Monthly Archives: January 2005

The Body Torn

Since just after Christmas, I’ve been dealing with the impending divorce of two of my best friends in the church. They’ve been there since the church started in 1998, and we’ve spent a lot of time together. I think the world of both of them. But things happen in this fallen world. They’re getting a divorce. He’ll stay in the church, she’ll make her way elsewhere. He’ll be okay; he’s surrounded by supportive friends. I’m worried about her.

This is tough stuff. We’ve had other divorces in the church, but not with a prominent couple who have influenced many others in the congregation.

This morning, we announced it to the congregation. People hadn’t yet started whispering, “Is something happening with…?” But it soon would, so we needed to go public. Before the gossip machine started up. He read a statement to the congregation; Pastor Tim worked it into his sermon beautifully. My friend wanted to get this out in the open, so he could stop hedging and making excuses and avoiding situations where it might come up. It was a simple statement, devoid of the understandable anger which I have seen in force. He did well, and I’m proud of him. It was a necessary thing for our congregation to hear.

But what will happen with his ex? I desperately hope, and pray, that sometime in the future she finds herself once again among a loving and accepting group of Christians, able to use her substantial gifts as part of a healthy local church body. But I know I won’t be involved in seeing that happen. I’ll have to entrust her to God, confident that God will find the right place to get her plugged back in. This is a good person. Restoration can happen, and she has experienced far too much of God’s presence in her life to abandon it all. She’ll find her way back, eventually. But much territory needs to be covered before restoration–and healing–can occur. It’s territory that needs to be covered. I’d like to help her walk that journey, but I can’t. I know God will find just the right person, the right group of Christians, the right church. It’ll happen.

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My Wife’s Reading Obsession

Back in the mid-1980s, when Pam and I were dating (for 5 years!), I started a goal of reading 52 books a year. One per week. I got the idea from something I read. Pam adopted the goal, too.

I reached that goal for seven or eight years. It was kind of a contest between Pam and me, to see who would end the year with the most books. Back then, I usually ended the year by going to see my parents in Arizona, so it wouldn’t be until I returned that Pam and I could compare lists and declare a winner. I think I won just one year, with around 85 books to her 84, or something like that.

But then came a year when, in June, Pam hit 52. I mentioned the idea of her ending the year with 104 books, and expressed doubt that it could happen. She rose to the challenge and did it–104 books read in one year. Now, Pam isn’t a skimmer. I tend to skim, but Pam reads every word. She’s just very very fast. And it’s why, sometime during the early years of our marriage, I gave up on the 52-a-year goal. I guess I was just demoralized with the realization that I was seriously out-classed.

But Pam hasn’t quit. She has continued meeting her goal every year. And in 2004, she outdid herself again. She ended the year with 110 books read. A good share of them were Christian fiction. That’s what she mostly reads. That and various secular mysteries (especially medical mysteries, a la Robin Cook and Michael Palmer).

Very recently, the blogger at Bemuseme, one of my favorite Christian blogs, wrote about the book The Red Tent. It’s a book about the women around Jacob, writen from the point of view of Dinah by a modern-day Jewish woman. I read the book in 2002, and it was the best book I read that year. I’ve trumpted The Red Tent around a number of people. I felt I learned as much about Jacob’s world from that book as I did from a lifetime of Sunday school classes.

Bemuseme talks about how we Christians like to tie up all the loose ends. The post I’m talking about is located here. It’s a wonderful little essay. He writes, “Judging by what I’ve observed, evangelical authors would not carefully craft a story rich with ambiguity and wonder, love and betrayal, drama and passion. Instead, if recently successful Christian fiction is any indication, our version of Dinah’s tale would be stale, heavy-handed, preachy and poorly-written.”

He gives an example from his own life. “I believe God hates divorce, and that it’s rarely if ever what God wants. But how do I reconcile that conviction with this fact from my life: if my wife’s parents had never divorced, I would likely never have met her? What am I to make of that?… What theological construct allows for both the wrongness of their divorce and the rightness of our marriage?” Isn’t that a great conundrum?

