Monthly Archives: September 2009

Enough with the New Visitors at Church!

I’ve been gone from Anchor the last two weeks. But this afternoon, I talked with one of my fellow parishioners, who filled me in on what’s been happening. And I must say, I’m alarmed.

He said we’ve been having way too many visitors–more than we need or can handle. An  uncomfortably large number of unfamiliar faces are attending. At yesterday’s Grandparents’ Day potluck, one guy who came for only the second week brought a crockpot. How presumptive is that? Does he think after just two weeks, we’re his church home? I’m sorry, but it’ll take more than that to break through our cliques.

Apparently, some of our newer people are taking Pastor Tim’s sermon admonitions to heart. When he says to go talk to nonChristians and to invite people to church, they’re going out and actually doing it. As if we don’t have enough people already, they’re inviting more people.

It’s a sign of immaturity. Those of us who have been Christians for many years know that the pastor doesn’t actually expect us to follow his sermon directives. He’s just assembling a message which we’ll agree is biblical and challenging and interesting to listen to–not something we’ll actually put into practice. It’s a little dance we mature Christians play. We nod our affirmation to truths we already know, then ignore them.

But these newcomers–they just don’t get it. Their enthusiasm will make us seasoned churchgoers look bad. Who, then, will they look to for spiritual guidance and models?

We need to teach them that the goal is intellectual assent, not behavioral change. That like the poor, we’ll always have nonChristians around us, and we shouldn’t get too concerned about their eternal destiny. That when Tim tells us to do something, he doesn’t really mean it. He’s just saying what’s expected.

I’m confident that, over time, these newcomers will get with the program, if they just watch the rest of us closely.

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Notes From Our 2009 Vacation (Part 1)

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Our vacation is now over–but what a great time Pam and I had!

We traveled 2900 miles in our Infiniti, trouble-free. Did a little backtracking, including the whole southern part of South Dakota and a little stretch in Minnesota, but didn’t mind. Left home September 9, returned home late Friday night, September 17.

We left home Wednesday, September 9, for Chicago, where I attended the MinistryCOM conference Thursday and Friday. But starting Saturday, it was all vacation. We headed to Minneapolis, and Sunday night found us in South Dakota. We spent three days in the Rapid City area–the Badlands. Gorgeous territory! We were there about 16 years ago, but it was a quick trip–saw Rushmore, Deadwood, and headed on. This time, we got to enjoy the beauty of the Black Hills.

We had sunshine and 70-80 degree weather the whole way. Perfect!

In Chicago, ate at a little deli with incredible 50′s decor. That was the good part. The food was terrible, and the only workers were two Arab-Americans who spoke to each other in arabic.

Visited Long Grove, a quaint section on the edge of the Chicago metropolis with shops in old houses. Pam was there many years ago with her Dad, Chuck.

That’s about it for Chicago. On Saturday morning, we headed for Minneapolis, and spent most of the day heading there.

Visited the Mall of the Americas Saturday night, September 12. We had about four hours before closing, and trekked the place and ate (at the original Rainforest Cafe) in about three hours. It’s truly enormous. And the recession doesn’t seem to have hit that mall. It was busy busy busy.

Attended church Sunday morning, September 13, at Berean Baptist in Minneapolis.  Brent Birdsall, a friend from Huntington, joined the staff two years ago. Quite an impressive church. With an attendance of 2000, Brent said they are still only the 55th largest church in Minneapolis. We took Brent to lunch (Sandie was in Seattle with a daughter) and spent several enjoyable hours with him, mostly there at Ruby Tuesdays.

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Minneapolis is the home of the NFL Vikings, the first team I fell in love with as a kid. That was back in the Fran Tarkenton/Alan Page/Chuck Foreman days. I rooted loyally for them for many years, but they continually let me down. I’ve since switched loyalties to the Colts. Nevertheless, some remnants of Viking fanhood remain. I bought a Vikings T-shirt and cap. But I didn’t get one of the Brett Favre T-shirts and jerseys that adorned shop windows throughout the city.

After leaving Brent, we pressed on to Sioux Falls, SD. Didn’t intend to get that far, but went for it. Found a Holiday Inn Express, and found a very poor late-night meal at a Perkins.

We were really impressed with Sioux Falls. We could live there. Spacious, modern, clean, easy to get around. The interstate goes down the middle, and practically everything can be found off of the 4-5 exits. Sioux Falls has one of the nicest malls I’ve ever seen.
 
