Saturday, December 15, 2012

Women in Ministry

It is time for the Church to completely open its doors to women in ministry.  In order to fulfill the Great Commission, the Church needs men and women serving in every role their gift and character opens to them in local churches and church networks.

In some parts of the Church, women already serve in the same ministry roles as men.  But in much of the Church, the issue is far from settled, or a men-only practice continues with little discussion.

Much has been written about the rightness of women in ministry leadership and teaching roles.  Men and women much better equipped than I am to find answers from scripture have staked well-researched, thoughtful positions on both sides of the question.  I respect their hearts to serve faithfully and their diligent scholarship.

But I suggest a simple way to cut through the differences:   just decide that the cost of failing to use gifted women in strategic ministry roles is far too high, and the cost of doing so in error is low.

In a recent team-building exercise in our church community, a group of us tried to accomplish one simple task keeping in mind one simple rule.  To our shock we initially did exactly the opposite of the task.  We had tried to balance the task and the rule, and it turned what should have been a two-minute task into ten minutes.  Once we began to focus on the task, we were able to quickly finish.

On the issue of women in ministry, I would say that the Church has tried to accomplish the task (the Great Commission) while significant parts of the Church have been obsessing over what has seemed like a rule.  In this case, "the rule" would be the seeming Biblical prohibition in the letters of Paul against women in ministry.....or maybe just tradition.

Right doctrine and right practice are important.  On key issues of faith, the Church cannot be flexible. But the issue of women in ministry is not a key issue of faith.

From my perspective, we have misunderstood Paul's intent in writing about women in the Church.  I believe Paul's words were bound to the culture or cities he addressed and do not relate in the same way to us today.  And I believe a male-leaders-only tradition has blinded us to a significant opportunity to advance the Kingdom.

If the Church is wrong in permitting women to enter strategic ministry roles from which they are now excluded, the cost of that error is low.  No one's salvation is threatened.  The key doctrines and creeds of the Church are not contravened.  If we are found to be wrong, our gracious Lord will restore right practice to the Church, as He has done before.

Brothers, where we do not already, let's clear paths for women to come into every role of ministry...and not only clear those paths, but actively encourage gifted sisters to walk them.

Sisters, we need you like Barak needed Deborah.  Together we will win victories that the Church can lay at the feet of the King, victories that it could not win without you.  I am so deeply sorry we have delayed you and held you back.  But for the Kingdom's sake, join us now!

Now that you have read this, men, what are your thoughts on this issue?  Women? How about you?  Your comments are welcome below.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

A Christmas Story

"Mary, quite big in her last month of pregnancy  was accompanied by over a dozen aunts and female cousins.  Joseph walked alone in front, followed by all of these women  who were chatting and giggling merrily about babies and 'motherly' things.

Nativity scene
A few minutes later the noisy entourage arrived in Bethlehem and were directed to the "sheep pen," crowded with sheep. Soon Mary started labor. Joseph paced nervously back and forth in front of the stable, while the women, several of them midwives, crowded around Mary to help deliver the baby. A short labor ensued, and soon the women all gave a high shrill vibrating cry—the typical Ethiopian joy cry that announces the birth of every child in Ethiopia. The spectators cheered, and the women in the crowd joined in the joy cry with the actors. Hearing the cry, Joseph ran into the sheep pen to see the newborn baby. Later, of course, the familiar shepherds came, followed by the wise men."

Sound familiar, sort of?

The above is part of a story about how one Ethiopian church presented a Christmas pageant not long ago. The not-totally-familiar Christmas pageant story appears in a textbook (Grasping God's Word) we are using at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM).  

You may be wondering about all the extra women.  They aren't in the Christmas story, are they?  No....they are not mentioned in the Biblical text.  But that does not mean they were NOT there.

The point of telling the story in this textbook is to help us understand what WE bring to the Biblical text.  For example all of us come with some "cultural lenses" whenever we read the Bible.  

The Ethiopian culture suggests that of course there are other women along with Mary on the trip to Bethlehem.  After all, who could expect a young first time father to help successfully deliver a baby?  And who among women would not ululate with joy at the birth of a child?

Those of us who have seen many American Christmas pageants come to the Biblical text with the cultural understanding that it was just Joseph, Mary and the donkey on the road to Bethlehem.  But just as there are no extra women in the Biblical text, there is also no donkey.  

The image illustrating this post contributes to faulty understanding of the text.  In this case, "Mary" has a typically European face, wears clothing more typical of a few hundred years ago, there is a cow, and so forth.

The reality is that probably neither the Ethiopian nor the American perspective is totally accurate, but I wonder if those Ethiopian believers may have been closer to the mark.

We all bring our "stuff" along with us when we read the Bible.  Duvall and Hays suggest four influences we bring as we read:

  • pre-understandings that come from experiences, hymns, art, literature, etc. that make us think we already understand the text
  • pre-forumulated theological agendas that make us look at the text merely to fill in the details of what we already believe 
  • familiarity that comes from reading the Bible often -- and makes us think we already understand the passages we read
  • culture is almost transparent to us as water is to a fish -- the fish doesn't notice it, and neither do we notice how our culture is projected into the reading process.

I was both dismayed and delighted to study this.  I was dismayed because I realized that I have been guilty of all four of the above flaws in my own Bible reading.   But I was also delighted because knowing these reading traps can help any of us read the Bible without falling into them.  

