Saturday, November 29, 2008
Friday, September 12, 2008
What I can say is that we like where we are -- Ohio. The Midwest suits me fine, and Evan's ok with it, except for allergies. We LOVE our house, which I think is rare in pastoral ministry. It's not extravagant, but it is an absolutely beautiful old house that has pretty much everything we want, little that we don't want, and just enough room for the future. Evan has also benefited immensely from his time at UTS. It has been the medicine he has needed at several critical points.
That said, the suburban lifestyle that we have had to adapt to here has been a struggle. I don't think this is particular to Ohio, but it is very different from the urbanized or the rural cultures of our previous churches. It is subversive and deceptive, particularly when it comes to living a Christian life, and I think both Evan and I have been at some loss in how to live the way we feel we have been called and continue to minister to people with such different values and priorities.
I don't say that demeaning or arrogantly. But this has been our growing observation, even as we continue to deepen our relationships with the people we've met here.
However, we've hit a wall. And we've both needed a new measure of grace to know whether to climb over, dig under or build a door. Thankfully, God has placed a few people in our lives that have given us encouragement to keep going, even if they have not told us what we need to do. They have also challenged us.
And to that end, we have made a decision to begin truly living by the priorities and convictions of our calling. And we will live with the consequences of them. We have concluded that if we do not reclaim some of these things, we will not survive.
Therefore, we declare:
1. Sabbath will be observed in our household.
2. Further simplification of our necessities and our luxuries so that we may give more to others in the local and global community.
3. The Christian calendar will be our mark for time.
4. Greater focus on our educational and professional goals as they support our call serve the Church.
5. Our practice of specific behaviors (ie. detachment, lectio divina, OSL, etc.) that will allow us to continue in our vocational ministry.
These are five broad declarations that have many specifics already attached to them. Those are things that probably don't require posting on a blog site. But I just wanted to let you know, that we may be saying "No," to somethings now, and "Yes," to some other things that we would not have not too long ago.
I hope that you will pray for us as we begin to reorient our life toward this recovered vision our life in Christ.
"The gospel at its best deals with the whole man, not only his soul but his body, not only his spiritual well-being, but his material well-being. Any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them and the social conditions that cripple them is a spiritually moribund religion awaiting burial."
Thursday, September 04, 2008
First an example:
Some of you may know that as I've gotten older I've actually become more "liberal." I use that term very loosely because I am not liberal theologically. Neither am I fundamentalist. But I tend to approach politics the way I approach church. As much as it pains me sometimes, I tend to honor the faith or political persuasions of my fathers. I think there is something to be said about blessing being passed down through generations honoring God. When I'm fencewalking I tend to go conservative politically as well.
All that to say, I was kind of excited about Sarah Palin as McCain's VP pick. To this point, McCain kind of creeped me out. I'm not big into military service being the sole character qualification for President, even if it's an amazing story. I perceive McCain as an opportunist and barely conservative.
But, I like Sarah Palin.
First, she's a reformer. It is possible for those with a conservative bent to expect reform within an institution. Does "conservative" mean anti-change? I don't think it has to.
Even better, she's a reformer of her own party. It seems pretty easy for Dems to hold Pubs "accountable," and vice versa, but how many are willing to look internally, admit wrong and clean house?
Of course, it helps that she's a woman. And not just a man in rainbow's array of women's pantsuits. She actually wears dresses and her hair long. That cracks me up. Plus she's like a baby machine, which is very disconcerting. She's been criticized and picked apart endlessly for this fact. Which is quite funny (not funny ha ha, of course, but your know, funny queer) considering our uterine abilities are what make us women uniquely useful to society.
Unlike Hillary, who displayed her frigid femininity in a very over-population-conscious token Chelsea, Sarah just can't stop producing these babies!
That admiration might seem strange coming from me -- childless -- with only passing desires to bear children. I mean, how many times have I heard or heard implied the wisdom that is apparently immediately bestowed on a woman who has born a child? Give me a break.
