Monday, May 22, 2006

Ten Things I Think I Think

1) As is my custom, this morning I checked out the online Sunday edition of The Goshen (IN) News, which I have done virtually every Monday since I left. Imagine my surprise when I saw this article on the costs of legalized gambling ( Virtually every form of gambling has been legal in Indiana for a number of years now. Gambling related revenues, in fact, make up the single largest form of revenue for the State Government of Indiana, which is a situation that has resulted in much corruption. Mark my words after having lived it: put politicians in bed with the casino industry, and you have a recipe for widespread graft. Now, virually everything the gambling industry asks for, it gets, and while there are local success stories (namely the Riverboat in Lawrenceburg), the overall cost for the people of the state has been staggering. The article does a good job of profiling two people who now make up an estimated 1.5% (a conservative estimate made by the National Gaming Association... opponents of legalized gambling and other special interests estimate 3-5%) of the adult population of Indiana who are now gambling addicts, which comes at a cost (crime, incarceration, bankrupcy, etc...) of $13,200 a year per household.

Go to, get the facts, and join 270 other people by putting your name on our online petition.

2) Tonight, the City Council of Lima will vote on a working agreement with the Eastern Shawnee. Since I am not resident of Lima (I live in Shawnee Township), I do not plan to attend. I trust that if it's coming up for a vote, that Mayor Berger has counted his votes, and expects it to pass. I find it interesting that the two councilmen from Lima's two poorest wards, Derry Glenn and Tommy Pitts, are both vehemently opposed to this project. Having grown up in those neighborhoods, they both realize that the bulk of gambling profit in this county comes not from high rollers that are bankrolled to the hilt, but from the working poor. Tommy Pitts, for one, tells stories about men who signed over their checks to bookies as soon as they received them, leaving nothing for the family at home.

You can use the links page at to let your trustees, mayor, or council members know how feel about this proposed "resort destination" (i.e. casino) in Lima.

Alright... enough about gambling.

3) All reports on the "DaVinci Code" movie are less than positive. Sounds like a "2 hour plus" history and theology lesson about history that never happened and theology that is bad. Yesterday's sermon by Joseph on the book was a great one, so much so that we'll attempt to post it on the church's web page as an MP3 or wave file by the end of the week. It'll lose a little something without the pictures he used in the service (he does a great explanation on how DaVinci's "The Last Supper" is different than the other depictions in art during that age that'll raise the eyebrows... in a good way!), but you'll get the idea.

This week I'll be focusing some time and energy on the Gnostics, who were a group of people in Egypt who wrote the "gospels" that didn't make it into the Bible. It's in the Gospel of Mary that the coptic term "holy kiss" shows up, and since its a kiss Jesus gives to Mary Magdalene, it's the origin of Dan Brown's novel. As a quick precursor, I'll introduce you to the theology of Gnostics, which is essentially that the body and all things created in this world are evil, and that only the divine (spirit) is good. This belief took the Gnostics to make leaps of logic such as, but not limited too, the idea that Jesus never died on the cross, and salvation came not through him but a "secret knowledge" you would receive via the Holy Spirit. Not only did this contradict the Old Testament (where God called the Creation "good" every day He created it), but the single most important theological concept of Christianity, which is the atonement of Jesus Christ for humanity's sins.

Also, we'll discuss whether or not the Gnostics were champions of women's rights (but if you know that they believe the body is evil, and women are the ones that give birth, you can guess the answer to that question), understood "true judiasm" as it was practiced by Jesus, and if they wrote stuff in their texts that more accurate that the original Gospels, which are all claims made by the book. If that sounds boring, I'll make sure there's lots of good music. It'll be a good time for all.

4) Took a little 104 mile motorcycle ride yesterday with Shawnee UMC's "Ride and Dine Club". I don't own a motorcycle. I borrowed one from a gracious Sue Dickerson, a member of our church (and mother of Bruce, who one of my McClaren books). It was my third time on her bike, and by far the longest distance I've traveled on two wheels. I must say that the more I ride, the more I enjoy it. Nobody in the family is crazy about my getting into this, but they've all been supportive. Given the size and scope of the church's ministry with those who like to ride, it makes sense that I'd learn to do this.

Besides, it fits with the rest of my ministry. In fifteen years, I've had to learn a boatload of new things in order to survive. Fifteen years ago I didn't own a pair of skis, a guitar or bass guitar, I couldn't sit in on a drumset, fish, or hit a golf ball decently (although, most days, I still can't). I had never been a trip planner, fundraiser, a video producer/editor, a proprieter of a coffee bar, a contractor (here and abroad), concrete mixer, block layer, paramedic, financial planner, zealous advocate, a human resource person, counselor, trucker, plummer, IT expert, chef, floor stripper (of wax, not as a guy on a pole), event planner, interior decorator (God bless the people who had to live with my choices), real estate agent, mechanic, and (yes, believe it or not) fashion consultant. So, why not learn to ride a motorcycle? It'll just be the next thing.

