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3:32:01 PM 
Re-Thinking Worship Service for Gluten-Free Members
We are hearing more and more these days about the health challenges faced by millions of Americans when they partake of foods containing gluten. These would include products derived from wheat, barley, rye, and some other highly industrialized grains. Too many church leaders are oblivious to the dilemma this poses for their congregations and some even act as if it doesn't really matter if you ingest A LITTLE BIT of gluten.
ARTWORK.Bread&WineThis is wrong-headed and shows a distinct failure to incorporate the available science into church service. With plenteous qualified sources out there via the Internet, the victims and serious medical professionals in the pews, there is really no excuse for failing to address this matter directly. There is some misinformation about the seriousness of the consequences, however.
I recently shared, via email, some insights with a member of the Leadership Team at my current church and have decided to extract some of my comment for publication here:
The simplest and probably safest way to get launch a gluten-free component to your worship service (from the congregant point of view) is to sign up for Amazon's "Subscribe & Save", which gets product delivered on a regular basis straight to your specified address, presumably your church. By using this program, you get the best possible price (much better than off-the-shelf at a grocer's) and you utilize trucks that are already in your neighborhood, so nobody has to commit gas money & time to make the purchase happen. 
Possibly the best and most economical product solution is Glutino Original GF Crackers. There are GF communion wafers available from various church supply companies, but they may be pricey.

Once you have a gluten free host, the MOST IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER is that a person with a medical condition related to gluten can be contaminated by a TINY SPECK of the protein. So GF host needs to be HANDLED separately and SERVED separately. The big mistake that I see most churches making these days is that they put the GF host in the same container as the regular glutenous host, so people with a true medical condition still cannot partake without being sick afterwards.  Some well-meaning churches put a small bowl of broken GF crackers in the same basket with the regular bread. Others, compliant with the symbolism of bread as body, place the GF host UNDER the glutenous bread which is publicly blessed, then dole both out from a common serving tray.  Neither of these presentations work for me or others who are medically restricted.

To safely accommodate parishioners with true gluten-derived conditions, the GF host should be handled FIRST before regular bread or by a separate person.  Otherwise, the handler should wash hands thoroughly before touching the GF host if that same person has handled the regular bread first. It sounds complicated, I'm sure, but it's pretty simple in actual practice. Personally, I buy disposable gloves in bulk because it is SOOO easy to throw one pair away and grab a fresh pair when switching between food products.

If the GF host is placed on a separate table in the sanctuary from any of the regular bread, everybody should be fine.
As concerns the liquid component of the service, juice should be fine as long as it is 100% juice or juice + water. Many beverage products have various additives that include an ingredient that is based on wheat/gluten (maltodextrin, etc) and even some wines are rested in barrels that have been coated with a wheat flour paste because this provides a "binder" that bonds to other particles in the wine and causes them to precipitate to the bottom (as the "lees") of the resting container. So that's a problem when that process is used.
With these few simple and inexpensive practices, communion can be freely available to those in your parish who suffer from gluten-based chronic conditions. Believe me, it is an inexplicable joy to know that your worship team cares enough to make this sacrament available to those of us who can't tolerate wheat!

What special needs does your church plan to address regularly?
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5:12:25 PM 
Harold Camping & "The Rapture"

Harold Camping Billboard

Did you see this sign? Or one like it? We had one in Seattle, right down on the waterfront. It's been a busy week so far, but I did have a chance to read the observations of my friend and former professor, Dick Staub, on his blog -- courtesy of Facebook. You may want to read his post as well; he offers some fairly unique insights into the man behind the hype.



I posted the following response to Staub's remarks concerning Harold Camping, false prophets etc. Randomly, while my comment is awaiting moderation, I noted that the system designated my response as #comment-666 !!!

Dick, Thanks for the insight! I do wonder what goes on in the hearts and minds of others when such incidents arise. It’s good to know a little something about how Camping’s mind works in normal conditions and on ordinary problems.

If you look across the spectrum of folk who have made similar projections, it seems clear to the person of good faith that some are seeking attention or power, some are mentally unstable and some are simply delusional or worse.

I would just offer the observation that there is another group of such people who are actually in the furnace of some particular refinement or hard lesson with God.

To say that “the Bible is authoritative” may be a little too close to the Brass Serpent Syndrome of nomadic Israel. The icon has no actual power or authority at all, in and of itself, whether it is hammered from brass or stamped in ink on paper. The G-D of the Bible is authoritative and may fulfill the words of the book in whatever way satisfies the divine purpose.

The Bible says false prophets will arise AND it says that there will be many who prophesy by the Spirit of God in the last days. In the matter of messengers like Harold Camping, I would suggest that each listener bears the responsibility for how much acceptance they grant to the message and how earnestly they seek wisdom from God through prayer, Biblical research into the the topic and even research into the character of the messenger. Those who have a long experience with God probably have a greater responsibility in this regard than someone who is new in the faith or stunted in his/her spiritual growth.

