Monday, December 19, 2005

Ten Things I Think I Think

1a) I think you'll enjoy our web page Christmas card my wife put together. See it here at . Merry Christmas to you all from our entire family!

1b) The Bucher family broke Baby Jesus this Saturday. Actually, it was Aimee, who upon taking out our nativity scene, accidentally dropped the Baby Jesus, resulting in him (and his manger) being halved. Aimee said that when she was young, she believed her sister when she told her that you'd suffer 7 years bad luck upon breaking a mirror.

So what's the penalty for breaking Baby Jesus?

Well, as a pastor, you can't help but think about these things theologically. Initially I told Aimee that breaking the Baby Jesus had to be 10 times worse than a mirror, so she should have good luck again when she's 104. But after much more contemplation, I believe that since Jesus said that we needed to forgive other not just 7 times, but 70x7 times, that Aimee's probably going to be OK. She'd need to break Baby Jesus 489 more times before we'd need to worry about some sort of cosmic hammer coming down on her head. We could always just make unpacking the nativity my job after break 480 or so, just to be safe.

2) Saw that the Bengals were running the "no-huddle" offense yesterday, just like back in the day when Sam Wyche was the coach and Boomer Esaison QB'ed. I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same. Now if only Rudy Johnson would bring back the "Ickey Shuffle"....

3) We finally bought a Christmas tree Saturday. Dad called me in a hurried frenzy that afternoon to let me know that The Andersons had marked all of their trees down to $10. The boys and I ended up picking an eight-foot Douglas Fir (the King of all Trees!) that was originally marked at $89. It was such a remarkable deal that the girl at the checkout called the manager, probably convinced that this large, strange-looking man and his two wild boys were trying to put on over the Anderson family. Who tries to con someone out of a Christmas tree?

Anyhow, this tree is the biggest one we've ever owned. It took us an hour to get it inside, and balanced in the tree stand in such a way as it wouldn't fall over. If our neighborhood was a schoolyard, and all the Christmas trees in it were the kids, our tree would be bully that beats up your tree and takes it's lunch money. It's a brute, and we love it!

4) Hey blog nation, want to go to Israel? We've got about 7 slots left for our big Israel excursion happening in late May. Twelve days walking where Jesus walked, and you get to do it next to me... how could that be anything but great!?! Go down underneath Temple Mount and see what's been excavated. Walk in the Garden in Gesthemene, sail on the Sea of Galilee, and stand on the steps of Caiphus' excavated house, the very place Jesus stood the night he was betrayed. It's open to anyone (all my loyal Goshen readers are welcome to come with us), but space is going fast. Please email if you'd like more info at .

5) Max woke up with the stomach flu this morning. He made multiple trips to go "talk on the porcelain phone". Not a pretty site. We're hoping he's feeling better tomorrow, and that the rest of us get it, and get over it, before Christmas.

6) Speaking of Christmas, you can catch me preaching on Christmas Eve this year at Shawnee's 8:30pm and 11pm services. Lots of good music, Bob singing the Ave Maria, Eric and Jenny doing "O Holy Night", and candlelight during Silent Night. The weather is projected to be pretty good, so come early to get a good seat (they'll go quickly!). I'll be telling one of the two good Christmas stories that I've collected over the years (my "whistling outside of Walgreens" story for all you Goshenites), so don't miss it.

And, if you have little kids, our 6:30pm service should be a hoot! The "Hands for Him" Puppets will make an appearance (the equivalent of Elvis making an appearance at Graceland, if he were alive). We'll have dancers dancing (but no lords will be leaping... sorry), the youth band doing "Feliz Navidad", and birthday cake for Jesus. Fun for the whole family, so don't miss it.

7) In case you haven't heard, many of the mega-churches across the country have decided to take Christmas day, which is a Sunday, off from worship. I understand the reasoning. The last time this happened, I preached the Christmas day service, and to say that there were plenty of good seats available was a bit of an understatement. Most people will do the Eve service, and take off the next day. To offering nothing on Christmas, though, while it might make sense from a manpower standpoint, seems kind of, well, wimpy. I mean, you couldn't find one pastor and another guy with a guitar to do a service for the die-hards who love being on church on Sunday? I mean, the Bucher family won't be here Christmas morning (we'll be at Aimee's parent's house), but Charlotte will be ready and raring to go (I'll be doing all of the New Year's Day services, while Charlotte is sleeping off her annual chocolate hangover). I just find it hard to believe there isn't someone who's normally on the bench that couldn't fill in for one day. Must be some serious wimps at those big megachurches.

8) Rest in Peace, John Spencer. You helped make "The West Wing" worth watching, and you will be greatly missed.

9) I'm not a political type of guy. I'm not a registered member in any political party, and while I do vote in each and every election, let's just say I take more time doing research on the NBA looking for a passable second forward for my Fantasy NBA team than I do reading about what's going on in Washington. However, the story about President Bush authorizing wiretaps and the reading of emails without a court order did catch my eye.

While I'm all for avoiding another 9/11, I can't say that I'm too hip on the idea of the executive branch, or any branch, of the government having that kind of power. There's a reason that there's a growing movement asking the FBI to take J. Edgar Hoover's name off of their headquarters: Americans don't like it when members of the government abuse the power they have to gather information on us. While I am not accusing the Bush administration of abusing citizens with the information they've collected in this fashion, the fact that no judge, anywhere, issued a court order, even secretly, to authorize the collecting of this information in the first place is very disturbing. Ben Franklin was right when he said that those who are willing to compromise liberty for security, deserve neither. That's the whole point of "due process"... it protects both liberty and security. That's why I hope there is more discussion about all of this before we grant the Federal Government broad, sweeping powers to investigate our personal lives, even in times like these.

And if any of your conservatives out there argue with me on this, realize that you are violating one of the basic tenants of your doctrine (small, limited government) to rally around this administration. Better think twice before you do that, friends.

10) Was very sorry to hear that Valero will not be entering into a 3 billion dollar partnership with EnCana to build a pipeline from northern Canada to Lima, ensuring a steady supply of sour crude oil for many, many years. This would have been great for this community, and while Valero has promised more than $400 million in upgrades in the next five years, the long-term viability of our refinery will continue to be in question. Since relying on Canadian oil is far better than relying on oil from the Middle East or Venezuela, it's just a big loss all-around. Here's hoping that the deal isn't totally dead, and something like it, only better, takes its place.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Ten Things I Think I Think

10) I think I'm a clutz. Dropped my cell phone today while taking it out of my pocket broked the antenna clean off. The nice lady at Verizon informed me that it can't be fixed, so it looks like Santa is getting me a new cell phone for Christmas. Too bad he'll be forwarding me the bill, as apparently, the elves aren't technologically proficient enough to make cell phones at this time. Bummer!

9) Took the boys sledding this weekend at the Neil Armstrong Museum in Wapak, as their Grandma Allen gave them their own plastic sleds as an early Christmas present. These little one-man sleds are to kids what "Bullet Bikes" are to young adults. Anyhow, they love their "Emergency Room Specials", and both boys want to know if we can figure out way to make them go faster. Not even a fat lip (for Max) and a "face plant" (for Xavier) could dissauade them from "one more time" down the hill. Their "need for speed" scares the bejeebers out of me when I think of them both as teenage licensed drivers. Here's hoping that America turns toward public transportation in a big way over the next decade.

8) If you missed David Cain, the self-proclaimed "Juggler for Jesus", last night here at our annual Shawnee Christmas Party, it's your loss. The guy is amazing, and I'd encourage anyone to either go see, or book him. We'll be looking to bring him back again so that he can do his other show, where as a part of the act, he juggles three chainsaws and five swords (not at the same time, unfortunately). Just a great talent, and entertaining guy.

7) I've only got one thing to say to all of my friends from Goshen who are Notre Dame fans: The luck of the Irish ends at the Fiesta Bowl, kids!

6) Am coaching another year for Upwards Basketball, the children's basketball league at the large Nazerine church on the north side of Lima. Max asked me to do it, so I agreed, but I must tell you that I'm having second thoughts. Apparently, two of my kids have parents that are paid coaches at various high school and middle schools in the community. Talk about second-guessing... I'm just a dumb preacher who watches way too many NBA games. I think they'll be calling to have me fired by February.

5) Am reading "The 21 Irrifutable Laws of Leadership" by John Maxwell. It's a good book. Can't say that I'm the biggest fan John Maxwell ever had, but he writes things simple, and easy enough that some one like me can understand what he has to say. I think probably the chapter on "The Law of Influence" is worth whatever I paid for the book (which I think was nothing.... I'm pretty sure my last Senior Pastor gave it to me as a gift. What do you think he was trying to say?). You can probably pick up the book used on, for cheap. It's worth a read.

4) Andy Mox is promoting another "Christian Hardcore" concert here at the church tonight. If you don't know what "Christian Hardcore" music is, well, consider yourself lucky. It's really loud, and aggressive.... the kind of stuff you play when you're in a lot of pain and anguish. I don't know what it is that these Christian musicians are pained or anguished over... probably that not everybody knows Jesus (but your guess is as good as mine... I can't understand the lyrics). They are just as loud, though, as any mainstream secular hardcore band, that's for sure. Let's just say that I've got extra incentive to not stay and work late tonight! But, God bless 'em, they do seem to reach kids that mainstream churches miss. Keep 'em all in your prayers.

3) If you are looking for a good gift idea for that "hard-to-buy" shopper this Christmas, how about a gift card to the Texas Roadhouse? This Christmas season the local Texas Roadhouse is donating 10% of all gift card sales to Goodwill Industries, of which "yours truly" is a board member. Goodwill doesn't just operate thrift stores. It educates, trains, and places people into jobs who otherwise probably would be unhirable. Sometimes the training goes beyond "How to Fill Out a Resume" down to basic stuff like "Hygene 101". Just a marvelous organization, so if you need a last minute gift idea, this is a good one that people will like. I mean, Willie Nelson is the national spokesperson for "Texas Roadhouse": How can you go wrong there?

