April 30, 2006

Reform and Resurge?

Category: Miscellaneous :: Permalink

Anyone out there going to the Reform and Resurge Conference in Seattle, May 9-11? If so, I may see you there.

For me the speakers aren’t really the main attraction. The main attraction is the chance to hang out with a bunch of other church planters. I’ll also get to spend time with my friend Chip Lind, which is always fun. And Mark will be there, too, whom I haven’t seen in over four years (scroll to the bottom of this page for a pic).

If you’re going, find me and say “Hello.”

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Posted by John Barach @ 1:47 am | Discuss (0)
April 24, 2006

More Wet Shaving

Category: Miscellaneous :: Permalink

In case the Andy Crouch article I mentioned a couple entries ago wasn’t enough to persuade you to switch to wet shaving, here is a whole page of articles and photos by J. Mark Bertrand on that subject. Essense of Lime shaving cream? That phrase by itself makes me want to drop my Gillette shaving gel and my Mach 3 razor.

From what I’ve read so far about wet shaving, it appears that past generations knew how to get a good shave (hence the line from the commercial: “Shaves as close as a blade”). One stream of development abandoned that approach in order to “improve” a shave by speeding things up (e.g., electric razors) or adding unnecessary but allegedly better elements (e.g., multiple blade razors). Another stream of development, almost completely hidden from public view, maintained the older approach but worked on making little improvements.

I wonder how often something like that happens. Are there other areas where a technological mindset took over, offering constant new “improvements,” whereas the old way was actually better?

I can think of one. Book publishing, for one. Hardback books with sewn signatures are better than cheap paperbacks or most of the hardbacks sold today. (It took me a long time to find a one-volume Lord of the Rings with sewn signatures so that I can have it and read and reread it for a long time.)

Any others?

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April 23, 2006

First Service

Category: Church :: Permalink

At long last, we’re about to hold our first service!

The three Sundays I’ve been here, we attended three different churches in Medford, which was enjoyable. During that time, Moriah and I were doing the “settling in” work we needed to. As a group, we looked for a building and last Sunday we started practicing our liturgy. But now we’re finally up and running.

We’ll meet at The Branch, a restaurant/ministry here in Medford. The service will be at 10:00 AM with a fellowship meal afterwards. I expect to have about 16-20 people present for the first service, and a couple more said they’d show up for our fellowship meal afterwards. It’s a small beginning, but it is a start.

Your prayers for us would be greatly appreciated. And if you’re ever in Medford on a Sunday, please do join us. (And if you’re thinking of moving somewhere, keep in mind that this is a beautiful area and that there’s a small church plant with weekly covenant renewal liturgy that needs more members!)

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April 18, 2006

Recent Articles

Category: Miscellaneous :: Permalink

Two articles I enjoyed today:

* Andy Crouch, in “The Best a Man Can Get,” meditates on wet shaving. (See this blog, too.) In spite of Gillette’s development of ever more complex razors and in defiance of Gillette’s money-making scheme of selling cheap razors and extremely overpriced blades, many men are returning to the use of rich shaving creams, lather brushes, and safety razors with double-edged blades. His article almost persuades me to join him.

* Agnieszka Tennant’s “A Velveteen Apologetic” considers bunnies and the goodness of God.

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Posted by John Barach @ 10:29 pm | Discuss (0)
April 17, 2006

Learn English?

Category: Politics :: Permalink

Every now and then, especially in connection with the current controversy about immigration here in the United States, I hear someone say that all immigrants should have to learn English. No English, no immigration. “If they’re going to come to our country,” someone might say, “they should have to learn to speak our language.”

Really? Why?

It certainly would do nothing to preclude terrorists from immigrating. If learning English were a requirement for immigrating, learning English would be one of the first things a terrorist would do.

So what is the reason (in people’s minds) for this requirement? Do immigrants need to learn English so that they can communicate? What if all the people they want to communicate with speak their own language? If you spoke and understood nothing but Dutch, for instance, you could still get along pretty well if you lived, say, in Neerlandia, Alberta, where a high percentage of the people in the community speaks or understands Dutch.

Do they need to learn English so that they can understand the laws of the land? Well, no. You can learn the laws of the United States by reading a translation.

What, really, is the point of requiring immigrants to learn English? I just don’t understand it. More than that, it seems to me that such a requirement would be not only unnecessary but also unjust.

Elderly people often have a very hard time learning a new language; in fact, elderly people tend to revert to the language of their childhood anyway. Making learning English a prerequisite for immigration would mean that you’d have to tell a man that he can’t sponsor his elderly mother to come and live with him and his family unless she first learns English, which isn’t likely to happen. Is that righteous?

Mentally handicapped people would not be able to meet this requirement. But then, neither would a lot of people. Lots of people aren’t good with languages. And lots of people don’t have the time, money, or opportunity to take classes.

