Archive for May, 2013

Happy Days…

May 31, 2013

I, for one, am quite excited about the patriotic opportunity to pay even more for my individually-purchased health care.  After all, the cost of progress ought to be the elimination of anyone who can’t afford progress.  Or something like that.

This article is nice, but also pointless.  It decries the cynicism that ultimately prevents meaningful change or challenge to the status quo, but does not offer any remedy (which is ironic, considering the article’s title).  The closest the article gets to an antidote is for Congress to start acting decisively and without fear of recrimination.
That’s convenient, but ridiculous.  Convenient because it excuses me from having to do the hard work.  Ridiculous because it requires that hard work be initiated and borne by those who seem least capable of conceiving of it.  
Congress consists of people who have learned through careful grooming in one of our two political parties that the key to their success and survival – and therefore, tangentially, the key to the success and survival of their views on important issues – is completely dependent on not rocking the party boat and not rocking other boats because the resulting waves are unpredictable and might swamp your own.  They have learned that their constituents are largely uninformed and apathetic over the things that they as elected officials are supposed to be intimately familiar with and deeply passionate about.  
What possible motivation might they have to take on the IRS, or the Executive Branch, or the Judicial Branch?  What possible benefit could it have to them personally, or even to their constituents?  And if there is no personal benefit, on what grounds should they sacrifice their political stature?
There is an antidote to cynicism, and it is called hope.  It is not grown in the political environment.  It does not happen in the wild for more than fleeting moments.  But hope – the real, lasting, unwavering hope that provides the impetus and the strength to endure a long struggle – has to come from without.  It must have an objective source that cannot be exhausted and is not dependent on political or ideological tides.
Working for change requires a belief that change is possible, even in the most entrenched and jaded of systems.  Democracy claims that and even affords us the mechanisms to make those changes in theory.  But it requires individuals to act out of a sense of hope that is grounded in something more than themselves and self-interest.  It requires a sense of sacrifice sometimes, being willing to struggle and endure hardship for a long-term goal that will be better for everyone.  Democracy calls us to these ideals but disappoints us when we attempt to realize them.  The hope that fuels and inspires change and courage isn’t democracy itself, but has to go deeper than that.
Democracy assumes individuals who are willing to work hard and to do the right thing, acting selflessly when necessary, with the firm belief that sooner or later their sacrifices will be worth it.  We didn’t fight in World War I or World War II for the intangible notion of democracy.  We fought those wars because we believed as a society in firm notions of right and wrong, good and evil, and the imperative that evil has to be confronted and stopped, even if it requires our own personal deprivation or death.  
Such a sacrifice isn’t possible if we don’t believe that it really matters.  Democracy can provide us with the tools to act on what really matters, but not the basis, not the objective source of hope.  That has to come from some place deeper that tells us not only that certain things do matter, but what certain things matter.  That defines good as well as evil on a scale far more than what I personally prefer or want, and may in fact condemn my own personal preferences as evil.  
That deeper, objective source of hope lies in an empty tomb on the other side of the world.  The actual tomb itself is uncertain, because what mattered and matters most is not the particular piece of dirt that is empty, but rather the person that occupied that bit of dirt for a brief period.  This is the objective source of hope, the authoritative declaration of what is right and wrong and the promise that enables us to contend for the right 2000 years later.  
I am set free to struggle for the right  and to contend against evil because I know that my struggle, whether successful or not, is not in vain.  I struggle against evil and for the right because I know that the truth has already won.  The empty tomb is the proof of this.  The man that came out of that tomb, the man who predicted being put into the tomb and by whom and for how long, has declared that evil has been defeated, that not even death can hold us any longer.  The teeth of evil have been smashed.  While it may feign and posture and threaten and intimidate and tempt and entice, it has no teeth to hold what it cajoles or extorts.  
Or, to quote Obi Wan Kenobi, (because, really, who else would you want to quote?) “Strike me down, Darth, and I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”  Except not me, per se, but the one who lives in me.  
The antidote for cynicism is hope.  The only source of hope strong enough to embolden us to fight the good fight is assurance that our fight matters regardless of what it does to us personally, that in joining the fray, we are already on the side of the Victor.  
Praising the Lord is the ammunition, it turns out.  
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Healthy Choices

May 30, 2013
An old acquaintance of mine recently posted an article on Facebook lamenting the effects of insurance on the quality of health care doctors provide.  Using the analogy of a restaurant, the article explains how it is that medical care quality has plummeted, and why doctors are caught in the ugly middle-ground between unhappy clients and unhelpful insurance providers.  