2) I think that I'll just take a moment to member Richard Pryor, who passed away this weekend. I know that Richard Pryor's form of humor wasn't what you'd call "family friendly", but then again, the guy's whole life wasn't family friendly. Raised in a brothel in Peoria, Illinois, Pryor had to grow up fast to survive what was a difficult childhood. That later in life, a person who was so obviously filled with rage (some of it very righteous, given race relations in America at the time) would turn to drugs and alcohol, should really be no surprise to anyone. I don't think doctors will ever know if the MS Pryor fought for the last decade or so was related to his fondness for cocaine, but I think he always suspected that it was. In the end, a troubled soul that, in my opinion, tried to work out that pain in ways that weren't necessarily edifying, but I think, in snippets, where prophetic. I hope the man has found peace.

1) And finally, my little brother is working on his second week of semester finals at UT's Law School this week. I think I heard some fatigue in his voice last night, so if you could say a little prayer for Andy, asking God to give him strength this week, I know he'd appreciate it, and so would I.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Ten Things I Think I Think

1) I think that I enjoyed our "Leadership Dinner" last night at the church. Thought everyone did a great job presenting their view of what is coming up in their ministry areas next year, and the food was great. A lot of fun, and a big thanks to Dr. Rob Neidich, who I dubbed the "King of Colons" last night (he's a GI, as if you needed to know that), and an apology to Dr. Dave Immler who I failed to dub the "King of Kidneys". Thanks guys for all you do at the church, and for keeping things moving (if you know what I mean).

2) I think that today we'll be taking the final check over to the West Ohio Food Bank for the community food drive (Harvest for the Hungry) we lead each year. More than 1.7 million pounds of food will now be able to be purchased for hungry people in Northwest Ohio. Thanks to all who participated!

3) I think that it is not a surprise that the elections scheduled to happen in Haiti this month are probably going to be delayed until the new year. As I recall, the main stipulation that the UN put on the pre-election preparations was that more than 4 million people had to be registered to vote, which given the travel conditions and lack of infrastructure is going to make this task very, very difficult. Let's pray that the pre-election conditions get met soon, as it sounds like law and order are breaking down in Haiti in some pretty catastrophic ways. For an interesting take on the Katrina disaster in New Orleans, and some thoughts on where Haiti is at right now, check out this article by Dr. Paul Farmer, a doctor who is leading the fight against disease and poverty throughout the third world:

4) Dr. Paul Farmer has been invited into the nation of Rwanda to fight the plague of disease, most specifically tuberculosis and AIDS, which currently ails that country. What makes this interesting is that unlike his forays into Haiti and Peru, Farmer and his organization, Partners In Health, were invited into Rwanda by its government. They have given PIH free reign to go wherever, and do whatever is necessary to start addressing real needs in that country, which is a bold step. Usually, nation's leaders do whatever they can to hide the plight of their nation, fearing world-wide condemnation, the possibility of alienating potential capital investors, or simply as a means of making themselves look better. This is the second major story about Rwandans partnering with a western non-profit to begin to addressing the massive issues they face their country. Read this to find out what Saddleback Church, and Pastor Rick Warren (author of "The Purpose Driven Life") is trying to do about poverty in Rwanda:

5) Heard from David Grant, a good friend from Goshen via the electronic mail today. After many years of praying and searching, David has started attending Bethel College, intent on pursuing the necessary degrees for ordained ministry. David was a student of mine in a Disciple Bible Study class years ago, and I knew he'd thrive in an academic setting. He and another student in that class, Jeff Johnson, were both excellent students, but just didn't believe in their own abilities enough at the time to make the leap to academic life. Here's a praise that David has made the leap, and a prayer that Jeff knows that if ever decided to, he could do it too. Listen to me gentlemen, because I know these things.

6) Here's a big "congrats and welcome aboard" to Sharon Barr, the new choir director at Shawnee UMC as of January 1st. While it's unfortunate that Bob Freisthler must step down and concentrate his efforts at his full-time job, I am personally gratified that we could find a replacement who is the caliber of Sharon Barr. A leading vocal teacher in this area for many years, Sharon will bring much experience and talent to the position. I'm glad God has led her to us.

7) I think I'm in big trouble. As a part of the Doctoral studies I will begin at Asbury Theological Seminary this summer, my first class will be an intense study of Greek and Hebrew. For those who don't know, I've a long list of foreign languages, some dead (Latin), some living (Spanish, French, Chinese.... yeah, I know. Why would a guy bad at languages take Chinese? Let's just say I'm no member of MENSA.) that I've failed or barely passed. Needless to say, I'll not have to worry about an honor's diploma in the wake of this coming fiasco. God help me!

8) Watched a good West Wing last night (over good company and large bowl of chocolate ice cream at my grandmother's). A particularly poignant moment in the show for me occurred in the midst of a conversation between two of the main characters regarding what it takes for a person to become President of the United States. A candidate for the presidency, the one character said, must feel like his entire life has led him to the place where he is destined to this level of public service, and he couldn't avoid it even if he tried because it was his destiny. It's not something you should have to convince someone to do. Their entire life should be geared toward this one moment.

Pretty powerful stuff! I wonder how many people feel this way about that which they do for a living?

9) Bought a can of Girl Scout honey-roasted peanuts from our Music Director's daughter, and within 24 hours of opening the can, their gone.

"Curse you, honey-roasted peanut makers! Why must you make these edibles so tasty?"

10) And finally, I think that my brother is working his derrier off trying to pass his final exams this semester at Law School. As always, before taking the final, he called so that we could pray together. I'm glad he does that because, (1) I feel like its a simple way I can help him before he does his thing. I don't much about the law (except for this nugget I got from my father-in-law: Never get a tattoo in a place you can't cover up before seeing a judge), but I know something about God, and for whatever reason, he takes comfort from that. And (2) I know that my brother isn't much of a praying man (much in the same way that George Bailey wasn't a praying man in "It's a Wonderful Life"), but he's a man of faith. It's good that he knows that all good things come from the Lord, and that includes the personal values and discipline necessary to pass Law School. Keep on pluggin' brother.... me and my entire blog nation are pulling for you.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Ten Things I Think I Think

1) I think that the world always looks rosy after a Buckeye win over Michigan. O-H --------- I-O!

2) "Hung Up" by Madonna is my favorite guilty pleasure right now. There's nothing like sampling an old ABBA song to hook those of us who grew up in the 70's. Somebody take the hook out of my mouth, please, or tomorrow I'll be listening to "Dancing Queen".

3) A comment on JB's sermon on "Pre-Emptive Goodness". The good doctor referenced the movie "Pay It Forward", which if you haven't seen it, is the story of a middle school student who comes up with the idea doing good things, things that really matter, for somebody else as a part of a school project. What's interesting is all of the unexpected outcomes of all good deeds, particularly to the main characters of the movie. The boy's mother ends up reconciling with her own homeless, alcoholic mother. The boy's teacher ends up falling in love as well accepting his physical appearance which stemmed from being physcially abused as a child. A heroin addict saves the life of a woman who is about to commit suicide. And, tragically, the boy who starts the entire movement, dies in the end (which, for you English majors, is a clearly an attempt to draw the allusion that the boy is the "Christ Character" in the story). If you haven't seen it... rent it. It's an interesting flick.

4) Another comment on "Pre-Emptive Goodness". I gave a sermon similar to this one about four years ago (using clips from the movie as illustration), and I referenced the "servanthood evangelism model" pioneered by the Cincinnati Vineyard. Basically, people from that church grew it by serving strangers in the community on regular basis.... washing windows at the gas station, passing out bottles of water on hot days, and even cleaning toilets in various community venues. The results of all this work have been pretty amazing. Wonder what we could do here in this community?

5) Heard from an old friend, Scott Perry, who was an early supporter of "The Peak", an alternative-style worship service I helped start in Goshen. Scott just wanted to thank me for my time in that community, which he's done many times. He plays bass in the Peak Band, holding down the spot I held for many years (until, thankfully, a real bass player emerged). I say back to you sir, "Thank you for all you gave, and give, to the church. The gift of your service is greater than you'll ever know". And those goes for all of you, everywhere, who give of your time in a variety of ways to the church. You are all greatly appreciated.

6) I think that as of next summer, I'll be starting my doctorate. Was notified Monday that I've been accepted to Asbury Theological School's "Doctor of Ministry" program. Sounds like a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. I get to take an accelerated biblical language class this summer. Can't say I'm real excited about that.... I've failed, bailed, or just barely passed (it's where my motto, "D = Diploma" came from) every language class I've ever taken. It comes from barely understanding English (a pox on all those elementary and junior high english teachers who failed to assign all those parts of speech/diagraming sentences assignments.... now I'm a total English moron). It'll be a long two weeksk but I think it'll get more interesting from there on.

7) I think timetables for withdrawl from Iraq are unrealistic, given the mess that exists over there, but I am beginning to wonder what "mission accomplished" for this war actually looks like. In WWII "mission accomplished" came in the form of the Marshall Plan, which rebuilt the infrastructure, and created economic opportunity for our war torn Allies, and enemies. How do we win that kind of peace in Iraq, now?

8) I'm a member of the District Transition Team for "District B" of the West Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church. For those who don't know (which is virtually all of you), our Conference (think of a conference like a state, a district like a county, and a church like a town.... that's the structure of our church) is re-structuring, which is really just another word for downsizing our bueracracy. By consolidating our 14 districts into 8, we're able to sell off quite a few assets, and eliminate 6 District Superintendency positions, which will, over the long haul, theoretically, save us money (although the jury is still out on that one with me).

As a part of the transition, I've been named the "Technology Liason" from the District to the Conference, which means.... something, I suppose. I know that I'm supposed to have something to do with an eight-country "intranet system" which will enable the powers that be to use the internet wirelessly on their laptops , but I don't know much more than that. As a matter of fact, I don't know what an "intranet" is. I got the job by virtue of the fact that I was able to load a Powerpoint file onto a computer at a conference event last summer. Seems like pretty shaky crendentials for something that sounds as complicated and important as a "District Intranet". It's kinda like making someone the Fire Chief because he knows how to turn on a garden hose. Stay tuned to find out how this ends....

9) I'm having lunch today with George Ricks, an old friend who I worked with at the Rax that used to be on Elida Road years ago. We're brothers in roast beef. It'll be good to catch up on the last twenty years (good grief.... TWENTY YEARS! Where did it go?).

