Tuesday, December 25, 2007

What Makes It So Merry?

Christmas carols are an easy thing to dismiss. I’m kind of a scrooge and so I easily tire of Christmas tunes. There are a few advent songs I love (“Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” and “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”) and I’m a sucker for any Charles Wesley hymn so I’m always up for “Hark the Herald,” but last night something happened. At the Christmas Eve service at our church we sang a verse to a particular song that I hadn’t heard before (the verse). I don’t know why, but I just hadn’t.

Now, I’m not a scrooge because I don’t like Christmas, I just don’t like the busy-ness. This is actually, theologically, my favorite time of the year. This is when we celebrate the Incarnation. After all, Athanasius said, “God was made man, that man might be made [like] god.” All of salvation begins with a crying baby. But, I tire of all the commerce and materialism (easy for me to say, of course) that I’m just as guilty of as anyone else.

But this year was different. While singing “O Holy Night” we actually sang the last verse. I’ve never heard that verse before. I don’t remember singing it as a child or growing up. As an adult even when caroling we only sing the first verse if at all. The words were written (translated) by John S. Dwight well over a hundred years ago. Dwight was born in Boston and is buried there in Forest Hills Cemetery. Considering all of this, here is the part of the third verse that truly brought me into the presence of Christ this year:

Truly he taught us to love one another;
his law is love and his gospel is peace.
Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother,
And in his name all oppression shall cease.

That is the power of Jesus Christ. That by his name every knee shall bow and tongue confess, oh, and don’t forget that slaves will be free and all oppression shall cease. This is the good news of Jesus Christ. This is what makes Christmas truly merry.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas Surprises

I love Christmas surprises. You know the ones I mean. They are the ones that give us a true understanding of grace. Good Christmas surprises teach us that stuff just isn’t all that important. Last week I got an email out of the blue from an old friend who just happened to remember me while he rummaged through an old box of toys. Ben then called me later in the day.

Ben and I were pretty much best friends. We would walk home from school together. We played GI Joe. We watched the GI Joe animated movie. We sneaked around as though we were some sort of Special Forces team shooting at cars with our toy assault rifles. I worked his paper route when he went on vacation. We even threw rocks at cars and then hid behind a fence at the church (don’t try that at home). Ben reminded me of a time over at Pierre Moran mall, across the street from my house. We ran into some bigger kids on skateboards. After we did something to annoy them, they chased us all around the mall. I hope there are more fun stories to remember as time goes by.

I love remembering people and the things we did in the past. I had a good childhood and so it’s easy. For some, I know, it’s not as easy. Have you ever received a call, visit, or letter from someone you’ve not heard from in a while? Do you have any good stories from your childhood?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Prepare the Way of the Lord

This time of the year always reminds me of Isaiah 40. This is a passage of hope. And how many of us can use a little hope right now? Isaiah 40 is the first chapter in what many scholars call Second Isaiah. It was written after the first 39 chapters (or First Isaiah) and by a different author, though we don’t know who that author was. Some even suggest that it was written by a school of thinkers during that time. It was probably written in Babylonia around 540 BC before the Israelites’ journey home.

The Israelites had been conquered and both the kingdoms had fallen. They were exiled to Babylonia and lived, built houses, planted gardens, living life just as Jeremiah had suggested (Jer 29:5-6). Isaiah 40, however is about their imminent return home. Isaiah compares this journey to the Exodus from Egypt and into the Promised Land, only better. For the Exodus Israelites the journey was long and treacherous. There was no road. They were chased by Pharaoh and needed food and water from God when they were hungry. God was their shepherd for the journey home, and they certainly needed their shepherd. Isaiah says that this new journey home will be much better. The paths will be straight and the terrain covered with Eden-like growth. There will be water everywhere and instead of a Pharaoh chasing them it will be King Cyrus (commissioned by God) sending them home. God will not only shepherd them, God will carry them home.

This message was wonderful for the Israelites to hear. It was a message of hope in a time of living as aliens and strangers in a foreign land. It was also a message of preparation. Here is verse 3, “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight the desert highway for our God.” The season of Advent is a time to prepare the way of the Lord. It is a time to reflect in prayer and contemplation on being returned to the image of God. It is also a time to prepare for new and exciting ways for God to use you to bless the world and people around you. How can you reflect God’s image to your neighbors, friends, and family? What are some things you can do in your neighborhood to help show someone the love of Christ? Preparing the way of the Lord is about drawing closer to Christ in order to be sent out into his creation.

Advent is not only a season that prepares us for the Incarnation, Jesus’ birth. It is also a season that prepares us for the second coming of Jesus. In many ways we live in a time between. It is a sort of Holy Saturday, that day between (terribly) Good Friday and Easter Sunday. We await the second coming of Our Lord. But don’t get too comfortable in Babylon. Oh, do your work, build a home, grow your garden, but keep in mind that the King of Glory is coming again!

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Evan sent a tag around earlier and this really doesn’t have anything to do with that, but I’ve been wanting to blog for a while, and not wanting to start with a rant, I thought I would share my top ten collections.
Evan and I are both pack rats, so this undoubtedly does not cover all our collections. But perhaps it gives some insight into who I am and who we are since Evan lets me continue to collect these things.
These are in no particular order, but enjoy!
Skulls. At one time this complemented by 4-H projects of bugs and rocks. I no longer have those assemblies, but I have saved my skulls for posterity. The first skull I found myself underneath the pussy willow tree and the big picture window at my childhood home. I had probably been performing autopsies on local tadpoles with my trusty rusty play saw (ah, those were the days . . . ), when I moved on to archeology. I now have a full bird skeleton, a couple mice, a really cool beaver, squirrel, and a couple more dogs. I did have a deer at one time, but it’s not in there any more?

Tomie de Paola books. Evan could probably tell you when we first found out about his books; I don’t remember. I believe the first one we got was about Saint Benedict and Scholastica. Absolutely beautiful, but very innocent, pictures. From there, at Half-Price Books I found a compilation of Bible stories written and illustrated that he had signed. That was kind of cool, even if it’s not worth anything. I’ve also acquired some of the Strega Nona series, one about pancakes, and of course, Clown of God.

