Thursday, November 30, 2006
Oh, and whatever I'm listening to generally is a fairly good indicator of where my head is at. Confused? Well, don't be. Just enjoy.
10) "Thrill of It" by Robert Randolph and The Family: If you watch college football on ABC you've heard this song. Special thanks to Mike Stinson for cluing me in as to how good this band really is. Dude is playing all those licks on a slide guitar.... amazing!
9) "Landed" by Ben Folds: Can't seem to shake this song. Just seems to soothe the soul.
8) "Save Me" by Aimee Mann: Not really the song I want to put here. Aimee Mann just released a Christmas album, and on it she wrote an interesting song called "Calling on Mary". Any song that includes the line "comfort is not possible when / you look past the joy to the end / calling on Mary is voluntary / unless you're alone like me /if there's a star above, then it can look like love / when they light up the Christmas tree" gets my vote as a pretty good original Christmas song... which isn't easy to pull of in this day and age. But this is a pretty good song too.
7) "Choose Life" by Big Tent Revival: Why do I like this band so much? Why do I wish they'd reunite and go on tour so I could see them again? I can't explain it. I just do. Their song "Psalm 72" might be the closest thing to what it must have been to hear David sing to Saul.
6) "We Three Kings" by Reverend Horton Heat: If the wise men had been from Memphis, this would have been the soundtrack.
5) "Must Have Done Something Right" by Reliant K
4) "Alone" by Kings X: Maybe one of the best bands most people have never heard of. Fans have argued for years as to whether or not the band could be classified as a "Christian Band", and the members of the band have been less than helpful in clearing things up. Seems they can't decide if they are either, which sounds kind of strange... but, there you go. As an example, the video for this song featured a few very scantily clad young women dancing to a song about making people feel welcome and included. How is that conveyed using images of blatant sexual exploitation? I think I'd have fired the director. Anyhow, someone re-cut the video to have Chris Farley as the topless Chippendale dancer wanna-be (from the classic sketch on SNL) in place of the females. Seemed to make more sense than the original, so here you go.
3) "A Living Prayer" by Alison Krauss and Union Station: Lyrics that made of deep stuff.
2) "The Christmas Song" by The Dave Matthews Band: Jesus from a unique perspective. "Father up above, why in all this hatred do you fill me up with love?"
1) "Hide and Seek" by Imogen Heap: Looked up the lyrics, and have no idea what this song means. Just find it interesting, different, and beautiful. A trained classical musician who got turned onto synth-pop, Imogen is becoming a personal favorite. Forget the video, shut your eyes, and listen.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Suger Land, Texas
New Knoxville, Ohio: Check out this blog. It's written by the pastor of the New Knoxville UMC. He found my blog, I'm assuming, looking for details on the presidential crisis at Asbury (he's a grad), and kept on coming back. He must be a pretty cool dude, as he listed Metallica, Chris Tomlin, Bob Marley, and The Smiths as being musical influences. You'll enjoy his take, immensely.
North Hollywood, California (search words: "Brady Quinn's Sister")
Stockbridge, Georgia (search words: aaron wymer)
London, United Kingdom (a re-occuring IP address directly linked to the blog... how cool is that?)
Downers Grove, Illinois (search words: "Bart Campolo")
St. Louis, Missouri (directly linked)
Tipp City, Ohio (search words: "my space ginghamsburg")
Orlando, Florida (search words: "akeela and the bee our greatest fear")
Allentown, Pennsylvania: They are living there in Allentown, where they're closing all the factories down, out in Bethlehem their killing time, filling out forms and standing in line... or so Billy Joel tells me.
Omaha, Nebraska (search words: "carlton pearson reacts to ted haggard"): Yeah, if you read the post entitled "Hell", and followed the links to watch the "Dateline" segment on Carlton Pearson, you'll know that because they both attended Oral Roberts University at the same time, NBC went to Ted Haggard (pre-scandal) to get a quote on Pearson's take on the afterlife. One of the more ironic interviews ever given.
London Ontario (search words: "bruxy cavey"): Lots of people have been searching for info on Bruxy and ending up here. His is a name you will hear more and more in North America.
Greensboro, North Carolina (search words: elijah "carlton pearson" - elijah list"): Don't ask me.. I have no idea.
Ada, Ohio (Hi Cecily!)
