nowadays the world is lit by lightning

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Peggy Noonan (one of my long-time favorite columnists, and a devout Roman Catholic) has a column today on OpinionJournal in which she crafts a tale of a group of Cardinals discussing and thinking over the qualifications for the next man who would be pope. I think she manages to hit on some of the characteristics that really mark a great leader.

(Now let’s not let this get into a discussion on the theology of the RC church, or the relative merits of whether or not John Paul II was a believer… that’s not the point. He was a great man and leader regardless.)

In Noonan’s piece, a rather hardened and cynical old Cardinal is trying to understand why so many people felt so devoted to JPII, why this outpouring of devotion for an old sick man who was constantly telling people what they should/shouldn’t do in regard to moral issues… what was the appeal? And then comes a moment of realization. She writes:

Maybe–maybe . . . Maybe people, being imperfect and human, live whatever lives they live but deep in their hearts–way down deep and much more than they know–they actually notice when somebody stands for truth. And they actually honor it. Maybe that’s why in all the big modern democracies they’d burst into tears when John Paul came by, when he was visiting America and France and Germany. Maybe they knew they were not necessarily living right themselves but they were grateful–they were grateful on behalf of civilization!–that there was a man like him among us. They recognized him and honored him in their hearts. And then word came that he’s dead and suddenly their hearts told their heads: Get on the train and go honor him. Because he adorned us. Because he was right. And we can’t lose this from civilization, this beacon in the darkness.

I think she hits it here: “they actually notice when somebody stands for truth. As a believer, I have Christ in me and I am called to live his truth. And as a person, I respond similarly when I see it in others. The qualities of a life well-lived, lived to uphold the truth. People like JPII. People closer to home, like Bob Dye, who has led the local Youth for Christ chapter for 35 years and radiates Christ through the community every day. People… just normal people, but who live out Christ’s truth every day.

Near the end of Noonan’s story, the Cardinals are in discussion about the qualities that will be needed in the new pope. One argues that the need a holy, devout man. Another argues that they also need a “rock star” – someone with an image and personality that will appeal to the younger generation. Then the voice of wisdom kicks in from a third.

“It would seem our duty is to choose a great man who is not necessarily a dramatic or endearing figure. The Holy Spirit will give him voice. Our time will need greatness. ‘For nowadays the world is lit by lightning.'”

OK, so she’s quoting Tennessee Williams with that last line… but the point remains. The flashes of lightning that illuminate the world will be those that come from the hearts of the faithful. Thanks, Peggy, for the reminder.


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I starting reading some of the other rmfo blogs and found David’s post on softball. I’m quite jealous that his season has already started; mine doesn’t start for a couple weeks yet. I’m looking forward to it hugely. Actually, I should call it “our” season… Becky and I play on a co-ed church league team. She’s the die-hard softball player (played in high school), I’m the recreational player.

This will be the first season that we’ll have a little kiddo on the bench to take care of – Laura was born right at the end of last softball season. It’s already been determined that I will be the one in charge of child care if somebody needs to sit with her during a game. Hey, I volunteered. I figure Becky missed almost all of last year (except for some heroics in the last game of the season… but that’s another story) since she was pregnant so it’s the least I can do. 🙂

Well this is kind of a boring post but I’m trying to figure out trackbacks and add some traffic to the new blog, so that’s what you get for the day.


German report on the Catholic Church

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I just couldn’t resist posting this… it was too funny. Credit to James Taranto at Best of the Web Today.

“More than three-quarters of Germans want the successor of Pope John Paul II to be less ‘rigid’ about sexual morality and end the Church’s ban on contraception, according to a poll published Saturday,” Deutsche Welle reports:

About 78 percent of those surveyed said they were in favor of the Catholic Church ending its ban on contraception, and 76 percent wanted the next pope to authorize the use of condoms as part of the fight against the spread of AIDS, the poll said.

In addition, 77 percent of respondents said they wanted to see the ordination of women as priests and 74 percent think that imposing celibacy and chastity on priests is no longer expedient.

So, the Germans think the Roman Catholic Church is too conservative? Isn’t DW about 487 years late on this story? Coming next: Germany’s low-carb weight-loss craze, the Diet of Worms!

it’s a blog…

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I’ve made the switch today from my old blog to my new blog. Don’t get too confused; this blog hasn’t really been here since back in December. I just copied some of my old blogger entries over here to give this one a nice “lived-in” feel. 🙂

I will do my best to keep this updated. If you read this, post a comment so I know it’s being read! And remind me if I haven’t updated in a while…

it’s a blog…

Posted on

I’ve made the switch today from my old blog to my new blog. Don’t get too confused; this blog hasn’t really been here since back in December. I just copied some of my old blogger entries over here to give this one a nice “lived-in” feel. 🙂

I will do my best to keep this updated. If you read this, post a comment so I know it’s being read! And remind me if I haven’t updated in a while…

it’s a blog…

Posted on

I’ve made the switch today from my old blog to my new blog. Don’t get too confused; this blog hasn’t really been here since back in December. I just copied some of my old blogger entries over here to give this one a nice “lived-in” feel. 🙂

I will do my best to keep this updated. If you read this, post a comment so I know it’s being read! And remind me if I haven’t updated in a while…

the joys of web design…

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I’ve been on a web page design kick lately. First it was with my church’s web page. The updates I made to it never hit the web; you can look at to see how badly it needs it. I think we’re actually going to go to using a professional design site ( for our web pages; it’s worth the cost to get a professional-looking site, and they offer some great features.

