Friday, December 28, 2007

Sweet Summertime

Well, they say it's going to be a long, hard winter. So here's a little word of encouragement: Less than five months till boating season. And here's a little taste o'summer to help you make it through the frost and cold. (My son Jason on the Columbia River, workin' the wake behind Buster Boat.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Sublime Gift

(Malachi 4:5-6) Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

One of the glaring deficiencies of the Old Covenant was the frequent and horrific disruptions of covenant succession. We ache, wince and recoil as we read the accounts of the faithful and humble Aarons, Davids and Josiahs who begat the treacherous and lecherous Abihus, Absaloms and Manassehs. But praise be to God, one of the distinguishing features of the New Covenant is the prevalence of fathers whose hearts are turned to their children, and children whose hearts are turned to their fathers; the predominance of multi-generational households of faith filled with cross-generational love, concord and deference.

In this season of gifts and thanksgiving may the LORD grant us true thankfulness for every minute of fellowship that we enjoy with our children, and faith to trust Him for the return of the wandering prodigals.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Delightful Mixing of Metaphors...

Suddenly I have this urge to climb stairs, holding someones hand, whilst twisting and shouting...Enjoy!

Trinity Church Family Camp 1995-96

Eugene Rosenstock-Hussey noted that “vacations” differ from “holidays” in that vacations are individual whereas holidays are corporate. Individuals or individual families take vacations, corporate bodies celebrate holidays. Holidays bring people together in time and space to commemorate and celebrate. And the gathering together both reinforces the things celebrated and forges communal bonds.

Through the years our annual family camp “holiday” has been an important and delightful part of covenant-community at Trinity Church. In 1995 we began the tradition of meeting every Labor Day at Double K Retreat Center on Snoqualmie Pass. Last year we conducted our 13th consecutive camp at the same time and location. Sadly, we have outgrown the facility and hence will begin meeting at a different site in June of 2009. So I’ve decided to do a little tribute entitled, “Holidays at Double K.”

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas Feast Photos

I just figured out how to embed a slideshow in my blog. Here are some great pictures, courtesy of Sue Knight. To start the show just double-click on one of the pictures, and then click the start arrow/trinangle thingy. Enjoy.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Trinity Church Christmas Feast

For my money, communal dance is perhaps the best metaphor for Christian community around. Concentration and joy. The one and the many. Young and old. Unity and diversity. Skill and beauty. Masculinity and femininity. Initiation and response. Leading and following. Music and rhythm. The bow and curtsy of deference/honor. Up-tempo and down-tempo. Simplicity and complexity. Conformity and freedom. Body and soul. Order and exuberance.

Quite wonderful really. Sometimes you are just so filled with thoughts of divine grace that y'just gotta dance.

Massa Technology

Right now I have 650 emails in my "Inbox", some answered and some not. They say that the trick is to master the technology, insead of the technololgy mastering you. Sounds grea...umm, sorry, gotta go. I just received a new email and my phone and cell-phone are ringing. (Can I get a witness?)

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Skinny on Huckabee

Ben House is an elder in the CREC, a voracious reader and an able cultural and political critic. I found his musings on Mike Huckabee very enlightning. You can read Ben's thoughts on the presidential hopeful by clicking here.

Pardon me, but your slip is showing...

The Republican presdidential candidate Rudy Giuliani is pro-choice (pro-abortion) and anti-terrorism. The former mayor of New York city is vowing, if elected, to protect our nation from a repeat of 9-11 (the once-in-a-blue-moon event during which around 3,000 Americans lost their lives.) Giuliani does this whilst supporting a "medical" procedure that daily takes that many little American lives. And this he does with a straight face. Hmmm. Pardon me Mr. Giuliani, but...

An Oasis in the Wilderness

Well, the presidential race will begin in earnest after the New Year. And it will most likely be (for the most part) a recycling of past blah-fests. But the video below gives us at least a glimmer of hope. I disagree with Huckabee's equivocation of "six days", but I love his testimony regarding the existence and activity of the living God. This candidate's bold witness to the truth is a refreshing oasis in a wilderness of political rhetoric, and an island of religious conviction in a sea spineless double-speak. But we need to postpone endorsement. It's early in the process.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Could this be my long lost sister?

