My Faith Journey

I wrote this at the beginning of the year for a missionary organization that I was applying to. I ended up withdrawing my application for other reasons, however, I thought this was worth sharing. And what better day to share than Easter? He is Risen.

I’ve never really been sure how to best answer this question. I do not believe there is a single identifiable point in time where I became a Christian. I was raised in a loving Christian home, as both my parents are Christian’s. My faith has been, and continues to be, a wonderful journey of understanding. Along the way, I have developed a relationship with the Lord that I can call my own. My goal is to seek Him, incessantly. I can, however, identify some critical points in my journey.

High school was a time when a lot of my faith flourished. I went on student trip to Lake Shasta through my church and an organization called Sonshine Ministries. I became part of an amazing Bible study that, even after high school ended, still stays in contact with each other regularly.

College has been hard though. I attended Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Campus Crusade for Christ for a little while my freshman year, but it was radically different from what I was used to and I soon stopped going. Sophomore year, I tried going to a variety of different churches around my school. Toward the end of my sophomore year, I thought I had finally found a church: First Presbyterian Church of Golden. I went for the remainder of sophomore year and the start of my junior year. However, it just wasn’t sticking. I found the sermons uninteresting and inapplicable in my life. The audience was also predominately older couples and children, there were practically no college age students. So I gave up and coasted for a while, going to church only when I was back in Seattle.

When I was back this last summer, I was talking with our senior pastor, Earl Palmer, and some friends from my Bible Study. One question came up about how to find another church away from home. Part of what I got out of the that discussion is that I was missing something when I was trying to find a church in the past: the community.

When I got back to school this past fall, I called up a friend, Matt, and asked if he wanted to go this church I’d heard about, Flatirons Community Church. As it turned out, he was already planning on carpooling up with another mutual friend, so we all carpooled together. After church, Matt introduced me to his community at church. This is when I stopped coasting in my faith. I had found community within a church; which is the part I had been missing previously. And it has been an absolute blessing to be in this community.

I have been enjoying going to Flatirons. I’ve also been going to The Annex (a college ministry run by First Presbyterian Boulder) on Tuesdays and I recently volunteered to drive freshmen from their dorms to The Annex and back.

Quotes of 2008

As I do every year about this time, I’m clearing out the “Favorite Quotations” section from my Facebook profile to make way for the new quotes I will undoubtedly amass in 2009. I think there are some really great quotes in here, so enjoy:

“The question isn’t: who’s going to let me, it’s: who’s going to stop me.” -Ayn Rand

“Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.” – Dr. Benjamin Spock

“Vi veri veniversum vivus vici” – a German gentleman named Dr. John Faust

“When you have a difference of philosophy with your boss, he owns the philosophy and you own the difference.” – Former Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne on being fired

“Take calculated risks. That is quite different from being rash.” – General George Patton

“…discernment is about the intersection of three things. Discover what brings you joy. Discover what you’re good at. Discover what the world needs. The intersection of those three things at any given moment is your calling.” – Jeff Staples paraphrasing his professor

“I see you’ve got a vibrator there… that reminds me of a story of something that happened in church the other week!” – Jeff Staples

“In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is.” -Jan L.A. van de Snepscheut

“Remember when math used to have numbers?” – Trevor, commenting on the lack of numbers (none actually) on one of the examples on the board in Feedback Control Systems

“Some days you wake up and immediately start to worry. Nothing in particular is wrong it’s just the suspicion that forces are aligning quietly and there will be trouble.” – Jenny Holzer

“Whenever there is a hard job to be done I assign it to a lazy man; he is sure to find an easy way of doing it.” – Walter Chrysler

“The Love of God is not a mere theory or an abstract thought. The Love of God is an event…it’s not a theory, it’s an event. Love Happens.”
-Earl Palmer

“…in a free country, people are supposed to make their own decisions. You can’t legislate virtue.” -Dr. Ron Paul

The Dream

I had a dream last night. I dreamt that I was back in Seattle at UPC. I was walking around and I saw Earl Palmer. The events of this dream take place just a few weeks after he had left his position as Senior Pastor. I ran over to him, and his eyes started to well up. I hugged him and started crying, just thanking him for being such a good pastor and for our talk this summer.1

I remember feeling happy that I was able to cry. I’ve been very emotionally drained these last few weeks. At times I’ve felt like crying, even wanting to cry. But nothing ever came out. It was refreshing to finally be able to cry, even if it only was in my dreams.

I wonder if he had the same dream.

1 In real life, I never got to say goodbye and thank before Earl left.

Some Religious Points I’ve Been Mulling

A couple of Christian-related things I’ve been mulling over recently:

First, Karl Barth, a twentieth-century theologian, said, “No harm must be done to the critical choice.” This is interpreted by Rev. Earl Palmer as, “No harm must be done to our freedom, and no harm must be done to God’s freedom.”