What are the alternatives, though?  Would you go for an option like this?  If you knew up front what your costs would be for the visit  This option makes a lot of sense for people who are basically healthy and only require intermittent health care. Employers could save a fortune on the premiums they pay on employees behalf – which many are passing on directly to their employees because of skyrocketing prices.  

The problem is that it creates a dual-system.  Healthy people get relatively inexpensive medical care.  People with serious illnesses, diseases, or major injuries would likely still need to rely on insurance programs to cover their costs, and the costs of that insurance would undoubtedly jump if there weren’t healthy people paying in premiums every month to help offset the costs.
But I wonder if the costs of major illnesses and injuries couldn’t be dramatically lowered through a similar system?  There has to be a better solution to the health-care cost crisis than our current insurance methods.  I’m thrilled that doctors are beginning to work towards that on their own.

New Recovery Group

May 29, 2013

I’m seriously considering starting a recovery group for people who believe in God but have had awful experiences in congregations.  

It seems like every time I turn around, I’m running into someone sharing that they believe in God but don’t go to church, following this up with some horror story or another about insensitivity or callousness or flat-out rejection by churches or individual Christians.  People who have had life-long friends call them up to tell them they can no longer be friends with them because they are born-again Christians and can’t associate with anyone else who isn’t.  Stuff that boggles my mind.  
Granted, there are a lot of times when sensitivity levels are already heightened, and a comment or lack of a comment that might otherwise be small potatoes becomes the straw that breaks the camel’s back.  But I just wonder how many folks there are out there who have been, should be, and could be part of Christian community, but have sworn it off because of how they have been treated or mistreated in Christian community.
And I wonder if, with a caring environment, those folks might be brought to a place of healing where they are willing (albeit reluctantly, no doubt) to re-enter Christian community?  I sure hope so.  Would you go to a group like this?  Do you know people who would?  

Stirred, Not Shaken

May 29, 2013

We’ve lived in California for six years now (as of July 4th).  In that time, there have been lots of earthquakes, but only one that I’ve really noticed.  That was several years ago in a large parking structure (the Disneyland parking structure, actually!).  That time, the car rocked as though the kids were romping around in the back seat.  I told them to calm down, then realized they weren’t in the car yet.  We hurriedly left the parking structure.  

This morning we had a more surprising earthquake experience.

I was wrapping up getting dressed for work this morning, about 7:45 AM, when the whole house shuddered as though it had been struck by something.  The noise was loud, and seemed loudest from upstairs.  I ran upstairs, praying that the bunk bed hadn’t somehow collapsed, and knowing that even if that had happened, it wouldn’t have made as big a noise as what we heard.  Everything was OK upstairs, though the kids were a little uneasy from the big noise.
Sure enough, scanning for news at work, the first reports started showing up around 8:30 AM.  There was an earthquake about 100 miles off-shore from Santa Barbara.  It was 4.6 on the Richter scale, but doesn’t appear to have caused any damage.  I was surprised with the briefness of it all.  There were no precursor rattlings or shakings that I noticed (and granted, I wasn’t fully awake yet).  Just a single, loud rattling that thundered through the whole house.   It was over about as quickly as it started.
I’m grateful that there doesn’t appear to be damage to the house.  Perhaps just as unsettling was to see in the newsfeed several other earthquakes that have struck the state recently that I hadn’t been aware of.  A good reminder of where we live and the particular danger we face here.  I’ll still take earthquakes over tornadoes or hurricanes, but I will probably change my mind pretty quickly if a big one ever strikes here.

Big Pharma?

May 28, 2013

With the release of the latest addition of the DSM-5, there is a growing concern that we are attempting to overly-regulate everyone into a very narrow band of behavior.  Given the magical promises behind every new pill, and some of the close relationships between those who contribute to this manual and the pharmaceutical industry, there are big dollars at stake, and big opportunities.  In the meantime, every eccentricity is looked at askance by parents and teachers and others who expect that there should be nothing unusual in anyone’s disposition or behavior.

