Saturday, June 30, 2007

Strange web search

When someone does a search for "new hymnal" or some other church related subject, he might end up at my blog.  Today Bravenet references someone looking for "Where can I buy a gun in Nigeria?" as a topic that got a searcher to my blog. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Pentecostalism on the up-swing in Africa

This article about the rise of Pentecostalism in Africa caught my eye because of my interest in faith issues, reading about other traditions of Christianity, and because of my upcoming trip to Uganda in November.

I will excerpt several paragraphs from this Reuters story at the end of this blog post in case the link disappears. For now, just a couple of comments.

"Christians say the ecstatic experiences offered by Pentecostals are more exciting than the subdued worship--complete with silent congregations and soporific organ music--that the continent's first missionaries brought here."

Now THAT sounds like what some of the young American Christians are saying about why they go to the churches with the praise bands, etc. We are in email contact with a man in Uganda who runs a school and is a music teacher. We were very interested in finding out what kind of Christian music he uses with the children and on Sundays. He sent us several cassette tapes of Christian music from Uganda. We were shocked, not because the music was some raucous African music, but because the tapes contained slow, boring versions of traditional European hymns.

The article also discusses the preachers, many of whom are American, who find a ready audience because of poverty and disease. Some promise cures and prosperity. Some encourage a specific donation to receive a "blessing." Of the American preachers, the article says, ""Africans want things done powerfully," said Rev. Nathan Samwini of the Christian Council of Ghana. "You meet white evangelicals from America, they behave like Africans. They are vibrant, everything is done with vigour.""

The article discusses hints that some of these preachers may be frauds.

I expect that when I'm in Uganda, I will attend some worship services and pray with people. I'm looking forward to new experiences. I expect that I will have to work at having an open mind if we go to a healing service.


Christians say the ecstatic experiences offered by Pentecostals are more exciting than the subdued worship -- complete with silent congregations and soporific organ music -- that the continent's first missionaries brought here.

"Africans want things done powerfully," said Rev. Nathan Samwini of the Christian Council of Ghana. "You meet white evangelicals from America, they behave like Africans. They are vibrant, everything is done with vigour."

For Pentecostals, the Holy Spirit -- the third person of the Christian Trinity -- plays an active role in life, performing miracles and answering prayers. This appeals greatly to a continent beset by poverty and sickness.

"The success of Pentecostalism is the focus on people's problems in this life," said Allan Anderson, Professor of Global Pentecostal Studies at England's Birmingham University.

"In countries where people are living on the breadline, Pentecostalism gives hope."

Analysts say Pentecostal churches started flourishing in the 1980s, as African nations suffered economic decline on falling world commodity prices.

Destitute farmers poured into slums, seeking dwindling city jobs and creating an urban underclass in need of a new dream.

"In the 1980s, our country started having serious problems," said Abbot Justin Bile, from St. Joseph's in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a nation ruined by kleptocracy and war.

"The suffering of the population pushed them to seek material solutions. If there's a pastor promising a visa, job, or marriage, people flock to them."

Politicians have also contributed to Pentecostalism's rise by welcoming foreign evangelists. Some, like Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, seek favour with the televangelist-backed U.S. administration, analysts say.

Others, like Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and Ghana's former president Gerry Rawlings, faced criticism from traditional church leaders and turned to Pentecostal churches to fill a legitimacy gap.


America's preachers have long grasped the potential material rewards of their spiritual gifts.

Hinn has said he earns up to $1 million a year, lives in a $10 million seaside mansion and owns a private jet. Creflo Dollar, who visited Uganda this month, drives a Rolls Royce.

Africa's preachers are learning fast.

At Uganda's Holy Fire Ministry -- a marquee beside a dirt track near the airport -- hundreds line up for blessings from "Prophet" Pius Muwanguzi, whose purported talents include curing AIDS by touching the forehead.

In the kneeling congregation: a polio victim, a blind man and a girl who lost her phone.

The pastor touches an old woman, she faints. Then out come the collection envelopes. Minimum is 100,000 Uganda shillings ($62.5), although the poor can give as little as 10,000 to receive a blessing.

Muwanguzi, whose own blessings include a smart suit and a new Toyota Land Cruiser, declined an interview. But his secretary Jackie Kamanyire said payments were voluntary.

"If you feel like sowing a seed, you sow. It comes from your heart. The Prophet cures AIDS, cancer and sickle cell disease with his blessings."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Who Knows That You Blog

I belong to a very large internet group that discusses a specific subject.  Many of the members have websites and most of the members have blogs.  They have blogs to get their names “out there,” to sell their work, and to get commissions.  For the most part, people in THAT type of blog don’t hide who they are.  They usually have a sig line on their emails with their blog and website URLs, where you can find specific contact information.