How about you?  What does reading this do to your thinking about how you read the Bible?  You can post a reply below.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

The Mission has a Church

We who are Christians in America often talk about “missions.”  The word brings to mind  missionaries laboring lovingly in foreign lands among people with difficult language and strange customs.  

And the overseas missions movement has produced incredible fruit as the rapidly growing number of Christ followers in places like China, Africa, South America, and India attest. The movement has been so successful that Christians in these regions are now sending missionaries back into Europe and the United States!

But let’s bring our focus back to the reason for missions....the original mission.  Let’s read again the words of Jesus: will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8 ESV)

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. (Matt 28:19-20 ESV)

There are some key pieces in the above for Christ followers who call Anchorage, Alaska home:  First, what we do will be Holy Spirit empowered.  Second, we will be witnesses in Anchorage (=Jerusalem), Alaska (=Judea), North America(=Samaria), and all the world (=end of the earth).  Last, we are to make disciples. Converts are not disciples, although they can become so.  In other words, the mission is more than helping people find Jesus.  The mission is to reproduce the Jesus-following life in people in all nations - starting with our own city.

I read something recently that has impacted me quite a bit: “It’s not so much that the church has a mission but that the mission has a church. Church follows mission, not the other way around”. As we see above, Jesus articulated the mission before the Church was born on the Day of Pentecost.  

The point is this: we are all individually on mission, not just the church acting as a group sending missionaries. This means we are all missionaries (witnesses in the language of Acts).  A few of us will serve as overseas missionaries, but most of us should see ourselves as missionaries at our schools, our jobs, among our friends, and everywhere we come in contact with humanity.  America is steadily becoming “de-churched”, and most of us have the mission opportunity to help people find Jesus.

Mission can be as simple as being filled with the Holy Spirit and “leaking” the fruits of the Holy Spirit on those around us (joy, peace, kindness, gentleness, etc).  It can be sharing the Good News with a friend at the right time.  In Anchorage City Church mission projects, it can be serving homeless people at Beacon Hill or our Emergency Cold Weather Shelter, or feeding the hungry via the Food Shelf.  It can be helping prisoners reenter society, or helping young people graduate through New Direction, or serving Alaska communities by training leaders, as Beyond Borders does.  You can even start your own mission project! The possibilities for being on mission with the love of Jesus are many.  

As we celebrate the birth of the Savior at Christmas, it is a perfect time to commit ourselves again to missio dei, the mission of God.  Jesus came to redeem us, and because of that we have the amazing privilege of being on mission to share that amazing story of redemption with those that God places in our paths.  

This was originally published in December, 2011 in City Life, the newsletter of Anchorage City Church. It has been modified slightly for this blog.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"Now I Can See Out of Both Eyes"

Sometimes at Bethel / BSSM there are opportunities for testimonies of what God is doing among those of us in the school. Yesterday, a young woman said that she recently came across a homeless man here in Redding. She had some food in the car, so she brought it out and shared it with him. 

In the course of conversation he said that he had a terrible childhood, and had been burned by religion. She asked if he would like to meet the real Jesus.

He said that he would like to know what that felt like. He closed his eyes and held out his hands for prayer. The woman prayed with him. When he opened his eyes, they suddenly went wide in surprise.

She asked why he was so surprised. 

"I have a blind eye," he said, "but now I can see out of both eyes."

Friday, November 02, 2012

U.S.A. > Wrong Direction?

A 142-country 2012 Legatum Institute report investigating prosperity around the world suggests what most Americans already are saying: the country is heading in the wrong direction.

Prosperity Index by Country
2012 Prosperity Index showing rankings for the United States.
This nation dropped out of the top 10 to 12th place in 2012.
The Index looks at eight indicators of prosperity rather than just economic wealth. The 2012 index shows that for the first time, the USA has dropped out of the top 10 to 12th place.

According to the methodology used by Legatum, the US has slipped from 2010 to 2012 as follows:

  • Economy: From 14th place to 20th place
  • Entrepreneurship & Opportunity: 3rd place to 12th place
  • Governance: 3rd to 10th
  • Education: 9th to 5th (improvement)
  • Health: 1st to 2nd
  • Safety & Security: 25th to 27th
  • Personal Freedom: 25th to 27th
  • Social Capital: 12th to 10th (improvement)

Certainly no index of this kind is free of bias, and methodologies vary.  Nevertheless, it is yet another suggestion that our national approach to providing prosperity for our people is working less and less well.

Government is not the only way to make changes in national direction, but it is hugely important.  With national elections only days away at this writing, these matters are worth serious thought before marking our ballots.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Parable of the Extravagant Father

Most recent Bibles (published in the USA, at least) have section titles added by modern publishers to help us find specific text and to mark off the boundaries of important Bible sections.  The title of Luke 15:11-32 is usually, "The Prodigal Son" or the "The Lost Son."  The International Standard Version subtitles it "The Story of the Loving Father."

The story IS about a son who left home, lived a riotous life, and returned broken to his father who received him with joy.  It's a story of redemption.  But it is also about a father who loved his son even when he did not deserve it.  If I were subtitling a new version of the Bible, I think I would chose "The Story of the Extravagant Father".

