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 ( http://www.pbs.org/wnet/wideangle/printable/transcript_haiti_print.html ).
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!