Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Peter King, a sportswriter for Sports Illustrated, is one of my favorite columnists. Each week in his "Monday Morning Quarterback", one of his features is "Ten Things I Think I Think", which are essentially nine subjects associated with football, and one subject non-related. Here's my first stab (with apoligizes to Peter King).
10) Every time I think it might be a good idea to pray for everyone dealing with the aftermath of Katrina right now. Please contact the Red Cross to see what you can do help alieviate the suffering on the gulf coast right now.
9) I was definitely not happy with my sermon Sunday. My mom summed it up best at lunch yesterday when she said, "I thought the ending was good!". My sentiments exactly.
8) I think that Pat Robertson has become an easy target for the mainstream media. As the world continues to change, and his worldview does not, the result is a story like the one last week. Already saw a bumper sticker lampooning his somewhat misplaced comment (WWJA - Who Would Jesus Assasinate?). I think Pat and Jerry Falwell (the guy who defended Apartied and the people keeping that system in place) have done plenty over the years to make Christians look more than a little bit kooky. While it's easy to say something you immediately regret when you talk for a living, the results of numerous "misquotes" like this one don't seem to be slowing these guys down, or erode their support base. Here's hoping that new voices will begin to be heard in the mainstream, that reflect a more moderate, sensible Christian perspective.
7a) I think Rick Warren is quickly becoming one of these new voices. Was facinated by the brief article in "Time" on Rick Warren's efforts to help the President of Rwanda turn that country into a "Purpose Driven Nation". Warren has become very well-connected through the sales of his latest book, and as a result, is using those connections to help Rwandan leaders learn new leadership strategies, raise the standard of living of impoverished Rwandans, and help the country open itself to Western markets. Because the nation is already overwhelming Christian (but still divided by tribal differences), the hope is that Warren's teachings will be accepted, put into place, and have an immediate effect (18 months is target for a few of the goals, which is pretty ambitious for a local church, let alone a nation). Between this work, giving away the profits from his best-selling book, and his efforts to work with the "One" campaign (ending global poverty), I must say that Pastor Warren is building the kind of integrity necessary to command an audience.
7b) I think other voices I'd like to start hearing include Andy Hamilton, Bruxy Cavey, Kirbyjon Caldwell, Brian McClaren, and Rob Bell Jr. Hey cable programmers, you've got about a billion hours of progamming to fill... why not knock on one these guy's doors?
6) I think that past memories are powerful motivators. Back in the old days, when I was the youth pastor here at Shawnee UMC (Bryan V1.0), we used to do a "Rockathon" to help raise money for the youth ministry related activities. The kids in the youth group now, who were in grade school at the time, asked if they could "reclaim" the Rockathon as one of their events this year. Who would have thought that something so mundane as rocking in a chair for 24 hours would stick out so clearly in those young minds? Just goes to show the impact you have on children.... Charles Barkley was wrong - we're all role models.
5) Here's a link (www.christianitytoday.com/le/2005/003/4.62.html) to an article lifted from the book, "Blue Like Jazz" by Donald Miller. The article, detailing the idea that a small group of Christians had for setting up a "Confessional Booth" on the campus of Reed College (named by the Princeton Review as the place where students are most likely to ignore God), is the centerpiece of the book.
4) I hope that this Thursday, when I'm on WLIO at 6am, promoting the "Back to School Blessing", I don't say something patently stupid. Let's just say that I'm not a morning person.
3) I think that "Dinner With a Perfect Stranger" is one of the more facinating, and interesting reads out there right now. It's kind of "under the radar" right now, but I don't think it will be for long. Check it out.
2) I think that golf is the most maddening sport in the history of sports. Even with all the advanced in equipment, and golf clubs equipped with heads the size of Delaware, there are so many different factors for error, that finding a groove as someone learning to play in his thirties is an impossible task. I usually pick up new sports pretty quickly, but I think I've met my match. Every time I play another round, it's like trying wrestle a grizzly bear.