It is easy to look back over 20 centuries and miss some of the cultural cues in this story:

  • The sins of the son against the father were immense -- breaking of relationship, kicking a financial leg out from under the family business, consorting with prostitutes, and living with pigs 
  • The father ran to his son -- that would have been a very undignified thing to do for a rich first century patriarch.
  • Put the best robe on him -- the father restored his identity as a son with a treasured family garment.
  • Put a ring on his finger -- the father restored his authority in the family business.  Rings were a symbol of authority.  They were not inexpensive.
  • Put sandals on his feet -- the son was barefoot, or poorly shod.  People with money had sandals; slaves and the poor often didn't.  
  • Killed the fattened calf -- we eat fattened beef all the time today.  In the agricultural society of first century Israel, the fattened calf would have been reserved for special occasions.  It would have been too expensive to eat them regularly.
From my perspective, the real punchline of this story is the amazing love of the father.  Jesus painted the story for His listeners in such a way that they could not possibly miss that the father's love went beyond what they would do or expect. 

Jesus was telling His listeners and us in parable form what the love of Father God is like.  He doesn't want to punish -- like the father in the story He is watching and hoping for us to return.  When we repent of our sins, even big ones, He forgives and restores us to the family.

If you have walked away from God and lived in a way that grieves His heart, you can turn back today.  He will come running, just like in the story Jesus told!  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

On the Trail of 160 Pounds

I'm on the trail to 160 pounds by late Spring 2013 - a reduction of 20% of my body weight.  Let me tell you about the journey and why I am on it.

This is my progress so far.  I am working towards
reaching my goal weight by late spring 2013.
I started this journey at 202 lbs on September 10, 2012.  I weigh 190 right now -- still about 12 pounds overweight for my height, but already 1/4 of the total distance.

Why am I telling you this? Well, I'm declaring my intentions.  It's a kind of public accountability.  I am going to do this, and when I get there, I'm going to build a house there.

For me, the last straw has been rising blood pressure and what I suspect may be early signs of Type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, the woman I love says I look better when I weigh less.  And, I know from experience I feel better at lower weight.  A friend in Anchorage summed all of this up well recently with the  word, "stewardship".  So, bottom line, I want to steward well the body gifted to me by God.

It is only 12 pounds I have dropped, but I already feel quite a bit better.  The blood pressure seems to be falling, too.  I'm eating fewer sweets, so I don't know about the early diabetes signs.  Linda says I already look better, too. :)

In addition to looking and feeling better, I know from my reading that I can (statistically speaking) minimize risks of some diseases and enjoy longer life.  Less weight will also be easier on my joints.

Why 160 lbs?  The last time I was 160 lbs was probably four decades ago in my late teens or early 20s.  But, the US Centers for Disease Control suggest that for my 6 foot height, normal weight is 136 - 184 lbs....with shoes and clothes on.  I have a medium frame, so I should be nearer the center of that range.  I picked 160 in my skivvies at the beginning of the day, or about 165 fully dressed at mid-day.  My intention is to monitor this for how it looks, works and feels, and I may adjust up or down as the goal gets closer.

Here are the three legs of the plan I am working:
  1. Eat fewer calories on a daily basis than my body requires  
  2. Change my eating habits for the long haul
  3. Continue regular exercise
Screenshot from the iPhone App "Lose It!".
If I record it all, and stay under my
calorie limit, I lose weight.
For the calories leg, I use an iPhone app called Lose It!.  It synchronizes with a web site so I can enter food information either on the run on my iPhone, on my tablet, or at my laptop at home.  The app even allows me to scan barcodes on food items.  It tells me how many calories I can eat each day....and I just eat those calories or fewer. Usually.

I have found that a) I must record pretty much everything or I overeat at the most critical time, which is evening;  and b) at my age (62 at this writing), it's better to NOT factor in exercise.  The app allows users to record exercise and add those calories burned to what can be eaten.  That worked when I was younger.

I don't typically feel much hunger during the day.  I know from experience that front-loading most of my calories early in the day and going to bed a bit hungry helps with weight loss.  I have also found that a healthy snack between lunch and dinner is important.

For the habits leg, I know I must change my eating habits, and continue with with that for the rest of my life.  I have counted calories and lost significant weight twice before; once in my 40's and once in my 50's.  Both times, my weight slowly returned to the same or a higher weight than when I started.  I know from this experience and from reading that changing what and how I eat is key to long term weight management.  At the beginning of this journey Linda and I determined that we would eat more like people who live around the Mediterranean.  We like the food.  It tastes good. It's colorful, fun and different.

According to a recent Time Magazine article, "people following a Mediterranean-style diet may have the best chance of keeping weight off — and doing it without causing negative side effects".  A Mayo Clinic article indicates that "a recent analysis of more than 1.5 million healthy adults demonstrated that following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of overall and cardiovascular mortality, a reduced incidence of cancer and cancer mortality, and a reduced incidence of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases."

In general,  I am eating more fruit, fish, yogurt and whole grain bread.  I have cut back on red meat, butter, most other bread, pastries, sweets, processed foods, and drinks with calories. I'm not slavish to this but I have been without butter for more than a month now, and we have eaten relatively little bread, turning instead mainly to rice.  I love cookies, but for the past month, I have eaten very few of them.  My desert these days is a couple of dates or a kiwi.