But more than this child-bearing ability, is Palin's ability to be a GOVERNOR of a state and the mother of a five-month old SPECIAL NEEDS child at the same time. Unlike so many women in my age group, Palin has not abdicated her responsibility or role within the community because she bore a child 5 months ago or has four others following behind.
Admittedly, one factor that has kept Evan and I from having children is that we have an inkling that we would not be able to serve the Church with the same depth or bredth that we currently do. Children are a commitment of money, time and love that we would, at this point, rather offer the Church than anything else. Furthermore, the sad fact is, men do not have to answer for their families in the way women do - whether it's in professional, academic or ecclesial worlds. But Palin has challenged that notion for me. Must I sacrifice my potential intellectual and societal contributions for my potential children? Palin suggests I do not.
So Mothers, tell me I don't understand. No, you don't understand. Tell that to Sarah Palin.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Here's the deal, I don't know who to vote for. I need your help. I'm looking to be convinced. I'm trying to decide who to vote for. Which loser should be president. The fact is that one must be an absolute megalomaniac to even want to be president. "Oh, look at me! I'm the only one who can lead the world!" So, here's the deal. My vote goes to the highest bidder! The currency is the best argument (fact based) as to who will be the best person for the job. That is to say, not the lesser of evils. The lesser of evils is not acceptable. I will vote for the best person for the job, whether or not that person is "officially" running.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Lord have mercy.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Jack Shafer, slate.com, "The New Yorker Draws Fire"
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Then, in today’s meeting, one of the parents in the meeting suddenly realized what her daughter was talking about the other day as she counted down from five. A child in the world dies from hunger every five seconds, her daughter told her. The mother dismissed it at the time. But her daughter knew better. Even if her daughter could not identify with true hunger or starvation, she could still identify with a nameless child.
It seems to me that true giving originates not from sympathy but from empathy. That is solidarity. We can only give as Christ gave when we attempt to walk in someone else's shoes. I admit I usually fail miserably at this because usually when I give, I like it -- because it makes ME feel better about myself. My pity for someone else’s situation rarely crosses over to something Christlike. But when I have done it right, it hurts. Shouldn’t I grieve? Shouldn’t I really lose something? The logical end of following Christ does not end at our own salvation. It is taking up the very cross he bore through the streets of his beloved city; it is sacrifice for others.
Do we kid ourselves otherwise? Thinking that the goal of drawing our children and families into Christian service is that they will enjoy it. That they find “fulfillment.” It becomes another drug, another Baal of choice, that widens the gulf between “us” and “them;” between ourselves and our neighbor.
I love the hymn of Philippians 2. It’s something I haven’t gotten past because I haven’t gotten there yet.
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (NRSV)
Thursday, July 03, 2008
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
you rulers of Sodom!
Listen to the teaching of our God,
you people of Gomorrah!
I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts;
When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand?
bringing offerings is futile;
incense is an abomination to me.
I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.
they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them.
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers, I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood.
make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
says the Lord:
they shall be like snow;
Friday, June 27, 2008
It underscores what we (Evan and I), as behaviorists, have said before about longterm effective reinforcement - Positive/negative, Certain and Immediate consequences. I am not a parent, but I have experienced many times in a multitude of contexts how consistency and calmness results in obedience and respect. I'm pretty good about the immediate and the calmness aspects. I had not considered the timing. When I enforce a timeout with a child, I usually use terms like "take a break," rather than "time out," in part, simply to remove them immediately from the bad behavior and create a space where they can start over with new positive behaviors. I also try to name specifically what their doing wrong. Even though some things we have read have said to not provide an individual warning once the rules for behavior are laid out, I try to enforce the consequence after only one warning. That can be a hard thing to do.
The other thing I've noticed is that, even at a young age, the child will try to shift blame or include others in the correction. (This is true of tattling in general.) This may not seem fair, but I simply call the child on his/her own behavior. e.g. "I told you not to do this . . . not Bud. You need to think about your actions not Bud's. Etc."
I think this has been pretty effective because I think they sense I'm not there to make their lives miserable. They also know I mean what I say. And they will obey me, then, in other things as well.
