Sunday, August 28, 2011

How Easily Words Hurt

Words are wonderful things. 
The Word is the most wonderful thing (John 1:1). 
Words are what I do as I study and read, preach and teach, counsel and converse. I try and choose them carefully. I need to, as they are incredibly powerful, often when I least expect them to be.

Our week at Cedarly was spent with our wonderful hosts, Andy & Nancy Hagen, and six others involved in various types of pastoral ministry. It was a joyous mix of Reformed and Pentecostal and E-Free and Lutheran and Presbyterian heritages, all gathered around the dinner table. 

In passing, I was asked about differences between the church in New Zealand and the church in America. And so I waxed eloquent about some cultural differences as exemplified in the divorce rates in the two churches I have been privileged to serve. My spiel was unnecessary. Worse, it was stupid. Worse still, it was unkind. One of my fellow-pastors had recently been through an incredibly painful divorce, and felt judged, I later discovered. 

In that later discussion, where apologies were offered and grace was kindly extended, I was reminded again of the potency of words to heal or to hurt. I realized again, to my shame, that intent and impact are not always related. 

But best of all, I learned afresh that the Word made flesh, who was full of grace and truth (John 1:14), can, if all parties let Him, bring his truth and His grace to our less-than-graceful (dare I say "graceless") words.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Pastoral Retreat

Mrs B sits cross-legged for long stretches
in a manner impossible for Mr B
 Had a great week away with my favorite woman at Cedarly Pastors' Retreat in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin: (click for more on Pastors Retreat Network). I get out there myself for a day of prayer and contemplation every month or two, so it was great to take Mrs B. to this place that has become an oasis for me. The emphasis was on sabbath rest, so that's what we did. I also got to read three books, one, a novel, just for fun. Shhhh! 

Mrs B says, "How
uncomfortable" &
snaps a pic
A slim volume that was really challenging was David Whitney's Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health (NavPress, 2001). It's worth another, even slower, read, so I'm gonna have to get a copy.

It's interesting how, as pastors, we are called to diagnose and treat others' spiritual health, and yet give so little attention to our own. Maybe that's one reason why 1,700 pastors leave the ministry each month (for stats click here).

Also did some journalling, praying, canoeing, playing "Monopoly Deal" and we even broke the media fast to see the "The Help" (powerful movie).

Last, but not least (perhaps even best), meditated on Jesus' words in Matthew 11:28-30:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

"Now you look comfortable," says she, with a click

Friday, August 19, 2011

My Text For Sunday with Sick Pics

"You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you" - James 5:5,6

USA TODAY reports: Terror Group Blocking Aid to Starving Somalis
The worst drought in decades is affecting several countries in the Horn of Africa, but the famine is worst in southern Somalia, where al-Shabaab, an Islamist terrorist organization with links to al-Qaeda, is preventing aid groups from helping nearly 3 million people living under its control, according to the State Department and aid groups.

Our beloved country is home to nine of the ten heaviest people ever documented. But Suzanne Eman's goal is to be the world's heaviest woman ever. "I'd love to find out if it's humanly possible to reach a ton," she said. 
Eman visits the grocery store with her two sons where she said she usually spends up to eight hours filling multiple shopping carts with enough food to sustain her 22,000 calorie-a-day diet.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Mark of the Beast Ain't What It Used to Be

A hair-thin electronic patch that adheres to the skin like a temporary tattoo could transform medical sensing, computer gaming and even spy operations, according to a US study published Thursday.
The micro-electronics technology, called an epidermal electronic system (EES), was developed by an international team of researchers from the United States, China and Singapore, and is described in the journal Science.
"It's a technology that blurs the distinction between electronics and biology," said co-author John Rogers, a professor in materials science and engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
"Our goal was to develop an electronic technology that could integrate with the skin in a way that is mechanically and physiologically invisible to the user."
The patch could be used instead of bulky electrodes to monitor brain, heart and muscle tissue activity and when placed on the throat it allowed users to operate a voice-activated video game with better than 90 percent accuracy.
"This type of device might provide utility for those who suffer from certain diseases of the larynx," said Rogers. "It could also form the basis of a sub-vocal communication capability, suitable for covert or other uses."
The wireless device is nearly weightless and requires so little power it can fuel itself with miniature solar collectors or by picking up stray or transmitted electromagnetic radiation, the study said.
Less than 50-microns thick -- slightly thinner than a human hair -- the devices are able to adhere to the skin without glue or sticky material.
"Forces called van der Waals interactions dominate the adhesion at the molecular level, so the electronic tattoos adhere to the skin without any glues and stay in place for hours," said the study.
Northwestern University engineer Yonggang Huang said the patch was "as soft as the human skin."
Rogers and Huang have been working together on the technology for the past six years. They have already designed flexible electronics for hemispherical camera sensors and are now focused on adding battery power and other energy options.
The devices might find future uses in patients with sleep apnea, babies who need neonatal care and for making electronic bandages to help skin heal from wounds and burns.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Church Aint What It Used to Be