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
They seem like a nice couple. The prospective Beeson Pastor (this is the first round of interviews... final decisions on acceptance won't take place until the winter) is ordained in the East Ohio Annual Conference, and appointed as an associate pastor at a church in suburban Cleveland. He and his wife both attended OSU (so we could talk football), and he did his MDiv at Ashland (Ohio) Seminary, which is the school where conservative disgruntled Methesco students (that's the school where I did my MDiv) would transfer after a year of liberation theology and hostility toward historical critical biblical interpretation. He seemed neither disgruntled, nor all that conservative... in fact he's enamoured with post-modern theological thought and practice, which I found interesting. Our numbers, it appears, are growing here in heartland.
Anyhow, we're eating lunch, and I'm asking questions, and in the course of conversation the couple lets it drop that the largest church in entire East Ohio Annual Conference averages less than 500 people in worship. That is to say, that over the course of the past 40 years, while the number of church who averaged a 1000 in worship or more grew by more than ten times in total number in the USA, not one United Methodist Church in the entire eastern half of the state could be considered anything larger than a mid-size church. Not in Akron, Youngstown, Canton..... or even in the Greater Cleveland Metro area.
Wow! That just seems... statistically impossible.
For me, knowing this now, the question arises, what reality are you faced with if you are an Elder in the UMC, leave to do Beeson for a year, and then go back to the East Ohio Annual Conference? If the system in East Ohio apparently defies churches growing large, or even big, and little (or no) money is available for a new church start, what might your work environment look like in your next appointment?
I'd guess that in 2006, in the vast majority of the potential pool of churches you are likely to serve you'll be faced with fighting the "worship wars", where people lay down the gauntlet over whether or not drums will be allowed into a sanctuary, even if nothing but 18th century organ music is played in the service they attend.
I'd guess there wasn't much of an intentional plan of discipleship for people in the congregation.
I'd guess that most of the buildings are older, require a great deal of upkeep and repair, and immense pressure will be put upon you as a pastor to raise the necessary funds to take care of the plant and the bills... let alone do new creative things to reach the populace.
I'd guess that a pastor's success will be measured mostly by whether or not s/he knows everyone's name, visits the hospitalized and shut-in, and tends to the needs of their flock, and less by whether or not the church is actual force for change in the community.
I'd guess that pastor will learn what it means to be blessed in a multitude of ways, but will also understand the words of Paul who said that he desired to know Jesus in his fellowship of suffering. That pastor will become intimately involved in that process. As Kent Reynolds, our resident class sage, told me once, if you step up to follow Jesus as a pastoral leader you get it all... the blessing and the Cross.
I know that was true for me at both Shawnee and Goshen. Tremendous blessings, but also a tremendous price paid. Unbelievable stories of triumph, and incredibly painful experiences. Any church or pastor looking to make serious changes will experience it all.
That's why it impressed me that this young fella understands the landscape, and just wants to take what he could learn, go back to East Ohio, and face not only a secular materialistic culture that is rapidly losing it's Christian memory, but an institution that apparently has not encouraged much creatively over the last forty years. And what's more, then he wants to encourage others to do the same.
So if the Beeson Pastor program big wigs are reading this, here's my take.... put your money on the guy from Cleveland! He's gonna rock the boat for the Kingdom of Heaven in a place that needs its boat seriously rocked.
And to all you faithful Methodists in East Ohio, or any other old-school, slowly declining United Methodist Church in this country, I'd encourage you to heed the words of Jesus and not be afraid. Embrace what God is doing next, so that I one day I can say, "I guess I guessed wrong".
Sunday, November 26, 2006
2) This is a clip from Rob Bell's "Nooma" series. Rob Bell, founding pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, is considered one of the foremost post-modern preachers. He's become so popular that last summer he rented a bus, and booked thirty clubs in thirty days, and toured the country like a rock singer, only preaching instead of playing music. He sold out every venue he played. These videos were produced by Bell as part of a series meant to teach the Bible in a kind of non-familar sort of way....
3) This is an interview between James Dobson and Larry King on the Ted Haggard situation, and Dobson's theories on where homosexuality comes from...
4) This is a fascinating debate between Scott Atran, an anthropologist from the University of Michigan and Sam Harris, at a conference geared toward trying to engage a number of scientists to think about the issue of religion and ethics. Harris beats his drum that religion ends conversation because religious ideas aren't rational, but Atran does a devistating critique of Harris' postulates about religious belief and experience...