Some of those beginning to doubt the practice (let alone the effectiveness) of attempting to medicate normality (whatever that is) point to interesting tidbits like this for their rationale.  I haven’t verified whether the aforementioned article is accurate in its claim, but it makes for fascinating reading.
There are a lot of people with very real problems that require very real help in a variety of ways, up to and including medication.  Those people should definitely get the help they need.  But there are a lot of people that are being misled into thinking they need help with things that aren’t necessarily problems at all.  More dangerously yet, we’re culturally being led into an arena where we are less and less tolerant of and more and more suspicious of those who don’t act just like us.  This strikes me as dangerous.  

Unfairness at the Fair

May 28, 2013

Or more accurately unfairness at Disneyworld.  For those of you who aren’t aware, it was revealed in the past couple of weeks that people with a lot of money are able to bypass the lines at Disneyworld by hiring disabled persons to accompany them on their trip to the Magic Kingdom.  These disabled ‘guides’ benefit from the fact that Disneyworld allows disabled people to bring up to six family members (or guests – the article above simply says guests, but other articles seemed to imply they had to be family members)  to a special entrance for the ride (or queue, for our international readers) that bypasses the normal line and often provides much faster access to the ride.  

In other words, life is not fair and if you have a lot of money you can benefit in lots of ways that the rest of us can’t.  Which has shocked a whole lot of people.  Never mind that Disney itself sells passes that  allow people with more money (and not necessarily disabilities) to get through lines faster.  So what’s the big deal?  That it’s not an officially sanctioned methodology?  That it involves disabled people?  That it capitalizes on the park’s efforts to be kind to people with disabilities?
My only concern is whether there is active dishonesty at play.  Do they have to lie about the nature of their relationship to one another to obtain a pass or get preferential treatment?  Are the guides truly disabled, or are they faking it with counterfeit placards?   And on the other hand, should disabled people and their guests/family get on rides more quickly and more often simply by virtue of their disabled status?  
Am I being a complete jerk, or is there not really a problem with this whole arrangement (again, assuming that people are not lying in any way in order to qualify for the treatment)?  Is it fair?  I suppose that depends on how you define fair.   It depends on whether or not you assume that the perks that the rich enjoy in many other aspects of their lives shouldn’t apply in a place that you and I are able to go as well.  Do we only suffer the rich to spend their money in ways that don’t impact us directly?  That’s an interesting thought.  Are people outraged that Disney is selling its own form of this sort of treatment?  If they are, I haven’t heard about it.  
When you go to Disneyworld or Land or whatever, you expect to wait in line.  And frankly, I expect that there will be people who wait less than I do because they can afford a nicer pass – just like there are people who can spend more days there, or lodge in the park itself, because they have more money than I do.  I can choose not to go there if I can’t handle that reality.  Or I can try not to think about it and let it make me angry and ruin my time while I’m there wondering if somebody else is getting a better deal than I am.  
Life isn’t fair.  Not even at Disneyland.

Reading Ramblings – June 2, 2013

May 26, 2013

Reading
Ramblings

Date: June 2, 2013,
Second Sunday after Pentecost

Texts:
1Kings 8:22-24, 27-29, 41-43; Psalm 96:1-9; Galatians 1:1-12; Luke
7:1-10

Contextual
Notes:
Following the festival Sundays of Pentecost
and Holy Trinity, we now enter Ordinary Time proper. Ordinary Time
consists of those Sundays in the Church year that are not festival
Sundays (Christmas, Easter) or part of special seasons (Advent,
Lent). Ordinary time began in the season of Epiphany this year, and
lasted three Sundays prior to Transfiguration Sunday and then the
beginning of Lent. Now we begin Ordinary Time again during the
season of Pentecost. Ordinary Time readings focus on Christ in the
life of the Church. The readings are no longer necessarily as
tightly bound together as they were in Advent, Christmas, Lent, and
Easter. The Gospel and the Old Testament will continue to be linked
together, but the Epistle reading will start being used to read
through contiguous blocks of Scripture.


1 Kings 8:22-24: While
the reading for today is somewhat chopped up, the purpose is to keep
the reading reasonably short while concentrating on the particular
theme of God’s presence in his house, and the mediating effect of
that presence for the entire world. In the season of Pentecost, this
selection leads us to consider that the power and presence of God
reside in his Church – wherever the Word is preached in fullness
and the Sacraments celebrated properly. As such, the Church is a
place of power and promise for the people of God who constitute it.
However this blessing is not limited to those of the Church, but
rather the Church should become the vessel through which the power of
God pours out in love to all of his creation.

