28 February 2007
27 February 2007
26 February 2007
Uncle Butt had a lot of fun reading books with nephews Zach (left) and Quinn (right). Zach is 3, Quinn is 18 months.
Cousin Quinn met Ainsley for the first time this weekend and was suitably impressed and VERY polite. We think it's because he's nervous about a newborn having so much hair...
Uncle Kevin looks like a natural, doesn't he? Thankfully he's nicer to his niece AJ than he has been in the past to our cats, Ike and Reggie. They don't let him hold them nearly as much as Ainsley did.
Uncle Brian was pretty happy to hold our peanut as well, even when unexpected, um, outputs were part of the program (more on that later).
And Aunt Donna, of course, also got into the fun. In fact, Ainsley spent to much time being held on Saturday that she threw a MAJOR hissy fit when it was time to be going to bed Saturday night.
So, the family arrived and were very happy to be crammed into our little house. Why crammed, you say? Because the weather kept us from journeying outside! But that's yet to come...
So, after getting everyone up to Barrett and inviting extreme cabin fever due to the weather, after having to cancel worship services due to icy, snow-covered roads, we finally got the family over to the church for a small baptismal service Sunday morning, just after 11:00. And then things went according to plan. The Mooneyham plan, that is, complete with the usual cases of "How in the world did THAT happen?"
First, my brother's wife wasn't feeling so hot when she arrived at the church. By the time we were ready for the baptism, she was driving the porcelain bus instead. Major bummer. She recovered enough to journey into the sanctuary for the baptism, but chose, understandably, to forego the cold lunch after in favor of the couch, diet 7-Up and saltines back at the guest house. Thankfully, it seems to be a quick bug - by this morning she was feeling much better and ready to travel home. Unfortunately, it seems to be a contagious bug - my wife's sister and son were sick Sunday night after they got home. *sigh* Could we please get through a major event or holiday in our family without SOMEONE losing their lunch?
Second, the baptism. A wonderful moment in our life as a family, and in some ways all the more special because it was just us at the church. Let's take a listen, shall we?
ALL PRESENT: Amen.
Ainsley: [thbpthbpthbpthbpthbpthbpthbpthbpthbp] [thbpt] *squirt*
That's my little girl - always willing to offer her two cents' worth. Did I mention it was her first major 'blowout?' In her new baptismal gown? I know baptism washes us clean - now I have empirical proof, for in the end we were given a baby girl washed clean in soul and body.
Finally, my parents' car is not working particularly well this morning. We're not sure how far they're going to make it, or whether the dealer who's agreed to look at it this morning in Morris will be able to fix what's wrong quickly enough to get them back to Nebraska tonight.
But it was a wonderful weekend, filled with family and love and just about everything a new dad could hope to have. We're truly blessed and deeply grateful for our family and, of course, our little girl. And now, Pictures!
Is there anything more infectious than the sound of little kids chasing each other and giggling?
The happy post-baptismal family and sponsors. Well, happy save the baptized. Maybe it had to do with the brownish stain slowly working its way up her back...
The Reverend Grandpa Mooneyham, Mrs. Reverend Grandma Mooneyham, The Reverend Mrs. Johnson, the freshly-washed in body and soul Ainsley, The Reverend Daddy, and Grandma & Grandpa Johnson. What a group, eh?
Auntie Kim, Mommy, AJ, Daddy, Quinn & Uncle Jerry.
Grandma & Grandpa Johnson with Zach & Ainsley.
Grandma & Grandpa Moonehyam with Ainsley and Quinn. We took this picture about five minutes too late for Quinn's liking.
Aaaaand now it's five minutes to late for Grandpa Mooneyham's liking. I think he needed a nap, too.
24 February 2007
23 February 2007
Dante had Virgil as a guide. Before he had younger siblings, my oldest child had an imaginary friend named Patrick. Betsy had Tacy. Laura Ingalls depended on her brindle bulldog, Jack. All of them were companions on the way.
As we take the beginning steps of our journey through Lent, who would we take as a companion? Name five people, real or imaginary, you might like to have with you as guide or guardian or simply good friend.
Larry Meyer - I think I miss Larry more during Lent than at any other time. It was Larry who first opened my mind and heart to the disciplines of Lent, and as I've shared before, most of who I am as a pastor comes from his leadership and tutelage during my years at the University of Nebraska and the Lutheran Student Center.
Martin Luther - Obviously, as a Lutheran I bear a lot of respect for the man whose name we claim as our own. But I think Martin would have known better than most how to balance the penitential nature of Lent with the freedom God assures through Baptism and forgiveness of our sins. Some people think that Lent means misery - I think Martin would say they've missed the point. If the focus is our misery, we've strayed as far from the mark as we do when the focus is our joy - the focus, as Luther often said, is at all times Christ and Christ alone.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer - What might it have been like to study with my brother Dietrich at the seminary in Finkenwalde? Reading Bonhoeffer has opened my eyes to so many blessings in Scripture and in the world; studying the Psalms and conversing about them during Lent with Bonhoeffer would have been a privilege beyond words.
