Monday, June 25, 2007

Cutting It Straight

We recently had a discussion with some influential men who were of the opinion that John MacArthur has such incredibly top-notch sermons and writings that no better way exists to phrase anything about the Bible. Though I am truly a fan of MacArthur's writings and his radio program, I differ with these men's stance, for one thing because it puts the merely human MacArthur on a huge pedestal, and for another thing, because it denies the creative power of the Holy Spirit to work through any other writer. It also would seem that if MacArthur's materials were so unquestionably the best materials out there, the only right way to teach would be to always use them and that any church that did not use them in sermons and in Sunday School would automatically fall short.
Lately we have gone to a number of churches with friends lately and found that the pastors have more to say than I had come to expect outside of our church--including Mars Hill Church in Ballard, which was phenomenal. The pastor there held his Bible in one hand and spoke to his congregation mostly consisting of young men, and I was stunned at how wonderfully he used the Scriptures in such a way that it spoke to the needs of his congregation, with inspiration and vision, and he didn't even appear to read from notes.
It reminds me of when I was 16. I started working on my birthday at a job in Discount Fabrics in Raleigh Hills near Portland. One of the first things they taught me was how to cut fabric. They had metal ridges installed on the countertops and the fabric usually was to be cut by aligning the edge of the fabric along the edge of the counter and settling your scissors in the groove of the ridge on the counter. If you sew, no doubt you've seen this done many times.
Folded-over fabric was normally cut starting at the fold. Decorator fabric was cut flat open. Still, there were a number of other considerations that had to be taken into account, and often made cutting along the metal ridge unworkable. If I was cutting burlap, because of its tendency to ravel, I was supposed to cut between the woven threads, even though they were usually not woven straight. I would allow an extra bit of yardage for this purpose. If I was cutting another low-quality fabric that was woven unevenly, I needed to do the same thing. If it were a printed panel, I would cut along the cutting line rather than mess up the panel by cutting into it--and they weren't bought by the yard but by the panel.
It is similar with preaching to the church. No two congregations are exactly alike. Each congregation is best served with a sermon customized to its particular needs. Suppose you are a missionary working in a foreign country, and the congregation doesn't have the whole Bible translated yet. Suppose they don't have a word for "forgive," for example? You have to simplify and customize the word to this foreign congregation--I remember reading in the book Bruchko that the writer, Bruce Olson, translated the word salvation as “Tie your hammock strings into Jesus,” to the Motilone tribe. This would only puzzle a congregation in any American city, though.
The Holy Spirit will inspire the sermon writer to write about the same passage of Scripture to address the needs of his congregation in a unique way that works there like it wouldn't anywhere else as well. The Scripture is living and active, and fabric isn't. I guess that's why God didn't assign pastors to use one man's writings for all their churches--aside from the Scriptures themselves--He sent them the Holy Spirit instead.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