1) I think I feel really bad for the family of Darren Potuck. Darren is currently in the midst of a divorce from his wife, Contemporary-Christian singer, Jaci Velasquez. I had the pleasure of working with Darren's younger brother, Michael, in the youth ministry at Goshen First UMC. Mike is just a solid young man, and I know that his faith is the product of two very faithful parents. Divorce is hard, but in the Christian music scene, it can be brutal. I'll be keeping them all, Darren, Jaci, and their families, in my prayers.
Thursday, August 18, 2005
"Change" is on my mind right now. It's dominating all of my available brain cells. Maybe its because we're looking at making some changes at church (children's ministry area/Solid Rock renovation), or because we've hired two new key staff persons in the last six months (a youth pastor and a children's ministry director). Maybe it's because my wife is working again (from home) for the first time in eight years. Or maybe, change is on my mind because I'll have a son in elementary school, and another in nursery school this fall.
My last Senior Pastor, Dick Lyndon, thrived on change. At his funeral, I made it point to tell the hundreds of pastors, DS's, and Bishop in attendance that Dick loved taking the risk that change required. He was a man who spent so much of his time out on the edge, that metaphorically, he owned a condo there. I always admired this quality because churches are filled with people, who, quite frankly, loathe change. They are often quick to voice their dismay and express their displeasure when churches take "right turns" at forks in the road where they expect them to keep traveling straight ahead. Needless to say, Dick took a lot of lumps for his fearlessness. I'm sure that, over time, he will be recognized as one of the greatest pastoral leaders in that church's history, but I'll never forget the price he paid to move it forward so far, so fast.
I think Christians are so afraid of change because, too often, the change experienced turns out to be a lemon. I'm told, for example, by my baby-boomer friends that the profound cultural changes of the 1960's were absolutely necessary in that time and place. Forty years of anti-institutuional attitudes, a struggling war on drugs, and the cost of "free love" however, make it hard to believe, in retrospect, that the kids of that era were really on to something. While I could be romantizing a time and place I only know from "Leave It to Beaver" re-runs, one wonders if another course of action wouldn't have been more prudent than taking large numbers of hallucinagenics and other mind-altering substances to "expand consciousness".
But, it seemed like a good idea at the time.... which is exactly why people distrust change.
I suppose that the key to surviving the inevitable "march of history" is to hang on to principles that are timeless, while adapting to whatever comes down the road. Principles like fervently pursuing justice, mercy, goodness, righteousness and coupling your pursuit of those things with a healthy dose of humility, grace and love will eventually help us muddle through the great questions and technological advances of our age.
That's why Jesus said he was the way, the truth, and the life.... not because he wanted humankind's advancement in history to cease with him, but because he saw progress to be as inevitable as the destructive way his people dealt with it in his time and place. He could see a world where a man was measured by his character as opposed to his ethnic background ("The Good Samartan"). He begged people to use their strength and belief in the power of the living God, as opposed to destructive violence, to outlast unjust governance because he knew the pain that war brings ("Weeping Over Jerusalem). And, I think Jesus is recorded as having healed as many people as he did because he wanted to open our eyes to the possibilities of human compassion and love, as opposed to the closed-mindedness that forced those that were sick to be forced out of respctable society ("Healing of the Bleeding Woman" and "Jesus Laying Hands On the Leapors"). He saw what was coming, the advances in science, medicine, and technology that have made this world a smaller place, and did the only effective thing the Lord could do with people who had a free will.... maintained what he believed until death, and then didn't let death deter from the message. That way, people could make their minds up for themselves if they thought what he taught had any merit.
Just another sermon from a guy looking forward to going back to work next week.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Our house is now equipped with wireless internet. It's no big deal. Just spend forty bucks at the local electronics outlet, bring the box home, and basically plug it in the wall and your modem and you are up and running. Any idiot (as it takes one to know one) can set it up....
but it's still pretty cool!