The requirement for immigrants to learn English, then, it seems to me, would preclude a lot of elderly people, mentally handicapped people, developmentally challenged people, and other people who don’t have the ability, time, money, or opportunity to learn English from immigrating to the United States. Which is to say that it would also preclude many people who are needy or poor from immigrating, not because they wouldn’t be good citizens, not because they wouldn’t work hard, but simply because they can’t afford English classes or aren’t good with languages.

Again I ask: Is that righteous? Is it merciful? Is it necessary? What’s the reason people keep proposing this strange requirement?

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April 14, 2006

Good Friday

Category: Theology :: Permalink

I didn’t preach this Good Friday or this Resurrection Sunday, for that matter. So, instead of anything by me, here is Peter Leithart’s Good Friday homily, a masterful exploration of the typology of the cross.

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April 13, 2006

James Hunter

Category: Music :: Permalink

This afternoon, while switching channels on the radio, I came across an interview with James Hunter. I’d never heard anything by him before, but I liked what I heard. If you go to his webpage, you can hear bits of the songs on his latest CD, People Gonna Talk.

The influences of Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson are obvious, to say nothing of Van Morrison, with whom Hunter has toured, but there are traces of ska and some other influences as well.


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April 10, 2006


Category: Miscellaneous :: Permalink

I’m shopping for a new computer and monitor. Dell‘s deals are attractive, and it’s nice to be able to “build” your own computer online. On the other hand, several Amazon reviews complain about Dell’s service. On the third hand, however, Dell is considerably cheaper than anything else I saw in town today.

So … if you were buying a computer and wanted to get a good computer, mainly for internet and word processing and not for games, and a good flat screen and flat-bodied 17″ monitor for less than $700, what would you look for? HP? Compaq? EMachines? Or what?

As for switching to a Mac, as some of you might recommend, I’m not sure I’m ready to take that step. Besides, the Macs I’ve seen cost more than $700.

Recommendations? And while you’re at it, any recommendations for Laser All-in-One printers, that is, printers that also fax, scan, and photocopy?

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Posted by John Barach @ 8:11 pm | Discuss (0)
April 8, 2006

Talking Heads

Category: Television :: Permalink

Later in the first volume of the first volume of the Mars Hill Audio Journal, Ken Myers interviews Quentin Schultze about television programming. He asks Schultze what kinds of programs QTV (“Quentin Schultze Television”) would show, assuming someone were to bankroll such a television station.

Schultze’s answer astonished me. He said that he would get a plain backdrop and setting, like the one that William F. Buckley used, and have interviews with people who were making a difference by applying their Christian faith. After all, Schultze said, what TV does best is talking heads.

That statement continues to baffle me. Radio does interviews fairly well. Television is okay with interviews, provided the person being interviewed is interesting to watch. But surely interviews (“talking heads”) aren’t what television does best. It seems to me that television does very well at short stories (like most TV shows) or longer stories spread out over several weeks (such as Lost).

Would I watch QTV, with its (hours and hours, presumably) of “talking heads” interviews? I might watch an interview from time to time. I might watch if Schultze decided to have, say, a lecture by someone like James Jordan or N. T. Wright. But even then it would depend on one all-important question: What’s on the other channels?

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Posted by John Barach @ 5:20 pm | Discuss (0)
April 7, 2006

Hippocratic Oath

Category: Medicine :: Permalink

While I drove from Grande Prairie to Medford, I listened to the first volume of the Mars Hill Audio Journal. The volume included an interview with Nigel M. DeS. Cameron about his (then) recent book, The New Medicine: Life and Death After Hippocrates.

I appreciate Cameron’s call for Christian doctors and nurses to form their own alternative subculture, that is, to maintain their own standards, grounded on God’s word, in spite of the trends in the medical culture around. I recall, though I haven’t read the book, that Jakob van Bruggen in Het leven is de moeite waard argues that, in a time when many opt for euthanasia and many in the medical community are starting to think that euthanasia is a good option, we need Christian nurses who are committed to providing paliative care for those who are dying slowly. Cameron’s point sounds similar.

But the jarring note in the interview was Cameron’s recommendation of the Hippocratic Oath. I grant that the content of the oath may be good, but surely Christians can do something better.

Cameron wants to have that oath, which was originally produced in a pagan society, used as common ground between modern pagans and Christians. “Look,” we Christians can say. “Here is a pagan oath with which we can agree and with which you pagans ought to agree.”

Never mind that modern day unbelievers, with a few exceptions, are hardly “pagans,” comparable in belief to guys like Hippocrates. If Christians doctors are going to form their own subculture and follow their own biblical standards, then why should they base what they’re doing on Hippocrates? Why should they even bother trying to make themselves sound acceptable by an appeal to an ancient pagan medical oath?

