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.