5) What would be your reaction if your church produced this clip to be used as part of their worship service on Sunday morning? Recently Granger Community Church in Granger, Indiana made headlines by heavily promoting a sermon series that took on the topic of sex, and drew a lot of fire because of the way they chose to promote the series. Here's the link to the web site they created as a part of the promotion....
6) From the mouths of babes. A youth group talks frankly about their church...
7) A spokeswoman from the Westboro Baptist Church, which is the congregation demonstrating at military funerals. A bizarre clip inspired by a bizarre group of people...
8) The commercial that changed the way professional sports and Nike did business. A watershed moment in American advertising...
9) And even set to Christian music. Didn't think you'd get away from clips from this game did you?
10) Here's kind of a sample of what the church we've been attending in Lexington is like. It is, by no means, your ordinary church...
Friday, November 24, 2006
One more day of rest, too much TV, Thanksgiving leftovers (as good as the original meal itself, as far as I'm concerned... am jonesing for Turkey sandwich as we speak), one last important college football game before the bowl bids are determined (I pick USC... SEC fans, your championship game is an after-thought now thanks to Arkansas loss yesterday), and a sermon tomorrow at Shawnee...
...then it's back to the Greater Wilmore Metropolitan Area and fifty-plus trains a day. On the subject of trains, here's an article posted just for my Beeson compadres: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/O/OH_LISTENING_TO_TRAINS_OHOL-?SITE=WBNSTV&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT
Here are a few random thoughts though, on a lazy Saturday morning:
- Took my father-in-law's Harley out for a spin yesterday. Don't know what was more amazing... time on a motorcycle (my first since the summer) or that the day was nice enough for a ride? A soul-stirring experience.
- For those curious, my mother-in-law came home from the hospital Tuesday, and yesterday Aimee helped her make a Thanksgiving meal. She finds out Monday if the chemo is making a dent in the liver cancer, so please keep praying.
- Fred and Kathy Diehl, my aunt and uncle, returned home to West Palm Beach today after a nice visit this week. It was great to see them, and I know The Great One has enjoyed their company immensely. A very nice Thanksgiving treat.
- I am discovering that my Dad has this maddening habit of clicking incessantly through endless cable channels, settling on some bizarre program, and then falling asleep. Three nights ago we ended up on a special on all the Presidents (Andrew Johnson, US Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes until I could take no more), and the night-before-last we ended up on some show on MTV featuring a tiny little skateboarder and huge African-American fellow who are good buddies (the episode featured them at a dietitian's office because the skateboarder is worried about the huge fellow's health.... never thought anyone would spend money producing a show where two people argue about "portion control", but such is this era of reality TV). Last night we ended up watching "What Not To Wear".
Conclusion? Not having cable tv isn't such a bad thing after all.
- Have been asked repeatedly, so here you go...
Top Ten Things I Want For Christmas Since World Peace Isn't Easily Gift-Wrapped:
1) A new electric shaver: Eli threw mine into the garbage can... we think. No big deal though as I bought it for a dime at the Shawnee Women's Rummage Sale in 1993. I think I got my money out of it.
2) A Pete Johnson "Legends of Ohio State" football jersey.
3) John Grisham's new novel.
4) Cheap tools from Big Lots.
5) New travelmugs I can leave on the desk of my study carrel
6) Babysitting for one evening so Aimee and I can eat a dinner at a place not featuring a clown as a mascot and watch a movie not animated.
8) Riding gloves.
9) An evening of bowling with my boys.
10) World Peace (a guy can hope and pray)
- In case you were wondering, some places out of the last hundred hits on this blog where people were located when they decided to dial in:
Gainesville, Georgia (search words: tony campolo universalism)
Hickory, North Carolina
San Francisco, California
Martinsville, New Jersey
Zelienople, Pennsylvania (search words: jeff greenway)
Norwalk, Ohio (search words: upwards basketball willard ohio)
Abidjan, Cote' De Ivory (Ivory Coast)
Seattle, Washington (search words: oxford round table)
Northhampton, Massachusettes (search words: ho-ag devo)
Orlando, Florida (search words: aaron wymer)
Palm Bay, Florida (search words: amber heistan)
Ayr, Ontario (search words: bruxy cavey)
Milton Keynes, United Kingdom (search words: sandy millar healing)
San Jose, California
Omaha, Nebraska (search words: kohli and kahlier)
Salt Lake City, Utah (Hi, Aunt Beth!)
