abijah begot Asa.[b]
8 Asa begot Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat begot Joram, and Joram begot Uzziah. 9 Uzziah begot Jotham, Jotham begot Ahaz, and Ahaz begot Hezekiah. 10 Hezekiah begot Manasseh, Manasseh begot Amon,[
c] and Amon begot Josiah. 11 Josiah begot Jeconiah and his brothers about the time they were carried away to Babylon.
12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jeconiah begot Shealtiel, and Shealtiel begot Zerubbabel. 13 Zerubbabel begot Abiud, Abiud begot Eliakim, and Eliakim begot Azor. 14 Azor begot Zadok, Zadok begot Achim, and Achim begot Eliud. 15 Eliud begot Eleazar, Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob. 16 And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.
17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations.

As I said last week, this week we are looking at the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. And when we look at this particular passage, it is easy to jump to conclusions. And what is that conclusion: Yaawn (act out).

I went to a college in Kansas in a small town of about 2000 people. In many ways Sterling was a lot different than Fowler. It was in Kansas, and in many ways Kansas is different than Colorado, especially the closer you get to Wichita. Most of the crops here I have seen are corn and melon. Most of the crops in that part of Kansas are wheat related. Sterling had 500 students living on the edge of town from August to June, and a disproportionate number of Ph. Ds in town. Instead of four Baptist churches in town, there were two, but there were two Presbyterian churches and two different kinds of Methodist churches to make up for it.

In some ways it was the same. It was a town on the Arkansas River. Neither town had a stoplight. It had been the size it was since it was founded for the most part. It had one grocery store about the same size as Jack's, although the meat was not nearly as good of meat as we have here in our little Fowler market.

The most popular church in town was the Evangelical Mennonite Church. They actually had a bus that went around and picked people up from the school and brought them out to their rather large church in the country. Or at least I heard it was large. I never went.

I went to a small Baptist church a half a block from CMART in the middle of town. The church ran between 20 and 40 on a Sunday morning, and had a series of part-time pastors. I came to the church and wanted to get plugged in with ministry. The church let me do the children's messages and teach Sunday School. Since I was the one college student that attended their church, they kind of adopted me as their own. There was a group of three couples that were the core of the church. And they went out to eat Sundays and Tuesdays. And they would usually invite me along. And they would fight over who would get to buy my dinner. It was all very nice.

Anyway…to my point. I would sit in those diners and restaurants with them for week after week, listening to them visit. And most of their visits with one another would run a similar course. They would talk about stuff going on with the church or their families for the first five minutes. Then, someone would walk out of the door and they would recount their stories. Some might call this gossip. Sometimes it was. But many times it not done with any sort of destructive quality. It was done with caring. Caring about each person's well-being. Each person's story.

At first, my reaction to recounting each person's name and story was the same as yours might have been when you heard this geneaology. Yawwwn. But slowly, as I sat and listened. Listened to how one person has lost his wife tragically. How another's wife is really his second wife, even though a lot of the new folks in town did not know that. How yet one more person was a hard worker, even though they recently lost their job. You know how it goes. You have been at those tables, in those restaurants and around those tables.

The stories were important. Because each other person's story was a part of their personal history, and their community's history. When I first heard them tell the stories, all I heard was names. Names that meant nothing to me. Names that bored me. As I lived in that place longer, and heard the names more and more, the names that helped me understood who my friends were, and who the people in their community were.

If this is true of people in a diner in the middle of Sterling, KS, then surely it is true of a family tree. I have talked to many of you about your family trees. Some of you have had seven generations of Fowler people here that have been born here and lived in the area. Some of you have relatives that were military commanders in the civil war. Some of you are children of Russian Jewish immigrants. Why are you interested in your history? Because it tells you a lot about who you are, where you have come from, what you are about.

And just like our web of relations and our family trees tell us something about us, Jesus' family tree tells us something about him and his mission. And Jesus' family tree is really more than just a bunch of names. Because of his bloodlines, and because of who he is as the personification of all the hope and dreams of Israel….because he is the King of Kings and the Messiah, his bloodlines in many ways is our spiritual family tree as well.

Now, if your family tree is like my family tree…well…there are some branches of the family tree that are something to be proud of, and there are some that are …well….a little more colorful. Jesus' family tree is like that. There are a little more colorful parts of his family tree as well.