Rich Mullins - I was unlucky to discover the depth of Rich's music in the months after his death, so I never had the chance to hear him in concert or talk to him in person. Rich was so refreshingly honest and open - his willingness to be vulnerable in his songs has helped me do the same in some of my sermons. We are only human and only following Christ if we admit that we don't have all the answers, that there is pain and sorrow in life that cannot be defeated by our own strength, only survived through the love of Christ. I learned that from listening to Rich Mullins sing songs like this:
I've gone so far from my home
I've seen the world and I have known
So many secrets
I wish now I did not know
'Cause they have crept into my heart
They have left it cold and dark
Bleeding and falling apart
And everybody used to tell me big boys don't cry
Well I've been around enough to know that that was the lie
That held back the tears in the eyes of a thousand prodigal sons
Well we are children no more, we have sinned and grown old
And our Father still waits and He watches down the road
To see the crying boys come running back to His arms
And be growing young
Ainsley Joy Suzanne Johnson - This morning I worked at the office while Ainsley kept me company. Beloved needed some time at home to finish a project or two and I knew that my office stuff could be done while I took care of our little girl. What a joy it is to finally be getting to know our daughter. This is a special, momentous time for us and I'm loving every minute.
Our good friend Kathryn, an ordained Lutheran pastor in a suburb of the Twin Cities, wrote the following for her congregation's March newsletter. After Kathryn shared it with me, I asked her if I could post it here for you to consider. I love it when a good friend writes or preaches something that challenges me and provokes me to think about what it means to be a follower of Christ - thank you, Kathryn!
X percentage of people in the
Jesus. Now that is a different story. You’ll have no problem finding someone who doesn’t know Jesus. Someone who not just doesn’t know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior, but someone who has been hurt by the idea of Christianity (by individual churches, by government, by people) so much so that they have a completely upside down view of who Jesus is. To far too many people, Jesus is the person who is followed by people who claim to be Christian. And let’s face our ugly story: Christians aren’t always the best examples of following Jesus.
This March, this Lenten season, I challenge you to find someone who doesn’t know Jesus. The Jesus who created the world and all that is in it. The Jesus who was born in the most unlikely of places to the most unlikely of parents. The Jesus who became one of us so that we would know that our creator loves us enough to become one of us. The Jesus who died, who overcame death, so that each one of us would know that death is nothing to fear: the wages of our sins, all our sins, even the stuff we don’t like to admit to ourselves, is death. But death doesn’t matter anymore because God, in the person of Jesus, swallowed it up. No more death, no more tears, no more crying.
It is crazy and radical and astounding Good News! And one of the best ways for people to hear about this Jesus is if you tell them about this Jesus. The Jesus you know. Not the Jesus that people throw around to win votes, or “save souls,” or pump up their personal banking accounts, but the Jesus who overcomes the world not through power and prestige, but through serving others. Serving us. All the way to the cross. And through to Easter morning. And through all our tomorrows. That’s the real Jesus. That’s the Jesus worth talking about. That’s the Jesus worth knowing.
One of the central arguments many people use against God’s church has to do with hypocrites. If I may caricature the argument, it usually goes like this: “I don’t have anything against God or Jesus, but the church is full of hypocrites. That’s why I don’t belong to a church.” And usually the defense is pretty predictable, too. Sometimes the church apologist uses the “mea culpa” defense: “Yes, there have been hypocrites in our church; but we’re working on it and we hope you’ll forgive our mistakes.” Sometimes the church apologist uses the humorous defense: “I know the church is full of hypocrites, but there’s always room for one more!” In the end, however, it doesn’t matter how you defend the church: the label of hypocrite sticks like white on rice.
Jesus gives some pretty strong arguments against hypocrites in our reading tonight from the Sermon on the Mount. Hypocrites, according to Jesus, give their offerings loudly. Hypocrites, according to Jesus, pray loudly in public arenas and with lots of flowery words. Hypocrites, according to Jesus, take on spiritual disciplines like fasting with much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Hypocrites are the loud church members, according to Jesus; the kind who need a nameplate on every lightbulb and hymnal, who obsess over whether or not others know how hard they work at their faith, who would never give their opinion in 10 words when 100 will do.
So then, our task this Lent should be avoiding hypocrites, right? If only it were that easy. Let us pray. Father in heaven, we do not come to you as we should this evening, but only as we are able. We come as dust, in desperate need of your Spirit to bring new life into us. Fill us, we pray, with your life-giving breath. As we receive the mark of ashes, remind us that only you can heal our infirmities and forgive our many sins. Repent us of our pride, our envy, our anger, our laziness, our lust, our hunger for that which does not nourish, and our hypocrisy. Turn us again to set our faces on your Son, to remember His journey to the cross and our salvation. Be, as you have promised, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. In the name of Christ Jesus we pray. Amen.
