Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Midwest Vacation

I'm not Chevy Chase, Aimee isn't Beverly DeAngelo, and we don't have a son AND a daughter, but like the Griswalds, the Buchers are on tap for an epic vacation. Today we left for Indianapolis, where we'll basically just stay at a hotel with a pool and eat pizza (the boys are excited). Friday morning we'll leave for Chicago where I'll be performing the wedding ceremony of Aimee's cousin, CJ Dugan and Jill Bzdrhtgpklx (approximate spelling). Then Saturday, immediately following the ceremony, we'll head to Goshen, Indiana and some time with Walters family (Max and Mitchell Walters are best buds) to catch up with some old friends. And then, finally, Sunday we'll make our way to Lima for the 15th Annual Fall Fest at Shawnee UMC (where I, as per my tradition, will serve as the engineer on the exciting train ride!). Finally, either late on Sunday, or on Monday, we will return to Wilmore.


Believe it or not the entire experience will be geared to Eli's inability to travel long distances for extended periods of time (hence the stop in Indy in Thursday, and Goshen on Saturday). Back in the day when I was but a whippersnapper, my folks would throw about fifteen pillows a blanket, a bunch of books and boardgames, (of course) my "puppy pillow", and me in the back of our old Buick Skylark. I'd just rattle around back there, sans seat belt cause in those days not only were there no seat belt laws but I am convinced that our parents believed very little bad could happen to us in every walk of life (as opposed to now, where every unknown car driving on the street in front of your house could be a potential kidnapper), stretched out and happy as a lark. Now, not only are seat belts mandatory, but toddlers like Eli have to be strapped in like an astronaut on the Space Shuttle in one of the world's most uncomfortable contraptions of torture (a.k.a. "the child safety seat").

So, by the end of the weekend I hope to have a few pictures up, and maybe a good story or two. Until then, stay tuned.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Ten Things I Think I Think

Hope all is well with you. Sorry to keep you waiting on this week's "Ten Things...". Had an assignment due today for Missiology, so my normal Sunday night free time, wasn't free. I'm here now though, and ready to go!

1) It's great to see the Superdome open, and the Saints doing their thing. New Orleans, by all accounts, is still struggling mightily as homes continue to lay in waste and businesses struggle to get back on their feet. Given the lessons learned in this terrible disaster about building a huge city below sea level, crafting a plan as to who can live where, and determining how sustainable that area is for habitation will take time. Most estimates now stand at five to seven years before the city even approaches normal, and that seems reasonable. Let's hope people learn from their past to create for New Orleans, a more secure, sustainable future.

2) Will be in Chicago this weekend presiding over the wedding of CJ Dugan (Aimee's cousin) and Jill Bzdlakhgnjskt (that's an approximate spelling... after they buy a house, she'll be saving money to buy a vowel). After that I'll be making a beeline to Shawnee for Fall Fest on Sunday afternoon, kids in tow. I'll be taking my usual turn as the engineer for the train ride, so bring your train whistles and train hats! It's gonna be a barn burner.

I know every year I muse about the growth of Fall Fest from a barely passable trick-or-treat alternative event (not for theological reasons... it was started the year after a couple of children were hit by a car in the Shawnee area, and was geared as an event for pre-elementary age kids) to the full-blown festival it is today. Music, rides, games, and all free so that for one day parents don't need to tell their kids "no" because everything is ridiculously expensive. It is an act of grace to the community, and something we should never take for granted. Kudos to Cathleen Baker for the job she does getting this thing organized each year... it's a winner, and see you there!!!

3) We received bad news this evening, as Aimee's mother revealed to us that there is some early detection of a re-occurrence of cancer in her liver. Two years ago surgery needed to be performed on Carol to eliminate the cancerous portion of this most important organ. Now, during a routine check-up, it appears that an inoperable form of this menace has surfaced. Carol will be facing a number of tests and biopsies, and we assume chemotherapy in the coming days. Please keep her in your prayers.

Fight this thing Mom!!! We're right behind you!

4) Strange happenings here at Asbury. The Dean of the Beeson Program, our fearless leader, Randy Jessen, will be heading out to Colorado for this year's "President's Retreat". Except, right now, our President, Jeff Greenway, has been placed on indefinite leave by the Board of Trustees for "insubordinate" behavior. Gee, what do you think the main topic of conversation will be over this three day event? Crazy, crazy stuff.

5) Took the boys to see "Barnyard" at one of the many "dollar-movie" theatres in Lexington Saturday. The movie is a good one. The story is about a young male cow, Otis (yeah, I know, male cow.... whaddya gonna do?) whose father, Ben, is the leader/protector of the farm. The father, a serious cow who's theme song is Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down" (Well I won't back down. No I won't back down. You can stand me up at the gates of Hell but I won't back down.... words written, strangely enough, while Petty was in a huge argument with his record company who at the time threatened to ruin him financially if he didn't comply with their wishes). Ben is worried because his son just can't seem to get his act together and start taking life seriously (a metaphor for the recent cultural phenomenon of the extension of adolescence into the early-to-mid twenties, perhaps). Anyhow, Ben ends up dying protecting the hen house from a pack of coyotes, and Otis is thrust into his dad's leadership role.

When Ben, the father, died, to be honest, I shed a tear or two, largely because the thought that someday my sons will probably have to bury me is sobering. Fortunately, since the movie wasn't exactly "Bambi", pulling on every heart string to waste you emotionally when his mother dies, the moment kind of past the boys, which is fine by me. I'm just beginning to ponder my own mortality, so my seven and four year old sons should at least be spared a few more years before they realize I'm not immortal. I'll be Superdad as long as their minds will let me.

6) The case of Otis is interesting, because the movie really explores what it means to be a leader. Otis' dad Ben spends his life trying to teach his son that "a strong man stands up for himself, but a stronger man stands up for others", which of course doesn't become apparent until after he dies living out his ethos. Otis does end up, after much existential angst over his sense of place in the world, owning his father's beliefs as his own. However he is unwilling to own his father's leadership style, and instead figures out his own (organizing his network of friends, as opposed to the individualistic Ben who mainly did his thing on his own). This is a classic example of what it means for the mantle of leadership to pass from one generation to another, and a good cultural reflection of a post-modern person's unwillingness to exert power in traditional forms.

Otis unwillingness to trust himself as the sole powerbroker in the community, either because he's not confident that he's been tested like his old man and thus not strong enough for the job, AND/OR because he's uncertain of what power will do to him, his relationships with others, and how he understands his place in the world, goes to the heart of the reason why all of us Beeson Pastors are here. What does leadership, the nature of the relationship between a Senior Pastor of a church to "power", look like to a generation that's unwilling and uncertain about the forms of leadership we've appreciated, but don't want to emulate?

As the institutional church continues to decline in the west, as fewer and fewer people grow up in the church, and enculturated into it (although the percentage of persons from my generation raised in the church who stayed, or returned after a period of inactivity, is hardly encouraging... and the next generation is shaping up to be worse), we will be faced not only with the demands of evangelising people less and less sympathetic to Christ's story, but also trying to hold together the institution that is the church as we know it.

