Monday, April 03, 2006

Eleven Things I Think I Think

If you haven't done so yet, visit , send Aimee your email, and add your name to the list of people who aren't ready to say "yes" to a casino in the Lima area. Also, if you are from the area, take some time to utilize the links on that webpage to contact our local political leaders, and let them know that insufficient and/or unconvincing data on this project has been presented, and that you'd rather use county-owned land geared toward commercial development for a purpose other than legalized gambling.

1) As a means of self-preservation, I edit what I say in this blog. Often, I have something I really want to write about, but for a variety of reasons, it's just not prudent to do so. As a rule, it generally takes me a couple of hours to pound this thing out each week, and it takes this long because I am constantly checking, and re-checking what I'm writing to make sure it's interesting, but not going to cause any unnecessary headaches. Just one of the realities of the biz I'm in, but suffice to say, if I could write whatever I wanted this blog would have a totally different feel.

I mention all of this because somebody said something yesterday that really got under my skin. You see, there was a time in my life, not too long ago, when I pretty much said just about everything that came into my head. I'm not saying that this "Bryan" was a better "Bryan" per se. The Book of James has a lot to say about how destructive the tongue can be, and I've learned that lesson first hand, multiple times. But, anyhow, yesterday a very well-intentioned person, while congratulating me on starting a doctorate, made the statement that years ago I was the "Clueless Bryan", and then I went to Goshen and became "Radical Bryan", and now, here I am, years later, and I've become "Corporate Bryan".

In other words, I'm the man I used to stick it too. Maybe this is the price you pay as you get older, or maybe I really am just getting smarter..... I don't know. All I know is that never, in my life, would I ever have thought I could be described as "corporate", and never would I have imagined that most of the time spent writing this thing was carefully deciding what I don't want you to hear me say.

2) Which leads me, I suppose, to this place I've arrived right now where I've become one of the local mouthpieces against a proposed casino to be run by the Eastern Shawnee Tribe here in Lima. I've been told that I really ought to keep my mouth shut, and let this battle be fought by other people because of what it could cost me, long term, in terms of my cred with the local business community. Well, I've basically chosen to speak my mind for a few reasons:
  • I don't want my family living in a small, somewhat economically depressed, town with a casino. I just don't think it will improve our quality of life.
  • Most of the local clergy speaking out on this issue are choosing to use language and terms that aren't endearing the church to the part of the community that is unchurched. I think there is a real economic argument one can make against this thing that will turn more heads than disparaging remarks about Indians, gamblers, and the people who wish to embrace them.
  • I'm afraid of truly becoming "Corporate Bryan", for what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and in the process lose his soul (I heard that from somewhere)?

So, here is a link to the copy of my letter to the editor of the Lima news. It will not be last word I have on the subject:

3) Great game tonight! Not especially close, but the effort each team gave was terrific. I reminded me of one of those great heavyweight fights you can only see now on ESPN Classic where two guys just keep beating on one another, long after they reached the point of fatigue. That was tonight's game, which was played baseline to baseline with unbelievable speed and energy. Just a great effort on the part of both teams.

4) I took Max to his awards ceremony for Upwards Basketball up at The Naz (the Lima Community Church of the Nazarene, for those not familiar with the lingo of the locals), and it was, well interesting. The featured speaker was a middle aged lady that did lots of dribbling tricks (which would have probably been more impressive had she not been dribbling on a carpeted floor), some juggling, a little speaking, and a little singing for closers. It could best be described as a surreal experience, although the woman really did go all out and had a good message for the kids (Be an A.C.E. - have a good Aattitude, be Comitted, and show great Eenthusiasm). Then we sat through 40 minutes of handing out door prizes.

Here's a piece of advice for the Upward's people at The Naz - next year, if you have to have door prizes again, just put all the winning ticket numbers on the screen, and tell people to stop at a prize table out in the entry area on their way home. That'll beat watching the league director reading off winning ticket numbers, and peering into a crowd to find the winner. Remember, you don't need to give us a bunch of free crap to make sure we come to the ceremony.... we'll come to support our kids.

5) Well, the first week, and all the receptions, for the Living Sacrifice Capital Campaign, are over. Now, all we can do is wait to see how the congregation responds. I'm not particularly fond of asking for money (a subject I've covered before), but every dollar we can use for mission and ministry, as opposed to paying off a mortgage, is a dollar better spent. I hope the congregation feels the same way.

6) Grandma and I enjoyed back to back episodes of The West Wing last night. I say "back-to-back" because last week the local NBC affiliate, WLIO, decided to conduct a telethon for the United Way during The West Wing, with no plans to re-air the episode later. Grandma and I thought about calling to complain last Sunday, but Jiminy Crickets, how can you be against the United Way? We might have as well called to express our displeasure with the existence of babies or the coming of Spring. So, we just seethed at the telethon (which, remarkably, featured a local guy cooking what looked to be an oversized Ho-Ho for the majority of the evening) and resolved to send donations to the Salvation Army.

Well, believe it or not, the next day when my Grandmother called the station to find out if re-airing what was essentially one of the last nine episodes of a great show was a possibility, she was surprised to have a flustered receptionist fall all over herself, apologizing for the pre-emption, and promising that the station would look into the matter. Apparently, the complaints were more than a few. I guess other people don't care whether or not their complaining made them look shallow and self-serving (God Bless 'em)

Anyhow, thanks to them, the episode aired at 7pm on Saturday. So Grandma, who is the only person in our entire family that actually knows how to operate a VCR (no joke!), taped "the lost episode" and the new one from last night. Couple that with some great conversation and a big bowl of ice cream, and you've got the makings of a great evening!