Jesus does give a fairly detailed description of hypocrites in his words to us tonight. But in the prayer Jesus gives as a remedy for hypocrisy, we find that even if Jesus’ description doesn’t indict us as hypocrites, his prayer certainly does.
“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” Right off the bat we’re in trouble. We invoke the name of God for all kinds of trivial, meaningless prayers, and in times of genuine need or outright thankfulness, we develop amnesian and are unable to remember who it was who promised us forgiveness and delivered what we need. We are hypocrites because we have been given the name of God and we treat it like God had given us a dead fish.
“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Of course, Lord, by that we mean that your kingdom and will should give me everything I desire. Better yet, rescue me from this boring life and bring me into a heaven of my own choosing. Heaven forbid God’s will and kingdom should inconvenience or challenge us. We are hypocrites because we confuse God’s will and kingdom with our own will and our own, personal kingdoms.
“Give us this day our daily bread.” And bread for tomorrow and the day after as well. As a matter of fact, Lord, I don’t care about my neighbor’s daily bread; I want a bigger house and another boat. A snowmobile would be nice, too. We are hypocrites because we take our daily bread for granted and wish for more than we need.
“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” But not that jerk of an ex-husband, Lord – I can’t forgive him just yet. Don’t you remember how he treated me? Besides, he’s never even ASKED for forgiveness! We are hypocrites because we think forgiveness is for the sake of others – forgiveness is for our own well-being, and it is God’s greatest gift to us.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Don’t lead me into temptation, Lord – I can find the way myself just fine, thank you very much. We are hypocrites because we ask God to deliver us from our own irresponsible, ill-considered choices, and from the evil consequences they bring about.
With all of this, it’s easy to see that avoiding hypocrites this Lent will be about as possible as jumping over the moon. The gift of Lent is not a freedom from hypocrites – there’s always room for one more! The gift of Lent is the choices God gives us, and the opportunity we have to turn our lives over to God and be changed by what might happen, even in the midst of our hypocrisy.
We have the choice this Lent to be dismal hypocrites or devoted hypocrites. We can be the kind of hypocrites Jesus describes – the loud, obnoxious, deceitful, miserable hypocrites who have sucked every ounce of vitality and freedom out of their faith and exchanged it for a system of dry prayer, never-ending sacrifice and continual acts of penance. We can slouch every step through Lent, as if our perpetual misery has some kind of saving grace in itself, only to arrive at Easter miserable, despairing and unchanged – as dead as we were on Ash Wednesday.
Or, we can be devoted hypocrites. We can give our offerings in faith, focusing on what God asks of us and nothing more. We can pray in silence, listening for God’s still, small voice and joining that voice in conversation about our needs, our hopes, the needs of our neighbors and our growing trust in God’s peaceful presence. We can forgive sins and actually let them go, freeing ourselves from the burden of anger and grief, letting those who have wronged us find their peace with God in their own time and in their own way. We can dedicate ourselves to spiritual disciplines, but with an eye for how we might be changed in the process. We can take on a fast to rediscover the joy of simplicity; we can give up worldly pleasures to redirect our attention in other areas; we can leave behind any thought that simply suffering without what we want will impress God in the least.
We have lots of choices before us this Lent. The one thing we don’t have a choice about is our status as hypocrites. We will be marked as such tonight: as dead in our hypocrisy as we are in our other sins. But that’s not the focus this Lent – the focus is our growth in faith and our trust that if God loves sinners, we’ve been called to the right place. After all, saying we aren’t sinful would be, dare I say it, hypocritical.
Pastor Luke Bouman wrote a wonderful Ash Wednesday sermon a few years ago that I still read occasionally, not only because he quotes Paul Simon, but also because he closes with these incredible words:
We are called to rediscover who we are as God’s people. We are called to face our fears and our failures with courage and dignity, relying on God’s love and mercy. We are called to be God’s children. God does not need us to hear the words of confession that come out of our broken human spirits and our sin. We need to speak these words as a reminder to ourselves of our link with our human past…Lent marks again the earnest journey home for us, God’s flock. Wear your brand in humility, but never in shame, for it is the obvious reminder of God’s love and claim on you.
May you be a devoted hypocrite this Lenten season, and may God use these forty days to change and transform you in new life for the sake of Christ our Savior. Amen.
 Rev. Dr. Luke Bouman, Tree of Life Lutheran Church, Conroe, TX.
22 February 2007
Again, Paolini hits a home run with his second book in the Inheritance Trilogy. Eldest is a worthy successor to Eragon, and my disappointment with that two-hour chunk of dreck that was the movie version of Eragon is only growing the deeper into the series I get.
It's impossible to give a plot summary without significant spoilers. Just get Eragon and Eldest and enjoy a great new fantasy series.
21 February 2007
Here we are at the clinic. That's me, our Nurse Practicioner, Lisa, holding Ainsley, Beloved, and Missy, Lisa's nurse.
We really appreciate our doctors - everyone has really taken good care of us. In fact, both Missy and Lisa had to remind each other yesterday to stop chatting with us and go get ready for their urgent care hours! Nice to know you get on so well with your health care provider - it's such an important thing when you have a newborn.