Thus, pressure is coming from two directions: escalating costs and demands from our own people, and the greater time commitment that will need to be made to connect relationally to those who are not yet friends of Jesus Christ. Otis is able to figure out his leadership style in a post-modern context fairly quickly cause he's a cartoon, but I think for me and my thirty-something-year-old brothers and sister here this year, the answer is more difficult to discern. I talk more about this as I figure it out myself.

7) This topic of discussion, leadership in churches living off the long-tail of Christendom in a rapidly Post-Christendom world, comes up again and again in our classes. Today it cropped up as we contemplated the course of action a pastor going into a new congregation (a reality for 10 out of the 12 of us next June) should take as they seek to contextualize Jesus' ministry into that particular church's setting. Many of us have already witnessed many examples of churches who really didn't want to change in order to be incarnational, and the price pastors paid in churches who did make the change, only to find out that in this day and age that things changed again. Their example, and the aftermath, isn't exactly got us chomping at the bit to follow in their footsteps. Rather, I think most of my classmates would rather plant a brand new church so they can avoid some of the issues long-standing churches present, while the others would like to go to churches so close to dead that any new changes are welcome.

The world is changing so much faster and in ways that are so scary for our people (mention the words "Made In China" or "outsourcing" to a typical Buckeye and see how they respond) that the sheer speed of the change is shaking people's belief in their future and a good God who loves and cares about them. I just get a sense that a lot of people, as they struggle to raise their kids or do business or find meaning/significance to their life or contemplate how complex and overwhelming the solutions to the world's problems are, are feeling like the world is lining up against them... making it harder for each of us to get by day, after day.

Of course these problems aren't new, but they are being posed in a way that we as Christian pastors haven't been asked to complete in the Western Hemisphere maybe, ever. Not since the days prior to Constantine has the place of Christianity in culture been more marginalized, and even demonized by the general populace. Now, unlike the Apostle Paul who battled the superstition held by those in the Roman Empire who couldn't figure out what Christianity was all about, now we not only are confronted by growing number of these kinds of people but also the baggage of two-thousand years of Christian teaching and practice which have not lead to the amount or kind of societal transformation one would think Jesus would call us to.

Is it too late for law school? (Just kidding... I think).

8) Hey, Jerry Falwell was caught on tape joking that Hillary Clinton was a bigger motivator to energize the Christian political right than Satan.


I wish I could come up with something to say that would make Jerry look as ridiculous to the average American as he's making Christians look right now, but unfortunately, HE'S BEATING ME TO THE PUNCH. Just consider me a member of a charter member of the "Moral Minority" who believes that evil incarnate is a more serious threat to common decency than a Senator from New York.

(a bigger motivator than Satan..... good grief!)

9) The mark of a seriously good football team is when they end up crushing an opponent on a day they don't have their "A" game. After Saturday, consider Ohio State marked. And I'll go a step further and say that I think the national championship might actually be played on November 18th when the Bucks play a certain school that should be a greater motivator to mobilize the Christian right than Satan (yeah, see, there you go... Jerry Falwell says that about Michigan instead of Hillary, and it makes perfect sense... I think he needs me to write his copy).

Yep.. I'm slowly becoming convinced that the two best teams in the country are in the Big Ten. AND, after watching the end of the debacles that were the Arkansas/Alabama and Florida/Kentucky games, and still pondering the "greatness" of an Auburn team who isn't going to be truly tested by a mediocre conference schedule, I'm wondering if the SEC isn't the fourth or fifth strongest conference this year after the Big Ten (obviously), Big East (no way any of the SEC schools beat West Virginia, Louisville or even Rutgers this year), Big Twelve (hard to write off Texas considering their only loss was to the nation's premier college football program), and maybe even the Pac Ten (if USC is for real) . Hey kids, at least you still got the ACC and MAC to kick around... oh, accept Clemson and Akron look pretty tough (and you probably don't want to tangle with Boise State either, so maybe you ought to just thank your lucky stars that someone from the SEC can back into a BCS bowl this year).

Hey Auburn fans.... Bo knows the Humanitarian Bowl! (I hear Idaho is lovely in December)

10) And finally... in the "strange but true" category, NBC is editing out of the Veggietales cartoons it's showing on Saturday mornings, all references to God, much to the dismay of the vegetation sensation's creator, Phil Vischer. NBC is even going to the extent of editing out Bob the Tomato's tag line, "Remember, God made you special, and he loves you very much". NBC cited the need to maintain a longstanding policy of seeking programming that is religiously neutrality as the reason for the edits.

Of course, this is the same network that last year launched, "The Book of Daniel", which featured a pill-popping Episcopalian priest who pastored the most screwed up church in the world and talked regularly to Jesus, who was a regular character on the show. Pretty religiously neutral that show was, eh?


Have a great week!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

It's not maize... it's just yellow

Our Elijah.... growing up fast!!!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

From Aaron's Blog and Ministry In a Different World

Aaron Wymer, a member of 2006-2007 Beeson Pastor class here at Asbury is a great blogger. Aaron actually blogs stuff that's happening down here, as opposed to this blogger who muses endlessly about physics and the arc of history. Here's a great picture of a sign in front of a church near Aaron's hometown of Johnson City, Tennessee that was forwarded to him by a parishioner.

You can check out Aaron's great blog here:

We had a Pokemon Pizza Party tonight at the townhouse. I'm told that about 11 or 12 kids were here, but I'm sure there were about 1,000. Ordered lots of super cheap pizza from the local Little Caesar's in Nicholasville, and found out that four year olds don't eat like teenagers, so I invited lots of other people to come get a slice of pepperoni, including (sampling pizza for the first time, I'm guessing) Rev. Jerry Kulah.

Jerry Kulah is an ordained UM-pastor in Liberia, and part of the first of three waves of International Beeson Pastors we'll see this year. The short history of Liberia is that it is an African nation settled by former slaves from the United States. For the longer version, here's Liberia as defined by Wikipedia (

Jerry doesn't know it, but his story is pretty amazing. Jerry grew up in the church. Even met his wife while still in High School when they were competing on "Bible Quiz" teams. In 1989, Civil War erupted in Liberia, and Jerry, fearing for this life (as the possibility of his being conscripted into one army, or the other, I would imagine, was real) fled to Nigeria. For the next two years, he lived and worked in a Liberian refugee camp, leading people in Bible study, worship, and generally, as he put it, reminding people that "God had not forgotten them".

A refugee servant to a refugee people.... amazing!

Anyhow, in 1991, the opportunity for Jerry to continue his studies in Lagos, Nigeria opened up, and he began the long work of finishing his undergrad and Master's Degrees. In 1992, his brother paid for a ticket for Jerry's High School sweetheart, Ruth, to come to Nigeria, where they could be together, and she could complete her accounting degree (her university shut down, of course, because of the war). They were married on the seminary campus where Jerry was going to school, the service provided by friends on campus, as both Jerry and Ruth had left their country with very little.

As time went by, Jerry began to get a clear vision of what God wanted him to do in Liberia. Having earned his degree, and taught at the seminary for a number of years, Jerry felt called to return, find his family, and begin looking for ways to raise up educational institutions and churches that had been destroyed in a war that had raged for 8 years. The only problem was that the war was still being fought, and now Jerry and Ruth had two kids.

"I didn't know if my family was alive or not and we had nothing to go back to... but I just knew we had to return to Liberia." Thus, in 1997, they went home to a very uncertain future.

