The "Light Ages" and the "Endarkenment"

A new breed of militant, antagonistic atheists has gained a voice recently. These "anti-theists," as some of them prefer to be called, think that belief in any religion (especially Christianity) is at the root of all that's wrong with the world. Thus, if we can just convince people to give up religion (which is nonsense anyway) the human race will finally be able to achieve great progress.

To be fair, modern "anti-theists" didn't come up with that idea on their own. In fact, they're just taking the latest step in what has been a centuries-long pattern (especially among academic elites) of seeing Christianity as a dead weight that holds humanity back.

For example, most historians refer to the 1,200 or so years between the fall of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the Enlightenment as "the Dark Ages." They believe that the Greeks and Romans achieved very advanced cultures, but that after these empires fell Europe regressed into a crude, barbaric existence that was largely unchanged for centuries. What prevented progress during these "Dark Ages?" It was Christianity, with its superstitious belief in God. In fact, as the thinking goes, it wasn’t until Christianity was abandoned by cultural elites in favor of atheistic reason ("the Enlightenment") that Europe was "freed" from the barbaric "prison" of primitivism known as the Dark Ages. In other words, most academics believe that getting rid of Christianity results in cultural progress.

But not all. A sociologist named Rodney Stark recently wrote a book called The Victory of Reason, in which he shows that in fact, Christianity is directly responsible for the vast successes of the West including the rise of science, technology, capitalism, and human rights.

In fact, Stark shows that the whole idea of the "Dark Ages" is a myth: "…during the so-called Dark Ages, European science and technology overtook and surpassed the rest of the world!" His book details several key advances in science, art, economics, and human rights which took place at this time. Far from being held back by Christianity, Stark shows how these advances were actually caused by Christianity.

So where did the "Dark Ages myth" come from? Stark says, "The idea that Europe fell into the Dark Ages is a hoax originated by antireligious, and bitterly anti-Catholic, eighteenth century intellectuals who were determined to assert the cultural superiority of their own time…" In other words, people just like today's "anti-theists" were eager to justify their own anti-Christian worldview. In the process they claimed Western successes were the result of their own atheistic worldview, when in fact they arose because of the Christian worldview. It's a textbook example of revisionist history -- and this revision has been repeated so often in the past 300 years that most people still believe it despite strong evidence to the contrary.

I'm thoroughly enjoying my read of The Victory of Reason, and I encourage you to read it too. That way, the next time you hear someone claim that religious belief holds back progress in science, human rights, or anything else, you'll be prepared to shed some light. The same light, as it turns out, that brightly illuminated the terribly-named "Dark Ages."

Peet's Coffee - Epilogue

I'm happy (thrilled would be more like it) to report that I am one of last week's winners in the "Why I Love Peet's" contest that Peet's Coffee is running! That means that they posted my entry on their winner's page, and more importantly I have won free Peet's coffee for a full year, as have 5 of my friends. How cool is THAT!?!

Destiny... I certainly hope the two people who voted "coincidence" in my recent poll are duly repentant!

The People Have Spoken

The voting results are in, and I'm happy to report that no superdelegates will cast doubt on the outcome of this poll. The official results:

Is my relationship with Peet's Coffee destiny? Or merely coincidence?

30 votes cast.

Destiny - 16 votes
Coincidence - 2 votes
Matt is wierd - 12 votes

So the people have spoken, and my relationship with Peet's is clearly a matter of destiny!

Now, I take 2 things away from these results. First, in the future I will be careful not to put 2 correct answers in a 3-way poll. It occurs to me that many voters were torn between "destiny" and "wierd," (why this would be the case I have no idea, but so it seems to have been) and several just couldn't resist that last option. Now, initially it occured to me to say that was an incorrect response. But since my friend Melissa was the first one to register that choice I thought better of denying it's validity. I learned long ago that you'll be wrong if you go against Ms. Wright.

Second, I take these results as a resounding affirmation of my original premise, since 28 out of 30 voters recognized that "coincidence" was simply not an adequate explanation of the facts. I think the collective wisdom of my valued readers is displayed and vindicated in such an overwhelming showing. As for the 2 random "coincidence" voters, they've served a useful purpose by reminding us that there's always someone who'll refuse to accept even clear-cut conclusions. :)

Thanks to all of you who voted in this important poll. If you'd like to discuss the results further, I'm open to doing so... over a mug of Major Dickason's blend at Peet's! In the meantime, I'll drink a cup o' destiny...