Grandma M came for a good long visit this last week, and got to enjoy lots of cuddle time in the morning while Mom slept and Dad worked out. Here's a great picture of Grandma M & Ainsley:
20 February 2007
Here’s what you do:
Look at the list of books below. Bold the ones you’ve read, italicize the ones you want to read, cross out the ones you won’t touch with a 10 foot pole, put a cross(†) in front of the ones on your book shelf, and asterisk(*) the ones you’ve never heard of. [I left untouched those I've heard of but don't necessarily plan to read.]
1. +The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. †Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. †The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
6. †The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
7. †The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. *Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. *A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. †Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. †Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. †A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. †Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)
17. *Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. †The Stand (Stephen King) (can't remember how many times I've read this - at least seven, probably more...)
19. †Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. †The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold) (okay, readING, via iPod, but I'm halfway done)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. †The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. †The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31. †Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (Orwell)
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. +The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. *The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini) (was going to read this in January for a book group but ran out of time.
43. *Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. †Bible (umm, I don't consider this one a BOOK, per se, but it's not my list...)
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. +Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. †The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. †Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
55. †The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. *The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. †Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. *The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
64. †Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. *Fifth Business (Robertson Davies)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. †Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
72. †Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. *The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. *The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. †The World According To Garp (John Irving)
79. *The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. †Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
81. *Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. *Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. †Watership Down (Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. *The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. *Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. *Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. *In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. *A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)
If you play, let me know!
| You scored as Neo orthodox. You are neo-orthodox. You reject the human-centredness and scepticism of liberal theology, but neither do you go to the other extreme and make the Bible the central issue for faith. You believe that Christ is God's most important revelation to humanity, and the Trinity is hugely important in your theology. The Bible is also important because it points us to the revelation of Christ. You are influenced by Karl Barth and P T Forsyth.|
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19 February 2007
AJ has been wailing downstairs in Mother-in-law's arms for a good portion of that time. If I get found out, I'm in big trouble. Better keep quiet...
18 February 2007
-- Donna PhillipsFreelance writer. She lives in Claremont, California
Thanks to RuthRE for this
The movie Sweet Home Alabama is a favorite in the Johnson household. The basic plot is this: Reese Witherspoon is engaged to marry the son of the mayor of New York City, but before she can get married, she needs to finalize her divorce from her childhood sweetheart in Alabama. She returns home and finds that she hasn’t quite cut all the ties to her former life as she thought she had done. Hilarity, heartbreak and, of course, true love combine to form the rest of the story.
I was thinking of this movie while I was studying this week’s readings from scripture. The childhood sweethearts fall in love by sharing a kiss in a rainstorm at age 10, just after lightning strikes nearby. Years later, lightning strikes again when Reese Witherspoon’s character realizes that she still has deep feelings for this man, and her feelings intensify when she discovers who he really has become in their years of separation. It seems that her soon-to-be-ex-husband, who appears to only be concerned with fixing his airplane and enjoying a beer on the front porch, has developed a thriving artist’s studio in a nearby city. This revelation shocks the both of them and redirects the course of the entire movie.
What does it mean to see people in a new light? Someone once said that character is what is revealed when no one is watching – is that true? How are we supposed to take people at “face value” when no one is actually revealing who they are? How do we find the kind of people we can trust with who we really are? How do we find the strength to reveal our true selves to those people? When will the day come when we can truly live with unveiled faces? Who will bring that day about? Let us pray.
God, we thank you for ways in which we encounter you day to day. We thank you when we see your love shining in the smile of a friend, or the sweetness of a baby’s laugh. We praise you when an embrace from a loved one reflects your love for us. In prayer, in quiet moments captured in the midst of busy days, and in the most unexpected ways – you meet us as we are. We thank you God for these glimpses of holiness and for the sustaining power they bring to the nurture of our faith. Strengthen us as we seek to live the faith we proclaim, and help us to bring the light of your love into the lives of everyone we meet. In the name of Christ we pray, Amen.
Moses had a problem. His problem wasn’t God – it wasn’t Moses – it wasn’t the environment or a lack of food or the Egyptian army or bricks to be made without straw. Moses’ problem was, as usual, the people of Israel. Moses had been speaking with God on the mountaintop, but the people weren’t concerned with that – what concerned the people was the way those conversations changed Moses’ appearance. When Moses would return from his conversations with the Lord on the mountain, his skin would be radiant – shining with the light of the Holy, reflecting the glory of God. Moses had no idea this was happening – he was unaware of how his conversations with God were changing his appearance. But the people were afraid – afraid of the sight of Moses, afraid of being so close to the Holiness of God, afraid to see what contact with their deliverer would do to a person. What if they were called up to the mountain themselves?
Moses didn’t want the people to forget that his commission to them was from God, not just from Moses himself, so Moses would let that shining face radiate the glory of God while Moses revealed the Law to the Israelites. After their meetings, Moses would veil his face for the sake of the people – but not permanently. When Moses spoke with God, Moses spoke without the veil – revealing himself to God and allowing God’s presence to fill his face with light again. Then Moses would let that light shine while he spoke to the people.