This is an important notion for the
Church to maintain and remember – we are not opposed to those
outside the Church. They are not our enemies (though some may act
like it and even consider themselves enemies). The Church is to be
the place where these people are prayed for, and where the power of
God still reaches into their lives intentionally, as the Gospel
lesson highlights as well. We pray for the world, and we pray for
the blessing of God on the world, that the world might come to know
and worship God.

Psalm 96:1-9 : A psalm
of praise. Who is to sing this psalm? All the earth – meaning all
of creation – since all of creation is the Lord’s work. This
praise should be declared amidst all the nations of the earth, not
just God’s special nation Israel (or now, the Church). Since God is
at work in all places and situations, we can always point to the work
of God the Holy Spirit even in the lives of those who do not yet
believe in him or know him. They may think there are other gods
(vs.4-5), but they are mistaken. In declaring the works of God, the
confusion of the nations should be dispelled that they might praise
him properly. This is the proper response to an encounter with the
God who created all creation!


Galatians 1:1-12:
We move away from the Book of Acts in order to begin the ancient
practice of lectio
continua

– extended, contiguous readings of Scripture. The purpose is not
necessarily to relate directly to the themes of the Old Testament and
Gospel readings (though sometimes this happens), but rather to
provide exposure to large sections of Scripture in whole. We’ll
spend six weeks reading through much of Galatians.

Paul
begins as he does almost all of his letters – by introducing
himself and stating his qualifications to be writing. He was not
merely designated an apostle by men (as though that were possible,
which Acts 1:23-26 demonstrates), but rather was directly called by
the resurrected Jesus Christ, referring to his conversion experience
on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). He then speaks a blessing
(vs.3-5), and then moves to his main concern in the letter – that
the Galatians are losing the true Gospel. Before dealing with this
issue, Paul makes it clear that there can only be one good news, one
Gospel. Anything else is an abomination which must be stamped out.
No human or spiritual entity that proclaims a Gospel other than
Christ crucified should be listened to – and this includes Paul
himself!

Luke 7:1-10:
In the previous chapters of Luke, Jesus has called his disciples,
begun his ministry of teaching and working miracles – particularly
healing miracles. His teaching in the previous chapter focused on
the blessedness of those who love God, and the dangers of judging
others.

But we all judge – it is part of what we do, and while a necessary
aspect of our humanity, it can be a damaging one. Moreover, the
biases and prejudices that affect our judgment may be transparent to
us: we don’t know they are there or how they affect us until they are
pointed out to us.

So it is that after teaching about not judging others and loving your
enemies (Luke 6:27ff), Jesus drives home his point in the healing of
the centurion’s servant. This centurion is well thought of in the
Jewish community, supporting it by building them a synagogue. But he
is not a Jew. He is a gentile, an outsider. Still, the Jews are
willing to acknowledge that this man’s support for the Jews ought to
merit his prayers being answered.

Jesus responds to this request for healing, and allows the trust of
this Gentile centurion to be instructional for God’s people. This
encounter with a favored Gentile is the first obvious miracle worked
for someone outside of the Jewish faith. It is a prelude to what
will follow later in the Chapter, where a sinful woman is healed.

But the implications are already clear – the blessings of God are
not only for the people of God. God loves all of his creation and
desires to heal it. He is more than willing and able to work his
power in the lives even of those who do not profess faith in him.
Our faith in a particular set of beliefs or doctrines is not what
enables the Holy Spirit to do something or not. God works where He
will.

We as the people of God should always be placing ourselves in the
position of the Jewish leaders in this passage, advocating on behalf
of their Gentile neighbor, desiring to see God’s power poured out and
manifested. When we assert that we will not do this (or God cannot
do this) until a certain set of conditions are met, we are in error.
When we pray for the power of God in another person’s life, we are
praying that the Holy Spirit will be at work, and we know that the
Spirit’s ultimate purpose is to lead people to Jesus, who will point
them to the Father.

Pray for those in your life who do not know Jesus. Don’t just pray
that they come to faith, but pray for their struggles and sicknesses
and difficulties. Pray that by the Holy Spirit’s obvious activity in
their life, they will be brought to faith!

God’s Plan

May 25, 2013

I was talking with a friend the other day who is job-hunting.  There was a promising lead on a good position, but it fell through.  In a conversation he had with another person, that person comforted him by telling him that it must not have been in God’s plan for him.