These are some great kids!
What do you think about this article's definition of the time out? What would your greatest weakness be in implementing the technique according to the article? Any other suggestions in making the timeout effective?
Thursday, June 26, 2008
I appreciate his recognition of consistent pro-life convictions emerging among younger evangelicals.
I remember this big picture connection between God and life being made for me at a seminar with Tim Green on Old Testament preaching (or something like that) at MVNU. Thanks Tim!
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
If you're not from Illinois, you may not understand. But I am from Illinois, so I'm always a bit suspicious of those in Illinios politics (sorry Marc) and the Chicago machine. I'm not sold on Obama for reasons other than that. But who is J.D. to declare who is rightly or wrongly using Scripture?
Amazing . . .
Friday, June 20, 2008
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Monday, June 16, 2008
Friday, June 13, 2008
Once again, I am teaching something I have had no formal training in. Yeah!
I was (and am) happy to have the opportunity to teach for the Southwest Ohio district ministry classes. As usual, it happens to be something that I, myself, did not go to school for. That's ok. I imagine most professors are making up most of their stuff too. I'm teaching Introduction to Christian Education. Fortunately, unlike physical science, I do not have to take another certification test in order to teach this.
I went online and found 4 or 5 different CE syllabus from different Methodist, Nazarene schools and cobbled together my own working bibliography and outline for the class.
The truth is, education seems to get relegated to the side lines in favor of more attention getting ministry endeavors -- preaching, music, etc.
Walter Bruggeman has said, “Every community that wants to last beyond a single generation must concern itself with education.” That's must be true not just for a faith community, but it is particularly true.
I think the most liberating thing for me was realizing that education in the faith takes place everywhere in the church -- but we need to be aware and intentional about it. I figured this out at St. Paul's in Kansas City. I was trying to acclimate myself to my new associate pastor position, really understanding what that meant for my call and that local community. I read Educating Congregations by Charles R. Foster. He talked about creating events within the life of the church that form and transform. Just as the Passover recalls the Exodus story in vivid chewy details, a local faith community must recall and recreate the moments in their journey that made and make them who they are.
When I figured this out, it opened up new horizons for purpose in what we did and what we said. Just a few opportunities I had in the time I was there - a series of worship banners and paraments for the entire church year, fellowship infused with meaning (St. Patrick's Day cabbage and corned beef, Shrove Tuesday pancakes, etc.), Remember your Baptism video (including people from our church telling their baptism stories), intergenerational and family events (marble tournament, Advent wreath making night), ministry to our local parish (Block Party, staff prayer as we walked around the blocks of our neighborhood), Covenant groups using Wesley's covenant questions, creating a multi-cultural Nativity set with Anglo shepherds, Asian and middle-Eastern wisemen, an African angel, and an Indian Mary. But the list could go on.
The thing that I remember about these community events and efforts were 1) their intentionality 2) the intergenerationality 3) their participation.
What Evan and I struggle with right now is the conviction that pastoral ministry is substantially different than any other job in the world. The time I need to spend in prayer, preparation and in activity is qualitatively and quantitatively different than a CEO, a lawyer, a teacher, doctor, or any other profession would need to spend doing what they do. Because we are not CEO's or business people, my bottom line is not money, or tasks completed, or even numbers people. It is lives.
And as Anna Carter Florence points out in her recent lectionary reflections, "Think about the ordination services you have taken part in, recently. Have Jesus’ words in this passage ever appeared in the liturgy? My job is to charge the newly ordained, so I charge you, our Associate Pastor for Christian Nurture here at First Church, to do four things: cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons. Start with the Sunday School and then go after the youth group."
I appreciate that.
For this is the essential nature of Christian education -- a growing knowledge of Christ so that we may actually become more like him. And Christ does not call any of us to a faith built upon the most gold stars for attendance, the longest most urgent prayers, or the most convincing argument for the world being made in seven days. Empty works, false piety, intellectual bullying are not faith.
Vital Christian faith comes in our being restored to his Image. Meaning and integration comes as we see Him in each other. We see the Holy Spirit at work in our own lives and in the lives of our brothers and sisters. We can begin to name where God is among us. And where He still needs to come.