It must have been shocking for the people to see Moses, filled with the light of the glory of God and shining so fiercely. They had known Moses as an 84 year-old fugitive shepherd, who hid from the Egyptians until God called him to lead the people out of Egypt. Now this aged prophet was climbing mountains, shrouded in fog and lightning, conversing with God and returning with revelations about how the Israelites were to live under God’s protection and guidance. How would you ever look at Moses without seeing that light, even when Moses wore a veil to hide it? How would you ever think that Moses was just another Israelite?
1300 years later, another man who would deliver people from bondage climbed a mountain to speak with the God the Creator. But this man didn’t go alone – he brought with him three fishermen who had questions about his identity, his teachings and his purpose for himself and for his followers. You can imagine that climbing a mountain in ancient Palestine, with sandals on your feet and robes on your back, would leave you dusty, sweaty and out of breath by the time you finally reached the highest peak. But when Peter, James and John got to the top of the mountain with Jesus, they saw a wondrous thing. Their dirty, dusty, sweaty Teacher, who had caught his breath and was praying, began to be transformed. The drab brown robes slowly gave way to dazzling white. The dirt and sweat and muck disappeared, burned away by a radiance so bright they had to shield their eyes against it. Finally, they saw with Jesus two figures, Moses and Elijah, talking about another exodus – this one an exodus from the people’s bondage to sin and death into the freedom of forgiveness.
Do you think Peter, James and John were as shocked as the Israelites had been, seeing their leader unveiled and radiant as the sun? Do you think they trembled with fear and wonder? Do you think they held their breath in anticipation, to hear what Jesus would say when his conversation with Moses and Elijah was completed? Nope – they were falling asleep, unaware of what was about to be revealed to them. Such is the strength and power of our attempts to climb to the mountaintop by ourselves.
BUT – a revelation did occur. The light of Christ did shine for Peter, James and John to see. The unveiled face of Jesus was revealed to them and they saw Jesus in all his glory and radiance. Peter, James and John were privy to a moment that changed the destiny of God’s creation: they spent time on the mountaintop with the holy Son of God, and they were changed forever by the sight of Jesus in this new light. The fact that we are here today to listen to this story shows how they were changed and how they began to reflect the radiance of Christ in themselves, much as Moses reflected the radiance of God when he came down off the mountain in the wilderness.
But what does this mean for us? After all, we haven’t been on the mountain with Jesus, have we? We certainly haven’t walked up Sinai with Moses and come down with shining faces, have we? What does it mean for us today, Transfiguration Sunday, to see the unveiled face of God?
Well, I told myself I wasn’t going to do any more baby illustrations in my sermons for a while, but this one came to me from Irv Arnquist, so it’s really not my own. You, however, will have to suffer through it anyway. It seems that infants, especially newborns, have a very limited range of vision for the first few months of their lives: around 18 inches at the most. So if you were to ask a newborn what Mommy and Daddy look like, and they had the language to do so, they would describe Mommy and Daddy from the neck up. That face is the only thing they know of Mommy and Daddy for the first few months of their lives, and hopefully, that face is beaming with love and joy. Children develop their relationship with their parents very early – they learn to mimic what they see in Mommy and Daddy’s face, so if they see smiles, they learn smiles. If they see joy, they learn joy. But most of all, if they see that unveiled face as one they can trust, a face that comforts them when they cry, changes them when they are dirty and feeds them when they are hungry, they learn that the unveiled faces of Mommy and Daddy are good, that those unveiled faces are filled with the light of love, comfort, trust and safety. And the child learns to unveil their own face as well – to be confident enough to express need and love and joy to the face of Mommy & Daddy.
In the same way, the unveiled face of God in Jesus Christ is meant to do the same thing for us. When the radiant light of Jesus was revealed to Peter, James and John, they heard a voice from heaven: “This is my Son, my Chosen: listen to him!” The voice from heaven said that Jesus’ unveiled face radiated the light of heaven itself, and that his voice carried the weight and impact of heaven itself. As an infant learns to trust the radiant, unveiled face of a good parent, so Peter, James and John were to trust the radiant, unveiled face of God in Jesus, the Christ, God’s only begotten Son.
So Peter, James and John brought the radiance of God with them when they came down off the mountain. It wasn’t the same as Moses coming down from Sinai; in fact, the radiance planted in Peter, James, John and the other disciples took time to grow, and it also took time for people to be able to see it. But in time, with the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection and the commissioning of the church to reflect the light of Christ into the world, the radiance of Christ began to fill the church, and they began to see each other in a new light. A few years after Jesus’ death, the apostle Paul wrote that “all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed in to the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord; the Spirit.” As the church began to see the light of Christ in each other, it grew in trust and hope and love and learned to live with unveiled faces – to reflect the light of Christ all the better.
