Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Next Chapter

The title of this post, "The Next Chapter," doesn't refer directly to the next movie or book in the Harry Potter series. In fact, I am about to transition into my next chapter of life. Tomorrow, I will be officially ordained as a pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA) denomination. The process has taken over 3 years to complete and I have had more than enough time to examine my sense of call and be examined by others. I am in awe of how much has happened in the last 3 years.

Last night, I went to see Harry Potter Order of the Phoenix with Laurie. I am not a massive Harry Potter fan but I have enjoyed the movies (one day I'll read the books after I finish Church Dogmatics).

I really enjoyed last night's movie. I particularly connected with the scene when Harry Potter takes aside a group of students who want to go beyond theory and head knowledge. They come together to practice spells and to prepare for actual battles.

I couldn't help but connect with the parallel in my life now because I am about to transition from seminary to full-time church ministry. In many ways, I have been in the world of theory without connecting with the real world. I am anticipating numerous new friends and colleagues but also many challenges.

The last aspect of last night's movie that hit home with me was the theme of fighting for something worthwhile. I am convinced more than ever that my next chapter of life is worth the energy and effort. I have no idea just how much my life will change but I have been told to be ready.

Movies like Harry Potter and numerous other ones that feature a character who must step up to challenges help me refocus my energy toward the challenges ahead.

The next chapter is about to begin...

Monday, July 23, 2007

Computer Machine Language = Statement of Faith?

Last week, I went out to Seattle for my ordination examination on the Seattle Presbytery floor. I had a healthy dose of nervousness as the time approached but I also was confident that I could respond to questions about my beliefs and life experiences.

One of the requirements for the Presbyterian church ordination is to write a statement of faith and respond to questions about the content. I decided to write a straightforward statement without any flowery analogies or sentimental word pictures. One of my goals was to present my beliefs in a way that would allow for questions about the content and then my response in the form of stories that described how my beliefs translate into real, everyday life.

As I reflected on my approach, my mind jumped to my former occupation of software development. My main area of expertise was user-interface design. My goal in that area was always to create a presentation layer so that any person could use the computer application without being tied down by the details that went on "behind the scenes."

In many ways, my response to theological questions often follows the same sequence, meaning that I often know the "machine language" underneath but my responses to questions are more "user-friendly" than simply stating the Nicene Creed or my statement of faith. I have a long way to go on this but I am learning how to do it.

Here is my statement of faith that I shared with the Seattle Presbytery last week:

I believe in the triune God whom Scripture bears witness as the God of history with the people of Israel and the God of the new covenant with all humanity in Jesus Christ. By the Holy Spirit human persons are incorporated into Christ and receive adoption as children of God. The confession of the triune God summarizes the witness of Scripture of God’s immeasurable love incarnate in Jesus Christ and experienced and celebrated by the Spirit in the community of faith, the church. The triune God provides the gift of justification by grace through faith in the form of a new identity in Christ and the grace for the community to grow into that identity. Just as the Father sent the Son, and the Father and Son send the Holy Spirit, the triune God sends the church into the world to bear witness to the gospel and serve all people.

I believe in God the Father who created the heavens and the earth and sustains all creation. God chose Abraham and his seed to be blessed in order to be a blessing to the nations. God liberated Israel from Egypt and sent prophets to remind Israel of their covenantal responsibilities. In the fullness of time, God sent his Son not to condemn the world but to save it.

I believe in Jesus Christ who is the Son of God, both fully God and fully human, and he is the image of the invisible God. He was sent in order to destroy the power of sin and death. He reconciled humanity to God through his sinless life, atoning death on the cross, and resurrection. The person and work of Jesus Christ opened the covenant to Gentiles. I believe that he ascended to heaven where he sits at God’s right hand in power as the mediator for each believer and as Lord over all. I believe that Jesus Christ will come again to judge humanity and to consummate his reign.

I believe in the Holy Spirit who was sent as the promised gift who convicts the world with regard to sin, righteousness and judgment. The Holy Spirit regenerates the believer and then sanctifies the believer by transforming them into the likeness of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit reveals truth through the witness of Scripture to Jesus Christ.

I believe that the church, led by the Spirit, exists to bear witness to Jesus Christ through the preaching of the Word, administration of the sacraments, and serving others.

I believe that the Bible is the written Word of God that bears witness to Jesus Christ. The Bible is inspired and authoritative in all matters of life and faith.

I believe that Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are sacraments that function as both signs and the means of God’s grace toward sinners.

I believe in God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are one God in three distinct personal expressions who are working together for the reconciliation of humanity to God and to one another. This triune God sends the covenant people to be witnesses of the gospel to the world in word and deed.

For many, that statement may seem like theological "machine language" but the content underlies my worldview shaped by Jesus Christ.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Confession and Crazy Story....

I have to make a public confession on this blog. It has been long overdue. Some of my closest friends already know this about me but I have been hiding it for years. Here it is... I enjoy pop music. I really do. In fact, I haven't fully embraced my fanaticism for it in years due to lack of money and exposure to new music.

My confession goes all the way back to the early 80s when I clearly remember listening to Billie Jean and Thriller and dancing around the room with my sister. Years later, Backstreet Boys and N' Sync made their mark. I am not going to reveal other friends who encouraged me to embrace the sounds of pop but they all know who they are (can't argue with the hits?)

Well, recently I stumbled upon a song that I can't get out of my head. It was listed as iTunes top song for weeks and I eventually bought it after hearing it on American Idol. The song is Makes Me Wonder by Maroon 5.

Cambria and Avery love the song. In fact, they bounce around to it all the time.

Now here is the crazy story.

I took Cambria (4 yrs old) on a walk yesterday on the canal path near our Princeton apartment. We were mostly walking in silence with an intermittent comment about the color of the berries or the turtles on the trees in the canal. At one point, "Makes Me Wonder" started playing in my head and I began to walk at the same pace of the song.

A few seconds later, Cambria said from the stroller, "Hey Daddy, that sounds like Maroon 5 when you walk that way." I said, "What do you mean?" and she said "The ground sounds like Maroon 5 when you walk that way."

I have been blown away by funny comments from Cambria before but this one was a little more than I could handle. How did that happen? Are we really in tune that much to the same music that she could identify "Makes Me Wonder" from the rhythm of my walk???

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Footprints in the sand?

You may be thinking that I am going to quote the poem about the footprints in the sand. I actually still like that poem and find myself encouraged by it at points in my life. The poem reminds me of a song that often sounds overplayed but every once and awhile I find enjoyment in listening to it.

This post is about a different set of footprints. Yesterday, Laurie and I went for a run together for the first time in our marriage. We have run on our own at various points but we have never run together. We ran on the sand in the Outer Banks right next to the ocean, right into the wind. It was a blast!

One of the challenges given to us at our wedding by the pastor was to find ways to have fun together, especially when we have kids. This sounds like an obvious idea but the stresses of raising children have made that simple challenge elusive.

Yesterday, I felt like I discovered a different part of my wife and about us together. Our "footprints in the sand" involves both of us running on the beach, encouraging each other not to give up. That is a good basis for a poem too, right?