Tuesday, August 26, 2008

No More Boring Sunday School

If you're in charge of adult education at your church, check out this hot new curriculum from the good people at Faith Alive, the publishing group at CRC HQ. Available just in time for fall programs! Buy it by the truckload!

Full disclosure: we won't make any money if you do. So never mind the truckload. But still, here's an adult ed. curriculum on worship that we think turned out pretty well.

Ron was working on it last December, when we should have been out shopping for Christmas presents for our children (sorry kids! that doggone kingdom work again!). The task was to write an engaging, five-week study guide on worship for regular folks in a regular congregation: individual lessons for five days each week, then a group lesson for the end of the week.

So Ron took all his best, most tried and true worship talks (let's have a show of hands for how many folks reading this blog have heard, for example, Ron talk about the participate-o-meter); he zazzed them up with nifty stories and examples, then condensed them into this attractive little package, complete with Bible study sections, discussion questions, the whole bit. It fits into the Disciples series as part of year 2.

The daily readings walk, step-by-step, through a typical four-fold worship pattern (Gathering, Word, Meal, Sending). Along the way, alternating lessons explore key adjectives that describe faithful, vital worship. These don't function prescriptively ("Listen to the worship wonk who will tell you exactly what to do!"), but descriptively -- they are extended meditations on virtues and values no congregation would wish their worship to do without.

Of course, if you do want a worship wonk to come to your church and tell you what to do, that could be arranged. (Ron has been known to do a bit of itinerant work from time to time).

So if your church needs a Sunday-service makeover (or even if it doesn't), this study guide is a nice way to build grass-roots understanding of worship basics. A little understanding can go a long way toward quelling pointless debates and toward opening a congregation to the Spirit's work in cooking up lively, meaningful worship. (Maybe that accounts for the otherwise perplexing photo of a burner on the cover. But does the Spirit use natural gas? A non-renewable fossil fuel?? Wouldn't the Spirit use wind energy?)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Happy Trails

One would think that after making four trips back and forth to California in the past few years, we might head out in some other direction for a summer odyssey, but... no. We've just returned from the wild west yet again. Not all the way to Cali this time, but still far enough and long enough to explain the posting drought since July 4.

Before hopping in the van for the frontier, we spent a fun weekend with Ron's family out at Lake Michigan. The lake was swimmable (or, for our hardy Pipster, surfable), but for the wimpier women, hey, the hot tub is always fabulous.

One evening we gathered on the beach for the traditional bonfire/s'mores combination. I think we've had s'mores about twenty times this summer. At some point, ya know, s'nuff.

Sunsets like this, though, we could handle every night.
Then after a brief pause for a week of soccer camp (Mia) and string camp (Jacob) and blessed freedom from siblings (Philip), it was time to cram into the minivan for hours of family togetherness on the way to: Colorado.

Along the way, we visited many old friends. It turns out we are lucky enough to have friends, if not in every port, then at least in a good number of Midwestern towns, including St. Charles, Illinois; Bloomington, Minnesota; Willmar, Minnesota; Sioux Center, Iowa; and Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

While staying with our friends the Kleinhuizens, the children discovered all the fun things other kids get to do and they don't, such as tubing and fishing (though Jacob found that the infamous "grass bass" was a more common catch than the elusive walleye).

In Sioux Center, Ron got a chance to golf with old friends Todd and Curtis (can you tell the golf course is carved out of the cornfields of the midwest?).

In South Dakota, we visited old friends Dawn and Andrew, whose precious daughter Althea took a shine to Jacob.
At last, we arrived at our destination, Snow Mountain Ranch, where we got to hang out with the Calvin students on staff there this summer and serve as their official professors-in-residence-of-the-week. Besides running around the ranch indulging in camp-style fun, we took a hike one day in Rocky Mountain National Park, and marveled, once again, at how close to the sky one can feel at 12,000 feet above sea level.
After our week at SMR, we zinged home to our little tiny baby puppy Maizey, only to find that somehow, in our absence, she had become... a DOG. We're grateful to the two Calvin students who house-and-dog sat for us, but also suspicious: steroids maybe??
So much for another westward odyssey. We're pretty good at it now. But next year, maybe we'll head east. Crabcakes, anyone?