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
I picked up McLaren's book because in it there is a good de-construction of the concept of Hell as it is generally understood.... a place God sends people because they were sinners and did not ask Christ for forgiveness of those sins. And generally, the sins most cited as the ones that people stubbornly hold on to are individualized in terms of personal behavior (all forms of sexual sin, drunkenness, debauchery, wanton greed, etc...). McLaren posits the idea that this idea of individual sins meriting punishment by God is at best, an incomplete reading of Jesus' words on the subject. Matthew 25:31-46, which is generally one of the more famous judgement texts, makes it clear that God will separate the faithful and unfaithful based upon how they served others, particularly the poor and oppressed, and makes no mention of any other criteria. McLaren goes further to say that the idea that by setting individualized behavior (confession of Christ as Lord, issues of personal morality) as the standard for whether or not you make it into Heaven (and Hell), the people who interpret scripture this way are able to avoid greater questions about systemic oppression and subjugation of others.
In others words, people in power or in control of wealth, want to convey to those not in power with no access to wealth, that their lot has been determined either cause God pre-destined them to it, OR to not focus on improving their station in life but rather delaying gratification until the next one (Heaven). Also, if the improper personal behavior leads to eternal punishment, it becomes a good tool of those in authority to deter the masses from acting improperly.
Or, to make things even simpler, Hell is a tool of The Man to keep others down.
Because the concept of eternal punishment has presented in this fashion, as a manipulative tool to motivate some sort of response (whether that be a change in behavior OR a conversion to Christianity), those who have been turned off by this approaching are questioning not just the wisdom of scaring the Hell out of people, but whether the concept of Hell as it's understood in this sense if even biblical. McClaren posits the possibility that the Pharisees used the fear of Hell much in the same way preacher do today as a means of motivating people toward certain kinds of behaviors or rituals, which is exactly what infuriated Jesus. Jesus, instead, uses the concept of Hell against the Pharisees.
For example, while the Pharisees would teach that not following the extensive cleansing rituals proscribed by the law would jeopardize a person's eternity, Jesus turns that language around to say that anyone who put proscribing certain behavior or ritual above meeting the real needs of people in love is going to Hell, so as to re frame an already existing idea.
Kind of like the scene in the movie The Shawshank Redemption, where Andy Dufrane plays an opera record over the prison's loudspeakers to help the prisoners see themselves outside of the dehumanizing system designed to rob people of hope as imposed by the warden. Shawshank Prison was still Shawshank Prison, but somehow in the beauty of the music, it's walls no longer had the last word on how the prisoners should view the world or themselves or their fate. They were guilty in the eyes of the law, but that didn't mean that somehow their souls weren't yet still free. The Pharisees looked to imprison people in such a way that only they, under the guise of God's law, held the key.... Jesus says there is a way apart from them to the kind of freedom people are looking for.
The critique on the part of people like Phillip Gulley, James Mulholland, Brian McLaren, Bart Campolo, and Carlton Pearson (among many others) is that the churches have created the same kinds of prisons of hopelessness for people that the Pharisees did, where they, themselves are the only people who possess the key, under the guise of Jesus and Paul's words, to freedom from eternal punishment. While this has been a good motivational tool to help many people change their lives for the better, and push people to the ends of the earth to spread the Gospel message, somehow, these critics claim, the greater point that Jesus has died so that everyone would be free from condemnation is getting lost in the shuffle, particularly in cases where the people with "the answer" begin manipulating others for their own purposes.
Thus their question: as opposed to telling people that they will be freed from sin, death and hell if they profess Jesus as Lord, should we instead proclaim that people are free from sin, death, and hell because Jesus is Lord and invite them into living in that freedom now?
What... you think I'm going to write about football every day?
Monday, November 20, 2006
How much bigger could it have been?
Fortunately the game itself lived up to hype... so much so that it might have vaulted Michigan into the BCS Championship with a loss. However, USC, who has two games left to play and if they win them both they'll move ahead of Michigan in the polls and the computer.... which doesn't bum me out. I think the reality is that USC has maintained a strong program under the leadership of Pete Carroll, and they will probably be rewarded for doing so.
But if they both lose just once, it'll be Game of the Century II.