Today, we are called to do the same. Paul said that “if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” Our benediction reminds us that “the Lord’s face shines upon us and is gracious to us.” What we’ve known of each other in our daily life is not nearly as important as what we know of each other in Christ and how we see in each other the unveiled face of God, radiant with love, hope and trust. The glory of Jesus on the mountaintop is about God revealing Himself in Jesus, and the glory of our own unveiled faces is about God revealing Himself in us to a world shrouded in darkness. In Christ we have been given the light of the world – let it shine before others, that they may see our good works and glorify the unveiled face of our Father in heaven. In Christ we pray, Amen.
17 February 2007
This year may be a bit different. I've had my discipline forced upon me in 2007. Here's what I'm giving up: nights of uninterrupted sleep, free time, being responsible only to myself, uninterrupted movies on DVD, quiet meals at home with my wife, the middle seat in the back of my car, and a sizable portion of my income.
The quicker folks reading this have already realized that our newborn daughter is my Lenten discipline this year. Like the year I gave up cigarettes for good, though, this one is going to be a long-term project. We've been given something incredible: the opportunity and responsibility to shape a life. This is no yoke to lay down when Easter Sunday rolls around: I won't be sleeping any better by Easter than I am now, (let's hope that changes by Pentecost!) and even when Reformation Sunday rolls around, I still won't be able to just pick up my clubs and go for a round of 18 without checking to be sure my family doesn't need me.
But I'm not so concerned about what I'm giving up this year. The far greater impact is how my life is being changed by God through this wailing child. Though Kristin and I have gone to classes on parenting, and though we have an entire shelf of parenting books at home, it isn't our preparation that's allowing us to be parents now. Being parents is changing our lives far more than preparing to be parents ever did, and in ways we never would have imagined possible (For example, I never thought that my parental responsibilities would involve cleaning poo off the ceiling.) Just as our newborn is changing with every day of life in this world, we are changing with every day of being her parents; we are being remade into something other than what we were before, and God is building something in us that we never could have built in ourselves.
I think that today I understand more fully what Lent and the spiritual practices tied to the season are intended to do for people of faith. A Lenten discipline isn't something to suffer through for a short time and leave behind when Easter finally comes. Lenten disciplines are intended to change us, in definitive ways, changes that last far longer than the relatively short 40 days of Lent. In baptism God raises us out of death into new life, and the journey of faith that follows is the means by which God takes our dead lives, bound into sin, and remakes us in the image of Christ. Being people of faith changes our lives far more than preparing to be people of faith: living into the new life of Christ means giving up the reins and letting God decide what needs to be done in our lives. This is the impetus behind Lenten disciplines: that God might use this time to work changes in us that will affect our entire lives, and perhaps even the lives of the people around us.
Have you taken on a Lenten discipline this year? Wonderful: good for you. But if you've given up something you love only for the season, you may be selling yourself and your God short. Take up something new, something that will change you for a lifetime, and BE a person of faith. God bless you in your Lenten journey.
16 February 2007
reverendmother here... It seems like this topic has been done before, but I can't find it in the archives, so......1. What is one place you make sure to take out-of-town guests when they visit? (you can be vague to preserve your anonymity if you like) I make sure I get them to a show at Roosevelt Hall, home to our very own Prairie Wind Players.
I am downtown on retreat this week. Most of the retreatants are from out of town, so I get to experience this place through the eyes of visitors. So in the spirit of tourism:
PWP has been one of the best things about life here in Barrett: I've been in four plays, played guitar for a musical and have really enjoyed being part of a volunteer arts organization for the first time in my life. It's a real blessing and an incredible cultural element for a town of 350 to host.
2. When visiting another city or town, do you try to cram as much in as possible, or take it slow and easy? I'm a little of both, frankly. I try to do one day of being out and about and the next day relaxing, preferably as much like a local as possible. I HATE looking/acting/feeling like a tourist, especially when I travel internationally, so I try to fit in as much as possible. The first time I was in Germany, I counted my efforts successful when the owner of a local bar, on hearing that I didn't speak much German, asked if I was from Ireland. :-) I do love museums and parks and monuments and all the history of a place, but I also like to get to know the people in places, too, and to see them as more than just purveyors of my vacation bliss.
3. When traveling, where are we most likely to find you: strolling through a museum, checking out the local shopping, or _________________? Yes to both, and then also in a local coffee shop, sipping a pint at the local pub or taking in a ballgame if there's a baseball team in the area (any league will do, especially minor leagues).
4. Do you like organized tours and/or carefully planned itineraries, or would you rather strike out and just see what happens? Having done both, I can see the value in each, but I much prefer to plan my own trips. Beloved and I planned our honeymoon in Germany by ourselves with help from Rick Steves and my sister-in-law, and we had a ball, including the two days at the end where we just drove north along the Romantischestrasse until we felt like stopping. We found the loveliest little inn in Wurzburg and genuinely enjoyed the end of a nearly two-week trip.
