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.