Magazines. I’m an addicted magazinoholic anyway, but I’m usually cutting them up or ripping them apart. The three that I SAVE are Martha Stewart, Victoria, Mary Engelbrite. I have had to whittle my stash down as we’ve moved around the country because they’re such a doggone pain to lug around, but these are several I can’t part with – mainly Christmas, fall, and certain spring ones that talk about either lavender, lilacs or eating things out of the woods.

Black Amethyst Depression glass. This collection began when E and I picked out our wedding china. Actually it began before that when Evelyn Ross bought us a china service for our wedding that was rimmed with black and silver. We picked out Wedgewood Fleur Damask, which happened to be discontinued 6 months after we got married to match that. In the process I found this depression glass that was fairly unique, but worked beautifully with the china. I’ve bought odd pieces here and there, in antique stores, ebay, etc., but I never really pay that much for it. The stuff I like has inlaid silver designs, and those aren’t too common.

Medicine bottles. Another archeological find but this time in the woods. Since my mom and dad’s property has been inhabited for more than 100 years, there are junk piles in strange places. There’s also a rumor that gold is hidden somewhere, but Dad has borrowed my cousin Steve’s metal detector and not found more than some pennies. However, at some point, I was messing around out there and dug up some old medicine bottles – electric bitters, sarsaparilla, etc. Every time I go home in the spring, when the weedy undergrowth is down, I go out and dig some more. Last year, I found two bottles from local Havana pharmacies. Right now they are waiting for display on my porch.

Passion music. After following the church year at St. Paul’s and developing a rule of life, I began looking for music to listen to during Lent. I did a paper at seminary comparing the passion narratives of Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion and Handel’s Messiah. I found a couple recordings of those, but have also gotten St. John’s (Bach) and St. Matthew’s (Golijov). Try listening to the Messiah during Lent sometime. As Evan and I are desperate to recommit our time to Christ’s calendar, I’m hoping to get Mozart’s classic Requiem for this coming Lent.

Vintage Christmas junk. I’m really not crazy about the commercialism that is Christmas, but I just can’t help myself when it comes to amassing piles of scratched up Shiny Brites and Twirling Santas. It’s always going to be better than Halloween. I actually shed a whole tub of Christmas crap before we moved from Guymon, but I couldn’t part with the vintagy-est stuff. I remember I found a whole bag of Santa’s at a thrift store in KC for less than $12. Then I bought a whole stack of ornaments in a now-closed antique store in Havana. Somewhere I also found a ziplock of plastic reindeer. I actually got back into it just recently when I discovered the thrift stores of Dayton. I had been living too far south, too close to Centerville and Oakwood to know. I’ve already procured a paper honeycomb Santa, 2-3 boxes of shiny brites, a big ceramic Christmas tree, and an old plastic light up snowman.

Newest collection – Salem Christmas Eve dishes. This leads me to my newest collection, still in the Christmas category. I happened across these at the St. Francis Thrift Store on Wilmington Pike. They’re the coolest shapes and they have these little retro images sprinkled all over them. The two larger bowls were $3, the smaller $2. I got on ebay to see what else I could find, and ended up purchasing 6 hot chocolate mugs in the same design. All I can say is: I paid more than $2 a piece for them (from Paypal, Evan.) That’s all I could find so far, but I’m looking forward to hunting more down.

Old Religious Ephemera. Evan and I have both taken this on. Evan moves more towards icons Eastern and Western. I tend to find old OLD Catholic stuff and other visually interesting items. We both like pictures or icons of Jesus when we can find them. We’ve found things at estate sales, thrift stores, monasteries. Evan has moved these images to his office (since he has one). I have a poster of old Sunday School story cards hanging over my computer desk. I found an old first Communion certificate in a Jacksonville, Illinois antique mall from 1895. It’s beautiful, with gold leaf and script. It seems Providential that I should have found it.

Unfinished travel scrapbooks. Finally, there are my bags and bags of partially completed travel scrapbooks. I have one from high school and my trip to Clinton’s inauguration that I’ve been hoping to redo since I returned. That was over 15 years ago! Also, the Orpheus Israel tour, Scotland to see Angie in 1994, St. John’s monastery, and most recently Italy. I’m sure there’s others. I just brought the album from our DC trip in May upstairs. It’s not done either, but I’m tired of it. These things are meant to be shared and looked through on solitary occasions. They almost have more character and interest with things hanging out and little notes stashed away than they would perfectly arranged and positioned.
So there they are. My top ten collections. I’m sure there are others considering how long it takes us to pack and move. I hope you’ve gotten to know me a little better.

Monday, October 08, 2007

First Paschal Sermon of St. Gregory of Nazianzen called "The Theologian"

Yesterday the Lamb was slain
And the door-posts were anointed,
And Egypt bewailed her Firstborn,
And the Destroyer passed over us,
And the Seal was dreadful and reverend,
And we were walled in with the Precious Blood.
Today, we have escaped from Egypt and from Pharoah; And there is none to hinder us
From keeping a Feast to the Lord our God —
The Feast of our Departure;
Or from celebrating that Feast,
Not in the old leaven of malice and wickedness,
But in the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth, Carrying with us nothing of ungodly and Egyptian leaven.
Yesterday, I was crucified with Him;
Today, I am glorified with Him;
Yesterday, I died with Him;
Today I am quickened with Him;
Yesterday, I was buried with Him;
Today, I rise with Him.
But let us offer to Him Who suffered and rose again for us — you will think perhaps that I am going to say gold, or silver, or woven work, or transparent and costly stones, the mere passing material things of earth, that remains here below, and is for the most part always possessed by bad men, slaves of the world, and of the Prince of the World.
Let us offer ourselves,
The possession most precious to God, and most fitting; Let us give back the image that is made after the Image, Let us recognize our Dignity; let us honour our Archetype;
Let us know the power of the Mystery,
And for what Christ died.
Let us become like Christ,
Since Christ has become like us.
Let us become God's for His sake,
Since He for ours became Man.
He assumed the worse
So that He might give us the better;
He became poor,
So that we through his poverty
Might become rich;
He took upon Him the form of a servant
That we might receive back our liberty;
He came down,
That we might be exalted;
He was tempted,
That we might conquer;
He was dishonoured,
That He might glorify us;
He died,
That He might save us;
He ascended,
That He might draw Himself to us,
Who were lying low in the Fall of sin.
Let us give all, offer all,
To Him who gave Himself
As Ransom and a Reconciliation for us.
But one can give nothing like oneself,
Understanding the Mystery,
And becoming for His sake,
All that He became for ours.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Monks in Burma

Cords of wood piled by the thousands
Bleed the blood of monks
Discarded as though they were the
Carcasses of animals.
The loss of life, points of consciousness,
means the loss of neighbors
to love and honor as we are commanded.
Cords of bleeding wood piled high by the thousands
burn in the fire of tyranny.