Translation:  quit feeling bad about this missed opportunity.  
My translation may be a bit harsh.  But really, what else is someone supposed to draw from that statement?  How about the following:
  1. I know what God’s plan is but you obviously don’t or you wouldn’t have even bothered trying for that job in the first place.
  2. Every misfortune is just preparation for something even better.
  3. We should never feel bad about anything because all of it is in God’s plan for us.
  4. Faithfulness gives us insider knowledge of what God is doing.
Again, that may be a bit on the harsh side.  I have no doubt his buddy was trying to cheer him up.  It didn’t work, though.
I don’t know what God’s plan is for my life in terms of the individual particulars of a given day or week.  I know in broad brushstrokes that He wants me to fulfill my vocational duties – be a good father, a good husband, a good neighbor, a good worker, a good friend, etc.  He wants me to live(to the best of my ability with his empowerment)  the way He designed me to live.  But I can’t claim to know what lane of the freeway He wants me in.  I can’t claim that my mortgage company’s lack of customer service is part of his plan.  
I know that God the Father is at work in his creation because He gives me a behind the scenes glimpse through Scripture.  But beyond a divine appearance (and even that I’d probably be skeptical of), I can’t know for certain what is or is not part of God’s plan for my life.  
If I want to comfort someone who is suffering with disappointment or fear or sorrow, my uncertainty of God’s plan in that particular issue doesn’t mean I don’t have anything to say, however.  Far from it!  There’s lots I can say – lots you can say.  But we don’t have to make it up.  We shouldn’t make it up.  Let’s say what God himself has given us to say.
You can comfort your friend with what we know is God’s plan for them – that regardless of joy or sorrow or boredom, their faith and trust and hope is in a God who loves them, who has died for them and who has promised them that they are his in baptism, and will remain so through faith forever.  Sorrow and joy and boredom are not erased in this plan of God, but they find their proper perspective, their proper relationship to everything else in our lives.  
It can be a bummer that my buddy didn’t get the job.  It’s OK to be disappointed about that and even frustrated.  But those feelings are contextualized by realizing that even in the midst of this setback, God loves him, will never abandon him, and has made him his own.  
Be with those who suffer and sorrow and joy.  Allow them the space to feel these things, but be willing and able to speak of a greater hope and joy than temporary contentment.  That is God’s ultimate plan.  

Trinity Me This

May 24, 2013

If you follow the Reading Ramblings entries here, you know that this coming Sunday is Holy Trinity Sunday.  One Sunday a year we take time to consider the Trinitarian nature of the Biblical Christian faith.  After spending the first six months of the Church liturgical year focused almost exclusively on the Son of God made man, we pause to draw our breaths and affirm that we are, still, Trinitarians.  We profess a faith that tells us not just of God made man, but of God not made man.  