We now return you to our regularly scheduled (and generally much less silly) blogging.

Only 2 Days Left!!

Only 2 days remaining in my Destiny or Coincidence poll! See sidebar to vote. It's a very close race so far. You can make a difference in the outcome! The poll closes Saturday at 9:30 pm!

I feel compelled to point out that I first wrote the post on why I love Peet's Coffee, which spurred the poll, just for the fun of it. Then, literally 2 days after posting it I discovered that Peet's is having a "Why do you love Peet's Coffee" giveaway contest! Is that cool or what?!

Now, I honestly did NOT know about this contest when I first posted. Honest! I posted Saturday, but our incredible Office Manager Barb Fromm told me about the contest Monday morning -- she can vouch for me. So, how can anyone now say that it's not Destiny!?! Peet's and I were thinking the same thing at the same time, unbeknownst to one another. We're obviously on the same wavelength - it was just meant to be. I sincerely hope that this puts to rest any final, lingering doubts in anyone's mind.

And if I WIN the contest (yes, of course I've entered!) there should be absolutely no doubt left.


J. I. Packer Nails It

Dr. J.I. Packer, one of the brighter minds in Christianity and author of many excellent texts including the modern classic Knowing God, beautifully and succinctly defines liberal theology with the following paragraph:

"Liberal theology as such knows nothing about a God who uses written language to tell us things, or about the reality of sin in the human system, which makes redemption necessary and new birth urgent. Liberal theology posits, rather, a natural religiosity in man (reverance, that is, for a higher power) and a natural capacity for goodwill towards others, and sees Christianity as a force for cherishing and developing these qualities. They are to be fanned into flame and kept burning in the church, which in each generation must articulate itself by concessive dialogue with the cultural pressures, processes and prejudices that surround it. In other words, the church must ever play catch-up to the culture, taking on board whatever is the "in thing" at the moment; otherwise, so it is thought, Christianity will lose all relevance to life. The intrinsic goodness of each "in thing" is taken for granted. In following this agenda the church will inevitably leave the Bible behind at point after point, but since on this view the Bible is the word of fallible men rather than of the infallible God, leaving it behind is no great loss."

With this paragraph, Packer does a fantastic job summarizing in basic terms the mindset of a liberal theologian. So often we can get caught up debating the details (why is the Episcopal Church ordaining homosexual priests? Haven't they read Romans 1?) and miss the underlying root cause (Is there a God who has infallibly spoken, and to Whom we are beholden?). This is worldview stuff through and through. And as you can see the need to understand people's basic premises is alive and well inside Christian churches as well as outside.

All Christians, and especially elders and pastors, are called to watch over their congregations and protect them from doctrinal drift. Such protection starts with being aware of what causes doctrinal drift, and evaluating in our own minds whether those conditions exist with us. Then it proceeds to teaching the congregation the same things so they too can be hedged against the dangers of straying from truth. Because that's liberal theology in a nutshell: drifting away from truth with the best of intentions.

This paragraph appeared in an article in which Packer describes why he is leaving The Episcopal Church. The article itself is a good read.

Destiny or Coincidence? My relationship with Peet’s Coffee

Some things, it seems, are just meant to be. You know what I mean: everything seems to align in an uncanny perfect way, things seem more natural than breathing, and there are too many coincidences to be, well, just coincidences. So it is between myself and Peet’s Coffee.

My love for Peet’s began back in my college years. I was fortunate to spend my undergraduate years in the thriving bastion of wild nuttiness known as Berkeley, CA - the same place where, 25 years earlier, a Dutchman named Alfred Peet decided to open the nation’s first real coffee shop.

Peet moved to the US after WWII and was reportedly appalled at the quality of coffee Americans were drinking (he must have run into church coffee). So he opened his first store on Vine Street in Berkeley with a simple, yet profound and moving mission: to raise the expectations of American coffee drinkers. Poetry, pure poetry!

