The Church Search, Week 3

After deciding early in the week that Cedar Valley Bible was off our short list, we spent a lot of time talking about where we might go next. We know the other place we definitely want to try out is Maranatha Bible Church, so we tentatively decided last night that we’d head there this morning.

Then last night Laura decided she didn’t want to sleep. From 3:00 until 5:00 she was awake in our room at least four times. Needless to say, Becky and I didn’t get a lot of sleep. Finally Laura went to sleep and slept in until 8:00. As I write this at 9:15, Becky is still sleeping. Given that we’d need to leave the house in 30 minutes to get to Maranatha on time, I think we’ll be cashing it in this morning and giving it another shot next week. Part of me feels guilty for not getting to church; the other part of me is happy that we have the freedom to just rest when we need to. God is good.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

OK, so a lot of you have probably seen this already, but it’s too funny not to post.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

SARAH PALIN: Before it got to the other side, I shot the chicken, cleaned and dressed it, and had chicken burgers for lunch.

BARACK OBAMA: The chicken crossed the road because it was time for a change! The chicken wanted change!

JOHN MC CAIN: My friends, that chicken crossed the road because he recognized the need to engage in cooperation and dialogue with all the chickens on the other side of the road.

HILLARY CLINTON: When I was First Lady, I personally helped that little chicken to cross the road. This experience makes me uniquely qualified to ensure right from Day One that every chicken in this country gets the chance it deserves to cross the road. But then, this really isn’t about me.

GEORGE W. BUSH: We don’t really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road, or not. The chicken is either against us, or for us. There is no middle ground here.

DICK CHENEY: Where’s my gun?

COLIN POWELL: Now to the left of the screen, you can clearly see the satellite image of the chicken crossing the road.

BILL CLINTON: I did not cross the road with that chicken. What is your definition of chicken?

AL GORE: I invented the chicken.

JOHN KERRY: Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am now against it! It was the wrong road to cross, and I was misled about the chicken’s intentions. I am not for it now and will remain against it.

AL SHARPTON: Why are all the chickens white? We need some black chickens.

DR. PHIL: The problem we have here is that this chicken doesn’t realize that he must first deal with the problem on this side of the road before it goes after the problem on the other side of the road. What we need to do is help him realize how stupid he’s acting by not taking on his current problems before adding new problems.

OPRAH: Well, I understand that the chicken is having problems, which is why he wants to cross this road so bad. So instead of having the chicken learn from his mistakes and take falls, which is a part of life, I’m going to give this chicken a car so that he can just drive across the road and not live his life like the rest of the chickens.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: We have reason to believe there is a chicken, but we have not yet been allowed access to the other side of the road.

NANCY GRACE: That chicken crossed the road because he’s guilty! You can see it in his eyes and the way he walks.

PAT BUCHANAN: To steal the job of a decent, hardworking American.

MARTHA STEWART: No one called me to warn me which way that chicken was going. I had a standing order at the Farmer’s Market to sell my eggs when the price dropped to a certain level. No little bird gave me any insider information.

DR SEUSS: Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad? Yes, the chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed I’ve not been told.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY: To die in the rain, alone.

GRANDPA: In my day we didn’t ask why the chicken crossed the road. Somebody told us the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough.

BARBARA WALTERS: Isn’t that interesting? In a few moments, we will be listening to the chicken tell, for the first time, the heart- warming story of how it experienced a serious case of molting, and went on to accomplish its lifelong dream of crossing the road.

ARISTOTLE: It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.

JOHN LENNON: Imagine all the chickens in the world crossing roads together, in peace.

BILL GATES: I have just released eChicken 2008, which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents, and balance your checkbook. Internet Explorer is an integral part of eChicken 2008. This new platform is much more stable and will never crash or need to be rebooted.

ALBERT EINSTEIN: Did the chicken really cross the road, or did the road move beneath the chicken?

COLONEL SANDERS: Did I miss one?

Time for some piano music

I switched over from my usual podcasts and indie rock this morning to give some iPod love to a genre I’ve ignored far too much as of late: classical piano. To be more specific: Bach and Chopin. What a fantastic way to start the morning.