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First thing Monday morning, September 14, we went to the Sioux Falls zoo. The AAA book said it was a gem. And it was. A very nice zoo for a city of 125,000. Not as nice as Fort Wayne’s zoo, but worth seeing.

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Outside the zoo entrance was an old piano. I took a seat and played while Pam snapped some pictures.

The original plan was to spent Monday night in Mitchell, SD, and head to Rapid City on Tuesday. But after leaving Sioux Falls around 2:30, we decided to make it to Rapid City that night. We skipped the Corn Palace in Mitchell. We skipped Wall Drug. Stopped at both of them during our visit in the early 1990s. Figured on stopping at Wall Drug on our way home, since we would be backtracking.

Arrived around 9 pm in Rapid City. The Hampton and Holiday Inn Express were full, but Comfort Inn had a place for us.

Found a gourmet pizza place called Boston’s for a late-night meal. Turns out that at that time of night, you can get a personal pizza for $2.99. That’s what we did–2 personal pepperoni pizzas, 2 drinks. Fantastic pizza! And couldn’t beat the price.

That’s enough for this post.

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“I’m Sorry” is So Not Enough

As a Christian, I’m tired of seeing people break laws, both moral and legal, and apologizing with lame statements like:

  • “I made a mistake.”
  • “I showed poor judgment.
  • >Last night, on Jay Leno’s premiere (good start, BTW), I watched Kanye West apologize for his outrageous behavior toward Taylor Swift at that awards show. Perspective alert: this was an AWARDS show. But it was rude, and I wish there could be some penalty beyond gaining more bad-boy cred.

    I watched Serena Williams’s terrible behavior toward that line judge in the US Open. It cost her the match, plus $10,000 in pocket change. She ALSO gave a sincere public apology. But hurray that there were actual penalties for her behavior.

    Today, Congress votes on a public reprimand for Joe Wilson, the lowest form of censure. I’m sure the right-wing pundit opinion-leaders will decry this, calling it purely partisan. That he said, “I’m sorry,” and that should be enough. I’m sure they would agree that an apology from Serena Williams should have sufficed, too. No additional penalty needed. In fact, let’s play the point over.

    Wilson demonstrated outrageous before millions of people. He broke House rules which he had agreed to follow, and dishonored Congress and the President. Yet plenty of Republicans will say “I’m sorry,” is enough, that there should be no additional penalty. If it was a Democrat dissing a Republican president, they would be in favor of censure. But not in this case.

    Because their views are not based on principle, but on partisanship.

    Perhaps you can guess how I feel about it.

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Books: Powder Burn, The Underground Man

undergroundman.jpgpowderburn.jpgFinished two books from the Vintage Black Lizard imprint last  week.

  • Powder Burn, by Carl Hiaasen and Bill Montalbano, was a fun read. It revolves around Chris Meadows, an architect who, in the wrong place at the wrong time, gets drawn into the drug wars. I enjoyed it. These authors wrote three books for the Black Lizard imprint. This one was published in 1981.
  • The Underground Man, a 1981 Ross MacDonald mystery, seemed to drag. There were way too many characters and relationships to juggle. Any of them could have committed the murders. But I couldn’t keep track of them all. The last 50 pages, I just wanted to know who done it, put the book on the shelf, and start a new one.
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People of the Cross

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At the back of the Anchor sanctuary, surrounding the entrance, are a whole bunch of paper crosses. Each bears the name of somebody who needs Christ.

On August 30, at the end of the service, Pastor Tim invited people to come to the front, take one of the paper crosses lying there, and write the name of somebody they were concerned about who was not yet a Christian. After writing the name, they went to the back of the sanctuary and taped the cross to the wall.

Some people wrote the first name of a person–Dan, Bobby, Sandy, Al, Rosa. Others referred to a person anonymously. Here are some of the “names” on those crosses.

  • Neighbor
  • My sons
  • Family
  • Me
  • Brother
  • Stranger
  • Son
  • Myself

Isn’t that cool? I was moved as I stood there and read the crosses, realizing the connections among our people with the lost, and recognizing that Anchor people really care.

It was also cool knowing that at least two persons in our midst realize they haven’t yet turned their lives over to Christ, and that they need to. Way too many churches don’t have people like that attending regularly. We have an atmosphere where it’s okay to not be a Christian, to still be on the journey toward Christ. To still be a seeker. I love it.

