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Friday, October 30, 2009

Core Values

I get newsletters from several Churches. Most of them are from congregations served by men I know who are their pastors. Some of them I get for work so that we can arrange to get residents to community events. Some I get just because I'm curious about what goes on in other Churches.

Yesterday, I got a newsletter from a Church in North Manchester that made me think about something I haven't thought about for a long time: "core values." "Five Core Values" of that Church were listed on the title page (and re-stated on the inside of the newsletter). They were what the pastor and congregation had determined to be what gives that Church meaning and purpose.

When I visited the congregation's website, the core values were listed there. In addition, the Church's vision for itself and its philosophy of renewal were given.

I know this pastor fairly well, and although he and I are worlds apart in ministry style and approach, I think he and I are on the same page when it comes to the fact that a Church without vision, without values, and without a philosophy of spiritual life, is a Church that is stagnant and lifeless.

So, I got to thinking: What is my vision for Peoria Church? What are our core values? What is our philosophy of spiritual life?

First, vision. My vision for Peoria Church is that our Church would be a place of worship and prayer, a sanctuary for worshiping God in a busy and tempting world and an oasis for personal and corporate prayer in an otherwise noisy world. My vision is that we would be the people of God in our corner of the world, wherever that might be: at home, at work, at school, in public and in private. My vision is that we would not be shy about understanding God's Word as it applies to our own lives and to the life of the world around us.

How about that? :-)

Next, core values. Following this other Church's lead, I'll list five values I think are important to Peoria Church (and believe it or not, not one of them has to do with Church dinners). :-)

1) Knowing God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is the highest aim of life. We are made in God's image and through faith in Him, that image is restored to us. We are made whole from the damages of sin by God's saving action in the Incarnation, Life, Baptism, Transfiguration, Suffering, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus Christ. We bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit and exercise His gifts as He empowers us.

2) Being Christian is something we take seriously. This doesn't mean we are stuffy or humorless - far from it. At the same time, we know God and we see Him at work in our lives in many ways. We don't have all the answers about faith, but we know that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all wisdom, if we seek Him. The old saying is certainly true: "Only one life, 'twill soon be past; only what's done for Christ will last."

3) None of us is perfect and we understand that about each other. We see everyone as equally valuable in God's sight, and that the Church is a place of healing for sinners as much as it is a household of the saints.

4) Generosity is shown through actions as well as through giving. God has been tremendously generous with us and we enjoy many blessings in our lives. We want to extend God's generosity to us to our families, friends, neighbors, and those in the community who are in need.

5) By honoring men and women of faith who have gone before us, we remember who we are and where we are going. Whether it's loved ones we have known well or the ancestors of Peoria Church or the saints of the ages, we understand that we are part of an ageless journey that is 'marching to Zion'.

Those are pretty lofty values, aren't they?

Finally, philosophy of spiritual life. St. Paul told our Christian ancestors: "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit" (Gal. 5:25). There is a three-fold balance in living out the Christian life, comprised of relationship, religion, and responsibility.

"Relationship" involves a living relationship with the living God and a vital relationship with God's people. We cannot live the Christian life as if we were on an island. A relationship with God implies a relationship with everyone else who has a relationship with Him. Our corporate relationship with God is expressed through the Sacraments. Baptism marks the beginning of our life in Christ. Chrismation indicates the seal and commitment of the Holy Spirit to us. Holy Communion is our fellowship with one another around the Lord's Table, with the Lord Himself as Host. In marriage, a man and woman model the relationship that is "betwixt Christ and His Church." With the 'laying on of hands' our relationship with one another is demonstrated in prayer.

"Religion" is the acting out of our faith. A relationship with God is incomplete without religion. Religion is expressed in regular habits of prayer, Bible reading, Christian service, Church attendance and participation, and other activity that glorifies God. Good religion challenges our own spiritual complacency, and shines as a light in a dark world.

"Responsibility" gives spiritual life perspective. Who is responsible for our salvation? God Himself. We are responsible to God through living "in response" to Him. All facets of our lives are a gift from God and we respond to God with thanksgiving and supplication, that His will would be done "on earth as it is in Heaven." We are responsible to love one another as Christ has loved us, not in a manner that would govern each others' lives, but in a manner that would allow us to walk together arm in arm.

There you have it. A vision for our Church. Five Core Values. And a Philosophy of Spiritual Life.

What do you think?

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Last Serious Creationist?

I've never felt compelled to explain why I believe that God made the world in six days (and rested on the seventh). That's not what this particular blog entry is about.

I've also never been able to put my finger on why I think the evolutionists are fabricating things, but I do. There's something in my gut that just tells me everytime that they're pulling the wool over peoples' eyes. That is what this particular blog entry is about.

