Ten Things I Think I Think
1) This blog has received almost 900 hits in the last five weeks, which, quite frankly, astounds me. Thanks to all of you who actually take the time to read this thing. I hope you continue to enjoy it.
2) Well, my two copies of the "Secret Message of Jesus" have arrived, and with almost tens of entries, here are the winners (and my reasoning for choosing them):
The winner of the first copy of the book is Bruce Dickerson from Hamilton, Ohio. Bruce and his wife are expecting a baby, and Bruce says that I should give him a book so that he'll have something to read during late-night feedings and diaper-changings. I've got to support a dedicated new father! Bruce, you'll get your copy of the book, post-haste. Congrats!
The winner of the second copy of the book, which will be the copy that I read before sending, and thus will contain whatever notes I happen to jot down (if any), is David Grant from Goshen, Indiana. Now, to be honest, this was a tough choice, because another Goshenite, Scott Mattern, offered me a pound of fine coffee from the Dominican Republic for the book, and everyone who knows me knows that I'm not above a bribe. However, listen to some of Brother David's reasoning for why he should get a book: Brian McLaren, like Bryan Bucher, has helped me to recognize the great distance between God and ourselves (myself), and to know that any attempt to reduce that distance by somehow moderating its demands misses the point altogether. And besides all of that, I am now a poor, struggling college student who needs a helping hand with a great new book!
He pled poverty and used flattery, all for a book. I couldn't turn that down.... although I would suggest that David, when he's finished reading, trade the book to Scott for the coffee, and send me a fair-share of God's blessed bean.
Congrats to the winners, and thanks to all for playing. I'll be giving away more books later in the year (as I read them for my doctoral work), so keep your eye on this blog for more chances to win.
And, for anyone who is interested, I do have a number of copies of the first chapter of the book, and would be happy to send it to you, free of charge, so that you decide whether or not you'd like to buy a full copy. I'll also post my review of the book as soon as I'm done reading.
3) The contest leads me to a suggested topic for the blog, which is this: Is there coffee in heaven? The short, straight, theologically-correct, and irrefutable answer is, yes, but only real coffee, and expresso, will be permitted. All instant coffees, flavored (fu fu) coffees, coffee drinks made with milk or milk-wanna-be products, and (of course) all forms of decaf will only be available in Hell, as God will allow no corruption of his holy nectar. While this position isn't biblical, I'm relying on special revelation given to me years ago during a vision I had in a period of great distress (I had given up coffee for Lent, and it was Day 3, when the withdrawl symptoms hit). You'll simply have to take my word for it.
4) A big "thank you" to to my Grandmother (or as we refer to her around the house, Grandma Great, since she is great, and a great-grandmother to my boys), who taped a copy of a debate sponsored by the New York Times on C-SPAN 2, between Thomas Friedman, author of the facinating new book "The World Is Flat", and Noble-winning economist, Dr. Joseph Stiglitz, a member of the faculty at Columbia University.
This was a great program, touching on a number of issues such as political and social instability in China, a question about how "flat" the world really is, and whether places like sub-Saharan Africa will fall further behind developed nations of the world, deepening the crisis of poverty and disease. The most telling, and troubling, aspect of the program was the time spent looking at how globalization will effect the middle-class here in the United States. Stiglitz made a point of mentioning that over the last four years, the actual take home pay of the average middle-class family in the US has actually dropped by about $1,500, while the average household debt continues to climb.
The implications for these trends, if they continue, are enormous. Virtually all sociologists, economists, and political geographers agree that a large middle class is what brings stability to modern societies. What happens if this middle-class gets squeezed economically-downward? You are seeing the results of this, for example, in France, where young adults who are beginning to realize that global competition could result in their being laid off, and are violently denomstrating against that possibility. What will the outlet be for people in this country who lose their jobs because they've been lost or outsourced overseas, particularly if they are unable to find something comprable in pay and benefits? How might the power of American workers, blue and white collar, continue to erode when moving jobs elsewhere can be done so cheaply?
I have no answers.
4) The sixth annual "Blessing of the Bikes" here at Shawnee UMC was another rousing success. About 600 motorcycles were blessed in all, and the Centrum was so packed for the actual service, that an estimated 200-300 people never made it into the door, waiting in the parking lot until it was time for the ceremony. With over 1400+ people here, you could make the argument that this service is bigger for us, attendance-wise than either Christmas or Easter. Just a mindblowing experience.
5) Am hunting down a book released a few years ago called "The Ghost Rider" by Neil Peart. Peart, who happens to be the drummer and lyricist for the band "Rush" wrote a book about a journey of over 55,000 miles he made on his motorcycle in 1998. The man traveled from Central Canada to Buenes Aires and back, by way of Alaska. The book details the places and people he encounters, but mostly it's a look at a man coping with the death of his 19-year-old daughter (car accident) and wife (breast cancer) all within a 10-month span in 1997. It's that story that interests me, for reasons I cannot yet explain. Because we don't have a large bookstore in Lima (Barnes and Noble where are you???), and our local library never bought it (but they are looking for a copy to be loaned from elsewhere), I'm kinda stuck with Amazon.com. If you do have a copy, and are willing to loan it for awhile, give me a buzz at firstname.lastname@example.org .