Bemuseme just raises some great questions, and comments far beyond what I’ve extracted. I encourage you to take a look. It’s worth the journey. And while you’re at it, read some of his other stuff. He’s good.

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The Waitress and the Elders

Once a month, the elders meet with Pastor Tim at the Liberty Diner. There are only two elders–me, and Russ, who was a year behind me in college. We were both part of the core group that left Emmanuel Community Church in 1998 to restart what is now Anchor Community Church (and was then called Third Street Church). There were about 30 people in that original group. Some went back to Emmanuel (having fulfilled their short-term commitments), and some moved out of the area entirely. Only a few couples are left. Me and Pam, along with Russ and his family, always pretty much intended to stay.

The Liberty Diner is blessed with a waitress named Wendy who has a Master’s Degree in Sassiness. We’ve been meeting at Liberty for about four years now, and she’s been there the whole time. She’s 50-something, been divorced, has kids, and wields a very sharp wit. Lots and lots of fun. She never fails to make me laugh. I think she gets in trouble with the management for talking to us too much.

It’s been kind of fun watching her spiritual journey over that time. We’ve been a good influence on her. She’s told about getting back into church, always with amusing observations of church life. One time, she showed up at Anchor (having been prodded by us to do so for many months), and she enjoyed it. We always pray (of course!) before eating our breakfast. One time Wendy was standing there, and Tim asked her to pray for our meal. I’ll bet you’ve not seen that happen before–the waitress praying for the patrons’ meals. She offered a marvelous prayer.

I don’t know what all is going on in Wendy’s life, but I’m confident that we either awakened or reinforced a relationship with Christ that had gone dead or dry. It’s nice to know that, as the three of us talk about our church, we’re also invading a little piece of the world.

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Nothing of Consequence

My goodness, I’ve been gone a while. A little bit under the weather this weekend.

Speaking of the weather…we got plastered Friday night. Actually, early Saturday morning. Lots of snow. But the city was ready for it, may they be praised. Lots of churches cancelled services today, but Anchor didn’t. And we had a pretty decent crowd. I guess we’re not wimps like most of the other churches around. Besides, the streets were pretty much cleared off. I’d say the other churches jumped the gun. We, obviously, are more [clears throat] spiritual.

It was Tim’s first day back in the pulpit since January 2. He took two weeks off after the birth of his twin boys on January 5. Nice to have him back. He’s speaking for a few weeks on the general theme of “when bad things happen.” Tim’s had badder things than most, with two younger brothers dying way too young. He’s tying into the tsunami, mudslides, Joanna’s mugging, and other issues within Anchor, trying to give guidance on “why bad things happen.” Should be good and timely.

This past week, I’ve had two fellow parishoners ask me how the October vote went. I guess word didn’t get out to them. I told them that the vote to join our denomination with the Missionary Church failed. They were deeply disappointed, as I still am. Still personally convinced that the United Brethren church lost a huge opportunity in our best long-term interests. But life goes on, though it doesn’t always get better.

New England won. As predicted. Philadelphia won. As predicted. New England will win the Super Bowl again. Ho hum.

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A Safe Place to Worship

Pam and I went to the hospital to see Joanna last Thursday night. She had been mugged in our church parking lot the Sunday before. Her purse was stolen, and in wrestling with one of the two thieves, she fell to the icy lot and broke her femur in two places. Now she’s on the 9th floor of St. Joe Hospital and will be there for over a month in rehab. We found her in great spirits, as is always the case with Joanna.

I wrote about the mugging earlier. Some new details were interesting. The two muggers had been walking down the alley when Joanna pulled into the back parking lot, the first car there. She was a greeter that morning, and was coming early. As the two men approached her, she joked with one about his trouble staying on his feet on the ice. As she approached the steps leading up to the back door, the other man, the taller one, was suddenly in front of her, blocking her path. He grabbed her purse, and she immediately screamed–not in terror, but to draw attention. Which worked, because a woman inside heard her.