Now, I’ve spent innumerable hours over the past 20+ years with my backside on a piano bench and my fingers hacking away at some composer or another. And ever since I was a kid, let’s face it, I did a lot of hacking. Sure, I had assigned pieces that I was supposed to practice every day. But more often than not what I’d do is just play through those pieces once or twice, then put them down and move on to something far too hard for me, say, a Rachmaninoff piano concerto or a Chopin Ballade or something by Debussy. The weeks when I actually did practice my lesson, my teacher was always blown away by my progress. I wonder at times how well I would’ve progressed if I’d practice like he expected.

When you have small children, though, the amount of time available for you to practice the piano goes down quite a bit. First, they take up your time directly. Second, they go to sleep early and playing the piano would wake them up. So I haven’t done a lot of practicing in the past few years. Occasionally I’d pull out a book and hack through a little bit of Rachmaninoff, but that has been about it. If I get a chance to sit down at a piano somewhere else, I usually just improvise for a while, though it has been frightening just how much I remember of Beethoven Sonatas and Bach Fugues that I learned back in high school.

The other night I sat down at the piano after dinner and actually practiced a new piece. Rachmaninoff’s Polichinelle Op. 3 No. 4, if you really care. (You can hear Rachmaninoff himself perform it on YouTube.) It’s difficult enough that I can’t just sight read through it at full speed, but not so difficult that I get disheartened trying to practice. I am hoping that I can actually put a little time into it, commit it to memory, and eventually have something new to play on occasion, rather than just murdering a section from Chopin’s Ballade #1 like I usually do.

How I do love my piano music.

Short list got shorter

Well, we talked about it some more last night and agreed that Cedar Valley Bible Church is off our short list for the reasons I discussed earlier. So now we’re back to looking at our short list, figuring out where to head next. Not sure if we’ll visit Stonebridge one more week or skip down to the next church on the list.

More likely we’ll sit down with the phonebook, newspaper, or some other reference list and work through the short list again to figure out what places we might have missed… then we’ll go from there. Still praying for guidance on a daily basis.

An odd correspondence of sorts

Abraham Piper writes a blog I quite enjoy over at Twenty-Two Words. He seems like a guy that I would quite enjoy. We’ve actually developed an email correspondence of sorts over the past few weeks. It has gone something like this:

Abraham: Your comment on my blog got flagged as spam. Sorry, I don’t know why. I approved it for you.

Me: Thanks! I enjoy your blog.

Abraham: Your comment on my blog got flagged as spam again. Sorry, I don’t know why. I approved it for you.

Me: Thanks! Keep up the blogging!

Abraham: Your comment on my blog got flagged as spam again. Sorry, I don’t know why this keeps happening. I approved it for you.

Me: Why does hate me? Anyway, thanks! I’ll keep commenting!

I’m sensing a theme here.

Abraham: maybe sometime we can exchange emails on a different topic. Until then, please keep blogging, and thanks in advance for resurrecting my comments.

Music Tuesday: Andy Gullahorn’s “That Guy”

Andy Gullahorn is a guy that will sneak right past you without you noticing, if you let him. A supremely-talented songwriter and guitarist, Andy has perfected the songwriting technique I’ll call the “Gullahorn Gut Punch”, GGP for short. His song tells a story, gets you all involved, and then at the last moment sucker-punches you with a conclusion or moral to the story that you were not expecting… and that takes your breath away. I first experienced the GGP when I first heard Andy as he sang “Holy Flakes” during a concert back in 2005. But Andy takes it to a whole ‘nother level in the song I want to share with you today.

The song is called “That Guy”, and is on Andy’s latest album, called Reinventing the Wheel. It starts out this way:

He scoped out the market
All the women and kids
With so many distractions
Nobody noticed him
Nobody noticed him
He had a jacket a size too big
A skullcap on his head
And a couple of homemade bombs
He duct taped them to his chest
He taped them to his chest

You’re already into the story, right? What’s gonna happen? The first time I heard this in concert the audience was breathlessly on the edge of their seats. For real.