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My Contribution to Silly Season

Today, President Obama will spend 15-20 minutes–more than enough time–brainwashing the nation’s schoolchildren. From his perch as the world’s most powerful and influential person, he will tell them to take personal responsibility and stay in school. We should all be outraged, just like our infallible pundit heroes drill into us over and over, day after day, hour after hour, on and on and on as we listen zombie-like, craving flesh. Some minority students who especially look up to Obama may be especially vulnerable to his dangerous message.

Nothing in the Constitution specifically says the President can talk to schoolchildren, just as nothing in the Constitution specifically says a black man can be President, an idea which would have been unimaginable to Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings. If the Constitution doesn’t say it, we shouldn’t allow it. We should be against it, just as Democrats opposed George H. W. Bush’s speech in 1991 to schoolchildren who still bear those mental scars.

But that is only Phase 1 of this insidious indoctrination regimen concocted by the secret Brainwashing Czar. Phase 2 kicks in Wednesday night, when Obama delivers a speech to the nation.

I object to the President giving a prime time speech. It will occur before kids’ bedtime, which means there may be children in the room. And thus, they risk being brainwashed again. Fifteen minutes here, 30 minutes there–before long, we’ll have a Manchurianesque children’s crusade on our hands, with youngsters wearing Mao suits storming Wall Street and redistributing wealth.

All presidential speeches from now on, including the State of the Union, should occur after 11 pm. We cannot risk exposing minors to the President of the United States.

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I Don’t Have a Life Verse. So Ex-Communicate Me.

I’ve always felt guilty, spiritually inferior even, that I don’t have a life verse. I work around ministers, and I’ll bet every one of them can recite their life verse. I think they can’t graduate from seminary without one. And somewhere, the Bible says, “Thou shalt have a life verse.” Somewhere. Otherwise, ministers wouldn’t emphasize it so much.

A life verse is quintessentially American. It goes along with our love for mission statements, goals, and purpose-drivenness. Our leadership books insist that you have a mission statement to be effective. It guides you, keeps you on track.

Some life verses are very common, like:

  • Matthew 5:16–”Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
  • Proverbs 3:6–”In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
  • Matthew 6:33–”But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
  • Psalm 37:4–”Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Multitudes of people choose those life verses. What’s really impressive is the preachers who find some obscure verse in a minor prophet, and turn it into a life verse fraught with contemporary significance. They take pride in their verse, and love every opportunity to quote it, thereby exhibiting their profound depth and biblical scholarship. It would be fun to get a bunch of ministers in a room and let them take turns reciting their life verse. Pity the poor fool who can only quote John 3:16 or Philippians 4:13. There is no status in those verses.

ChristianBook.com asked a slew of Christian authors for their life verses, and they could all give one. Except Ted Dekker, who replied honestly, “I have none. How can you choose one verse over another from the word of God?”

You can buy Life Verse Jewelry. You can get a life verse tattoo. Tyndale has a One Year Life Verse Devotional. And if you can’t think of anything, you can look up your birthverse. Mine is Hebrews 10:23, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” I was born on October 23 (10:23), so this is obviously of God.

But there is one life verse I’ve never heard anyone use. It’s the one Jesus chose in what’s called the Nazareth Manifesto, when he is just starting his ministry. In Luke 4:18-19, Jesus quotes Isaiah 61:1 to let people know what his ministry will be about:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

I’ve never heard anyone use that life verse. And I can’t imagine a United Brethren minister selecting it. It just doesn’t fit what our churches are about–to preach to the poor, and to seek justice and healing. We’re in favor of those things (except for the “year of the Lord’s favor” income-redistribution thing), but keep them on the back-burner.

I suppose every generation of Christians in every country reinvents Jesus to fit their priorities, their interpretations of Scripture. The Nazareth Manifesto just doesn’t fit what 21st Century American Christians are about. We’re about evangelism and discipleship–saving people from eternal death, and teaching them the Bible. How can that NOT be good. Of COURSE we need to do that. But when Jesus had the chance to say what he was about, he focused on the poor, on injustice, and on healing–three things very, very foreign to the evangelical Christianity we have created.

When none of us would pick Isaiah 61:1 as our life verse, as Jesus sort of did, it just makes me wonder, again. How well does the American Christianity that we have fashioned and taught to the rest of the world truly reflect what Jesus was about?

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Annual Pilgrimage to the Van Wert Fair

Pam and I just returned from the Van Wert County Fair, just across the Ohio line. We’ve gone every year of our married life, plus 1-2 years before that. So at least 21 years now. I guess you could call that a tradition.