It is a little-known fact that Alf, as I affectionately call him (funny, he seems like a cherished old uncle even though I never met the man), trained three young men in the art of real coffee roasting. Those three later left the business and started a little coffee joint in Seattle they named… Starbucks. No, I’m not kidding. In fact, Peet’s Coffee supplied Starbucks with its beans when Starbucks was just getting off the ground. From there Starbucks sold their collective soul to the demon of commercial enterprise, of course, but that’s a different subject. One of those founders became so disenfranchised with Starbucks that he left the business and became the CEO of Peet’s when Alf retired (he's since moved on to that great coffee field in the sky).

Anyway, Peet’s Coffee never left it’s original mission, or its dedication to simply brewing real, good, coffee. Simple. Real. Can you see why I like it so much? Basically the same reasons I love my Scout, but I digress...

Now here’s where it gets really interesting: it would appear that Peet’s loves me too. In fact, they’re following me wherever I go. Shortly after I moved to Portland I began to despair of ever finding a good source for coffee locally, so I did the only truly sensible thing I could do: I mail-ordered from Peet’s. Then, after several years of fantastic-smelling mail, Peet’s opened their first Portland store on NE Broadway, just 10 minutes from our house. When I asked them why they chose Portland, they said mail order volume was a big factor. I knew then that I had done my part.

The final proof materilized when Amy and I moved across town to Beaverton in 2006, without a Peet’s close by. Until 3 months ago, that is, when Peet’s opened a brand new store (a.k.a. “Matt’s other office”) less than a mile from the church where I work. Could life get any better?

So I ask you dear readers, is this mutual, win-win relationship not a textbook example of pure destiny? Please register your vote on my poll to the right and let me know what you think.

Songs I can't seem to sing...

Have you ever been so moved while singing a song that you suddenly can’t sing anymore? This happens to me occasionally during worship services in church. There are many songs I don’t feel strongly about one way or the other, many I like, and some I love. But a few songs have phrases that hit me so hard I get a catch in my throat as the words are being sung, and for a few seconds I can’t seem to stay composed enough to sing.

Here are a couple examples:

The modern hymn Before the Throne of God Above contains the phrase “because the sinless savior died, my sinful soul is counted free, for God the Just is satisfied to look on him and pardon me.” I simply can’t sing this! Somewhere in the course of these words I get hit with the full reality that I am a living, joyful son of God… because of someone else.

The final stanza of In Christ Alone reads “From life’s first cry ‘till final breath, Jesus commands my destiny… till he returns, or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I stand.” My throat catches on words because the thought of every moment of this life being absolutely defined by Jesus and his mission of redemption is so powerful. I also weep at the word “home,” because it reminds me that there’s a glorious destination at the end of this defining journey, and I want it.

One more: the closing stanza to the hymn It Is Well With My Soul. “The clouds be rolled back as a scroll, the trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend. Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord oh my soul!” The swell of the music combined with the fulfillment of a long hope sweeps me up into wanting to run hard and finish well.

There are other songs too, but these are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. As you can see, most songs that hit me so hard I usually can’t even sing them have to do with big hot pictures of God and his glory, with the meaning and purpose of the Christian life, and with yearning to reach our final, and real, home. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, but in the last 10 years of my life these are some of the top lessons God has taught me. Hopefully the reaction these songs produce is evidence that the lessons are going all the way to the core of my being. Just typing this post has made me a bit sniffly - and I’m not even singing!

I’d love to hear what songs you have trouble singing because they move you so strongly. Got any?

Another Good Question – Should We Still Obey the 10 Commandments?

Gerry Breshears, one of my theology professors from seminary, likes to word things in a way that initially shocks most Christians. He does this to get our attention and make us think deeper than we often do about Scriptural truths. The message he preached this past Sunday at Harvest from Acts 15 was no exception.

That message led a Harvest member to ask me a good question: do Christians still need to obey the Old Testament law? Since I know all Christians, including me, wrestle with similar questions, I'm posting it here as part of my series of posts titled Another Good Question.

I explained that one can think of 3 categories of the OT Law: the civil/criminal law (e.g. death by stoning is required for murder), the ceremonial law (e.g. kosher dietary restrictions & animal sacrifices), and the moral law (e.g. the 10 Commandments). It is commonly understood that the first two categories of law have served their intended purpose and are no longer in force. But since the moral law reflects God’s character it is still a good guide for the behavior he wants from us today. So yes, “moral” laws like the 10 Commandments still reflect God’s standard.

