Monday, December 31, 2007

Entry 42

This is my last entry for 2007, and it's my 42nd blog entry.

Although not much for numerology, 42 is the ultimate answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything... If you are still confused, see "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas Adams.

But I digress.

One of the things that really struck my on our vacation this summer was how much the people make all the difference no matter where you are. We loved Guam, mostly because of Fred & Helen. We loved Yap, and it wouldn't have been even remotely the same without Cy and Susan, as well as Cara who lived upstairs. The location was spectacular, but the people made the experience great.

So it's new years eve, and we are in Tracy visiting with family. Three of my cousins and their wives are here, along with my aunt & uncle. It's a Lingenfelter year end party, and there is no where else I'd rather be.

God has made us relational. He made us in His image, which is relational as well. God has all the relationship He ever needs within the trinity, and yet created other creatures like us in order to have even more relationships. We are created to connect with one another and share in fellowship.

So here we are, the end of a long day, sitting down to a great New Years Eve! It sure beats sitting around at home watching Dick Clark for the eight thousandth time...

Joel

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The short, sad decline of film

As a kid I learned to take pictures with my dad's 35mm Nikomat camera. In those days, all of the photos were taken on Kodachrome 64, a slide film that holds its color for a very long time. Later I found a little 126 camera and started buying film for it. Although it had almost no features and was a very odd format (26mm by 26mm officially, although the film was actually 28mm square), I learned the concepts of taking good pictures by trial and error. I remember that my favorite picture was one I took of a dog while I was running along side it. I liked the photo because the dog was in focus and the background was blurred.

In 2001 we bought a Nikon N80 film camera to take with us to the olympics. I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out which films to use. It was amazing the variety! There were tons of films, but as I recall I bought a lot of Agfa Optima Pro II 400 and Konica 200. I also shot a lot of Kodak Supra 100 and loved the fact that Kodak Supra 800 could be pushed to 3200, making it perfect for things like hockey!

None of those films exist anymore.

First Konica went out of business. Then Agfa. Then Kodak started discontinuing films left and right. Recently they discontinued HIE, the infra-red film that I shot in Chicago and Colorado last year. I was very dismayed by this loss, as there is nothing else quite like it on the market.

2001 was probably the high point for film. At that time the best digital camera on the market, the Nikon D1x was 5.1 Megapixels. There were higher pixel counts, but that (well, the original D1) was the first truly high end pro DSLR from a major manufacturer. Previously Kodak would take Nikon bodies and adapt them for digital, but Nikon, Canon, Minolta and Olympus were not making DSLR's until the release of the Nikon D1.

Digital was beginning to take hold, but film still was the dominant player. The competing film companies were producing better and better emulsions and competing for business. In the five years that followed 2001, film sales would evaporate as pro DSLR's came into their own. The drop in professional sales ended film research, and began the steady decline of film as a medium. On the consumer end, digital point and shoots completely destroyed the low end camera market. APS was the first casualty, followed quickly by the advanced 35mm point and shoot.

And then came the death blow. In 2003 Canon produced the digital rebel for less than $1000. With that, the consumer SLR market crashed. By early 2006 Nikon had discontinued all of their film cameras except for the mighty F6 (the best film camera ever made) and the FM10, a model aimed at beginning photography students. People stopped buying film bodies and began to buy DSLR's. Without the prosumer purchases, film companies began dropping left and right.

For color print film, Kodak and Fuji are essentially all that remains. It seems that every few months Kodak announces the discontinuation of more films. What is left is a small collection of print films, and a slightly larger collection of slide films. Even black and white seems to have taken a beating. The workflow of digital photography is simply too appealing. It takes a lot less time to import photos than it does to scan the negatives or the slides.

I am one of the holdouts. I still use the N80 that we purchased in 2001. We have added a 10MP Point & Shoot to our equipment, but the best pictures we take still come from the N80. But our options are dwindling. There is now only one place worldwide to get Kodachrome developed. How long will that last? I used to process slides at my local costco. That services has been discontinued. I have to drive nearly 60 miles to find a place that will process my true black and white film. Color print film remains easy to process, primarily because of the popularity of disposable cameras, and the fact that the same equipment creates prints from negatives and digital files.

I miss the variety of films. Each of them brought something different to the table. Each of them affected the photographs in various ways, and those films are lost, gone forever. Digital cameras now contain modes to emulate the effects of those various films (most commonly Velvia), but it isn't quite the same.

Film will never totally go away, but the attrition is far from over. Rumors are now swirling that Kodak might stop selling film altogether or sell the business. When this all shakes out there will be very few options for film photographers, and possibly only one company.

I like Fuji Slide films. I shoot Provia 100F almost exclusively. I don't care for their print films. Superia X-TRA 400 doesn't scan well, and doesn't look as good as the shots I take with Kodak 400UC. I don't generally shoot 100 print film, I use slide film for those occasions. I no longer have any film that I can push to 3200 like I used to. This is a real loss. Kodak's discontinuing of HIE is a huge loss. I expect that eventually they will discontinue 125PX, if they haven't already. Fewer and fewer options will make shooting with film less attractive.

Such is life I guess, but it's a bummer.

You can file this as a lament :-)

Joel

Friday, December 21, 2007

Sex God


Rob Bell makes me cry. There, I've said it. But really, he does. The way he writes, he brings together the truth of God's scripture and the reality of God's love with such clarity that it brings tears to my eyes.

I love reading, but some books are easier to read than others. I've been working my way through some very good books that are heavy reading, and since this was sitting in my stack I decided to give it a shot. It didn't take long for me to finish it. Rob writes like he preaches. Lots of pauses, short phrases for impact, and he leads you through a narrative like a good story teller would.

Sex God is Rob's latest book. The subhead is "Exploring the Endless Connections Between Sexuality and Spirituality" which sounds kinda weird, but it's really not. It's also a book about a lot more than sex. This book is about the value of human life. About dignity. About marriage. About relationships.

One of Rob's chapters is entitled "God Wears Lipstick" and in it he discusses the concentration camps during world war II, and the horrors that the British soldiers found when they liberated those camps. Each of these people that had been brutalized, violated and stripped of all their dignity were bearers of the divine image of God. He relates the treatment of these people with how men treat women when they turn them from divine image bearers to mere objects of lust. Rob writes "The problem is that 'that' is actually a 'she.' A person...It's degrading. It's violating. It does something to a person's soul"

The entire chapter is very powerful, but it's the story at the end that made me cry: "It was shortly after the British Red Cross arrived...that a very large quantity of lipstick arrived...I believe nothing did more for these internees than the lipstick. Women lay in bed with no sheets and no nightie but with scarlet red lips...At last someone had done something to make them individuals again, they were someone, no longer merely the number tattooed on the arm. At last they could take an interest in their appearance. That lipstick started to give them back their humanity."

I have removed a lot to keep this entry short and given you a very brief summary of the chapter (very brief), but the essence is that humans are special, and God has an interest in seeing us retain our humanity and this affects how we treat one another. This theme carries through the entire book, as Rob drives home the point that every person is worth dying for. Every person.

The latter sections of the book deal more specifically with sex, as Rob moves into a discussion of how the union of a man and a woman is designed to provide a glimpse of who God is. What was revolutionary to me was the discussion on heaven, and how our relationships on earth provide small glimpses of what God will provide for everyone in heaven. It suddenly became very clear why there will be no marriage in heaven, we won't need what marriage provides because we will have the full glory of God.

Sex God isn't as critically acclaimed, or as controversial as Velvet Elvis, but it's a great book nonetheless. I have to admit, I wasn't excited about the book when I read the title. I dragged my feet on purchasing it because I wasn't sure if I would like it. But having read it, I am very grateful for the gifts that God has given Rob, and that Rob is obedient to use those gifts for the kingdom.

If you haven't read Velvet Elvis, read that first. But if you have, pick up Sex God. Highly Recommended.

Joel

Friday, December 14, 2007

Movies - Christmas 2007

We don't get out to movies much, because it's very expensive. By the time we drive to the theater, buy two tickets, and pay a sitter, we could have bought three or four full priced DVD's. But for one reason or another, I've seen three movies in the last month.

First up was Beowulf in 3D. This effects laden retelling of an old english poem was entertaining, but I don't think it is what anyone would call a great movie. I also don't think I would have enjoyed it as much in 2D, and that's a very real problem. When a film virtually requires a gimmick, that is not a good thing.