I got set up as a webmaster on a separate site last week; I’m setting up a site for my pastor’s Reconciliation Ministries. It’s still in progress, but I’m learning a lot. The last time I did web page design was about 5 years ago (check this page out… scary!) before they had cool things like css. I just bought a book on CSS and DHTML last night and it’s going to save my butt when it comes to doing web pages.

Anyhow, I’m a long way from being a professional, but it’s fun to use my skills once in a while. Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills. 🙂

elder = older?

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I’ve had several conversations lately regarding the qualifications for being an elder in the church, specifically in regard to how much a man’s age should play into that qualification. I’m still wrestling with the answers myself.

Let me start out by giving some background: I am 28 years old, and an “elder apprentice” in my church. That basically means that we have identified that I have the gifting of an elder and the desire to be one. The apprenticeship entails attending elders meetings, and performing any tasks they assign me. I’ve been helping lead Bible studies, have preached a couple times, and have had a lot of input on the administrative side of things (which is where my gifting really is). We have 4 elders right now (including the 2 pastors) in a church of about 200. There are two of us that are starting our second year of apprenticeship.

So, back to qualifications before I add my 2 cents. On one hand, the qualifications given in Timothy and Titus don’t mention age at all. They do mention:

  • Without reproach
  • a “one-woman” man
  • self-controlled
  • hospitable
  • able to teach
  • not given to drunkenness
  • gentle
  • not quarrelsome
  • not a lover of money
  • a good manager of his own family

There’s nothing there about age at all. In fact, in 2 Timothy, Paul specifically tells Timothy to not let people look down on him because of his youth… and we can be certain that Timothy was an elder in the assemblies he founded. So, I don’t see that “youth” (however that is defined) is a disqualification.

My wife is of the opinion that men should at least be somewhat older – enough to have a family and some track record with how they manage their household. I didn’t ask her then how single men would meet that qualification, but it seems like a reasonable question. My wife’s bigger concern is just how much time it’ll require of me if I become an elder… but that’s an entirely different subject.

I had a discussion last night with an older woman whom I have a good deal of respect for. She is the mom of a good friend of mine, a woman who has raised 7 great kids and dealt with a difficult husband for 30+ years. She is prone to having slightly odd views on some things, though, so I take everything with a grain of salt.

Her opinion was that to truly perform the “shepherd” function of eldering, a man really needs to have the experience that comes with age. She thought that maybe in one’s 60’s does one finally have the experience necessary to be a good shepherd. She has seen younger guys attempt it, and has seen them chewed up and spit out by churches that they were not ready to handle. She agreed with me that the gifts that an elder may have (i.e. teaching, administration, etc) should be used immediately, but that the true “eldering” (by which I think she means shepherding) requires people of a more senior age.

I’m really trying to understand where I fall on the subject, seeing as it affects how I want to serve in the body. Of our 4 elders right now, only 1 would fall into the “60-and-above” category that my friend suggests. He is over 70, recently suffered a stroke, and is struggling to see how much he can still serve in that role as he goes through rehabilitation. Two others are 50-ish, and the third is almost 40. They’re all in different places in their lives and walks, some of them are more gifted at administration, others at teaching, but I see all these activities as “shepherding” in a way. So I just don’t think I can accept the “60-and-above” rule.

My bigger question is whether I am ready. My spiritual walk could use improvement; I feel like I should work on that before thinking I’m ready to be an elder. Otherwise I think I meet the 1 Timothy 3 qualifications. But I’m not very senior. But the elders think I’m qualified and would be a good fit sometime in the next year or two. I guess I’ve got to keep praying about it.

My real wish is that there were a few more senior mature men who could step in as elders so I didn’t feel like I was so “needed”. I would be happy to see a couple other guys in those roles, teaching and mentoring guys like me, so that maybe in 10 years I’d be in a better place to step into the role myself. But those guys don’t exist in my church. There’s only two who want to/are qualified to be apprentices. We’re it. The church needs shepherding. I don’t want to resist that call.

Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places…

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A book by this title was given to my by my pastor last week; we are “kindred readers” with an affinity for Eugene Peterson’s practical written wisdom. I got no further than the introduction last night. This was partly due to my early morning and long day; but moreso due to my captivation with the poem from which the title came. It is an untitled sonnet written by Gerard Manley Hopkins, a 19th century poet and priest.

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.

I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is —
Christ. For Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

This poem intrigues and delights me in ways I haven’t yet been able to describe very well. But I think that it captures the essence of living out our lives in the Spirit every day. Christ “plays” throughout each of us as we live in Him. I am challenged this morning to meditate on Christ, and see how He might play out even more through my life.

I’ll try to provide updates as I work my way through Peterson’s book.

Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology