Everyone Needs One of These

Sure, we all need an $850,000 (base price) motorhome, right? Oh, did I mention that it swims too? Yep, that’s right, an amphibious motorhome. How cool is that?
The Terra Wind is made by Cool Amphibious Manufacturers International LLC, who also make amphibious tour busses and other interesting things. “It is exceptionally unique,” says John Giljam, President. Uh, yeah, 80 MPH if by land and 7 knots if by sea is pretty unique. It also features slide out rooms, a rear deck to dock your jet ski to and inflatable outrigger pontoons. Nothing special needed to go swimming, just drive in the water and flip a switch. The outriggers aren’t even needed if you’re not opening the slide outs.
The picture is from Serious Wheels (where else?), but I originally saw it at Car and Driver.

Welcome Family & Friends

The Schaefer’s, like so many American families, write up a Chirstmas letter for our cards each year. This year is no exception, and in the letter, we mentioned that one of the new things in my life this year was this ‘blog. So I’m betting that over the next few weeks I get at least a casual look-see from quite a few family and friends wondering what in the world I’m up to.
Well, it’s always nice to have new visitors. Welcome, and thanks for stopping by. Leave a comment if you’d like, or email me to let me know you’ve stopped by. Come back again if you’d like and join in the conversation.

New Links

Well, it’s time to add a few more links to the left side collumn. There are a few places that I’ve been visiting regularly for a while.
Daniel at Alien Soil is a friend of the Thinklings. As regular readers know, I’m partial to Restoration movement folk, my church having its roots there somewhere back in it’s tortured history. He’s also from a Restoration Movement tradition, attending a Christian Church of Jasper in Jasper Tennessee Indiana. (Oops, sorry Daniel.) When his solo blog was announced at the Thinklings, I went and checked it out and have been coming back ever since. Besides, I just made it to the bonus points leader board.
Messy Christian is a blogger from Malaysia who attends a Lutheran church there. I was introduced to her during the election by Didymus as one place of many to get an international perspective on Bush’s re-election (let’s just say she wasn’t thrilled). Once there I poked around and was hooked. She writes at times about being hurt by her old church and about others’ hurt in theirs, a subject that tugs at my heart too.
I’ve also posted a couple of new website resources links. They’re both Movabletype plug ins. The first is Scripturizer by Mean Dean at Heal Your Church Website. It’s the nifty little tool that turns all of my (and yours in the comments) scripture references into Biblegateway links. If you want the same thing for WordPress, see Justin at Radical Congruency, I think he has one working at his site.
The second is not the work of Mean Dean, but is endorsed by him. It’s SCode from James Seng, the little numeric code spam-bot blocker thing I use. Though I’ve gotten a few spam comments through lately, I’ve realized that this thing really is working well. While others are talking about deleting hundreds of spam comments in the latest deluge, I had maybe a half a dozen.
Lastly, I’ve added a link to Serious Wheels, the site where I got the article on Jay Leno’s Toronado. It’s a great site with loads of car images. If you like to have a car on your desktop, this is the place to get it.
Whew. Now if you happen to be hitting the site right after I post this, give me a minute to update the link menu. πŸ™‚