2) There were TWO big wins by Ohio teams yesterday. Big win in Cincinnati last night, as the Rutgers questions gets settled once and for all. Barely 20,000 made it to Nippert Field to see the 7th ranked team in the country last night. The Shoemaker Center seats about 19,5K for UC Basketball, and it'll be sold out every game. It'll be a long time before Cinci is a college football town. Great win, though... and led by a QB who was starting and playing his last game as a Senior.
3) Very nice service this morning at Shawnee. Our new youth pastor, Mike Stinson, preached a good sermon about worship. High School and Middle School students from the church did a super job of conducting worship. A friend of Mike came into town to lead worship, and he did a solid job. Left believing that God really does want to put my life's work up on his refrigerator. Kudos to all involved. A long-time member of the congregation said it was the best sermon she'd ever heard a youth pastor at the church give, which is a heck of a compliment.
Hey, wait a minute.... wasn't I a youth pastor at this church?
That's OK. I'm praying the youth ministry, and its youth pastor, thrive!
4) We'd ask for your prayers for Aimee's mother. Carol was admitted to the hospital on Friday when she was unable to get her breath. Apparently one of the side effects of the chemo is turning out to be her lungs filling up with fluid coupled with an irregular heartbeat. She was scheduled to come home to day, but as they were preparing her to be discharged she had a scary episode where her heart rate raced and she was not able to breath, so now the doctor is trying to figure out how to stabilize this situation. Liver cancer is just tough to beat, so once again, your prayers are very much appreciated.
5) Am looking forward to Thanksgiving, as not only will all the usual family members will be present and accounted for, but Fred and Kathy Diehl, mom's brother and his wife, will be coming in from West Palm Beach for the first time in many, many moons. Their family has been dealing with a number of personal issues, and without getting too specific, I'd also ask you pray for them and their daughter, Katie, although, specifically, I'd ask that you'd pray that Katie would discover how wonderfully made by God she is, and and how much she is loved by Him and her family.
6) On a message board within our campus online messaging system last week, Dr. Ben Witherington, most likely Asbury's most famous and respected scholar, stated that he was disappointed with the dismissal of the school's former president, Jeff Greenway, and that he believed the dismissal was pre-meditated (as opposed to official statement being released by the Board of Trustees, that this was not the case). When the other most respected faculty member, Dr. Jerry Walls, affirmed digitally that he agreed with Dr. Witherington, that alone was enough to generate a lot of conversation on campus. But when these statements made it into a number of newspapers and online publications across the country, a debate ensued as to whether or not the leak of the email posts to the "outside world" was ethical or not.
How many people could read this statement? All 1000+ students, and thousands more alumni. I guess, I'm wondering how this issue can even be debated when the "secret" is shared with tens of thousands of people. I'm guessing Dr. Witherington is smart enough to know the effect of his words. Just hard to believe people working on graduate degrees can be so naive.
7) Just saw about the 3000th ad for the movie, "Val Kilmer: The Rise of Taj"...... let's just say nobody from the film need wait on a voice mail from the Academy. The sad thing is that it'll appear on two screens here in the local theatre, while a movie like "Babel", which is actually thought-provoking, won't come within sixty miles of our fair city.
8) Here's a link to a page where you can listen to last week's episode of "This American Life" (http://www.thislife.org/ - scroll down to the episode named "Heretics"). It's the story of a pastor who's church declined from over 5000 people to less than two-hundred not because he had an affair or stole money, but rather because he stopped believing in Hell. I only heard a snippet of it in the van, and was so intrigued I found it on the web after we returned to my folks' house. If you've got the time, give it a listen.
9) Don't know if you heard about it or not, but Tom and Katie got married this weekend in Italy. I know you probably missed it. Just wanted to bring it to your attention.
10) Just flipped on "Intervention", a show which details the descent of individuals into drug addiction, and the last ditch effort on the part of family and friends to convince that individual to go to rehab. Right now, a beautiful young woman who has dropped out of school, become a stripper, and is the subject of two bench warrants for her arrest is throwing her life away in exchange to be drunk and/or high. You can see the pain in the faces of her parents, family, and friends who feel helpless in the face of addiction.
Anyone who says that evil is on the wane because humanity is evolving past it, needs to watch this show. The pain and emptiness of sin is real in this world, and there are billions of people are sacrificing themselves in some way to lies that have convinced them that they are not worth anything more than a moment of escape from immense self-loathing.