The whole movie is animated using a technique similar to what was done for the Polar Express, only it doesn't look as creepy. While neat, I think I would have enjoyed it more as live action. In the end I was entertained, which is the point I guess, but it's not a movie I can see owning and certainly not a "must see" film by any stretch. If I was rating it, I'd give it a C, or perhaps a B- if you see it in 3D.

The second movie I saw was Noelle. I really liked this film, and would have enjoyed it even if I didn't know David. Unfortunately, this movie will be gone from most theaters by the time you read this because of a poor first weekend showing. The movie business is very unforgiving, and if the first weekend isn't a resounding success, the movie will be gone very quickly.

Noelle is a story about a catholic priest who is sent to shut down a small cape cod church that is no longer viable. That is the story on the surface, but there is a much larger undercurrent of faith and forgiveness. The movie has a nice blend of humor and drama, and generally produces tears by the end in all but the most hardened person.

This is one of the few movies we have gone to see as a couple, and both Patty and I enjoyed it. I wish this movie had been promoted better. I have only talked to one person who had heard of it before I mentioned it, and they might have read about it here in my earlier entry, because I know they had read my blog... I'm very disappointed at how this whole thing has gone. I would like to have seen Noelle do a lot better, and I think better promotion could have made a big difference here. Overall this movie was probably a B to me. Not perfect, but well worth seeing.

Last night I went to see I am Legend. This movie stars Will Smith as a (not exactly) the last man alive on earth. To be honest, I really like the premise here. Will Smith is utterly alone in New York City. He is the only "normal" living citizen. The rest of the planet has been wiped out by a virus that was originally produced to cure cancer (which it did). Unfortunately, the virus mutated and went from curing cancer to effectively giving the entire human race something like rabies that makes their hair fall out and turns them into gollum like ultra violent creatures that cannot be exposed to sunlight.

The movie was a mix of suspense, action, and save the world heroics. Will Smith plays the role well, as he tries to survive in Manhattan, avoiding the creatures that come out at night. This is by far my favorite of these three films. While I really liked Noelle, I am Legend is more the type of movie I enjoy seeing. It makes me want to see The Omega Man, a 1970's movie based on the same book, simply to see how cheesy it can be :-)

There is an interesting subplot of faith in I am Legend as well. I don't want to go into it too much because I don't want to spoil the movie for anyone. I am Legend is well worth seeing. It's not perfect, but I give it an A-...

Joel

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Heretic

So the internet is abuzz recently because Mark Driscoll called Rob Bell a heretic. I was not at the conference where this happened, but from what I understand it was because of Bell's book Velvet Elvis, in which Rob lays out a hypothetical situation wherein the virgin birth was conclusively disproved, and asks the question "could you still be a Christian?" Rob's point has nothing to do with the virgin birth. Indeed, on the very next page he affirms the virgin birth and his belief in it. But his point is lost because we want to jump on the sensational...

Why do we eat our own? The world is lost and dying without Christ, and we are more worried about attacking people who don't share our beliefs exactly when we should be rejoicing in the impact that is being made for the kingdom of God. The reason Rob chose the virgin birth was that he didn't want the issue to be trivial, he wanted to make his point that we can't hinge our faith entirely on one aspect of what we believe the bible says. He included ways the scripture could be read to not support the virgin birth, not to argue that point, but to make it clear that our faith is not one without basis, but one that we support with the revealed written word of God.

I like Driscoll. I like Rob Bell. Both men have done great things for the kingdom of God. We need more leaders like them who can take the word of God into a post-modern culture without getting mired in relevancy or bogged down by modern thinking. We also need to be united for the cause of Christ, not working to undermine the ministries of others.

The world is lost. Rather than drag this on, let's return the focus to sharing the love of Christ and proclaiming the gospel to those who need Him.

Joel

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Politics

I generally find politics wearying, but important. Like most people, I have strong opinions about where I think this country ought to be going, and what issues are important. A few days ago a friend of mine sent me a link to a website that is extraordinarily helpful. It's called glassbooth, and it allows you to choose how important various issues are to you (no matter which side of the issue you are on) and then answer questions about those issues. After the survey, the site matches up your political views with the candidates (all of them) and you can see specifically how your views and those candidates line up. It is brilliant! Give it a try.

Last night was the CNN/YouTube Republican debates. Before the debates I liked Ron Paul's focus on reducing the size of the federal government and giving freedom back to the people, but glassbooth told me that I line up best with Hunter, Thompson and Huckabee. After the debate, I find that Huckabee is my man. He is very sharp, he is charming, witty, and he stands by his principles and isn't afraid to say that God isn't just a political position in his life. I found myself cheering at several of his answers last night.

Ron Paul reminds me of Ross Perot. He says great things one moment, and random scary things the next. As much as I like his focus on freedom and reducing federal government, I think he would be a foreign policy disaster, sending the US back to policies of isolationism.

Fred Thompson was my favorite before the debates simply because he seemed conservative and the glassbooth survey confirmed that. After the debate I think he should drop out (along with Tancredo & Hunter) of the race. He will only serve to distract money from other conservative candidates. He really looked like he needed cue cards and he didn't seem to be able to think quickly on his feet. His campaign ad was the worst of the night, and landed like a lead balloon.

Tancredo & Hunter really needed to differentiate themselves from the bunch, and instead came across looking like one issue candidates who want to build a fence between us and mexico.

Giuliani was far more impressive than I expected. He did a very good job of pointing to his experience in New York as well as at other levels, and came across as a man who could govern this nation. I don't line up with him nearly as much ideologically, but I was impressed by his performance. His YouTube ad was the best of the bunch as it was done in the style of YouTube. It mixed facts with humor, juxtaposing his record on crime with Rudy cutting snowfall in new york and taking a stand against king kong...

Mitt Romney stumbled a bit, and came across very defensive. He seems like a guy with too many skeletons in his closet for some reason. On the whole I think he's a strong candidate, but I wasn't impressed by him last night.

John McCain came across as the most competent, but with views that were clearly unpopular to the crowd. His stance on Iraq in particular did not sell with the crowd, and his poll ratings reflect that.

You can see the debate (including my friend Chris' song that opened up the whole thing!) on YouTube.

I was very surprised that I genuinely enjoyed watching the debates last night. The CNN/YouTube format worked for me. I realize there were flaws and complaints (A lot of people were upset by the questions CNN chose, the seemingly anti-republican bias etc. Hey, that's going to happen after the nomination, might as well learn how to answer the questions now...), but on the whole I liked what they did, attempting to bring debates into the internet age that we live in.

Joel

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

20 Grand Days Out - Yap

This summer we took an epic vacation. A once in a lifetime vacation. We went to Hawaii, Guam and Yap. The main purpose of this trip was to go to Yap, where I lived for a year around 1980. I have already written about our visits to Hawaii and Guam (click on those names to read the first two entries). Here's our experience on Yap.

Our plane left for Yap at 6AM and arrived around 7:30. All flights to Yap take place at very early hours of the morning, something that they are hoping to change. We arrived at the airport and were picked up by Cy. Cy lived with us for a number of years while I was a kid while he went to school in the US. I consider him my brother.

We rented a car at the airport because Cy does not have a vehicle that can accomdate all of us plus luggage. Our car was a Hyundai Santa Fe, with a badge on the back declaring it a "V9" something that I'm sure is truly unique in the world of automotive engine design :-)

We stopped at the store and picked up a few items that we would need during our stay like cabin crackers and bottled water. It's been 27 years, but the stores look exactly the same as I remember them.

Susan, Cy's wife, made lunch for us. She is an excellent cook, but more on that later. Our accommodations were a complete surprise to me. In 1980 when we lived on yap we lived in a wooden house (long since destroyed by a typhoon). We had no running water, so we had to shower in a stream (still there, but very little water flowing) and we had 55 gallon drums that served as water collectors to be used in the house.

Now we stayed in a concrete house with running water. To make things even more deluxe there was hot water, something I never imagined we would have available to us on Yap. The place we were staying was also quite big. It had three bedrooms, a living room/dining room and a kitchen. The house also had four air conditioners, something I found quite remarkable. We did not use them because they didn't work very well and electricity is very, very expensive on Yap.

I did not recognize it, but we were staying at one of the places where I had spent a lot of time as a boy. We also were living right next to where my parent's had their house in 1967. The amazing thing was that the land on Yap is growing rather than shrinking, so the distance to the shore was about three or four times as far as I remember it. Cy confirmed that the beach keeps getting further away from the road.