But remember what I said in the last post... about having faith in the end of history as its defined by the Bible. Well, Jerry believes that someday, the earth will be renewed, and good will triumph over evil, so he just decided to practice that belief right now.... in the middle of a war.

(I told you his story was amazing!)

For the next six years as the war continued, Jerry did what he could to get a school back up and running. He helped teach at the school, and after a couple of years, also took on a church. The war had seasons of greater or lesser intensity, and finally, with the capitulation of President Charles Taylor (you is awaiting his trial for crimes against humanity in The Hague) ended in 2003.

Since then Jerry has been ordained as an Elder, and now works for the Liberian Annual Conference training new pastors, helping get schools open, equipping congregations through different means of education, re-integrating returning refugees, and helping get churches started or re-started. He and Ruth now have four children, three handsome boys, and beautiful little girl. He will be, I expect, a very important leader in the Liberian United Methodist Church, which is strong and growing, for quite some time, hence his being chosen to be a Beeson Pastor (Note: The international BP's don't apply, they get chosen for this doctoral program, and let me tell you, they are serious movers and shakers in the global Christian movement).

His wife, by the way, earned her accounting degree, and works for the an NGO that makes microeconomic loans to Liberians looking to start small businesses so they can support their family (The NGO is supported by War Child International - here's the link:

Anyhow, the couple of pieces of really cheap pizza and the glass of lemonade I gave up to hear this story were not adequate payment. So, to do what I can with what I have, I'm asking all loyal bloggers out there to be on the lookout for a used video projector. Why, per say? Well, just like the US Beeson Pastors, Jerry and his colleagues received new laptop computers as a part of the Beeson experience. Because he does a lot of teaching and training in schools and seminaries all over the country, Jerry would love to take with him a small generator, his laptop, and a video projector to simplify, streamline, and improve the experience for his students.

Jerry didn't ask me to do this, by the way. The subject came up while we were looking through some pictures, and I happened to see a video projector in one of them. He's looking for one even as we speak. I just thought maybe I'd help him if I could.

If anyone out there works for a school, church, business, or some other organization looking to off-load a video projector that's still got some good life in it, if they'd be willing to give it up for a good cause, I can make sure the proper tax credit is received. If you want to talk further about this, email me at , and let's see where the talking takes us.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Ten Things I Think I Think

1) Hello All! Sorry for the late post. Been a long weekend, and a long Monday. Today we started our fourth class of the Beeson Pastor experience, Anthropology for American Christian Ministry with Dr. Michael Rynkiewich (click the link to learn more about him: Fascinating guy who is helping me make some sense of a lot of things theologically.

Interesting story.... he told us that everyday he was with us he'd be going to the Student Center for lunch, and that we could join him. I took him up on the offer today cause I had a few questions out of the morning lecture and the reading (six books which resulted in 36 pages of writing.... now you know why the blog was late). Anyhow, we get to the student center, and because he is wearing a skirt as an illustration for our first class (to show us how pastors dress in New Guinea), he has forgotten his wallet. Likely story.... I invented the whole "oops, I forgot my wallet cause I'm wearing my skirt to lunch schtick". Anyhow, we had a great lunch, and he's a great guy. I'll probably still only get a "C" for his class, but it'll be worthwhile none-the-less. I'll talk more about the class later in this post.

2) The "Beeson Program Clergy Council" is in town, and that means that we, as Beeson Pastors, are doing a little back-slapping and pressing-of-flesh. Two highlights of the experience. Jim Garlow, who is the Senior Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego (for those pastors who have heard of John Maxwell, this was his church until Jim succeeded him) told us a number of stories tonight about his adventures as a "talking head" during the DaVinci Code furor of the past three years. Apparently every "talking head" you see on these news programs all have agents, and when a news or talk network need a sound byte or two, they call the agent to ask for you (at a price, I might add), and then the agent calls you so you can make a beeline to whatever local studio will beam your image on the screen of Anderson-Cooper, Scarborough Country, Paula Zahn, or whatever. What is the network looking for from a "talking head"? The ability to give a quick decisive answer in 15 seconds... with a smile. Anyhow, to make it in this world, you've got to be pretty intelligent and quick on your feet (or at least entertaining or bombastic) and Jim is (quick and intelligent... let me make that clear). Here's a link to Jim Garlow's website (let's just say the dude knows a thing or two about self-promotion):

NOTE: Here's a bit of trivia for my Lima readers: Guess who followed Jim Garlow at his church in Dallas, Texas when he went to San Diego to follow John Maxwell? None other than Dr. Dan Huckins, Senior Pastor of the Lima Community Church of the Nazarene. Dan spent four years at Metroplex Chapel in Dallas, Texas, succeeding Jim who was that church's founding pastor.

3) Here's another interesting tidbit from another clergy council-it: Lindsay Davis, the Bishop of the North Georgia Annual Conference, spent a few moments today talking about our beloved denomination. Bishop Davis exclaimed that when it was announced that our membership dipped below 8 million earlier this year, he kept waiting for denominational leaders to rip their clothing, cover themselves in ashes, and repent of whatever it was slowly marginalizing our influence in this culture. Of course, he heard nothing, which disturbed him because it's his belief that once you reach the second-half of an institution's decline, it accelerates at increasing speed. 37% of the churches (by the Bishop's estimates) in North Georgia are declining rapidly toward extinction and this is one of the healthier conferences in the country. In other words, according to the Bishop, get ready my United Methodist brothers and sisters, for a rapid downward plunge resulting in the closing of churches at a rate never before seen in our denomination's history. And after the property is disposed of by the conference, if pension obligations to retirees don't eat up everything we have, they'll be a rate of new church plants that will make our head spin. There has never been a more terrifying, and yet exciting time to be UM pastor.

4) Lots of woofin' and trash talkin' here in Beeson Country around college football. It just so happens that two (not one, BUT TWO) Auburn grads are in the program along with yours truly, who, while he never went to Ohio State, was born there (literally! University Hospital -February 10th, 1969). Had to listen to a lot of "blah, blah, blah" about how great Auburn's victory against LSU was Saturday. One of them even made the mistake of talking about how the Bucks could never get around Auburn's stout defense (which gave up over 300 yards to a LSU team that cracked their Red Zone FIVE TIMES, but only came away with a field goal... SEC Football - It's Fannnnnntastic!).

My response: OSU 37 Auburn 10 - Mark it down!

5) Aimee got the boys a couple of "He-Man" DVD's at the Jessamine County Public Library in Nicholasville. You might remember "He-Man", an animated character who had his 15-minutes of fame about 20 years ago when my brother, Andy, was about my boys' age. Andy was so into He-Man that before he could tell time, when he'd ask at 4:00pm how long it would be until dinner, if dinner was at 5pm, we'd respond with "two He-Mans" (for my mathematically-challenged friends who went to an SEC school, that means each episode was 30 minutes long). Anyhow, Aimee explains who He-Man is, and tells the boys that this show was my brother's favorite as a little boy.

Max's reply (and I am not making this up): "Is it in color, or black and white?"

How long do you think it took me to call my brother to ask?