Church Developments

I’ve had this written for a few days now, but I’ve been hesitant to post it. I know at least two members of my church read this blog regularly, and I fear both hurting their faith and, to be honest, a potential backlash at me for publicizing these thoughts and opinions. But this blog is for me to help work out what I feel and believe, express myself, vent a little and solicit input. As always, these words represent me alone and do not in any way represent my church or its leadership.
Thursday night we’ve had another of our Deacons’ meetings. I’m not sure why I call it that. It’s more than just the Deacons, it’s our ministry staff (main minister and campus minister) as well and another respected member of the congregation, but some how “Deacons, Ministry Staff and Another Guy Meeting” doesn’t have a good ring to it.
Anyway, we had one Thursday. We’ve been meeting every other Thursday since the end of May, and it’s been quite good. At the beginning, it was just a little weird for me. The six of us have some pretty different perspectives on our church and where we need to go from here. All in all, however, it’s been a good six months. We’ve grown much closer together. Going in, I only had a decent relationship with one of these men, now I can honestly say I feel close to all of them.
Thursday night, however, was a bit unsettling for me. When we started this, we started with the idea of having a team leadership. The deacons went to the lead minister and sort of demanded, respectfully, to be included in the decision making. There would not be a single leader, we would lead as a team. I loved this idea. I’ve seen first hand in the ICoC what a strong, one man leadership can do. It can surely move a church, but it can also squash opposing views and trample on those who see things differently. A team approach would mean that the diversity of our leadership could be put to good use in directing the church. One man’s blindness would be counteracted by another’s vision. That was the ideal anyway.
On Thursday our main minister or evangelist, spoke up against the idea of team leadership as we’ve been practicing it. This came on the heels of the meeting two weeks ago. He was out of town and a couple other men couldn’t make it. The four of us spoke about the state of the church in light of some news of more folks leaving the church. We had a great talk at that meeting and came up with some ideas on how to change some of our structure and meetings to meet some needs and to move the church toward stronger relationships and deeper Bible study. I typed up a summary and emailed it to the group, explaining our conclusion and soliciting the thoughts of the men who were not there. Our intention was not to exclude the others, nor to make decisions without them, but we did come to a consensus ourselves on what we thought. In hindsight, my summary was probably too conclusive.
So he thought that perhaps we had gone beyond what we should have. Not just in that incident two weeks prior, but over time. He referred back to the appointment of the deacons, about a year ago, saying we were appointed to specific areas of ministry (children, poor, campus and administration) not to a broad leadership role. He thought we had gotten away from our focus on specific areas of serving and had taken on a larger role than we were given. He said that he did not see a team approach to leadership in the scriptures, that it was the evangelist who led the church until such time as there were elders in place. We have no elders, so it was his role to lead, not the group’s. His thought was that this was a better plan because, as our group has demonstrated, group leadership can lead to paralysis, lack of focus and stagnation.
Well, to say I was surprised would be an understatement. I did not see this coming. A plethora of emotions were running through my mind. He went to great lengths to reassure us that he was not trying to take over or grab power. He has grown to appreciate our meetings greatly and plans to rely on us for support and advice. He would be a fool, he said, to ignore our council, and other mature men in the church, in leading the church. He emphatically expressed his desire to involve us in the decision making process.
After a silent prayer for wisdom, patience and restraint :-), I spoke up. I acknowledged that I was pretty attached to the team leadership model and that there were some emotions involved that were probably clouding my judgment. I expressed an agreement that we had been distracted from our core responsibilities as deacons. I also agreed that we had become bogged down in an aimless leadership style that had not been serving the more pressing needs of the church. On the face of it, I did not necessarily object to the idea of him leading the church, nor do I doubt his sincerity in wanting to involve the deacons. My biggest concern was how are we practically going to move forward under such a plan? How would the deacons be involved in the leadership of the church? I am very much concerned that their influence and role will be diluted and marginalized. Now, I must check my heart here. I see in myself a little desire for power, a want to be influential and to have a say in everything. I have a control streak and I must acknowledge it and crucify it. But the deacons were appointed based on their heart, their lives, their character and their service to the church. They absolutely should be involved in the decision making and direction of the church, they have helped build this church. I am greatly concerned about how we make this happen. My fear is that without some formal definition of the roles and responsibiliies of deacon, minister and evangelist, and a plan to move forward together, we will revert to the old paradigm of one man leading, getting advice sporadicaly as he goes and as he sees fit, as opposed to consistent, active group involvement in the decision making.
Let me clarify a couple of things. First, I realize that as a deacon myself I am tooting my own horn a bit. Let me say, that I think that these principals apply to whomever is in that role. If there is a consensus that I am not qualified to be there, so be it, I will step down. It is not about me, it’s about what’s appropriate and best for the church and I believe that a strong leadership is a broad and diverse leadership. Second, do not misunderstand my words as criticism of our lead minister. It is not. I trust that he desires what’s best for the church. I agree with much of what he has said. I do not doubt that he respects the deacons and me personally and desires to involve us. He has said so emphatically and I take him at his word.
I’ve said some strong things here, but they’re not directed at anyone in particular. They are simply because I feel strongly for this church. I have been here from the beginning and I’ve helped build it. 16 years ago I pledged my life to God and His church and I take that commitment seriously. My wife and I dropped everything and moved here 8 years ago to begin this church. We came with big dreams to build a congregation that would meet the needs of men and glorify God. I’ve watched over the past few years as those dreams have faltered. I’ve been frustrated at the leadership’s, myself included, inability to stem the tide of men and women compelled to leave our fellowship. We’ve been fumbling with other, less important issues while people continue leaving. Why can’t we seem to get it together and shore up the foundation to protect God’s people and God’s name? Only then will we be able to build again.
As far as a leadership team of equals or a strong evangelist, I’m not convinced there is a ‘right’ way. I don’t see in scripture a prescription for how, specifically, to put together a church leadership. There is no place to find the roles laid out in plain, concrete language, like a job description. It seems that God left this open somewhat (outside of the ultimate goal of leadership by elders) to our discression. While I feel that a team approach is quite valuable, I cannot say that it is God ordained. What I don’t know is if the contention that leadership by evangelist is God ordained is true or not. That’s a topic for another study and another post.
In the events of last Thursday I see hope and I am afraid. I do not know what will come of it, but I did not know what would come of our meetings when they began 6 short months ago. They have brought us together and built a foundation of trust that can be built upon. In that I see hope. What was once a fractured, disunified leadership now has a foundation of unity. I hope that my fears are unfounded, the unhealthy result of an aversion cultivated by the past pattern. I’ve seen many years of hierarchy leadership with one man at the top and only 6 months of a team based system. It scares me to put one man in charge again. But now I know this man and I know his heart. I also think I know God’s heart a little better and I have a little more conviction and courage to speak up, and because of our new relationship I have the confidence that I will be listened to as well. As I said six months ago, time will tell what this means.