We spent the day getting familiar with our surroundings. Cy was a wonderful host, cutting down coconuts for us to drink, and they provided us with the most beautiful handmade (by Susan and her family) leis for us. In an era where leis are cranked out en masse, to have one hand made, woven from banana leaf with hundreds of small flowers was amazing. What really stuck out to me was the beautiful fragrance they gave off. Truly a very special treat.

For dinner, Susan made us fish accompanied by soursap and breadfruit. It was excellent, although I didn't care much for the very soft flesh of the soursap. We finished off the night playing Uno, something we would do a lot on this trip.

Our next day was sunny and hot with very little wind. We went into town for lunch at the Mnuw, a restaurant in a boat attached to the Mantaray hotel. The Mantaray is one of the four hotels on Yap. The hotels are small, and focus on serving a tourist crowd of divers, mostly. The food was just ok, but their own microbrew beer (stone money brewing company) was pretty good.

After lunch, we drove to the old airport in search of the japanese zeros that were destroyed there during World War II. We only found one, and that was because someone showed us where it was. There used to be more, I'm not sure if they've been reclaimed by the jungle or if they have been sold off to WWII collectors, sadly something that is becoming more common with WWII relics on islands like Yap.

We also visited the place where I lived when I lived on Yap. It was very overgrown now, but the beach still looked as I remembered it. I took photos, none of which I am very happy with. Still, it was a big deal to me to see this place again. I couldn't manage to capture that one shot that would encompass the beauty as it exists. I also did a little snorkeling this day. I love snorkeling, but I wasn't able to do as much as I had hoped on this trip because we didn't have my parents with us as was originally planned. With Patty and the kids there I felt a little guilty going out to look at the coral, leaving them to sit around and wait for me to return. The reef around Yap is still very pretty, but it isn't like I remember it.

For dinner Susan made us Chicken and rice with breadfuit and bananas. There are lots of varieties of bananas on Yap, and they are always picked fresh making them much better than what we get in the supermarkets at home.

On Friday (the next day) we went into town and did laundry. I had not planned on being able to do laundry on Yap, so this was another nice surprise. This brings up the single biggest difference about Yap now verses Yap in 1980. You can now speak English to everyone on Yap, and they understand you and can converse with you. In 1980 it was very difficult to get by with English. You really needed to learn Yapese if you wanted to talk to people. I never became fluent, but I knew enough to get around. These days my Yapese is consigned to a few phrases and words.

We met Cy at the meeting house in Gagil. This is a very new structure, having been built by the community for the Yap day celebrations last year. We also met the US Ambassador to Micronesia at the meeting house, and then we went down to where the traditional navigation society (of which Cy is the chair) was building traditional yapese canoes. We met Sesario Sewralur, the son of the legendary navigator Mao Piailug who is from one of the outer islands of Yap. One thing I noticed was that Cy spoke to everyone in Yapese, but he talked with Sesario in English. When I asked him why, he told me that Sesario didn't speak Yapese, and Cy didn't speak the language of Satawal. I never realized before that the outer islands spoke different languages. As it turns out, there are four language groups in the Yap Islands.

After seeing the construction of these canoes and chatting with the ambassador, we went back to Cy's house where we took his boat out for a spin. It was nice to be out on the water around Yap again. With a fringing reef it is almost always a nice smooth ride around the island at high tide. At low tide navigation becomes very difficult because of the reef and it is not advisable to travel by boat.

For dinner we had fish, star apple and papaya. I had never had star apple before, and I loved it. I also need to note that the fish we had while on Yap was some of the best fish I have ever had. One variety, Rainbow Runner, was particularly tasty. Susan Mugenbey is an outstanding cook and a very delightful lady. We were constantly amazed at her skill and knowledge of the island fruits and vegetables.

Yapese culture is very different from US culture, and this is the first time Patty has ever been this far "off the grid" as far as amenities and culture. After a few days, it became very overwhelming to her. We were concerned about the kids having lice, nursing a few little injuries etc. On Saturday it all caught up to Patty and she had a bit of a meltdown. Thankfully, it didn't last long and she was able to gather herself back together and have a good attitude about the whole visit. For me being on Yap again was such a joy it was easy to forget that this isn't easy living if you aren't used to it.

The big highlight of Saturday was the opportunity to go to a yapese dance and cultural demonstration. One of the great things that is happening on Yap is the desire to keep ahold of some of their culture before it is lost. These dances are part of that, as one of the villages has the children (elementary and teenagers) put on dances for tourists. While this is an income producing enterprise, it is also valuable to Yap because it teaches the younger generation the traditional dances.

It was really, really cool to see the dances. It was also one of the only times my wife and kids got to see the traditional dress and some of the traditional activities of the yapese. The village that hosts the event does a very nice job of displaying a lot of the traditional yapese crafts, the harvest of betelnut, the fruits that the yapese eat etc.

Sunday we got to do something that was very, very special to me. I have seen Yapese canoes in artwork and I've seen them around the island, but I had never been out in one. Even when we were there in 1980 they were not used very much anymore, and that has not changed. It is the work of the traditional navigation society that is bringing back the traditional yapese canoes. My dad is one of the world's leading authorities on Yap, and he has never been out in a traditional yapese canoe. But this day we got to go out in one.

The problem with wind driven canoes is that the tide and the wind dictate what you can do. We were supposed to go out at high tide, but there was no wind. A couple of hours later there was some wind, although it was a very light breeze. The tide was much lower, requiring us to trudge out through the seaweed to get on the boat (something I hate doing. call me a wuss, but I don't like walking through all the goo). Still, we were able to go out for an hour and a half or so. Sesario was our captain. Not exactly a big challenge of his navigational abilities, but it was still a real treat. The Yapese way of travel is very peaceful.

We had lunch at the village view resort, which is where we sailed out of. This is one of the four hotels, and by far the most unique. It is located in the village of Maap, and has ten bungalows that are right on the beach. This place is a dive hotel that mostly serves Japanese tourists, and the lunch menu reflected that. As usual, Cy knew the owner and several key people, he is extraordinarily well connected.

When we returned we found a rather unique situation. An old woman and her granddaughter had gone out fishing (highly unusual, it's the men who fish) in a boat with no motor. They were poling along when they got out too deep for their pole. Set adrift, they floated all night and ended up in a village quite a long ways from their home. Cy's brother John had towed them back with his boat to his house where they were sleeping until high tide (remember the tides affect everything). At high tide we hooked them up to cy's boat and towed them to Tomil, which was about a 40 minute ride at a pretty good clip. After dropping them off we returned home at full throttle, which the boys loved. It was fun watching their smiles build as we picked up speed.

It was unusual for women to be fishing because Yapese tradition is that the sea gods are all female and the land gods are male. Thus, the women work the land and the men work the sea. Pretty good arrangement if you ask me. You work the taro swamps, I'll go fishing :-) I think the guys definitely got the better end of that deal.

The next day we were supposed to go fishing, but there was a tropical depression that dumped a lot of rain on us. Not a good idea to out past the reef in a small boat in a storm...

We had a couple more slow days where we just enjoyed being on the beach and living the slow Yapese lifestyle. Unfortunatley Jacob got sick, so he had to stay inside quite a bit. I got to go fishing with Cy and I took Grace. Jacob was NOT happy about this development, but we made it up to him by taking him the next day. We were total failures at fishing, which was quite frustrating.

One of the interesting things about Yap is that the water is privately owned. While we were out in the boat John and Cy saw some kids net fishing, and got very agitated. We headed in at full throttle and when we got close, they yelled at the kids in Yapese. As we motored away I asked what happened and they explained that those waters were owned by their family, and those kids did not have permission to fish in the waters. They were very upset.

We had dinner with Cara, an American who lives upstairs where we were staying. She is a lawyer, and she and her husband are on Yap for a few years. We really enjoyed getting to know her, and we had a great time together. Her husband wasn't around because he had gone to the states for a wedding.

The next day was another slow day, and also one in which we had to prepare to leave, as we had to be at the airport at 3 in the morning or something ridiculous like that. That night Cy's family held a huge party for us in which we got to fellowship with the entire extended family. Cy's family is the one that took my parents in and helped them get established in the 60's, and we have always had a bond with them. It was regrettable that my parents weren't able to be there (my grandmother died while we were on Yap, and my parents had anticipated that and stayed home). One of the people who came was Dapoy, who unfortunately died a few weeks later. I didn't realize that he was quite sick, and didn't travel much. I was very grateful that he had made the effort to come see us.

