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Release the lines! Set sail!

10 Oct

PROVERBIALLY SPEAKING…
“The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters, but the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.” (Prov. 18:4)

Lord God, set us free to Adventure with you. Break the lines that anchor us to lies and half-truths: the stuff that corrodes our hopes; that corrupts our images of ourselves.  Take away our souls awash with self-pity and disappointment. Give us courage! Show us who you created us to be: people in love with life, in love with you. Call us to the battle, the fight against complacency and comfort and cowardice. Show us the sunrise of the amazing odyssey we can only experience with you. Amen.

FOUNTAIN PEN NETWORK…
Some of you know I love fountain pens. I’m not sure when my interest began, but it might have been when I visited my father’s office at John Burroughs High School, and saw the fountain pen on his desk. (I’m glad to share that pen is within arm’s reach, and used many times a day.) I’m a member of the online FOUNTAIN PEN NETWORK, which hosts discussions on numerous topics. One of those is about journals and notebooks.

For two years or so, I have used a MEAD Five Star college ruled Advance notebook. It has a nice ‘cover’ over the spiral ring. Its 9 x 6 size has made it easy to carry everywhere, and use everywhere. The challenge comes when trying to find something I’ve recorded in it. The only option is to begin going through the ‘spiral-locked’ pages until finding what is sought. Efficiency is not a feature of this style.

I learned on the FPN about STAPLES’ “The Arc” notebook ‘system’, and LEVENGER’S Circa notebook. Based on price, and the fact that the available inserts are interchangeable…

FOR RAINE, GOT AN ARC
Yesterday I picked up a brown leather ARC at Visalia Staples. Its eight rings seem like overkill, but pages can be ‘slid’ in and out, making re-arranging fairly easy. It’s a bit smaller (8.5 x 5.5) than the MEAD, but I see that as a plus.

The hole-punch was expensive ($40), but the LEVENGER is even more. I wanted the capability of making custom paper, as I’m mindful of getting thicker paper to prevent fountain pen ‘bleed-through’. Next time I’m in Fresno, I hope to order a pad of Clairefontaine (Rhodia ?) Seyes paper, which is a ‘line-crazy’ French elementary school style of paper, to try in the Arc.

I used it for the first time at dinner and a meeting last night, when Beauty & I made a Triennial Visit at Lemoore Presbyterian. If first impressions mean anything, I think I’m going to like it. I got brown, despite Beauty’s advice that ‘black won’t show dirt.’ If this doesn’t work out, the notebook alone, which comes with 60 pages of narrow lined paper, is $15.


HARBORING HOPE:
it doesn’t take a storm to send it to the bottom.

FLOATIN’ & BLOATIN’
William Greenough Thayer Shedd reportedly said (preached?)–A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.

Jesus does not call believers to a life of peaceful contentment living in ‘Happy Land’. Jesus does call us to lives of Challenge, and Risk, and Danger, and Adventure. Jesus does NOT call us to float in the ‘harbor’ and bloat up on endless Bible Studies. Nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus invite anyone to his new, five-week Torah series.

“STARTING NEXT WEEK: The Minor Prophets, led by our very own Jesus”.

When he commissioned his disciples to ‘get out there’ and do what you’ve seen me do, not one disciple said, “Hey, I’d love to, Lord, but I’m just not ready yet.” They didn’t say it, but I’ll bet they thought it. I’ll bet they were scared: afraid of making fools of themselves, afraid of being laughed at, afraid of failing at everything they tried.

But they went. And their preparation? “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He told them: ‘Take nothing for the journey — no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them.’” (Luke 9)

How’s that for planning and provision. I don’t know even one church that would launch any ‘program’ with that little ‘preparation’. Do you?

And what happened?
“So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere.” (Luke 9)
Not bad, for know-nothings.

Are we SHIPS IN A BOTTLE?
Amanda McBroom wrote a wonderful song about a lifeless “Ship in a Bottle”. You may not recognize her name, but she wrote a song you will recognize. Bette Midler recorded a McBroom song that became the theme song in a film, and 1979 ‘Song of the Year’–The Rose.

The ‘Ship’ lyrics are:

Sometimes I feel like a ship in a bottle,
lost in a corner on somebody’s shelf:
Shipshape and unborn and perfect and useless;
a copy of someone who could be myself.

