Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Ten Things I Think I Think (Motorcycle Diaries Edition)

1) This past Saturday, I completed, and passed, the State's required course for a motorcycle license. Apart from serving at a church with a motorcycle ministry, I decided to do this out of my experience, while in Goshen, of owning a little Suzuki Samurai, which is (for those who don't know) a very little 4X4 vehicle that looks like a small Jeep. With the help of a Suzuki enthusiast, I was able to take off the doors, modify the sideview mirrors to keep the vehicle street-legal, and with the cloth top off, enjoy the great outdoors at 40 mph. There was many an evening, after a very stressful day of work, that I could wring out my issues with only 20 minutes of freedom on the open road, before I got home, saving all the Buchers much grief.

And all at about 30 miles to the gallon!

I've missed that little thing (as have my kids) almost from the day I sold it. The vehicle didn't provide the most protection in the world, but it was so popular with Max that to this day, when he sees one he almost always asks me why we had to sell our "Jeep"?

Well, I've decided that I need another outlet for my stress beyond eating or watching TV. And while I did see a little Samurai for sale (with "$650" painted on the windshield), I guess I'd just like to try something new. If it doesn't work out, then I'll re-commit myself to four-wheeled vehicles, find a little Jeep, and start a "Blessing of the Topless SUV's". I promise!

2) Had a scare early Monday morning, which resulted in this post being a day late. Sunday, after attending church (not ours - more on that later) that morning, and lunch at my folks, I returned home to spend the day working in the lawn. We've got about 8 billion Shagbark Hickory trees growing in our front lawn, and if you want to be able to get a lawn mower over top of it, occasionally you need to rake up all of the tree waste (bark, sticks, twigs, and oodles of hickory nuts). I had actually started the job on Saturday, and it took another 8 hour day, and about 18 garbage bags to clean up the mess.

Well, after I quit for the day, I went to my grandmothers to watch one of the dwindling few new episodes of "The West Wing" (a show that, in my opinion, is finishing as strong as it started), and over a bowl of ice cream, I realized my left arm was sore. As the evening progressed, the pain refused to subside, and so, upon excusing myself, I headed for home, by way of the office to check some email and gather a little data). By the time I got home, however, the pain had not abated, and was even growing stronger. Thinking that all I needed to do was get some rest, I laid down, only to experience even greater pain as the night progressed.

Finally, at 3am, I got up, took some Tylenol (this horrible grape flavored stuff for the kids because it was the only bottle I could find - it said that kids over 89 pounds needed to take six tablets, so I emptied the seven left in the bottle), and gave a local hospital a call. You see, I thought that maybe, because of the nature of the pain, that I might be having a heart attack. Upon some discussion with a qualified professional, we concluded that this probably wasn't the case (although I'm scheduling a full physical workup with my doctor), but the only way I could get any relief from the pain was to sleep in my recliner. At about 5am, I fell asleep, and since I didn't wake up until 11am, my schedule got "de-railed".

Let me say this... it's a horrible thing to suspect that you are having a heart attack when your oldest child is seven years old. A very horrible thing.

3) Just finished "The World is Flat" by Thomas Friedman. I couldn't recommend it any higher (a link to Amazon where you can buy it is in last week's "Ten Things"). Here's one of the (I thought) more poignant excerpts:

Analysts have always tended to measure a society by classical economic and social statistics: its deficit-to-GDP ratio, or its unemployment ready, or the rate of literacy among its adult women. Such statistics are important and revealing. But there is another statistic, much harder to measure, that I think is even more important and revealing: Does your society have more memories than dreams or more dreams than memories?

By dreams I mean the positive, life-affirming variety. The business organization consultant Michael Hammer once remarked, "One thing that tells me a company is in trouble is when they tell me how good they were in the past. Same with countries. You don't want to forget your identity. I am glad you were great in the fourteenth century, but that was then and this is now. When memories exceed dreams, the end is near. The hallmark of a truly successful organization is the willingness to abandon what made it successful and start fresh."

In societies that have more memories than dreams, too many people are spending to many days looking backward. They see dignity, affirmation, and self-worth not by mining the present but by chewing on the past. And even that is usually not a real past but an imagined and adorned past. Indeed, such societies focus all their imagination on making that imagined past even more beautiful than it ever was, and then they cling to it like a rosary or a strand of worry beads, rather than imagining a better future and acting on that. It is dangerous enough when other countries go down the route; it would be disastrous for America to lose it bearings and move in that direction. I think my friend David Rothkopf, the former Commerce Department official and now a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said it best: "The answer for us lies not in what has changed, but in recognizing what has not changed. Because only through this recognition will we begin to focus on the truly critical issues - an effective multilateral response to weapons of mass destruction proliferation, the creation of real stakeholders in globalization among the world's poor, the need for reform in the Arab world and a style of U.S. leadership that seeks to build our base of support worldwide by getting more people to voluntarily sign onto our values. We need to remember that those values are the real foundation for our security and the real source of our strength. And we need to recognize that our enemies can never defeat us. Only we can defeat ourselves, by throwing out the rule book that has worked for us for a long, long time.

Do yourself a favor, and read, or listen, to this book.

4) Interesting article this past Saturday in The Lima News about the coming "Revolution" in the way people are going to practice Christian spirituality (I would provide the link for you to read it yourself, but I can't find it on their website, which isn't good for you, them, or I). I talked to weeks ago about George Barna's book "Revolution" and his premise that people are tiring of the church in its institutional form, and are starting home churches where they gather for worship, prayer and fellowship on their own. Well, this article basically used this book as its source text, and the interesting part of it are the number of people who don't see how this movement can be viable to the degree that Barna claims it will become (more than half of all practicing Christians in the next 15 years).