Cy and Susan gave us a very nice sendoff, and we drove back to the airport, dropped off the car and flew back to Guam where Helen and Fred took us to their house for the day so we could relax before our flight to Hawaii (via Tokyo). Unfortunately they took the handmade leis and stuff from us on Guam at the airport, saying they were concerned about bugs and stuff. It was a big bummer because they were _so_ beautiful (Susan had made a second group of them for us to take on the return trip).

After the day with Helen and Fred we flew to Hawaii, where we had a HUGE surprise. My mom and dad were on Hawaii. They were supposed to be in Guam for a conference, but they had flown to Hawaii and about ten steps from the gate to get on the plane my mom collapsed. My dad thought she had died based on the way she looked. After a minute or so she "came to" and asked what had happened. The paramedics came and she was taken to a heart institute on Hawaii where she had a pacemaker installed. My mom is doing well, and my kids enjoyed getting to see grandma and grandpa for the one day we were on Hawaii.

The next day we flew home to Los Angeles and then drove to Oak HIlls. In total, 20 grand days out. The whole adventure was amazing, and we are truly grateful to have been able to go. I have many reflections on Yap that I will save for another entry. I hope you've enjoyed reading about our trip.

Joel

Monday, November 19, 2007

Downfall


History is written by the winners. The result of that is that the experiences and stories of those who were on the losing end of the conflict is rarely told. When we think of the fall of the third reich we tend to view the event (rightfully, IMHO) with great joy. At last the evil that Hitler had tried to impose on the world had been brought to a close.

Downfall is the story of the end, as told by the German side. It is fascinating. We never think about the emotional toll, the real people and lives that were involved, but Downfall tells their story. It shows a side of Hitler we never see, and often don't like to acknowledge exists: that of a personable, likable man. We have created a bit of a comic book character out of Hitler, making him such a demon that no one would realistically follow him. Downfall shows Hitler in good moments and (many) bad.

The actor who plays Hitler is absolutely brilliant. He manages to go from charming one moment to a screaming dottering old man the next. Hitler holds fast until almost the very end that they will prevail. Once he realizes that the war is lost, he makes plans to commit suicide, getting advice on how to do it most effectively. One of the interesting points of the film is how, after all is lost and the decision has been made, Hitler is still pouring over maps talking about the need to reclaim the German oilfields once the Berlin conflict has been won.

Other characters have equally depressing ends, including the Goebbels who murder their children in the bunker because they can't bear the kids to be raised in a non-Nazi Germany. Evil doesn't stop with your own family, it permeates everything.

I thought Downfall was brilliant, if wholly depressing. I've never really given thought to the real people involved on the Nazi side of the conflict. Their hopes and dreams died in that bunker. The movie is bookended by an interview with the real Traudl Junge in which she talks about the guilt she feels for having liked the most evil man who ever lived. She confesses that when she heard the war trials she was convinced that she wasn't part of it all, but later she realized that she should have listened to her conscience.

This movie is almost impossible to find in a blockbuster or other video store, but it is worth seeing. I received this as a birthday gift from my brother in law and his wife, and had asked for it because I had no other way to find it. If you have a delivery service like Netflix, this is worth putting on your list. It will give you new insight into the end of the war.

Joel

PS - I realize it seems like I recommend almost every movie I see, but that's because I don't bother to writeup the unremarkable ones...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

the gods aren't angry

Tonight I went with my friend Paul to see Rob Bell speak on the topic of "the gods aren't angry." If you aren't sure what that is, well, a lot of people paid a lot of money to see a pastor speak for almost two hours straight. That's it in a nutshell.

Was it worth it? Absolutely. The night started with dinner at a Korean Barbeque restaurant down the road. It was excellent and very unique. They gave us all kinds of things as part of our meal that Paul had never seen before, and I had only had once at a tofu house. The meat was tender and delicious, and the whole experience was a blast.

Afterwards we stood outside the Wiltern Theater for a few minutes to soak in the sounds, smells and energy of the city. I love being in the city. There is an energy that you simply don't get in the suburbs. People are everywhere, teeming about (i love the word teeming) and it just feels alive.

Inside there was a pretty well stocked bar available, something I can't remember seeing the last time I heard a pastor speak :-)

We sat down and there was a screen with instructions on how to put a text message up. This is the participative interactive element of the postmodern generation at play. There were lots of messages going by, including one that asked if Paul and Joel from HDC were in the house! Naturally, we sent a reply via text message.

At about 8:15 Rob Bell came out, and started right into his message. Rob began by discussing the sacrifice rituals of ancient cultures, talking about the system of gods that had developed and how it was up to the people to appease the gods with very little idea of if anything was working. The problem with this system is that there is an ever escalating sense of sacrifice, up to and including human sacrifice of children.

Into this context steps Abraham. He obeys God and leaves the land and customs of his father behind. Now when God tells Abraham to go up to the top of Mount Moriah and sacrifice Isaac, it all makes sense. This was not unusual in the cultural context in which Abraham lived. Although he would not have wanted to sacrifice Isaac, it was very natural for a god to demand such a sacrifice.

And then God changed everything. When Abraham reached the point of sacrifice, God declared "STOP" and changed the system. Instead of man providing sacrifices to gods, God provided a ram for Abraham to sacrifice. God is different than all the pretenders that Abraham knew of before. God was real, He wanted a relationship, and He provided for His people rather than demanding of them.

Rob then proceeded to follow the system of sacrifice up to the time of Christ, and talked about how the system was so very profitable to the saduccees. Those forces, who were aligned with the Roman empire, had a vested interest in keeping the system as it was.

Jesus stepped in and declared that he was greater than this mammoth system of sacrifice. It was time to change the game again. A bloody, violent system, enforced by blood and violence to those who would resist, was overcome by a peaceful Jesus Christ. Jesus didn't use force, he didn't attack with an army, He used love. Jesus turned the entire system of sacrifice on its head by placing the burden on God, not man.

Rob then talked about how the point of the sacrifices was never for God. God didn't need cattle, he owned the cattle on a thousand hills. The sacrifices were to provide tangible evidence of what we did. It gave man a way to appease the guilt in their soul by doing something tangible.

And that's part of the problem we have today. It's as if we can't really believe that Jesus paid it all. We still feel like we have to somehow tangibly pay for what God paid for.

Rob related a story of a woman who was receiving visions of Jesus. A priest came to her to "set her straight" on the matter. He told her that the next time she saw Jesus, to ask him what the priest had confessed during his last confession. She saw another vision and when the priest came to visit her, he asked him what the answer to her question was. She told him that Jesus' exact words were "I don't remember."

We cling to things long after God has forgotten them. We have a natural predisposition to guilt that we allow to overwhelm us, when Jesus has forgiven us and moved on if we ask him to.

Rob then related personal stories of friends of his who were wracked by guilt. Of people that he had counseled who were still trying to appease angry gods rather than accepting the free gift of Christ.

Without specifically using the phrase, Rob laid bare the joy of a life indwelled with the freedom of Christ. Christ didn't come to create a new system of rules, He came to free us from the burdens of the world, from the guilt that comes from our sin.

Freedom in Christ isn't about sinning and calling it good, it's about being free from trying to appease gods, and being free to accept the love of Christ and live for Him.

Rob shared a personal story of how busy he was, and how overwhelmed he was with everything. A friend of him took him to lunch and said "Rob, you don't have to live like this." Rob protested and told him why he did. His friend kept repeating "You don't have to live like this" over and over again. Rob relayed how he finally realized that his friend was right. His friend loved him enough to fight for him. Rob was allowing the pressures of ministry and life to overwhelm him, and trying to work his way out of it rather than letting Jesus run the show.

Rob closed with a simple statement, the gist of which is that the gods aren't angry, God is the God of Love.

God is the God of Love. Our God isn't interested in terrifying me into giving him anything. God is interested in loving me, and knowing that I love Him in return.

Paul and I had a great conversation on the way home, with topics ranging from Genesis 1-11 to the anti-Christ, and just about everything in between. Truly, the whole night was worth it just for the conversations with Paul. If this tour makes its way to your town, it's definitely worth checking out.

