Ten Things I Think I Think
Before I get started, congrats to Robbie Helser, who got engaged to a great guy in Football Mecca (or "Columbus" to the unwashed) this weekend. Happy, happy news! Way to go, Chris and Robbie!
1) Hello friends. Am happy to report that I survived last week... barely. Started feeling a little under-the-weather last Sunday, but didn't think it was anything major. By Monday morning, the day of our first real class, I had a sore throat and full-blown fever. By Monday night, I was in agony.... and the agony preceded to last the rest of week. I looked so bad that every morning the professors in each of my classes told me I could go home... I think more out of fear that they'd catch the "white death" written all over my face than anything else.
Spent the whole week then living from Tylenol to Tylenol. My throat was so bad first thing in the morning, that every day my breakfast was popsicles. Pretty much wanting to die is a bad way to get your academic year off to a start. The whole week bottomed out on Thursday night, when I couldn't sleep because I could swear that I was preaching in the streets of Downtown Lexington to paupers and kings (that's how real the hallucinations were.... true story). But, in the end, I didn't miss a class, completed all my reading, and turned in my first paper, on time (although I wrote with a 104 degree temperature... I'm afraid to go back and read it). Now I'm left with only a mild case of "pink eye". I'm glad I lived to tell about it.
2) For those who haven't heard, Aimee and the boys are not returning to Lima in August. After much soul searching, discussion, and prayer, we have decided that they will remain in Wilmore for the remainder of the year. What's more, our home, which is owned by a parishioner so it's really not ours, will be put up for sale, so all of our possessions not with us in Kentucky (which will be mostly everything.... we're living in a 900 square foot townhouse) will be put in storage until we return to Lima next May.
So, by the end of the month, we will effectively have no home in Ohio.... which is an unsettling affair. I am still appointed to Shawnee UMC however, and as long as I have parents living in that town, we'll have a place to hang our hat.
3) My professor in my "Preaching" class is Ellsworth Kalas, a man who by all accounts, has forgotten more about preaching than I'll probably ever know. He started doing some pulpit and street preaching when he was 17 years old, and hasn't stopped for 66 years (and counting). When he speaks, it's like living history. He remembers the Depression, WWII, and pretty much everything up to Israel bombing Lebanon this weekend. When he opens his mouth, it's always kind of amazing. As an example, he took a moment to reflect on three different texts in the old testament. One was from the chapter in Judges detailing the full account of the judge who ruled Israel right before Samson. The whole chapter is like four lines, and talks about a guy who had 70 kids and grandkids, all who were given donkeys to ride around kingdom during his 8 year reign.
Now, I'll be honest and say, that if I had that kind of information, I'd be back on the computer punching in interesting words in searches for scripture with a little more meat on it than an old guy with progeny running around on their asses (like that one?), but not Dr. Kalas. Nope, he tells us about a sermon he did on the text where he waxed with amusement and horror that a many could run a country for 8 years and only be remembered for having giving a bunch of donkeys away. Donkeys that were featured in the ridiculous parade of his family showing off his power and his wealth... a ridiculous parade that is now the measure of the man's entire life. And that, Kalas said, is what too many people of means in this world are gearing their life to become: a ridiculous parade of Volkswagens, houses, jewels, electronic equipment, and an end statement that will amount to about as much as this poor fool from the Book of Judges. And the shame.... it could have been so much more.
Yeah.... he's not God, but he's close. I'm gonna learn a few things this year.
4) My other professor is a pretty interesting guy too, but in a different way. While the class he's been teaching has been very informative (I was not aware how depleted I have been spiritually since Dick Lyndon's death, and the extent I've gone to cover it up), I have been watching him with a wary eye. The reason? He blamed the decline of our denomination, the United Methodist Church, on it's commitment to inclusivity... which is a big crock of poodle-doo.
UM's don't agree on every issue, and shouldn't have to. Even the Apostle Paul said the only thing he was certain of was that Christ died for him.... that leaves a lot of what he says open to interpretation and discussion. In this way, inclusive churches like St. Luke in Indy can be St. Luke in Indy, reaching every type and kind of person imaginable, while other churches like Granger Community in Granger IN, can move more toward to the right on social and theological issues as they teach and preach. If Wesley hadn't added using "reason" to the quadrilateral of things (scripture, experience, and tradition are the other three tools for discernment... Scripture being primary) were suppose to use to figure out how to live as Christians, then we'd all think, and act, exactly alike. Instead, we're people who have a different take on things, and struggle, in tension, together, to figure out where God is leading us, in grace.... and both the St. Lukes and Grangers can find their rapidly growing audiences.
No, Dr. Martyn, in this man's humble (and I mean, HUMBLE) opinion, our denomination is shrinking because more people aren't finding the love of Jesus in our churches than are. That's it. Period. There are a few churches on both theological ends of the spectrum, and some in between the poles, that are engaged in ministry in such a way that people are becoming disciples, and a whole bunch more churches, all across the spectrums, just not reaching their communities. Many of them aren't even interested in doing so. And it's not a function of theological persuasion.... they just want to do other things like "Sunday School", "rummage sales", and worry about keeping the lights on. It's a matter of people following Jesus with integrity, which is the hardest thing in the world for a leader of a church to start doing, and keep doing, in the midst of all the other demands and landmines in daily ministry. It's a hard thing to do, man.... that's why we're declining.
Anyway, the prof qualified his statement later... but I've still got my eye on him.