10) I think I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving. Here's to eating yourself stupid and a day of endless football... a man's holiday if there ever was one. Hope yours is a good one!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Eight Things I Think I Think, and Two Things I Hope

1) I think that I need to apologize to all of you for taking an extra day to get this posted. I took Monday off to have lunch with an old friend, and get the leaves off of my lawn. We have 21 Shagbark Hickory trees scattered around our lawn. Last night I was out until 8:30, in the dark, blowing leaves out to the street. Tomorrow I get to rake up hickory nuts. Good times, all around.

2) Thanks to everyone who supported Harvest for the Hungry. With the money raised yesterday, more than 1.6 million pounds of food (that's over 40 tractor-trailor loads) will be shipped to Lima for hungry people over the next year. And the best part... all the commercials quit running yesterday, so I no longer will be horrified at the sight of my ugly mug popping up in the middle of watching the late news. Now, we can all rest a little easier.

3) I think this week is going to be a tough one as Aimee was diagnosed with Strep Throat this morning. Max and Xavie both tested negative, but have redness in the throat, so it's probably just a matter of time. Fortunately, according to the doctor, little babies like Eli don't tend to get strep because of the immunity received through breast milk, so we'll count our blessings. Looks like I'll be home much more than usual this week, as Aimee sinks miserably into a state of yuckiness.

4) I think tonight's presentation by Neil Winget (director of the Better Business Buereau) at our Koinania Bible Study was a good one. The topic was the eighth commandment (Don't Steal), and he gave a presentation on what stealing is doing to our economy. He talked about a lot of things, but the most amazing stats that he had were on identity theft, which cost Americans more than 50 billion dollars last year. The problem is now so pervasive, that 3 people every minute in the US are suffering from having their identity stolen. One lady tonight talked about how she received a call from Sears in light of a scam where someone had tried to steal the identity of her late husband, who passed this past July. Goes to show that God chose ten pretty good rules for us to follow, and the cost to society financially and morally when we fail to do so.

5) I think that Shawnee elected two pretty good new school board members in Clay Balyeat and Ellen Rovner.... and for those of you keeping up on my ongoing Ellen Rovner thread in this blog, and I want to point out that since my embarrassing "Who's Ellen Rovner?" story was published on this blog a month ago, that over 93 new people accessed my profile from the day of that post, until the election. Guess how many votes she won by? Ellen, I'll be calling in my political favors in due time (who can say, "Free Snow Cones for Associate Pastors at Basketball Games?").

6) I think that it's interesting that the last wide receiver to be suspended for the remainder of the season in the NFL by his team for being a pain in the butt in the locker, Keyshawn Johnson, had only one thing to say about this Terrell Owens situation in Philadelphia. In short, he called TO's agent, Drew Rosenhouse a bunch of names I won't repeat on this blog, and warned his fellow bad-boy receiver that he was only out to make a name for himself in terms of signing new clients next year. Guess who Keyshawn Johnson's agent when he got suspended?

7) I think that a number of people commented, in light of last week's blog, that they were worried about my "what if I had become a lawyer.." and "mid-life crisis" comments. Many thanked me for going into the ministry instead of the law, and for that I thank you. Worry not loyal readers... I'm not buying a new sports car or getting a hair-weave anytime soon.

Working in the church is a joy and blessing, most of the time (although, quite frankly, some friends of mine working in other churches, really can't say this.... embroiled in controversy and bickering, they're pretty much miserable all of the time, and for them, you should say a prayer). The only really bad days are the ones that you "lose" the people who you care for and serve as a pastor.

"Lose", as in they die. "Lose", as in they move away. "Lose", as in they decide, for whatever reason that you no longer are fit to be their pastor, which happens all the time but really hurts when it's someone you know and love.

I just worry that I might not have what it takes to survive the accumulation of these days (and other ones, which occur for a variety of reasons) over the long haul: A deep enough spirituality that anchors you in the midst of leading other disciples of Jesus. Being concerned about this is a whole lot better than thinking that I've got this whole spirituality thing beaten, because it's forcing me to do more reading, more praying, more reflection, and more soul searching, which can only be good for a congregation. It forces you to re-evaluate why you do this for a living, which always kicks you ego down another notch, and makes you cling to God just a little bit tighter, and that's good.

You don't want a pastor who fails to think about these things. Trust me. So don't worry. I'll be fine. Thanks for asking.

8) I hope you benefit from this excerpt from Eugene Peterson's new book "Christ Plays In A Thousand Places" dealing with "the sacrificial life".

I don't know of any part (living a life built on sacrifice for God and others) of the Christian gospel that is more difficult to move from the pages of sacred Scripture and our honored volumes of theology into the assumptions and practices of our everyday Christian lives. Very few among us would dissent from what Jesus said, what Paul wrote, what Calvin preached, and yet - and yet when it comes down to actual assent, we more often than not find another way. We begin our morning prayers with Jesus, "Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet..." (Mark 14:36). And our "yet..." trails off; instead of completing Jesus' prayer ("not what I want but what you want") we begin to entertaining other possibilities. If all things are possible for the Father, perhaps there is another way to do something about what is wrong with the world, a way by which I can help out and make things better other than through a sacrificial life. In the jargon of the day, we pray: "sacrifice is not one of my gifts - I want to serve God with my strength, with my giftedness." It's a strange thing, but sacrifice never seems to show up on anyone's Myers-Briggs profile.

For a people like us, trained in a culture of getting things done (pragmatism) and taking care of ourselves (individualism), sacrifice doesn't seem at all obvious; neither does is seem attractive. There is nothing about a life of sacrifice appeals to our well-intentioned desire to make a difference in the wrongdoing in the world and to make things better for our neighbors and ourselves.

But the self-promotion and self-help ways of salvation, so popular among us, do nothing but spiral us further into the abyss. There is no other way but sacrifice. Annie Dillard, one of our unconventional but most passionate theologians, is blunt in her verdice: "a life without sacrifice is an abomination".

Nonparticipation in Jesus' sacrifice as the means of salvation is damning. The failure of our substituted good intentions in the work of salvation could not be more conspicuous. There is only one Gospel way to participate in Jesus' work - live a sacrificial life in Jesus' name.

9) Word from the family in Utah, via my grandmother, is that my Aunt Beth's husband, Dennis, is attempting to give up smoking. This can't be any easier than starting an sustained, on-going exercise regimine, or eating healthy (both of which, I have failed miserably in doing, repeatedly). Dennis is a great guy. Last summer he came with Beth and his grandson, Cade, for a visit here in Ohio, and one of the things we did with him while he was here was go to the Cabella's store (a store that specializes in equipment for those who love outdoor living and outdoor sports) up in Dundee, Michigan. Dennis has spent the better part of his life hunting, fishing, and learning about the delicate ecology that helps maintain this planet, and we got to experience the product of that knowledge as we walked through the store. It was a great experience because instead of just looking at stuff that was for sale, we could actually find out what it did, and how and why it worked. We learned a lot about all kinds of wildlife, and as we asked questions, you feel the love he had for the varying subjects in the patience he showed as he explained to both of us "greenhorns" the mysteries of the forest, the sky, the water, and in the telling of some pretty good stories (like the time he got lost doing some hunting in rural Idaho, and spent the night in the snowy wilderness, using his survival skills). I know that there are a lot of "anti-hunting" or "anti-fishing" people out there, and I can't say I've really done much (or for that matter, any hunting, at all) of either in my life, but he world would be much better shape if each of us took "stewardship of God's creation" as seriously as Dennis.

Here's to hoping he can kick the habit so he can increase the chances of passing all this knowledge to his grandchildren.

10) I think I've got a 7am breakfast meeting tomorrow, so off to bed I go. Hope you have a good week, and I'll try and do another post by Friday (I've been getting a little bit lax). Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Ten Things I Think I Think

1) I think a good time was had by all at Captain D's and at the Harvest Tournament of Champions. I failed to defend my "Harvest Idol" championship, but then again, last year I voted for Eric Truxal and Don Fischer's duet ("To All The Girls I Loved Before") which was far better than my own rendition of "New York, New York". All in all, lots of money was raised yesterday for the West Ohio Food Bank. Thank you to everyone who participated.

2) Watched parts of CBS' Movie of the Week, "Catagory 7: The End of the World", last night with my grandmother. I won't say it was written or acted poorly, but after 30 minutes of viewing we were both rooting for the storms to wipe out all the characters. In was a "disaster movie" in every sense of the word.

3) I think that going to trial this morning as a prospective juror was an interesting look at what my life might have become. I was on my way to law school when this whole ministry thing came up. To have witnessed the culmination of what I'd have spent most of my time doing as a lawyer (researching cases, meeting with clients, and haggling with other attorneys over a multitude of issues) was interesting. Maybe its just a mid-life crisis talking, but I can't help but wonder, "what if?" I wouldn't trade twenty days I've spent in the ministry (although there must have been at least 19 specifically rotten days I'd trade for a Yoo-Hoo Cola in a heartbeat) for anything, but you always wonder about the roads you failed to take.

4) I think that in a world filled with hunger, poverty, and pain, that I'm finding it difficult to care that Terrell Owens dissed his quarterback, and that it's caused chaos in the Philadelphia Eagles locker room. Boys, if you're reading this (which isn't likely), you get payed to play a game. Get a grip.

5) Checked out a great book from the seminary library in Findlay. "Sermons from Duke Chapel" is basically just what it sounds like, a collection of sermons given in the chapel of Duke Theological School. Here's an except from Peter Storey's sermon (a Methodist pastor and Bishop who was active in the Anti-Apartied movement in South Africa) entitled, "When the Cross Lays Hold on You":

When the cross lays hold on us, it moves from religion to faith. There's a crucial difference between religion and faith. Everybody's got some religion. We pick it up from our parents, like having blue eyes or black hair. We absorb it from the culture, like the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving. We begin to learn that "life goes better," not only with Coke, but with a little religion as well.