Some people have a hard time with the idea that a pastor would be speaking in a concert hall and charging admission. I think this is a cultural thing. The people that were there were for the most part young, I would guess between the ages of 20 and 30. Nobody seemed upset to have to pay, they were happy to get the chance to see Rob Bell in person and hear a powerful message delivered.

On the whole, I am really glad I went. I hope that this sort of thing comes to town again.

Joel

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Noelle


My friend David is a filmmaker. He wrote a film that, while not overtly a "christian movie" (a good thing in my book) is a tale about God's forgiveness. He believed so firmly that God was in this that he sold his house and put the money into making this movie.

Noelle has received standing ovations virtually everywhere it has been shown. It is a powerful story and one worth taking the time to see in the theater. It opens December 7th. Click Here to Visit the Website

Not to be missed.

Joel

Friday, November 9, 2007

Fall


Fall is my absolute favorite time of year. Today is the first day in the high desert where it feels like it's actually fall. The leaves are blowing off the trees around the church, the weather is turning cold (it is currently 50 degrees at my house, the warmest it's been all day) and the decor of choice is pumpkins, indian corn and gourds.

I love the food and drink that comes with fall as well. Apples, apple cider, hot cocoa, squash, turkey, cranberry anything etc. There is a certain "feel" to fall that just fits me. It's this time every year where I miss living in New York, where the leaves are simply spectacular, and the weather is colder.

Rejoice with me, fall is here!

Joel

Monday, October 22, 2007

$6 BILLION in sales!

I am a mac fan. I like them for two reasons. One is that I've used them for over twenty years. Two is that they just work. They are related. One of the things I've noticed is that mac users expect perfection. As Apple goes, so goes the future of the mac platform. That's why today's news is such good news. Apple sales for their fourth quarter were over $6 Billion dollars, and their profit on those sales was $904 MILLION. That's astounding!

One of the great things about Apple is that they are an innovator who pushes technology forward. The iPhone is a great example. I have a Sony Ericsson P900. It's a great phone, and it does a lot of the same stuff the iPhone does. The iPhone just does it all better, and makes it easier to use.

I don't have one because AT&T is too expensive, but I will benefit from the iPhone by other companies copying it and being forced to make their phones better to compete with the iPhone.

Competition is good, and a healthy Apple is good for the industry. Apple is also a case study in the difference between a visionary leader and a non-visionary leader. Under Gil Amelio Apple nearly died. Under Steve Jobs the stock has gone up from $13 per share to $180 or so today, and that's after splitting at least once!

There is a leadership lesson in all of this. To be the top dog, a leader needs to have vision. A leader needs to look past what exists now and thing outside that box and dream of what can be. And then that leader needs to inspire the people to move there.

Why are churches so content to have leaders that copy others and think in the same boxes we've thought in for the last 50 years?

Joel

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Hands

I think part of being made in the image of God is being made with a desire to create. Oftentimes we may not recognize this, or may make our lives too busy for it, but I think we have an inherent desire to create things.

Recently our TV died, and as part of its replacement we needed a new entertainment center. I built the last one we had about fifteen years ago, and it is a relic of a distant era. It is designed to hold CD's and videotapes, neither of which we use anymore. The CD's are in boxes to go in the attic (archival storage only) and the videotapes have been replaced by DVD's that we keep in our library.

After looking at a few stands, I decided to build a new entertainment center. I spend about $170 on wood, and got to work. It is incredibly rewarding. My hands are stained, my back hurts, my shoulders hurt, and I can't wait to get home to keep working on this thing. Somehow there is a connection to the creator that we experience when we create.

Joel

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Life

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. - James 4:13-14 (ESV)

On August 9 my grandmother died. On September 18 I learned that my other grandmother had gone in the hospital for the second time that I can remember in my lifetime. On September 26 the mother of my Uncle Rich died. She fell down the stairs a few days ago, and suffered serious head trauma. Although she was old, this was still a sudden event and very traumatic and shocking for the family.

Today I visited an 11 year old girl in the hospital who had an incorrect prescription that was 10x the dosage she should have had. She appears to be improving, but it was still very traumatic for the family and today certainly did not work out like they had originally planned.

A friend of mine was in church with his family and had a seizure, only to discover that he had a brain tumor. Prior to that day he had no inkling that anything was wrong at all. Now this fact dominates their life as they deal with the repurcussions of the tumor and surgery.

I'm beginning to think that James might be on to something here. Our lives are short, and unfortunately for us, we don't know how much time we have. I don't think James is advocating a total lack of planning on our parts, but he is telling us the nature of life. Our lives are a mist, they are fleeting, and we cannot choose when they will end or what life will bring.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there were none of them. - Psalms 139:16

It is interesting that James refers to our life as but a mist. A mist is fleeting, but it can have an impact. When I'm standing in line at a theme park, I'm grateful for the mist created by the misters installed for my comfort. When I drive my car I am grateful for the mist of gasoline that explodes forcing the piston up and giving my car power. A mist can have an impact, but only if it is put to proper use. A mist of gasoline in the open air is a health hazard. In an engine it is power.

What kind of mist are you?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

20 Grand Days Out - Guam

This summer we took an amazing vacation. We were gone for 20 days, hence the title. We traveled to Hawaii, Guam and Yap. This is part II of the tale of our journey.

After a wonderful time on Hawaii we flew to Guam for a five night stay. Guam is very interesting. It's part of the US, but not many people know that. It is a tourist destination for Japanese, one that is marketed as a place to go for a less expensive vacation. Guam is a long way from the US (7.5 hour or so flight from Hawaii) but pretty close to Japan. To make matters worse, it's across the international dateline, so it seems further than it really is. The flight times all look like they will be 30 hours or something ridiculous like that.

Guam is primarily thought of as a military base, because it is. But there is a lot to do there, and we had a great time. Our friends Fred & Helen Nisihira met us at the airport, which was really sweet. It's nice to arrive to a friendly face after a long plane flight. We checked in to the Marriot and agreed to meet them the next morning.

The Marriot. Wow. The hotel was very nice, and the view was stunning. The one big problem was that the kids did not have a bed. We thought we would have a pullout couch, but there was only a small chair in our room. We were able to make it work by asking for some bedding, and the kids were good sports about sleeping on the floor.

The view from our balcony overlooking Tumon Bay, Guam. Click on the pictures for a larger view.

Fred and Helen took us on an Island tour, which was really helpful to get a sense of what Guam is like. There are a lot of military bases, they take up about 30% of the Island, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy a visit to Guam. We drove around a good bit of the Island and had lunch at a really neat place called "Jeff's Pirate Cove" which is located near the cave of Sergeant Yokoi, the Japanese soldier who hid until 1972, still believing we were at war with Japan. After a break and a swim in the hotel pool, we went to a birthday party with our friends.

One of the things that really struck me about Guam was how alive everything was. There was stuff growing everywhere. Virtually every structure had mold growing on the walls, on the roof, out of the concrete, everywhere. I really noticed it at the birthday party, when I looked at the jungle right next to the house. There is plenty of oxygen with all that greenery. I guess living in the desert where life has to work hard to survive really made Guam stand out to me. It seems to me that God had places like Guam in mind when he created life. The fact that we try to live in a desert is our own fault...

We went to church with the Nishihira's on Sunday, and then had lunch at a Benihana type place called "Join Us" that was quite good and owned by a friend of Fred's dad. We had another delightful day with our friends, and then had their family over for a barbeque at their house. I was really struck by how much better it was being on Guam with friends than being by ourselves on Hawaii. Hawaii is a great place, but being with people is really what life is about. Guam offered us Island beauty coupled with good friends to share the experiences with.

After the weekend, our friends lent us a car to drive while they were at work. This was a huge blessing as it let us see the island rather than just staying at the hotel, and it allowed us to eat somewhere other than the Marriot for breakfast. While it was a tasty breakfast, spending $60 every day for our family to eat breakfast was a bit much. The first day we went to Shirley's for breakfast, which was ok but nothing that we would fly to Guam for. At least it was a lot cheaper!

We visited a lot of neat sites. One site was latte stone park. The latte stone is kind of a symbol of guam. It is part of the ancient chammoro construction techniques, and the architecture of the island pays homage to the latte stone. The park was small, but it had a nice display of latte stones and a cave the Japanese had built (with chammoro labor) as part of their defense of Guam in WWII. At one point someone declared this cave a fallout shelter, which is laughable as it was very small. The sign is still there, but someone has scratched the number "1" in the sign under the word "capacity" which is probably more accurate than whatever number was originally there...