Usually, we meet up with family there. My brother and his kids go, and so do my parents. But tonight, it was just Pam and me.

What we do at the fair is eat. That’s the whole purpose.

Started at Rager’s, as we always do Pam got their ham sandwich, I got the bologna. They also have a great sausage sandwich, which is what I got last year. Three winning sandwiches. They didn’t have the bologna sandwich last year, but brought it back by popular demand. It’s really excellent.

Next we had a funnel cake. Then, after walking around for a while–to the animal barns, past the old restored tractors, down through the game booths, through the commercial building–we each got a cone of cherry ice cream.

Every fair is known for something, food-wise. In Huntington, where I work, people go for the milkshakes made by the local milk producer. I’ve never had one, but people rave about them. At the Van Wert fair, it’s Rager’s sandwiches, and the cherry ice cream. Mom says the cherry ice cream stand was there when she was a kid, in exactly the same place you find it today.

We considered getting some Fiske Fries, which are delicious. But we’ve become diet conscious, and decided those fries were no doubt infested with calories. So instead, we opted for a second funnel cake. I’m sure that makes sense according to some twisted Vulcan logic. We added a lemon shake-up to make the evening complete.

Then it was time to leave. As per tradition, I bought a bag of cinnamon toasted almonds on the way out, and Pam bought a big bag of cotton candy.

How many calories will this cost us? That is yet to be determined.

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The 2009 Dennie Garage Sale Season Ends

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In front of Mom and Dad’s house.

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Mom, Dad, and Pam.

Pam and I have been having a lot of fun doing garage sales with my parents. We did three last year (Memorial Day weekend, August, and early October. Then we did three this year: Memorial Day weekend, August, and Labor Day. The latter two were just three weeks apart. And yet, we still took in over $600 at each. Memorial Day this year brought in over $1000.

We hold the garage sale at my parents’ place. They’re located in a real nice addition, and a number of neighbors also hold garage sales. We sell items from my parents, Pam and me, my niece Paula and her husband, and my brother Stu and his wife, Joyce. Sometimes we have things from Terry and Carol Easterday, friends of my parents who live in South Bend. Today, we sold items for Pam’s sister, Jodie. It’s a trick keeping track of what is sold. Pam excels in that role.

This weekend, the two neighbors to the north of Mom and Dad held garage sales, plus two others along the same street.

Mom’s cookies are always a big hit. This weekend, she made peanut butter cookies and sugar cookies. They all sold out before noon today, at 25 cents per cookies (in packages of 2 and 6). All of her homemade noodles sold out yesterday. She’s been doing cookies for several years now at garage sales, and they pull in lots of repeat customers. Today, about a half hour after we closed and had the garage door down, a girl rang the doorbell asking if we had any cookies left.

I’ve been selling off my diecast car collection for the last six garage sales. Don’t have a lot of cars left. I’ve also sold a bunch of knives. I had gotten 1000 promotional ink pens from ebay for $46 (a nickel each), and have been selling them for 10 cents each or 12 for $1. I started selling them at last October’s garage sale. Today, the last of them were purchased.

Pam has been selling her Beanie Baby collection. One lady yesterday bought 90 beanies, which she’ll take to Guatemala on a mission trip for kids down there.

Mom runs a highly-organized garage sale. All the clothes have been washed, marked for size, and arranged neatly on rods in the garage. People tell us it’s the best-organized garage sale they’ve ever seen.

So the 2009 season is over. The next garage sale will be Memorial Day weekend 2010. You can bet people will be back for cookies.

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Thoughts on the Socialist Label

Okay, I really like this excerpt from a column by Jake Negovan called “For the People: Herr Obama and the Socialist States of America.”

I wonder how many people that have bandied about the word socialist at town hall meetings or at the dinner table or on Facebook in relation to their disapproval of our President have ever driven on a road, walked on a sidewalk, visited a public park, checked a book out from the library, had a relative on Social Security, called the police, learned something at a public school, left trash at the curb for pick-up, been thankful to have a fire department, cheered for a sports team at a publicly-funded arena, or supported our troops. Those services and benefits have all been as socialist as a national health care plan could be….

Grow up. If you have a disagreement, discuss it like an adult. Name-calling has no place in civilized debate. It just makes it appear that you don’t know your facts because your ideas were spoon-fed to you in the first place.

What do you think?

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