But religion is not enough; religion alone can be deeply destructive and dangerous. It's religious people who murder each other in Ireland. It's religion, among other things, that is tearing Lebanon apart. It's religious people who invented the obscenity of aparteid in my land, South Africa. Religious people were part of the process that crucified Jesus. Religion often becomes nothing more than a label to distinguish ourselves from others and to deepen the divides between people in the this world. Religion often becomes a mask behind which we can live out our prejudices and blame them on God. You can keep religion. I don't want it!

Faith is coming face to face with the one who God sent into the world. Faith calls you out of the crowd: out of the safety of non involvement into risk; out of hereditary belief into relationship with the suffering Jesus; out of the crowd into a confrontation with the cross, and the person carrying it. That is the powerful pressure of the cross, when it lays hold on you. There are those who call it an offense and there are those who call it foolishness, but when it lays hold on you, your life changes forever.


6) I think that this is the thought from Romans 12 I'm meditating on this week: "Don't burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don't quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality." What does this passage, if anything, say to you?

7) I think that fall is the most beautiful season of the year. While I'm not a big fan of raking leaves, to watch them change colors, and paint the canvas that is God's beautiful creation with hues of gold, yellow, and red is a faith-affirming event for me, each and every year. In some respects, it makes me long for the hills of West Virginia, where I grew up as a child, for I remember the beauty of the mountains as the season did its wonderful thing. But there is enough beauty here in good ol' flat Northwest Ohio to fill up my soul, and for this, I give thanks.

8) Well, the Ellen Rovner saga continues. If you don't know much about the evolution of my political endorsement of Ellen Rovner, check out the last two "I Think I Thinks...". Last night, the story opened a new chapter as I met her husband for the first time at the Harvest Tourney of Champs. Thankfully, he liked the blog, and laughed at my "Who's Ellen Rovner" story, cause he looked to be in pretty good shape and definitely capable of messing me up, bad. He asked if he could put an "Ellen Rovner" sign in my basement, where this whole story began, and I told him he could do whatever he wanted.... just as long as he didn't think I was insulting his wife. I think I'll try to continue to stay on his good side, and encourage you to vote for Ellen Rovner (and Clay Balyeat) as a member of Shawnee's school board. I know who she is, and she is good.

9) And, for that matter, I think all of you should go out and vote and tommorrow. I don't care if the most important item on the agenda is who your county is electing "Assistant Dog Catcher", do the duty of every free citizen in a democratic republic, and vote. Think of it as a moment alone, where nobody else in the world can give you a hard time. Take a cup of tea, and make an event of it.

10) And finally, I think you should join my grandmother, and support "Harvest for the Hungry". Every penny raised (including all the money from our church's offering this Sunday) will be donated to the West Ohio Food Bank, which feeds thousands of hungry people each through through the agencies it supports all across Northwest Ohio. Grandma wrote her check for $25, and she's not exactly in Bill Gates' tax bracket, so join her as we seek to eradicate hunger in our community as the cold months approach us. And, if you want to boss my fat can around, I'll be working as a server at the Arby's on Shawnee Road after church, this Sunday. I'll fetch you whatever you want, or you can spill your drink and make me clean it up... whatever suits you. See you there!

Monday, October 31, 2005

Ten Things I Think I Think

1) I think I had a nice surprise today when an old friend from High School, Eric Beecher, stopped by the office. I haven't talked to Eric since just after he got married, many years ago, and over the course of the last eight or nine years, we just lost touch. Today, he met my three sons for the first time. Seems like only yesterday we were watching movies all night in his mother's basement.... as always the lesson is that I'm getting older, every moment.

2) I think that I'm taking the MAT (Millar Analogies Test) tomorrow, pretty much unprepared. You see, a couple of weeks ago, a number of different people had the idea that I probably should start my doctorate soon. While I'm not opposed to it (I had actually told the people in my last church that I was going to start this degree two years ago, but then life interviened), the process for admission has been fast and furious. I've a sense that this is one of those tests you can't study for, but I'm still nervous walking in stone cold to take this thing. We'll see how it goes. Since I'm taking it Toledo, at least I'll get to eat lunch with my brother tomorrow.

3) I think that if you haven't been reading Romans 12 these past few weeks, then you haven't been paying attention to this blog, or what's been going on at Shawnee UMC. Am personally stuck on this verse: "So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marveously functioning parts in Christ's body, let's just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comaparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren't."

Seems like from the first day I entered the ministry, I've been pushed by lay people, denomational leaders, and clergy in the church to become an uberleader. Lord knows I've grown immeasurably in this area, but it hasn't come easy. Just goes to show how acute the shortage of competant leadership is in the life of mainline denominations this day. With God's help, I'll keep growing as fast as I can.... I just hope I can make that leap far enough, soon enough.

4) I think that it should be interesting to be a part of the District Transition Team. If you hadn't heard, our conference is in the process of downsizing our bueracracy. We're going from 14 districts to 8, and the staff at the Conference Office in Columbus is shrinking as well. With three districts essentially becoming one, the new district territory will be all of Northwest Ohio, minus Toledo. It'll be difficult for a District Superintendent to wrap their brains around a mass that large, particularly when it comes to new church planning and old church revitalization. I see a lot of opportunity for church planting by the local church (either in the form of free-standing sites or multi-site campuses). Statistically, this approach has a much greater chance for success, and is much cheaper, than new church plants planted by a district committee. We'd really miss the boat if we didn't build this kind of new ministry development into our strategy for reaching those who live in our part of the state.

5) I think that if Mike Brown, as a long-time Bush loyalist and the head of FEMA, doesn't fumble (badly) the evacuation and clean-up of New Orleans, that Harriet Miers becomes a Supreme Court justice. Now, the Republicans are going to have a real dogfight on their hands.

6) I think that if you missed Tom Brokaw's special, "In God We Trust", which focused on the Evangelical movement, and their role in politics, I could give a quick synopsis. A host of evangelical pastors have banded together, under the leadership of some key Republican insiders, and have been using their muscle to push a particular social agenda on Capitol Hill. The group is opposed to gay marriage, abortion, and "activist judges", and have, in turn, put considerable effort and energy in Washington, in their local communities, and from their pulpits to stop what they believe is an overall decline in our nation's moral fiber. The piece tried to help people realize that evangelicals aren't all necessary in lock step on all of these issues, and possess, in fact, a wider agenda that includes things evangelicals traditionally have been silent on as a body (issues of poverty, AIDS, and the environment to name a few). However, in this young pastor's opinion, I think what's really happening is that disillusioned evangelicals like Jim Wallis (he wrote "God's Politics"), Brian McClaren (an environmentalist), and Tony Campolo (a champion of the poor) are influencing their fan base to put pressure on people like James Dobson, the various Evangelical PAC's, and other evangelical leaders to broaden their position. Whether or not that is really happening, beyond writing new planks into the movement's platform remains to be seen. When I see angry 527 ads berate political candidates for ignoring the plight of the world's poor, then I'll believe it.

7) I think that my predictions for the upcoming election include the following: Balyeat and Rovner get elected to Shawnee's School Board (I have no idea who the third elected person will be), Dave Berger serves a fifth term as Mayor of Lima, the Shawnee Police and Lima City School Levies both pass, and a certain write-in candidate for the Lima City School Board gets trounced in what is a resounding rejection of the way he's politicized his children's education for his own personal gain (or, at least that's the way it looks to me).

Oh, and Ned Bushong goes down as having produced two of the finest political commericals in history... as long as "finest" means "hilarious". The new one where Dave Berger's name gets struck down by lightening is almost as good as the one where he rides around a church parking lot on a mini-motorcycle to bluegrass music. Priceless!

8) And speaking of Ned Bushong, I think it's strange that in light of the fact that he's been roasted by an editor of The Lima News two weeks in a row, that there has been no angry replies from any of his supporters. I mean, if my guy gets leveled as someone who hates volunteerism, pursues policy initiatives that will likely halve the population of the city in one year, and has no clear track record of business success, I'd be saying something. Why aren't they?

9) I think that the episode of "Intervention" I watched on A&E last night was the most chilling story I've ever seen on TV. To watch a nineteen year-old girl do heroin, crack, and crystal meth pretty much non-stop over a period of days, and wish that she'll die soon, made my heart sink. I couldn't sleep last night thinking about it. I hope and pray that her willingness to pursue sobriety will result in something very good.

10) I think that if you really like alternative rock music, you'd be well served to check out Switchfoot's new album, "Nothing Is Sound". It really is a great album.

Bonus: To the two of you that took me up on my offer to email me and "make the blog", much thanks. Just so you know, my wife commented on my poor grammar and vocabulary, and the other, Jeff Johnson (an old friend) used his email to agree with Bruce Dickerson that my basketball game is overly physical. Thanks again!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Got a Question or a Comment? Let Me Hear From You!
(Oh, and few thoughts about Goodwill Industries)

To be honest, I only get really excited about this blog when I get a comment, either in-person or via e-mail, from one of you. So let me try to open up the lines of communication: If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for future blogs, send them to, and I'll do my best to address you in a timely manor. Heck, you might even make the blog, like this excerpt from Bruce Dickerson, a loyal reader from Hamilton, Ohio who writes....

I just finished reading your blog (Ten Things I Think I Think - October 25) and had one thing I wanted to make a note on.
(from the blog) "I played basketball for 90 minutes (with lots of breaks) on Wednesday, and
my legs are still killing me. I've become the middle-aged fat guy I used to make fun as a teenager at the YMCA. Now I can start throwing some serious elbows and blaming it on my lack of conditioning like those guys did!"
I just wanted to ask. . .WHAT DO YOU MEAN START THROWING ELBOWS. . . having
played against you, you should change start to continue.

While Bruce is a loyal fan, he is obviously delusional and must have me confused with someone else, as I, of course, would never "throw an elbow" or cut a corner of any kind when it comes to the game of basketball. My motives, as well as my game, are totally pure.

But see, there you go.... BRUCE MADE THE BLOG! And so can you, so just send me those emails.

Now a quick thought before I head to Koininia...

Early this year I accepted an invitation to become a member of the Board for our local Goodwill Industries. To be honest, outside of the hour or so after a garage sale, Goodwill has never really ever been on my radar screen, but I agreed to serve, anyway. I agreed partly because I feel like I need to serve the community in a way that doesn't directly benefit the non-profit religious institution I help lead, but I agreed mostly to serve because Noreen Parish asked, and there's no way I'd ever tell her no.