Second, Karl Barth talks about prayer, saying, “He is not deaf, he listens; more than that, he acts. He does not act in the same way whether we pray or not. Prayer exerts an influence upon God’s action, even upon his existence. That is what the word ‘answer’ means. … The fact that God yields to man’s petitions, changing his intentions in response to man’s prayer, is not a sign of weakness. He himself, in the glory of his majesty and power, has so willed it.”

Finally, 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22:

19Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; 20do not treat prophecies with contempt. 21Test everything. Hold on to the good. 22Avoid every kind of evil.

I stumbled upon this passage when we were going over Matthew 7:1-6. Matthew 7:1 reads:

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.

The footnote in my bible for 7:1 says:

The Christian is not to judge hypocritically or self-righteously, as can be seen from the context (v. 5). The same though is expressed in 23:13-39 (cf. Ro 2:1). To obey Christ’s commands in this chapter, we must first evaluate a person’s character – whether he is a “dog” (v. 6) or a false prophet (v. 15), or whether his life shows fruit (v. 16). Scripture repeatedly exhorts believers to evaluate carefully and choose between good and bad people and things (sexually immoral, 1Co 5:9; those who masquerade as angels of light, 2Co 11:14; dogs, Php 3:2; false prophets, 1Jn 4:1). The Christian is to “test everything” (1Th 5:21).

The Christian is to “test everything”. I’m relishing 5:21. The footnote in my Bible for 5:21 reads:

Test everything. The approval of prophecy (v. 20) does not mean that anyone who claims to speak in the name of the Lord is to be accepted wihtout question. Paul does not say what specific tests are to be applied, but he is clear that every teaching must be tested – surely they must be in agreement with his gospel.

I wish that more people would be objective, in general.

Earl is Leaving

I was talking with my Mom this week, she said that Earl Palmer, the Senior Pastor at UPC is leaving. Here’s the note he sent out:

Dear UPC Family,

These past fifteen years as senior pastor at UPC have been totally joyous and fulfilling because I love what I am doing! I recently shared with our church Session a new vision of a ministry that would allow me to serve God in teaching, writing and encouragement of pastors and laity in a more expansive way, both here in Seattle and beyond. The Session has endorsed this vision in which I will eventually move from my current responsibilities into a new and exciting mandate. While I continue in my role fully engaged as your senior pastor, the church will spend the next year conducting a search for a new senior pastor. Following the arrival of that new pastor, I will move into this ministry-at-large post under the auspices of a newly created Encouragement Foundation formed by members and friends of UPC and managed by a separate, independent board of directors who would shepherd me in this new ministry.

As you know I don’t believe in the kind of retirement that means disrupting the biblical rhythm of the Fourth Commandment, “six days thou shalt labor, one day thou shalt rest,” and ministry with people young and old is for me the most rewarding work I know. I feel great and my health is strong, but I know that patterns change throughout our life journey, especially as our chronological age moves upward. Since this year I will turn 75, Shirley and I have been praying and thinking about this age marker and in prayerful conversations with friends this new vision has emerged.

I look forward to this year ahead of ministry here at UPC as your senior pastor, and then Shirley and I are excited about the next era that opens new ministry opportunities as the Lord leads. For us, one of the best parts of this new era is staying right here in Seattle and continuing in our friendships with you, our beloved UPC congregation. Most of all our prayer for us all is that as we grow in age we will grow in grace.

Your Pastor,
Earl Palmer

Earl F. Palmer

IHS

There are a combination of letters on a table that sits at the front of First Presbyterian in Golden that look like this:
Iota Eta Sigma
I puzzled over it for a while and finally asked Earl Palmer from University Presbyterian in Seattle.

One of the things I like about talking with Earl is that he just doesn’t give you the answer. For instance, Earl could have just said, “It means Iota Eta Sigma.” But no. He explained that it’s one of the Greek words for Jesus, coming from the Greek word Ιησους (Iesous) which translates to ‘Jesus’, but is often just shortened to Ιησ. To get from Ιησ to IHS, make the former all upper case letters: ΙΗΣ. Almost there, the last thing you need to know is that Σ is the letter Sigma. So, take the ‘S’ from Sigma and you have IHS.

Earl then went on to explain Χριστο (Christos) that means Christ (natch) and is often abbreviated to Χρ.

And finally, ΑΩ (Alpha/Omega) which refers to Revelation 22:13:
From www.biblegateway.com:

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.

Here’s the site I used to lookup the exact Greek definitions/spellings of what Earl gave me: http://www.htmlbible.com/sacrednamebiblecom/kjvstrongs/STRINDEX.htm

Wikipedia also has an article on the Christogram.