Join us as we pray for peace in Burma.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Lazarus and Dives: Luke 16:19-31, a short perspective

Luke is a dramatic new interpretation of Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic condition. This is particularly true of these passages that deal with wealth, money, mammon, etc. According to Luke, and this is most likely a bit caricatured, there are the Pharisees who see in the world that the righteous prosper and the wicked suffer. In opposition to this view is Jesus who demands that we rethink/reinterpret Deuteronomy and demands blessings on the poor urging the open sharing of one’s possessions.

Luke describes the rich as particularly unrighteous and the poor worthy of all glory and honor under heaven in a story Jesus tells. This parable, by the way, is the only parable told by Jesus that includes two actual names, Lazarus and Abraham. Lazarus was poor, but not poor like many folk in the West who still have homes, cars, computers, televisions, and cable. This was extreme poverty, poverty that kills. He was on the ground outside of the home of Dives, the traditional name given to the rich man. Lazarus would hallucinate about receiving the scraps from Dives’ table, the scraps that the pigs would get instead. Jesus even said dogs would lick Lazarus’ wounds.

Dives, the rich man, dressed in purple and fine linen, an obvious literary reference to just how wealthy he was. He would feast sumptuously every day while Lazarus wasted away just outside his door. By the way, the linens and purple garments aren’t only a literary reference to Dives’ wealth, they also point to the one who should be wearing them, Lazarus. These are garments that Jesus himself would have rejected in favor of giving them to Lazarus. This story is about the great overturning after all.

Lazarus dies and is carried away by angels to be with Abraham. This point was probably particularly pejorative to the Pharisees as Luke paints them as folks who felt that they were the only ones who deserved to be in the presence of Abraham. Dives dies too, and goes straight to hell. As Dives is burning, he asks Abraham to send Lazarus to him with a drop of water to cool Dives. To me, this seems worse than if he’d asked them to change places, a slap in the face to someone who has suffered so much. Dives is turned down and Abraham describes a great chasm between Lazarus and Dives that cannot be overcome. This chasm that Abraham describes existed between Lazarus and Dives even before they died. It was a socio-economic chasm as much as it was a physio-spiritual chasm.

He then asks if Lazarus could be resurrected and go warn Dives’ brothers and friends about the consequences of their lifestyle. Again Dives was turned down and Abraham reminds him that they would not listen. After all, they haven’ listened to the prophets or Moses. This was a slap in the face to Pharisees that follow the law to their letter. Jesus, with Abraham as his mouthpiece saying they’re going to need more than the law. Jesus is saying that something even bigger than the law is needed here, something like perhaps a resurrection.

The tension in this story is continued even now among us, Jesus’ own followers. I and my top 4% in the world salary exemplify this as much as anyone. This story, remember fails to separate the generous rich from the ungenerous rich. Therefore, there is no excuse. We must do more to eliminate the chasm between rich and poor and it must come from the hearts of givers. There is no outside force other than the Holy Spirit herself that can destroy the gap. Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us, who think that by the law alone we will be saved. By the power of the Holy Spirit change our hearts, change my heart, so that I give more, perhaps even all!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Shrewd Steward: Luke 16:1-13, a short perspective

Luke 16:1-13: This parable is often too hard for folks to deal with and so sometimes it is dropped from the preaching schedule altogether. But something about this story that really strikes a nerve in people. According to Sarah Dylan, most commentators say that this is about how the shrewd steward acts decisively and Jesus is describing the “inbreaking of the Kingdom of God call[ing] upon us all to act decisively.” Just as for Dylan, this is not enough for me. Therefore questions must be asked. Was Jesus really commending a crook? Is it purely allegorical? If so, whom does the master represent? What is it that the shrewd steward does? Taken at face value, this story makes Jesus sound as though he approves of deceit. But let’s look further. Let’s answer the last question. What is it that the shrewd steward does? Well, the shrewd steward forgives debt.

So, it seems this passage for Dylan is about forgiveness, an overarching theme throughout the Gospels, and one that can hardly be dismissed. If it is about forgiveness, then despite the reasons the steward forgives, despite that he had no right to forgive, he forgives and it perhaps redeems him in the eyes of his master. What are the implications for us as Christians if Dylan is correct? Then we must forgive, even if forgiveness helps us, even if we have no right to forgive, even if it doesn’t benefit us at all. We must forgive with flagrant irresponsibility even.

There is another theme however, this one highlighted by Fred Craddock. Verse 10-11 says, “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?” (Hmm, perhaps this is justification for more churches to accept tithe from Lotto winnings.) This shifts the focus onto another theme throughout the gospels, being faithful with what is given you. It is also found in the parable of the talents. Craddock sees the meaning in this parable much more straight forward and simple (not simplistic) than Dylan.

For Craddock, these two verses concern the stewardship of possessions. Considering all the dangers in possessions, “it is possible to manage goods in ways appropriate to life in the Kingdom of God”(Craddock, Interpretation: Luke 191). He says this is an argument of a fortiori (from the lesser to the greater, specific to the general). If one is responsible for the small things then one will be responsible for the large things. Jesus perhaps is saying , “No, really, you should sweat the small stuff.” Craddock says that very few of us will do huge things this week, win a war, win a gold medal in the Olympics, build a better mousetrap. However, we might vote, encourage a friend, share a meal with friends. “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much.”