6) Of all the books I read for this latest class, I can only recommend one, and that's only to people who are interested in some postulating about how Christians should approach people of different faiths. The book, Clash of Worlds, by David Burnett is a fairly fast read. Although, considering how fast I need to read this stuff right now, it could be that it's just EASIER to read than the other Missiology books on the syllabus, which wouldn't say much. (Consider yourself warned and here's the link:

7) But, even though the other books were tough reads, that doesn't mean they weren't profitable. One, in particular, The Gospel In A Pluralistic Society, by Lesslie Newbigin, hit me pretty hard. In it, Newbigin rails against those who have committed themselves to embracing religious pluralism in the name of keeping the peace in a plural culture. What this means, in English, is that at some point during the past 200 years, people stated teaching and believing that all religious faiths are equal and the same. What this created, according to Newbigin, was doubt about whether or not any of the faiths possessed any kind of truth. Religious scholars who once postulated about what Christ meant when he said, "The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed..." now dissected the Bible to figure out what the "truth" (and "untruth") about spirituality in that particular religion might be. Thus, anything that conflicted with was known scientifically about the natural world, or conflicted with other religious traditions, began to get tossed.

Newbigin believed (he's gone now, but his book lives on) that for Christians this was tragic, because part of the premise of being a Christian is that you believe that the Bible is the narrative possessing the truth about life and living for all humanity. When you lose this kind of belief, instead of accepting the text as being the definition in poetry, imagery, prose, history, mystery, and a cross, of humanity's past, present, and future encounter with God, you create a situation where we reduce the Bible to a book of philosophy, or a historical text that described the religious beliefs of certain people in a certain time and place. This results in a number of things, not the least of which, is the divorcing of Christian ethical practice from what is promised about the future: that in the end, good will overcome evil, and everything on this earth will be renewed.

Which, by the way, do you believe this is true? That in the end, evil will be vanquished and everything on earth will be better than it was when it was brand new?

8) Well, you'll find that most people, including Christians, don't. They believe in Heaven as a place you go when you die, and they might even believe in some form of final judgment where good and evil finally become apparent and discernable. But renewal of the earth for most is, at best, allegorical or metaphorical, and at worst a deluded pipe-dream.

And why?

Well at some point in history, science and theology were separated because the natural world could be measured and the spiritual one, well, couldn't. Along the way, science came up with a number of laws that helped them understand the world, one of which is that everything is always in a state of decay. With that as a given, how then could the world ever be renewed? It goes against everything we know to be true? One trip to your local gas pump when a gallon of the cheap stuff cost you $3 was enough proof that energy runs out eventually.

Well, this view is a secular humanist perception of how things in this world work. And while it might be OK for religions to teach us to take care of one another or the natural world, the general understanding is that at some point, our time here on earth is going to end, and when it does, it won't be pretty. Either the sun will burn out, or we'll blow ourselves up, or the environment will crap out on us ("crap out" being the highly technical scientific term) or the meteorite or something else following the laws of physics (in the meteorites case, it would be an object in motion continues in motion until a force equal or greater meets with it in the opposite direction... earth, for all those SEC school grads, being that force) will ultimately fulfill the laws of physics, and thus, the rule that everything is in decay.

After all, isn't the death rate for humans still hovering around 100%? How could this be wrong?

9a) So, let me ask you a question.... what if the laws of physics as we've always known them, are, well, a little misunderstood? Astrophysicists, for example, postulate that the universe is expanding at an increasing rate. How is this possible? Gravity, while infintismal, still exists in space (a point confirmed by my brother-in-law who spent a number of years studying the effects of microgravity on fluids in space for NASA.... now you know that when it comes to the gene pool for my boys, the deep-end is Aimee's and the shallow-end is mine). If you blew up a pumpkin in space, would the pieces of that pumpkin continue to pick up speed, or does gravity, at some point, bring those pieces to rest? Why isn't the universe expansion slowing down?

What if the laws of physics are really aren't that all things are in decay, but all things somehow in a strange cosmic dance, are being made new? How might that change our outlook?

9b) But let's leave physics for awhile, supposing that I don't know what I'm talking about because I got a C in physics during my Senior Year at Lima Senior, and let me ask this: If you believe the end point of history, ultimately, is the destruction of all things, then what is the point to living? At best, you could adopt a personal philosophy of "treat others as you would want to be treated" if for no other reason than enlightened self-interest. Makes sense, as it'd be pretty tough living in the world if we all went around messing one another over.

This, supposedly, was what secular rationalists (Sigmund Freud being one) said would be the end point of social evolution.... people treating one another with dignity and respect out of the realization that it's in our best interest to do so. But after 200 hundred years of Christianity being increasingly marginalized, the point of almost extinction in Western Europe, and increasing irrelevance in the US and Canada, has Freud's vision of the future becoming reality?

If it was, do you think violence, illicit drug use, and rates of suicide would be decreasing in the "enlightened" western world as it continues to free itself of religious influence? Would the budgets of the western nations or the overall amount freely given to charities by individuals, dedicated to fighting disease and hunger in the less developed world be accelerating as a percentage of our respective GDP's? Would there be less war? Never at any time in history has more wealth and resources have been as available and the ability to use them greater... so in the west, are people becoming increasingly optimistic about the future for their children and grandchildren?

What do you think?

9c) What if, in fact, we supposed that the interaction that humans say they have had with God, which has been recorded, defines
1. why we're here,
2. what we're supposed be about while we're here, and
3. what the result of all this wrestling, struggling, and effort will be in the end...

is true?

Do you believe there's a good and evil? Do you believe that good is far superior than evil? Do you believe that above all other things, the purpose of the creation is to love? And do you believe that if we love the Creator and all that was created, someday the earth in terms of relationships and natural environment, will work in way better than you could ever imagine?

Your answer to those questions, my friends, will determine much about the quality of your life right now, and the legacy we leave those who come after us!


But it still doesn't answer how, if you believe this is true, that you live in multi-cultural, multi-faith kind of world. Am still working on that one (why do you think I went to lunch with a guy in a skirt?).

Anyhow, obviously I loved Newbigin's book. If you really want to torture yourself for about 200 pages before it really gets good (and you can't just skip that 200 pages, or the end won't make sense), here's the link:

10) Finally, the winner of the big Haiku contest is (drum roll please).... STEVE JENKINS OF LIMA, OHIO. Steve, you've won one dandy ATS Doctor of Ministry coffee mug and a pound of bourbon chocolate fudge (although, if you, or anyone in your family is a recovering alcoholic, you might want to request the non-bourbon fudge... trust me!). Steve, just email me at to let me know you've won, and as for the rest of you... thanks for playing. Watch for my next big contest in October, which I promise will involve a prize from the city of London!!!

Until next time, let the good news be yours (which could be Katie's new sign-off phra.... oh, wait a minute... maybe someone used that already livin on the air in Cincinnati, Cincinnati - WKRP).

Friday, September 15, 2006

A Quick Update...

Hello All! Been a rough week, and am anticipating a rougher weekend. Eight papers are due by next Friday, and six of those need to be done my 9am Monday morning. I've been knocking them down one-by-one. On a five minute study break, so here are a few thoughts...

