Monday, March 13, 2006

Ten Things I Think I Think

1) Made a great four-day pilgrimage to Indianapolis to watch the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament. While the "fairy tale ending" would have been the Buckeyes winning the whole shebang, they fell apart down the stretch, and were outplayed by Iowa who deservedly took home the trophy. However, when you're traveling with Eric Stalkamp, Tim Yunker, and Dad, you can't go wrong. A big "thanks" to Horizons of Faith UMC, who offered their retreat center, "Horizon House" to us (it was a good experience - if you'd like a weekend of renewal I'd encourage you to check out ). Just a great weekend all-around.

2) My take on the State of Basketball in the Big Ten right now is that you won't have to worry about any Men's team from the conference making a run at the NCAA Tourney. Every team either lacks the necessary height (OSU, Indiana), ability to score (Michigan State), consistency (Iowa, Illinois), or talent (everyone else) to win the "big one" this year. The good news for Bucks fans, however, is the ongoing development and maturation of Jamar Butler. While I never had the chance to watch him while he attended Shawnee High School (we moved here the summer he graduated), the improvement in his game over the course of this season has been tremendous. Now, as their point guard, he has become the glue that is holding this team together, which is exciting when you think about next year's incoming recruiting class. He'll be the perfect leader for these young guys.

And, you never know when a team could get hot from the field, and make a serious run.... let's just hope the conference (and particularly Ohio State) makes a good showing in the tournament.

3) Not to bore you with all the details of the weekend, but I'll let you in on one more. On Sunday afternoon, we're walking down the street, looking for a place to get lunch, when out of nowhere woman hits me in the chest and screams, "Bucher!". I look around, and standing in front of me is Noelle Bollinger (well, the last name isn't Bollinger, it's Szydlyk, but I can barely spell that name, let alone say it). Noelle is the Event Coordinator for the Indiana Sports Corporation, which is a non-profit entity that organizes sporting events (for more info on ISC, go here: ) . Apparently, the ISC is organizing the Men's Tourney, and Noelle is in charge of the event. In my chance meeting with her, I learned two things...

First, Noelle always wanted to go into some form of management for a group or organization that's does sports. When she was a teenager in the youth group I pastored here at Shawnee before the dawn of fire, that was really her only professional goal. Now, years later, after earning a couple of degrees, working in a variety of jobs that paid her very little but provided much experience, now she's living her dream. Just a neat thing to witness over the course of these past 15 years.

And second, she could, and would have, procured me with better seats. Not that our seats were bad (although we could see the dust on top of the scoreboard hanging over center court). Kinda of lousy thing to learn after an event is over, but will be one of those pieces of information I'll tuck away for later!

Remember kids, it's not what you know..... it's who you know!

4) We kicked off a Capital Campaign this Sunday geared to paying down, or off, our current mortgage ($534,000) over the course of the next three years. To be honest, as a pastor I've always been uncomfortable asking for money. Mine is the generation who witnessed the irresponsible behavior of numerous TV preachers (think of Oral Roberts asking for millions or God would "take him home") and I don't want to be associated with that kind of behavior. But, the bottom line, is the bottom line. Without cash, this institution wouldn't last long, and since I believe that this church truly makes a difference in the world, I have no problem asking people to support its mission. This campaign is designed to help pay our current mortgage down, or off, over the course of the next three years. The result will be freeing up more money for ministry and mission..... in other words, to invest in people. Please keep it in your prayers.

5) Interesting story today out of Hollywood, where Isaac Hayes, the voice of the character named "Chef" on the show "South Park", announced today that he is quitting the show over it's intolerance of religious beliefs. Apparently, Hayes, who is a devout Scientologist, is upset over an episode from last season entitled "Trapped In The Closet" that took direct aim at Scientology, and couple of its biggest proponent, Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

Hayes, in a statement said he's leaving the show because "There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins. "Religious beliefs are sacred to people, and at all times should be respected and honored," he continued. "As a civil rights activist of the past 40 years, I cannot support a show that disrespects those beliefs and practices."

The creators of South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone were quick to respond, and what they had to say was interesting. Matt Stone said, "This is 100 percent having to do with his faith of Scientology... He has no problem, and he's cashed plenty of checks, with our show making fun of Christians." Trey Parker added that he, "never heard a peep out of Isaac in any way until we did Scientology. He wants a different standard for religions other than his own, and to me, that is where intolerance and bigotry begin."

Considering that the show has mocked, among other things, Mel Gibson and his motives for making the "Passion of the Christ", (in a scathing episode) the Church of Latter Day Saints, Jesus in a multitude of situations (including winning a rigged boxing match against Satan), and also in the last season, Mary the mother of Jesus on an episode so offensive that the President of Viacom (who is a Catholic) has promised that his network, Comedy Central, will never show the episode again. The show is notorious for playing off of stereotypes. They even shot one episode where one of the show's main characters undergoes plastic surgery to become a tall, black man so that he can make a local basketball team and added a semi-permanent character named "Token Black".