We confess the Athanasian Creed on that Sunday, according to Church tradition.  The creed is long enough to simply use that as the sermon, and in my first congregation I once preached an entire sermon on that creed which may have run 45 minutes long.  The creed isn’t the point of the Sunday, though.  The point is that we profess belief in a single God with three persons.  Not three gods.  Not one god with schizophrenia.  What does this mean for us today?  How do I assure others of the importance of this doctrine to our faith life when I’m just as guilty of not fully considering those blessings on a more regular, less academic basis?
That was, oddly enough, the thought I woke up with this morning.  While that’s a good thing in certain ways, it isn’t the typical morning’s train of thought.
Here are three reasons why the doctrine of the Trinity is important to me.  
1.  It paints the picture of a God who, though He became like me, is not like me.
2.  It affirms the honesty of God.
3.  It grounds me in reality.
It paints a picture of a God who, though He became like me, is not like me.  Sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it?  Isn’t a great deal of the comfort of trinitarian doctrine the idea that God has become like me?  Yes, it is.  That’s how close God is.  He knows me from the inside out, as the one who created me, as the one who took on my flesh 2000 years ago, and as the one who works on me from the inside out today.  All very comforting indeed.
But I’m the heir of Greek philosophy, which tells me that my body and everything physical around me is a pale lie based on spiritual realities.  I hear even Christians talking raptly about leaving their bodies behind to enter the purity of spiritual life after death.  And a good half of the world or more, geographically, is still wrapped up in the notion that all physicality is an illusion we’ve convinced ourselves of which we need to leave behind in order to achieve enlightenment and free ourselves from suffering.
This is the kind of God I’d expect to have.  A god more or less like me.  A God that is above the physical, who disdains it and finds it distasteful, however good his reasons might be for allowing it or even creating it.  This isn’t the God of Scripture, though.  The Biblical God remains above creation in that He is not a part of it, but He also affirms the basic goodness of the material world.  Physicality is not ultimately the evil of creation – sin is.  
This god is counterintuitive to me.  He affirms what I am inclined to disparage.  He created what I sometimes wish wasn’t here.  To me, that’s a good sign.  And it is one of the dangers of some of Western Christianity’s exclusive focus on Jesus, the Incarnate second person of the Trinity, or on the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity.  It’s the danger of speaking of God only in the vague title of god, and not in the more specific way of God the Father, or God the Son, or God the Holy Spirit.  By focusing on any one aspect of the trinity to the virtual (if not official) exclusion of the others, I make God more like me, and less like who He describes himself as.
2.  It affirms the honesty of God.  The first time I began to understand the technology that Star Wars developed, I was disappointed.  The idea that some of the things I am shown on film are not real – not just in the ontological sense (I know interstellar travel isn’t real) but in actual terms (that there was a big green screen that the actors were pretending in front of and that got filled in with other stuff after they were done shooting their scene; or the idea of vast portions of a film existing only digitally on computers, not actually in sets and props and costumes) – was very disappointing.  I’m obviously one of the last of my kind – people who see movies and assume that there are physical dimensions to everything on screen, that a bevy of craftsman labored to create stunning backdrops or painstakingly shot stop motion action scenes.  Of course there are different types of craftsmen now, doing the equivalent digitally.  But it’s not the same, in my mind.
Likewise, and related to the first point, a lot of people these days have no problem with the idea of God just waving his hand to remove sin and suffering.  Why all the fuss and bother of a long-range plan that involves taking on human flesh and bone and actually walking in our shoes for 30 or so years before dying horribly and then coming to life again?  That’s so expensive – you could just edit out sin, like photoshopping a picture.  Just wipe away the imperfections and cellulite with a few clicks of the mouse.  
People today assume that God had to tell this big story to a bunch of people too dumb to understand the truth.   He had to talk in child-like, tangible terms because they would have no ability to understand an undo function.  But since we’re all smart and stuff, we can dispense with the illustrated story and settle for a set of installation instructions.  In a foreign language.
God did, does, and will do what He did, does, and will do.  The fact that He chooses to do it in a way that I might not helps with my first point above, but it also demonstrates his honesty.  I’m not sure how I would feel about a God who made up a clever story that really wasn’t true.  If the story wasn’t true in the details, can I trust the overall point of the story?  What else am I being misled about?  Ultimately, the idea of a God who gets down and dirty in his creation is important because that is the way He has decided to do things, and I want to hold him to his Word, so that I can hold on to his Word.
3.  It grounds me in reality.  This is probably a rehash of the first point, so I can revise this for Sunday morning.  But in a day of virtual everything, God comes to me through physical reality.  Through what He has created.  Through the life and death and resurrection and ascension of a specific man who lived at a particular point in human history in an identifiable area of human geography, yet was more than man.  Through water on the forehead of a baby or engulfing an adult in immersion.  Through bread and wine.  My faith is not all in my head or heart, it exists and is embodied and affirmed through physicality.  
The Trinity matters today.  It matters every bit as much now as it did in the early centuries of the faith when people were struggling to make sense of it.  That struggle hasn’t ceased.  Nor has the temptation to discard it entirely in favor of something we can explain.  These are good reasons to hold onto it and give thanks for it.  For God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Calm Before the Storm

May 24, 2013

Although things have been quiet here at the blog for a few days, there are rarely few days that are actually quiet.  One never quite knows what will be said about oneself, or where, or by whom.  

So, in gratitude for your dealing with a spate of writer’s block, I offer you a bit of a scavenger hunt, if you’re so inclined.  It will require a great deal of boredom.  Access to the Internet.  And a knowledge of the local publications in the greater Santa Barbara area.  
But if you look through the May 23rd edition of one of those publications closely, you’ll find my first bit of notoriety since arriving in the area nearly three years ago.  Granted, it isn’t what I expected (or you, have you given the topic any thought) but, then again, little in life is.  
It links in rather curiously with a sermon I preached a few weeks ago talking about where we are and aren’t willing to go in order to have the opportunity to share the Gospel.  Go figure.  I’ll be interested to see who finds it first, and therefore who benefits from the blackmail possibilities!