Between the two views, Dylan and Craddock, we can see that even forgiving in the very little can lead to flagrant forgiveness in the very big. Seeing these two views together can give us a balance between. Perhaps we should be like the shrewd steward, wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Christian Caste System

I'm sure the recent comments of Pope B-16 have been thoroughly blogged about. My friend Eric said, "Well, he is Roman Catholic, what else is he going to say?" His comments are both insightful (and probably a little defensive of RC), but I have to say that I'm partial to the comments of N. T. Wright. Read his response here and tell me what you think.

From one second class Christian citizen to others, I'm going with Colossians 3 on this one. Either Vatican II was an honest attempt at ecumenism or it was a deceit. RCs can't have their Eucharist and eat it too!

What do you all think?

Monday, July 30, 2007

Book Tags!

I was also, after begging, tagged by Monty for a list of top-ten most influential books in my life. You'll probably see more fiction on my list than most because of my respect for narrative. Story tells us so much more about God, ourselves, who and what we love, than any book of theology, history, or whatever. By the way there is a Bible exemption for the list. So don't be thinking you're holier than me because you would include the Bible. There are a million and one other reasons why you are holier than me, so don't even think about it. Anyway, here goes:

10. On the Road by Jack Kerouac. Probably speaks more about when I grew up than anything. It is a book that speaks to particular subcultures of every generation.

9. Salvation on Sand Mountain by Dennis Covington. Brilliant with one of the most remarkable last paragraphs ever.

8. The Logic of Renewal by William Abraham. Mmmm, canonical heritage. (gurgling sounds).

7. How to Travel with a Salmon by Umberto Eco. This is a book of essays, but to be fair I would add his novel Foucalt's Pendulum.

6. Fear and Trembling by Soren Kierkegaard. Oh to be a Knight of Faith. Oh, also Philosophical Fragments and Post Unscientific Conclusion to the Philosophical Fragments by Soren Kierkegaard. The first time I read the first volume I read it over night. It was too much for one night.

5. The entire Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. What a brilliant story. With wonderfully (though I am sure unintentional) theological themes such as victory over death, community, turning the other cheek, good vs. evil, etc.

4. Ethics and Infinity by Emauel Levinas. Brilliant!

3 1/2. White Noise by Don Delillo. Yeah, just read it and you'll understand why it's at 3 1/2.

3. The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon. Ahh, the wonders of the anti-detective story.

2. Of Water and the Spirit by Alexander Schmemann. This very sacramental Eastern look at baptism has probably influenced my thinking of what sacrament is more than any other book. From exorcism to chrismation, it deals with the entirety of baptism. There's also a very poignant look at infant baptism.

1. The Moviegoer by Walker Percy. This is a book that I have read too many times to count. It is also a book that I have given away copies of too many times to count.

11. Here I add a few that should be top ten, but that there wasn't room for: The Brothers Karamozov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (this would list at number eleven even though I believe it to be tied in first place as the greatest work of literature in all of history with James Joyce's Ulysses), In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen, Openness of God by Clark Pinnock, Killing Mr. Watson by Peter Mathiessen, and Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.

There's my list. It probably changes a lot and I would say that it should. Coming up with a top ten is ridiculous.
Oh, yeah, for my tags . . . hmm . . . Chad, Eric, Caleb, Ben, Marsha, Joy, and John.

Monday, July 23, 2007


Hoorah! I have been tagged to share eight random facts about myself. This particular tag comes from Monty. I am then to tag 8 others to do the same. Here are the rules:

1. players start with 8 random facts about themselves.
2. those who are tagged should post these rules and their 8 random facts.
3. players should tag 8 other people and notify them they have been tagged.

Here they are:
  1. Bears are my favorite animal. This is not to be confused with monkeys as the funniest animal. I would love to have one of each, I think it would be fun.
  2. I like bluegrass . . . a lot, especially Mountain Heart, the Grascals, and Wildfire. (but don't tell anyone as it's not very cosmopolitan of me.)
  3. I am a huge Simpsons and Harry Potter fan which is apparently a very dangerous thing for a Nazarene.
  4. As of August 13th of this year, I will have lived in 19 houses in my 31 year life.
  5. I once raised Madagascar hissing cockroaches for fun.
  6. I was baptized in the Jordan River in Israel.
  7. My favorite saint is St. Seraphim of Sarov
  8. I think the current trend in theology of reconciling science to itself is a canonization of a particular epistemology and therefore dangerous. Also, it's really, really boring.

Eric, Marc, Marsha, Ben, Caleb, anyone in KC, and anyone in Guymon, OK

Monday, July 16, 2007

Holy Orders

You are reading the writing of a very proud husband. This week at the Southwest Ohio District Assembly, the Church will honor God's call to pastoral ministry in Julia's life. The Church will bestow Holy Orders upon her, ordaining Julia Elder in the Church of the Nazarene and we are very excited.

Last weekend I read Dennis Covington's Salvation on Sand Mountain (If you have not read it, read it now!) and he reminded me of something. Our Lord first appeared to Mary Magdalene (who is to be honored as equal among the apostles), and she was to tell the disciples of his resurrection. She was the first of preachers of the truly Good News of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that defeated death once and for all. It was the disciples who did not believe her and insisted on seeing for themselves.

This week I am proud of my wife, God's most holy call on her life, and the Church's bestowment of Holy Orders.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Psycho Kitty

Now, for a bit of levity . . . this is (was) our cat . . . Awww, wasn't he cute. He was a gift to myself for my 30th birthday, which completely sucked . . .
Now, meet our cat, Vegas.

That's right, Psycho Kitty. People wonder why we don't have children. Because I'm afraid they will turn out like him.

Anybody who has met him knows that he is a bit . . . well, eccentric. We just want to say, on record, that he does love US -- maybe not anyone else -- but he can be very sweet. I think he would be perfect as an lolcat (see slate.com slideshow). Add your own captions as needed.

LiLo Kitty . . .

Fraidy Cat

Kitty Socks . . .