Last week as I was surfing the web, I ran across some links to the extreme fighter "Molly Helsel" (second from the left on the poster below.) Given the extreme feminity of all the Helsel women I know, the pictures and videos of "cousin" Molly leave me somewhere betwixt laughter and tears.

Honor to whom honor is due...

Last week we hosted our annual banquet to thank and honor the folk who serve the saints at Trinity Church. As a vocational pastor, the church sends me two "thank-notes" each month (in the form of paychecks.) In this regard my cup runneth over. But we have a growing cadre of servants who are either upaid or indadequately paid for their faithful labors. And so, once a year it is our joy and privilege to honor such and thank them for their service. Here are a few pictures from our celebration and my "thanks" to the elders at Trinity Church.

To the Elders of Trinity Church:
Brothers, you are no-hirelings. Week after week you demonstrate your god-given desire and ability to lay down your lives for the sheep. When the attacks have come, from within and without, you have carefully identified the danger, approximated the location of the sheep and cheerfully interposed your persons between the wolves and the sheep.

Brothers, you are faithful imitations of the Great Shepherd. The real test of a shepherd’s heart is not how he cares for the ninety-nine sheep who are munching contentedly on the grass to which they have been led. No, the real test is what the shepherd does with the wandering sheep. Some wandering in rebellion (picture here a sheep in dark glasses with a leather jacket, collar upturned.) Some wandering in ignorance (picture here a cross-eyed sheep with the brim of a baseball cap a tad askew, chasing a butterfly near the edge of a cliff.) Regardless, you have, again and again, left the ninety-nine and gently but firmly pursued the one; coaxing and chiding, nudging and exhorting them back to the safety of the fold.

Brothers, like Christ, you have led the sheep to green pastures and beside the still waters. When providence has taken your sheep through the valley of the shadow of death, you have walked with them through the same, and ministering to them nothing less than the very presence of Christ as you did. Weekly, you have spread a table for those in your care in the presence of a world yet hostile to the Gospel our of Savior Jesus Christ, and have fed your flock with the bread of heaven and the cup of blessing. You have been God’s means to shower the sheep with goodness and cover them with mercy.

Brothers, as you have sat in session you have been one and many. Supernaturally united in purpose and submission to the Great Shepherd, and decidedly different in your takes, views, solutions and counsel. And all delightfully so, because you have contended with grace, disagreed with charity and deferred with humility. At times, I have loved and appreciated you the most when you were arguing against my position (how do you do that?)

Brothers, if the Holy Spirit is “another Advocate” then you have been, in your service to the saints, “another-‘nother advocate” as you represented the cares and concerns of your parishes to the session. Even when you disagreed with your parishoners in principle, you represented them and their views with passion and clarity. And witnessing your advocacy, I have grown in my understanding of Christ and his Spirit’s advocacy on our behalf. Thank you.

Brothers, you have shepherded as examples to the flock. You have not driven the sheep to love their wives, honor their parents and disciple their children, you have led them to these obediences. You have not driven the sheep to love God, His Word and His sacraments. Rather you have led, by example in the very same. As your pastor, I have learned, and am learning much from your humble examples. Again, thank you.

Christ has promised to reward all who spend themselves in his joyful service. May the LORD return blessings to you thirty, sixty even a hundredfold for your faithful labors on behalf of the flock.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The same only more so...

We have always loved and admired our son Josiah. But, truth be told, marriage has had a striking effect upon him, and all for the better. He is the same wonderful guy that he has always been, only more so. Likewise, his wife, Shannon, is a real beauty (both inside and out) and in the zenith of her pregnancy radiates that same breath-taking beauty, only more so. In a few weeks Josiah and Shannon will bring to clans Helsel and Visser our very first grandchild. And we will collectively continue to be the blessed-by-God's-grace families that we have always been, only more so.

A Family of Raccoon Tours

I am extremely blessed to live and love in a family of raconteurs (skilled tellers of anecdotes.) Although each of my children has their own unique style of storytelling, mimicry and expression, all four can hold you spellbound, move you to tears, or best of all, evoke that table-slapping, breath-stealing sort of laughter. The video below is a sample of Jason's dry wit and comic sense of timing. Jas is a good representation of the four and their well-honed ability to take the mundane and make it memorable in the telling of it. Enjoy.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Lord, please don't "take" me...