I'm also trying to limit my intake to what satisfies.  Several times recently, I have put part of the contents of my plate in the 'fridge because I was full.  That is a significant change for this eat-everything-on-your-plate guy!

For the exercise leg, I have a gym habit thanks to my amazingly disciplined son-in-law, Steve, so exercise is not so hard for me.  I like the additional muscular build out; it helps with life activities and it looks better.  Exercise helps me with weight loss, but it also helps with mental and emotional health.  It doesn't help everyone with weight loss; burning more calories increases hunger for some.

I recognize that Linda and I are in a very disciplined season right now.  We are attending the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry in California for nine months.  We do not often eat out, and we do relatively little social eating with friends and church community.  Family is far away.  The test of this plan will come when we are in a more "routine" environment....when family is visiting....when the gang is over at the house....when we are out eating with friends.....when I'm bored....etc.

Last of all, I invite you to join me on the journey!  Lose It! has a community feature that allows automatic notification of others of your daily victories on the scales.  I will send you encouragement via Lose It! if you will do the same for me.  Lose It! will work with just a web browser on any computer.  It also works on other iOS devices and the Android operating system.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Stepping Out FROM the Favor of God

Ready for a paradigm shift?  Take a look at this:

Being chosen is empowering. It empowers us because we know we are loved. This means we are no longer stepping out for the favor of God. Now, we can step out from the favor of God.


It's all too easy to think, "I'm doing this to win God's approval or his love".  And how often do we think "I'm doing this for God"?  For sure, there is nothing wrong with doing righteous deeds for God, as long as we know that these deeds don't increase His love, nor lack of deeds diminish it.

But the paradigm shift is that as chosen ones, we are proceeding FROM Him to do righteous deeds that bring glory and honor and Kingdom increase!  As Christ followers, we are on the team!

Here's the quote in context (from Chris Overstreet's book, "A Practical Guide to Evangelism Supernaturally")

God's love establishes perfect identity. When we know who we are , we're not afraid to step out and do the things God says we can do. 
You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9) 
Being chosen is empowering. It empowers us because we know we are loved. This means we are no longer stepping out FOR the favor of God. Now, we can step out FROM the favor of God. (my emphasis added) When we know this, we know that God is with us, and His hands are upon us. This changes our expectations for what God can do through us because He has chose to use us. 

Friday, October 05, 2012

Musing on God and Time

I have been thinking for weeks about time and how it relates to God.  These days I am wondering now if along with the rest of the universe around us, God created time.

We are so time-bound, and universe-bound that it is hard to think outside of those particular boxes.  But what if time did not exist until God set in motion the universe we know? What if at creation He created time, along with matter, light, gravity, etc. as part of the suite of essential mechanisms that undergird this universe?  What if He lives outside of time?

To continue this line of speculation, perhaps He sees into what we consider the distant past as easily as He sees the present or what will be for us the distant future.  If this is so, then He knows how our lives play out, and the words we will speak, and the deeds we will do.  If He is not bound by time, my past, present and future are all visible at once to Him.

If that is so, He knew from the beginning of time that I would choose to love Him, and so perhaps he arranged my destiny to assure that I would be in a position to make that choice.  Maybe the opposite understandings of "predestination" and "free will" are both right.....or maybe we (including myself in this short essay) have tried to use logic to understand God's ways when logic is insufficient to resolve these questions.

Once I no longer see God as bound by time, some of the assumptions I have made about how God acts in our universe come loose of their moorings.  I believe the Bible to be a reliable message, but I also believe it neither contains all of God nor all of the universe.  Perhaps some of the apparent contradictions we see, or some of our contentious interpretations of the Bible are due to our time-limited understanding.

The Bible contains some fascinating hints on this subject.  Here are just two:

  • He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Eccl 3:11b NIV
  • to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Jude 1:25 ESV (emphasis added)

We once had a cat named Cissy.  She had marvelous china blue eyes.  Sometimes those china blue eyes seemed to look at me with questions her cat nature would not allow her to even frame, let alone ask.  I feel that way sometimes about God.

But I know He loves us.  I am content to abide in that knowledge.  The other answers I can wait for.

What do you think?  Has time always existed?  Does God exist outside of time?  Let me know what you think: click the "comments" link below and leave your thoughts.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

I Want My Mouth Guard Back

In the evening, as I sat on the bed to read before going to sleep, I saw Linda's mouth guard on the sheet at the foot of the bed between our two duvets. That would not be very exciting were it not for the events that led up to it.

On Tuesday evening, the 1st day of BSSM, Linda said her mouth guard was missing, and that was not good news. It helps her sleep, and it measurably increases her blood oxygenation. It is a custom-fitted appliance, and cost more than $2000 to study, design, build and fit. The story of the mouth guard is interesting in itself, but I'm going to stay on track.

We looked for it around the bed, in the duvets, and on the floor. I had washed clothes early the day of it's disappearance, and Linda wondered if she had put it in a pillowcase, as is her custom for keeping it safe when she takes it out. I even stopped by the apartment complex office to ask if it had been turned in from the laundry area.

We had heard the story from Bethel about the man who lost his knife (video below), and said to the Lord, "I want my knife back.". The knife mysteriously reappeared. Since then, others have prayed similarly and some have seen miraculous the man whose missing watch was on his thumb the next morning when he awoke!