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Today my heart broke. I heard of a pastor in Gig Harbor, Washington state who has allegedly raped and molested a little girl (a member of his own family). I used to pastor this little girl and serve with the so-called pastor. My heart lies in the street, broken, lifeless. I am left with the epistemic questions of faith. What sort of God would allow this to happen? What sort of God, in whom all power and majesty and honor are bestowed, could stand by allow a seven year old to be raped and molested by a pastor and her father. He was to be the very presence of Christ and the very form of the Father to her, but he chose to blaspheme God by heinously violating her. Today, I cry for this little girl and her family. I have not spoken to them in almost three years, but my heart broke today.

The Church of the Nazarene and its leaders submit a report full of statistics lamenting the fact that we've only grown by .6% in the US and that there is a leadership vacuum in the church. I say there is a theology vacuum in the church today. This church, the Church of the Nazarene, seems to be more interested in theories of leadership and growth than theodicy (answers to the problem of evil) and doctrine of God (whether or not Jesus really was resurrected). Woe to you, Church of the Nazarene, when you hear of victims of your pastors and hurt not. Woe to to you, Church of the Nazarene, when you concentrate on the Maxwellian leadership and not the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. When a church is more interested in the skill set for leadership of its pastor, in the numerical growth of its churches, in whether or not its seminarians and its college graduate pastors know how to lead a board meeting than in how it handles the epistemic questions, the questions of faith, like how to deal with the problem of evil or the Holy Spirit and her charisms and how they might inform how the church is run, then that church might as well lie down because it has already died!

Tonight, after I (seriously questioning my faith) taught my kids at church about the power of God, I prayed a prayer of protection for them. I raised my hands and said, "May the God of creation, redemption, and resurrection protect you. May the Holy Spirit fill you and surround you that no evil on earth my touch you. I pray these things in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen."

It is not leadership that will change this church, it is theology. Our pastors must be able to answer serious epistemic questions of theology before they can run a good board meeting (I don't even know what a good board meeting is anyway). I pray now that the Church of the Nazarene will stop trying to look like Coca-Cola co. and Wal-Mart and start looking like the Kingdom of God. I pray this in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Problem of Evil

DOB: Jul 22, 1998Missing: Aug 24, 2006Age Now: 8Sex: FemaleRace: White/HispHair: BlackEyes: BrownHeight: 4'3" (130 cm)Weight: 55 lbs (25 kg)Missing From:GUYMONOKUnited States
Llesenia (Llesi) is a little girl we knew once . We tried to be her pastors. We visited her in the hospital when she was sick. She came to VBS. She worshiped with us on Sunday morning.
But apparently, Llesenia is forgotten. She is missing. We don't know now whether she is dead or alive. As if we didn't really know where she was already. . .
All because the people -- the lawyers, the judges, the parent, the social workers who were supposed to protect this little one's life -- have valued their own time, careers and concerns over hers.
Llesenia suffers (or suffered) from the washing of hands. An entire nation of Pontius Pilate's.
"It's not our fault!" says the faceless system organized to disperse guilt.
"Who is to blame?" they ask incredulously throwing up their fists of paperwork.
Is it the perverse pedophile from whom she may have contracted a deadly disease upon her return to her mother's home?
Or some other violent boyfried who gave her scars on her head and her knee?
Or the arrogantly pious mother who only showed affection at the child's hospital bedside?
Or is it the Texas County, OK judge who tossed this child dismissively from chaos to love and back to a terrorized existence once again?
Or was it the State of Oklahoma's social worker who preserved the biological "family" at any cost?
I feel the guilt of this child's life and, perhaps, death, because at some level she needed salvation. Not merely the salvation of her soul -- but the salvation of her very life. And maybe I didn't pray enough for it. For I know I never fought hard enough or spoken loud enough or preached long enough to ever make a difference.
I knew her and I knew what was going wrong. What could I have done?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Vacation Musings

Julia and I returned last night from the District. We took a true vacation to Washington DC to visit some friends of ours. We also saw some extra-typical District stuff. Thanks to our wonderful friends the Kazees, Rob, Jane, Abby, and Lilly, we stayed just off of Georgia Ave in the heart of the District. We parked the car and road the Metro for the entire week (except when we went to visit Julia's cousin). DC has an amazing public transit system. We only waited long for a bus twice and both times were off hours.

Here are a couple of highlights of our trip. 1) We got to see and visit one of our favorite families in all the world, the Kazees. Rob Kazee is pastoring at National Church of the Nazarene and they live only a few blocks from the church in a beautiful parsonage there in the District. I taught the girls to stack and we had fun with that all week. We all went to the National Zoo on Friday. 2) The evening we spent with Rob and Brian Postlewait at a German restaurant downtown. We enjoyed an evening of our favorite kind of conversation: God, Church, and friends. 3) We got to see Julia's cousin Lenora and her family. They live on a dairy farm (her husband Richard is a dairy farmer) in Mt. Airy, MD. That was fun. 4) We visited another of our favorite families, the Freys. Eric and Antonina pastor Toronto Church of the Nazarene in Toronto, OH. They took us out on the river in his boat. What fun! 5) I ate 19 crabs at the Dancing Crab, a little shack off of Wisconsin Dr. in the District. 6) We visited the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, a Basilica at Catholic University of America, again in DC. The Basilica was a kick back to Byzantine architecture with small prayer shrines off of the main Cathedral dedicated to churches around the world. Very beautiful.

I think those were my favorite things. Julia will probably post some more details.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Repelled by Community

I was talking with a good friend of mine yesterday about the church and community. We served together in Kansas City and, in fact, he was my pastor there. We were talking about a church he served where folks may not have been particularly interested in what it meant to be a community of faith. I reminded him that this is true in all churches throughout all time.

It is remarkable in the Christian church that we have such a unique (in all the world religions) model of unity in Jesus of Nazareth and ideal of the unity of the Holy Trinity and yet we have more trouble than anyone in living out that unity. My friend said, "It's strange how we are both drawn to and repelled by community."

It is true. Community and unity of believers are called to be a-part of one another's lives. Apart may be the best word to use here. It is a word that in the second sentence of this paragraph means together, and yet it is a word that means divided, as in apart from. Of course, I believe in the radicalization of community, just as Jesus prays for us in John 17:21-23: that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me (NRSV). Though this sort of community is what we desire, we are also repelled by it so much that when we see even the possibility of it, we will create dissension and dismemberment in order to undermine it. It is the sort of soured milk we insist that others smell, knowing in our hearts that the milk was never meant to be soured.

