Monday, June 19, 2006

Ten Things I Think I Think (plus 2)

1) Went to Annual Conference last week, came home, and got inundated with church and home stuff. As a result, not only did you not get a promised update two weeks ago, but I also failed to produce a "Ten Things". Thanks to all for their own "Good Morning Slacker" emails... and yes, in answer to all of you, I am still alive. Thanks for your concern.

2) Lots of people are asking if I'm going to third reading of the proposed compact or accord or whatever it is that the City of Lima (and Perry Township) are trying to make with the Eastern Shawnee Tribe on this casino. The answer is, "no", and the reason is that I am not a resident of either of those municipalities. If the Shawnee Township trustees decide to join such an accord, and hold an open meeting, I'll be there. Besides, I have a sense that a very large, vocal opposition to this project will show up and do what they can to change one of the five "yes" votes to this legal travesty (Riddle me this: Since when can an American incorporated municipality make an agreement with a sovereign nation without any input from state or federal authorities?). Until then, I will ask you again to go to and join the other 380+ people from the area that have said they don't want a casino in this community.

And when hearings and meetings are held where you live, go, speak, and let them know that you'd like our public officials to focus on positive forms of economic investiment in this community.

3) Speaking of casinos, for those who haven't seen it, here's Ronald Lederman's (one of the Editors at The Lima News) latest PR release ..... er, I mean, editorial for the Eastern Shawnee's bid for a casino in the community: Lederman, who continues to make the argument that if you are opposed to this project for moral reasons, that you should keep your mouth shut until after the project is finished, and then persuade people not to spend their money at a local casino, has become the point man for the Eastern Shawnee's legal and business team. At this point, in his opinion, if you are opposed to a casino, you are total idiot-facist-puritan who is going to cost us 62.5 million dollars in local payroll checks. That's 2500 jobs, at an average of $25,000 a year, which are numbers given to us by the Tribe that haven't been fact-checked by anybody.

Look, I'm not crazy. I know that if a casino is built here, it will make a lot of money. Hoards of money... which is exactly why I'm opposed to it. The only real winners, in the end, will be the Tribe and their corporate partners (whose percentage in this venture has not yet been disclosed), because you can't beat the house. It always wins! And it will never, ever be satisfied. Those interests won't stop at bingo and bingo related games. The gambling industry will always continue to push for more latitude in the games it can offer, and in the locations where those games can be offered (I can't wait for "video poker" machines to be installed at the local grocery store... how about you?). And the argument that will always be offered is "gambling already exists there", "it will provide jobs", and "the municipality/school system will reap financial benefits". And people will continue to fall for this arguement, and take the bait.

Which is fine, if you like inviting well-financed, large corporate entities into your midst who have little, or no, regard for the corporate welfare of your neighbors. At least WalMart is doing whatever it can to change it's image as an unconcerned member of the community by offering more jobs with benefits. If Lima and the surrounding area, starts suffering a rash of bankrupcies that can be traced to problem gambling, what, if any, response do you think we'll get from casino officials? I just can't believe people are falling for this.

4) But, then again, at one of our local corner gas stations, you can buy a fake ID of a famous person for only 5 dollars. Yep... ever wanted to be Brad Pitt or George Washington? Are you ready to flash your "Brittany Spears" ID at the local club to see if you'll be ushered into the "VIP Room".

You know, in college, because I wasn't always a pastor, when I was home from school, my buddies used to occasionally frequent establishments in Lima that featured live music and alcholic beverages like "The Firehouse" and "The Wayside Inn". Let me tell you something: if they had "VIP rooms", I'm relatively sure you wouldn't want to go in them.

Anyhow, I asked the lady working the register if people were actually buying those things, and her answer was "by the dozens". So, I guess, that I'm surprised there isn't a casino on every corner of America. And all of this from a man you once "adopted" a "pet rock", so I'm not exactly writing from the deep end of the gene pool.