I think some of it must have to do with my sense of where I belong in the world. I'm perfectly content to believe that God, in His infinite and incomprehensible wisdom, made me (and everyone else) and everything I can see (and cannot see). It's never occurred to me that I might be the center of the universe, or that I might somehow be the top of the line in an abstract evolutionary cycle, or that my own ego would ever swell to a size that would leave no room for the existence of God.

It's not that I'm uneducated. I have a good brain and I study constantly. I've read many things about evolution and it just seems fake. False. Untrue.

Don't get me wrong: I understand the whole billions of years hypotheses and all that goes with it. I understand that observable changes in cell structure happen all the time. I know that species go extinct all the time, whether by human intervention or by natural selection. I know that many scientists say that evolution is indisputable, proven, and beyond doubt.

That's really not the point, is it?

The point is that evolution doesn't really explain the very real facets of living that really matter. Evolution has no satisfactory explanation for why men and women fall in love. Evolution has no system of identifying the innate, intangible aspects of life: wisdom, understanding, grief, pentitence, gratitude, etc. These experiences are the real 'substance' of life.

Scientists create models and systems that are, in a word, self-auditing. With no one to answer to but themselves, those who believe in evolution check the development of the species against data that they create themselves. It's like letting the students determine their own grading scale.

How old is that fossil? "Dating methods" say a million years.

Oh? And how were the dating methods derived? "Well, we collected the data and analyzed it and compared it to processes we are able to calculate in a laboratory."

And how were the processes determined? "Well, you see, we believe that it must have taken this much time for that particular reaction to occur, based on our mathmatical calculations."

And who came up with the math? "The best university scholars available."

Doesn't this seem fishy to anyone else? Am I the only one to question this?

This self-presumptive evaluation process has, in less than 200 years, postured itself to be beyond question. "No one" questions evolution any more and the millions of Americans (and others arond the world) who do not, are presumed by the self-presumptives to be less than informed, a little dull, or, simply ignorant.

In such a way, evolution has become like the stone idols of yesteryear, who reign without answering. Evolution's indifference to intelligent dialog is just one more wood-carved Asherah pole on the hillside. God invites seekers . . . why is evolution immune from questioning?

All of the systems and models of evolution try to explain biological and geological functions, without approaching any meaningful understanding of anything to do with the spirit.

To me, this is the great and significant flaw in evolution. To those who believe in it, life is merely the collective biological experience of plants, animals, and humans. They are not merely wrong on this: they are dead wrong.

What difference does it make how old the rocks are if we can't understand the part of a man that makes him want to take up arms against his neighbor?

What good is the science that doesn't comprehend the idylls of poetry, the lofty airs of good music, or the warm affection of an embrace?

Is science worth a stitch if it doesn't find value in redemption of souls, forgiveness of sins, or reconciliation of adversaries?

Another significant error, consistent with many evolutionists, is their denial of a Being that is larger than human experience. Very often, atheism and evolution walk hand-in-hand. (I know this isn't universally true, but it is very often the case.)

It's not so much denial as it is 'dancing around'. In every book I've read, every film I've seen, every TV show I've watched on the subject - and even those that deal with evolution on the periphery - they make statements like this:
"After 10 million years living in the swampland, the species developed feathers and flew to the trees."

"The species developed"? How do they do that? Corporately? Through trial and error? After careful analysis of the situation? Voting?

Of course, this also depends on whether the aforementioned swampland remains the same over that same 10 million year period, which, according to evolutionists, would be very unlikely. It depends on the lifespan of the species in question. And, for example, if it were the lifespan of some [imagined] precursor to the cat, it would still take 500,000 generations of cats to make this change . . . 500,000 generations of an animal that is unable to communicate memory or history beyond its own immediate circumstances.

Is there some greater force at work? Something that guides those species to adapt?

Well, that can't be, if there is no God, can it?

Yet, according to the evolutionists, this is somehow magically able to happen. I'm not sure how if there is no supernatural, and since evolution is beyond question, I dare not ask.

To me, it's easier - and more believable - to understand that God made the universe in six days. No explanation required. It's a matter of faith.

But faith is one of those things that science can't explain, either. :-)

Thursday, October 22, 2009


I was in the old Marsh Store in Portland, Ind., would have been about 1990. Karen was at home with the kids and I was doing the grocery shopping.

In the produce department, I was looking at apples and not finding a price, I asked the attendant simply: "How much are them apples?"


In my mind I replayed those last few words. Did I really say "them apples"?

I had.

Then it dawned on me . . .Since I moved to Indiana in 1984, I've picked up a little bit of the Hoosier dialect.

Indiana English is an interesting amalgam of cultures and voices. I think there are subtelties of the ancient Indiana languages that underlay our history: quiet murmurings and innuendos that you have to be part of to understand.