After the latte stone park, we went to the War in the Pacific National Historical Park. This park is very spread out, preserving beaches and other sites that were significant battlegrounds as the US retook Japan in 1944. I only have one memory of Guam from when I was there in 1979/1980, and this park (specifically the hill overlooking Asan Beach) was it. One of the neatest things we did was climbed the hill behind the town of Piti and looked at the Japanese gun installations. These guns were never operational, the US invaded before they could be completed.

We had an elegant lunch on our balcony that we catered by going through the drive through at McDonalds. I hated to fly halfway around the world to eat McDonalds, but I guess you have to make concessions to the kids every once in a while. At least the view was great. After an afternoon in the pool, we had dinner at a really cool Japanese Restaurant called Watabe, and that was excellent. It was a little bit of a cross cultural experience, as they offered us things to eat like raw eggs that our American palates aren't exactly used to.

Our last day on Guam we spent visiting the war in the pacific park again, a really cool beach on the northern part of the island, and two lover's point. Two Lover's Point is probably the most well known tourist destination, and it was awful. The popularity of this site has created a kitsch location that is overcommercialized and ruined. It was quite a shock after tooling around the island enjoying it's natural beauty. We gave the kids one last western meal at Friday's for dinner, and then prepared for the main focus of our trip: going to Yap.

We saw everything we wanted to see on Guam except Yokoi's cave. I think that is the perfect amount of time to be somewhere, when you wish you could stay one more day. But the highlight of Guam was definitely visiting with Fred and Helen, and their family. I would not go back to Guam to see the sights again, but I would go to be with them again.

Friday, August 31, 2007

In honor of my grandmother

My grandmother died on August 9, 2007. I had the honor of performing her funeral on August 26 at the Laemersville Grace Brethren Church in Pennsylvania. We then did a graveside at the Brumbaugh cemetary, where she is buried next to her parents and other ancestors. I don't usually post things here that I preach, but the family has asked that I share this. I generally work from a manuscript like this and then go from there. I don't remember what I added and changed "on the fly" but it's usually a pretty good amount. Particularly with something like this I like to personalize it even more when I deliver it. Still, I think this gives you the general feel of the message. The message was preceded by the songs Wonderful Words of Life and Ivory Palaces, as well as the Lord's Prayer. Afterwards we sang the songs My Jesus I Love Thee and Face to Face. My grandmother was a gifted musician, and this lead to the music theme that you will see.

On behalf of the family of Kathern Lingenfelter I want to thank you for being here today. The song Ivory Palaces was always very special to grandma because she remembered her parents singing it as a duet. Her father, George Rogers, founded this church 1936 and was the individual responsible for leading Harvey Lingenfelter, my other great-grandfather to the Lord.

In Psalm 106 we read a brief account of Phinehas, who interceded for the Israelites in prayer, and it is written that his righteousness was counted to him from generation to generation. Truly we can see the same thing happening in the work that George Rogers did to spread the gospel here in Pennsylvania. I mention this because I am the grandson of Kathern Lingenfelter, who is the daughter of George Rogers and Elma Brumbaugh. I serve on the pastoral staff of a church in California and I am very honored to be speaking to you today in what is truly my spiritual home.

Around Christmas of last year I went over to my grandparent's house with my daughter to sing with grandma. She loved to sit at the piano and play while we all sang along. One of the pieces that we sang that night was Ivory Palaces. I remember standing there, having difficulty singing as I choked up listening to Kathern's frail voice singing a song that she clearly loved and had sung all of her life. It is also a song that was passed on from generation to generation as her parents sung it, she sung it, and today you heard my parents sing it.

One of the poignant things about this hymn is that it speaks of the pain and suffering that Jesus endured as he left his ivory palaces to dwell with us here. Kathern lived 82 years, and she served God through her life, while enduring mental suffering at times, as well as living through the great depression. Life wasn't always easy, but she always knew where her eternal destiny was.

In John 14 Jesus assures us:

John 14:2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
John 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

The story does not end when our life ends here. For Kathern, this is only the beginning. Now she is experiencing the place that Jesus has prepared for her, face to face with her savior at last. Kathern now dwells in the ivory palaces she could only sing about during her time on this earth.

The book of Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon late in his life, as he wrote down his observations on life. Solomon asked the Lord for wisdom, and the Lord granted it. In 1 Kings we read about how wise Solomon was:

1Kings 4:29 And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore,
1Kings 4:30 so that Solomon's wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt.
1Kings 4:31 For he was wiser than all other men

While we must always take scripture seriously, I think it's worth taking a moment to dwell on the fact that scripture refers to Solomon as wiser than all other men. The language is unequivocal, the Hebrew word translated "all" literally means all, every or the whole. Solomon was wiser than the whole of mankind.

The center of the book of Ecclesiastes is chapter 7. When writing in ancient times the center of a text was extremely important. It was the key point on which everything else hinged. Here's what Solomon has to say at the center of Ecclesiastes:

Eccl. 7:1 A good name is better than precious ointment,
and the day of death than the day of birth.
Eccl. 7:2 It is better to go to the house of mourning
than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
and the living will lay it to heart.

Let's look at each of these statements as we reflect on today. A good name is better than precious ointment -- Our name is a reflection of the life we live on this earth. Your name is a reflection of your integrity, it is a reflection of whether or not you lived with the fruit of the spirit or not. The smiles in the slideshow we watched show how Kathern presented herself to her family. We knew her, we loved her, and we were impacted by her love of Christ.

The day of death is better than the day of birth -- when we are born there is joy, but much uncertainty. Our lives are a clean slate, unwritten. We will make choices that will affect our eternity. Our day of death, if we have lived for God and have a good name as a result, is a day of certainty. Kathern's earthly problems are now history, she is free from the troubles of her mind and body, free to rejoice in the presence of her creator.

It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart -- put simply, there is no better place for you to be right now than at this funeral. Funerals have a way of making us think about our own lives, and this opportunity is one of the few times our society allows us to pause and reflect on our own lives, as we celebrate the passing of another.

Furthermore, we all have the same end. Unless the Lord returns very soon, every one of us will come to the same end. As we reflect on Kathern's life today, we have the opportunity to think on our own ends, and being that we are still among the living, we still have time to do something about our name, and how we will be remembered.

Many years ago my grandparents,Galen & Kathern, came to visit us in southern California, and I was working at the First Evangelical Free Church in Fullerton. I'll never forget the Easter that I took them to church with me. Chuck Swindoll was the senior pastor, and he preached a challenging message, but one that was not what you or I would consider a "typical" Easter sermon. Chuck was trying to put a different twist on things in hopes of grabbing people who were typically only Easter & Christmas attendees.

I'll never forget grandma's response as we were driving away from the church. "I didn't like it!" she declared. When asked why she said "because he didn't present the gospel!" I explained that he had but he had put a new spin on it in order to try to reach some of those who hadn't gotten the message before. Her reply was simple "They still need to hear it! It's Easter and they should hear the gospel presented plainly and clearly!"

That moment gave me a profound insight into my grandmother. Her response to what most of us thought was a pretty good sermon reminded me of the apostle Paul, who wrote:

1Cor. 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Kathern lived to see the gospel preached to the world, and she was unashamed of its content. I certainly don't mean to be critical of the preaching skills of Chuck Swindoll, but I think this is a great example of how important those wonderful words of life were to Kathern. There was nothing more important that anyone could hear than of how Jesus had died for our sins, and was risen from the grave, for this is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ that was written about at the beginning of Mark. To Kathern, the cross was powerful, and the Word of God was all that was needed to bring people to a saving faith in Him.

Grandma would often play "My Jesus I Love Thee" on her organ at home, and she called it her theme song. We will sing it in a moment. But before we do, I'd like to take a few moments to reflect on what we will be singing:

My Jesus, I love thee, I know thou art mine
For thee all the follies of sin I resign
My gracious Redeemer, my Saviour art thou;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, tis now.

The theme song of Kathern's life is about loving Christ in the present, not in some distant future. It is about forsaking sin and the world in order to follow Jesus, our gracious redeemer.

I love thee because thou hast first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary's tree;
I love thee for wearing thorns on thy brou;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, tis now.

Jesus died for our sins. Only he could pay the price, only he could make the sacrifice. It is through the sacrifice of Jesus at calvary that we can spend eternity with Him.