What about “marketing” a Christian approach to the rest of the world so that others follow suit? It seems to me that the early church did just fine at such “marketing” in the midst of ancient pagan culture when the early Christians doctored, nursed, and cared for the pagans, not according to pagan standards, but according to biblical ones.

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Posted by John Barach @ 5:03 pm | Discuss (0)
April 6, 2006

Old Music

Category: Music :: Permalink

I took along several of my old cassettes to listen to on the drive from Grande Prairie to Medford. Many of them, I hadn’t heard in over ten years, so I wanted to see if I still liked them.

I found that Terry Scott Taylor’s A Briefing for the Ascent was still great, even after all this time. (I notice that this page has annotations for all the songs!)

Daniel Lanois’ first album, Acadie is an eclectic blend of styles, all with the Lanois atmosphere I first heard on U2’s The Unforgettable Fire, and I enjoyed it on this listen as much as I did when I first heard it.

Tom Waits’ Blue Valentine is still gripping nighttime listening.

Los Lobos’ Will the Wolf Survive? is still fun.

The 77s’ self-titled album was still good, though not quite as good as I’d remembered.

Love and War by Robert Vaughn and the Shadows was still interesting, but … a bit too much the same throughout and altogether too bombastic.

There was a time when (I must confess) I used to love Resurrection Band, enough that I went to JPUSA in Chicago when I was around 18. On this trip, I fastforwarded through Colors and Mommy Don’t Love Daddy Anymore, listening to at least a bit of each song. The only ones I could really stand on this listen were “The Struggle” from Colors and “The Chair,” “The Crossing,” and “Mommy Don’t Love Daddy Anymore” from the album of that name.

I also have to admit that R. E. M.’s Document, which I loved when I first heard it, grates on me now.

But the real soundtrack for our move, the music we listened to over and over and over again, starting with my trip to the border to get my work permit and continuing throughout our packing, was the glorious singing of Lizz Wright on Salt, her first album, and Dreaming Wide Awake, her second.

Favourites? “Salt,” “Fire,” and “Stop,” but as soon as I list them I realize there are more that I like. She has an amazing voice, and I’d listen to her sing almost anything. Thanks, Jeff Overstreet, for recommending her!

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Posted by John Barach @ 3:40 pm | Discuss (0)
April 5, 2006


Category: Family :: Permalink

At long last, I’m here in Medford, Oregon, where I will be planting a church under the supervision of Reformation Covenant Church in Oregon City.

Ever since I accepted this call, Moriah and I have been packing (and Aletheia has been trying to unpack!), but if you’ve ever packed up a house, you know that it always seems to take longer than you thought it would. Last Tuesday, we stayed up until 5:00 AM and got the job almost finished. On Wednesday morning, we got up at 7:00 and I took Moriah and Aletheia to the airport. They spent the day on the plane or in various airports, finally arriving here in Medford in the evening.

Meanwhile, I stayed in Grande Prairie. The movers arrived around 8:00 and began an inventory prior to loading the truck. My guess is that the loading itself started around 9:00. I had the cats in a kennel and took them down to Air Canada’s live animal cargo, where they flew out of Grande Prairie around 12:30. They stayed in Vancouver overnight and then travelled to Portland, where Moriah picked them up.

The movers finished loading the truck around 6:00 PM on Wednesday. I had supper with our neighbour across the street, where I was staying that night, and then went back to the house and cleaned it from top to bottom, which took me until 12:50 in the morning.

I left Grande Prairie Thursday, just after noon, and drove to Kamloops, BC, where I spent the night. Along the way, I spotted deer three times, passed a herd of mountain goats, and saw three large herds of elk. I also noted with some puzzlement that there’s a town near Jasper called Pocahontas, even though the historical Pocahontas lived nowhere near Alberta. (Interestingly enough, shortly before I passed that town, I had been listening to Neil Young’s song “Pocahontas.” Life is full of these little coincidences!)

On Thursday night, I stayed at the Riverland Hotel and had a wonderful supper of cashew pecan chicken with rice and vegetables at Storm’s Restaurant, next door to the hotel. Thanks to the chef who kept his kitchen open for me, even though I arrived late.

I crossed the border on Friday afternoon and had the easiest and smoothest crossing of my life. In Bellingham, I met Chip Lind and had a good visit with him before leaving for Medford on Saturday morning. Well, I would have left in the morning except that the weld on the bridge of my glasses broke. The optometrist couldn’t weld the bridge and so I had to get a new set of frames and have him trim the lenses to fit.

After an uneventful day of driving through Seattle and Portland, past Salem, and on to the south, I arrived at about 9:30 in the evening at my in-laws’ place near Medford. We’ll be staying with them for a little while until the renovations on our house are complete.

The Lord blessed all of us with safe trips and we’re glad to be here. Now we’re looking for a building in which the church can meet.

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Posted by John Barach @ 3:16 pm | Discuss (0)