Let us not rest until all people understand that the sacrifice has already been made, and by grace is theirs for the taking. That's what it means for Jesus to be the way, the truth, and the life. The way out of destruction. The truth that love shared is the only thing that makes life worth living. And that life is meant to be lived, not in denial or isolation or at the expense of others, but fully and completely in ways that give others hope, and co-creates a preferable future for all.
Friday, November 17, 2006
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Besides, the Bucks will figure into this.... just be patient.
Since Monday, all day, every day, we have been in class with Dale Galloway, founding pastor of New Hope Community Church of Portland, and before that, and also Grove City (Ohio) Church of the Nazerine (for those who remember Wayne Sharpes, the former Senior Pastor at Lima Community Church of the Nazerine, he followed Dale at GCCN before coming to LCCN). Dale has literally forgotten more about ministry than most of us practitioners will ever know. He made his mark in Portland starting a church back in the 70's at a drive-in movie theatre, him preaching and his wife singing on the top of the "snack shack" each and every Sunday. Ultimately, New Hope grew to over 6000 in membership, and 5,000 in worship in what was, and is, one of America's least churched cities.
Make no bones about it, Dale is "old school". There's no fluff in his presentation. As a matter of fact if you sat in on the class, you'd probably spend your day saying "well, that makes sense", "I knew that already", or "well, that's obvious", which is really why everything so helpful. The instruction we are receiving is so practical, that's it hard to argue with much of what is being said. But every so often, he throws a curveball.... good ones!
I have heard Joseph say this many, many times.... leadership is all about influencing others. The importance in earning this influence and how it is used all stems out of the character and integrity of the leader, who seeks to be in relationship with others. I think particularly coming out of the Pacific Northwest, Galloway has a pretty good understanding of how important influence is, because unlike, for example, the buckle of the Bible Belt, there is generally not as much authority ascribed to a pastor simply because s/he is the pastor. As the culture has become considerably more wary of authority and institutions, the only authority you own in any church is that which is granted by the people as they continually trust you, and they only trust you as they grow to know who you are.
The danger in all of this is that a pastor's authority and influence are constantly being re-calibrated. For example, if you engage in secret behavior that is inappropriate, and it becomes public knowledge, by compromising your own integrity you'll cut your own throat (the latest, most visable example emanating out a well-known church in Colorado). Just as problematic, however, is how a pastor deals with situations either in the church, or the world, s/he did not create but effect the church all the same. We spent a good amount of time on staff issues today, and the stories Dale told us that he dealt with over the years pretty much would curl your hair. Stories of infidelity, theft, rebellion.... crazy, crazy stuff.
Like, what do you do if a staff member comes to you and says that they are no longer in love with their wife, and will be seeking a divorce? Or if a youth pastor makes the decision one day to denounce your ministry as being theologically inappropriate and not biblical? Or, what if a counselor on-staff engages in an affair with the wife of a couple who had come to him for counseling? Or what if all these things happened over the course of a 20 year+ pastorate... how do deal with things, and keep a ministry moving forward?
Dale's concept of "in order/out of order", where maybe something fishy is going on, but the truth or final outcome of the situation is not yet know, which was presented today, is a very intriguing idea. That is to say, for example in the first case of the staff member who wants a divorce, but no motion has been filed, the idea would be to agree with this person that his life is "out of order", and then place them on a paid leave until the situation could be sorted out. No admission or wrong doing has been made. The family and congregation need not have any immediate fear that the family effected will suffer economically, and the church can begin to craft a plan to work with that staff person through whatever comes. The idea is that the staff person is given the space to get their life "in order", which is really the most compassionate thing you can do. And you don't just pay lip service to the idea... you actually try to work with the couple to get them some counseling to find out whether or not this marriage can or can't be saved.
But the genius of this policy is that generally, with some patience and prayer, the facts of the situation can begin to sort themselves out, and a clearer picture of what to do emerges. In Dale's case of the staff member who wanted the divorce, it emerged that this person was actually carrying on an affair with the church secretary, which then enabled the church to deal not only with the staff person and the secretary, but with the staff person's wife and children.