God loves that guy
God loves that guy

Now there’s the Gullahorn Gut Punch. Whammo. All those horrible things you were thinking about this terrorist are suddenly reproved as Andy reminds us that yes, God loves that guy. Ouch. Then comes verse two and the bridge:

He followed his heart
To a co-worker’s bed
He could have salvaged his marriage with kids
But he chose to leave instead
He chose to leave
He thought it was love
But it was just a mirage
So he sits in his idling car
Parked in a closed garage
Inside a closed garage

God loves that guy
God loves that guy

Me on the other hand I can write somebody off
Like the last check for a student loan
I can love when it’s convenient
But it’s not always convenient
It’s not always the easy road
I want to look past the outside to the well-meaning heart
To the good they forgot that they had
Teach me to love, teach me to love
Teach me to love like that

OK, if the song ended right here it’d already be an awesome song. But Andy takes it up another notch here with a sort of reverse-GGP.

He messed up again
Wanted to disappear
But he can’t ‘cause he’s easy to find
I see him in the mirror
I see him in the mirror

God loves that guy
God loves that guy

And here’s the beauty of the song. For two verses we’ve been remonstrating ourselves about our lack of love for others, feeling down on ourselves. And then in this third verse, Andy sneaks up on us and gets us back, telling us to remember: God loves us, too. Wow.

You can buy Reinventing the Wheel and Andy’s other CDs at the store. (Jill is Andy’s wife, and she’s the one with the fancy website… Andy’s is less-fancy but hysterical, well worth a visit.

Buffalo Chicken Dip recipe

Lydia asked for it, so here it is…


  • 2 (10 ounce) cans chunk chicken, drained – I prefer to boil a couple of chicken breasts and shred those in place of the canned chicken
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup Ranch dressing
  • 3/4 cup pepper sauce, such as Franks® Red Hot®
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

Heat chicken and hot sauce in a skillet over medium heat, until heated through. Stir in cream cheese and ranch dressing. Cook, stirring until well blended and warm.

Mix in half of the shredded cheese, and transfer the mixture to a slow cooker. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top, cover, and cook on Low setting until hot and bubbly. Serve with celery sticks and crackers or tortilla chips or, my favorite: Fritos Scoops.

An end-times deal-breaker

So yesterday afternoon I noted that the next church on our short list for visiting during the Church Search was probably Cedar Valley Bible Church. I know a few folks there, including the couple that has brought Andrew Peterson and company to town twice for concerts. I’ve been to a wedding there, too, and my overall impression was that the church might be a little further over into the conservative homeschooling culture than I’d be comfortable with, but then, it might be OK.

The only other note I’d made about Cedar Valley thus far was when perusing their Doctrinal Statement online, it seemed to me that they had a far more detailed and lengthy statement on the End Times than do most doctrinal statements I’ve read. A very literal, pre-trib, dispensational sort of end times view. Still, as of yesterday, the church was still on my short list.

Then last night I cruised on over to the Cedar Valley website again to check out Sunday morning service times, and I noted this link on the sidebar: “2008 Second Coming Conference“. That’s right, in November Cedar Valley Bible will be bringing in a special speaker from Friends of Israel to speak three times over two days. The topics:

  • “Close to Construction” – Presentation on the movement in Israel to rebuild the Temple and how it could fit into Bible prophecy.
  • “Pre-Tribulation Rapture” – A look at some different views of the rapture along with Biblical proof for the pre-tribulation position.
  • “Signs of the Times” – Biblical evidence that we are now living in the end times.

And that’s just about a deal-breaker for me. Let me explain a little bit why.

I grew up in what I’d consider a pretty standard set of evangelical churches. We attended a C&MA church for a while in Fremont, NE, then a Bible church in Granbury, TX. I got the basic dispensational teaching on the end times – basically, Left Behind without all the dramatic stuff that made LaHaye and Jenkins best-sellers. Imminent rapture, followed by a 7-year tribulation, followed by Christ’s return for 1000 years, followed by Satan being let loose again on the earth, followed by another clean-up and the ultimate destruction of the earth and creation of a new one, etc. Most of the time I was just confused by it. Maybe it was partly my practical engineering nature – we’re not gonna know what’s happening until it’s done, right? So who really cares?

I stayed basically in that theological position until reading N. T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope a year ago. In Surprised by Hope, Wright explains, among other things, the amillennial position on end times in a way that actually made sense to me. It turns out there is a whole ‘nother way to interpret the passages in Peter, Thessalonians, and Revelation that I had never been introduced to. And that there were legitimate, reasonable Christians who believed it. Talk about an eye-opener. Since then I’ve read a couple of books by Kim Riddlebarger on amillennialism, which too have been helpful. At the moment I’d say I’m at the point of leaning toward an amillennial position, but feeling no need to be dogmatic about it. There are far more important things to get worked up about than the end times.