Now, I can sit in my recliner in the basement, typing stuff like this, while my wife works (she's a teacher for a virtual school) upstairs on our desktop computer. If I want to follow the stats of my favorite basketball players, while I watch "Celebrity Fit Club 2", it's my option. Or, I can play music out on the deck out back from a web-based radio station or music service (all eighties music, all the time!) and it's no big deal.
Because now, we're wireless!
I remember when Dad brought home our first computer... an Apple IIe. It was back in an age where Lionel Richie ruled Top 40 radio and MTV actually played videos. There was no mouse. No Windows. No USB ports, memory sticks, on-line gaming, E-bay, or I-Tunes. Just a green screen, some really bad graphics (that we thought were amazing), and a word processing program that required ample usage of about 20 different function keys. I think the thing cost $2000 and didn't have as much memory as my current cell phone. Since Al Gore hadn't invented the internet yet, people would come to our house and look at our Apple like it had decended from Mars. There was so little you could do with it, that many people openly wondered why Dad had wasted his money on a "personal computer". And outside of printing a few history papers (I was proudly the first person in our high school to use the excuse, "My printer wasn't working, so I couldn't turn in my paper today") playing the few games we owned at the time, it really didn't have any other functions.
What a difference 20 years makes.
Now computers are like additional arms, or feet. People can make their living doing nothing but selling gizmos on virtual auction sites, fixing software applications, and keeping networks up-and-running for small businesses. Being able to take it with us, thanks to wirelessness, is becoming less an oddity, an more of necessity. Without even realizing it, computers have intigrated themselves into the lives of all ages of people (my three year old learns his colors on a website designed for pre-schoolers while at the same time his great-grandmother, who is probably reading this now, keeps up to date on the news via her favorite blogs) and are changing the way we live.
And what can we learn from this.... that change will come for each one of us, and our ability to cope and adapt with that change will largely determine how comfortable, or uncomfortable we will be in the future. If we embrace it, and expect it, then as life changes, our stress level will be noticably lower than if we are constantly at war with the world moving at light speed around us.
In other words, better that wirelessness is cool, as opposed to a necessary evil (or just plain evil).
More on this tomorrow.
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
Just returned from lovely weekend in beautiful Chattanooga, Tennessee with my friend Paul Rebelo, and his family. A big "thank you" to Christine, Paul's lovely wife and (in my opinion) a living saint, for being such a gracious hostess. I enjoyed seeing how much the Rebelo kids have all grown, and especially liked meeting, for the first time, little Rachel who is (Thank God!) the mirror image of her mother (the alternative is unthinkable).
I mixed a little business with pleasure as Paul invited me to come preach at his installation service (for those who don't know what this is.... the worship service where Paul is officially made the Senior Pastor of the church) at the First Christian Church of Chattanooga (F3C). Thanks to the congregation for suffering my words, and congrats on the wonderful job you did welcoming Paul and his family into your fold.
This is the culmination of a journey Paul and I started together in back in 1992 as students at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio. His odyssey to be used by God in the ministry of Jesus has taken him in and out of the United Methodist Church from Ostrander Ohio, to Ducktown Tennessee, Charleston and Fairmont West Virginia, and ultimately into the Disciples of Christ Denomination as the Senior Pastor of F3C.
Like most of us who have been doing this awhile, when Paul started engaging in the call process a number of months ago, he was looking for place where he could not only use what he had learned, but a nice town to raise a family. As the various church opportunities presented themselves, all along as he sought my advice, I'd try to steer him to the contemporary churches in the suburbs, for the reason that since he's a fairly young (he's a year older than me, so let's make that VERY young) Caucasian, white-collar, middle-class educated married professional with kids, that he'd fit in pretty well.