The Story of an Evening

Here’s how my evening went tonight:
We arrived home after parent watch for my oldest daughter’s dance class to discover that Maria had forgotten to put dinner in the oven before she left. No biggie, just run to McD’s and eat Maria’s yummies tomorrow.
But before I leave, I notice that half of the string of icicle lights hanging over our sliding door is out. Maria got one of those light sting testers this year, I’ll try it our before I run out for dinner.
The instructions on the tester read like this:

  • Test the batteries in the tester. Check.
  • Hold the tester near the end of the wire set, 5″-6″ from the plug and push the button. If the light lights and stays on, check the fuses. If it lights and goes out go to step 3. Check.
  • If you have a 2 strand light go to section A, if you have a 3 strand light go to section B. Uh, it’s two at the plug, but three in the center. Hmmm. I’ll try two first.
  • Remove the last two bulbs from the strand and test them in the bulb tester. Uh, the last two of the part that doesn’t work, or the last two of the part that’s out? I guess the ones that are out.
  • OK, I can’t get the bulbs in the little tester thingy. I gotta take them out of the little sockets and test em. What a pain. Ok, they’re fine.
  • Next, take out the last bulb in the string. Hold the tester near the last third of the bulb and hold the button for 4 seconds. If the light flashes on and stays on, revers the plug in the outlet, as shown on the back of the package card. The package card?!? I was supposed to save the package card?!? OK, it stays on. I pull the plug and turn in 180 degrees. It still stays on. Well, it flashes bright and stays on dimmer, does that count? Is that what it did the last time? I flip the plug again, it looks the smae. Huh? Well, let’s go onto the next step and see what I can find out.
  • Next, you move from the last bulb to the next to last, then to the next, and so on. Hit the button ad if the light flashes and goes out it’s fine, if it stays on – you’ve found your bad spot. Sounds easy. Well that one’s good, that one’s good – I think. Does a dim light count as on? Let me check the first one again. It’s dim too. What about the rest? They’re all dim! WHAT DOES THAT MEAN!?!?
  • I throw the ‘tester’ down the basement stairs and head to McD’s, beaten by icicle lights.

So I hit McD’s drive through. There’s this little screen where I order that’s supposed to show me that they got my order right. Typical to so many drive through’s in Columbus, I order and the screen doesn’t change. It still says “This screen helps us improve order accuracy.” when the guy tells me it’ll be $13 something, please pull around. Does this happen anywhere else? Why have the stupid screen just to tell me that it’ll help accuracy?
I get to the last window and they hand me my food. Skeptical because of the screen, I pull up 10 feet and check the bag. Yep, they’ve forgotten the cole slaw. Argh!
So I head inside to get the slaw. The manager brings it out and before handing it to me she feels compelled to explain that because the slaw is cold they can’t bag it with the hot sandwiches and fries. The drive through person must have not have had a chance to give it to me or forgot. “That’s OK”, I say a little tersely, take the little bag and leave. I’m really thinking “Hey, I’m a little tense here, I just got taken down by icicle lights and I’m pretty ticked. I really don’t care about your bagging issues, JUST GIVE ME THE SLAW!”
As I head outside I notice that it’s raining. It wasn’t raining when I left the house, but now that I have to get out of my car it’s raining. It’s at time like this I wonder if God really does tweak these situations – you know, bringing on the rain – to make a point. I don’t think so, but right now I’m wondering.
So I get home, apologize to my daughter who saw my little fit of rage with the tester, and we laugh through dinner. Yeah, the night was frustrating, but life’s too short to stay angry at icicle lights and cole slaw.