I'll love thee in life, I will love thee in death,
And praise thee as long as thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, tis now

Grandma was known around Regency Park as "The piano lady." She filled the halls with the glorious sound of the piano, which so often lies silent. Everything she played on that piano was in praise of God. She played hymn after hymn, proclaiming the glory of God to all who would listen. She played praises to God on that piano until her strength would no longer allow it. Kathern truly loved Jesus in life, and loved him in death. She praised Him until she no longer was able to do so, and now freed of her frail earthly body, she is praising him again with a strong voice.

In mansions of glory and endless delight
I'll ever adore thee in heaven so bright
I'll sing with the glittering crown on my brow
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, tis now.

Why don't we sing this together now in honor of my grandmother, Kathern Lingenfelter.


My grandfather reading Revelation 21 & 22 at the graveside in what is probably his last ever act of pastoral ministry. My dad is standing between me and my grandfather.

Reading on the plane

I don't know why, but I've always had trouble getting work done on the plane. On vacation we were on a plane for 29 hours total, and then for the funeral I flew another 14 hours or so. I discovered that not only can I not work on a plane, I can't read serious stuff. I don't know why. Perhaps there are just too many distractions.

I took the book The Foundations of Mysticism by Bernard McGinn with my on my trip. I tried to read it on the plane, I really did. But in the end I read You Only Live Twice (James Bond book), the first Harry Potter book, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six, and a lot of magazines. I took a book on the Emerging Church by Eddie Gibbs, one that I really enjoy, and I read magazines instead.

Sigh. I wish I could be productive on planes. On the other hand, maybe it's nice to have somewhere in the world where I can just relax and have some downtime...

I was able to read the McGinn book while we were on Yap. It's quite good actually. I'm not quite done though. When I finish it I will give it a proper review.

Joel

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Finality

This weekend I flew to Pennsylvania with my parents and my grandfather to do my grandmother's funeral. It was a huge honor to be able to do the service. The service was at the Laemersville Grace Brethren Church, which was also very special to me because that church was founded by my great-grandfather Rogers, who led my great-grandfather Lingenfelter to the Lord. Furthermore, my grandfather helped build that church when he was fourteen. It truly is my spiritual home.

The burial was at the Brumbaugh cemetary, where my grandmother is buried next to her parents (her mother was Elma Grace Brumbaugh) and grandparents and other ancestors. It was very cool to be there and to be part of everything.

My grandfather is suffering terribly from confusion and memory loss, possibly alzheimers. Frequently he cannot remember that grandma has died, or where he is, or where he is going etc. The great blessing is that when he asks and I tell him that grandma is "in glory" he is happy to know he does not have to worry about her. But even more important is showing him the pictures of the funeral, and the pictures of her casket next to the tombstone. This puts a finality to everything we didn't have before the burial, and seem to put him at rest.

I am grateful to God for the peace he granted my grandfather this weekend, and for the mercy he showed us as we traveled across the country. God is good!

Joel

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

20 Grand Days Out

In 1979 I travelled with my family to the island of Yap. I have always wanted to go back, and the summer of 2007 we finally got to make that dream a reality. Our trip began with a visit to my parents house, for dinner and a nice evening visiting with them. We then slept there and my mom took us to the airport in the morning. We were supposed to meet up with them again at the airport in Guam before flying to Yap, although as you will see later, things changed a bit.

Our kids had never flown before, but they did really great. We tend to do very long roadtrips frequently, and our plane flights were all shorter than that and had easy access to the bathroom... We arrived on Hawaii and got settled into our hotel, the Aqua Ocean Tower. It met our needs, although the rooms could use a serious upgrade. The staff was awesome though.

The next morning we set off with a rental car to go get our passports. If you read the "oops" entry below you know why we needed to do this. We had an appointment at 9:30. We walked into the passport office, waited about 10 minutes, and were at the window. We walked out of the federal building at 10:10 including about 10 minutes spent taking turns for the restroom! It was absolutely awesome. I peeked at the appointment list for the day and noticed they were labeled from 1 to 10. That sure beat spending five hours in line in Los Angeles! We had to return the next day to get our passports, which we did. All told we spent 45 minutes getting our passports, as opposed to the 6-8 hours it would have taken us in LA, and we would have needed to wait days.

We had lunch at Maui Mikes, a restaurant we found in the book "Oahu Revealed" which is an excellent guide book. Maui Mikes was incredibly awesome. The chicken was cooked perfectly and really didn't need the sauces they gave us. If you are heading to Oahu and get a car (it's not in Waikiki, it's on the way to the Dole plantation) this is a must! It was cheap too. Maui Mikes was probably my favorite restaurant we ate at on this trip, and we ate at some very nice places...

We went to the Dole Pineapple Plantation, which is a tourist trap if I've ever seen one. Still, Patty wanted to go and we had a good time. Jacob is really into mazes these days so we, of course, simply had to go to the Dole Pineapple Maze. Patty was, as you can see, quite happy to see the finish line. The Dole Plantation was fun, but it was a total tourist trap. How many overpriced Pineapple souveniers can one person buy? Not only that, but Jacob decided he wanted to buy a piece of jewelry for his mommy. Needless to say the first necklace he picked out was like $100, a bit beyond his meager budget. It took quite a while for the saleslady to steer him toward stuff that he could actually afford. Still, we enjoyed the experience and are glad we went.

We moved on to a few lesser known sites on Oahu. First is the Hawaiian Birthing Stones. These stones are where the Hawaiian queens used to come to give birth to their children. Supposedly this process involved something like thirty elders of the tribe all standing around. Talk about a gallery! This place is considered sacred to Hawaiians, so we were respectful and when this gentlemen showed up to pray we moved out of his way and tried to keep the kids quiet.

After enjoying the Dole Plantation and the Birthing Stones, we moved on to the North Shore Area. This area was really beautiful. I think we just barely missed having a window broken out of our car based on the look of the guys who showed up as we were leaving the site where we took this picture. That's one of the unfortunate things about Hawaii, in that there are a lot of teenage types with nothing better to do than see what they can steal from tourists. Thankfully we have never had a problem, so I guess it's not a huge problem. Still, there is a lot of broken window glass around the touristy parking lots...

After a few great days on Hawaii we moved on to Guam, but that's for another post.

Joel

Monday, August 20, 2007

Home at last

I know this super highway
This bright familiar sun
I guess that I'm the lucky one
Who wrote that tired sea song
Set on this peaceful shore
You think you've heard this one before

Well the danger on the rocks is surely past
Still I remain tied to the mast
Could it be that I have found my home at last
Home at last

She serves the smooth retsina
She keeps me safe and warm
It's just the calm before the storm
Call in my reservation
So long hey thanks my friend
I guess I'll try my luck again

Well the danger on the rocks is surely past
Still I remain tied to the mast
Could it be that I have found my home at last
Home at last

As I landed at LAX these lyrics kept running through my mind.

The trip was awesome, but it's good to be home. Much, much, much more to come.

Joel

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Honolulu Has an Apple Store

so I can check my email and update my blog!

this internet thing is a sickness really...

we've had a great time in waikiki thus far, and are looking forward to the next phase of our trip. i think i got a sunburn today, which isn't good. too early in the trip for that.

best meal of the trip so far: maui mikes: http://www.mauimikes.com/

the people at our hotel have been wonderful. they even got us an anniversary basket!

more to come when we return.

aloha!

joel

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Off the grid

The trip is almost here.

Today I packed up my laptop and put it away. It's not going with me.

I expect that in a few days I will be completely, 100% not-reachable. Off the grid. No laptop, no phone, no pager.

Other than the email withdrawals, I am actually excited about being completely off the grid for the first time in like 10 years.

See ya when I return!

Joel

Friday, July 20, 2007

oops

This summer I am taking my family on a major vacation. We are going to the island of Yap. Long ago I lived there for a year as a kid. My famly has been to Yap many times, and I wanted to take my wife and kids. So this summer it is.

When we were last on Yap it was a US Trust Territory. US Territories are great because you can go there with no documentation beyond a driver's license. Despite what everyone seems to think this is still true. If you want to travel to Puerto Rico or Guam or the US Virgin Islands etc. you do not need a passport.

The astute readers will notice that I did not include Yap on that list.

Yes, when I called to check on what I would need for the kids I discovered that all of us need passports.

oops.

Now, had I not been in school and working and trying to be a husband and dad, i would have taken care of all of this months ago. But life is just beginning to return to normal, and I found this out with very little time to spare.