For those of you who don't know Noreen, she's a local treasure here in the Lima community. She's got more energy than 10 men, or women, or mixed company, and she's dedicated her life, I believe, to improving the lives of others. The Lord, I believe, has led her to Goodwill Industries, which has an important mission (doing job training and placement for people who have been on public assistance) but a cloudy image (most people just think of it, like I did, as the place that sells stuff other people gave away). Anyhow, nobody knows PR on a zero budget than Noreen, and she's doing a bang-up job helping get the word out about GI.

Well, as I said earlier, there's no way I'm ever going to tell Noreen Parish that I can't do something for her because she's the best Sunday School teacher I've ever had. And, to be honest, I can't remember one thing she taught me. It wasn't the depth and breadth of her bibilical knowledge, or ability to entertain (althought the entertainment thing helped) that her the best Sunday School teacher I ever had. Nope, she's the tops because, almost single-handedly, she helped save my love for the church.

You see, at the age of 10, our family moved from Charleston, West Virginia to Lima, and the move, for me, was not an easy one. Charleston was really the only thing I had ever known, and the adjustment for me, as a fifth grader, was a difficult one. As far as I was concerned, Charleston was home, and what made it home were my friends and our church, Trinity UMC - a little country church tucked in the corner of Kanawha County. As a kid, it seemed like my family practically lived at TUMC. Mom and Dad volunteered as youth leaders, played on various sports teams, (Mom, and not Dad, thankfully) sang in the choir, and just generally spent a lot of time at church, or with church people. And those people, people like Lee Anne Powleson, Jack Reeves, Harry Folden, Joe Myers, and countless others, always made me, in particular, feel like a million bucks (after taxes).

So, in lieu of this move, finding a new church was a major priority for us as family, and initially things did not go well. I can't remember all of the places we visited, but I can tell you, none of them felt "like home". This was as true at Trinity UMC in Lima, as anywhere else. And after we had visited it a few times (at the invitation of my dad's boss), I was ready to keep looking. And I probably would have raised a ruckus about staying too, if it hadn't been for the person I met the fourth week there..... (yep, you guessed it) Noreen Parish.

Noreen had (and still has) a way of making you feel like you belong. Like the place was not quite complete before you got there and that you had completed it. I can tell you that there's no way that either me or my friend, Jeff Gluck, would have ever gone to church willingly each week in those early days (we both hated all those "stuck up Shawnee kids", which is ironic, because Jeff ended up moving to Shawnee his freshman year of HS, and I ended up living and working out here) if Noreen hadn't been our Sunday School teacher. Her energy, enthusiasm, sense of humor, hospitality and graciousness single-handedly made me want to come back, week after week. Which, eventially enabled God to put me in contact with all of the people (Ed Elmquist, E. Larry Moles, Lucy Schnieder, and bunch of Shawnee snobs that ended up becoming pretty good friends) who made church such a great place to be, again.

The moral of the story, then, is that next week, when you're at church, maybe it isn't what you know, it's Who you know, and if you can share His infectious love by expressing it genuinely to others, who knows what kind of impact you can have.... you might even, someday, get a board member who loves and adores you out of the deal.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Ten Things I Think I Think

1) I think yesterday's sermon that Charlotte gave was one of the more challenging and eloquent you'll ever get to hear. With the subject being the "Body of Christ" (all of us getting in the game, working together to serve God and one another), her closing illustration of the family member with MS was very poignant. A body that no longer cooperates with itself is a tragedy. Here's to hoping there are more good moments like this one Charlotte provided for us as we all study Romans 12.

2) The year we lived in Bloomington/Normal Illinois, we lived through multiple tornado sightings and landings throughout the country. Two months after we moved, a tornado knocked down a tree, destroying what was our garage. It's just a regular part of life in that part of the world. You accept it, and move on. Had things worked out better in terms of my employment there (another blog for another time), we'd probably still be there.

I don't think, though, I could say the same if I lived in South Florida. Good luck and God Bless, to all those living through Wilma today.

3) I think that finding a rhythm to your life, that includes time for rest (Sabbath) is something people should take more seriously. I've gone through stretches where I didn't have a full-day off for months, which just did horrible damage to my relationships, job performance, and judgment. Finding that rhythm of work, rest, study, and play is key to being able to fulfill one's life purpose, and the Lord's peace.

4) I think that if Ellen Rovner wins a spot on the school board by a few votes, she ought to post a thank you note on this blog. Apparently there were many people who thought my Ellen Rovner story was a good one, and recommended it to friends. Wish I had a nickel for everyone who stopped me to say something, or email me about it. Now, a lot more people know who Ellen Rovner is.

5) For the few of you who were even aware that it was an issue, I think that the new NBA Dress Code (business casual for all traveling player, and sportscoats when not dressing for action on the bench) is a lame attempt on the part of the league to make its players look less young, and less "hip-hop". In other words, in a league where 80% of the players are young black males, the league is worried about how they portray themselves to Corporate America. While I'm not opposed to dress codes if they've been negotiated with the Players Union, me thinks this is the fallout from a league still struggling to replace the marketing machine that was Michael Jordan. Mark Cuban (the owner of the Dallas Mavericks) has some interesting thoughts about this on his blog (

6) I think "Don't Steal" and "Don't Kill" are two commandments people really need to get a handle on. In a referendum this past weekend, the nation of Brazil, which is experiencing the largest number of shooting deaths, per capita, in the world, overwhelming voted down a nationwide ban on firearms. The vote is a result of citizen's lack of confidence in law enforcement officials' ability to protect people from heavily armed gangs who now control ghettos and shanty-towns in large cities like Rio de Janeiro. In other words, people are afraid criminals will run rampant because they know they have no way of protecting themselves with anything more lethal than a club or knife. Pretty scary!

7) I think if you hadn't heard about it, that you should know that this weekend if you wanted to worship in Alexandria, Egypt at a Coptic church, you had to pass police barricades. Apparently, seven churches were attacked over a DVD of play performed at an Egyptian Coptic church about a young man who converts to Islam and becomes miserable. Apparently the play, when it was performed two years ago, was no big deal, but in light of upcoming elections featuring Islamic and Coptic political candidates, someone deemed it necessary to reproduce the DVD and distribute it throughout the city. More than 5000 Muslims rioted through Christian areas of Alexandria damaging homes, businesses, churches, and injuring more than 90 people.

8) I think the Harriet Miers nomination for the Supreme Court is in trouble. Who thought it was a good idea to tout the woman's evangelical faith in order to preserve conservative Republican support? When Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, and Pat Robertson have to take to the airwaves to save your nominee's chances, you haven't exactly scored a PR coup.

9) I think that I do not regret, no one iota, my decision to blow the leaves off of my lawn instead of watching the OSU/Indiana game Saturday. If the game had been close, or if the Bucks had lost, it would have ruined my day. And who wants to watch a team blowout a team it ought to blow out? Football season at IU is basically just a sign that basketball season is right around the corner.

Besides, the boys loved playing in the leaves, enhancing my "Dad of the Year" and "Husband of the Year" chances, simultaneously.

10) I think that if the weather in October is any indicator, it's going to be a cold, cold winter. Better get out the sweaters, and turn down the thermostats.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Random Thoughts

I don't think I'll ever see either Simpson sister in concert, even if it's free. The same goes for anybody married to, or in a group with a guy married to, a Simpson sister.

"Jerry McGuire" is a chick-flick cloaked in the manly world of professional football, but it had me at "Hello".

I'm convinced that John the Beloved, despite the well-formed theology, really did write the Gospel of John. To those who disagree, don't you think if you walked with Jesus for three years, in retrospect, you could develop a pretty well-formed theology? You're walking with Jesus, for Pete's sake.

When I hear a noted economist say that your money will do better long term in a Columbian stock market than here on Wall Street, I'm either scared, or wondering why that economist might be so high on C0lumbia.

Ohio State + Indiana = Me Mowing and Raking the Front Lawn

Dad and I went to Bloomington to see OSU play four or five years ago, and there were so many OSU fans there that (I wish I was making this up) the stadium concession vendor ran out of food in the second quarter.

Xavier and Max want to spend the night tomorrow at their Grandma and Grandpa's house. God really does answer prayer.

I bought a Volvo station wagon about a year-and-a-half ago that threw a rod about 400 miles into the journey home from picking it up in New Hampshire. That's how I E-Bay.

I got excited today because Meijer gave me a coupon that enabled me to purchase ten gallons of gas for less than $2 a gallon. When did that become a bargain?

Charlotte Hefner's sermon (she's the other Associate Pastor at Shawnee UMC) on Sunday is going to be a good one. Don't miss it!

I played basketball for 90 minutes (with lots of breaks) on Wednesday, and my legs are still killing me. I've become the middle-aged fat guy I used to make fun as a teenager at the YMCA. Now I can start throwing some serious elbows and blaming it on my lack of conditioning like those guys did!

We'd better pray for everyone in the path of Hurricane Wilma, including those living in the Northeast that are ready to starting building arks.

I just made a trade in my fantasy football league with a guy who named his team "Diabolical Inc.". That's how I E-Bay.

Every time I get the mail I still look for the envelope with a million-dollar check in it. I'm still looking.

Anybody wanna buy a Volvo, cheap?

Have a nice weekend,

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

TV Star

We shot the "Harvest for the Hungry" commercials today. This year, Joseph decided that I needed to appear on screen, in his place, so at 9:30 this morning, I stood next to Father Steve (the Priest at St. Charles - a great guy who shares our passion for mission service in Haiti) plugging Harvest.

This is probably the 13th or 14th year we've done Harvest. It started, innocently enough, when Stacy Morris, an adult volunteer in the youth ministry at Shawnee back in the day, came to me with the idea of the youth ministry going door-to-door collecting food for the West Ohio Food Bank (which, at the time, was located in the basement of the now defunct First United Methodist Church). Realizing that this was a chance to do service, and not plan a lesson for YF, all at the same time, I jumped at the idea. I only remember two things about the experience. I remember High School age kids, literally running house-to-house in local neighborhoods, trying to collect as much food as they could in a two-hour period (to win what was, without a doubt, some kind of lame prize). And I remember how upset Joseph was when, two weeks after the event, all of the food was still on the stage in the old fellowship hall.