- Haikuapalooza is over. Thanks to so many of you who played (although I'm still a little put out by the reader at General Board of Discipleship in Nashville who didn't reveal who they were... come on, send me an email!). I'll announce the mug and bourbon fudge winner on Monday's "Ten Things..." Here's the last Haiku before we bid them adieu...
To: Eric Stallkamp
From: Lima, Ohio
Prays for Jim Tressel
and long contract for Lllloyd Carr
bleeds scarlet and grey

- The situation for Asbury's president-in-limbo, Jeff Greenway just gets more perplexing. For those who don't know, Greenway, in response to his yearly evaluation by the Executive Team of the Board of Trustees, went AWOL a couple of weeks just as the students were arriving on campus. Lots of rumors and innuendo have circled around here about what this "impasse" is actually about, but this blogger isn't into innuendo and rumor and I'm not really connected very well with the campus (being a Beeson Pastor is like being in a separate universe... more on that Monday), so I have no idea what's behind all of this drama. All I know is that the Executive board gave Greenway until last Friday to resign, nobody heard anything over the weekend, and then finally on Wednesday or Thursday, we received an email from Greenway saying that he wasn't going to publicly comment on this situation because the two sides were in conversation. So, ATS is functioning without a President, there's no apparent end in sight to this situation, and the campus is moving forward as if things are fine.... except that everyone knows that they aren't. Can't say that in a year where I was focused on earning a degree in leadership I'd ever dreamed I would be a witness to a real-world case study as bizarre as this one. But if the Executive Committee in a formal statement have declared Greenway's actions to be an "act of insubordination", how does this get put back together? Stay tuned.

- Just looked at the "High School Football Scoreboard" and saw that Lima Senior lost 34-7 to Mason. Dad and I went to The Stadium to watch them play the second-half last week (a shellacking by Middletown), and I'd say that the prevailing mood in the stands was pretty ugly. The only win for the team thus far was a 26-24 squeaker against Celina, a team who I see lost to Shawnee 47-0 tonight. That State Championship in '96 seems more and more distant each and every day. So when can we start asking the question as to when Lima Senior joins the WBL? Come on, how much longer do we have to wait for this?

- My thoughts on Notre Dame V. Michigan tomorrow? Too bad the game can't end in a tie with lots of injuries.

- Number of minutes I've watched NFL football this season: Zero. No cable TV and all this work means no Monday Night Football for this puppy.

Five minutes turned into 20... gotta get back to work on thinking about what it means to incarnate Jesus in a pluralistic world. See you Monday!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A Slice of Asbury Life in Pictures

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Drowned Rat Superhero Society

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Alicia Coltzer, a fellow Beeson Pastor, Texas A&M fan, and Carrel Neighbor

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Study and Blog Central (the hanging papers are my syllabi)

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Jason and Kari McIntosh - Our Neighbors

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Bust of Ralph "Uncle Frank" Beeson, our beloved benefactor
(the bust kinda creeps me out)

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Meghan McIntosh - Xavie's good buddy

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Room where they feed us during class breaks
(how classy is that?)

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One of the two possible mugs you could win
in Haikuapalooza

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Mr. Baxter

Dear Mr. Baxter

I don't think you know me... well, you yelled at me plenty of times when I was a kid, but we never knew one another. You lived next door to Mike Miller, just across a rusty chain-link fence that's still there... a testament to one person's desire to know the exact location of that particular property line. I was one of the "little brats" you used to yell at when we'd play next door to your house.

I used to watch you drive your mustard-yellow Plymouth Duster down the street to a destination that was much debated by us neighborhood kids. Mike insisted, above the fray of our arguing, that your destination was to buy a case a beer. We didn't believe him, so one day we followed you on our bikes. It wasn't hard. You always drove with the emergency brake on. To make it look like we weren't following you was actually harder than keeping up. Sure enough, you drove to Chuck's Pizza, and emerged with a case of beer. I gathered it wasn't the first time Mike followed you, but he was one who always needed to be right, so he gloated all the way home, especially as we passed your car just past Roosevelt Elementary School.

I don't know if you were drunk every day. I don't know if you had family. I don't know if you knew Jesus, or had met him once along the course of your days. I don't know anything about you... except that when we got bored, we knew you'd come out to yell at us if we threw a football in your yard. You always came through then!

I don't know the circumstances with which you finally moved. I assume you died, as 27 years ago you were retired, home, alone, every day, drinking your beer and watching a black-and-white TV that never seemed to turn "off". You could count on that too - the warm glow of a black-and-white TV emanating out of a large picture window with no curtain at all hours. I don't know what happened to that TV, or the Plymouth Duster. They, like you, are all gone.

But the impression you left me is still alive, and this weekend when I drove passed what used to be your home, I could still see you, out on the front porch yelling obscenities, trying to get to ball before we did so you could take it inside.

I wonder what happened to all those balls?

I wonder if I could have helped you? Maybe made a call to a social worker who specialized in issues pertaining to the elderly, or to a son, or daughter or any other living relative. Heck, why obsess over this now? I was ten, and more afraid of you than anything else. Besides, I'm guessing that any intervention would not have been welcomed.

But nobody should have lived out the end of their life that alone. Nobody.

So, take care Mr. Baxter. Here's a word of concern, about twenty years too late. My guess: you'd have just thrown it away in the trash...

but then again, maybe you wouldn't have.

God Bless,
Little Brat #4

Monday, September 11, 2006

Ten (Quick) Things I Think I Think

Note: This day five years ago, I was in Chicago, Illinois at the Community Christian Church of Naperville for the Leadership Network's first ever Multi-site Church Conference. I can still remember, driving through downtown Chicago, stuck in traffic, watching thousands of people pour out of large buildings, heading to their cars, and home. The eeriness of that day, and the weeks thereafter, are never far from my mind. For the families who lost a loved one that day, for a nation forever changed, and a new generation of extremists who'd rather die than live, you are all in my prayers.

1) Was great to be home yesterday. The second annual "Back To School Blessing" was an unqualified success. Much thanks to Tara Yunker and her team for putting together another great event. Hope all the students, teachers, school administrators, and support staff felt blessed (despite the fact that I could barely speak). Can't wait to get back home!

2) Haikuapalooza is still going on, so here's a quick recap. Email with your name, location of log-in, and some info about yourself, and I'll write you your very own Haiku on this very blog. Everyone who plays gets entered to win a coffee-mug (Asbury or Shawnee UMC) and a pound of Bourbon Chocolate Fudge from the Abbey of Gethsemane in Trappist, KY. The whole ball of wax ends September 15th, so get that email in TODAY!!!

3) On the Haiku front, heard from an old friend, Mark Barton, who is now the proprietor of Barton Motorsports Services (Goshen, IN). Mark is the crew chief for Muzzy Racing, a team racing in the World Challenge GT ( Mark is about the best mechanic I've ever come across in my life. If there's another person in the world who can work faster and more efficiently I've never met him (should have seen him rebuild engines underneath a tree in CapHaitian... outstanding!). Hello to you Mark... give our best to Stacee and the girls. Here's your Haiku..

With a laugh and smile
a quick wrench and a sharp mind
he'll make you go fast

4) Also received a hilarious (and I mean hilarious) email from Steve Clouse, another Goshenite who is currently the Music Director at First UMC (my former stomping ground). One of my favorite people and good friend, Steve leads First in song as we works toward an MDiv at Associated Mennonite Seminary. Gotta love a guy who grew up Baptist, now working at Methodist Church, while earning a degree from a Mennonite seminary. Treat him good First UMC!!!! You have truly one of the greatest talents in ministry today in your employ. Steve, here's your Haiku...