The LA federal building is a major headache to go to. Heather Barr told me that she waited in line for five hours.

Five hours.

Imagine being in line with two young kids for five hours. Might as well bring along an endodontist for a little elective root canal work at the same time!

You can't stand in line without an appointment. You can't get an appointment because they aren't available. So I called after midnight and found the first available appointment was approximately four days after we have already left.

oops.

But that's ok, because you can call and talk to someone as long as you are within four days of leaving, and they will schedule an appointment for you. Of course they will dictate when you can come and stand in line for a reallyreally long time with two young children. I think they also drip water on you slowly.

So this morning I had a brainstorm. We are going to Hawaii first. The island of Oahu has less than 900,000 people on it. By contrast the Los Angeles area is home to over 18 Million people. In addition, since there are only 18 of these places in the entire united states (and two of them are in california), people from as far away as Las Vegas or Phoenix or elsewhere have to come to LA if they want to get a passport in a hurry.

Now, let's think about this for a second. Which passport center do you think is more crowded: The one with 900,000 people who live in paradise, or the one with 18 Million+ people that live in a crowded smog bank? Then we add the other states who have people coming here, and suddenly the solution becomes very clear.

Get the passports in Hawaii.

So I call. I pick the date I want to do it. I say morning. It suggests 9:30 which is perfect. When I checked to be sure that I didn't have to go to LA, the agent told me that she didn't think it would even take an hour at the Hawaii office.

So my choice is go to LA and fight 18 Million people for a spot in a 5 hour line, or take a taxi to the passport office (conveniently located a few miles from waikiki beach) on Oahu and get it done there. No huge crowd, no root canals, no water torture, nothing.

Well, guess what we're doing while we are in Hawaii :-)

Hang Loose baby.

Joel

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Babel

I like movies. I like to watch them for several reasons. I find them entertaining, but I also find them very thought provoking. I like to see the way God is expressed through pop culture, even sometimes when the people creating the work do not profess to know Him. When I saw the ad for Babel I was very intrigued.

The awards buzz, including 7 academy awards nominations had me even more interested in this film.

The preview made it seem like Babel would have a very intriguing multi-continental plot involving many languages, and would really delve into the problem of language barriers.

Unfortunately, this is not a movie that lives up to its preview. Babel does deliver on a plot that involves the US, Japan, Mexico and Morocco. The problem is that there is only a loose connection between these places. The parents are in Morocco, the kids are in the US and travel to mexico, and there is an almost unrelated story in Japan that has a very small connection to the main plot.

The stories are all interesting, and they are all in their native tongue with sub-tittles, but other than in a few isolated incidences, language does not create a barrier. If anything, the most significant barrier is for the deaf girl who cannot communicate with speech. The end result is an interesting film that doesn't deliver on its initial promise.

The primary problem for me comes from the Japanese storyline. While interesting in covering the challenges of a deaf person in a loud society, the story is severely damaged by a disturbing amount of unnecessary nudity. This nudity is actually essential to the telling of this particular story, but there is virtually no relation to this part of the story with the rest of the film, so it feels very out of place. I would not choose to watch a film about a girl who gets frustrated by her inability to communicate and decides to flash people out of frustration. But that is what this one subplot "adds" to this film. It's a shame, because the deaf plot is really the most effective commentary on the value of communication.

Even if you were to remove this aspect of Babel, I do not think the film would have worked at providing insight into the language barriers we face in the world. When I first saw the trailer I was very intrigued by what twists and turns the story would take. When I saw the film, I found the loose connections unfulfilling, the cultural clashes to be underrepresented, and the overall film to be a disappointment.

Babel wasn't terrible, don't get me wrong. I enjoyed the film, but I think I would have liked it more if I had never saw a preview for it and wasn't expecting something much bigger and more profound.

joel

Monday, July 9, 2007

And now for something completely different...

If you are a mac user, you should pay attention to this:

Shareware developers work hard, and they create great stuff. Oftentimes, they make very little money. One of the hardest things for them to do is to get people to try their stuff, as if it is somehow not "legit" because they don't have a big company with software for sale in the Apple store.

But oftentimes they make really great stuff. A while back there was an event called "MacHeist" that was a ten day software sale. They sold about $350 worth of software for around $50 or so, and it was very successful.

Well, another company has taken their idea and run with it, doing a similar sale. There are great products offered here:

SRS iWOW - This is an audio plug-in for iTunes, designed to help your music sound better. My music sounds great, but I have Klipsch iFi speakers on my machine. Not everyone has great speakers, and this might help you get better sound of of your mac. UPDATE: Um, this plugin rocks, to put it mildly. I have great speakers, but this plugin really makes things sound great at the volumes I tend to play stuff in my office.

Garage Sale - Ever find that listing stuff for sale on ebay is a pain? This is a great product that puts a mac-like interface on creating an auction.

Cocktail - Easy access to a bunch of unix functions for your mac.

ProfCast - This allows you to create podcasts with video that comes from a keynote presentation (I think it also works with powerpoint if you must). Nice idea!

Amadeus Pro - This is a multi-track sound recorder and editor. Bills itself as a great way to transfer your records to CD...

Fetch - Now this is one of the apps that was personally exciting (yes I'm a geek). Fetch is a great FTP client that has been around for eons. If you've ever tried to do FTP from the finder, you know that OSX's FTP support blows.

Graphic Converter - This program is really handy when someone sends you a picture or graphic in a file you cant' read. Graphic Converter reads 199 different file formats! (and translates them to 80 more common formats...)

Then, if there are enough sales of all of this, there are three bonus apps that kick in depending on how many sales are made. The first is Little Snitch, a program that is designed to prevent programs from "phoning home" on you. The second is Intaglio, which is a drawing and illustration app. The final is Tech Tool Pro, which is usually $100 on its own. If there are 10,000 people who buy the bundle, we all get TTP as part of our $50 purchase price!

Ok, so you are bored, and you can't figure out why I'm pimping shareware. Well, I'm doing it because I like to see people create innovate apps for the mac. If this interests you, go
here
to buy it. A word about that link: The original people who did this was a group called "MacHeist" and they have decided to try to hijack MacUpdates theft of their idea. What they have done is they are splitting the referral fee with you, so you get even more stuff for the same money. Go through MacHeist and you get four more apps or so.

Now back to your regularly scheduled theology rants...

Joel

Friday, July 6, 2007

Growing old

I went to visit my grandma the other day at her nursing home. She is at a wonderful place that specializes in helping people with mental problems live out their last days. It was a bittersweet visit. On one hand it was good to see her, and she seemed happy to be there. On the other hand it's very sobering to see a place full of people whose minds don't work anymore.

There was a very nice courtyard with people shuffling around in it. Two ladies in particular simply moved about the courtyard continuously, unable to figured out how to get out of the courtyard. At one point I opened a door for them and they seemed even more confused. I realized, sadly, that it's best to just let them shuffle around. There was another woman who is always walking around looking for the street. She very politely asks people how to get to the street.

I watched my grandma and grandpa sit together (he still lives at home) and they were clearly happy to be together. My grandpa read scripture to her, and his voice was loud and clear like it had been when he used to preach regularly, not quiet like it usually is. It was neat for me to hear that voice again, I haven't heard it in years.

Then my grandma went to the piano and began to play. One after another hymns poured forth on a very out of tune piano. The other residents took notice and gathered around to listen to her play. Every one was played from memory, and was heavily embelished. A lifetime at the keyboard really shows. After a few songs she was too tired to keep her head up anymore, and rested on the piano.

The whole experience was very surreal, but encouraging in a strange way. At the end of life, God's word is clearly the most important thing in their lives. While my grandma can barely speak or eat, she can still praise God with music, and she does.

Psa. 61:4 ¶ Let me dwell in your tent forever!
Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Selah
Psa. 61:5 For you, O God, have heard my vows;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.
Psa. 61:6 ¶ Prolong the life of the king;
may his years endure to all generations!
Psa. 61:7 May he be enthroned forever before God;
appoint steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him!
Psa. 61:8 ¶ So will I ever sing praises to your name,
as I perform my vows day after day.

It was very touching to see my grandma clinging to God as she waits for Him to call her home. I think this period of time is for us to observe what really matters when our days come to a close. The experience at the home was a great reminder that nothing on this earth is permanent. Our minds will go, our bodies will wither, and only the things of God remain.

Joel