Which leads me to my end-times deal-breaker with Cedar Valley Bible. This (apparently second-annual) “Second Coming Conference” shows me that they’re very interested in being dogmatic about a pre-trib dispensational end-times viewpoint. And while I’m OK with them believing that (heck, Noelridge, Imago, and Stonebridge all have the word “premillennial” in their doctrinal statements), I’m not really OK with a church being dogmatic about it. That just won’t work for me.

Becky and I had a good talk about end-times stuff last night and why I feel this way about it. I don’t know that we’ve decided anything yet, but I’m really leaning toward taking Cedar Valley off our list.

[N. T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope at]
[Kim Riddlebarger’s A Case for Amillennialism at]
[Kim Riddlebarger’s The Man of Sin: Uncovering the Truth about the Antichrist at]

The Church Search, Week 2

Week 2 of the Church Search took us back to Stonebridge Church for the second week in a row. (We kinda figure it’ll take at least a few weeks at any given place to really be able to make some sort of reasonable judgment on things.) We got out the door five minutes earlier this morning, leaving at 8:30 for a 9:00 service. We were there in 15 minutes, but the child check-in desk was quite a bit crazy this morning, so we still ended up not getting in to the sanctuary until the worship band had just about finished the opening song. Hopefully they’ll get the check-in stuff figured out soon.

Some continued/revised impressions carrying on from last week:

  • The folks seem quite friendly, and I’m enthusiastic about the age range I see. There is a good spread of old, young, teenagers, and children.
  • A lot of the music is unfamiliar, but it’s pretty solid stuff. During each song I’d be wondering “man, where did this song come from?” and then the last slide would have the author’s name and I’d recognize it. The last song of the service was written by Bebo Norman and Mitch Dane and I thought hey, I’ve met Mitch, even had lunch with him. Kinda cool.
  • The worship team was a little bit scant this week – fewer vocalists, no keyboard player at all. Makes me wonder how many folks the worship pastor actually has signed up, if he’s struggling to get people. If we were there I’d like to participate, just not be leading the team.
  • Jeff Holland’s doppelganger of a young adult pastor was supposed to be preaching, but apparently came down with a nasty cold yesterday. So, the senior pastor got to wing it, but still gave us a good sermon on Psalm 23. Enjoyed it.
  • The one thing I’ll gripe about the sermon, and I hassled Richard at Noelridge for the same thing: pastors that somehow refuse to use contractions when preaching. So far as I know, there’s nothing particularly unholy about ‘couldn’t’, ‘won’t’, ‘don’t’, and the like, but Pastor Richard at Noelridge and Pastor Randy at Stonebridge both seem to banish them from their vocabulary as soon as they get behind the pulpit. Anybody else get that from their pastors?

Next week Stonebridge is doing their official dedication of the new building, and they’re expecting a LOT of folks. They’ve actually gone door-to-door to everyone within a one-mile radius of the church dropping off small gift bags and inviting folks to visit. If it’s gonna be that crazy, we’ll probably take next week to visit the next church on our list. Not exactly sure yet which church that’ll be, but I’m kinda guessing Cedar Valley Bible.

It may be a little early to come to conclusions about Stonebridge after only two weeks, but my interim conclusion is that I like it, a lot. There’s a lot of good things going on there, a lot of good attitudes about things I think are important, and good teaching coming from the pulpit. If all the churches we visit are this good, it’s gonna be a difficult decision.

The Coffee Experiment, Day 30 or so

I have just about finished up the bag of Starbucks dark roast that we had here at home, what to get next? Well, I came home from work yesterday to find that my beautiful wife had picked up a pound of Columbian Orange Bourbon light roast from Brewed Awakenings, and a coffee grinder to go with it. What a great surprise!

So this morning, after one false start (didn’t grind the beans finely enough the first time), I’ve got a pot of coffee that tastes awfully close to what I drink down at BA when I visit there. Very good stuff. At some point maybe I’ll try out the french press and be a true coffee snob, but for now this stuff is working for me just fine.