So that's what I have to say about CE right now. Where does CE take place in your local congregation? Is is "working" or isn't it? What events, outside the formal settings such as Sunday School or specific Bible study, does your community learn the faith?
Thursday, May 29, 2008
We thought we would go over to the Westside Market today, so we walked over a bridge with a highway and huge trucks barrelling past us.
We got over there. Found the market. It's closed. I was kind of irritated. So we're going to try again tomorrow.
3.5 miles - ok, I'm tired and I think my head got burnt some more.
So I worked on finishing my curriculum stuff the rest of the afternoon. Evan went geocaching for awhile.
We went to an Irish pub a couple blocks away for dinner. Evan had shepherd's pie and I had fish and chips. Very good. We sat and read for awhile. Evan read Ullyses, of course.
Tomorrow, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (hopefully with Paul and Tiffany), Westside Market, and a Rejuvinating Hand Treatment at the Spa downstairs. I've never had a manicure so we'll see.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
We get to our seats and it is FREEZING because we're in the shade the entire time. It was a school day - so we had these hordes of kids in our section getting up and down the entire time. We moved down with the people behind us for awhile to sit in the sun where some lady asked us to move because the kids with her were supposed to be coming. I said, "Ok," and smiled. I would get up when they actually got there. The lady next to me totally gave her dirty looks and we started talking. If they can't sit in their seats and watch the game then surely I can keep warm for a little while.
Here we are finally in the sun. The kids still wouldn't sit down but we were warm.
The Indians lost 6 to 5. Oh well, it was still fun. And after all that we ended up with sunburns!
On the way back to the hotel, we went geocaching in an old cemetery. We found two different caches in there, and I always like visiting old graveyards like this.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Saturday, May 03, 2008
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
I wish you'd known me when I was alive, I was a funny feller
The crowd would hoot and holler for more
I wore a drunk's red nose for applause
Oh yes I was a comical priest
"With a joke for the flock and a hand up your fleece"
Drooling the drink and the lipstick and greasepaint
Down the cardboard front of my dirty dog-collar
Now I'm dead, now I'm dead, now I'm dead,
now I'm dead, now I'm dead
And I'm going on to meet my reward
I was scared, I was scared, I was scared, I was scared
He might of never heard God's Comic
So there he was on a water-bed
Drinking a cola of a mystery brand
Reading an airport novelette, listening to
Andrew Lloyd-Webber's "Requiem"
He said, before it had really begun, "I prefer the one about my son"
"I've been wading through all this unbelievable
junk and wondering if I should have given
the world to the monkeys"
I'm going to take a little trip down Paradise's
They say that travel broadens the mind, till you
can't get your head out of doors
I'm sitting here on the top of the world
I hang around in the longest night
Until each beast has gone bed and then I say
"God bless" and turn out the light
While you lie in the dark, afraid to breathe and
you beg and you promise
And you bargain and you plead
Sometimes you confuse me with Santa Claus
It's the big white beard I suppose
I'm going up to the pole, where you folks die of cold
I might be gone for a while if you need me
Now I'm dead, now I'm dead, now I'm dead,
now I'm dead, now I'm dead and you're all
going on to meet your reward
Are you scared? Are you scared? Are you scared? Are you scared?
You might have never heard, but God's comic
Monday, March 03, 2008
Read Genesis 2:4-7
What is it about Spring that we love so much? You know I like autumn and summer, and sometimes winter, when the snow has just fallen and everything is so white . . . but spring is just such a sigh of relief after being cold and wet and rainy for months. Even when it’s still kind of nippy outside, and you still have to wear a jacket, you can smell spring in the air, like nothing else. You know exactly when the season changes when it’s spring.
In fact, if you walk down any bath and beauty
isle, spring is what they sell – read some of the labels and brands of bath gel, soap, shampoo, etc.
I don’t think it’s an accident that we celebrate one of the most important day of the Christian year in the spring.