Well, we prayed that, too. "Lord, we want that mouth guard back!" It is no stretch for the God who loves us to take care of the things that concern us, so we asked in faith for this small thing. $2000+ maybe it's more of a "medium thing". :)

And there it was....right in plain sight at the end of the day.

Some might scoff and say that it was tangled up in the bedding and it was just a coincidence that it appeared in that way. Maybe, but I have observed that we have more of these "coincidences" when we pray. From my perspective, it was a miracle.

So....we give praise to the God who loves us, and watches over our lives!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Should One be Nice or Dangerous?

Does it suffice as a Christian to be nice, or should one also be dangerous?  Three sentences in Bill Johnson's "When Heaven Invades Earth" say much:
Johnson wrote, "I’m not impressed with anyone’s life unless they have integrity. But I’m not happy with their life until they are dangerous.  As much as I have the ability to do so, I’ll not let those around me get away with just being nice people!"
I think in retrospect that I have tried most of my life to be nice.  There's kind of pleasant warm, fuzzy Christian-ness about being nice.   If nice means being a man of integrity, faithful, friendly, polite and genuine, I want to be those things in increasing measure.  And I want to be those things most of the time.

But Jesus was not always nice.  When I think about the chaotic scene in the temple with tables being turned over, coins hitting the stone floor, panicked cattle lowing, men yelling, and a passionate young man wielding a whip made of cords, "nice" would not be the adjective that would spring immediately to mind.  "Dangerous", yes; but not, "nice."

Jesus told the disciples,  preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.   In other words, preach the kingdom, heal the sick, raise the dead,  and destroy the work of the devil.  That's our mission, too.

"Nice" is one component of preaching the kingdom of heaven, and for healing the sick and raising the dead, but as for destroying the works of the devil: that is where "dangerous" enters.

Dangerous builds an orphanage by faith in Tanzania to care for kids and teach them that as Christ followers, they are royalty in the Kingdom of Heaven.  Dangerous publishes and distributes Gospel literature in India, South America, and Russia.  Dangerous comes alongside a warring husband and wife and helps them find reconciliation in Christ.  Dangerous builds a ministry training city and local leaders.  Dangerous builds a business employing people and serving the city.  Dangerous brings uncompromising Godly principles and selfless love into the workplace.

Yes - I want to be nice.  But what I really want to be is really, really dangerous.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Revival Groups

There are many students at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM) -- about 1,200 in the first year class of 2013.  That's a larger group than nearly all US churches.  The problem in any regular gathering of Christians this size is pastoral care.  BSSM has a novel solution to this: revival groups.

Linda and I attended our first revival group gathering yesterday at a Redding yogurt shop.  I'm sure the shop owners were delighted with our "flash mob" -- there must have been 30 of us.  The excitement of young people from all over America and as far away as England and Switzerland meeting for the first time was palpable!

Revival groups at BSSM consist of around sixty students, a pastor and a third-year student intern.  Surprise: one of our interns is Mariah, the daughter of former Anchorage City Churchers Steve and Kelly!   (Ask me privately if you want to know the family name).  Our group pastor is Abi, another focused young woman..

Our next meeting will the lake.  Sometimes the best thing we can do is develop relationships with other believers.  Thanks, Abi.

I like the name: revival groups.  It gives an instant and important focus to these groups.

I love small groups and understand at a personal level the significance of them in the lives of individual Christ followers and churches of which they are a part.  There are also small groups at BSSM and the local church here at Bethel/Redding.  I'll cover this more in the days and weeks ahead.  But perhaps something like revival groups could play a role in larger churches.  I'm going to give that more thought.

Thursday, September 06, 2012


My friend Steve DuBois and I roomed together through much of our college days.  We also partnered on various projects as wildlife students, both in college, and later as Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists.  We learned many things together, and one that I remember was this:  I tend to estimate projects will take much less than the time they eventually wind up taking and Steve overestimates....a much better approach to project management.  Underestimating has stayed with me.

So it is with the organization of the necessities of life in our culture -- things like a bed, chairs, food preparation.  I am still underestimating.  All I can say is that I am glad we are here a good week before school starts!

Our new apartment in Redding on 9/1...empty, empty, empty.
But Linda is here, so it is home!
We have a nice two bedroom apartment, but it was empty, empty, empty.  We haven't had to furnish an empty apartment in a LONG time....decades, actually.  To make it more interesting, we don't really want to go out and buy the furnishings retail because we expect to be here less than a year, and because selling new items at second hand prices will return only dimes on the dollar.  And then there is the difficulty of moving furniture in a sedan.

Looking back on it, I can see that once again I vastly underestimated the time it would take to get set up in a new place.  Happily, my lady thrives on finding just the right item for our home, wherever it is.  If she had full use of her legs, I suspect we would be much further along.  As it is, she has found a very comfortable bed for us, a nice used kitchen table and chairs, and most of the components we need to prepare food.  More will come in the days and weeks ahead.

We are in a good location, just minutes by car from the church and the school.  Shopping is nearby.  The apartment complex is pleasant, with a fitness center and a pool. It overlooks the Sacramento River, although our apartment looks out into a wooded greenbelt, which is great!  Our first morning here, I watched four mule deer daintily walk by less than 100 feet (30 meters) away from my breakfast spot on the back deck.  I have never seen so many hummingbirds.