Rocky the squirrel
found dead in your blow-up pool
Bullwinkle Moose mourns

5) Also heard from my Aunt, Beth Diehl, who lives in paradise (Logan, Utah). Blew my chance to make the break out west when as a young, impressionable teenage, I turned down what amounted to a full-ride from Utah State to stay close to home at Mother Miami (which was a university before Florida was a state). Beth made the break not long after High School, met a great guy (Dennis) who became her husband. They have three lovely girls (Jen, Trish, and Ally) and three grandkids who love coming to Ohio for visits (Hailey, Cade, and Branson). We'll get out there for a visit soon Aunt Beth... I promise. Can't wait to see you in October. Dennis drew a special hunting license this year, and with that in mind, here's your haiku...

Bullwinkle Moose should
thank his lucky stars he's not
an Elk in Utah

6) The Kneppers, Willetta and Don, sent a nice email from Lima this morning. They invited me to this week's "Ride and Dine" (a group from the church who on Wednesday, take a cruise on their motorcycles and get something to eat), which is a catered meal from Stites Grocery at a Ottawa Metropark Shelterhouse. Can't make it this week (Missiology calls!), but hopefully next year, I'll be out with the crew, enjoying Ohio's byways and highways (on my own bike???? One can only hope!). Here's your haiku...

Willetta and Don
see the world - serves it's people
servants of Jesus

7) Was soundly razzed by the guys in my Football Fantasy League about the team I chose this year. Well, guess who leads the league in total fans points as of today? Don't mess with "Dr. Love" boys cause when it comes to Fantasy League diagnosis, I got the cure.

8) I guess someone forgot to tell the Bucks that you don't mess with Texas. After that game I concur with Dr. Eric Stallkamp (doctorus footballus buckeyeus) that I can see why people down there were so frustrated with Mack Brown as a coach before last season. Vince Young carried that program last year.

9) Aimee spent a nice weekend with the spouses at Shaker Village (here's their website: - first the monks are on the web, and now the Shakers. Batten down the hatches, kids, the end of the world is near!). They talked about marriage and ate at meals that lasted 2 hours each. Aimee didn't like the pickled watermelon, but enjoyed the weekend all the same.

10) I leave with an excerpt from the book, "How Does America Hear the Gospel" by William Dyrness:

Our study has made it clear that it is precisely the Christian heritage that has given American culture its dynamic and its optimism. But what we have made of this heritage - hope without sin - has now become a fundamental obstacle to a proper hearing of the gospel. Here the characterization of H. Richard Niebuhr can hardly be improved upon. In "The Kingdom of God in America" he argued that the kingdom of God has been institutionalized and secularized in the American self-image. Or, in Niebuhr's words, "For the golden harps of the saint it substituted radios, for angelic wings concrete highways and high-powered cars, and heavenly rest is now called leisure. But it was all the same old pattern; only the symbols had changed"

Wow! See you soon!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Haikuapalooza Day 6 or 7... or something

The entries for Haikuapalooza are running a little slow, so to recap, here's what this blogger is looking for:
  • In an email to me ( simply list your name, the location of your log-in, and something about yourself (would especially like to hear from the person at the General Board of Discipleship in Nashville who keeps logging in... who you is?)
  • Every person who enters gets a free Haiku, written by me, on this blog, plus a chance to win an Asbury Seminary Coffee Mug OR a Shawnee UMC Coffee Mug (your choice) and a pound of Bourbon Chocolate Fudge from the Abbey of Gethsemane in Trappist, Kentucky.
  • Haikuapalooza ends September 15th, so get moving (especially my fellow BP's and families... enter or you will risk the wrath of me dancing topless on the front lawn to the vocal stylings of Barry Manilow singing "Copacabana" - CONSIDER THYSELF WARNED!)

Before I get to the Haikus, here are a few random thoughts....

  • A writer for raised this question today: "Will Paris Hilton's DUI charge hurt her image?" There's no punch line here... don't need one.
  • Have conquered two of the six books (w/papers) for my Missiology class. Book 3, however, is bigger than the first two combined, with a type size that will require a magnifying class and a bottle of Tylenol. Gotta find those reading glasses I bought in seminary.
  • Total of authors encountered either in the form of an entire book, or an article/excerpt from a book since beginning of the program (2 months): 79
  • Total number of pages read: thousands
  • Total number of pages written (double spaced): 68.5
  • Total number of churches I'll need to visit as a part of my dissertation research: 30 (Projected stops for the "Bucher Leadership Tranisition World Tour" - Knoxville, Chicago, Naperville IL, Orange County CA., Worchester Mass., Oklahoma City, Pheonix, Indianapolis and many others TBD)
  • If I could be any flavor Dum Dum Sucker, I would be "root beer".
  • Looked at a used BMW 1200LTC cruiser on E-bay for sale in Toledo yesterday... those motorcycle yearnings aren't going away
  • Yesterday Xavier was imagining that he was the North Wind... me thinks that while Max goes out to discover new dinosaur bones, Xavie will be traveling in a van, playing gigs in a band called "The Popes". Eli, on the other hand, reminds me of his Uncle Andy, so maybe we have another lawyer in the family.

Now, on to the Haikus!

For: Fred Diehl (my uncle)
From: West Palm Beach, Florida
strength during trials
comes from knowing others do pray
for what's in your heart

For: Shannon Kerns
From: Union Seminary - New York, NY
the human struggle
for acceptance and love is
the story of all

For: CJ Dugan
From: Chicago, Illinois
wedding is legal
if I'm preacher of record
choose me... if you dare

For: Mom
From: The Ol' Homestead
teaching reading to
prepare kids for the big world
your calling it is

A Blogger Reconsiders...

Earlier today, I posted what was a rough re-construction of the timeline of events leading up to a current crisis between President Jeff Greenway and the Board of Trustees of Asbury Theological Seminary. While the post borrowed liberally from a document freely released into the public domain by the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees, I speculated enough about how this situation came into being using rumor floating around the campus that, given the current climate, made me feel like I could possibly create additional chaos.

This purpose of this blog is two-fold: to be a personal release for me from the demands of this doctoral program, and to inform friends and family of what is going on with the Bucher clan as we spend this year in Wilmore. Later in the day, I checked on my sitemeter, to find that my post was actually serving a third purpose - a source of news about the seminary, of which I was not comfortable. It was clear by the number of hits received (elevated, to say the least), where they were coming from (Google searches with the words indicating that people were looking for information pertaining to Jeff Greenway), and the location of those hits (let's just say they weren't regulars to the blog) that my blog post was being used in ways that are not in line with its purpose. I claim not to be a journalist or a community muckraker. If a local newspaper or other form of electronic media chooses to do a story on the comings and goings of ATS, so be it. That function, however, is not in this blog writer's perview. Thus, freely, of my own accord, I chose to remove the post.

There's no conspiracy, just a man who doesn't want to pour gasoline on a fire.

The only piece of the post that will remain here is my own observation that the fallout between the acting President and the Board of Trustees is causing great sadness here because the impasse to so incongruent with the value the people associated with Asbury put on community. It is a value incorporated into the very fabric of the educational experience, which is different than what you'll find other places. There is a belief here that the maintenance of community not just in the classroom, or outside the classroom, or among the students, but amongst all of us connected to this place is as important as the information transmitted in a class setting. This, for me, was counter-intuitive to what I expected before I arrived, because the school has a reputation for being theologically and socially conservative.