But the story doesn’t end there, and I think I need to add to my initial response to my church friend. What was missing was the fact that while the content of God’s behavioral standards hasn’t changed, the way we interact with those standards has changed. And it has changed dramatically.

This change can best be described as changing from an external focus to an internal one. Or, changing from a behavior focus to a heart focus.

The whole force of the New Testament lays this out so it’s difficult to select just a few passages of Scripture to demonstrate this shift in focus. The whole Sermon on the Mount certainly comes to mind (Matthew 5-7), as does Jesus’ statement that the whole Law can be summed up in the single word “love” (God and neighbor). Paul shows the same understanding when he insists that we are free from the Law (such as in Galatians) but then he insists that we don’t run off into lives of sinful abandon (Romans 6:15-23; notice “from the heart” in verse 17). We could go on.

The point is this: the life God wants from us is not obedience to a list of do’s and don’ts. What he wants is your heart to be completely dedicated to the passionate pursuit of himself. In other words, we find that God's standards are still very much in force (licentiousness is ruled out), but those standards are not strict rules of obedience (legalism is also ruled out). How's that for a bit of intellectual tension?

So, while the 10 Commandments are still a great guideline for the character of a Jesus-follower, it is important to note that we don’t obey them as an external regulation that is forcibly changing our behavior. Rather, we joyfully conform our lives to that revealed standard out of a passionate desire to please and more accurately mimic our King.

Confession time: I think there’s a little legalist inside every Christian, and mine always becomes aroused when these discussions take place. How’s your little legalist doing? :)

Prudence (a.k.a. Think Before You Act)

I’m about half-way through re-reading the book Mere Christianity, and what strikes me is that C. S. Lewis addresses the question I asked in my first post: why are some Christians not more excited about thinking? Lewis talks about this in his chapter on the Cardinal Virtues (Book 3, chapter 2).

There Lewis notes that the classic virtue Prudence really amounts to simply thinking before we act. In Lewis’ words: "Prudence means practical common sense, taking the trouble to think out what you are doing and what is likely to come of it."

But then Lewis notes how unpopular such thinking is among Christians. Why? He says many of us use the idea of ‘coming to Jesus like little children’ as an excuse to not work at developing our minds. If true, this observation is really an answer to my question. According to Lewis many of us see thinking as a threat to authentic, childlike faith.

I would state Dr. Lewis’ observation a bit differently. As a pastor I often run across Christians who seem glad that there are a few in the church who care about theology, thinking, and using the mind (someone actually told me this once). But they don’t feel that the majority of Christians (including themselves) need to trouble much with serious thinking. Do you see the assumption behind this statement? Thinking is seen as a specialized activity for a select few. Beneficial to the church as a whole, perhaps, but not necessary for the life of the average Christian.

Lewis disagrees, arguing that "childlike faith" does not preclude developing our minds to their fullest potential – whatever that potential may be. He assures us that good Christians need not earn PhD’s or become professors. In his very British way of putting things, Lewis says, "It is, of course, quite true that God will not love you any the less, or have any less use for you, if you happen to have been born with a very second-rate brain. [uh, thanks! I think…] He has room for people with very little sense, but he wants everyone to use what sense they have."

Lewis is far from seeing the mind as a threat to authentic faith. In fact he assumes just the opposite – that a mind developed to its full potential is a necessary tool for the Christian life. I, for one, couldn’t agree more.

Awesome Questions at The Refuge

Last week I had a great opportunity teach at our Wednesday night youth group meeting and I need to share it here. What a blast! First off, Kenny announced that the vote the students had taken to name the ministry was in, and the youth group is now called The Refuge. I came up to teach right after that, and realized I was officially the first speaker for The Refuge - what an honor! :) The students even applauded when I told them about my distinction!

On to the main point: I jumped in on a Q&A series our youth ministry is doing. The students were asked to submit any question they wanted an answer to (Bible, theology, life, sex, relationships… you name it). And submit questions they did! I saw the entire list of their questions, and wow: other than a few off-the-wall random ones (for the record: no, Adam did NOT have a belly button!) they came up with deep question after deep question. I told the students that I’d have been thrilled if the adults at our church had asked such good questions! The questions I dealt with were:

  1. Why did God only pick 1 people (the Jews) to be his people? Wouldn’t he want everyone to be his people?

  2. Are the 10 Commandments still valid today?

  3. What is the book of Jeremiah about?

  4. What is a good Christian?

I don't have space to go into the answers I gave to these questions, though if there's sufficient interest I'll do so in another post.