Mornings are pleasant with temperatures now in the upper 50's or low 60's before dawn.  Daytime temperatures have risen each afternoon into the mid 90s.  We found pretty quickly that early morning is the best time of day to do things that require being outside.  Except swimming.

Since our arrival on Saturday, we have been to Bethel Church once, for the Sunday evening service.  One does not arrive a few minutes early and find either a good parking place or a place in the main auditorium.  One arrives 45 minutes early or more to find those things.  We sat in the overflow room and participated in the service via one very large screen and a couple of large flatscreens.  School starts next Tuesday.  Registration is Monday.

Our "revival group" gathers later today for an informal meetup.  The Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry is large....about 1,200 this year.  The school is divided into perhaps 20 revival groups of about 60 with a pastor caring for each group.

So, today, more work on the necessities.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Enroute to Redding - September 1, 2012

Long time friends Jan & Frank outside their Gold Beach home 
We had a great visit with our friends Jan & Frank at their Gold Beach home.  Another great friend named ├ůsa, once remarked about friends that they fill up our emotional tank.  That was the case here.

We left Gold Beach early so we could arrive in Redding in time to sign the lease for our apartment, and receive the keys.  It would be a long three-day weekend without those keys!

The drive along the California coast began to reveal taller trees until we were rolling through groves of immense trees.  The Redwood Highway was built to conserve as many trees on the right of way as possible.  In some places, trees grew within a foot of the asphalt road surface.  Fog rolled off the Pacific and wisped through the verdant branches of trees far older than the American republic.

Our wheels had mostly been pointing southward near the west edge of the continent for the past few days.  At Arcata, we turned them east and entered the Klamath Mountains.  The scenery was impressive but Highway 299 is a windy road, and not very fast, just as Frank warned.

The temperature climbed as we headed east.  When we left the coast it was 59F (15C), by the time we were most of the way through the mountains, it was around 86F (30C)

We pulled into Redding about 3:30 PM and went straight to our apartment manager office where staff gave us the lease paperwork to sign and then the keys.  The pool outside the office was inviting!

In the 9 days before classes start we will be finding the pieces we need to tailor our apartment to us....starting with a bed.  It's empty now except for what we brought along and the boxes that Katie mailed to us.

We're here!

Enroute to Redding - August 18 & 19, 2012
Enroute to Redding - August 20 & 21, 2012
Enroute to Redding - August 22, 2012
Enroute to Redding - August 23 & 24, 2012
Enroute to Redding - August 25, 26 and 27, 2012
Enroute to Redding - August 28, 29, 30 & 31, 2012
Enroute to Redding - September 1, 2012

All pictures
Enroute to Redding

Friday, August 31, 2012

Enroute to Redding - August 29,30 & 31, 2012

These are the last days of our trip along the Northwest coast of North America.  We started at our home a few hundred meters from Alaska's Cook Inlet, wended our way through the Inside Passage aboard the MV Columbia, and for the last few days by car along the coast of Washington and Oregon.  Tomorrow we turn our wheels inland to our destination, Redding, California.

On August 29, we took off from Ocean Shores, Washington where we had stayed overnight. Our room overlooked the Pacific Ocean....which during the time we were there lived up to its name. It stayed "pacific" -- peaceful -- under a warm sun with comfortable breezes. I kept thinking about how this coastal country looks when the weather is in winter when gales sweep off the vast ocean. 

We stopped a second night at Newport, Oregon.  US Route 101 along the coast is beautiful in many places, like the picture at left shows.  It's a bit slow because of the many towns along the road.

Our friend Frank said the towns are 27 miles apart because that's how far it was judged that horses could be pushed in a single day.

We picked up Frank in Bandon, Oregon, about an hour north of his home, where he had dropped off his Cessna 182 for its annual inspection.

Long time friends Frank and Jan have lived in Gold Beach for 12 years.  It's a pleasant community of about 2,000 in the very southwest corner of Oregon.  We stayed up to all hours last night chattering about everything.  We'll stay again tonight.

The climate here is fascinating to me.  It is almost always sunny and pleasantly warm in the summers.  Frank says winters are cool with period rain events.  The area stays cooler than inland Oregon and California because of cool coastal breezes.


Enroute to Redding - August 18 & 19, 2012
Enroute to Redding - August 20 & 21, 2012
Enroute to Redding - August 22, 2012
Enroute to Redding - August 23 & 24, 2012
Enroute to Redding - August 25, 26 and 27, 2012
Enroute to Redding - August 28, 29, 30 & 31, 2012
Enroute to Redding - September 1, 2012

All pictures
Enroute to Redding

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Enroute to Redding - August 25, 26, 27 & 28, 2012

Our Canadian friends Ryan, Sara, Amy and Alyssa met us on Saturday morning in Kamloops.  I've not been to this community before, but it has a pleasant Canadian feel to it.  Kamloops brought back memories of Calgary where I lived with my family 1968-1971.  Ryan says it is growing with older people because of its pleasant climate.