Joanna wouldn’t let go of her purse. Ultimately, she fell to the ice about ten feet away from where the scuffle started, but she took the other guy with her. The difference is that he was able to get up, and she wasn’t. In the hospital, a Catholic chaplain, a woman, came to see her. Joanna, though not Catholic, told her, “Can I confess something to you?” “Sure.” She said, “I shouldn’t feel this way, but I hope the other guy has a sore knee.”

The police haven’t turned up anything. Her purse remains missing.

Last night we had our regularly scheduled board meeting. One agenda item was a general discussion about church security. We obviously don’t want people to be afraid to come to our church. But at the same time, we want them to be wary, to notice things. This mugging has made us all much more aware of goings-on. I commented that I’m surprised the church hasn’t been broken into during our six years of operation. Traci, our youth director, then told of an experience I hadn’t heard about. She arrived at the church one day, the only person there, and noticed the garage door up. She circled a couple times in the parking lot, wondering if she should go in. Finally, a neighbor, who goes by the name Sixpack, came out and told her he saw two guys run out of the church.

We’ve had things stolen (like my wife’s purse), and some simple vandalism (graffiti on the garage door, feces smeared on the back door). One troublesome kid threatened to go home, get a gun, come back, and shoot us (which drew the police there, and a six-month suspension from involvement in our activities). I suppose we should expect more of this. Just the cost of doing business in our part of the city.

One of our ministers in Oregon is a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves, and has been in Afghanistan for about a year. Last summer he wrote a list of “Lessons I’ve Learned” from Afghanistan. It was quite fascinating. One was, “When the nearest church is three hours away through ‘Indian country,’ it’s still worth the drive.” I hope people feel that way about coming to Anchor. It’s a place to worship, to fellowship with great Christians, and to minister to a needy community. It’s worth coming to.

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The Twins

I guess it’s about time I mentioned the twins. Not mine. Pastor Tim Hallman’s. And Tara’s. Can’t forget Tara’s role in this. The twins were born January 5. Tim and Tara already knew they would be boys, and had even announced it in church. They were born healthy, and now bear the names Levi Matthew and Isaac Timothy. One Old Testament name, one New Testament name.

Hallman Twins
Tim is the oldest of four brothers. The youngest brother, Ben, died over ten years ago from an illness. Then, a couple of years ago on the Sunday after Christmas, Matthew was killed by a drunk driver. He was on leave from the Army at the time. Very, very tragic. Levi Matthew is named after him. Two out of four brothers gone way too early in life. Now here are two new boys–not replacements, by any means, but more than enough joy to go around.

Two years ago, we had a baby explosion at Anchor, with six babies born within about two months. All born healthy, all in two-parents homes with good parents. Tim and Tara, I think, led off with the birth of Emma. In an ice storm, just like her two new brothers.

I remember when my brother Rick was born. I was about 8. He was there when I came home from school one day, and Mom showed him to me. I remember being very happy about it. I went outside and kicked a ball around–kick it in the air, go catch it before it lands. I was very good at that. I did that for a while–I remember that distinctly. But I don’t really remember why I was happy about Rick’s arrival. Maybe it was because I knew Mom was happy. Whatever. Maybe I was just happy that Mom was home.

Tim was in church yesterday, though he had arranged for somebody else to preach. He said he hadn’t been getting much sleep. People chuckled. He said he had been changing a lot of diapers. People chuckled some more. Yes, his life will never be quite the same.

As for me–I’ll stick with my cats. They both came potty-trained.

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Disappintment in Indiana

The Colts just couldn’t do it. I was sure this was “their year.” Lots of people thought that. Everything was clicking, everyone was healthy. But against the Patriots, Peyton Manning just couldn’t find anybody open.