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. – James 1:19-20

Human Nature

There’s a great new article at Douglas Jacoby’s web site by Michael Cameron. It takes on the common Christian notion about ‘Human Nature’ and the associated idea of original sin I suspect that many folks who call themselves Christians haven’t thought much about original sin, but they may know and hold to the idea of the sinful nature. I certainly believed in the idea that, as humans, there’s a part of us that is inclined to sin. It’s the part of us that longs for sin, it’s why we cannot help ourselves.
Michael Cameron’s article makes the case that what’s referred to as the ‘sinful nature’ could really be translated as ‘the flesh’ meaning a reliance on ourselves rather than God. He also says that this idea of humans having an ingrained sinful nature shares a common heritage with the idea o original sin. They both rely on the idea that we inherited the desire to sin from Adam and Eve. He makes the argument that it is really not consistent with the story in Genesis. What was passed down to succeeding generations is not an inborn inclination to sin but an environment of sin.

What do I mean? Adam and eve are tempted externally – by Satan. The idea of sin doesn’t actually come from them first, but rather from outside of them. But the idea of sin is then transferred into the general environment (let’s call this “the World”) as humans pass it on to each other. We see this as Eve passes the idea on to Adam, and so infects his thinking with it, as he simultaneously also chooses to doubt God’s goodness. The world now becomes the agent of Satan in infecting each successive generation with sin, as people also individually choose to doubt God’s goodness, and so to rely on the false hopes of the world.

He goes on to show how sin is a result of our doubting God’s goodness, but needing hope. We turn to the false hopes and temporary satisfaction of sin. This begins a self fulfilling spiral where sin produce guilt which keeps us from approaching God deepening our need for fulfillment and leading to more sin. Sin is like an adictive drug; it provides a temporary cure for our lack of love but leaves us empty and longing for more to satisfy our need.

Worldly influence towards uncertainty of God’s goodness, and therefore worldly influence to sin is all that is required to pass this situation on from one generation to the next. This is enough to fully explain the situation we see in the world, so there is no need to find anything intrinsic in human nature to explain it. This also explains how Jesus death potentially breaks the chain reaction through providing a basis for certainty despite our sin and weaknesses.
Here, for once, is a way of being forgiven and accepted that is dependent on God himself, on his decision to forgive – rather than on how we measure up to God’s expectations.

What I love is how he goes on to show how this idea that we have a sinful side prevents us from feeling certain of God’s love for us.

How does the idea of “human nature” in itself affect certainty? The concept of an intrinsic “human nature” and the related concept of original sin fights against certainty because they make one feel intrinsically ashamed, in a similar way that some people are made to feel intrinsically ashamed of their skin colour through racism. Another example is people feeling shame over being sexually abused as a child, or being abandoned by a parent, even though these things are not their fault. All of these phenomena dissociate shame from the actions of the one feeling the shame, making it a false, and very toxic idea of shame.

The idea of a ahuman sinful nature also works against the idea that Jesus was fully human and can sympathize with our weaknesses. If he was fully human, did he have a sinful nature too? If not, then was he truly fully human?

He bore our sin – that much is true, but he wasn’t sinful in his nature, he was perfect, that’s why he could be our perfect sacrifice. (2 Cor 5:21). But did he feel tempted to sin through the external environment he was in? Of course he did – exactly as we do, but he resisted (Heb 4:15). There is a good argument to say he was so empowered to do so largely because he was so certain about heaven, having just come from there, and so certain about God’s love because he was God’s only Son. This certainty would have helped him to block out the external influence of the world.
According to the idea of a sinful nature, it is impossible to be both perfect in nature and also fully human. This begs the question of whether the idea really fits, and whether the one exception – Jesus, disproves the rule. In other words, the idea of a sinful nature doesn’t fit both with Jesus’ full humanity, and his total perfection. The idea of certainty versus external influence does.

If is was no sinful nature, then how do we explain the spread of sin?

Another common verse touted as a justification actually argues to condemn the idea that sin passes to the next generation by birth. Romans 5:12 says that sin entered the world through Adam, and death through sin. Then the next bit is interesting. “And so, death spread to all men, because all sinned”. It didn’t spread to all men because all men were born, but because they all made the choice to sin, to doubt God’s goodness, to rely on the flesh instead of on God’s promises.

