Monday, February 27, 2006

Ten Things I Think I Think

1) Have lucked into a couple of all-session tickets for the 2006 Men's Basketball Tournament in Indianapolis in a couple of weeks, so Dad and I will make the trek (where we'll meet Eric Stalkamp and a fan to be named later). I'm really looking forward to this, not just for the b-ball, but because when I was little kid, every year Dad would get a couple of all-session tickets to the WVIAC tournament in Charleston. Some of my earliest memories are of he and I sitting at the Charleston Civic Center eating popcorn while watching WV Wesleyan, Morris Harvey (now the University of Charleston), Fairmont, or some other small NAIA college duke it out for the league championship. That was the place, in fact, where I fell in love with basketball. So, to revisit this with Dad will be good on a number of levels. Can't wait to get there. Feel free Indiana blog readers to email good places to eat in Indy at .

2) In an effort to do to my son, what Dad did to me, on St. Patrick's Day, Max and I will be making the trek to Cleveland to see the Cavaliers in action. I'll probably go broke just parking the car and feeding the boy, but it should be a good time. At the end of the game, Max will get to go out on the floor at the Q and shoot a free throw (which was something I got to do at Richfield coliseum back in the early eighties... got to give World B. Free "five" too!), so I'm hoping it'll give him some incentive when he gets home to spend a little more time in the cul-de-sac shooting hoops. A big basketball month at the Bucher house.

3) All day this Saturday, and I mean ALL DAY, I'll be in a meeting with 200 lay and clergy people from across the conference to talk about the current transition from 14 down to 8 districts. Without getting into too much trouble, let's just say the prospect of such a discussion isn't exactly "stimulating". I'll be a good soldier, and do my part, but frankly, I wonder how different things would be for the local church if our conference eliminated districts all-together. While I've got nothing against District Superintendents, district offices, events, and staffs, in terms of day-to-day operations in a local church, I don't know how much real impact they really have. Makes one wonder, in an age of internet, email, cell phones, and now video conferencing, is the kind of oversight that was necessary when Ohio was a wild frontier served by Circuit Riders, still necessary today? The kind of "middle management" that's going by the wayside in Corporate America (as witnessed by the dozens of white-collar workers at the local Ford plant who unfortunately lost their last week in Ford's latest re-structuring), is still considered pretty important in the United Methodist Church. But how much longer can we afford it?

After a stint as a conference staff years ago, I openly wonder about the value of employing a whole staff of people whose primary function is to a) figure out where our pastors should be appointed, b) meet with those pastors and lay people at local churches once a year to find out how their doing, and c) put out "fires" at troubled churches. While DS's do a good job helping churches that are in crisis, there are so many of our churches in crisis, one wonders if they wouldn't be better served spending their time a) looking for opportunities for new church plants, b) working with churches and pastoral leaders looking to be revitalized, and c) recruiting high quality pastoral leadership. I hope re-districting leads to these things, but old habits die hard. I'll keep you posted as more info comes available.

4) The situation in Iraq seems to be going from bad, to worse, as now Sunni and Shiite Muslems are becoming so openly hostile that Civil War has now become a real possibility.

Here's the thing about dictators.... while the means with which they keep order are contrary to basic human decency, often the force they use masks deeper divisions which exist among those under their rule. Yugoslavia was a good example of what happens in the aftermath of a regime collapse. Marshall Tito was no saint, by any means, but his iron hand helped keep in check ethnic and religious tensions that had existed in this region for centuries. Imagine our surprise when in response to the fall of the iron curtain, we witnessed terrible atrocities in what we now know as Bosnia, Serbia, and Croatia as, literally, neighbors waged battles against neighbors.

By the way, we sent troops there to help restore order in this region, and they are still there.

While a certain amount of bloodshed is probably necessary in situations where self-determination is happening among differing peoples, why would we dream that we'd be getting out of Iraq anytime soon given the serious differences that already existed there, previous to WWII (and WWI, and Spanish American War, and the Hundred Years War, and maybe even before the Holy Roman Empire)? How you could expect anything less than a long-term presence in a place where people are this deeply divided is beyond me. Get ready for a very long ordeal.

5) Went to lunch with my boss (Joseph Bishman) at his invitation, and at the register, he pulled the old "I left my wallet at home" routine. His mock surprise and look of shock/embarrassment need a lot of work. I'd teach him, but some things you're just born with. It's a gift from God. Here's hoping that he continues to manage his money well, because he'll never make it as a mooch.

6) Just read a really, really good book. "To Own A Dragon: Rewriting the Legacy of an Invisable Father" by Donald Miller is a touching, thoughtful look at what it means to become a man. It is a great read whether you grew up with a father, or not. I'd recommend it to anyone with a young man struggling to get their act together, to a mother or father trying to figure out what they want to instill in their son(s), as a graduation (high school or college) gift this spring, or for anyone looking for a good read on the aftereffects of fatherless homes. I left the book at home (and I'm writing this at work), so I'll try to publish a couple of brief excerpts later this week. You can buy it here:

7) Received a nice email from a former youth group-ite. Mr. Mike Deranek is a second-year student at Indiana University studying the social sciences, and aiming for a career in law, ministry, teaching, or politics (quite a combination of possibilities, isn't it?). Mike informs me that he's working as a TA for a Poly Sci prof on campus, and has been active in IU's rather involved effort in getting students from the campus to volunteer their time cleaning up the mess left by Katrina. Mr. Deranek credits his time on mission experiences during his tenure at Goshen First UMC as good preparation for the work he's doing now to help organize a series of these trips for students over the next three years. Just a marvelous young man, and despite the fact that he chose IU, and not an elite Big Ten school, like Ohio State, I couldn't be more proud of how well he's doing.

And, to be honest, he was such a pain in the can as a middle school student, I'm grateful I didn't kill him eight years ago. Goes to show that God really knew what he was doing with that "Do not kill" commandment. Just a life-saver for pre-teens and teens (and probably husbands who are United Methodist Pastors) everywhere.

8) We had a great Home Fellowship meeting at the Bucher home, Sunday. (NOTE TO MY GRANDMOTHER: Home Fellowship is a six week program where a number of people from our church get together, and spend some time getting to know one another.) The meeting itself is bound by confidentiality, but I can say that I'm impressed with the questions being expressed by the people in the group. For example, the topic of creation v. evolution came up, which in Christian circles is really more of a question of how you interpret scripture: literally or from a historical/critical perspective. Just a great discussion among some very intelligent people trying to make sense of their faith in a post-modern age. Am looking forward to meeting three next week.

9) For all of you out there who liked "Brokeback Mountain", my Uncle Dennis, a true Utah mountain man if there ever was one, assures me that there were no gay cowboys. Considering the fact that the man actually chases after bears to hunt them down, which is either an act of bravery or insanity, I'm not going to argue with him.

10) And finally, a moment of silence for Don Knotts, simply one of the best comedic actors of his time. Thanks for Barney Fife, Don.... he makes me laugh every single time.

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