By gaining some extra time to sort this situation out, the leadership of the church had a better understanding of what they needed to do. If they had just let the staff person go, then no care could have been provided to his family, while at the same time alienated those in congregation who might have felt that termination at that juncture was overly punitive. By waiting a couple more months, the church not only got the staff person out of the limelight, tried to provide counseling, and continued to pray for clarity, but in the end discovered information that made it easier to figure out what to do, with much less opposition. In an institution that is primarily relational, that kind of information can make a huge difference in how people conceive the church, and the pastor. Hadn't heard that one before, and it's one I'm taking with me.
The other thing that is becoming apparent to me through Dale (which is another thing I knew, but just learned differently again) is that if you want a career where conflict is minimal, then don't go into the ministry. The depth of spiritual connection you have with God, the more secure you are in Him, and the clearer you see yourself as His child, the greater the likelihood that you will not say, or do, something destructive. But, that being said, just expect that destructive things, even for those deeply rooted spiritually in Christ, are gonna happen. Pastors and lay-leaders can never shy away from problems that will arise in ministry. You do your best to anticipate courses of action, do the necessary planning in advance to minimize the "lostness" one feels when conflict inititally arises, and you do the work in your prayer life that no one sees so that in public you can respond to the situation... not react to it. But not doing something so that no conflict will arise isn't what the Gospel calls us to as we seek make the Kingdom of Heaven real in the world.
I sense that seeking a solid relationship with God in Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, and reading about how others dealt with being his child in positions of leadership scripturally, for better or worse, helps us remember that our worth isn't necessary derived in being right, but in being faithful as we seek righteousness. Being right comes out of winning the argument. Being righteous comes out of seeking direction in humility.
Anyhow, the longer Dale speaks, the more I appreciate what he is saying, and the more I'm getting out of the presentation. Righteousness, out of a sense of humility, I think describes the man very well.
And, what's more, since Dale was born in Columbus, he's a huge Bucks fan, which makes two of us excited about the big game. Since he's an "old school guy", here's an old school Bucks clip in his honor....
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Is this a different team of destiny. Instead of OT games and last minute heroics, are we witnessing one of the most dominant college football teams of all time? How long has it been since a team dominated everyone they played, and in retrospect, everyone realized that they were something truly special? Here's another video to get you ready for The Big Game, and to serve as a little reminder for all my blogger faithful who root for the Irish.
Great shot, by the way, of Brady Quinn's sister after her future husband flattened her brother on the field. That'd be something that if I was AJ I'd be showing to my brother-in-law's kids every holiday season, with commentary like, "Yep, your dad still has Buckeyes imprinted on his chest", "Hey Brady, didn't you have to change pants after that hit?", or "Kids, I hope you have your Aunt's footspeed." How could this ever get old?
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
There is a story I read in book about Pastor Martin Niemoller, one of the pastors of the Confessing Church, a small movement of Protestant pastors who stood opposed to Adolf Hitler before and during World War II, about an old rabbi he met while interred at a concentration camp during the war. To Niemoller's amazement he discovered that the man had memorized the entire Old Testament of the Bible, and worked every day from memory to do a daily recitation of scripture. Niemoller asked the man why he had done this, and in response the old rabbi replied...
"The only Bible that you own is that which is in your heart."
Hey, I'm not opposed to posting the Ten Commandments in public places and Steven Colbert is obviously trying to embarrass this man, which he does, easily....
...by the way, if I was the congressman in this clip, whatever PR person it was who said it was a good idea to appear on the Colbert Report ("It's a young, hip crowd Congressman. Nothing but upside when they see how cool you are. Think of all the undecided voters we'll reach. Besides, its on basic cable... who is going to see it?") is writing "I will not ever put my boss in a situation like this every again or next time I will cut out my own spleen." 5000 times on the blackboard.
But politicizing scripture to give yourself the moral high ground doesn't really do justice to the content of that scripture and the kind of justice it calls to make evident and real for all people in this world. Given that something as basic as people having access to clean drinking water is threatening to de-stabilize the world economically, socially, and politically, surely you could put those Ten Commandments to better use in the realm of policy making.
And how many of us who call ourselves Christians would be as embarrassed if Colbert asked us the same question... or to recite five parables from Jesus' ministry? Or give Paul's definition of what love is as spelled out in I Corinthians 13?
And how have we used scripture, or our lack of knowledge of it, to justify how we live our own lives?
If the only Bible we have is that which is in our heart, how much of it do you really own?