Pastor Tased, Woman Stabbed After Church Service
(ST. ELMO, Ala.) - The Mobile County Sheriff's Office is investigating a bizarre case out of St. Elmo, after a church pastor was tased, and a woman was stabbed during a fight.
It happened at the New Welcome Baptist Church after Sunday service.
Simone Moore is a self proclaimed R&B artist, he ran unsuccessfully for the US Senate, and he's a teacher in Mobile County. Now, Moore is wanted by the Mobile County Sheriff's Office after authorities say he tased Rev. Daryl Riley.
Deputies say it all started when Moore, who worked as the Minister of Music was handed his last paycheck, and told by Rev. Riley that his services were no longer needed. Investigators say that's when Moore tased the pastor.
A fight ensued, and deputies say Harvey Hunt, a deacon at the church, pulled out a pocket knife and began stabbing Moore's mother, Agolia, in the arm.
Six people were injured in the fight, all have been released from the hospital.
Lashea Gray lives near the church, she told us, "It was unbelievable for it to be at that church, a lot of people go there, never heard of any problems. That was shocking to me to see that going on."
Warrants have been signed for both Moore and Hunt.


Monday, August 8, 2011

An Unfortunate Juxtaposition

Normally, I try and avoid political commentary for a couple of reasons. First, I'm a Kiwi. Second, I've found that there are way too many Christians who automatically presume their political sensibilities are God's.

But today the following two statements came at me in such close proximity that I couldn't help but notice, and mention, the contrast.

I was reading from James 4:13-16 in preparation for this Sunday's message: Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes.

Then I took a brief break to catch up on the news. In his first public comments on the credit downgrade announced by Standard and Poors Credit Rating Agency, the President said,
"Markets will rise and fall. But this is the United States of America. No matter what some agency may say, we've always been and always will be a triple-A country." (Source: Associated Press)

James tells us that hubris is never a virtue for an individual presuming to control his financial future. Scripture repeatedly condemns the same attitude at a national level. The consistent testimony of history, seen in the rise and fall of all great empires, is that God seems to delight in humbling any and every nation that prides itself on . . . itself.

None of us likes to lose money. None of us likes the pain of a struggling economy, especially when it impacts the rest of the world, which is a whole lot more needy than we are. But perhaps something else is going on. Perhaps, in addition to learning how to balance our national checking account, we will end up learning something even more valuable: a little more national humility.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Of Sharks and Faith

The Real Bethany Hamilton
I've learned to be cautious about recommending movies. One time I saw one on the plane (majorly edited), recommended it, then had to apologize profusely to a co-worker who watched it with her family.

But I think I'm pretty safe with this one. I think.
Watched "Soul Surfer" last night with the family. Inspirational true story of Bethany Hamilton, a young surfer in Hawaii, whose arm is chomped off by a shark.

Admittedly this is about as close to Baywatch as Christians get, but there's not too much to cringe at in this movie. In fact, it's nice to see some Christians portrayed for once as rather normal and attractive people--not the maladjusted, ugly, nerdy or just weird caricatures that Hollywood usually engages in.

Even has some star appeal: Carrie Underwood, Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt and AnnaSophia Robb.

It's been toned down for a wider distribution to a secular audience, but still has an identifiable Christian thrust centering around Philippians 4:13.

Here's the official trailer.

In case I offend anyone recommending this movie, be warned:

  • Disclaimer #1: It's a PG
  • Disclaimer #2: A shark bites off a girl's arm. The ketchup looks like real blood.
  • Disclaimer #3: The girls in this movie are attractive and wear bikinis.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Back from Vacation

So good to get away with the fam to the big lake (Superior) and even up to Canada, eh.     Got to see some of God's great creation, including the Minnesota State Bird, the wretched mosquito. Especially fun to have our oldest, Derek, with us from NZ for over three weeks. Lots of games of Chess, Gipf, Settlers of Catan, 500, Badminton, Ping Pong and Tennis. Everything a vacation is meant to be, with some good reading thrown in (I'm 33% through Tolstoy's War and Peace on my Kindle (yes I can, yes I can). Also finished another book I'll probably comment on in my next post, once I'm over my indolence.