5) Played golf with Andy and Dad last week, which was fun, but also a little depressing. It was fun in the sense that I was with my brother and father, which is always a blessing. It was depressing in the sense that as a golfer, I still stink. I mean, I stink bad. I stink like a dead whale after rotting in the middle of Seattle in the summer for a full ten, rainy, hot, humid days. I can kick a golf ball farther than I can hit it with a club. Just the most frustrating experience, ever... which is why I can't kick Phil Mickelson for giving away the US Open yesterday. Mark Twain was right: Golf is a perfectly good walk, spoiled.

And yet, I still play. Either I'm the Don Quioxe of the links (believing that the best will ultimately happen to me.... to dream the impossible dream and par the impossible par), or I'm certifiably insane, that is, I keep doing the same things over and over expecting different results.

On second thought, I'd trade all my clubs for one motorcycle. Email me at if you're interested.

6) Watched what was probably one of the great NBA Finals playoff games last night on "The Great One's" new 37" Flatscreen LCD/HDTV. Pretty much anything and everything you could want in a playoff game (except a win for the Mavs.... my brother and I have a pound of Dean's Beans coffee on the series). Which led me to this conclusion: It's too bad that LeBron ended up with a franchise that was so bereft of talent, that it's taken four years for him to get to the second round. Duane Wade, for example, at least had a nucleus of good, young talent when he arrived in Miami that either has developed into part of a solid supporting cast (Udonis Haslem) or was traded for players that know how to win (Shaq, Antoine Walker, James Posey, Jason Williams). Cleveland's management was so inept (thank you, former GM Wayne Embry), that when LeBron arrived the team was counting on guys like Robert "Tractor" Trailer and Lucious Harris to give them major minutes. It's been a long hard climb for the organization. Here's hoping that in the off-season, some deals can be made to get LeBron onto the big stage in the next couple of years.

7) For my hockey-loving friends (a.k.a. Eric Stalkamp, Neil Whitney, and... well, I don't know anybody else who really loves hockey), kudos on what is rumored to be a great Stanley Cup series. All 800,000 people in the country who have been following (that's .3% of the population) have thoroughly enjoyed Edmonton (the smallest TV market of any city with a "major" pro sport.... hey Green Bay, you're not last!) and Carolina (I'm not sure which one, North or South) duke it out for Lord Stanley's big mug. I actually (I am not making this up) accidently found the Stanley Cup playoffs on NBC, which has roughly spent about $13 promoting a contest that as recently as the late nineties garnered a 5.4 rating on another major network. How does somebody who owns a Chicago Blackhawks jersey and actually enjoys watching hockey, "accidently find" a major championship match-up? More importantly, how does this league re-capture an audience that's now spending it's time watching bass fishing and NASCAR?

8) Or riding a motorcycle, which, wouldn't, and probably in the near future, won't include me. Gave up the dream of owning my own ride when Aimee and I closed a deal on a new (to us) mini-van last week. The deal, which we got at Allen Nott's (from Josh Gould, a former Shawnee UMC Mission Trip attendee and basketball player, from back in the day), was a good one. Now, we (which, I should clarify, means Aimee, the credit union, and I) own a 2005 Kia Sedona. Can't say that I've ever owned a Korean made vehicle before, and my experience with Kia ( is a bit spotty (I rented a "Sportage", which sounds like it was named by somebody who speaks English as a second language, once, but that's it). So far, so good. Kia is 51% owned by Hyundai, so at least we've got a Hyundai dealer in town where service related to our warranty can be done. The important thing is that Aimee loves it, and the unimportant thing is that the 1995 Honda Goldwing I wanted to buy from Don Fischer is still up for sale. If you are looking for a good bike, give him a buzz (he owns Cappie's Sports here in Lima if you are wondering how to get ahold of him).

9) The Episcopal Church, in my estimation, is in for a bumpy ride. According to reports coming out of Columbus, already three dioceses have asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to please put them under a different authority other than the new elected Presiding Bishop Katherine Jacobs Schori. The new Presiding Bishop (which, for those who know less about the Episcopal Church than I do, is kind of like the Chairperson of the all the Bishops in the country, and will, for the most part, run their meetings and the annual meetings of the denomination. Presiding Bishops don't have the same power as say, a Pope, and thus can't make church law) is the first woman in the denomination's history, and has a long history of doing blessing ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples. The combination is proving toxic for conservative Episcopalians, who are afraid that their denomination is taking a theological course that will inevitably create a schism in the World Anglican Communion (the umbrella under which all Anglican and Episcopalian churches rest).