And besides, all the "Doctor-Reverend-Mister-Sunday-Schools" out there who make their living consulting in churches and conducting all of big church conferences would tell you that the burbs are the place to go. That's where the MegaChurches are growing, complete with video screens and coffee bars that appeal to the particular demographic they are designed to attract. Lord knows I'm happy at Shawnee, and while it's a challenge, I feel like I've arrived home, and it couldn't be more suburban. After a number of questionable appointments, and a starter position in a new denomination, I just thought this would be the "sure thing" Paul would need to help him find some fulfillment in his professional and personal life.
But in the end, though he had ample opportunity, Paul didn't take the "sure thing". Instead, he took the "right challenge"... a church located in the heart of a diverse, re-developing urban community, in the center of a growing college campus, near a large number of impoverish persons struggling to get by. Dormitories, condos, and cardboard boxes... all less than five minutes away from this old, tall-steeple, mainline denominational church. It's the opportunity to do some truly dynamic ministry, but the odds of everything coming together aren't exactly a "sure thing". Far from it, in fact.
But, I remember another Paul, who gave up a "sure thing" life of prestige and position as a religious leader in an established faith, for the "right challenge" of spreading the teachings and stories of a man who had gathered a fairly small, insignificant number of followers only to be put to death by the Roman authorities.... and although his life was difficult, he ended up writing a pretty important chapter in the life of Jesus' church.
Here's to hoping my Paul and his people, do the same.
Thursday, August 04, 2005
Today, Max and Xavier were commissioned to get the toys that are strewn all over the house, picked up before Aimee's family comes over for dinner this evening. Neither boy was overly enthusiastic about the chore, and after numerous threats and reminders, I pulled out all the stops to get them moving:
I set a timer for ten minutes.
You see, since we have boys, normally we can turn anything into a race or competition. In this case, the clock was the enemy, and usually our sons do whatever they can to vanquish the enemy.
But not today...
Xavier, for whatever reason, just wasn't rising to the occasion. He could be tired, or just "three", but as it became apparent that he wasn't going to pick up his part of the clutter, I made it clear to him that if he failed to beat the clock, there would be consequences.... which promptly resulted in him breaking down in tears.
Anyhow, Xave's brother, Max, responded in a curious way: he began to gloat over his brother's pending misfortunation. While this isn't all that uncommon, what made it so poignant was that yesterday, Aimee told Max that he wouldn't be able to watch a movie on the big screen in the basement as punishment for something he had done to his brother and Xavier interceded on Max's behalf. Xavier said that watching a movie would't be fun without Max, and asked his mother if she would reconsider, which was so unexpected, that in her shock, she gave Xavie his wish. Now, not 24 hours later, when he had a chance to stick up for his own bro, Max was instead rubbing Xavier's impending misfortune in like a spice rub into a pork chop.
(In a sing-song voice) "You are in trouble. You won't get to go swimming. I get to have fun and you don't get to."
Why are we that way? Why are we so quick to accept mercy and grace, and so loathe to dish it out? I guess I could be upset with my son if I, too, weren't so quick to beat others with sticks when they were down, forgetting all the times that people took blows for me in hours of need.
Anyhow, while Xavie sobbed in mother's lap, I pulled Max aside and reminded him of what his brother had done for him yesterday. He responded with dead silence. And then, after a few moments where you could see the wheels turning, he called out...
"Hey Xavie. I'm done picking up my stuff, and we still have time. How about I help you pick up yours?"
I know that, down the road, I'm probably creating a two-headed monster where the boys starting banding together against us, but how might the story of humanity been different if Abel had simply said, "Hey God, give Cain a second chance. I'm sure he can do better next time.", and then the two brother worked together to make a sacrifice that blew any other away.
Tough to say.... I hope I find out in my own home, though.
Monday, August 01, 2005
Just wanted to say a big "thank you" to all the people from the congregation who said such nice things about the "Celebrity" sermon series. For all the verbal, and electronic comments, thank you so much. I'm glad so many people got something out of the series, and I hope that which you gleaned will serve you well, long term. Anything good you received came from God... I'm just glad I didn't get in the way.