One of the tell tale signs of where the unique stories are in Jesus' family tree is that there are certain parts of Jesus' family tree where the women are mentioned as well as the men. Let us look at those specific stories.

The first woman mentioned is Tamar. And actually one of her sons is mentioned who was not a part of Jesus' direct genealogy. Matthew Tamar had her children through Judah. It is an interesting story how Tamar had Judah's children, since Judah was Tamar's father in law. You see Tamar married Judah's eldest son. His eldest son died. Because his eldest son died, the custom was to make the next youngest brother marry the same wife, and father at least one son as the dead son's heir. Well, the middle brother did not like this arrangement and refused to impregnate Tamar. God allowed him to die as well. Judah, thinking Tamar was jinxed, sent her back home to her birth family. Tamar was shamed by Judah and his family in front of the whole world. She came up with a plan. So she decided when she knew Judah was coming through town that she would disguise herself, and present herself as a prostitute along the road. Judah came through and solicited Tamar as a prostitute. Tamar got pregnant and gave birth to twins. Those twins are mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus, and one is in his direct bloodlines. There is a prostitute in Jesus' family tree. What's more, Jesus is here on earth as a direct result of this immoral event.

After Tamar we meet a woman named Rahab. Rahab was from Jericho, and she was known as a prostitute as well. When God told the Israelites to enter the land after having them wander in the wilderness for 40 years, He led spies to Rahab. Rahab gave shelter to God's people, and made an alliance with them that allowed her family to be saved, even though they destroyed the rest of the community in Jericho, they saved Rahab. Rahab became a part of God's people, even though she was of another race and a prostitute. She committed treason against her own people to side with God's people. This woman, who was a prostitute and a heroine at the same time, is a part of Jesus family tree. The Israelite people were dependent on her to begin their entrance in the promised land. They could not have entered the land without this woman of poor reputation. This woman, with a colorful past, is also a part of the direct lineage of Jesus.

The next woman mentioned in Ruth. Many of you are familiar with her story. She cared for a mother-in –law she had no obligation to stay with. She moved with her mother-in-law back to her homeland of Israel, and helped her mother in law support herself. Eventually, Ruth marries a man named Boaz, and gets grafted into Jesus' family tree. The interesting thing about Ruth is that she was not an Israelite, she was a Moabite. She was a foreigner. A person of a different ethnic background. A different race. A person who at one time had worshipped other gods. There was an outsider in Jesus' family tree. Scandalous.

The woman we meet after Ruth is so scandalous she is not mentioned by name. She is simply mentioned as the wife of David and the mother of Solomon. The next woman that is mentioned in Bathsheba. Bathsheba, was married to a man named Uriah in her first marriage. At one point, David lusted after Bathsheba, coerced her into coming into his home and having sex with him. She got pregnant with David's baby. So, King David had her husband Uriah killed, and then married Bathsheba. Bathsheba miscarried. Later she gave birth to King Solomon. Who is in Jesus' family tree. Jesus has a murderer and an adulterer in his family tree. His birth is the direct result of this immoral relationship that spawned this murder of Solomon's mother's first husband.

Then there is Mary. Who is the faithful servant of God, and the mother of Jesus. Not much to say there, except for she was a teen mother without a biological father in the picture. A poor girl from the outskirts of the nation of Israel.

What are we to make of all of this? Of all these whores, adulterers, and foreigners in the bloodline of the Messiah..the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords?

Last week we discussed how Jesus is our deliverer. This week I want us to take us the next step.

Not only does Jesus deliver us from our sin, he takes all of our mistakes, sins, peculiarities, and failures and makes them a part of a story of his love and his grace.

God does not simply forgive us our sin. He is much more powerful and amazing than that. God takes our sin-sodden lives, and transforms them into monuments of His grace and His love. Often using those very points of brokenness, failure and sin as centerpieces of his power and strength to heal, transform, and redeem.

Pastor Fred Allen, who was here as Pastor from 2000 to 2006, wasn't a Pastor for his entire life. He did other things for years. Actually, for many years he was an alcoholic. Or to be more direct and less politically correct, a drunk. Then, in an encounter with Jesus, he told the Lord that if God would help him quit drinking, because he believed he was powerless to do it otherwise, that God would deliver him from his battle with alcohol. Miraculously, God healed him. And Pastor Fred became a pastor.