I had made a judgement that conservatives are more individually oriented than communal. This experience proved my judgement to be a prejudice. For it is the breaking of community that grieves people here right now more than anything else. More than the school's reputation, possible future ramifications, or what deep-seeded issues might be at hand currently, the people here are concerned about the brokenness of a community that is held in a sacred trust. This proved personally touching and humbling, all at the same time... and that's really what I wanted to say today.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A Mountain Story...

Am in the middle of reading my first book for my Anthropology of Church Ministry class, and hating every minute of it. I'm having flashbacks to my undergrad experience reading texts in social sciences that use the driest, most academic language possible as a means of making the information applicable to any and all educational institutions.

And, so my mind wanders...

Mom and Dad just returned from their annual Labor Day pilgrimage to Charleston, West Virginia. We lived in Charleston for seven or eight years while Dad worked as a Project Engineer on a number of the bridges being built for the new interstate highway. Although we moved away from Charleston in 1980, my parents and I (my brother was born after we moved) have always had a real affinity for the place thanks to it's people. We loved, and love, those people who took us in... lost flatlanders struggling to make sense of their mountain story.

During their visit, Mom and Dad visited one of the families that have been so important in my journey. Nancy Reeves lives on land granted to her family by George Washington. A "Conner", her family's story is as much a part of the story of West Virginia as any other. It just so happened that when we moved to Charleston, we moved into a small house on Conner Drive, and Jack and Nancy Reeves had a son, Jason, who was my age. It was out of that experience, among others, we became a small part of the folklore of those hills.

I practically lived at the Reeves growing up. I was as comfortable getting a Coke in their house as I was in my own. I can't say the same for Jason and our home, but you need to understand that we were the refugees.... the immigrants.... our heritage lay elsewhere. The Reeves, I believe, saw it as their responsibility to welcome us into their world. So Jason could come over to my house, but his family immersed me in their world. There's a difference. Kind of like the difference between reading the Bible, and knowing that its story is your story. When you become immersed in its world, the words have a different kind of power.

That's what this family offered me, with no expectation that it could be offered back. That's a heck of gift.

So I learned a lot in the Land of Conner. I had my first taste of beer at the age of five with Jason's grandfather, Arthur, on his back patio, to celebrate the lawn being cut. I found out how much better a tomato or ear of corn taste when you grow it yourself. I learned that time can be measured by a river, how high or low it has been. I discovered that you could mourn the passing of a mountain, blown up to make room so people could get from "Point A" to "Point B", and yet still be tied to it, not out of a sense of loss or anger, but rather in the knowledge its story is your story.

Oh... and I learned about forgiveness. The power of forgiveness.

One night, probably on a weekend, I stayed over with Jason, which was a pretty regular occurrence. I must have been about six or seven years old. It was a night like a lot of other nights - two kids eating Doritos, watching TV, playing Gin Rummy and shooting pool - except that it was different. I don't remember the circumstances, but it probably started the same way every fight between a couple starts. There was some misunderstanding or disagreement or pent up frustration that comes when the person you've committed your life to pushes you past the edge. It's the "worse" part of "for better or worse", and you can't control when those moments come... they just do.

I remember the sound of yelling and dishes breaking. I remember my friend crying, afraid of the passion two people had for one another being turned sideways in the kitchen downstairs. Finally, Jack left... took off in Nancy's beautiful two-toned (blue and silver) 280ZX to go take out his anger on a transmission and some mountain roads. I remember Nancy coming upstairs speaking this nugget I have lived: "They say God protects drunks and fools. Let's pray tonight that's true." Then she went back downstairs to begin cleaning up that which had been broken... the beginnings, I realize now, of the restoration of a love so great that it even transcends death.

But my most vivid memory... the moment I've hidden in my heart, but treasure more and more, was Jack's return. I remember bracing, worried there would be more fighting. More chaos. I remember my mom telling me earlier that day that I could call, and they would come get me. I was definitely considering that possibility as I heard him come back into the house, and then up the stairs to where we were, Jason and I.

To be honest, I was genuinely afraid.

He came over and sat down on the couch between us, and with each of his big, strong arms, pulled us closer to him. He kissed his son, apologized, and whispered his love for him and his mother once again in his ear. He asked for forgiveness, which the son granted. And then, he spoke to me:

"I'm sorry Bryan. I'm sorry you had to see all of this. Moms and Dads get angry at one another sometimes. Isn't that true?" I nodded my head, not knowing how "true" that statement would be for another 30 years. "But we never stop loving one another, so don't worry. Don't be afraid. You are like Jason's brother, like my own son, and I don't want you to ever be afraid of coming here. Are you OK, cause if you are scared I can take you home."

Nope. That'll be fine. I'll just stay right here.

Jack is gone now. I was there at the funeral, a witness to the greatness of an ordinary man humble enough to ask forgiveness of a seven-year old boy. Mom told me that Nancy is fighting cancer, a seven-year battle being waged so she can see her grandchildren, who still live next door on the land George Washington gave the family, grow up and become the next chapter of the mountain story. A battle waged out of a passion to tell that story to a beloved husband as it continues to unfold. A passion that probably still comes out sideways sometimes, but is redeemed so powerfully that a man struggling to read about inter-cultural communication, sheds a tear, and thanks God for that moment, a lesson learned, and attempts to play it out again and again in the story he now finds himself in.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God." Words uttered on the side of a mountain, and lived out in a mountain story.

Monday, September 04, 2006

An Eleventh and Twelveth Thing I Think...

(here are two quick things that occured to me during this lazy Labor Day morning... the other ten things are posted below)

11) Great pair of articles today by Hugo Kugiya (Associated Press) in the Lexington Herald-Leader on the effects of Electrolux moving a refridgerator plant from from Greenville, Michigan to Juarez, Mexico. One article focuses on some folks in Greeville and the other on people from Juarez. You can find them here at and

12) Sad news out of Australia today... Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, is dead after a freak accident involving a stingray off the Great Barrier Reef. Irwin is survived by his wife and two children.

Max, our budding naturalist will be very upset when we tell him this news. Every Wednesday night at the Bucher house (in the days we had cable) was "pizza night". I would bring home a pizza on a cheap special (originally from the Beer Barrel before it was sold, but more recently from Westside Pizza), and this was the one night a week the boys were allowed to eat their dinner in front of the television. Since Xavier always wants what Max wants, they'd always watch "The Crococile Hunter". For the rest of the evening, Max would spout off facts that he learned from the show in a horrible Australian accent. Amazing how in this day and age, a man on the other side of the world can have such a profound effect on people on the other side.

Keep the Irwin family in your prayers.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Ten Things I Think I Thinks

1) Haikuapalooza continues full-steam ahead. Here's the deal... I just want to find out who all of you wonderful readers are, so send in your name, where you are logging in from, and a little about yourself, and I'll write a Haiku especially for you. All entrants are also get their name in a hat to win an Asbury Seminary Mug OR Shawnee UMC Mug AND a pound of Bourbon Chocolate Fudge from the Abbey of Gethsemane in Trappist, Kentucky (more on the monks later).

