Monthly Archives: November 2007

The Grave Risks of Playing Ping Pong

I just signed up for a Table Tennis tournament on December 9. The registration form includes a liability release statement I had to sign. I laughed out loud as I read the first line, in which I, the undersigned, acknowledged that:

“1. The risk of injury from the activities involved in this program is significant, including the potential for permanent paralysis and death, and while particular skills, equipment, and personal discipline may reduce the risk, the risk of serious injury does exist.”

Permanent paralysis and death? From playing ping pong? Maybe I should get my will in order. Mabel, one of my coworkers, suggested I get a note from my Mom.

Actually, this is for what’s called the State Games of Indiana, and other events include track and field and a variety of other sports. So it was a blanket release. But still…isn’t my courage impressive?

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I Have Arrived at Senior Citienship

The place I get my oil changed went out of business, so I tried a place in Huntington during lunch. I told them I wanted the full service oil change. The guy told me it would be $29, and then asked if I was 50 years old.

“I’m 51,” I said.

“Then you get $3 off because of the senior citizen discount.”

So, today I received my first senior citizen discount. I’m not sure how I feel about it.

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Spiritual Gift Scores, Vs. Doing it All

I try to be a champion for small churches. This doesn’t mean I’m anti-Big Church. Sure, I have my issues with them, but I’m also fascinated and thrilled by what some megachurches are doing–Granger, Quest, Willow Creek, Seacoast, Lifechurch, and many more. And yet…small churches, despite their own “issues,” deserve more respect than they get.

Keith Dury’s column last week was called “Seven Advantages of Starting Out in a Small Church.” He tries to encourage his ministerial students at Indiana Wesleyan, most of whom come from large churches, to consider beginning their ministry in a small church. One of his points was “Small churches give you a chance to do everything.”

In one year at a small church you’ll get to do 25 times the things you’ll get to do on a large church staff. Weddings, baptisms, funerals, hospital visitation, budgeting, preaching, prayer meetings, leading board meetings, and a hundred other things are normal for a year’s work in a small church. On a large church staff you may serve ten years before you get to do 90% of a minister’s ordinary work.

In a later point, Drury emphasizes that small churches let you preach, whereas if you’re on staff at a church of 1000, you may rarely (if ever) get the chance to preach. (And yet you want to be called a “preacher”?)

The same issues apply to laypersons. In large churches, you might take spiritual gifts tests and then get slotted into roles consistent with your test scores. If your test-determined gift is Hospitality, then you become a greeter. I really really despise that, for several reasons.

For one, your “gifts” will vary, depending on the test you take. I normally score high in Teaching, Administration, and Giving. But in a recent online test, Music, Writing, Hospitality, and Giving were my high scores. And in another, my high gifts were Giving, Hospitality, Missionary, and Music. Way too many questions are based on what you currently do or have done. If I attended a large church, my piano playing wouldn’t be of sufficient calibre and would go unused and unappreciated. But I use it all the time in a small church, and thus, Music emerges as a key gift. It has nothing, in my view, to do with any actual divinely-imparted gift.

Additionally: why limit your Christian service to one or two areas (your areas of giftedness)? As a layperson in a small (120 persons) church, I’m able to do some of everything. I operate in the areas of many of the gifts, regardless of whether those are “spiritual gifts.” I give, I show hospitality, I teach, I lead, I evangelize, I encourage, I show faith, I serve, I show mercy. I even preach occasionally.

When a church need arises, my involvement never depends on a stupid test score. If I feel God wants me involved, I do it. Whether or not I’m any good at it. How is that theologically wrong?

In a large church, I could do only a few things. And I wouldn’t be able to do the thing that gives me the most joy (play the keyboard). But in a small church, there are no restrictions. I can do it all, and I’m severely needed. I like that.

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Jerry Garcia Lives!

A Google alert this morning tells me that Jerry Garcia is doing a concert at one of our churches. That brought a smile to my face. I imagine the guy jokes about his more well-known (and drug-infested) namesake. There’s a picture of him. Clean cut, no beard. Definitely not a wannabe.

It did make me think how “Grateful Dead” is probably a good term for a lot of churches. Happy to be keeping the doors open, but few life signs.

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Bill O’Reilly Knows His Bible

The thing that really turned me off to John Kerry was that he pretended to be religious, when he obviously wasn’t. Bill O’Reilly plays the same game, I’m afraid, and I similarly despise him for it. On his November 16 show he displayed his vast Bible knowledge with this comment: “Go to Revelations in the Bible and look at the prediction for the end of the world. This was written, what, 5,000 years ago?”

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I Choke Again

Yesterday I skipped church to play in the Highland Table Tennis Tournament. Highland is just a few miles from the Illinois border, in the greater Chicago area. They had about 30 tables set up in a fieldhouse.

My rating in the US Table Tennis Association is 984. I’m actually a 1250 or 1300 player, but you can only increase your rating by beating higher-rated players in sanctioned tournaments. This was my third tournament. My goal yesterday was to knock off at least one high-rated person and get my rating, at least, over 1000. And I failed.

Came close, though. I went down to the wire with a 1300+ player and a 1250 player. We play three out of five games (11-point games). Both matches ended up going five games, and we were tied at 10 in the final game. And in both, I lost. So close.

In the end, I lost all five of my matches against higher-rated players, and one my only match against a lower-rated player (a junior-aged Asian boy, my last match of the day, whom I beat up on without conscience). My rating will stay the same. Bummer. Hopefully that can change in May at the big South Bend tournament.