(Matthew 24:34-39) Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

Two themes are very prominent in the I Wish We’d All Been Ready/Thief in the Night music/movies (see posts below): Christ’s imminent return (his any-day-now “cloud coming”) and people being “taken” at that return. But how can Christ’s return be imminent for our generation if Jesus promised that it would happen within forty years (a “generation”) of his prophecy? And how can it be a good thing to be “taken” if being “taken” at Christ’s return is analogous to being “taken” by the Noaic flood?

Isn’t it much simpler to understand Christ’s “coming” as his coming to Jerusalem in judgment in A.D. 70, and being “taken” as being taken in that horrific judgment?

Jus’ wonderin’.

Friday, December 07, 2007

I wish we'd all been ready...

Okay, in order to make proper sense of these videos you'll need to view them in the correct order. Watch them top to bottom.

The first video represents a whole raft of songs written and recorded in the spirit of Larry Norman's I Wish We'd All Been Ready, and a whole snarl of movies written and produced in the spirit of Thief in the Night. These songs and movies all assumed that the best way to get lost souls into God's kingdom was to scare them with thoughts of "The Rapture." Evidently plain declarations of the justice and mercy of God exhibited in the Cross of Jesus Christ and careful expositions of the Bible were not deemed sufficient means to win people to the LORD.

These songs and movies were so ubiquitous in the seventies that most Christians born before 1970 have some sort of "rapture horror story" of their own. My sister, Sylvia, has a real hum-dinger which we get to hear from time to time at family gatherings.

The second video gently pokes fun at the "scare'em saved" ethos of the first video. We don't get to hear the sermon that follows the song, but I sincerely hope it was an exposition of scripture that draws attention to the reality that the "cloud coming" in Daniel 7:13 (and therefore Matthew 24:30) was not to the earth, but rather to "the Ancient of Days" (i.e. to God in heaven.)

For the record, I love the brothers who wrote the rapture songs and produced the rapture movies, and truly admire their zeal whilst simultaneously contending that it was not "according to knowledge" (Romans 10:2).

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Viking Age

"When the age of the Vikings came to a close, they must have sensed it. Probably, they gathered together one evening, slapped each other on the back and said, 'Hey, good job.'" (Jack Handey, Deep Thoughts)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Happy Birthday Rach!

Our daughter Rachael (dazzling smile, green jacket) came home last weekend with three of her roomates to celebrate her birthday. We trekked up to Leavenworth to frolic in "Little Bavaria" and to feast together at Visconti's. We are so very thankful to have a daughter who is beautiful both inside and out; thankful to have been graced with her lovely music, melodious laughter, delightful verse and dry wit over the last couple o'decades. And thankful that she is now surrounded by such wonderful, joyful, fruitful, godly women over in Seattle. Our cups overfloweth, yea verily.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Free at last, free at last...

In Steve Martin's recently released autobiography, Born Standing Up, he relates an interesting anecdote about the burden of debt. Martin loved comic books as a young boy and purchased them by borrowing money from his father. Soon he owed about seven (1955) dollars to his father who reminded him often of the debt. Every time Martin thought about the debt he was filled with remorse, shame and anguish. This went on for some months, until, as a birthday present, Martin's father forgave the debt. "I was so relieved to be free from this burden" Martin recounts, "that I never again bought anything on credit."

Whether or not it was Glenn Martin's intent to teach young Steve this lesson, the wise parent would do well to inculcate a similar revulsion to debt-spending in their covenant kids. And all would do well heed the example of this fiscally-not-so-Wild and Crazy Guy.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

At least they're wearing helmets...

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld onced mused about the wisdom of wearing a helmet when sky-diving. He concluded that if your parachute failed and you hit the ground at terminal velocity, you would (for all practical purposes) no longer be wearing the helmet. Rather, the helmet would be wearing you, saving it from serious injury/damage at impact.

With that said, three cheers for the flying-squirrel men of New Zealand! And remember kids, if you try this at home, always wear a helmet. (Note: do not try the somersaults on your first day. You see, we build to that...)