5. After an extended trip, what do you find yourself craving most about home? My bed. The only thing I don't do well while traveling is sleep. Doesn't matter the comfort of the bed, the environment or anything - I just can't sleep well away from home. But such things are minor inconveniences; I can sleep when I'm dead. Time to travel!
Late addition: Favorite Tours/Museums/Destinations: The Night Watchman's Tour in Rothenburg ob der Tauber (actually, Old Rothenburg was all pretty cool - be sure to stay inside the Old City), the Anheuser-Busch brewery tour, the Medieval Banquet at Castle ??? in Ireland, and our walking tours of Munchen and Nurnberg - what fun!
15 February 2007
Wow. It's next to impossible to believe that this book was written by a 15 year-old. How does a teenager (even one who, apparently, was in college at 15) create an epic with an interesting plot, original ideas about themes and characters that you'd think would be entirely played out by now, a somewhat believable environment, and emotional maturity far beyond his years? It's a great read, in my opinion, though I actually listened to this one on my iPod. Eragon might be the first volume in an epic that Christopher Paolini will be unravelling for the rest of his life.
It's next to impossible to do a plot synopsis without significant spoilers. Suffice it to say that even though Paolini borrows heavily from Tolkien, he does use what he borrows extremely well, and this is a worthy fantasy epic all its own.
14 February 2007
1. Who was your best friend? Me, Bill & Scott were pretty inseparable back then.
2. What sports did you play? Football & Track
3. What kind of car did you drive? 1977 Buick LeSabre
4. It's Friday night, where were you? Driving said LeSabre up & down
5. Were you a party animal? Nope - didn't even know where the parties were!
6. Were you considered a flirt? Uh, not even a little.
7. Ever skip school? Just to run down to Kratke's for pizza at lunch.
9. Were you in any clubs? We didn't really have any.
10. Suspended? Nope. (Who's writing this meme? JDs R Us?)
11. Can you sing the fight song?
12. Who was your favorite teacher? Hard to say. Looking back I think Ms. Boeshart, probably, though Mr. Peterson was great, too.
13. What was your favorite class? English, but Band if counting extracurriculars
14. What was your school's full name? Wakefield Public Schools
15. School mascot? The Trojans. No costumed mascot: just my friends Bill & Matt in their football jerseys and cheerleader skirts (BIG cheerleader skirts) and pom-poms for basketball games.
16. Did you go to dances? Every last one of them. Sometimes I even had a date.
17. If you could go back and do it over again, would you? Not without being who I am today.
18. What do you remember most about graduation? Standing on a chair in the library with my final report card, screaming about the "C" I earned in Civics and saying "I don't give a damn!"
19. Favorite memory of your Senior Year? Earning first chair first trombone in the All-State Honor Band, and getting to play in multiple honor bands with my best friends.
20. Were you ever posted up on the senior wall? Didn't have one.
22. Where did you go most often for lunch? Lunchroom.
23. Have you gained weight since high school? Yeah, but I lost it all, too - I can still wear my letter jacket! (much to my wife's chagrin...)
24. What did you do after graduation? University of Nebraska-Lincoln, first as a Music major, then Classics with a minor in music.
25. When did you graduate? 1992
26. Where are most of your classmates? Spread out all over the country. My best friends are in
27. Did you have a high school sweetheart? Had a huge crush on a girl from
28. Have you changed since? Does Benedict XVI wear Prada shoes?
29. Have you been to your high school since you graduated? Yes, but not for at least five years.
12 February 2007
With the movie just having been released, I wanted to return to this classic, mainly to make sure my eyes weren't deceiving me when I watched the previews from the new movie. I don't know about the movie - haven't seen it yet and I probably won't until the movie is released on DVD. But Beloved said that the Barnes & Noble gift card we received from a friend for "baby books" could be used for a children's book if I wanted.
So it was Bridge To Terabithia, a Newberry award winner that I read years ago in school. It was as good as I remember. A young boy who doesn't quite fit in his family or in his school becomes great friends with the new girl, who just happens to introduce herself to him by whipping his butt in the first recess race of the year.
I can't say more than that without spoiling the story, but even though this book was written for children, it's a wonderful, poignant story that I enjoyed very much as an adult reader. It's like the Inheritance or Harry Potter books - good writing is good writing no matter who the intended readers may be.
Barbara Brown Taylor is one of the best preachers in the English language, according to Baylor University. I don't know about that, but I do know that she's a good writer and an eloquent representative of the body of Christ in the U.S. Gordon Atkinson (aka Real Live Preacher) was the first of many to recommend Leaving Church to me.
Taylor writes about her tendency to overwhelm herself with the work being a pastor involves. She writes about giving up days off and leaving her own needs behind out of a desire to care for those she had been called to pastor. She writes about her desire to leave the overwhelming busyness of a large suburban congregation to find a small rural church where she might find a more savory pace. Finally she writes about needing to leave the ministry to rediscover herself as a person of faith.