The icon pictured above is of Saints Peter and Paul embracing. It is a compelling, charming icon of the saints. When I see it I feel like I should turn away in offense, but I know I want to truly know what this window into heaven shows me, unity. Gregory Boyd wrote in Myth of a Christian Nation, "By God's design, people are not to be won over to his kingdom primarily by our clever arguments, scary religious tracts, impressive programs, or our sheer insistence that they are going to hell unless they share our theological opinions. No, they are to be won over by the way in which we replicate Calvary to them. They are to see and experience the reality of the coming Kingdom in us." The reality of the Kingdom of God is not merely an ideal, it is as real as the body and blood of Christ. It is time for the community of faith to call on the Holy Spirit to ignite us, melding us together as an alloy: One body under One God by One Baptism.

Let us pray, together, Fr. Sergius Bulkakov's prayer for unity:

O Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour
thou didst promise to abide with us always.
Thou dost call all Christians
to draw near and partake
of Thy Body and Blood,
But our sin has divided us
and we have no power to partake
of Thy Holy Eucharist together.
We confess this our sin and we pray Thee,
forgive us and help us to serve the ways
of reconciliation, according to Thy Will.
Kindle our hearts with the fire
of the Holy Spirit,
give us the spirit of Wisdom and faith,
of daring and of patience,
of humility and firmness,
of love and of repentance,
through the prayers of the
most blessed Mother of God
and of all the saints.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

St. Seraphim of Sarov

If you've not heard the story of St. Seraphim of Sarov you should. So, I will tell it to you now. He was a sickly child and was healed when his mother held him up to a local "miracle-working" icon, The Mother of God. He entered the monastary as a novice in Sarov when he was 18. He was a devout and excellent prayer and lived simply especially in his eating. When he did eat, it wasn't much. He grew ill after one prayer retreat in the woods and was healed again in the presence of The Mother of God.

He took the monastic vows at 27 and given the name Seraphim which means "fiery" or "burning." This reflected his prayer life most appropriately. Once on retreat deep in the wilderness he was attacked by robbers demanding everything he had. He simply placed his axe on the ground and crossed his arms over his chest. The robbers beat him with his axt handle until he bled from his mouth and ears. They trampled him and drug him along the ground. The robbers only quit when they thought he was dead. After he recovered and the robbers were caught, Seraphim spoke out on their behalf. Seraphim walked hunched over for the rest of his life.

One day he was teaching his student, Motovilov about the Christian life and what it took to be a real follower of Christ. Seraphim said, "It is necessary that the Holy Spirit enter our heart. Everything good that we do, that we do for Christ, is given to us by the Holy Spirit, but prayer most of all, which is always available to us."

Motovilov asked how he could see the grace of the Holy Spirit and how did he know whether He was with him or not. Seraphim told the stories and examples of the saints and the apostles, but Motovilov was still confused. Seraphim took him by the arm and said, "My friend, we both are in the Holy Spirit right now!" It was as if scales fell from Motovilov's eyes and he saw the face of Seraphim shining brighter than the sun. Motovilov felt a peace in his heart and a gentle warming of his entire body. Seraphim said, "Do not fear, dear fellow. You would not even be able to see me if you yourself were not in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Thank the Lord for His mercy toward us." This is how Motovilov came to understand the presence of the Holy Spirit and transfiguration.

St. Seraphim of Sarov is someone for us all to look at and admire and learn from. He is a true part of our Canonical Heritage of persons, materials, and practices.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

To Hell and Back: a devotional

The Apostle’s Creed

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and buried.

He descended into hell.

The third day He arose again from the dead.

He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.


First of all you should know that the Creed as we know it today was not settled until around the sixth century. However, it has as its form and structure the very teachings of Jesus Christ to his apostles as he was taken up to “sit at the right hand of God, the Father, almighty.” It is no accident that it is called the Apostle’s Creed. It has, in fact, at its very nucleus the core teachings of those who had seen the resurrected Lord. Its form is the very name of God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

With that, I want to focus on two lines. First, “He descended into hell.” Where did it come from and what does it mean? It came from scripture as well as the ante-scripture beliefs of first century Christians. As H. Ray Dunning points out, it could be that this literally meant that because of Christ’s becoming sin for us he was to also suffer the consequence of eternal separation from God as well. 2 Corinthians 5:21 states the case, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Of course, we are Wesleyan so we need to at least see what Wesley says about it. His interpretation is that “He became a ‘sin offering’ for us.”

However, the word hell here is also about the “place of the dead” or “Hades.” In the Creed it is a way of emphasizing the passion of the Christ, as Dunning says, “experiencing the reality of his suffering and death, which he tasted for every person.” Hebrews 2:9 (NRSV) says, “but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”

Luther said, “No one ever feared death so much as this Man.” This death and descent into hell is not so much about the division between us (in sin) and God, but about the division between God when Jesus screams out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34).

None of this is very devotional and I was trying to read this Creed devotionally, so I will try to do that now. Hans Urs Von Balthasar says (with William Placher as his mouth piece), “Yes, the descent into hell did come after Christ’s death, but it was not a victory march but a movement into radical loneliness and darkness in solidarity with those who have rejected God.” Thus the words of the Psalmist are proved, “Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”

The second line I want to look at is particularly because we are in the Easter season. We are celebrating the part of the Creed that is the victory of us all. We cannot merely stop at the descent and not see it through. There is no darkness God will not enter, no hell he is afraid of, there is not lengths he will not go to in order to reconcile his children. He is truly the Hound of Heaven. He is the Christ who will go to hell and back to save his people. This is the radical, life-giving atonement of God that is entirely about his love for us and desire for communion with us: first incarnation, then death, then resurrection, and he will come again. Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. This is truly something to devote our lives to.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

What Are You Thinking About This Week?

Here is a short list of a few things that I'm thinking about this week. What are all of you thinking about and why?