We remember that Christians are called to follow and imitate Jesus, not the preacher, however earnest and certain the human vessel may be of the message they are bringing. We commonly preach against Jonah’s example of refusing to speak the message he was given. How confusing must it be when we also deny God’s oversight of Harold’s dilemma?

I feel a bit sorry that, after all this time, Rev. Camping is still belaboring his calculations. As we are instructed to pray for our enemies and those who use us in spite, shouldn’t we also pray for the rehabilitation of one poor preacher whose obsession has captured his own imagination for so long?

I’m just askin’…

Feel free to share your thoughtful and civil remarks here, as well; or even post a prayer for restoration for Rev. Camping, his family & those who went overboard following him.

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2:37:07 PM 
Prayer for Peace & Progress in Egypt

EgyptInConflict2011Dear Lord of All Humanity, I do feel as though I know too little about Your plan in this situation to offer a valid prayer, and yet I feel called and instructed to pray:

I am entering into this work, not as one who has a basis for addressing You in my own being, but as I am instructed by Your Book and Your Spirit to offer prayers for those in leadership according to the righteous example of Jesus' life in our midst.

Remember Your own life with us... If ever You loved the sand beneath Your feet or the sun on Your face or the sea air in Your lungs, if the sounds of happiness blessed You and currents of peace swelled Your Soul like a sponge, LORD,

then save us now from the frightful works of
HATERS everywhere.

No nation or religion has a claim on HATRED or on Egypt.
You have delivered the humble from worse than this,
but don't let us settle for calm or political/economic stability, Lord.

Egypt was Your home and the home of Your parents on Earth
in Your time of exile.  Do NOT, I implore You,
forsake her or her citizens in their own time of need.

Bind back the enemies of peace and civility
along with the devils who rouse them, Lord.

Remember Your mother's freshly baked bread
and Your papa's fresh woodwork
and save us all from violence and from lies.

Unless this is the end of the Age, Lord,
let wise, compassionate Christian leadership flourish beautifully
along with other wholesome human liberties
in this land where You and Moses alike
found shelter and deliverance from the bloody jaws of death.

Unless YOU approve a domination of the region
by a repressive, fundamentalist and bloody regime, Lord,
let peace and due process prevail.

Lift up a government that will be effective
against criminals and cultivate a renewed vigor
of human rights and cultural fluency in this region.

Stay the advance of warring factions here
and deliver us from evil and from widowhood.

Pour out Your Spirit of compassion on parents everywhere
and turn their hearts toward their children's quality of life and compassionate understanding.

Encircle Your Holy City with grace
and teach us to live together in harmony
in the city of our King and in the Kingdom of the Eternal God.

Also, teach us how to move TOGETHER beyond oil
to power our world sustainably
until the famous final scene.

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1:33:58 PM 
Pondering Prayer for Others

We were reminded last Sunday of the words of Jesus exhorting us to "pray for those who despitefully use you".  The message was brought to congregants at University Presbyterian Church in Seattle by guest preacher Harvey Drake of Urban Impact. Titled "Winning in a Losing Situation", the audio file is available online.

My reading for today took me through Psalm 35 in which David pours out his heart and vents his frustrations concerning those who opposed him, hunted him, and plotted his demise. 

There is a certain eloquent progression here, from the pain and desperation of the fugutive king to the mercifully Divine humanity displayed on the cross when the Savior of the world had one prayer for frenemies and foes alike:

PHOTO -- Suffered&Died

Abba, forgive them. They are clueless.

I am glad it is His prayers that prevail for us and humbled to behold His example of what it means to pray FOR those who persecute us.  I have a long way to go to share that sentiment authentically.  My journey is a microcosmic reflection of the human journey from innocent to primitive to desperate to wounded and finally, at long last, truly wise.  

Meanwhile, what is it the developmentalists say? Act as if it were so.

I'm workin' on that part. And I can honestly say that as I move into the space of being able to pray blessing rather than punishment on people who have wounded me, the stabbing, tight pain in my gut when I think of them goes away.

Blessed art Thou, O Lord. Teach me thy statutes...

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12:50:50 PM 
Jehovah Jireh (2010~09.29)

FLORA - Hydrangea, Pink Diamond

I am paying attention to the things that make me smile in the morning, before my work lens clicks into place over my temporal lobes.  This morning, as for the last several mornings, it is the brilliant color of my Pink Diamond hydrangea.  This darling has been in our garden for a couple of years, but this year, it is showing off for the neighborhood, changing from a luxurious ivory color to what can only be called a lipstick pink circa 1967.

I am thanking God for the ministry of COLOR (and looking forward to the release of Modernist Cuisine for the special inks that give a more realistic reading of actual colors, wow!).


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2:13:38 PM 
Called to the Work, excerpted from Chuck Swindoll's "Daily Insights" newsletter

For me, this message enhances my current focus on the work I am called to do and provides a rounded perspective on the verse that was brought home to me recently, from Zechariah 4:10 >>

Do not despise the day of small beginnings,
for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin.