I know many of the frustrations she's writing about - I think they are universal to those of us who feel a genuine call to ministry, whether we do it as a profession or as part of an unpaid volunteer ministry. I'm not sure how I feel about the solution Rev. Taylor employs - but that might have more to do with my own issues and less to do with hers.
I'd highly recommend this book for pastors and for anyone who loves their pastor and wonders how they feel about the ministry. It's a window into the life of a good pastor who left ordained ministry behind to become more true to herself and to her faith.
10 February 2007
It's a great book, but not the life-changing experience that some people had described to me. Basically, if you're familiar with the Nooma videos, you'll find little that's new here. It's good, but it's not new.
One thing I really admire about Rob Bell is his assault on the self-satisfaction much of the church has regarding our own holiness and the condescension we display toward those who are inactive or unchurched. When I listen to him I'm reminded that the church, not my own sinfulness, was the reason I dropped out for a few years. I was tired of the hypocrisy, the focus on public morality to the exclusion of all things spiritual and the utter lack of self-knowledge I saw in the church when I was a teenager and growing into an adult. Rob Bell sees much of the same, and he was brave enough to ask why we had to be captive to those things which had alienated us for so long. When no one gave him a satisfactory answer, he started a church that asked all the "Why" questions, and that church has been growing and moving spiritually ever since.
When I was in my first year of seminary, I wrote a paper on mission in which I identified two traits the church must embody if it seeks to embrace my generation and those younger than myself: authenticity and efficacy. That is, the church must be authentic in its devotion to God (rather than devoted to the continuation of the church - idolatry) and the faithful must give evidence of how their faith effects change in their lives. Rob Bell embodies these traits in the Nooma series and in his book Velvet Elvis, and I'm a better pastor and a stronger Christian as a result.
Yes, it's true. I've been watching Season Six of American Idol with my daughter, our first time dipping into this particular well of pop culture. In the spirit of believing you can do anything, as the auditioners so clearly do, please fill in the following five blanks.
1) If I could sing like anyone, it would be ________.
Hmmm. Rich Mullins, though Rich always said he had a weird voice. I don't know from weird, but no one could bring power and emotion and God's gift of music to life better than Rich.
2) I would love to sing the song _________________.
"Life By The Drop" by Stevie Ray Vaughan. Probably my best a capella shot at wowing Randy and Simon. Like I'd have any trouble with Paula...
3) It would be really cool to sing at ____________.
Roosevelt Hall in Barrett, MN. It's the weirdest thing, but our local WPA-renovated performance hall has the best acoustics I've ever heard. Phenomenal resonation, but not so big that it bounces and gets mixed up in your head.
4) If I could sing a dream duet it would be with ___________.
Dave Matthews (and the Band), "Ants Marching" or "Steady On" with Storyhill. I know, neither one is a 'duet,' technically, but it's 12:24am - do you really want to rain on my dream parade?
5) If I could sing on a TV or radio show, it would be __________________.
"Austin City Limits" on TV, "A Prairie Home Companion" on the radio.
08 February 2007
|Scott Alan Johnson's Aliases|
Your movie star name: Chips Harold
Your fashion designer name is Scott Munich
Your socialite name is Putzy Lincoln
Your fly girl / guy name is S Joh
Your detective name is Spider Wakefield
Your barfly name is Chips Bulldog
Your soap opera name is Alan Tumbleweed
Your rock star name is Skor Viper
Your Star Wars name is Scoike Johkel
Your punk rock band name is The Content Obelisk
07 February 2007
High time I kept going on the 100 books list, right? I read Friday Night Lights in December after my brother let me borrow it. I'll confess that I saw the movie before reading the book, though for once they were both good enough that I didn't feel I was missing anything either way.
It's hard to figure out how I feel about FNL. Bissinger claims he came to love the people of Odessa, TX as he was living among them gathering information and stories for this book. For the life of me, I don't see how that's possible, given the unflinching honesty Bissinger imparts to the book. Racism, sexism, classism and a host of wasted opportunities and completely misplaced priorities are assumed to be the characteristics that mark a 'normal' life when it comes to Permian football. It's a fascinating portrait of everything that is wrong with the American obsession with youth and sports.
There are a few bright spots - young men and families who realize that football isn't everything and live their lives beyond what happens under the lights. But it's only enough to calm your stomach before plunging you back into a litany of false hopes and idolatry. It was a tough book to stomach.
One item that made it really hard for me to handle was the presence of my beloved Cornhuskers and Coach Tom Osborne in the life of one of the worst students on the team. I know no one in college football is a saint, but I do believe that Dr. Tom had a higher standard than most. Perhaps the player in question would have been one of those who just fell out of the program because he couldn't be bothered to actually be a student-athlete. Hard to say, I guess.
A tough book to read, and as a coach of young football players it reinforces my belief that sports are a privilege given for the formation of young men and women, only available to those who will do what is required of them in the other, more important areas of their lives.
06 February 2007
But seriously - cleaning poo off the wall?
And needing a STEPLADDER to get to it?
I just don't have the words...