Amy and Alyssa were READY to swim just about anywhere.  We all went to Riverside Park along the Thompson Rivers in the center of Kamloops.  They waded, swam, checked out rocks, had their faces painted, and generally had a great time.  After Mexican food, the girls wanted to swim some more so we came back to the hotel and had more fun in the water. :)


Linda and I met Ryan at Bible School in Sweden in 2003, and he has been a great friend ever since.  Sara and the girls are a great delight to us, too.  We're happy to be part of their lives!

We reluctantly parted company on Sunday morning and headed for Seattle where Linda's twin brother Larry lives with his wife Jenny and children Sarah and Emma.  Larry and I became friends early in my college experience at La. Tech as a result of our mutual interest in ham radio.  Then I found out he had a sister!  

From North Seattle we set course for IKEA in Renton.  I wish there was an IKEA in Anchorage!  We discovered IKEA in Uppsala 10 years ago, and were more than delighted to find there were branches in the USA.

Linda's younger brother Warren and his family live also on our route, so we went there for the night.

Enroute to Olympia, WAZE, the iPhone social GPS app showed another facet of its value. Interstate 5 is known for its traffic jams, and on Monday evening, WAZE demonstrated its ability to detect traffic jams and route us around them.  Because WAZE connects our driving experience....and that of many others....back to a central computer, it is able to detect traffic snarls and send that information out in real time to other users.  Here's some more about WAZE.  As you can perhaps tell, I'm a fan. :)

Warren and his family live in a pleasant wooded area near Olympia.  When we arrived, Warren was cooking massive pieces of steak and venison on his BBQ.  Awesome!

We helped them eat that...and some pecan pie.

On the following morning, Warren and I went out to Costco and Cabela's.  First time for me in a Cabela's store.  Note to women reading this:  men don't "shop" in Cabela's.  They drool.

Later in the day, we headed west for Ocean Shores in Gray's Harbor county.  It is just west of Aberdeen on the edge of the continent.  Our room had an ocean view.  Lovely!


Enroute to Redding - August 18 & 19, 2012
Enroute to Redding - August 20 & 21, 2012
Enroute to Redding - August 22, 2012
Enroute to Redding - August 23 & 24, 2012
Enroute to Redding - August 25, 26 and 27, 2012
Enroute to Redding - August 28, 29, 30 & 31, 2012
Enroute to Redding - September 1, 2012

All pictures
Enroute to Redding

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Enroute to Redding - August 23 & 24, 2012

August 23rd was our last full day on the ferry for this trip.  It is our first time on the ferry through these Canadian waters.  The sea- and waterscapes look a lot like Southeast Alaska...similar vegetation, land formations and rocky beaches.

The topography is remarkable in many ways, and sometimes quite interesting.  Grenville Channel is nearly 50 nautical miles long; a nearly straight strait.  Most of the passage through Canadian waters is protected from the rollers coming from the open Pacific.  

We transited the few open water passages on a revlatively calm day.  It can get much less comfortable than we found it for the few hours required for passing through them.

I got up early today and washed clothes.  The Columbia has washers and dryers...which were in heavy demand the rest of the day.

We made a point to wake up early on the morning of Friday, August 24th, as the ship would come into Bellingham at 7 AM ship's time (8 AM PDST) and we needed to have all in readiness.

The ferry cleared out quickly.  Even those of us on the upper car deck were moved out rapidly.

It felt strange to be on land again after the slight vibration and motion of the ferry.  We quickly gassed up and shaped a course for Kamloops, BC to meet some friends from Calgary on Saturday.  


Enroute to Redding - August 18 & 19, 2012
Enroute to Redding - August 20 & 21, 2012
Enroute to Redding - August 22, 2012
Enroute to Redding - August 23 & 24, 2012
Enroute to Redding - August 25, 26 and 27, 2012
Enroute to Redding - August 28, 29, 30 & 31, 2012
Enroute to Redding - September 1, 2012

All pictures
Enroute to Redding

Enroute to Redding - August 22, 2012

MV Columbia / AMHS photo
Alaska Marine Highway's M/V Columbia
The ferry trip aboard the MV Columbia from Haines, Alaska to Bellingham, Washington goes remarkably quickly.  Five calendar days are involved, but the trip is really only four nights, three full days and parts of two others.  We boarded on Monday evening and got off early on Friday morning....not bad for 1,800 miles.

While Columbia's 17 knots can't compete with its faster cousins in the fleet (Chenga and Fairweather) with their 32 knot service speeds, it rocks right along through darkness and foul weather.  It goes while we are sleeping.

The ferry is more expensive than travelling by land, especially for people who can travel long, fast and light.  However, it is easier on our backs and we can do other things while travelling.  And the scenery is always pretty and sometimes spectacular.

Our suspicion that we really do use the `Net a great deal was confirmed on the ferry.  Other than 3G cellular data available in Juneau and Ketchikan, there wasn't much Internet available during these days aboard the Columbia.  We turned off our data roaming once we entered Canadian almost $16/mb for data, we thought we could live without it for a little while longer.  Barely.

I woke up on August 23 with fog out the port and no forward movement on the ship.  It turned out we were just about to leave Wrangell.  The fog dissipated somewhat as we headed down Clarence Strait towards Ketchikan.

We arrived in Ketchikan at noon.  It is a busy place with jets arriving and departing Gravina Island, across the narrows from the city, ferries shuttling back and forth, fishing boats coming and going and a constant roar of float planes using the narrows as a runway.