Here's a few things to be looking for in the coming weeks:
- It appears that, finally, we will begin putting up audio files of sermons on the web, which was a long time coming. A big "thank you" to Carl Hursh who is helping us jump into the 21st Century by setting up the necessary equipment to digitally record the contemporary service. Be aware that due to copywrite issues, we will not be posting any of the fine music Shane and the band crank out next week (sorry), but we'll see what we can do about that long-term.
- Carl is also looking to set up a message board so that people can begin to converse on-line about the past week's sermon. We have no idea if there is a demand for this, but we'll give it a try and see what happens. Thanks again, Carl, for helping make the ShawneeUMC.com a cool place to surf.
- With the new weekly devotional, Charlotte Hefner is starting organize new Home Fellowship Groups that will meet once or twice a month just to get together, have a good time, and maybe delve into a little bible study via "The Next Word". An astounding 78 people have indicated an interest in this already, with little or no prodding from us, so it should be an exciting time as those new groups start coming together in the fall.
- Our video ministry is about to take a leap forward as we replace our old video scaler (it died three weeks ago) with a new video fader. An anonymous gift is making this possible, and the implication of this is that at some point in the future, we hope to be able to do more video production out of our tech ministry (i.e. DVD copies of worship services, in-house of dramas and promos, closed circuit broadcasting for overflow areas on days that we're packed, on-line video streaming, etc...). Just a neat new addition to our tech ministry!
I'll be on vacation starting later this week. Joseph has returned from his journey across the great west (rested, but with a nasty summer cold), and is now back in the big city, so we can sneak away for a couple of weeks. I'm not sure how often I'll get to this blog during that time, but rest assured, my legions of loyal readers, that there will be a post here or there, about this or that. I'm preaching an "installation service" for a good friend from seminary next week, which will require a trek to Chattanooga, so I'm sure something noteworthy ought to come out of the experience.
Just a quick word about Andy's wedding this weekend. It was just as enjoyable as it could be! The service and reception were just lovely. The setting for each couldn't have been nicer, and Andy and Melissa could not have been more gracious or thoughtful hosts. Just a blessed time for Aimee, the kids, and myself. Good luck, kids, and I hope you have a great honeymoon, and life together. We're always here for you!
I loved seeing all the family (my mom's brother, Fred, and his family, Kathy and Katy, stayed with us which was really great!) that came into town. We have standing invites now to visit relatives in California, Florida, South Carolina, and Utah, so I foresee some travel in the Bucher family future (after Eli gets a little bit older) and chances to wear out our welcome.
I finally met, face to face, the guys whose, um, "backsides" I "kicked" in our NBA Fantasy League this past winter. A big shoutout to Queen James, Young Gunns, The Sturgeon, JMo, God is a NY Knick (although I'd think God would have Jerry West, and not Isaiah Thomas, as his GM) and all the rest of Andy's frat brothers who make up the league. A big thank you for including a guy a lot older, much heavier, and much less hip than the rest of you. You got the best of me in baseball, but football's coming, and so is your judgment, and that right soon!
Finally, I want to wish the best of luck to Rev. James Lehman, and the congregation at St. John Lutheran Church in Port Clinton, as they look to start a second-site ministry on one of the large islands just off the coast PC in Lake Erie. As a former pastor at a dual-site church, it's exciting for me to hear that this kind of ministry is becoming so viable, and so mainstream, that even churches in small communities like Port Clinton, Ohio are seeing advantages to it. The idea was such a good one for my former church, and yet became so controversial (because it was so cutting edge for the time, a decade ago), that its good to see how pioneers like Goshen First UMC, and particularly the late Rev. Dick Lyndon, have paved the way for something that is effectively reaching hundreds of thousands of people with the Gospel of Jesus' love. You will all be in my prayers.
Until next time.... God Bless,