Issues of trust (not being duped into joining a cult, for example) are the primary concerns I've been hearing from people. And, it's for this very reason, (a thought well-articulated over lunch by Eric Rummel, a friend, a seminary student, and a person who will always be "Bubba" to me) that I see house churches banding together in some loose form of association to establish some basic rules for things like accounting/theology/etc., which will inevitably evolve into a more institutional form of religious practice. Thus, those that are "sticking it to the man" will eventually become "the man", and some sort of reaction (like contemporary worship with pop music to traditional worship in the 80's) will rear its ugly head. Just wait, and see!

5) When is Lima going to get a Barnes and Noble? My kingdom for a place where one can read books and consume legal stimulants (although, the new "Norwegian" blend at "The Meeting Place" is a welcome addition to true coffee aficionados in this community - drink it if you have contempt for coffees flavored with raspberries, chocolates, or "creams" of any kind).

6) I'm 37 years old, and am now a member of a "street team". This weekend, I was contacted by a marketing person at the publishing house distributing Brian McClaren's new book, "The Secret Message of Jesus". How all this came to fruition is kind of a long story that boils down to me wanting a copy of this book for free. Now, as a member of a "street team", I'll receive two copies of the book (one for me, and one for a friend), and a bunch of "chapter cards" that I'll need to distribute at local bookstores (we have three, two small secular ones, and a religious bookstore where you can find plenty of artwork and very few books) and coffeehouses (which should be easy, cause we've got a grand total of "one") . I also need to write a review of this book on this blog, and on Amazon.com, which I think I can handle, if my public education doesn't fail me.

I've decided, in the spirit of entrepreneurship, to give my second copy (immediately), and my first copy (after I've read it) away to (all) two of you, my loyal readers. All you need to do is send me an email at revbdb@woh.rr.com , with the reason why I should give you one of these books, at least one subject you'd like me write about on this blog, and an address where it can be mailed (postage will be on me). I'll announce the winners in two weeks.

7) The Cavs are on tonight, as the LeBron James coming-out-party continues. As an aside, I can't remember enjoying the NBA playoffs as much as I am this year, when really, I ought to be reading for my first class. Max is rooting for the Miami Heat because he likes Shaq, but I'm sure I'll win him over onto the Cavalier bandwagon as LeBron leads it to victory (as Max tends to root for whoever is winning, which is a real problem during Ohio State football games when the Buckeyes fall behind). Xavier tends play with blocks when the NBA is on, kind of like most of America, so his interest is minimal, at best. He'll be more interested in football, anyway, given the fact he's had to survive being Max's little brother (which will make him tougher than a rhinoceros steak). Anyhow, "Go Cavs"!

8) After a two-week layoff, I'll be preaching this Sunday on the movements of grace: prevenient, justification, and sanctification. It'll be one sermon in three 5-7 minute parts, so hopefully the service will move along nicely. The source text is the "Road to Emmaus" (which is found in Luke 24:13-34), where some gentlemen encounter the risen Christ as they journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They go from not knowing who Christ is even though he is talking to them (prevenient grace), to realizing who he is fully (justifying grace), to witnessing to others that he is truly alive (an aspect of sanctifying grace). Hope you enjoy it, and for those who can't make it, I'll give a recap next week.

9) Sunday, I did go to church, but it was not hear at Shawnee. As a part of my upcoming doctoral work, I decided to make the trek to the Lima Community Church (of the Nazarene, which is a tag they have dropped in their literature and logo). LCC is the closest thing Lima has to a megachurch, averaging over 1900 in weekly worship in four services: a 6pm on Saturday night, a 9am on Sunday morning, and two 10:45am services on Sunday morning - one in their sanctuary and one in another large gathering room on-site that features live music and a sermon taped early that morning). My assignment was to take a look at the tech ministry of such a place, and organize my thoughts before my first class.

Well, I must say I was impressed with their technical set-up, which is expertly led by Sandie Millslagle, a delightful young woman who has more energy than ten of me. And what impressed me most about what I saw was how advanced their technology is, while at the same time how simple they are keeping their use of that technology. And all of this is made possible by Sandie, who breaks down the ministry in parts that can be easily managed by her volunteers. My experience with her confirms what I suspected while on staff at First UMC in Goshen - that if you want to have an outstanding technical ministry that can incorporate a number of different elements (in-service audio and video, simulcasting, taped sermons, webcasting, etc...), you will make light-years of progress if you have one person leading that ministry who isn't learning on-the-job, but is already experienced in such endeavors.

I want to make it clear that this is no knock on the volunteers we had in Goshen. They put in yeoman's hours for no pay, and had we actually provided resources for them to work on their expertise, we'd have saved hours and hours of experimentation that had to happen for them to get over the learning curve of things like video editing, sound engineering, and in-service video production. The longer I am away from there, the more I appreciate the kinds of things they can do, and all the ways it can enhance your ministry.

But, you could just feel the difference with a person with 12 years of professional television experience putting that expertise to work in a church setting. This is an important lesson, as most of us in this business usually nickel-and-dime tech ministry, while using all the available resources we have to hire program, worship, and maintenance staff. I get the sense that the demand for people like Sandie (who can easily put up podcasts or video webcasts, for example, of our sermons, for those of you who can't make it on Sunday) in the life of the church will continue to grow. Thank you Sandie, for sharing your knowledge and time with me.

10) And finally, the children of Shawnee will be holding an art sale this Sunday in support of VBS this June. If you'd like to make a purchase and contribution, just show up Sunday morning and find a piece that fits you. And if you can't make it, feel free to contact me at revbdb@woh.rr.com and I'll make sure to reserve a piece for you that can be had for a free-will donation.

See you soon!

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