A Ball near Tim's Eyeball

We have been without insurance for 17 months. Today our new insurance became effective. I've always noted when we've been uninsured that our health seems so much better--no particular need for hospitals, emergency rooms or expensive medical procedures. That was the case this time, this last 17 months, we went to a 10-minute clinic a couple of times, and Tim went to the doctor about a possible knee break that turned out to be just a bad whack. So I should have braced myself, knowing that this period of grace that comes with living by faith was about to change...
Katie and I stayed home today, finishing up a not-too-profitable garage sale while Gary and Tim went off to one of Tim's Saturday baseball games. We played Take-One and tried to remember to use sunscreen consistently (to keep from burning our already sunburned areas) and not to get sunstroke since there is virtually no shade in our driveway on a sunny day. We were doing fairly well at this, and then the phone rang. Katie answered. It was Gary. "Tim's been injured." That's how it started. Of course alarm bells started ringing. I asked for the phone. Tim was sitting down in a shady spot, but I asked Gary to bring him home right away--after some discussion, we came to agree that this was probably the best plan. I pictured Tim kind of bucking up and acting like it wasn't that bad. When they got home, Tim seemed woozy and panicked and confused. Besides being swollen just below his left eye. It turned out that one of the other kids was pitching and was a bit on the wild side. They took him out of that position after Tim's connection with the ball, I hear. Too bad they didn't sooner--he had already pitched the ball behind a few batters. Seems they might have had a clue. Oh, well.
Our neighbor Stacia, whose antennae for our needs are always on the alert, rushed over without our even alerting her and offered to watch over the garage sale. We expressed to her that even if anyone was crazy enough to come and steal everything, we thought it might be a kindness. Still she insisted and we left her with that mess, telling her a few quick details and leaving her some money for change.
Anyway, we were pretty sure we had better take Tim to the Emergency Room rather than a walk-in clinic--brains and eyeballs are nothing to fool with. We got to the same hospital in Everett where he was born. Thankfully the waiting room was the best I'd ever seen it, with only one couple in there, and Tim got immediate attention. They did the usual examination, and decided on a cat-scan.
While we waited for the cat-scan, I asked a young guy in the waiting room whether he could guess what had happened to Tim. He looked at Tim's cleats, his baseball outfit, and his shiner. "Did you get hit in the eye with a ball?" The guy was a genius. Well, maybe not. He was in there with a pretty nasty broken hand for having gotten in a fight.
After the cat-scan, I was pretty sure Tim was okay, because he seemed almost miraculously cured by it. Instead of being shaky and confused, he was his usual silly self complete with potty humor and giggles. Katie had her own high volume of cleaner humor, and I could not get them to be sober for a minute. (If nothing else, I hoped this might make the staff bring our prescriptions all the faster when it was time.) I asked them to think about something sad. I didn't want to bring in any really sad scenarios, so I said some really lame fictional or unimpressive things that might work on really easy targets. They did their best to sadden up but it only lasted a moment, and they were back to being giddy. Tim had the excuse of some stomach medicine that the nurse had given him and had to watch him drink entirely. Katie--well, I don't know what her explanation was. Even I fell into it a bit, and Gary just patiently tried to act as dissociated as possible.
One time the Physician's Assistant walked by saying, "Good news! No broken bones!" We thought he was talking to us, and we started to respond in rejoicing, but it turned out he was talking to another patient further down the hall, so at least I guess we were rejoicing for him. Another half hour went by. The PA came in and checked Tim some more. After a few minutes more, he came in with the results from the cat-scan. He said that Tim had a break right under the left eye socket, and it was bleeding into the sinus. Because of the bleeding he would be on antibiotics to prevent infection; because of the break he'd be given Prednisone to keep the muscle from swelling to get lodged into the break in the bone. If it does so, he will lose movement of the eye upward, and have to have surgery.
When I got the prescription filled, the lady at the counter said that a cat-scan would cost about $700 or 800. I don't suppose that includes the use of the emergency room or any of those details. I'm sure thankful for God's timing and provision. I wonder about the wisdom of having insurance--a person might surmise that it is an entirely unhealthy option, judging by the circumstances.
We stopped by Dairy Queen for a purely medical encouragement on the way home, and picked up a chocolate-covered-strawberry-sundae-in-a-bowl (or some such thing) as a thank-you for Stacia, and Tim chose a butterscotch dilly bar. Okay, I did have a strawberry sundae, the smaller kind, and Gary did have a peanut-buster-barfait (that's what I tend to call it more or less by accident) and Katie did have a small Hawaiian Blizzard, but that's only because we didn't want Tim to feel lonely or awkward eating in front of us...really.
Stacia did seem to like the looks of her sundae. Katie told me on the way to the store for the prescriptions that Stacia described some rather racy ads promoting the sundae to Katie's heretofore-unstained ears. I think the DQ ad writers must be on drugs from how Katie described the ads. I hope Stacia didn't think we had been influenced to buy because of the ads...just for the record we hadn't. Ha!
And when we got home complete with pills and dinner, we heard a knock at the door. It was Stacia. She had made a bag of goodies for Tim, along with a card, and animal crackers from her dog Ernie, and a picture of some of our silliness from yesterday, and the bag was decorated with an ambulance--a little trick she learned from me, but we'd never been on the receiving end!
Stacia had done all she could to make the day good. And God of course had it all in hand before the foundation of the world. He knew when we'd need insurance, and the encouragement of friends. Is He not great!?