My lack of organization, though, took a fateful turn when, after many questions about "where all the food came from", someone decided that the rest of the congregation should join the youth group in doing some kind of food drive. Thus, commissioned by somebody (maybe it was Helen Price - she always was pretty bossy), I ripped off an idea from Trinity UMC, and distributed boxes to the congregation with a list of dry goods (enough food to feed a family of four for three days).... and, abracadabra, "Harvest for the Hungry" was born.

Over the next two or three years, a couple of important things happened to turn what was one single church's food drive into the largest drive of its kind (we think) in the state. First, the West Ohio Food Bank became its own entity, separate from FUMC, and affiliated with the "Second Harvest" network. "Second Harvest" is a national network of regional and local food banks, that negotiates with major corporations for major donations of food. Now the WOFB could purchase food at about (at the time) 4 cents a pound (which paid for transportation and storage costs), so it really made more fiscal sense to give them money, instead of dry goods.

The other important development, given the above information, was when a lay-person (I honestly can't remember who) came to Joseph with the idea of approaching business people in our church for financial donations to "goose up" the impact of the drive. At the same time, Shawnee had just done a bunch of advertising on WLIO-TV for our community Easter service. Knowing that non-profits can buy ad-time at cheaper rates, the idea of combining corporate donations and face time for sponsors on TV was born.

Now, years later, Harvest has resulted in the collection of the equivalent of more than 12 million pounds of food for an 11-county area here in Northwest Ohio. More than 200 shelters, local food pantries, and soup kitchens who serve thousands of people, are dependent upon the WOFB to help keep their doors open.

So, I'd encourage you to support Harvest by coming to church on November 13th, and dropping something in the offering plate (the entire offering for the day will be donated to the WOFB), eating at Captain D's on Sunday, November 6th (a portion of the sales will donated, and you can be served by yours truly), Arby's on November 13th (same deal), drop a financial donation off at those two restaurants, or send a check directly to the West Ohio Food Bank at

West Ohio Food Bank
Harvest for the Hungry
1380 Kibby Street
Lima, Ohio 45804-3127

And if you see a big guy standing next to a fabulous priest on your TV, remember, acting classes aren't required at seminary.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Ten Things I Think I Think

1) I think that its amazing just how deep America's addiction to methamphetamine has become. Went to Walgreen last night to pick up some Tylenol drops for Eli (he's pretty stuffed up), and literally everything that has pseudoephedrine in it is now behind the counter. Makes you wonder how we'll win the drug war if its main battleground extends to the cold and flu counter at the local Revco.

2) Am pretty amazed at the amount of coverage and press that Scientology and Kabballa are getting these days. Between Tom Cruise's antics and the recent wedding marrying the talents behind "Striptease" and "Punk'd", the tabloids have gone a little wild over these two "emerging religions". In the case of Scientology, you can spend literally hundreds of thousands of dollars paying for time on an "E-meter" getting rid of "engrams" in order to get "clear". And if you practice Kabballa, you need to buy bracelet (for only $23) made out of red string in order to ward off the "evil eye", are encouraged to buy Kabballa water (it's been blessed by a rabbi), and apparently should consume large quantities of "Kabballa Energy Drink" in your quest for enlightenment.

I know what response I'd get if I started selling "Official Shawnee UMC Bottled Water".... am kinda wondering why these spiritual "traditions" are getting a free pass? Or, given the nature of celebrities, is celebrity faith supposed to look a little bit absurd?

I do feel badly for Katie Holmes parents. The choir director my wife worked with while on faculty at Toledo Central Catholic, had been Katie's choir director/musical director at Notre Dame High School. Apparently, her parents are faithful Catholics, who love and respect their daughter immensely. That they are reeling (if you believe the press) over their child's choice of husband, and now apparently, religion, isn't a surprise. I hope this doesn't end badly.

3) I think that I have had a lot of people come up to me the past couple of days and start pointing out parts of Romans 12 that are speaking to them right now. I would encourage everyone to read Romans 12 either on a daily, or weekly basis, and use the time to see what the text might be saying to you.

4) I think that a lot of people where struck by yesterday's sermon because they had not really thought about how culturally captive they have become in terms of how they treat and see others. It's very real though, and I've experienced it, first hand.

Until I moved back to Lima in 2004, I had very long hair, which made it very hard for some people to distinguish that I was anything other than a drug dealer or lead guitarist for a rock band. While living in Goshen, as a result of my rear lights being shorted out, I was pulled over by a police officer, who upon my appearance, began to give me the third degree regarding whether or not I had any drugs. The situation was turning pretty ugly when an assisting officer showed up, and fortunately, had been to church that past Sunday, and recognized me as "that funny preacher fella". I got off with a warning, but the message I received was clearly expressed right before I left.... "Sorry about that. Usually people who look like you have something to hide".

Who look like me? I was pulled over repeated in college for excessive speed, and never once had any officer asked to search my car. Do all males with long hair do drugs? Apparently so, except when you discover that they don't. And yet, when I approach someone who looks a certain way on the street or at the mall, I wonder if I treat them any better than that officer treated me that day?

I think than when it comes to how we judge and treat others, we all probably need to have our minds renewed (Romans 12:2)

5) One of candidates for a local election is running an interesting TV commercial. I think that the entire premise for the commercial (I'm guessing) is to give you a "life-picture" of the candidate. It consists entirely of random images (including one of the candidate riding around on a mini-motorcycle in a church parking lot) running over the top of bluegrass music. No words of any kind are used. Not, "It's morning again in Lima", or a detailed position on an issue, just bluegrass music and canned images. The commercial certainly did make me laugh. Was that the point?

6) Speaking of politics, I think I probably need to stay out of them from here on out. For the first time, ever, Aimee and I have consented to let candidates for a local election put signs in our front yard. The first sign I put up was for a candidate (Clay Balyeat), a person who attends the church whom I've known and respected for quite some time. Clay was essential in getting Shawnee's last levy passed, and given his commitment to the local school system and Shawnee community, I figured he'd be a good addition to the school board.

Well, last Friday afternoon, after doing the grocery shopping, I was half-asleep in my basement, trying to get some study done for Sunday, when my wife's voice drifted down the steps...

"Honey. Ellen Rovner is running for School Board and wants to know if she can put a sign up in our yard."

Now, I meet lots of different people who already know me (kind of a hazard of the profession), and I have a hard time recalling names. While it was obvious by "Balyeat for School Board" sign that I allowed politically oriented signs in my yard, I couldn't place this name.

"Who's Ellen Rovner?", I replied, with much confusion and probably (given the fact that my impending sleep had been interrupted) irritation.

"Well, why don't I just come down there and introduce myself!", came a reply.

Have you ever wished you hadn't opened your mouth, and also wished your wife would have told you that Ellen Rovner was in your house standing at the top of the stairs where you can't see or hear her, all at the same time? I have.

Needless to say, we have a "Rovner for School Board" sign in the front yard (Aimee apparently knows and respects her, so it's all good... I trust her judgment), and I am retiring from political activity. It's just too embarrassing.

7) I think weather in Ohio doesn't get any better than in the fall. It's the most beautiful time of the year in my book.

8) I think the Chuck Summers, who sang and played saxophone here at church yesterday, is an immensely gifted musician. Thanks Chuck for sharing your music with us yesterday.

9) I think that Sue Dickerson, who acted in a skit I wrote for the early services yesterday, is a heck of a good sport. When you have to play a comedic part which involves not just acting, but also singing "If I Only Had A Brain", in church, you've got a pretty good sense of humor. That the congregation would appreciate the fact that you did it speaks highly of how much you are respected in the community. Thanks again, Sue!

10) And finally, I'm blessed to have shared these few moments with you. Thanks for reading!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Ten Things I Think I Think

1) I think that if you go to Shawnee UMC, or read this blog on a semi-regular basis, you'd better start reading Romans 12. Never will a church spend as much time on one piece of scripture as this one is going to in the next year. If you don't own a Bible, or own one with lots of "thees" or "thous" in it , go to use any one of more than 30 versions. Enjoy!

2) Each of us are supposed to pick out a piece of Romans 12 that really sticks out for us, and try and figure out why it does. Here's what's captivated me (from "The Message:): "If you preach, just preach God's Message, do nothing else; if you help, just help, don't take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don't get bossy; if you're put in charge, don't manipulate; if you're called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don't let yourself get irritate with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face."

I think that I'm stuck on this passage because if you summed it up in a phrase, it'd be Paul telling everyone in the Christian family, "Just git 'r dun". Don't think about getting it done, or talk about getting it done. Don't spend hours asking others how to get it done, or pick apart others who aren't getting their stuff done. Just git'r dun. With so much to get done around here, I think Larry the Cable Guy's tag line is becoming my new motto.

3) I think that if I were in some form of retail or the building trades here in Ohio, I'd be plowing some serious money in an anti-casino lobby right now. If you haven't been listening, the lobby on behalf of the large casino conglomerates are pushing hard to make a case that Ohio needs legalized gambling so that this money doesn't leave the state to casinos in Michigan, Indiana, or Kentucky. This is one of the most ludicrous arguments I've ever heard, as the casino operators profit whether you gamble here, or somewhere else. This isn't about keeping money in Ohio, it's about opening up new markets that can cut down on drive time to gamble. Nothing more and nothing less.

People who are going to Vegas, Atlantic City, or some other place known for gambling, are going there regardless of whether we have a casino in this state, as their trip is as much about getting out of town as it is anything else. Look at how fast Vegas (and until Hurricane Katrina, the Gulfshores/Biloxi area - did you see how many casinos were destroyed in that storm?) has grown as the number of casinos have rapidly grown around the country. It's just plain ignorant to say that people are traveling to gamble out of states that didn't have casinos, less now than they did before they got casinos. It just isn't happening. Instead, the total number of people who gamble on a regular basis, and the total amount of money that is gambled, continues to rise as the number of casinos rise. That means less money to buy cars... less money to refurbish homes... less money to spend at Macy's.... and yes, less money to go to charities (as of 2004, according to Gallup Polling, percentage of income given to all forms of charity, about 1.4%, was at all time low, a trend that has continued for more than a decade, including the 9/11 experience). These are discressionary dollars we're talking about... Service Sector Ohio, do you really want more competition for them right in your own backyard?