Here are a few more Haiku's...

From: Amy Walters of Goshen, Indiana
Buchers to Goshen
or just Aimee and the boys
that would be fine too

From: Brother Luke of Trappist, Kentucky
i enjoyed the blog
hope God blessed you at our home
be at peace brother

From: My Grandmother of The Nest
The Great One misses
her wise smart handsome grandson
Aimee and the boys

2) This past weekend we spent a couple of days hanging out with the Cistercian Monks at the Abbey of Gethsemane in Trappist, Kentucky (see the link to their website above). The monks have been practicing their simple life of prayer, work, and reading of the scriptures in this rural location for more than 150 years. Home of Thomas Merton, a famous Christian writer from the 50's and 60's, Gethsemane is a place of peace and silence, hence this sign in the lunch room...

thus, if you go to Gethsemane, you don't say much, which at first is disconcerting. But, after some time to decompress from the noise, the pace is actually quite nice. I spent some time doing some praying, journaling, taking a long walk or two, singing the Psalms with the monks, and sleeping. All in all, a very nice weekend.

3) Things I learned from the monks: I find it interesting that an order of males, mostly middle aged to older, hold up in high esteem a character from scripture, The Virgin Mary, very unlike themselves. As a matter of fact this projection of a feminine ideal shapes the values of their community, which is nurturing, non-violent, centered on intercessional prayer, and dedicated to the poor of the world... all things you would expect out of a femanine ideal (as opposed to a male-ideal which would emphasize NASCAR, loaded firearms, and wrasslin'). To project an image of the divine that is NOT in the image of yourself is a difficult idea for Protestants because largely the God preached from the pulpits of their churches largely call for persons to discover their purpose in who they are as a creation of God, as opposed to losing themselves in the ongoing work of God. Maybe those are just two sides of the same coin, but, then again, maybe they aren't.

"To find yourself, you must first lose yourself. To live, first you must die. He who wishes to be first, must become last. He who wants to be a leader of all, must first become a servant of all. Blessed are the meek." Take a look at our lifestyle... Who takes these words of Jesus more seriously: us or the monks?

4) Things I Learned From the Monks #2: The monks worship together seven times a day (yep, you heard that right, seven) at 3:15am, 5:45am, 7:30am, 12:15pm, 2:15pm, 5:30pm, and 7:30pm. Their worship includes the singing of the Psalms (they go through all 150 of them every two weeks), prayer, scripture reading, and hymn singing. Now, to be honest, the worship is not, in and of itself, all that exciting. The monks, for all their singing, aren't all that accomplished as singers. Nobody has jazzed up any of the music from it's original Gregorian style (hence there are no culturally-relevant "rapping-monks" or "contemporary worship monks" and the like), and the services are largely pretty repetitive.

But I realized a major difference between Protestant worship and that of the monks: Protestants come looking to be filled or enlightened in a worship service. The quality of their experience is largely defined by the quality of music, the sermon (whether or not it was interesting and/or applicable), and if their younger, the children's ministry. Protestant pastors, in turn, largely measure the quality of a service by the reaction of the congregation, either in the verbal or non-verbal cues expressed in the service, and through a more existential measure as to whether or not "the Spirit was moving". Worship, then, is largely based out of a CONSUMER mentality which says, "How was the message expressed and received today?".

The monks' aim, in contrast, is to give themselves in praise and worship of God. The quality of a monk's worship is largely based on whether or not they felt like they were able to give all of themselves in adoring God. They beat themselves up for not having been attentive or present in the moment of worship, as opposed to anyone else. Thus the quality of the worship is measured by what is given, as opposed to what is received OR it's not about what they get out of it... it's about what they give.

5) Things I Learned From the Monks #3: The similarities and differences between the monks and the Amish are striking. Both live in closed communities which largely eschew the modern conveniences of the world (although we had air-conditioning and electricity in the retreat center). Both have hierarchal structures and a lot of rigid rules for daily living.

But the monks, unlike the Amish, see themselves as a community who through worship, prayer, their work, and study, are dedicated to the redemption of the world. As a result more than 7,000 people from all over the world, of all faiths, come to Trappist, Kentucky every year (and many more are turned away due to a lack of space) looking for healing and restoration, and the monks are fine with whatever form it comes. Reject their theology and sleep all weekend for all they care... just as long as you've experienced grace, peace, and healing in the time you were there.

The Amish, on the other hand, are all pretty sure we "English" are headed for hell. People come to buy their noodles, quilts, and furniture, but unless you renounce everything you have believed, and embrace the ways of the Amish in every facet, you have been deceived by the world, and are thus, hopelessly lost. How different the two Christian sects are in their outlook and connection to the world.

6) The highlight of my weekend actually happened in about the first 20 minutes. After we first arrived, the director of the Beeson program asked us to take our stuff to our room, and come right back down into the lobby of the retreat center so that he could give us a tour. Because I walked up the stairs, when I came down on the elevator I got off on the wrong floor. Twisted and turned around, instead of heading the right way, I ended up in an office in a part of the monastery we weren't allowed to go. Upon arriving, I saw a monk on a computer, surfing the internet (I'm not making this up... stick with me). I turned around to try to get out of the office without being noticed, when I heard a voice speak.... "Who's there?"

Embarrassed, I made a beeline for the door, but before I could get to it, the monk got up from his desk and said, "Hold it right there! Once you come through that door, there is no leaving. Your family, your friends, all that you know... you have now left it behind."

I'm sure with eyes the size of saucers, I gutted out the only thing I could say, "Well, then could I sit in that chair?"

The monk, dies laughing. I mean, literally I thought the guy was going to have a stroke. He introduced himself (Brother Luke), and then he said, "Hey, come here. I want you to see this." On the computer screen was something called monk-e-mail (here's the link: Brother Luke was trying to send monk-e-mails to some friends of his... needless to say, we was quite smitten with the concept. Then, he took me back to my group.

Now, how could I have made that up?

7) Another interesting thing about Brother Luke... on our way back to find the rest of the BP's, I asked him if he'd be willing to come meet the rest of the gang.

"Why?" he asked. "Why on earth would they want to meet me?"

"Well, you're a monk. You don't get to meet a real, live monk every day where we come from."

"Oh.. that. That's no big deal. Besides, these people didn't come here to meet with me."

And then he disappeared. I think Brother Luke has a pretty good idea of who it is people come there to meet.

8) bizarre situation here at Asbury Theologically Seminary... the Seminary President, Jeff Greenway, has been put on indefinite leave by the Board of Trustees. Apparently, a difference of opinion between himself and the Board has resulted in some sort of impasse which was so sudden and dramatic that as late as Thursday morning of last week, nobody saw this coming. What's more, the fallout couldn't come at worse time, as all of the students who are not Beeson Pastors, are now moving on to campus to start this academic year. Please pray for the school, the Board, and Jeff as they seek what to do next in this somewhat tragic situation.

9) One more thing about monks... they don't follow college football. I had to read about OSU's big win in the paper today.

10) Finally, the two older boys and I will be back in the big city of Lima next weekend for the big "Back to School Blessing". It'll be good to back home, especially since it's the weekend of the big game with Texas. I look forward to seeing you all, my church family, at worship next Sunday.

Miss Dorothy was right
there is no place like home (dude)
you and I are blessed