7) While I worked out this morning at the Y, I found myself watching "Live With Regis and Whatever The Lady's Name Is" (can't say I'm a huge fan). Now, if you want, you can turn on your FM radio and listen to the audio of the show, but, since I'm a child of the seventies who was too young too realize that Disco wasn't cool, I was listening to Jamaraqui and didn't want to turn him off, so I just read the captioning. The subject of the conversation between Regis and the other lady consisted mostly of her talking about how her child got the chicken pox while they were on vacation in some exotic locale. I'm sure it was interesting to somebody, somewhere, but I'll bet you they wouldn't have been half as absorbed into the subject matter if they had read the dialogue. Nobody is winning a Pulitzer on that show anytime soon.

8) Since I was at Mom and Dad's tonight watching the NCAA Tourney, we watched this show on NBC (before the game), called "Deal or No Deal". The premise of the show is that you can win a lot of money, and not be particularly smart or talented at anything. You just need to pick the right briefcase held by the right scantily clad female, and be willing to help wratchet up the suspense factor as much as you can in the process. The best part, as far as I'm concerned, was watching Howie Mandel, a comic from the eighties who used to pull a rubber glove over his head and blow it up with his nose, host. Watching how transform from a manic/crazy lunatic, to game show host is, for me, just about the best entertainment I can think of. I just keep waiting for him to come back from a commercial break in (what was) his trademark doctor's smock blathering incoherently about chickens or buses or calendars like he did in the old days. And how much more suspense is there if you're wondering whether or not the host, at any moment, could whip out a rubber glove, pull it over his head, and blow it up with his nose? See if you can watch that show the same way, now!

9) We're getting ready for Holy Week around here, and at Shawnee, doing so is kind of a rough experience. You see, Joseph (our Senior Pastor), is a big believer that since so many people skip "Good Friday" services, they miss the experience of thinking about Jesus being dead, in the tomb, so, our Palm Sunday service is really just a Good Friday service, five days early. So, if you work at Shawnee, Jesus is in the tomb the entire week, which is not a pleasant thing to think about. And, I guess that's the point really.... thinking about the horrible thing that was done to your best friend and mentor. Since Joseph always likes to make it a point to make sure you know too, that's it's his, yours, and my sin that put Jesus in this predicament, the sense of guilt and responsibility weighs heavy.

But, this year, I'm preaching on Palm Sunday, and I'm just not sure that I'm ready, really, to jump all the way to Good Friday, as Palm Sunday itself holds enough misery in itself. For it is on this day that as he is lauded by many waving palm branches as being the Messiah of Israel, that as he makes his way down the Mount of Olives, through the crowd and into Jerusalem, he weeps over the city. He weeps because he knows that those praising his name see him not as a spiritual deliverer, but as a military figure who is supposed to overthrow the Romans and free Israel. In great detail, in the Book of Luke, Jesus predicts what will happen to Jerusalem because some believed that war with Rome would set the people free. It's a very gruesome, realistic picture that depicts the actual fall of Jerusalem about 30 years later, to the tee.

Of course, most scholars believe that it was Luke that wrote this dialogue, after Jerusalem fell, and that Jesus had nothing to do with the actual text. But, for whatever reason, I think Jesus really did foretell Jerusalem's fall, because he was a keen observer and expert of human nature. He knew what the Jewish freedom fighters were capable of, and more importantly, he had a good understanding of how Rome would respond, in kind. Just a tragic, terrible story.... and not one I want to skip this year. Stay tuned.

10) And finally, if you remember, last week I exchanged emails with one of our local newspaper editors on the subject of faith and government. Well, Sunday, he managed to quote "A Methodist Minister" who had objected to the idea that expressing one views inspired by religious belief in a political forum within a free society was a faithless act. The editor maintains that beliefs expressed in this way amount to nothing more than legislating moral behavior, which is faithless because it looks to government to maintain conduct that ought to come naturally out of one's own religious conviction. You can read his entire op-ed piece here:

Well, as I said last week, I just don't understand why one should keep quiet on issues, even if their opinion is spiritually-motivated in a free society. If we are to "give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's", it seems, at least from a Christian perspective, that we are obligated, on some level to act in the public forum. Besides, every person's sense of wrong or right, his or her convictions, were not formed in a vacuum. That these morals and virtues were formed under the influence of religious instruction or inspiration shouldn't render them "second class" next to someone who developed their own sense of wrong and right in a classroom or at the library. That's intellectual bigotry, and since godless culture (think of millions killed by Josef Stalin in Communist Russia as one example) and thought has visited upon us comparable misery as a culture shaped by a religious ideal has (we've got to own up to our own sins), I just don't think you can elevate, in a democratic society, one expression over the other. In light of the many people who fought and died so that this wouldn't be the case, to do so seems short-sighted and insulting.

So, Ron Lederman Jr. we'll just need to agree to disagree, because what you call legislating morality, I call being a good citizen true to his/her own conscience.... and if Jesus sits in the middle that conscience, well, then so be it.

11) And finally, there is a small, but growing rumor that the Bucher clan is moving away from Lima, and hence, Shawnee UMC this summer. I want to categorically deny this, and let everyone know that while my doctoral work over the course of the next year will result my being gone a lot (and in my family moving with me to Asbury Theological Seminary during the month of July), that I will still be on the staff at Shawnee, albeit part-time. Long-term, I'm not going anywhere. Soon, we'll let you all know definitively what the church and Bishop's long-term plans are for me here at Shawnee UMC. Just be patient, and be assured that we are here to stay.

Until next time....

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