Somebody made me, they put me together
with patience and loving and pieces of string.
Caught on a crepe-papier ocean and never
to feel the waves wash me or hear the wind sing.

And I wait for the heart of a little boy sailor
to come break the bottle and help me be free,
’cause how can I know if I’m floating or sinking,
if I don’t take my chances on the wind and the sea.

Carry me down to a river that’s peaceful.
Set me to sailing and wish me God speed.
And I’ll find my way to the blue of the ocean;
the wind on the water is all that I need,

And a man with the heart of a little boy sailor
to shift with the tide and come sailing with me.
And then I will know if I’m floating or sinking,
and I’ll take my chances on the wind and the sea.



Are you ready? Because the man who walked on water, the man who calmed the storm, has his hand out, beckoning you to a life of adventure and excitement. Not a safe life, but a life both surging with storms, and restful with calm waters. A life that makes life worth living!

He is calling you right now, so release the lines that hold you…

and Set Sail!

Until next time, may the smile of Jesus light up your life.

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Crashing the Christian Cubbie

9 Oct

PROVERBIALLY SPEAKING…
“A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered. Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.” (Prov. 17:27, 28)

spr: May the Loving God of all touch you tenderly, and in so doing, shake your life from its basement to the tip of its chimney. From its rooftop, may you clearly see the special opportunities Jesus is calling you to undertake–in your neighborhood, on the next block, downtown, on the outskirts, in the “bad” part of town, and in the “seats of power.” May you respond to his Invitation eagerly, knowing you are enlightened and emboldened in his Name, and by his Power. Amen.

WORLD COMMUNION SUNDAY
As I shared yesterday, San Joaquin Presbytery celebrated a wonderful World-wide Communion together. Our worship was inspirational, and we were blessed by the participation of people from across our Presbytery. On the other hand, our “numbers” were down a little compared to last year’s festivities. We came to realize we were competing with a series of other events important to fellow Presbyterians.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that we worshiped God together at a “party” open to everyone. The good news is that–at the same time–we were out in the world, being a presence for Christ in our communities at other events and happenings. The good news is that we were being Jesus’ hands and feet: serving, helping and ministering. The good news is that we were being beacons of Love and Hope in a hurting world. The good news is that we were living The Good News–the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Several years ago, at the West Coast Presbyterian Pastor’s Conference, Fuller Seminary’s Mark Labberton (former pastor at Berkeley First Presbyterian Church) commented that the organization that was the demise of “Wednesday church family nights”, and that forced a restructuring of “church life” for many congregations across America, was…

Youth Soccer.

That caught my attention, being someone who loves soccer, coached AYSO for six years, and co-founded a high school girls’ soccer program. With practices on two weeknights, and weekend games, Mark’s point was clearly made. With two or more children playing, soccer could easily be a five-days-a-week activity. The bad news is families are no longer attending the “old, traditional, mid-week, church family events”. The good news is families are no longer attending the “old, traditional, mid-week, church family events”! The good news is that more and more families are spending time together, and investing time that leads to more time enjoyed together in the future. The good news is that more and more Dads and Moms, daughters and sons, brothers and sisters, are challenged–together–to live lives as Believers out in the world, where Christians are meant to live.

Do you know people who neatly fold and package their “faith walk”, and then stuff it into a ‘cubby’ labeled “for life lived at church”?

I do, too.

But Christ calls us to be open to his Spirit to think out of the box, dream out of the box, pray out of the box, and ‘dare to do’–all out of the curfewed confines of our cute, comfortable cubbies. I encourage us all to break down the walls. Smash the self-imposed, fear-fed restrictions that cripple us.

Christ came to set the captive free!


BLESSINGS ON YOUR WEEK
Remember: walking beside you is the one who loves you with a perfect Love: Jesus.


Tomorrow’s BLOG –“Release the lines! Set Sail!”

WORLD COMMUNION SUNDAY

8 Oct

PROVERBIALLY SPEAKING…
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly. The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good. The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life”. (Prov. 15:1-4a)

spr: Our prayer this morning is that, at the close of this day, we will have gained a greater sense of God’s goodness, and his aching desire to love us, and share the wonders of life with us. Thank you, Lord! Your blessings are bountiful; your wisdom more than sufficient for the challenges of my life. Amen.