I’m also familiar with a number of FRIEND AND FAMILY blogs, where people post pictures of their kids or where they went on the weekend, as well as some personal reflections.  They don’t usually have their real names posted, but there may be contact information.


Then there is THIS type of blog, where people post essays and opinions, for the most part, along with some personal doings.  The blogs of THIS type I read have to do with the intersection of faith and life.  Many, but not all, of these are anonymous or semi-anonymous.  Interesting, isn’t it, that we bloggers of this type want our opinions out there, but don’t use a real name. 


Since I’m Lutheran, I did searches for blogs of Lutheran writers.  I found that there are at least two listings, The Lutheran Blog directory and Lutheranism 101, which seems to not be an active blog anymore.  There is a Lutheran Carnival, or perhaps two of them.  There are lots of blogs with Lutheran leanings, but many are not listed on a Lutheran Directory.


So my question is:  Who do you tell that you blog?  Do you tell friends and family?  Church members?  Do you prefer to remain anonymous, just waiting to see who stumbles onto your blog?   Have people you know stumbled onto your blog?  Then what?


Recently I followed a link on a blog and read an entry that reminded me of something that MF said last week.  The blog was well written, so I read some more entries.  There was a reference to a recreational opportunity that was sort of like a place I know.  More reading, then three references in three separate posts that made me realize that this was MF’s blog!  MF knows that I read blogs and knows about my other blog, but we’ve never discussed that we both write blogs about faith and life, even though we often discuss faith and life.  Obviously, we both want to keep our secret.  But this is so strange; it is a bit like seeing someone’s diary.  Yet a blogger does put his writings out for the public to read. 


Is there proper blog etiquette when someone stumbles on a friend’s blog?

Friday, June 22, 2007

5 Things I Dig about Jesus, follow up. Many Links!

SmuloSpace has posted a whole bunch of links on this meme. Lots of participants!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

God clothes the grass of the field

"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor so spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6: 28-34

Yesterday I took this picture of the wild Blue Flag iris and today, I saw the early morning sun catching this grass. I thought of all that God has given me, given us. Yet I worry. Isn't it ironic, how much almost everybody in this country has, yet we want more, more, more. The largest temples in this country are the Malls. There is an emptyness that needs to be filled; we often seek to fill it with stuff. And more stuff. The God in our living room, the TV we face each day, tells us we need more, more, more, and we obey. They we worry about where to put it all. Then we build more rooms on our houses and rent storage sheds. Then we worry about how to pay for all of this. Then we don't have any more money left for the offering plate on Sunday. WantMore is one of the devil's helpers.

RE: Why I Dig Jesus

I got tagged for a meme that is spreading all over. I've spent more time exploring the links than thinking about the meme. Through that I've discovered a lot of blogs I didn't know about, including some Lutheran blogs. I've often said that I don't need any new hobbies. Ditto for new blogs to follow, but this meme has introduced me to some great blogs as well as some new ways to think and speak about Jesus. As one of the bloggers said, this can be a devotional exercise.

I was tagged me for this meme by Eric. Here's the way it works:

(a) Those tagged will share "Five Things They Dig About Jesus".
(b) Those tagged will tag 5 people.
(c) Those tagged will leave a link to their meme in the comments section of this post so everyone can keep track of what's being posted.

1) While I was still a sinner, Christ died for me. (Romans 5:8 My favorite Bible verse.) I was saved 2000 years ago!

2) Jesus lives in my heart and keeps calling to me. I know that this is true because of going through a difficult time, not praying for quite awhile, but He was still there without me doing anything.

3) Because of Jesus, I have brothers and sisters in the faith all over the world. [And because of the 'net I've communicated with Christians on all continents!]

4) Jesus accepted people who were outside the in-crowd in his society. Oops, He is pricking my conscience here.

5. Jesus forgives smugness.

Since my 5 digs seem to be soooooo much about me more than about Jesus, I'm adding
6) Jesus thought in unconventional ways: first was last, pray for your enemies, honor the poor and women, etc.

Tagging: Singing Owl, Nancy, LC, Carolanne, Psalmist

Links I've followed with this meme:

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bible School Planning

Today was the first Bible School planning meeting.  Well, the first one that was more than the leaders, who met last week.  17 people showed up and a number of people had sent word that they would help, but couldn't be at the meeting.  That was a gratifying response. 
This Bible School will be at the beginning of August, run by our Lutheran Church and the Covenant Church from this little tiny town. 
I've usually helped with the publicity and also just filled in where needed, but last year I had to leave town due to a family emergency at the last minute, so I can't tell you how many kids took part, but I suppose we'll expect between 60 - 80 kids.  Our Sunday School has really dwindled in the last several years, so this is one time that we can reach the children. 
We've usually used our own format wedded with materials that are purchased from Augsburg or another publishing company.  We do the usual things such as opening worship time with music, Bible lesson, theater (act our the story), snack, recreation, and a craft related to the lesson.  But on Friday, the older grade school kids get to go on pontoon boats and go fishing, followed by lunch for the kids and parents.  The younger kids get to visit the nursing home.  It is a lively, tiring week.
My job today is to make some small posters and format a letter that will be sent to past participants, Sunday School kids, and any kids baptized in our church that haven't attended before.