And a lot of the power of Pastor Fred's ministry with you, as well as with many others, was as Velma says, "Because of the power of his testimony". You see, God was able to deliver Pastor Fred. He was able to do more than that. He was able take the tragedy of his sins, and transform them from tragedy to testimony.

Testimony to God's power to take our sin and shame, even our worst moments and biggest secrets, and make them a part of HIS STORY OF LOVE and GRACE.

As we come to the table this morning, we come to remember Jesus. To remember Him and to proclaim him until he comes again.

We come to remember we need him. We need him like we need the bread we eat and the liquid we drink.

We come and remember that it is not only this table that is a signpost to God's grace. It is the lives of the people that partake of this bread and this fruit of the vine that are the signposts of God. And as we come, rededicating ourselves to follow Jesus, let us know that nothing we have done or will ever do is outside of the scope of his redemption—if we will surrender our lives to this One who has come to earth to make us whole. This Jesus.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Shane Claiborne on the Church and Relevancy

As important as it is to be relevant, I think it’s important that we’re peculiar. We need to be a contrast culture.

Possible Names of Children

Jennifer and I are not planning on having children. Especially anytime soon. But we had a conversation about it due to people naming their dog's with full names, including adding their family names.

As we were talking, we thought we could add some names that would work well with our family name:

1. Skyler Walker

2. Streeter Walker

3. Faith Walker

4. River Walker

The wife wants me to clarify that we are not having a child anytime soon, we are also not getting another dog.

Anyone else have any fun names that could go with our last name?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Expectations game



I thought this was an interesting little piece here by CNN. And, I suspect Campbell Brown has a pretty good point. Although, I suspect Rendell was speaking in advocacy of his collegue to someone who is a little hesitant to support her.

There are two issues here.

Do singles get treated differently in the workplace than married folks?

How are women seen differently than men in the workplace?

Having just recently been married, I think singles do get treated differently than married persons in the workplace. More than once in my single years I have heard directly, "You are single, you don't have a family so you can....." Single persons are treated differently. So are married persons. In my work, it means that expectations are put on my wife to be involved with things and their is more expected of us as a family. I think this is true in other professions at times as well, it is not completely unique to ministry. Especially in Montana, as a single person I felt like a lot more was expected of my time and energy than would have been expected had I been married. Colorado Springs was very supportive of my transition into marriage, and for the most part was very understanding and supportive in my professional transition to married life.

As for gender, I think the gender issue goes both ways as well. In some ways women have to deal with the kinds of sexism demonstrated by Gov. Rendell. But, from my perspective, there are some women who are able to use their gender to also get away with things men in the workplace do not. For instance, my wife's former boss in La Junta started crying as she was leading a meeting of her department because they were mean to her. Very few men would get away with that, and get understanding in that situation in the workplace. Although I know that all workplaces are different, I think that women are often given more understanding for less emotional control in the workplace because they are women. I have seen that in my own workplace, I have heard about this in my mother's and my wife's workplace, among others. It does not always happen. There are workers in strongly male environments that may not get away with this (I am thinking of you, Robin), but I think for the most part gender expectations cut both ways.

In my experience, this was especially true in Colorado Springs. I say this was true because of a confrontation with a coworker. The coworker said something that I took offense to in a meeting, blaming me for something that I thought was due to her lack of communication. I took sometime to cool off, and then I confronted her directly. I told her that I was angry with her, and that I did not think I deserved to be embarrassed in front of the whole staff by her. She started crying. She sat in her office and cried. Then she went to my supervisor, and told him that she was thinking she couldn't work in the office because I was too mean to her. My supervisor called me into his office after she left. He said that in theory I handled this appropriately, but that I should not approach these things this way because I was older, my body was larger, and I was male.

From that point on, I learned in that workplace men and women were treated differently. Women were allowed to speak their minds. Men had to be careful. Women were allowed to scold the supervisor. Men were not allowed to question him. Women could lose their temper, even cussing in the middle of a church staff meeting or crying. Men had to be strong and keep a stiff upper lip. I think this is because women were seen as a support, and men as a threat. Thankfully, the church has called a female to fill my position. I felt strongly enough about this that I recommended that the church consider women strongly for the position in my exit interview. A woman will be granted more freedom in that work situation.

I guess I say all this because I think both men and women, single and married, can be caught in an expectations game. Sometimes we have to live with those expectations, and sometimes we need to challenge them.