Episcopalians set this into motion when they elected a gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson, last year. And then, amazingly enough to me (as a backwater UM-pastor) Robinson was permitted to continue as a bishop after entering rehab for an alcohol problem in February of this year. This combination of personality traits is something that isn't exactly inspiring many Episcopalians in believing that Bishop Robinson has his act together. Now, with the election of pro-gay, female as their national leader, this whole things seems to be coming to a head... and that right soon. Given that the members of this General Convention of the Episcopal Church are generally leaning to the left, it leads one to believe that more congregations and diocese will be withdrawing from the denomination in the coming months.... a sentiment that Episcopal bishops seem to agree with as they build a warchest of money so that they can sue congregations that try to leave with their property (court cases that our bishops will be watching with great interest, no doubt).

With the "nature v. nurture" question still not answered, the issue of homosexuality continues to dog mainline denominational churches. With the culture slowly moving toward widespread acceptance of at least gay and lesbian people, pressure is increasing on church leaders to re-think what the Bible has to say about homosexuality. Well, not really homosexuality, because that question as far as the Bible is concerned is pretty much closed (let's just say that for 2000 years, nobody ever questioned the historical stance, which has been that it's been a sin), but rather, whether or not, much like, for example, many of the dietary laws of the Old Testament are no longer followed by Christians, if the same kinds of prohibitions on certain forms of sexuality can now be eased, or lifted.

At this point, I don't have the same sense that some others do that the Holy Spirit is leading us in this new direction. While I'd like to think myself as being grace-filled theologically, and open to just about everybody, human sexuality is kind of a weird duck. I remember, for example, in an article in Utne Reader (yep, I digs the Utne Reader) about six years ago, gay counseling professionals were expressing concern that growing numbers of young people were expressing their belief that sexuality was a choice.... much like the clothes we choose to wear or the car we choose to drive. Thus, teens had no problem with the idea that one could choose to be gay or straight, and leave the possibility of changing their mind later. Couple that with lesbians who I met in college who chose that lifestyle predominatly for political reasons, and stories of all kinds of people who are messed up now sexually because of abuse they endured as children, and it makes me relunctant to throw out thousands of years of history and pretty straight-forward language in scripture. Of course, I don't want to burn these people at the stake, but the question of how to be open, and yet principled, is one that I'll be asking until the day I die.

That being said, I think the Episcopal church is moving too fast for the Anglican Communion, and eventually, will stand apart and alone. And, I'm not convinced that the inevitable march of history is leading where the Epsicopal church is leading. I think we're more likely to see more denominational schisms than a moving toward a unified vision of what should be.... and maybe, until we start reaching some clarity on the issue, that's OK.

10) No word, currently, on Shawnee's search for a new youth pastor. Word out Pandora, however, is that Brent, our youth pastor who just left, is doing well in his new church. Pray for him, his church, whoever our new youth pastor will be, and our church, as we all seek to be faithful to God's call for our lives.

+1) We experienced our first two swim meets last week (Max is swimming for Sherwood Country Club, which is the pool we're members of here in Lima). They were, well, very long. Max, for example, in his first meet swam in events 2, 14, 40, and 70. There was a total of 78 events (plus exhibition heats), so we pretty much had to be there for the duration of the meet (about five hours). Max loves it, so we'll soldier on, but there is a part of Aimee and I that wishes that he'd gotten into something that moved faster, like, say, chess.

+2) We move in 10 days to Wilmore, and the realization is hitting us like a ton of bricks. We're still gathering all the things we'll need to set up a place to live (Aimee and the boys will live with me until August, and return home, meaning we'll be a bi-housal family for eleven months), haven't been given a scheulde of the academic year yet by the school, and are just generally in a panic. Pray for us, and next week I'll give more details on our upcoming year which will be filled with adventures.

Until next time...

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