6) The Cavs are on again tonight, and let's hope they make a better showing against the Pistons than they did on Sunday. 30 point blowouts are no way to compete in the NBA playoffs. While I agree with the pundants that they are likely to lose this series, I'd like to see LeBron do some Jordan-esue things (like score 63 points) during those years the Bulls made the playoffs, but didn't have the firepower to get past the "Bad Boy" Pistons of yore. I just hope he gives notice to the NBA, like he did in the Wizards series, that LeBron is coming, and we'd all better get ready. He is truly going to be, if all things hold steady, the greatest player of his generation.
7) Received a question, via the phone, about the nature of the resurrection of the dead, which would be unusual for others, but I'm a pastor, so it's kinda the norm. The core of the issue for this person was whether or not we (in terms of our soul) go to "heaven" upon death, or stay present on (under?) the earth until Jesus comes back (which kind of a theme in some of Paul's words to the Corinthians). I, of course, whenever I'm asked this question, always go to Jesus' words to the criminal on the cross, who upon asking if Jesus will "remember him in his kingdom", is told that "Surely today, you will be me in paradise.". If "today" and "paradise" are to be taken literally, that would lead one to believe that the soul departs for its great reward immediately. But it doesn't solve the issue of the "ressurrection of the saints" which is something Paul promises, and a belief we reaffirm in the Apostles Creed until this day.
My best guess is that Paul, believing like everyone else in the first-generation Christian church, believed that Jesus was coming back, now. Like, in their lifetime, which was a condrum as the Apostles, one by one, got whacked by the Roman authorities, and various members of the local church died. What, people wondered, happened to those people? Were their souls lost because they had passed before Jesus returned, or not?
Paul's answer is an attempt to assure all the faithful that we will all participate in the return, no matter when it happens. What that will look like, exactly, isn't spelled out clearly, but we should have no fear of death (which is really the issue at hand). If Jesus conquers death by rising from it (Jesus 1, Death 0), then death will not have the last word for us. How that looks exactly (do have a body, what does it look like, etc...) neither I, nor nobody else with any integrity (although I'm sure you can buy a book about it at the local Christian bookstore, which is stocked with quite a few books make theological claims that are at best dubious.... once again, we need a B&N to the rescue) can say. Just trust, friends, in the warmth and compassion of the One who loves you.
8) A big "thank you" to Mayor Berger who came to speak to the Lima Ministerial Association about the issue of a casino in Lima. I'm sure many of you are tired of me talking about this, but the Mayor's presentation only convinces me more that this project is, at best, a mixed bag for the citizens of this fair city. Like everyone else I've heard speak on this issue, no specifics are given on the amount of investment to be made, the nature of that investment (beyond bingo and slot machines that are bingo-themed... whatever that means), the economic effects (negative or positive) on the area, or even the nature of the jobs that will become available (full-time, part-time, etc...). No one can say how much "non-Eastern Shawnee" money is behind this project (which is scary, just from the standpoint that if one can assume that the Shawnee leadership is most concerned with taking care of their own people, their partners are probably more concerned with making as many dollars as possible) or how the construction of six of these facilities, I'm assuming fairly close together, all in our State will effect the projected "legions" of people proponents of this project expect to come to our city.
I mean, if casinos are in Massillion, Toledo, and Dayton, why drive to Lima?
I've learned after 15-years in the faith business, that when you intentionally try to keep people in the dark about the important, specific details, that a lack of trust will undermind their ability to believe in what you are saying. At this point, the Mayor, the Shawnee, their investors, and lawyers wouldn't last a day at a church, given how guarded and secretive they'v been about this things (which, we were told during secret negotiations between the city and Shawnee, was a project focused on "food processing", so the lies, half-truths, and deceit manifest from the beginning).
If you haven't yet done so, voice your opposition by putting your name on the online list of people who don't want a casino in Lima at www.NoLimaCasnio.org . Whatever their selling, we won't know what we've bought until it's too late.
9) Played baseball with boys yesterday. Max, who has received little instruction from me, thus far, in this particular game because, quite frankly, I'm not crazy about playing it (although I enjoy taking in a game as a spectator) is getting quite good at hitting and pitching. He still couldn't catch a cold, but I'm assuming that will come, in time. All in all, I enjoyed the time with him far more than the game itself, which is really the point. He could take up cricket, and I'd be there, wicked googlies and all.
10) And, finally, the family is dragging me off to dinner, so I've got to split, but I'd ask, before I go, that you'd take a moment and pray for a friend of mine who is struggling with his call to ministry, the choices he's made historically in that call, and where God might be leading him next. I've known him for eons, and he's really struggling, so light a candle and say a prayer that he might find peace in the midst of what he is discovering to be a difficult job. And say a little prayer for his wife, sons, and daughters.