WORLD COMMUNION SUNDAY
Yesterday was a fabulous day! In the morning at Coalinga First Presbyterian, Beauty and I tag-teamed the sermon on Psalm 13, and co-administered Communion. It was such a special time. While I’m not typically verbose (which, I suppose, will make some laugh), my Invitation to the Lord’s Table was a bit long (apparently). When I paused (to make a life-changing dramatic point, of course), Beauty jumped in, and we had an Abbott-&-Costello moment with me pointing out that I was not finished. In retrospect, I thought of our Wedding: when it came time for The Kiss, she was tapping me on the back to signal “that is quite enough… for now!” (Every guy that’s had that experience, please raise your hand!)

PRESBYTERY-WIDE CELEBRATION
The afternoon found us at Visalia First Pres, enjoying a Presbytery-wide Communion Celebration! There was so much to highlight those words, WORLD WIDE.

Worship was “off the charts”! There were the incredible colors and beauty of the Lao dancers. The place was rockin’ with the huge Hispanic family “choir”. There were videos from our missionaries around the world. There was the eloquent grace of the Korean dancers, and the moving melody that accompanied them. A Presbytery Choir from across our region was inspiring. And Pastor John Gutierrez preached a strong message of challenge and hope in both Espanol and English.

On the patio, presentations featured our local outreach efforts: F.I.R.M. and “new” London. Our world outreach, Living Waters, displayed their fresh-water system.

Indwelling–and overwhelming–all of these special aspects, was an unforgettable essence of Family, and Unity. Expressions of the joy of being together were visible everywhere. It is not incumbent on me to say something like that. The sense of love and caring was amply evident.

GREAT TO MEET…
Craig Williams, a denominational leader in Church Development. Look forward to interacting with him another time with our Futures Task Force.


BLESSINGS ON YOUR WEEK…
For us, it’s going to be another crazy one!
TODAY–Fresno County Fair!
And maybe sneak in a trip to Allard’s, my art supply and fountain pen store, and Staples, to get a new The Arc notebook.
TONIGHT–hosting Men’s Football & Bible Study at the Manse.

Tomorrow’s BLOG —
“CRASHING THE CHRISTIAN CUBBY”

Life moves on…

13 Sep

PROVERBIALLY SPEAKING…
“Better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than a fool in his folly. If a man pays back evil for good, evil will never leave his house. Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.” (Prov. 17:12-14)


JERUSALEM COUNCIL to MID COUNCIL
I recently read Tod Bolsinger’s insightful BLOG entry on the PCUSA General Assembly’s negative response to the report of the Mid Council Commission Tod chaired. This seems to be another indicator of the “double, double toil and trouble” confronting us. (Macbeth, Act IV, Scene 1) Many church members believe the fire is burning, and the cauldron bubbling, and the denomination cooking in its own stew.

It seems to me, however–in light of the disagreements the early Church experienced, and the contentious history of the Presbyterian Church in America–that we are doing alright. (Surprised?) But I do believe we need some ‘altitude adjustments’. No typo.

This year, our San Joaquin Presbytery may lose our 12th church. They are not leaving over local issues, or presbytery issues, but denominational disagreements. When asked his church’s position on whether to remain with PCUSA, one new young pastor responded, ‘What do these issues have to do with our ministry and mission to our community?’

Referring to the Mid Council report, Tod mentioned how, “In one sense, our hope was to give the ‘makers of the future’ a new set of tools, a new ‘shop’ to experiment in, and a new sense of permission.” To this, I believe the new young pastor would counter: “Why? We’ve already got them! We need denominational support to bring to life the visions God gives us.”

I am not unappreciative of middle management efforts. However, I believe what is needed is a refocusing by middle management on the ministry for which we exist, rather than on a realignment of our organization. More and more churches are struggling to survive. Our own presbytery faces daunting financial challenges, and probably needs to limit our ministries to what is absolutely necessary.

And, I believe, what is absolutely necessary is to help our churches share the Gospel message by living it more. Reliance on prayer, seeking the Holy Spirit more and more, daring to live for Jesus, boldly sharing with joy what the Lord is doing in our midst, should be our unwavering goals.

BACKPACKING PIX
Give this site time to load, then enjoy!

WAGON TRAIN… to the past
Our television provider offers a western channel, and the old series ‘Wagon Train’ is one of the shows available. Some of the episodes have proven interesting. My initial anticipations were ‘early television’, ‘simplicity’, ‘uncomplicated’. However, something surprising became apparent to me. There seemed to be a greater depth of characterization than I expected. Often a greater richness that is a reminder that ‘simple’ and ‘basic’ are at the heart of our human condition, regardless of how convoluted it often seems. It is not unusual that a special choice of dialogue, or a single expression, lets us enter the story more personally. I am often grateful for the quality of the writing and direction.