1. The Holy Trinity as the actual name of God (or Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) Oooh, which reminds me. I just learned that El Shaddai is usually translated "the Almighty" but is more literally translated as "the Breasted One" and is always used in maternal contexts. with that in mind, William C. Placher chooses to describe God as "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, One God, Mother of us all." Brilliant!
2. Donatist and Arian controversies in the early church and the Eastern Fathers' response
3. Ending world poverty by convincing North Americans and Europeans to stop eating ice cream (see Jeffrey Sachs' The End of Poverty)
4. The most effective way to hold a paper airplane contest for families
5. Getting my tax stuff to my tax guy
6. Missing Julia because she's at a writer's conference in Kansas City
7. When am I going to get Brian Wiprud's new book and looking forward to the new Harry Potter

So, what are you thinking about this week.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

It's Not About Us

That’s right. I said it. What Galileo proved about the Sun 500 years ago, we’re still having trouble figuring out about God. I mean, that God does not revolve around the Earth, or me, or you for that matter. And when it comes to worship, the biggest disservice we do to ourselves and to our children is mistaking our music, our emotions, our praise, our thanksgiving, our instruction, even our love for our worship of the Triune God.
And we’re teaching this to our children.
So, what is worship? We’re teaching them that worship is simply singing and a sermon. It is determined by performance and style. And the most important thing is that worship be relevant to us. But worship comes from worth. That simply means that we tell God who He is — and he will always be the sole subject. When “I” becomes the subject of your sentence, even “I love you” is not worship.
This “I” rears its ugly head in other ways. Anyone heard of the “worship wars?” Do we leave church frustrated because we haven’t “gotten anything out of the sermon?” Or do we squirm or shudder when a child’s cry pierces the air disrupting our prayers?
Try this sometime: without using any personal pronouns like I, me, or my, adore God . . . It’s hard isn’t it? Before we think we’ve got the “worship thing” figured out. . . Just remember how easily our own minds wandered during that last prayer service or how easy it is to require “being fed” as our criteria for “good” worship.
In the book, Teaching Kids Authentic Worship, Kathleen Chapman seeks to reassert a basic fact about God and all of us. When we genuinely return our focus back to God — and who He is— we return to our rightful place in relationship to Him. It’s a humbling thought. We are not the center of the universe. We are God’s people reflecting His image into the world.
So, what is worship? And what does this mean for pre-schoolers who are just beginning to recognize they aren’t the center of the universe? This is a question I want to explore with our pre-school team and with you as parents in the coming weeks and months. I want us to think seriously about what we model and teach about worship to our youngest generation. How do we teach our children what true worship is? How does our Kinderchurch space focus our children toward worship? How do we sincerely incorporate our children into intergenerational worship times? And most importantly, how do we foster authentic worship practices in our children?
I believe that children need to worship. They can, sometimes with more imagination and honesty than we adults can muster, come face to face with the living Triune God. Let’s celebrate the gift of worship God has given to every one of us. Thank goodness it isn’t about us! God is the one who delivers, protects, and provides for His people. And He does it even when we aren’t asking for it.

I wrote this for "The Stream" our monthly preschool newsletter (March issue), but I thought others might like to comment.

The past 2 weeks I have done a worship "exercise" with the Kinderchurch children (ages 3-K). Last week we spent 30 seconds in silence listening to what God was saying to us. You know what? God spoke to 3 year olds! He told one boy that He loved him. He told another girl that she should be kind to her sister. Crazy! This week we spent another time of silence waiting for God to bring a neighbor to mind. These children reverently closed their eyes and bowed their heads and people that they can love and care for came to their mind.

Why do we still choose the strong things of this world -- the brilliant successes, the stunning victories of strength and will to "prove" our God? They shame us.

"But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, (1 Corinthians 1:27-30)."

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Happy Valentines Day to Everyone!

I found this little gem from the past and so I'm sending it to everyone I love. I'm not particularly fond of Valentine's Day, because of it's misplaced emphasis (like Mother's and Father's Day) upon spending money and effort for what you should be doing anyway. But since Evan informed me today that there actually was a Saint Valentine, I'll let it pass. You'll never believe this, but I never was boy crazy. Now you know why. The only way I know this is from 4th grade is that I am wearing glasses. (That was the same year my Halloween costume fell off in front of an entire classroom of 4th grade boys. Don't ask.) I made the blouse that I'm wearing for 4-H. I was such a nerd -- and it actually got worse.

I'm so glad Evan married me.


I am officially a student of United Theological Seminary. I finally received my acceptance news last week and began classes and colloquoy this week. United is a graduate school of the United Methodist Church. In 1871, United Theological Seminary was founded as Union Bible Seminary under the direction of the Rev. Milton Wright. Other notables involved in the school are former president, Leonard Sweet, and current preaching professor, Richard Eslinger. I am in the MTS program and am very excited.

Incidently, you might recognize the name of that first president of the seminary. He had two sons, Wilbur and Orville. They had something to do with airplanes or something. I say if God hand intended us to fly, he would have given us the ingenuity to build something to help us do it.

Anyway, it's good to be in school again.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Christ as the Retarded Boy

Alexander Schmemann is so wise. I first discovered him (well, not Schmemann, but a book of his) in the Desert Wisdom book store, a little Eastern Orthodox church with a store at street level in Kansas City. I bought his book Of Water & the Spirit: a Liturgical Study of Baptism. In it he talks about the history and liturgy of baptism. It has done a lot, as much as Rob Staples, to shape the way I think about sacrament and specifically baptism. On page twenty Schmemann writes, "Conversion is not an event in the realm and on the level of ideas, as so many people think today. It is not the choice of an 'ideology,' not even an answer to 'problems'-a word delightfully ignored by the early Church and the Holy Scripture. It is truly an escape from darkness and despair. One comes to Christ in order to be saved and because there is no other salvation."

Sometimes people ask me how old I was when I was saved. I think I was three, but I don't know for sure. I have always been Christian, that is, a follower of Christ. I have always, as long as I can remember, confessed his Lordship. When I was thirteen I experienced a 'strange warming of the heart' that I have always thought of as sanctification. I grew up politically conservative, rigidly so, a real Republican in the editorial sense of the word (think Limbaugh). I always assumed myself on the right path. When I was seventeen, my youth pastor introduced me to Soren Kierkegaard (what seventeen year old isn't interested in 19th Century Danish philosophy). I've been hooked on such things since.