5) Which leads me to this.... in high school, my father worried about me constantly. His biggest concern was that while I had lots of skills, I wasn't excellent in any one thing. For example, I played basketball, and was good enough to play for Lima Senior, but nobody would confuse me with LeBron James (or even, Jerome James). I sang, but I wasn't a soloist. I made decent grades, but not great ones. My whole life I've been a jack of all trades, but master of none. I guess Dad, and others like him (including a science teacher at LSHS who told me that I was the "biggest disappointment of my senior class.... thanks Mr. Emerick!) wondered if I was just too lazy to do anything particularly well.

Well, almost twenty years later what I have discovered in this job is you need to be able to do, or at least grasp a basic understanding, of a lot of different things. Whether you are talking to a CEO of a hospital or a secretary, dealing with the church's mortgage, discussing the building of a school with a bunch of masons, upgrading a computer, figuring out the political fallout from the decision you are about to make, buying a new boiler, or picking a piece of music of a worship service, you've got to have passing knowledge about a lot of things. While I'm no (fill in the blank here with your favorite preacher), While I hope to be at least be above average when it comes to giving a sermon (and thus become "almost great" at something) the ability I appear to have to learn something new, quickly, has served me quite nicely in the ministry.

So, to all you 2006 graduates and students out there, (here's a little lingo the kids can understand) don't listen to the haters! Use whatever gifts you've been given, whether specialized or not, and do what God created to do. Remember that, and you'll be fine.

6) A fine showing for LeBron James in this year's playoffs. And for all those out there who think he won't be the next Jordan cause they gave away Game Six against Detroit, remember this: Jordan once had a coach who couldn't understand how to use his gifts and a team with uneven talent around him, and early on in his career he couldn't get anywhere in the playoffs either. There's a famous image of Jordan crying while embracing the "Larry O'Brien Trophy". People forget that this picture was taken in the locker room after the Bulls won their first championship (his father, who would be murdered only a couple of years later, is standing behind him). Until that day, the knock on Jordan was that he was too selfish (people forget this, but sports fans debated it endlessly until Jordan settled the question) to ever win a championship, and that picture encapsulates the end of a burdensome journey for a man whose greatness was, until that day, was in question.

This year was only LeBron's coming out party. Whether it be in Cleveland (I hope) or elsewhere, someone will give him the tools he needs (an experienced coach who can coach defense and a teammate that can hit an outside jumper) to make the leap.

7) Watched Barry Bonds take a few cuts the other night (thanks to ESPN's obsession over him passing Babe Ruth's HR total), and it's hard to believe that years ago in Pittsburgh, the guy was known for hitting for average, base-stealing, and great defense. It's strange to think that if he had simply worked on the things that had gotten him to the big leagues that he'd definitely be a Hall of Famer. And now, with all the steroids allegations (the guy's head is so big that it has it's own orbiting moon), who knows?

8) Is the National Hockey League in the middle of its playoffs? If so, who is still playing? If a pro hockey league falls in a forest, and nobody hears it, did it actually happen?

9) Here's a link to what MSN says is the top twenty gifts people are ordering off of its site for 2006 graduates: Want a piece of advice from a youth ministry vet who's attending hundreds of graduation parties: If you want them to be happy and excited, give 'em cash!

10) And finally, tried to go to bed early last night, but unable to sleep, I ended up watching VH-1's latest reality offering, "SuperGroup". The same network that gave you not one, but two shows featuring Flavor-Flav (Note to Grandma Great: He's a rapper who was popular in the 1980's who has somehow resurfaced on D-grade reality television), is now putting five rock musicians together to write a new song and perform it in twelve days.

Oh... and they put them together in Las Vegas, complete with VIP passes to local strip bars and dance clubs because rockers don't have enough distractions or drama in their lives.

The musicians are as follows:
  • Ted Nugent: Having lived out his heyday in the 70's, the "Motor City Madman is now known as much for being pro-hunting, an NRA zealot, and conservative political commentator as a musician. Highly egotistical, Nugent has to be only person in the country praised by a sitting President for being "pro-family", years after convincing a family in Hawaii to make him the guardian of 17 year old female, who then became his live-in girlfriend.
  • Sebastrian Back: Former lead singer of hair metal band, Skidrow, Bach now largely performs on Broadway. The self-proclaimed "bad boy of rock" just finished a stint touring as (I am not making this up) Jesus in "Jesus Christ Superstar".
  • Jason Bonham: The son of the late John Bonham, drummer for Led Zeppelin, his main claim to fame in America is having been in the critically panned "Rock Star" with Mark Wahlburg. In the movie he played a rock musician so messed up that (in homage to Keith Richards who is rumored to do so in real life) he needed regular blood transfusions to survive.
  • Scott Ian: Rhythm guitarist for band called Anthrax, he's credited for coming up with idea of fusing metal with hip hop (and he did so with Flavor Flav!), for having a really bad gotee (you think I'm kidding, but I'm serious).
  • Evan Seinfeld: Was the frontman and bassist for some band called BioHazard, which apparently has sold 20 million albums, and yet I had never heard of them until last night. Now, he spends his time producing (and once again, I am not making this up) pornographic videos that feature his (ahem) wife... I don't even know what to say about this.

Anyhow the show profiles the made-for-TV band (apparently named, as I'm sure we'll learn in future episodes, "Damnocracy") as it profanely seeks a sound, a song, and a gig.... and if you think I'm going to miss an episode of the pop culture disaster, as Judas Priest says, "you've got another thing coming".

Until next time....

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