Going Transatlantic

The kids passports came in just before Christmas and so we jumped on a pair of tickets to States to introduce them to my family. We’ll be traveling between family hotspots between the 11th and 22nd of March but there will also be a couple of opportunities to meet with friends and supporters along the way. If you can join us at any one of these stop-offs, we’d love to see you:

  • March 14th in Spokane, WA (2:00pm potluck @ Knox Presbyterian Church)
  • March 16th in Payson, AZ (Time and place TBA)
  • March 17th in Tucson, AZ (7:00pm @ Northminster Presbyterian Church)
  • March 20th in Seattle, WA (4:00pm @ TBA)

We’ll be firming up details in the next few days. Keep an eye on this post and leave us a comment to let us know if you are coming.

Spring Reading

Here are some of my reading projects for the first quarter of 2009. Some interesting material here that might inspire a few posts down the line.

Bible in Estonian
I’ve never read through the Bible cover to cover in Estonian so I figured it’s about time I give it a shot. We were warned in seminary that we might feel that the Bible’s devotional value had been taken from us for a while until we learned to read it again with new lenses. In a similar way, I’m finding that passages that always felt familiar in the past sometimes feel clumsy and, well foreign. Even so, somehow the Psalms have been opened up to me in a new way through reading them in another language and that has been a real blessing. I also find that when I start my day reading my devotional passages out loud in Estonian, my language skills and pronunciation seem sharper throughout the day. An added benefit!

Calvin’s Institutes
In honor of the 500th birthday of Jean Calvin, Princeton Theological Seminary has set up a reading plan to work through Calvin’s Institutes over the course of a year. If you’d like to join in on this, you can find the readings on their webpage. You can also subscribe to their RSS feed or have daily readings delivered to you by email. It seems to me that a good many Calvin-nots are all too eager to throw out the book, the baby and the bathwater based upon a misreading or a compressed version of his doctrines. I think he deserves at least to be heard in full. So far, I’ve found Calvin to be an accessible, pastoral, disciplined and of course insightful theologian. I think you will too.

The following books are among many that have been waiting patiently for me to take them off the shelf with attentive purpose.

“After our Likeness” by Miroslav Volf – In conversation with Catholic and Orthodox voices, Volf attempts a theology of the church for the Free Church. As a Presbyterian serving largely in Free Churches, I think Volf’s work here is something that’s been missing. On one hand, Free Churches are growing incredibly fast especially in the southern hemisphere. On the other, their very “freedom” often implies autonomy from the Church (big C). Is that what’s really going on? Does it have to be that way? Does it matter? I’m looking forward to seeing what Volf has to say.

“Jesus and the Victory of God” N.T. Wright – This book addresses the historical man Jesus and deals with the various pictures of him that we find in the NT. Who was the historical Jesus? What do we know about him? What can we know about him? And why did he behave and speak the way he did? The fad these days is to pare down the historical Jesus to a few harmless details and then “re-imagine” the rest. Wright holds us to the scripture and demands that we both read it afresh and take it seriously.

“The Open Secret” by Leslie Newbigin – A classic by one of the 20th century’s mission masterminds. Newbigin rocks. He really gets it. This one has been on my list for a long time and I’m really looking forward to getting in.

Ok … lots of serious stuff in there. Have you got any good suggestions for light reading this year? I’m up for just about anything. The comments are open!

Escaping the Tax Man

Can’t do it. At least if you can, don’t ask me how. Unless of course, you skip the “man” altogether and just go wired.

That’s what Lea just did using the Estonian tax filing web site. Her income, all charitable contributions, every taxable item have all been registered in the system. She logs in, answers a few questions about family changes and demographics, punches send and that’s that. Done before I can type out a quick blog post.

Yes, I am envious. Now where did I put that W2?

We’re Behind You Mr. President

President Barack ObamaAt our last bi-weekly Bible study group I received a series of congratulations on the swearing in of President Barak Obama and then the following remarks from a few scowlers: “I didn’t like the way he embraced Islam during his speech. Can you believe it, a Muslim president of the United States.” I couldn’t let that one go.

First of all, these ridiculous rumors that Obama was or is a muslim are not only factually wrong, they are repulsive because they refuse to take into account the man’s own public profession of faith. Nothing less than repulsive. We may rightly question where Obama lies on the spectrum of Christian belief. But to disregard his own testimony entirely and assign him to another faith based on speculation, fear and political shortsightedness is uncalled for.

Second, Obama’s “extended hand” to our nation’s enemies was an invitation to diplomacy not religious advocacy. The “clenched fists” out there are not only radical Muslim states like Iran but also emperor worshiping states like North Korea, avowed atheist states like China, and communist dictatorships like Venezuela and Cuba. The only things these countries have in common from the perspective is that we have intractable and longstanding diplomatic troubles with each of them. Our inability to find common ground has cost us immeasurable difficulty and grief. We may not agree with Obama’s approach but let’s not bundle his foreign policy decisions with a knee jerk conclusion that he embraces any one of the idolatries these countries represent.

Now I don’t agree with everything Barak Obama says. But I do think he is an intelligent man and I appreciate his fresh analysis of the facts and the new perspectives he has highlighted in formerly locked down debates. Let’s keep a watchful eye on whether his policies make a difference. But let’s give the man the benefit of the doubt and support him with our prayers just as we would any other public official we’ve elected to office.