Now I don’t know who I’m going to root for. My backup team, the Minnesota Vikings, lost too. They are the first team I remember really liking, going back to my elementary school days. I liked Fran Tarkenton. But although they’ve made it to the Super Bowl, they’ve not been able to pull it off, and I’m beyond letting them get my hopes up.

It would be interesting to see a rookie, Big Ben in Pittsburgh, win the Big One. But I say that without passion. It would just be interesting.

I still somewhat like the Rams, because of our shared California heritage, but they’re out. They were lucky to even make the playoffs. When I was in high school, living in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., several of us went to a big Christian rally in Phoenix. Tom Wilson, Tim Armour, and me, with Graham Something-or-Other driving (a real adult). We had a great time. Jack Youngblood, a star defensive player for the Rams, gave his testimony. That was very cool. And there was Christian rock music. I remember that we were seated almost in the back, singing our lungs out, fingers held high in the then-popular “One Way” sign. I’m not one to raise my hands in worship–wish I did, but I’m too inhibited, and I would feel too fakey doing it. But back then, I guess I was doing it. In the anonymity of that huge crowd. I need to get over this.

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When the Phoenix Suns Came to My School

It’s good to see my Phoenix Suns doing so well. I wondered how they would do against a team with a legitimate big man, but the other night, they trounced Shaq and the Miami Heat. Don’t know what’s particularly different this year. Steve Nash is certainly a good addition, and Amare Stoudamire has blossomed into a huge presence. But beyond that, it’s pretty much the same team as last year. But this year, they’ve got the best record in the West.

I spent my freshman and sophomore years of high school in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., kind of a resort town on the California border. Every fall, the Suns came to Havasu for a week to practice in our gym. During PE, we got to watch them. The star, the person we all pointed out to each other, was Connie Hawkins. He could palm a basketball like it was a softball, and had a lightning spin move. They also had Dick Van Arsdale, Paul Silas, Clem Haskins, and two hulking centers, Neal Walk and Walt Wesley. Cotton Fitzsimmons was the coach the first year they came, in 1971.

One year, the week ended with an exhibition game against, I think it was, the Houston Rockets. The Suns won. Every time Connie Hawkins got the ball, we held our breath, expecting something wondrous to happen.

I played freshman and JV basketball in Havasu. During my freshman year, the varsity won the state championship. In our class. Class basketball was a stupid thing in Arizona. The closest school to us was 40 miles away in Needles…California. Kingman, the nearest Arizona school–60 miles–was in a different class. We would travel all the way to Phoenix, three hours away, to play schools in our conference. Ridiculous. But our varsity did win state, led by a sharp-shooting all-state guard and our 6’3″ center (yes, our tallest player was just six-foot-three).

Soon after my sophomore year ended, we learned that a group of college students were coming to town to do street evangelism. It was a Campus Crusade thing. Several members of my youth group joined them. This was in the Jesus People days, a multi-year revival movement which transformed our school–and me. Kids were coming to Christ regularly. Christian leaders today seem reluctant to talk about the Jesus Movement as a revival movement, maybe because it involved so many long-haired hippy types who were definitely non-establishment in those days. But believe me, it was a real supernatural thing.

Before hitting the street, we all gathered to talk about what we would be doing and to pray. I was surprised to see two persons from my high school who had graduated the year before and had just completed their first year of college. Bart had been king of the party animal crowd, a real life-of-the-party type. Somewhere, somehow, he had become a zealous Christian. At his side was someone who was never at his side during high school–Doug, a clean-cut, straight-A starting forward on the state championship basketball team. Doug had found Christ, too.

We fanned out across the city. I remember seeing Bart in a cafe booth witnessing fervently with someone, with Doug quietly listening. Bart was on fire. I hope he still is. We moved to California a few months later, and I’ve not heard of Doug or Bart since. But it was neat seeing, in 1973, that God had reached down and touched those two very different lives.