So, why now, is Isaac Hayes so offended? Has he been watching the show? It was built on being offensive and vulgar. Just seems like strange timing to me, and makes me question just how secure the leadership of Scientology is about its image. Heaven knows that Christianity can take a beating on a number of fronts (and another one is about to hit with the release of "The DaVinci Code" movie), and somehow we're still standing. Can Scientology survive the same kind of scrutiny? My guess is that they don't want to know the answer to that question, and hence, now South Park no longer has its Chef. Just a strange turn of events....

6) It seems that the situation in the Darfur region of the Sudan is growing increasingly desperate. Now, the government of neighboring country, Chad, is asking the UN to intervene militarily, even as it has, over the years, been accused of supporting the murderous Islamic militias that have been slaughtering Sudanese Christians.

Which takes me back to an early post, where I wondered out loud, how in the world Islamic extremists can believe this can kind of behavior will do anything but turn the world against Islam. With actions like this, and now terrorist activity in Iraq designed to promote a Civil War between Sunni and Shiite Muslimsms who have lived together for hundreds of years largely in peace, I don't know how you promote anything other than fear and loathing among those living outside of your circle. This message must be getting across because imams all over the world are calling for an end to this kind of violent behavior. While the US can't ignore the plight of so many Muslims living in poverty in this world, at some point, a two-sided dialogue needs to takes place so that we can work toward solving, instead of creating new, problems.

7) Can the weather this winter get any weirder? The worst hurricane season on record, followed by an absurdly mild winter, and now tornados in Illinois in the month of March. If you've never lived in Illinois, then you don't know how strange this is, so just take my word for it. Now NASA is saying that the polar ice caps are getting thinner, which is an indicator that the world is getting warmer (read here: ). This article also states that in the past, that scientific research like this would have been edited or not approved for release, which is somewhat unsettling given the fact that nobody in Ohio really wants to own ocean-front property here anytime soon. Don't want to be a "Chicken Little" but something strange does seem to be afoot in the world climate.

8) I stated earlier that this past weekend we stayed at a retreat center owned by Horizon of Faith UMC in Indianapolis. Now the quality of most of these kinds of places usually rivals the living conditions of your typical cottage at a small lake, and since this house had no TV, I wondered aloud last week if two of my traveling companion, Eric Stalkamp and Tim Yunker, would be too "fu fu" to survive such living conditions. I had no worry about Dad, who has slept on many a floor on many a mission trip with numerous loud, obnoxious teenagers.

Well, I'm pleased to announce that both Eric and Tim can travel cheap with the best of them. Tim provided our breakfast for the weekend (PopTarts) and Eric brought the cards and peanuts so we could pass the night away with a little Euchre. No whining about a lack of TV. No complaining about the simplicity of our surroundings..... just real men enjoying a weekend of male bonding around basketball.

Although the weekend was not without its "fu fu" moments. In the interest of time, I'll only list two...

We noticed that during a time out at Conseco, that Tim stuck around for the duration of the Time Out to watch the "Kiss Cam" on the main scoreboard. The "Kiss Cam" basically is a way of getting couples to kiss, on camera, as it's being broadcast live in the arena on the big screen, and all the little screens out in the concourse. Tim waited until the "Kiss Cam" was done, and the Time Out over, to head out to the restroom after the game had resumed! To miss part of a game to watch the "Kiss Cam" is definitely a "fu fu" moment.

And, the other "fu fu" moment of the weekend occurred when Eric insisted we needed to return to the Godiva Chocolate store so that he could pick up a sugarless chocolate bar before we headed back to the arena. Now that he bought a sugarless chocolate bar is more than forgivable, as he needs to do this for medical reasons, but anytime a man insists that he has to buy Godiva Chocolate, and its not for the purpose of pacifying or bribing his wife, that, my friend, is "fu fu". A real man would have rather eaten bark.

9) Watched the finale of "The Flavor of Love" on VH1 last night. (NOTE TO MY GRANDMOTHER: "The Flavor of Love" is set up kind of like "The Bachelor" in that twenty young women were vying for the affections of one single male, but it's different in that the male is "Flavor Flav", member of the "Public Enemy" rap group, and pretty much one of the weirdest people on the planet. For more info Grandmother, go here to and click on "The Flavor of Love".) Watching twenty women throw themselves at Flav is kind of a surreal experience, but to watch two of them rip one another apart to "win" being with Flav (in what I'm supposing will be another reality series called, "Rollin' With the Flav") was just bizarre. Truly one of the lowest moments in reality TV history, and yet wildly entertaining to this humble preacher. I don't know what this says about the culture, or me. Come to think of it, staying up until 11pm to see who won Flav might have been the most "fu fu" moment of the entire weekend. I am not a man.

10) And finally, it's late, and I need to go home. Hope you had a great weekend, and I'll see you next week!

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