After I spoke the students broke into their small groups, and I sat in on several. The students asked their leaders about many things, including the nature of the Trinity, whether moral standards are absolute, why God didn’t spell out the details of moral behavior in the Bible, and even one young man who is wrestling through the question of where speaking in tongues fits in to the Christian life. And those were just the conversations I know of and participated in!

Three conclusions from last Wednesday: First, I had a great time hanging out with the 60 or 80 students who were there. Some of them are a bit “edgy,” but what better place for them to be on a Wednesday night? These students are energetic and open to asking questions - a delight to be with. Second, teens today are asking hard-core questions, and I am increasingly concerned that churches aren’t helping them think when we give trite answers. We need to engage with them, and our youth ministry is doing that.

Which leads me to the last thing: our youth ministry team RULES! Our youth pastor Kenny Stone is great at connecting with the students as well as providing leadership to a growing ministry. And his team of Luke Thomas, Meagan Horst and Brian Rhee are all top-notch. I love these people and I’m glad they’re the ones developing the ministry my own kids will enter soon.

And now for something completely different...

I'd like to pass on this amazing story, which was just sent to me by a friend. It made my day - hope it does yours too!

In 1986, Dan Harrison was on holiday in Kenya after graduating from Northwestern University On a hike through the bush, he came across a young bull elephant standing with one leg raised in the air. The elephant seemed distressed, so Dan approached it very carefully. He got down on one knee and inspected the elephant's foot and found a large piece of wood deeply embedded in it. As carefully and as gently as he could, Dan worked the wood out with his hunting knife, after which the elephant gingerly put down its foot. The elephant turned to face the man, and with a rather curious look on its face, stared at him for several tense moments. Dan stood frozen, thinking of nothing else but being trampled. Eventually the elephant trumpeted loudly, turned, and walked away. Dan never forgot that elephant or the events of that day.

Twenty years later, Dan was walking through the Chicago Zoo with his teenaged son. As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of the creatures turned and walked over to near where Dan and his son Dan Jr. were standing. The large bull elephant stared at Dan, lifted its front foot off the ground, and then put it down. The elephant did that several times then trumpeted loudly, all the while staring at the man. Remembering the encounter in 1986, Dan couldn't help wondering if this was the same elephant. Dan summoned up his courage, climbed over the railing and made his way into the enclosure. He walked right up to the elephant and stared back in wonder.

The elephant trumpeted again, wrapped its trunk around one of Dan's legs and slammed him against the railing, killing him instantly.

Probably wasn't the same elephant.

Another Good Question: What Are We Missing?

As a pastor I occasionally get some really good questions from people who are wrestling through stuff. Some of them are so good I feel it's a pity that only 2 of us are talking about it, and more people aren't listening in and participating. So I'm going to start a series of posts on this blog that I'll refer to as "Another Good Question." From time to time I'll add a good question I've been asked, along with a few musings that may point toward an answer, and invite your thoughts too.

In this inaugural post of the Another Good Question series, I submit this gem, which actually came to me from a member of my church a while back: as a pastor, what do you see is the main thing missing in the life of the average Christian today?

There is almost certainly more than one good way to answer that question, but my answer is as follows: Christians today are in desperate need of a bird's-eye view of God's redemptive plan. It is this plan that forms the context of everything from theology to Biblical commands to the daily lives we live in his service.

That context acts like a container for Bible knowledge and our worldview: with it intact everything begins to settle into place and become cohesive. But without it, everything rolls around loose and unconnected in our minds, like a drawer full of hundreds of beautiful unconnected pearls. The pearls are pretty, but you need to string them all together to wear them.

Part of teaching this idea at Harvest Community Church was the development of a chart that lays out a non-detailed, high-level view of God's plan to buy back the world order he created (and which we broke). Starting with God's Glory as the point of it all, the chart moves through creation, the fall and it's results, redemption anticipated, redemption accomplished, and finally redemption realized.

It traces the three elements that have always been present in God’s redemptive plan (something that really struck me when I was thinking through the covenants with Abraham and David last year). And of course the chart, like God's plan itself, centers on the cross and empty tomb - redemption accomplished. The chart includes a doc with explanatory notes, to hopefully decipher what can look a bit complex at first (but which, like most things, really isn't too bad once you get into it).