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Getting it Right

I cringe every time some pundit refers to “morals-based” voters as Christian fundamentalists. Or refer to the entire “Christian right” as fundamentalists. I’m not a fundamentalist. I don’t get along well with their legalism and black-and-white view of the world. I’m an evangelical, and I do not–repeat, do NOT–want to get lumped in with the Jerry Falwells of the world.

I now must thank the New York Times, the most unlikeliest of sources, for clearing up the confusion. A January 9 article by Laurie Goodstein said, “After the American presidential election in November, some liberal commentators warned that the nation was on the verge of a takeover by Christian ‘fundamentalists.’ But in the United States today, most of the Protestants who make up what some call the Christian right are not fundamentalists, who are more prone to create separatist enclaves, but evangelicals, who engage the culture and share their faith….For example, at the fundamentalist Bob Jones University, in Greenville, S.C., students are not allowed to listen to contemporary music of any kind, even Christian rock or rap. But at Wheaton College in Illinois, a leading evangelical school, contemporary Christian music is regular fare for many students.”

Yes! That’s it! And who would have thunk the New York Times would get it right on religion!

The article notes that “while it is clear that religiosity is on the rise, it is not at all clear that fundamentalism is. Indeed, there may be a rising backlash against violent fundamentalism of any faith….The word ‘fundamentalist’ itself has fallen out of favor among conservative Christians in the United States, not least because it has come to be associated with extremism and violence overseas.” The article notes that fundamentalism was already on the decline inthe 1960s when it was superceded by Billy-Graham style evangelicalism.

Way to be, Gray Lady!

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The Tsunami Thru Non-Western Eyes

I discovered a weblog which is simply amazing. It’s called India Uncut. A 31-year-old man in India has been writing about the tsunami relief efforts, and it’s superb reporting. He provides insights into the role and methods of relief work that I hadn’t heard before, plus good reminders of things I already know. It’s extremely valuable to see things through the eyes of a keen non-Western observer.

I’m not a fan of using my weblog to simply quote passages from other people. But I’m going to give a few excerpts from India Uncut, just to whet your appetite.

From January 9, 2005: “Why does it take a disaster like this to evoke compassion in us? After all, the needs that we are helping to fulfill now — for food, housing, medicine and livelihood — have always existed in all the affected countries….When all is “normal” again, and millions of people are back to scrambling for food and jobs and drinking water in sub-human conditions, will we still care?

“For most of us, I think the answer to that is: No. We block out all the misery in the world as we go along our daily lives, building a cocoon around ourselves that excludes the little beggar at the traffic lights, the homeless people strewn across the streets at night, the millions swept away by a vast tsunami of indifference. It takes a tragedy like this to burst that cocoon, and perhaps it gives some of us a chance to assuage the guilt that may have built up inside.”

From January 5: “Over-enthusiastic volunteers, with a desperate, selfish need of their own to fulfill, the need to give, can actually make things worse in disaster areas. Of course, there are plenty of volunteers who work selflessly and untiringly, and those guys are the reason that India is limping towards recovery. The rest of us should not get in their way.”

From January 4: “Many of the relief organizations that drive down don’t bother to actually spend time in a village and assess its needs — they simply thrust things into the hands that reach out into their truck, and then they drive off. The consequence of this is that the strongest people end up getting all the goodies, and this happens time and again, as truck after relief truck passes by. The irony in all this is that often the people who are most affected don’t even go to the relief trucks to get help. They just sit in what is left of their huts, often in a state of shock. They think of what has passed, and not the truck that passes.”

Don’t just read the most recent posts. Dig down, all the way back to December 26. It’s worth it.

He also links to an essay written in InfoChangeIndia which gives all kinds of food for thought. Among other things, the writer talks about the “greed of giving,” which is a fascinating phrase. From the vantage point of a denominational headquarters with its own missions agency, I’ve seen this–people in churches who go on work trips to other countries, see needs, and rush in with what they perceive as “help.” But it’s not always helpful.

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