"Ex-Muslim" group launches in Britain

This article is about some ex-Muslims who want to "change the debate."

computer woes

I'm hooked up to the 'net on dial up, but at least I have an "accelerator." My techie friend says that they don't really work, but I know it does because there is a world of difference when I have it turned on or off. But I have to be careful about following links that have a video because I don't want to waste my life waiting for those things to come up on the screen, if, indeed, they ever do.

Well I guess I do already waste quite a bit of my life on the computer. I need to spend more time "Living my Life" rather than reading about other people living theirs.

But, I digress. The dangest problem right now on this computer is that if I click a link that has a pfd file on it, the browser freezes, then the computer freezes. Then I have to turn off the power to the computer, then turn it on an reboot. What a PITA. The Adobe program has a flaw in it somewhere. I can't get it to install the new download, and I can't get the old version off the computer. I am having the same problem with my camera's program.

Well, we have running water.........considering that we didn't for over three months, I guess this computer problem is a small thing. I can keep in touch with my email and blog friends, at least.

Like a politician..........?

This joke was on my iGoogle page under Joke a Day. It reminded me of the way some in Washington speak about the war in Iraq. Therefore, it isn't funny.

Three statisticians decide to go out hunting with their bows and arrows. They're sitting behind a large rock in the woods when a large duck flies by. The first statistician takes a shot from behind the rock and he undershoots the duck by 5 ft. The second statistician takes a shot at the duck, but overshoots the duck by 5 ft. At that, the third statistician jumps up and screams, "You got him!!"

Friday, June 08, 2007

What Can a Church Afford?

Due to some discussion on another blog about the difficulty seminary students have in finding a church which can pay a decent salary as well as housing, I've been thinking a lot about the sending of interns to churches that have a hard time "affording" an intern pastor.

And I suppose it is hard enough to find churches willing to take an intern so the interns end up taking what they can get.

It seems to me that an ideal church to go to would be a thriving church that truly "can't afford" an intern. That would be an interesting setting and, perhaps, a cultural change for many interns.

But the reality is that many (most??) churches afford what they choose to afford. I mean that in the widest sense. We live in a culture that encourages immediate gratification and living off of plastic and credit. It also encourages feathering one's own nest. Therefore, so many people "can't afford" to tithe; they've gotten themselves hooked into many obligations. We, as a church, don't do much to counter this "education" that is provided by the culture. High schools could easily drop a month of some subject in favor of "practical consumer math education" For everybody!

However, the ELCA provides people (expenses paid by the church) to come into churches to conduct major stewardship campaigns, usually for a building project. And guess what? A church that has been living month to month suddenly has $200,000 pledged. Maybe people are just digging into their excess. Maybe they are sacrificing. But it is for bricks and mortar. Feathering the nest. I think that the consultant isn't successful because he/she is telling the congregation something new, but rather because he/she is telling them something they already know. They already know that they could be more intentional about giving to their church.

Several years ago, at one of our regular stewardship talks in church, an elderly member got up and said, "There is good news and bad news about money in this church. The Good News is that we have all the money we need. The Bad News is that it is still in your pockets."

How about encouraging some sacrifice for the training of ministers? Should the ELCA have some minimum standards for paying an intern? Or perhaps they could encourage some kind of alternative compensation.

Note: Having been active in my church for years, I know that the synod guidelines for pastor's salaries are really helpful for churches. People tend to be "overly frugal" about paying a pastor. Even with the guidelines, salaries aren't going to make anyone rich. I've often wondered if a "fair salary" might be the sum of the tithes of ten people on the church council. Now that would be in interesting requirement!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Honey Wagon

Because we've recently paid several hundreds of dollars to have our tank pumped 3 times, I can't resist posting this picture.

If you don't know what this is, you are definetly an urban provincial. Brown for a hint.

That Big Pig, follow-up

Quote from CNN:

• The hog named "Fred" was raised on Alabama farm from 6 weeks old
• Fred was sold 4 days prior to being hunted with a pistol in 150-acre fenced area
• Farmer said Fred has become a "nuisance"
• Not uncommon for farm-raised pigs to be sold to hunting preserves

The US Attorney Firing Controversy

I don't usually post about those things that are so directly political, but this is an exception. Or perhaps it does fit because it may be about the rights of a group of people, which is another way of saying it is about how we are supposed treat people if we love God and want to follow his ways.

This article gives some background, or at least one side of the story, on the US Attorney from Minnesota who was on the list of US attorneys to be fired by the Justice Department.