However, everything changed the next year. I attended Edison College in Ft. Meyers, Florida for my freshman year. I met with a group of Christians almost every week for a time of worship and devotion in this little room with no air conditioning. The windows were open, but in the afternoon in South Florida even the wind is naturally heated. There was a retarded boy on campus and he was fat. Before I'm arrested for not knowing better than to speak in such a way of another human being, I am painting a picture of offense that must be painted (I'll allow this counselor, go on). He was retarded and enormous and he didn't wash his clothes often, he had holes in his shoes. Not only were his clothes not washed often, but they didn't fit properly so there was a good 5 inches of crack showing. Worse than all of that, he smelled wretched, as though he didn't really have a good concept of what it meant to wipe.

As the stuffy wet air in that room wafted around, gaining strength each time it passed the retarded boy, it would accost me and those around me, holding us up for our lunch money. I looked around at my friends and they would wince everytime they smelled the retarded boy. I've never seen such faces (except maybe in the church). They would turn their heads, scowl, and move away from the smell. It was a small room and it was crowded, but no one stood within three feet of that fat retarded boy as we sang songs of worship and praise.

The last time I remember a hot breeze blowing and smelling the boy is when it happened. I have thought a lot about it since then. I can't stop thinking about it. But when that foggy smell hit me, I looked up. The retarded boy turned and looked at me and smiled at me. In that moment, not figuratively, but literally and mystically I saw the bloodied, beaten, spit on, pissed on face of Christ smiling at me and I died. I don't know who I thought I was before that, but in that moment I was saved. To this day I don't know how to talk about it except in terms of mysticism. This was no imagined event, it happened. And I never looked at the boy the same. I wish I could talk to him now. I wish I could thank him. I wish I could give him a hug and smell him.

Years later when I read what Schmemann wrote about salvation not being in the realm of ideas, I understood. It was the Christ of Our Lord who looked at me and smiled as a retarded boy, and I was saved from darkness and despair. Thanks be to God. Now, you'll know what I mean if you ever hear me say that Jesus was a retarded boy because that day he was.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Why Didn't Anyone Tell Me This Before?

I have been reading Kenneth Scott Latourette's A History of Christianity: Beginnings to 1500 and read that King Herod was not even Jewish. I had always assumed that he was not only of Jewish stock, but also a descendant, albeit distant, of David. Poor assumption on my part. Apparently he got lucky and married into the Maccabeean family. There he set up a deal with the Romans and appointed himself King of Israel. Of course we all know he rebuilt the temple and everyone lived happily ever after. Well, actually he killed his wife and at least two of his children, his brother in-law, another wife, the other wife's mother, and possible several others just to stay in power, and everyone pretty much hated him, so really no one lived happily ever after.

Anyway, I write all this because I didn't know it before. I didn't know Herod was a Maccabeean wannabe with no real right to the throne. No one told me and it really would have made a lot more sense with the whole scared of Jesus thing. No wonder he killed all those babies in Bethlehem.

Very interesting nonetheless. Here is Giotto's "Massacre of the Innocents."

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

I Want to Direct Your Attention to . . .

I want to just direct your attention to another blog. Please take the time to look at Real Live Preacher's short 6 minute videos "Read the Bible." They are very thoughtful and he has a lot of good stuff to say for the beginner and scholar alike.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Evan's Most Favored 2006 Awards

Okay, it's been a couple of weeks and it's time for Evan's Most Favored 2006 Awards. As you may or may not know, the eligibility is based on my reading, seeing, hearing, etc. in that given year. For instance this years fiction award goes to a book that was published June 1, 2004. However, I read the book in 2006, therefore it is eligible. Remember, these are very fun favorites that you could feel relatively good about supporting. So, without further explanation, Evan's Most Favored 2006 Awards.

Most Favored Movie 2006

This was not particularly a difficult decision as 2006 was a year of mostly unmemorable movies. There were a few that stood out, even a made for TV movie (Sometimes in April about genocide in Rwanda in 1994). But the film selected for this category impacted me on several levels. It deals with some of the same issues as last years Most Favored Movie, death of a parent, juvenile main character, non US setting. And the Most Favored Movie 2006 is . . . Duma, directed by Caroll Ballard.

Most Favored Printed Work of Fiction 2006

As I said earlier, this book was released in 2004, but I didn't read it until 2006. It's author is relatively unknown, but anyone who writes a murder mystery involving rockabilly, taxidermy, and communism isn't sane enough to go wrong. And the Most Favored Printed Work of Fiction 2006 is . . . Pipsqueak by Brian Wiprud.

Most Favored Printed Work of Nonfiction 2006

This is always a difficult choice as there are so many great books out there. This year, though, I read three that should be given particular attention: Myth of a Christian Nation by Gregory Boyd, Most Moved Mover by Clark Pinnock, For All the Saints? by N. T. Wright. And the Most Favored Printed Work of Nonfiction 2006 is . . . For All the Saints?: Remembering the Christian Departed by N. T. Wright.

Most Favored Television Show 2006
This is a new show for me. It was chosen for its simple complexities. Not merely because it's another mystery police procedural, but for its nod to Sherlock Holmes in a institutionalized sort of way. And the Most Favored Television Show 2006 is . . . Monk.

Most Favored Magician 2006

This is always a difficult category for me because it's such a limited field. Ricky Jay stole the title from Penn and Teller last year who held it for two years before that. They took it away in 2003 from Lance Burton. This year they take it back because of their hit Showtime show. And the Most Favored Magician 2006 is . . . Penn and Teller.

Most Favored Band/Musician 2006

This is another difficult category because I am so particular about what I listen to. I demand quality writing and overall sound. Julia calls me a music snob. I am a huge fan of Punk Rock and the Blues, but eventually we grow up. This year the award is based on his Songs for Silverman album as well as his soundtrack to Hoodwinked. And the Most Favored Band/Musician 2006 is . . . again . . . Ben Folds.

Most Favored Talk Show Host 2006

This is chosen not based on political views (I feel like I need to make that very clear). It is based on entertainment value. And the Most Favored Talk Show Host 2006 is . . . again . . . Glenn Beck