4) I think that a lot of people, including the Bucher family, are sorry to see the ice cream stands close for the winter.

5) I think that Matt Parish, a former parishoner (as a teen), and the now lead lyric writer for the band Ho-Ag ( was great to respond to my challenge to the band to start using their influence to challenge those around them to think about the world differently. Matt claims that virtually every Ho-Ag song is about the way civilization is built on the backs on those powerless to defend themselves, (which he says, is also true environmentally, hence the title song for the album, "Pray For the Worms"), and the danger in doing this. Matt was always a smart kid. He'd be the one in Bible study that wouldn't say much, but when he did open his mouth would utter very profound words. His time at Boston University was time well spent, as his love for literature and writing has only grown over time. Now, through non-stop reading, thinking, and writing, Matt is starting to find his voice, and a unique, funny, important voice it is. Better keep your eye on him.

6) I think I told my wife I'd be home by 5pm and it's 5:06pm as I'm writing this, so I'd better hustle!

7) I think last night's episode of "Breaking Bonaduce" was just flabbergasting. Danny Bonaduce is a train-wreck, and its hard to watch him do the mind-job on his wife that he's doing in real time. His manipulation of his wife is done for no other reason as to convince her to stick around to take care of his children, and love him in ways we all need, as he destroys himself. And what's more, he's so deadly smart, that if he ever put his considerable abilities toward not only becoming the husband and father he says he wants to be, so many excellent by-products for society as a whole would be produced by him, that humanity would greatly benefit. Here's to hoping to another stint in rehab will help him get his life together.

8) I think Ben Witherington's "Paul's Narrative Through World", is helping me get a handle on the Epistles in way I never grasped before. Just a fascinating glimpse into the 1st century AD world.

9) I think that in the wake of Katrina, America will largely overlook the disaster that was a 7.6 earthquake in Pakistan. Makes you wonder... as more people are born into the life of this planet, and our population continues to grow, how much more devastating these disasters are going to be in the future. I mean, if 400,000 people live in a place where 200,000 people used to live, what's the probability that in the event of a natural calamity that there will be greater loss of human life? A huge engineering challenge is looming on the horizon.

10) If you are struggling with organized religion right now, please take a look at Brian McClaren's "A New Kind of Christian" trilogy ( It's three novels detailing the journey of a pastor that's struggling to help make sense of his faith, and his relationship with pastor-turned-science-teacher who has already made the "postmodern jump". The first book, "New Kind of Christian", might make you angry if you're a proponent of "Intellectual Design" theory, but it's good none-the-less. Have recommended it to many people over the past three years, and I can't tell you how many of them have thanked me for doing so. Just a good easy read

Monday, October 03, 2005

Ten Things I Think I Think

1) I think that Fall Fest last night was totally amazing. Having organized the first one, years ago, to witness how this thing has grown over the last 15 years blows me away. For those out of town (as I have discovered in the past week that there are definitely more than 2 people reading this thing... thanks to you all and keep the emails or conversations coming), Fall Fest is a totally free party for families that Shawnee UMC has sponsored ever since the dark ages. What started as a little "trick-or-treat alternative" event put on by 10 teens with no budget, is a multi-faceted extravaganza drawing hundreds (dare I say, thousands?) of people from the community. We do it so that moms and dads, or grandparents, or whoever, don't have to say "no" for at least three hours in the year. All the rides, all the food... everything is free, and you can tell that people really appreciate what is, for us, one of the closest examples of grace we exhibit each and every year. Just a great event. Thanks to all the volunteers (particularly Cathleen Baker, who as the fearless leader goes above and beyond) who made the day a great one, and to the Lord who gave us great weather and the opportunity to give to others.

2) I think that I enjoyed "Grandparent Sunday" (Shawnee's annual celebration of grandparents and grandkids) yesterday. Many of you expressed the same sentiment I did in the sermon of why you returned to make your life in, of all places in the world, Lima. I can do what I do for a living, virtually anywhere in this country, but there's only one place that my family can be near their grandparents. And, to be honest, given my work habits, my boys need the support and time that grandparents give. I am so thankful that we live so close to Dan and Judy, and Bryant and Carol.

3) And I also think that I'm grateful to live so near to my own grandmother. Sunday night is now my night at "the nest", where grandma and I eat ice cream (well, at least I eat ice cream) and watch TV. One of the few truly stress-free moments of my week.

4) I think that right now I am facing one of the most challenging periods I've ever faced, professionally. I see so many opportunities in the life of this church, that I'm beginning to wonder why I'm not stepping up more to lead the charge of taking advantage of them. The future is now... it's just a challenge to figure out how to lead others into that future.

5) I think that if you told me back in 1991 when a high school student (now living and working in the Big Apple) introduced me to a little band named Green Day, that they'd someday be the most important American band on the scene, I'd have called you crazy. But now, given how you hear their sound in hundreds of other bands, and the socio-political bent that their music is moving toward (a good lesson for bands like Sum 41, the subject of my last blog rant), they might just be the only interesting American band right now. A very strange turn of events.

A quick note to the band HO-AG ( : You are winning the ear of some important people of your generation... so what are whispering into it? Are you just telling the audience you've attracted what they already want to hear, or are you trying to do something more? Just a couple of questions a loyal fan wants to ask as you continue to grow as artists.

6) I think (in response to a blog reader, Mark Whitt, who asked me the question of what I think about the sudden emergence of occult-esque horror movies out right now) that the whole horror genre really fell on hard times after it's last heyday in the 80's (Nightmare on Elm Street, The whole "Jason" thing....). For about 20 years, not much has happened with horror (outside of the Blair Witch Project, or the "I Know What You Did Last Summer" movies, everything else has kinda just came and went without a lot of attention), and now, I think, what you are seeing is a re-discovery of this particular style by a whole generation that's never experienced anything like it before. So movies like "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" are going to appeal to young adults and teens because its "new" (to them, anyway), where as, those of us who actually paid full-price to see "Jason Lives in 3D" (yep - guilty as charged) have kinda had that "fix" and have moved on to bigger and better things... like Adam Sandler movies. Thus, Mark, I don't think there's greater occult activity among teens, per se, but I think people are going to greater lengths to pull $8 out of the little darlings.... hence the re-emergence of horror films. Hopefully, a resurrection of good hair metal isn't too far behind.

7) I think that the article in yesterday's "The Lima News" about Lima's economic future being tied to energy development and generation was the most upbeat and hopeful thing written about this community since I've been alive. After years of "Lost In Middle America" jokes, could it really be that a possible expansion at the refinery, a new coal-gasification electric generation plant, and a new ethanol refinery, that Lima's future could actually be bright? Nothing would go further and faster, in my own mind, in convincing me of this than the start of construction on the new Global Energy plant on the site of the old Lima Locomotive/Clark Equipment works. That'd be the sign that we really are turning the corner from becoming less "rust belt" and more "the fuel tank of America". I'll just keep praying.

8) I think that ten things is a lot of things to think today.

9) I think that it was great that both the Shawnee Fire and Police departments showed up full-force yesterday at Fall Fast. I hate to keep raving about this crazy thing, but the community is really starting to own it. Just a great, great experience.

10) I think that bigger things are in store for this church. It's been awhile since I've seen as many new people come through the door as what we're seeing now. Be in prayer as we seek to reap the harvest before us.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Why I Keep Watching Too Much TV

Back in the old days when I hacked around as a youth pastor (way back in 2004), I used to take time on the occasional evening to see what they're showing on MTV. You see "back in the day" when I was in Junior High School (are there any Junior Highs left, or does the Middle School reign supreme?) the trendsetter for all teens, everywhere, was MTV. They played cool music you couldn't hear on the radio by bands experimental (i.e. desperate) enough to make a video in a vain attempt to sell some records and book some gigs. I remember when girls everywhere went shopping in order to look like Pat Benetar within minutes of seeing her video. I remember when Mike Reno of Loverboy was a heartthrob who asked all of his loyal to vote for his video. I remember people with Flock of Seagulls haircuts who wore one glove (a la Michael Jackson... that's right, people used to emulate Michael Jackson!), couldn't wait for the next new British "New Wave" band to break in America. Such was MTV's hold on us, young impressionable teens back in the dark ages.

Of course, that was twenty years ago, and since then its been interesting to see how MTV tries to keep up with with tweens, teens, and college students. It doesn't define "cool" as much anymore as it reports it. So, every so often, I flip over and for an hour or so, just see what's on.

I got my answer in the form of two episodes of "My Super Sweet Sixteen", and a special from MTV News called, "Rocked: Sum 41 Goes To the Congo". NOTE TO MY GRANDMOTHER, WHO IS HIP ENOUGH TO SURF THE INTERNET WITH THE BEST OF THEM, BUT DOESN'T KNOW WHO "SUM 41" IS: They are punk rock band that has become famous making music featuring lyrics declairing how much they don't care about what other people think about them (a popular theme with teens seeking to show how defiant they are to the world around them). Hope that helps, grandmother!

So, what did I see? Let's put it this way.... MTV broadcast two shows (back-to-back episodes of "My Super Sweet Sixteen") featuring two of the most self-indulgent teenage girls they could find, and followed it up with a special featuring the aftermath of a devastating civil war that's claimed over 3.5 million lives since 1996. So, in the first hour, you could watch a little princess brag about how she'll spend $2000 in a hour at the mall because she's spoiled and gets everything she wants, and in the next hour listen to a fifteen-year old boy talk about how many people he killed when he was in the army THREE YEARS AGO (you do the math). MTV shifted gears from profiling a little girl who hires security for her "sweet sixteen party" to kick people she doesn't want off of the "VIP Dance Platform", to a fifteen-year old girl lamenting the fact she'll never get married because soldiers repeated raped her (as well as all the women in her village).