5) One of the things I'm realizing down here is just how afraid I've become in ministry. Afraid of upsetting or disappointing the boss. Afraid of what parishioners will think if I say, or do, what's on my mind. Afraid of what might happen to my appointment if I don't perform. I'm not sure when it happened, or why, but at some point I began fearing others more than I fear the Lord.
Don't get me wrong... I understand the damage a "loose cannon" can do. But for eons I've always felt like one of my strengths was being willing to be somewhat prophetic in the pulpit, and in my demeanor, and I feel like I traded that for something else.
Why am I so afraid? I guess I've got ten months to figure it out. If you've got a suggestion, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org .
6) Indiana ended up with the Honda plant, because, we are told, a foundation established by a casino in Lawrenceburg, Indiana made a 10 million dollar economic grant that wasn't available in Van Wert, Ohio. In other words, they got the plant because people in Indiana are allowed to gamble in casinos, and we aren't.
So, let me get this straight... there was no other money available in the entire state to help Van Wert in their cause? No foundation money? No state grants? No one would have called Carl Linder or the Jacobs Brothers? I mean, if Honda had asked for 10, or 20, or 30 million extra dollars in some sort of assistance, you think the state would have refused? I'm sure if a phone call had been made, checks would have been written so fast Honda execs would have smugged the ink as they grabbed it.
I'm telling you, the casino industry will do whatever it can until the day comes that slot machines exist in every corner Revco.... even take credit for 2000 jobs at an automobile plant to convince us that if we need our own casinos to compete. It's just evil. Go to www.nolimacasino.org and voice your opposition to a casino in the Lima community.
7) This past year, Xave and I spent virtually every Friday's together ("Daddy and Xavie Day") doing the grocery shopping, running errands, and eating lunch at my mom's house. But since school let out in early June, our time together has largely been compromised now that Max is at home all day, every day. Well, today, I had to take a "wireless extender" back to the Best Buy in Lexington (after a futile attempt to fix the lousy internet service in our building), and Xavie chose to tag along (Max stayed to play with friends) because he wanted a "Daddy and Xavie Day" like "we used have long, long ago" (the kid has a way with words).
I am amazed at how quickly Xavier is growing. His vocabulary is expanding at a breathtaking pace (he informed me that a situation regarding the lack of a blue popsicle was "intolerable" and that a picture on a TV we saw today was "amazingly brilliant"). Physically, he's growing and developing coordinated abilities that put him far beyond Max at the same age. And, rarely, do I notice because he's a willing "second banana" to his older brother. Anyhow, it was great to listen and watch my son grow up so fine.... and he's still Xave: I gave him a York peppermint Paddy in the car, and by the time we got home, he was covered in mint chocolate. I love that little boy.
8) Like I love them all. Eli's eye is back to normal, and Max is firmly entrenched in the social circle that is the elementary-set living in our little Evangelical Commune. The boys are all thriving down here. It's just amazing to watch.
9) Living at Asbury, in one sense, is really strange, because I'm surrounded by Evangelical Christians who are serious about their faith, while at the same time, I have no TV and no longer regularly receive a newspaper. The result was that at the end of the week (a week, you'll remember, I was sick as a dog), I was feeling a little lost. So when I went out last Friday to buy the ill-fated wireless extender, as I drove my car (which hadn't been touched in days... we live on campus and you can walk everywhere), I felt the strange sense that somehow I was re-engaging with the outside world. No TV, especially, is really playing with my head, so much so, that I bought a copy of "The Big Lebowski" while I was at Best Buy, and thoroughly enjoyed watching it on my laptop.
Please, a note for all... this movie is rated R, and earns it rating. It isn't redeemable in the least and has no great moral message (other than "The Dude" simply wanting his rug back because it really tied the room together). Don't rent it, and then accuse me of steering you wrong. I advocate that nobody rent or watch this movie. There.... the morality police can rest.
Anyhow, I needed something really stupid, and a little base. The laughs helped me end a long week.
10) And finally, just found out that I'll be at Willow Creek Community Church's, "The Summit Leadership Conference", in early August. We used to do "The Summit" most years while I was at Goshen First (it's was Dick's favorite trip, bar none). At the event, Bill Hybles, who is the founding pastor of Willow Creek, a church which arguably changed the course of worship and practice of American Christianity, for better or worse, in the mid-eighties, invites great leaders of all kinds to come and speak on the subject of leadership to a bunch of pastors. Years ago, I thought I'd seen the ultimate interview subject in the form of an amazing interview that Hybles did with Bill Clinton (in his last year of the Presidency). That experience of hearing Clinton talk about what makes a good leader, and what the heck he was thinking during the whole "Monicagate" thing, was just fantastic.
But this year, someone is coming who I am looking forward to listening to more than just about anyone else living on the planet today.... Bono, the lead singer of U2, is coming to "The Summit". That the man is changing the world through his activism is a given. What I hope gets across in the interview is a question asking Bono if he knows the impact U2's music has had on Christian worship in the western world? I mean, virtually every worship song being written and recorded sounds like U2. All of the British and Irish praise song leaders and writers count the band as an influence. Does Bono know that by choosing to famously pursue being a rock star against the advice of his Bible study leader, that he's now effectively leading the western church in a worship and outreach revolution? Did he ever dream, as a kid in Dublin, that would ever be possible? And what does that say about the church, that this was even possible?
I hope someone asks that question. I can't imagine the answer.
Until next time.... God Bless,