It makes me want to be more observant of deep feelings in the facial expressions and words of people around me.

How interesting…
that it was at this point I saw this entry from a friend’s BLOG– “The Things I Don’t Do”. A thought-provoking look at the value and use of our time. Thanks, Sarah.

And while we’re discussing values…
this graphic from ProgressiveChristianity.org through friend, Bryan.

FROM CALVIN…
“…the knowledge of God, which is set before us in the Scriptures, is designed for the same purpose as that which shines in creation–viz. that we may thereby learn to worship him with perfect integrity of heart and unfeigned obedience, and also to depend entirely on his goodness.” (INSTITUTES Book 1, Chapter 11)

Blessings on you and yours until next time,
Steve

What is going to make your ‘today’ special ?

7 Sep

PROVERBIALLY SPEAKING…
“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud. Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is he who trusts in the LORD.” (Prov. 16:18-20)

BICYLING
Started the day with a short ride around the neighborhood. Beauty needed to work on the bulletin for tomorrow’s Celebration of Life.

WAGON TRAIN… to the past
Our television provider offers a western channel, and the ’50s series ‘Wagon Train’ is one of the shows available. Some of the episodes have proven interesting. My initial anticipations were summarized with thoughts such as ‘early television’, ‘simplicity’, ‘uncomplicated’. However, something surprising became apparent to me. There seemed to be a greater depth of characterization than I expected. Often a greater richness that is a reminder that ‘simple’ and ‘basic’ are at the heart of our human condition, regardless of how convoluted it often seems. It is not unusual that a special choice of dialogue, or an expression, lets us enter the story more personally. I am often grateful for the quality of the writing and directing.

It makes me want to be more observant of deep feelings in the facial expressions and words of people around me.

How interesting…
that it was at this point I saw this entry from a friend’s BLOG– “The Things I Don’t Do”. A thought-provoking look at the value and use of our time. Thanks, Sarah.

And while we’re discussing values…
this graphic from ProgressiveChristianity.org through friend, Bryan.



FROM CALVIN…
“…the knowledge of God, which is set before us in the Scriptures, is designed for the same purpose as that which shines in creation–viz. that we may thereby learn to worship him with perfect integrity of heart and unfeigned obedience, and also to depend entirely on his goodness.” (INSTITUTES Book 1, Chapter 11)


Blessings on you and yours until next time,
Steve

Rollin’ along once more…

6 Sep

PROVERBIALLY SPEAKING…
“To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the reply of the tongue. All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD. Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. The LORD works out everything for his own ends — even the wicked for a day of disaster. The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished. Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the LORD a man avoids evil. When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him.”

(Prov. 16:1-7)

PASTOR’S COVENANT GROUP…
got together again yesterday. It was nice to be back after the busy summer months apart, and catch up. We began what will be a series of good discussions on Calvin’s Institutes. Sound boring? His thoughts are surprisingly ‘current’. What’s the saying? The more things change, the more they stay the same?

BICYLING
Started the day running a little behind. We were already out and about when I realized we hadn’t had any breakfast. Oh, well. It was a good ride, as we went almost 11 miles (10.8).

Here’s Beauty after this morning’s ride: weary, but feelin’ good! Certainly a different look than when she’s modeling.

ALASKA POSTERS
Got our two posters of pictures from our Alaska trip up on the wall. The lay-out wasn’t as aesthetic as I (ideally) hoped, but the photographs are pretty good, and the composites look alright.

Here’s the “overview of our Alaskan excursion” poster:

Tonight’s LIFETREE CAFE…
at Coalinga First Presbyterian is about “What’s Right With You!”– a fresh look at building more positive self-images. Promises to be another excellent community discussion time. If you’re in town, come on by. The fun starts when the doors open at 6:30. You won’t be disappointed.

Blessings on you and yours until next time,
Steve

Welcome Back… to us!

3 Sep
I apologize…
for our absence.
Lots has gone on, and we hope to be more consistent on into the future.
As a hint of one thing we’ve experienced, my new Facebook Timeline photo (here)
is one I shot on vacation.
Until next time, many blessings from our Lord be yours!
Steve