As an aside, the latter program actually made me feel sorry for the guys in Sum 41. The band (which, if you remember, is famous for not really caring about anything) was obviously overwhelmed at what they saw. You could tell that they weren't ready to experience little kids with healed bulletwounds, working long hours mining minerals for export in exchange for one meal a day. They were obviously shaken very badly during their experience, which they did on behalf of the organization "War Child International", a non-profit organization dedicated to helping heal children who have been scarred by living through, or participating in, the horrors of war (here's their website: ) . I'm sure it was a whole new, but beneficial, experience for a pop punk band that would be wise to shift their music toward something more substantial, anyway. But alas, I digress...

Talk about making your head spin.... I don't know if it was intentional on the part of programmers to book these things back to back, but the impression left on me was profound.

Let me say, first of all, that I gave up demonizing the rich a good many years ago. Despite the fairly liberal education I received in seminary, and my own theological orientation, I have learned over the years that just because the rich are rich, that they aren't necessarily "lost", and just because the poor are poor, that doesn't necessarily make them "chosen". God has given us all different gifts, and some people are just better at gathering resources than other people. It's what they choose to do with it that defines their character.

And, given that more than a billion people in the world live on less than a dollar day, what is the definition of "rich"?

I can tell you that as a young youth pastor, making less than $14,000 a year (all inclusive) back in 1998, that I had a change of heart about self-describing myself as "poor" after encountering a widow begging for change outside of a small store in CapHaitian. Knowing that there were tens-of-thousands more like her, living on next to nothing, not more than ten blocks away from where we were standing helped me realize just how blessed I was, and am. After that, living on $40 a day didn't seem all that overwhelming, and I didn't seem all that "poor".

So, I was surprised last night. Surprised enough to wonder if the programmers at MTV were trying to make some sort of statement. I'm just cynical enough to believe that the evening's fare was put together more for demographic reasons than anything else, but hopefully there's a little enlightenment tucked in the corner of a building where shows like "Room Raiders", "Date My Mom", and "Laguna Beach" (a whole other post... I told you I watch too much TV) are dreamed up for public consumption. If that enlightened person by any chance joins my legions of loyal readers (God bless the both of you), here's a show you should pitch to your producers: Combine the two shows, and drop the teenage princesses into the Congo with Sum 41 for a tour of war-torn country filled with orphaned children struggling to survive. It might make "not getting a brand new Beemer for my sixteenth birthday" a little less like the end of the world, and a little more like the unimportant thing that it really is.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Ten Things I Think I Think

1) I think that there isn't much of the Gulf Coast that can be destroyed right now. What a horrible hurricane season.

2) I think that Joseph Bishman's sermon on Sunday was dead on. Probably the single best description of the "thorny soil" I've ever heard in my life. And here's the thing, the desire for more stuff and the "good life" can choke the spiritual life out of you even if your worth is very little (or negative). Just a powerful sermon.

3) I think that Charlie Rose's interview with the finance minister of India last week was one of the most interesting I'd seen in a while. India is a nation of extremes: Extreme economic growth (expanding at a rate of 7%, and this is projected to be the case for 15 years - it will be the world's third largest economy in the next ten years). Extreme poverty (more than a quarter of India's population, that's 250 million people, live on less than 1 dollar a day). Extreme expansion (India will need to build enough electrical plants to generate more than 10,000 megawatts of electricity every year for next TWENTY years to keep up with projected demand). Extreme education (Indian universities will graduate over 2 million college graduates this year, most of whom are scientists and engineers). And unlike China, India's economic expansion is built more on the demand for goods in services within its own borders, as opposed to exports, meaning that She has a growing middle class. The world is changing rapidly, and India will help lead the way.

4) I think that going over to my grandmother's to watch The West Wing is most relaxing thing I do each and every week. Her little nest at the Lima Towers is a haven of blessing and peace in my life.

5) I think my oldest cat is slowly going insane. She is 16 (which is 16 in cat years, cause they use the same ones we do), which is pretty old for a cat, but I caught her trying to eat the sponge in our kitchen sink. That's just not right.

6) I think that my friend Steve posed an interesting question to me that came out of his seminary Bible class. Would the church at Corinth have faced all of the challenges that it did if Paul would have stayed, or appointed a strong leader as his successor? Would a strong leader have ended all of the fornication and chaos, or would have the culture of Corinth overwhelmed that person's best efforts? An excellent question that deserves a blog post of its own, very soon.

7) I think the hardest thing in the world for me to remember is to bring my coffee travel-mug home after work. Pretty soon I'll run out of coffee cups (they'll all be at work) and you'll see me in my van drinking straight from the coffee pot.

8) I think that while Desperate Housewives has more twists and turns than US50 in Eastern West Virginia (worst drive I ever made), if stuff like that happened in any suburb I lived in, there would be whole blocks of houses for sale. It's more dangerous to live on Wisteria Lane than the South Side of Chicago.

9) I think the show "Breaking Bonaduce" is by far, the most compelling (in the same way driving slowly to gander at a car crash is compelling) attempts at TV yet. I get the sense that Danny Bonaduce would have been messed up even if he hadn't been a child star. He's deadly smart, and self-destructive to the core. It makes for interesting television, but I can't say I'm entertained while I watch the guy pop pills or shoot up with steroids, just terrified that we'll witness the first reality death scene with this guy. Scary!

10) And finally, I think that Eli, our youngest, is the rolypoliest, happy baby of them all. I love to see him smile.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Ten Things I Think I Think

1) I think that the youth program here at Shawnee is really moving in the right direction. I am seeing lots of new faces in the form of teens showing up, and adults helping, and I'm really excited about our hiring Andrea Sanford to be our Assistant Youth Director. The new HS youth Sunday School is getting off to a good start, and the core group of teachers (Roger Rhodes, Mike Mox, Rob Neidich, Linda Lawson, Ryan and Stacy Brenneman) are as excellent a team as you'll ever find. Steve Jenkins a new volunteer small group leader, is doing an outstanding job. We still have a lot of work to do, but I'm encouraged with where Brent, Andrea, Andy, Lindsay, and Marty are taking the program.

2) I think that my head is still spinning after reading John Dominic Crossan's book, "Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography". Ten years ago, a book like this (because it puts so little stock in the occurrence of the supernatural and really questions the historocity of scripture) would have angered me to no end, but after a stint in a congregation (not this one) that refused (theologically) to think outside of the box, it's nice to be in a place that can appreciate new ideas that make good sense... even if they stay a bit from "what always been known to be true". I can't tell you how much I'm enjoying this new freedom.

3) I think that the Bucks' QB situation still isn't settled. I hope Troy Smith shakes off the rust this Saturday against Iowa (especially since my Dad and brother will be at the game).

4) I think the talking heads on TV, radio, and in the newspapers who say the New Orleans Saints are getting "hosed" because they have to play this additional game on the road, are losing their grasp of reality. A half-million people have been displaced in the wake of the worst natural disaster on US soil that we'll see in our lifetime, and a football team having to play an extra game on the road is a lead topic of discussion.... wake up guys!

5) I think that we have absolutely no idea of the magnitude that "shame and honor", and "clean and unclean" played in Jesus' world, and of the upheaval he caused by confronting the dominant cultural norm in real ways. If you can't even look at someone with a skin disease or a bleeding problem or enter into the home a gentile (non-Jew) without facing religious and political consequences, what statement does it make when a person specifically seeks out, and associates with these people? If people with mental disease are deemed possessed by demons, and are to be avoided at all costs, and Jesus gets a reputation for being able to "cast those demons out", how threatening is that to people in power? In a democratic society, I don't think we can fully realize the drama that was taking place between Jesus, and the religious/political leaders (Pharisees and Sadducees) of his age... but we should certainly try!

6) I think the special I saw on TV last night featuring David Blaine doing magic on the street corners of various places in the world, including Haiti, was fascinating. I don't know who would have been more fearful of his card tricks and slight of hand... ordinary Haitians who deal with the reality of voodoo witchdoctors every day, or the missionaries I've met who were sent to proclaim the Gospel. I would have loved to see him walk into a missionary's compound and try to do a couple of tricks... the reaction would have made for great television.

7) Speaking of Haiti, there was great a special on PBS, hosted by Bill Moyers, last week about the current situation there surrounding the holding of new elections next February. The UN has deemed it necessary that more than 4 million Haitians must be registered before elections take place, and at this point less than 400,000 have actually been processed by the nation's election committee. Between widespread violence by pro-Aristide supporters, a lack of true military or police force, the non-confrontational nature of the UN soldiers on the ground, and the sheer difficulty of traveling across the country, it's looking more and more like elections won't take place until later next year, or even 2007. What's more, the news crew on the ground that followed Guy Philippe, the principle player in this last coup, documented well his growing frustration and anger with the process. When someone like this expresses disgust with how this situation is being handled, and wishes they had just taken over the Presidential Palace, you know things aren't good. Compound these problems with continued escalating inflation and pervasive poverty, and you've got the makings of a powder-keg situation. Churches everywhere in this country need to seriously consider getting involved directly in Haiti by partnering with local churches/organizations on the ground there, ASAP. We have the makings of a human/ecological disaster unparalleled in the history of this hemisphere if we don't do something, soon.

The succeeding interview after the documentary with James Dobbins, the man in charge of the "nation building" process in Haiti last time things fell apart was very interesting. You can read a transcript of it here ( ).

8) Call me a fatalist, but I think we've had way too much good weather in this part of the world the past month to warrant a mild winter. I'm getting the snowblower up and ready to go.

9) I think that between the proliferation of new private and charter schools, the academic excellence of the various suburban school systems (particular the one here in Shawnee), and the improvement taking place in the Lima City School system, that our local Catholic churches are being faced with some serious issues that are an outgrowth of decreasing enrollment. All of these schools do an excellent job, and given the identity issues involved, I really feel for the leaders in all of the parish's that are facing the possible closure of their school. I'll be praying for you all.

10) I think that bringing home Lucy, our first-ever family dog, home from the pound was one of the best decisions I ever made. She loves our boys, and the kids from the neighborhood even come over to play with her (Is that unusual?). And, well, it's nice to finally have a dog. Welcome home, Lucy!