There is the German influence: until World War I, German was the second most commonly spoken language here, and even then, most of them didn't give it up willingly. Until the mid-90's, the public radio station in Fort Wayne still ran it's weekly "Die Deutsche Stunde" - the German Hour. (Many Hoosiers may no longer speak German, but they're Germans at heart.)

Another big influence on Indiana English is Mountain English, as in Kentucky mountains. In the depression, many unemployed southerners (including my in-laws) made their way to Indiana to work in the automobile factories, which became munitions plants in World War II. In addition to the auto industry, later developments in recreational vehicles, steel, and other heavy manufacturing gave rise to many opportunities.

Here are some examples:
"I've ate . . ." - Excuse me? In the rest of the English speaking world, one 'has eaten' something. However, I can't tell you the number of times I hear Hoosiers say, "I've ate three pieces of pie."

"You'ns . . ." - I think this is a carry over from those Germans I mentioned earlier. People tell me that 'you'ns' is common in Pennsylvania, too, which tends to make me think this way.

"Hamburger sandwich" - When I told my Dad that people in Indiana often say "Hamburger sandwich" I thought he was going to have to come up for air.

"Chili soup" - Like 'hamburger sandwich', "chili soup" demonstrates the wonderful Hoosier flair for redundancy.

"State Road ___" - Yes, you are certain to identify yourself as an outsider if you say "State Route". 'Routes' are federal roads - Washington intrusions into the Hoosier heartland. Save yourself a lecture next time you drive through here - ask for the State Road [Number].

"Fast time" - For now, daylight saving time is the law of the land here. However, you will find many Hoosiers pining for "slow time" - the good old days of year 'round standard time. Daylight saving time is still referred to as 'fast time' in many quarters: even those who may not use the term know exactly what it means.

"Off-Ten" - I do it, too, now. I was reared to keep the T silent in "often." Those lessons were all in vain. There are Hoosiers who mute the T in public, but in private conversation, just listen carefully.

Dangling "at" - You know: "Where is my coat at?" or "Where did you eat at?" or "What time does that start at?" Most Hoosierisms don't bug me, but this one gets me every time . . . and I'm as guilty as anyone for using it!

"[Ten] a.m. in the morning" - Everyone does this in Indiana . . . just this morning on three separate TV stations, on each channel the weather man said, in effect, "It will start to cloud over around ten a.m. in the morning." It doesn't matter that a.m. already means "in the morning" (or that p.m. already means "in the evening"). More Hoosier redundancy.

There are more! Send any along to me - you know where I'm at!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

How do you tell someone . . .?

I regularly travel to the Land of Oblivion. It's that quiet land where one is unaware of his or her actions, even when they're embarassing, and goes their merry way thinking nothing of potential social infractions.

With that in mind, I was presented with a dilemma at dinner today. When I first heard the lip smacking, open-mouthed crunching, and speech garbled by partially chewed food, I had to do a self-check.

Was it me? No. (I doubled checked, just to make sure.)

Instead, it was the man I was dining with, an incoming resident to the retirement community where I work. This man was very successful in life: a good, long marriage, financial prosperity, a beautiful home, very strong health into his later years, etc. Even in the little Chinese restaurant we were in, he was wearing a jacket and tie and cuff links. (I was in work pants and a polo shirt.)

How could someone so successful in life make it as far as this guy had without realizing that he chewed like a starved alligator going after a tuna-stuffed house pet?

That got me to thinking even further: How do you tell someone like that about their obvious (to everyone else) social infraction?

What about these social infractions?
A booger dangling. Karen has a code for me: "There's a bat in the cave." But what about someone who doesn't know the code?

Dribbles. Not on your chin . . . lower. No, not on your shirt . . . lower. You know, middle-aged man comes out of the restroom with dribbles, you know, um, there. (Karen has no code for me on this one.)

Halitosis. I am acutely aware of my own halitosis, thanks to 28 years of training from Karen. But the other guy? What do you do when he refuses a piece of gum? (Please note, according to my sources, women do not have bad breath.)

Unbuttoned belly-button. You've seen the guy with the over-sized belly, looking all dapper with his short tie and that tuft of belly hair sitcking out where the fourth button ought to be. What do you say - if anything?

Fumes. I write this not only as a traveler in Oblivion, but also as a connoiseur of all things cabbage: cole slaw, sauerkraut, cooked cabbage, etc. I don't notice my own 'fumes' (as Karen reminds me), but how does one broach the subject with other cabbage - and legume - lovers.

Runners (in panty hose). Oops. This happens to women. Can't say anything.

You get the idea. How can you be tactful in these situations?

Your ideas may help me, and other citizens of Oblivion, to get a better grip on our lives. Thanks!