We transited the Alaska / Canada border in Dixon Entrance just as the sun was going down in a spectacular fashion over Prince of Wales Island.  

The ferry did make an unscheduled stop at Prince Rupert for a medical evacuation.  Fortunately for the ill individual, it was only a few hours distant, and not far from the normal course.


Enroute to Redding - August 18 & 19, 2012
Enroute to Redding - August 20 & 21, 2012
Enroute to Redding - August 22, 2012
Enroute to Redding - August 23 & 24, 2012
Enroute to Redding - August 25, 26 and 27, 2012
Enroute to Redding - August 28, 29, 30 & 31, 2012
Enroute to Redding - September 1, 2012

All pictures
Enroute to Redding

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Enroute to Redding - August 20 & 21, 2012

I am writing this as the MV Columbia steams south through Peril Strait toward Sitka.  It is morning and I have just breakfasted in the dining room.  Baranof and its surrounding islands are a particularly lovely part of the Alexander Archipelago, and Peril Strait one of the loveliest and most interesting.

Peril Strait is narrow -- in some places, very narrow.  As I finished my breakfast we were quite close to the rocks.  I could easily have softball pitched to the forested shore.  Low hills and higher peaks marched away from my view into the cloud-shrouded distance.

Around another turn in the narrow passage is a view to the west and the open Pacific.  Fishing boats dot the horizon. This is fishing country and commercial and sport fishermen work hard and play hard in the summer months when the silvery salmon are returning to natal streams.  Here and there, salmon jump completely put of the water. There is a sense of energy and purpose in the air.

We had boarded Columbia the previous afternoon in Haines, and we had started that day in Haines Junction, Yukon Territory.  We had awoken that morning at the Raven Hotel, and the very nice complimentary breakfast added to my already stratospheric estimation of this impressive small hotel.  One does not expect to find places of this calibre along the Alaska Highway. Clean is usually about as good as it gets.

We also did not expect the highway from Haines Junction to Haines to be so smooth.  Our first trip over is this road had been 40 years earlier, and it was gravel and dirt at that time, with some asphalt on the American side.  This time, we traveled  on a broad, smoothly-paved highway that left more time for sightseeing as so little effort was needed for pothole avoidance.  Kluane National and Tatshenshini Provincial parks are immediately west of the road, and their mountains are stunning.  Only an under-construction stretch of gravel near the middle of the trip slowed us down.

The treeless high country near the Haines Road summit was our first look into such country as newly minted married folk.  I recalled to Linda the small lake where we had stopped to allow me to identify a bird -- a Barrows goldeneye -- a life bird for me back then. We talked about the excitement in our hearts of those days.  It only takes passing through this beautiful country to fan it into flame once again!

We did listen to a sermon as we drove along.  The tall mountains, late summer snowfields and wild creeks seemed to punctuate the preacher's words as he spoke about hearing the voice of God.  When we strain to hear Him, the preacher said, we are using logic and usually fail to hear.   It is often when we are about other "non-religious activity" that His voice comes.

I have always liked the downhill trip from the Haines Road summit.  It feels like a quick slice of the north, from the high mountain tundra through the coastal forest to tidewater.

Haines was more difficult for us than in the past, but people were very willing to help.  We stopped at the local IGA grocery, and a friendly checker brought out a ramp for us to get over the high step into the building.  Sidewalk curbs and construction made it feel a bit forbidding.

That Alaska friendliness extended to the ferry.  When I asked at the terminal about parking close to the onboard elevator, we wound up on the upper car deck with our car's trunk next to the door into pursers office area!

UPPER car deck???  Yep.  First time ever for us riding a car elevator.  They had two such elevators.  There was room up there for about 25 vehicles.   It was tight, but an easy trip for our gear out of the car up one flight of stairs or elevator trip to the stateroom.

And when we got to the purser's desk, the purser asked if we would prefer a handicap-accessible cabin.  Wow!  Thanks, Lord!   It had not been available when I booked many weeks earlier.   It is perfect for us.

We stopped in Sitka for several hours.  Because the ferry most easily navigates Sergius Narrows near high or low slack tide, it stays longer at this port than most others.  The crew used the time for fire and lifesaving drills.

If you miss the tight passageway into Sitka, you can see it again on the way out, as it is the only protected waterway in and out of Sitka.  Linda and I sat in the observation lounge and watched the verdant shores glide by.

Later, we ate dinner in the restaurant as the Columbia steamed south in Chatham Strait.  We could easily see the ABC islands - Admiralty to the east, Baranof to the west, and dimly to the north, Chichagof.  Interestingly, we had cell phone coverage - probably from the community of Angoon - for a couple of hours. As we turned the corner into Frederick Sound, we had coverage from Kake.  Those who installed the cell phone systems in these communities....did they know their work would allow travelers along the inside Passage to keep in touch with friends and family?


Enroute to Redding - August 18 & 19, 2012
Enroute to Redding - August 20 & 21, 2012
Enroute to Redding - August 22, 2012
Enroute to Redding - August 23 & 24, 2012
Enroute to Redding - August 25, 26 and 27, 2012
Enroute to Redding - August 28, 29, 30 & 31, 2012
Enroute to Redding - September 1, 2012

All pictures
Enroute to Redding