He nicely wraps up his argument here:

Some might say that I am missing the point entirely. They might say Jesus died on the cross and through this crucified our intrinsic sinful nature, destroying it on the cross, and setting us free from its power. But if the sinful nature is our intrinsic tendency to sin, and this has been destroyed, this doctrine leaves such people in the difficult position of having to explain why they still have this tendency at times– even as Christians. And this persistent contradiction would put doubts in their mind as to whether they really are saved after all, further compounding the problem in the familiar vicious cycle.
If they say they no longer do sin however, (as some do), then they have a problem with 1 John 1:9-10, which says they are deceiving themselves, and calling God a liar. Here, at the very least we see that the doctrine of the “sinful nature” or “human nature”, together with the doctrine of original sin, is a foothold for uncertainty, and therefore for Satan. It is also historically, the genesis point for a whole raft of other false doctrines that have relied on it.
For these reasons, it makes much more sense to say that sin is a choice we all make, because the environment we live in is strongly influential towards this, and it becomes emotionally compelling because of our uncertainty. Jesus’ death gives us a basis for certainty, through knowing that our sin is paid for up front. As we believe, the addictive power of sin, uncertainty and emptiness drains away. We don’t actually need sin any more – we have the real thing now, so we can progressively decide to discard all the substitutes as they become apparent, but from a position of security and confidence.

There’s so much good stuff, there I have only scratched the surface anad frankly haven’t done it justice. Please, go read.

Bah Humbug

I’m not sure if I should feel good about this or not, but I do.
Alan and Bonnie Aerts have been putting up $150,000 worth (!) of Christmans decorations at their California home for the last 6 years. Not this year though:

This year, though, the merry menagerie stayed indoors. Instead, on the manicured lawn outside the couple’s Tudor mansion stands a single tiding: a 10-foot-tall Grinch with green fuzz, rotting teeth, and beet-red eyeballs.
The Aertses erected the smirking giant to protest the couple across the street — 16-year residents Le and Susan Nguyen, who initiated complaints to city officials that the display was turning the quiet neighborhood into a Disneyesque nightmare.
Alan Aerts, who makes sure the Grinch’s spindly finger points directly to the Nguyens’ house, says the complaints killed the exhibit.

I guess I can understand the frustrations with traffic etc., but it’s hard not too see the grinch in this.

Taking a Stand

Kudos to this woman in Ukraine:

“The results announced by the Central Election Commission are rigged, do not believe them,” Natalya Dymitruk told UT-1 viewers when asked to relay the [declaration of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych’s victory] in sign-language. … [She] told hearing-impaired viewers that Yushchenko was the real winner and apologized for conveying previous official statements, saying she was “sorry for being obliged to lie … and I will not do it again.”

Congrats to her, and people like her, in Ukraine who stood up to corruption and have won a chance at a new election.

Generation Gap

This morning as I’m laying in bed, trying to avoid starting my day (I love lazy Saturday mornings), I can hear Emily (7) and Audrey (5) ‘cleaning up’ in Audrey’s room.
Audrey says to Emily “Put it on your head, you’ll be an Indian!” Memories of cowboys and indians games are in my mind. I can hear the girls laughing in the other room, Emily saying “I’m an Indian! I’m an Indian!”
Then she comes into our room. I turn, expecting to see feathers, a headress or something like that. Instead, there’s a velcro dot stuck to her forehead.
Oh, that kind of Indian. πŸ™‚

Leno’s Toronado

Jay Leno's 1966 ToronadoCheck this car out. It’s Jay Leno’s Custom 1966 Olds Toronado. I have a soft spot in my heart for 60’s American cars and Oldmobiles in general (I learned to drive on Dad’s 1977 Cutlass), but I’ve always loved the early Toronados. Lots of style, room and power.
Well, this is no ordinary Toronado. It’s powered by a prototype GM 425 cubic inch crate motor with twin turbos that makes 1,070 HP and 1,000 ft/lbs of torque. That’s 5 times the power of my 1999 Oddysey, 4 times the power of my 1960 Thunderbird and about a million times as much as my tired 1993 Escort.
Under the restored, stock sheet metal is a stretched C5 Corvette chassis. It’s been converted from FWD to RWD and utilizes a beefed up Corvette automatic rear transaxle. Custom 17″ alloy wheels that look just like the originals keep the outside looking stock.
General Motors photo as seen on Serious Wheels, a site with lots of cool car pictures.

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