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Questions from a Bizarro World

I remember when I was talking to my grandparents about things happening in society, and my dear, godly Grandma used the word “condom.” It just didn’t seem right.

In our society, lots of things don’t seem right. When it comes to sexuality, we live in the age of the bizarre. I’m old enough to remember when divorce was highly uncommon in the church. But that seems tame compared to dealing with, and ministering to, gays and transvestites and transgenders.

I want to raise some questions. Just by raising them, people will think I’ve gone liberal or heretical. I don’t think I need to defend my conservative evangelical credentials. But I think there are questions which, at the least, are interesting to ponder. I’ll start with some dealing with the Bible itself.

  • Was polygamy ever something God approved of? Many of our Old Testament heroes had multiple wives. But did God ever sanction it? If not, then these heroes of the faith were living in sin, even though God used them to accomplish important purposes. What’s with that?
  • The only way for Adam and Eve to become grandparents was for incest to occur–siblings having sex with each other, or parents having sex with children. This was part of being obedient to God’s “be fruitful and multiply” directive. At what point did sexual relations with siblings become “sin”? Or is it, indeed, sin? Can I be idiotic enough to ask that question without people considering me demented?
  • What about hermaphrodites? How does God view a person who has characteristics of both sexes? Or what about the hermaphrodite who is raised as a girl, and later develops male sexual organs? Would it be okay for this person to begin living as a guy? This actually happens, so there must be a view that God holds on this. What is it? Would it be sinful for this person to begin living as a guy? Or would it be a sin to NOT begin living as a guy?
  • If a transgender person becomes a Christian, should the church force that person to revert to his/her previous sex (if, indeed, it’s possible to undo it)? Or is that something we say occurred during their “nonChristian” days, and therefore can be written off (like we write-off divorces)? Would it be okay for a guy to undergo surgery to become a woman, later experience a life-changing salvation experience, and then continue living and serving Christ as a woman?
  • A professor at a Christian college in Michigan underwent surgery to become a woman, yet continued living with his wife, who was fully supportive of the transgendering. Now there is the appearance of two women living in a marriage relationship. Is that now a lesbian relationship? Or, since God made him a him, is it technically still a male-female relationship? (Or, instead of trying to figure this out, should we just sum it all up as, “God disapproves of this situation”?)
  • All my life I’ve heard Christians muse about the true identity of Paul’s infamous “thorn in the flesh,” which he kept asking God to remove. It was most likely not an addiction to internet porn. But could it have been something else of a sexual nature? The Bible never mentions that the Apostle Paul was married, and despite much church tradition, Paul never said he was part of the Sanhedrin (which I understand was for married men only). What if Paul was gay? He says in 1 Corinthians 7 that he was celibate. But what if, in his sexual orientation, he was gay and celibate? I mean…isn’t it possible? Please don’t crucify me for heresy for raising the question.
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Who Was That Woman?

I was to meet Pam for lunch around noon today. At 11:50, as I approached the Indy office building where Pam’s class was being held, my cellphone rang. I figured it was Pam calling to let me know they were released for lunch. In fact, in the distance, I could see her standing in front of the building, her phone to her ear.

With the radio going, I had a hard time hearing her voice. I turned the radio down. Then, as I approached the curb where she stood, I said, “Hey there, gorgeous. Going my way?”

Pam was looking at me with a puzzled look. The woman’s voice on the phone asked, “Who is this?”

I thought, Doesn’t Pam recognize her own car?

Then I heard, “I think I got the wrong number.” And for the first time, I realized that that was not my wife’s voice. Close, but not Pam.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I thought I was talking to my wife. I’m picking her up right now.”

“That’s very sweet,” said the woman good-naturedly. I could sense her smiling. “I need to hang up now.”

I opened the door for Pam and she got in. I told her what had happened. She looked in my phone log to see who might have called. The only record showed that she, Pam, had called at that time. No record of anyone else. Very strange.

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A Long Day in Indy

Spent the day in Indy again; Pam had a continuing education class (CPE) on bankruptcy. She pretty much suffered through it.

I just kicked around here and there. Looked up two used bookstores on the west side; one didn’t exist, the other was ridiculously small and disappointing. Oh well.

We had our usual supper–Skyline Chili–and then headed home. It rained all the way. It’s still raining. We went over to the YMCA and walked for 20 minutes (a mile and an eighty for me, a mile for Pam). Now we’re home watching Dancing with the Stars. Having arisen so early for the trip to Indy, I’m sure we’ll be ready for bed as soon as the dancing ends.

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Apathetic About City Elections

This morning I voted in the city elections. I never much care about local stuff, even though it more directly affects me than national politics. Pam told me to vote for Henry for mayor, because Kelty intentionally lied on some kind of form (election form, IRS form–I don’t know, but since Pam is an accountant, I’m sure it involved financial figures). So I voted for Henry, the Democrat. It was not totally mindless voting, because I did consult my wife about who I should vote for, and she does take interest in local politics.

There were a dozen people running for city council, and I needed to select three. I chose one Republican, one Democrat, and one Libertarian. A fair and balanced philosophy. I wanted to choose a woman Democrat, but the only one had a hyphenated name, and I find hyphenated names cumbersome.

So that was my voting experience today. As I said on Twitter, it was a case of “voting without conviction.”

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