A Matter of Obedience
by Charles R. Swindoll

1 Timothy 2:1-7

... it always helps me to return to my "call." Thousands of miles away from home, stationed on a tiny island in the South Pacific, I distinctly remember the inner surge of assurance that I would be neither fulfilled nor happy doing anything other than ministry. It meant changing careers and returning to graduate school. It meant retooling my mental machinery for a lifetime of study. It meant living my life under the always curious and sometimes demanding scrutiny of the public eye, and, if necessary, being willing to go to the wall for the sake of the gospel. None of this mattered. God had spoken to my heart, and there was no turning back. It was a matter of obedience.

We must recognize that the Lord, our God, is responsible for our appointment to any place of leadership. Over all other suggestions and advice, we must seek to hear the counsel of Almighty God as revealed in Scripture. We must take refuge in and rely on the Spirit of God rather than our own flesh and skill. With our whole heart we must fear (I interpret "fear" as REVERE His power & authority) Jesus Christ, our Lord, and acknowledge Him as the sovereign Head of the church, deserving of our unreserved faithfulness, submission, diligence, and commitment.

For me, there are no other options.

It's a matter of obedience.

How about you?

Take refuge in and rely on the Spirit of God rather than your own flesh and skill.


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2:17:58 PM 
Faith & Work: Keep on Asking?

It's a common enough malady these days. We get up, we do our thing, we get down to work, we finish the day and hit the sack. Then we get back up and start again. But nothing seems to happen.  We don't see the fields ripe for harvest. Often, it seems we don't even see the crops coming up.

Are you looking for a job? Trying to grow your small business? Just want to do your rightful bit to make the world a better place by practicing good stewardship of the planet and your family? Feeling frustrated, like nothing is happening?

Me too. I have days like these. I had a few of them recently. I was getting a bit despondent about it. But, I recently acquired an Android Nexus One phone and downloaded the new Mosaic Bible NLT on the phone. I am using this wonderful application to guide my morning meditations and as I tapped the screen for a Bible reference one week ago, the app served me a reading from Luke 11:9,10. Not what I had asked for, but I *heard* that still, small voice saying, "Read this and think about it".

"And so I tell you, keep on asking and you will receive what you ask for.
Keep on seeking and you will find.
Keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives.
Everyone who seeks, finds.
And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened."

I was riveted. I tend to avoid neurotic behaviors, especially those that are "religious" in tone, but this message in my context took on a special significance. If G-d or an angel had appeared over my head with a megaphone shouting, "Don't give up", I couldn't have been more attentive.

I also like to offer up my activities during the day as an important measure of prayer, Brother Lawrence style. But here was this message, saying, "Keep on asking." Hmm. As I like to say from time to time, "Use your words, people."

TeachUsToPrayI knew these words were attributed to Jesus, but in what context? I didn't know. Scroll up and learn. Huh! In Luke 11:1, the followers had asked the Rabbi to teach them to pray. In verse 2-4, He gives them The Lord's Prayer. In verse 5, He continued "teaching them more about prayer". Apparently all in one conversation. Wow! I did not realize that. He tells the story about the neighbor who wouldn't quit knocking in the middle of the night until someone got up to help him. Then He says we should be like that!

Well, I hate to be a nag or an obsessive. Nor do I usually find it necessary to offer the same prayer over and over again. But I have learned in this life that the asking often has more to do with clarifying the need in my own mind, than reminding the King of All that I need something.

And sure enough, in reading on beyond verse 10, switching to The Message paraphrase, the focus shifts to being specific about what it is that you are asking for.

Okay. I've covered this before in the Abraham encounter, when the Lord tells His friend that the city of Lot's residence is about to be destroyed and Abraham tries to bargain for his nephew's life without coming right out and asking for it. G-d knew what Abraham was driving at, and ultimately, He honored the man's loving concern for his kin. Even though Abraham never did come right out and state his true desire.

Clearly, it wasn't for lack of knowledge that the Lord went through the discussion exercise. The thing is this: Lot's story doesn't have a particularly happy ending, even though his life was spared. What might have been the outcome if Abraham had bared his soul and opened his heart to say the truth of his desire? What if he had confessed, "Lord Most High, You know my nephew lives there. I know he hasn't been the most upright citizen in the world, but I love him dearly and I would suffer deeply if he met with this terrible end at Your mighty hand. Could you spare him this tragedy? Would You make a way for us to live in peace and walk uprightly before You? Not that we deserve such favor, but all because You have tied Your name to our lives."

Would the Lord have hardened the Divine Heart against such an honest request? And how much more so would s/He hear our requests on this side of historic Calvary and the empty tomb?

I have seen so many deep and heartfelt prayers answered in my lifetime, I have received so many faithful messages that I cannot turn away from this instruction.

So I'm thinking. What is my specific petition concerning our work?

and -- what about you?

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