Of course this chart itself is merely a teaching tool, and not the final word on anything. But it is a tool - one I hope will help Christians get the big picture so they can make much better and more Biblical choices in the little, daily picture that we call life.
How about you? Could you articulate even the non-detailed, broad strokes of God's plan through the ages? If so, good for you. I think you're in the minority and you can probably just ignore this whole post (now that you've already read it! Ha!) If not, let me know what you think of the chart, and how helpful it is to you.

When God Butts In

God interefered with me today. And as usual, my precious wife Amy fully supported his interference.
I just read the most recent update from ALARM Ministries on the humanitarian situation in Kenya. It is well-written: brief enough to digest in one sitting, but broad enough to touch on much of what's happening.

I know ALARM's ministry first-hand, being a friend of ALARM founder Celestin Musekura, as well as having travelled to Sudan and helped with ALARM-sponsored ministries several times. I have come to deeply appreciate ALARM's African-ness (it's an African ministry staffed by African Christians seeking to solve African problems), its contextualized operating philosophy, and the integrity of its leaders.

Celestine and myself in a newly-constructed library building built by ALARM in Sudan, December 2003

This latter point has opened some amazing doors in East Africa for ALARM to minister to many groups, including secular governments in Rwanda and Burundi. Now their reputation and integrity have opened some new opportunities in the current Kenyan crisis too, which you can read about at the bottom of their newsletter.

That's where God butted in to my morning. He caused me to weep for the current suffering in Kenya. As usual with major unrest, the poorest and weakest are afflicted most severely.

A resident of Nairobi's slums escapes riot-set fires with his 2 small children.

ALARM has a rare opportunity to let the gospel shine in Kenya right now, but it's stretching their resources. I, on the other hand, have a tax refund... a small pile of cash that I just deposited into our long-term savings. Now that savings account is part of a solid, wise financial plan I'm pursuing for the good of my family. We're working hard on that plan and it's going to take time to reach our goals. I don't like being slowed down. But I sensed that I should invest the lion's share of this tax return in a more eternal place, and let God supply the resources for my financial goals as he sees fit. Dang, now that's interference. I told Amy, half hoping she'd talk me into a lower number, but knowing she wouldn't.

She didn't.

Sometimes we hear about things like the unrest in Kenya and we don't know what to do. I'd like to be so bold as to suggest something you can do today: give toward ALARM's ministry in Kenya. You won't find an organization with more integrity or a more contextualized, effective way to live the gospel in the midst of pain.

I should mention that I have no affiliation with ALARM whatsoever, and I am making this appeal without their knowledge, and on my own initiative.

Thanking God for my Scout

We started a monthly offering this morning in church. We haven't passed offering plates before, but we want to give our congregation a few minutes in the service each month to reflect on various aspects of Christian living, like prayer, communion, and giving. The focus for this morning's offering came from Deuteronomy 8, which was written to a people whom God was about to bless materially. He offered a warning:

"Take care lest you forget the Lord your God... lest, when you have eaten and are full, and built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and when all you have is multiplied... Beware lest you say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.' You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth..." (ESV)

So we reflected for a few quiet minutes on material things we own, and how they all came from God. My thoughts turned to my Scout. :) Yes, I love the rig as a hobby - 4x4 the way God intended! But more specifically I just spent all of last Friday up in the Tillamook State Forest, soaking in the rugged winter landscape. I mushed through several spots of snow and mud, eventually pulling over and making a "camp lunch" on a service road, did a bit of target shooting, and just generally basked in the quiet. I took all the pictures in this post on my Friday excursion.

The dual battery setup I have allows me to run accessories (like the laptop) indefinitely, and so I sat in the front seat suring a torrential downpour late afternoon, up in the middle of nowhere, composing several thoughts on the computer (which may work their way into blog posts at some point). Basically, it was a day of refreshment and re-energizing for which I am thankful. But I realize I couldn't have done so much of what I did without my Scout. Amy loves her Honda Accord, but it will never see Brown's Camp or Larch Mountain!

So today, I find myself thanking my God for the material blessing of a 34-year-old iron workhorse, which opens up so many possibilities and so many pleasures to me. The might of my hand did not get me this gift - it has come from the chief among givers.

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