In fact, the day we celebrate the Lord’s resurrection is timed to go along with the season itself. Easter actually means “spring.” We use eggs and bunnies and flowers to remind ourselves of what the celebration is about – new life, growth, a fresh start.
I wonder if it was always spring in the Garden? You know . . . plants always growing and flowering. Fresh, clean smells. Water keeping the grass and plants lush and beautiful. And if this is the world that we lived in, why don’t we live in it now?
I think you know the answer to that question: Adam and Eve. Now these were the creatures that we just read about. The creation that he first thought about when he went out to the riverbed to make mud pies. His fingernails full of mud, there was a crust of dirt all the way up to his elbows. He had formed these riverbeds in the early days of
his creation after He separated the waters above from the waters below. Then he had pooled those waters below into oceans and seas and lakes and flowing rivers. What was left was sticky, goopy and brown. He remembered that when he started shaping the mud into human form.
God was getting warm with all this work, and he stared up into the sun that he had created just a few days ago. It baked the mud and caused a warm breeze to make the
river sparkle. God wasn’t finished.
The body lay limp by the river, all wet and slimy, until God came over and held the man’s head in his hands and did the first CPR ever.
The breath of God filled the man’s lungs up like a balloon and then God took his muddy fingers and gently squeezed his chest.
God had put a little bit of himself into the man. Not that he would be God, himself, but that he would take the same pleasure in playing the mud or in being warmed by the sun as God the Creator himself did. He wanted something, someone to share his pleasure with and that someone would need to have that ability to smile like God, to talk like God, to respond to creation like his creator. Being made of the earth itself and alive now because of God’s own breath, God figured that this man, and very soon the woman, would be his comp
anions in this new creation of His. They could reflect his pleasure and his affection for his creatures in the world.
But His final and most daring act of creation was actually the ones who messed everything up. You see, God had created something very special within them. He put something of himself in them. And it was something so unique, so different, so dangerous that despite such beautiful surroundings and a perfect relationship with God, they said, “No!”
Instead they looked at themselves in the mirror and said “Yes - we can do this on our own. We don’t need God to be like him . . . “
But what would we see in a mirror if there were no face looking into it? What happens to the image in the mirror when the lights are turned off? There is no i
mage, no reflection. The image of himself that God had created in us was distorted, changed, marred when we said “No” to him.
This is Bad News.
Like the paintings that Pastor Evan showed last night, God’s image in us becomes water damaged, cracked and stained. The things in this world, like sin, wear us down to where or thoughts, our attitudes our selves don’t look anything like what God created us to be. We need the artist to come back and restore His image upon us.
Read: 2 Corinthians 5:16-17
Have you ever tried to see these images? The secret to seeing them is not to look at the picture, but to look through it. Here’s a couple designs . . . can you tell what these images are?
This is God’s image in us. He not only restores his image in us so that we reflect Him in the world, but we also look at the world differently as well. We see it with new eyes, as his creation, deserving on respect, compassion, even love. And it’s not really something that we’ll immediately see by looking at the surface of things . . . God imbedded this image deep within us and when he restores His image he gives us eyes that can see beyond the surface of things.
This is the Good News.
Remember the Fruit of the Spirit – Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindnes, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-control? These don’t happen because were good at these things. Their not personality traits – we’re not born with any of these things. In fact, because Adam – so many years ago, said “No” to God, these fruit don’t grow in us naturally. What they do is show a restored image in us. When we bear these fruit in our lives – by showing kindness to others, be being gentle, by encouraging peace with our parents, friends, etc., choosing to do the right thing and exercising self-control over behaviors that can harm us – we exhibit the Artist’s restoration of our painting.
God is the one who is kind and gentle, patient and faithful. If we can reflect those things we are who we are supposed to be.
Remember, this is Good News, because it God’s Holy Spirit that makes this happen. If you can think of things right now in your life that has not been kind, or gentle or loving, or good, know that at some point you have said “No” to God. You’ve tried to create an image on your own, and you realize that it is not what you have been created to be.
Know, also, that God, through His own Spirit, is ready and able, to restore His image within you.