Sunday, November 12, 2006
2) If you couldn't make this morning, one of the highlights of the 11am service was a presentation the West Ohio Food Bank made to Bill Boyer, who has been faithfully volunteering with his Dad, Bob Boyer, at the food bank each and every week the past year-and-a-half. Bill, who attends with his parents faithfully to church every Sunday he's able at 9am, volunteered on behalf of Marimor Industries (a non-profit endeavor that offers employment for those who are physically and mentally challenged) at the West Ohio Food Bank after hearing about it year after year during our Harvest Food Drive. Even though Bill is now mostly confined to wheelchair, and faces a number of physical challenges as he sorts food, he faithfully shows up two or three days a week, seven hours a day, to help those who are less fortunate in the Lima.
Bill helps the less fortunate. God is beaming ear to ear.
Each week I'm home, Bill brings me a tally of all boxes he was able to sort. I get it right after my hug, and two things combined make for me, a great highlight of worship each and every week. The story of Bill, and the dedication of his father Bob, inspired two standing ovations this morning, and the love and admiration of not only our church, but of the staff at the WOFB who were there in full force. A fantastic moment of grace.
3) Do any of you have the problem occasionally where your brain can't decide if you are right-handed or left-handed, and so you kind of can't decide which hand to use for awhile?
Um.... neither do I. Forget I said anything.
4) Lots of talk about who is going to play in the BCS championship game. Lots of folks down here in the bluegrass are pulling for an SEC school, because the conference "is the toughest in the nation" (r - i - g - h - t). I'm sure the whole Northeast, or anyone who loves an underdog is pulling for Rutgers. Notre Dame and USC are building their cases as their season finale looms on the horizon. Heck, I even bet in Boise, Idaho they're inundating pollsters to give a team from the WAC, a hack. There's probably even some wag in Wisconsin beating the drum for the one-loss Badgers.
But one thing we know for sure... the winner of what Brent Matchbook this morning called the "Game of the Century" next Saturday, is in... no question. I've been saying it all season because it's true... the two best teams in the country this year are in the Big Ten. So say what you want about the BCS Championship. Far as I'm concerned, the national championship will be decided in Columbus next Saturday.
Bucks 31 M-School 17
5) Saw The Great One this weekend. Found out that as a MSN Web TV user, she can't download anything and can't view videos on the web (hence my YouTube posts she cannot see). This summer, after the old faithful RCA finally crapped out, the kids went the extra mile an got The Great One a 37" HDLCD flatscreen TV/Monitor. Would be perfect for a small computer hooked into a cable modem, but she refuses to make the switch.
Of course, she didn't want a VCR when we got her one, and now she's only one of us that knows how to program it. She didn't want a DVD player, but she mastered that in no time. She didn't want the Web TV cause she didn't think she'd ever have need of the Internet, and now she's digital soldier in the Red State Army. And, she just wanted another CRT TV, protesting that the LCD screen was too much money and too complicated..... you think she'd trade it for a boring ol CRT unit now?
So, now she says she doesn't a real computer and hi-speed Internet.... says she can't make the adjustment. And I say she might be a great-grandmother, but inside two weeks she'd have that computer baking brownies and sweeping her floor.
6) I guess this morning, Aimee took the boys over to Quest Community Church (I was in Lima all of eighteen hours, and since we'll be home for a week starting this Friday, they stayed in Kentucky), and Xavier decided to have a total meltdown. Apparently he decided he didn't want to go to church today, and proceeded to throw a fit in as she tried to drag all three of them into the door this morning. He's lucky I wasn't with him or we'd have applied the board of education to the seat of understanding. Aimee said it was one of the most affirming and humiliating experiences of her life. It was affirming in that lots of people from the church didn't act condescending or judgemental, but just helped her any way they could. Humiliating in that Xavier pretty much made her feel like the parental failure of the year, a performance he capped off when at one point as a woman tried to pray for him, he started to scream, "I don't want you to pray for me." So, that church is loving and caring, but thinks our son is possessed by demons..... it's always something.
7) Big paper due this Wednesday. A fifth of our dissertation, in fact. I haven't even confirmed that enough examples of what I want to study exist in the world to make the study valid, so at this point I'm a little behind. I get the feeling I'll be looking for a little more time before this is all said and done. My straight A average is in jeopardy, and the amazing thing is that it upsets me. Me, Mr. "D Equals Diploma" upset by the possibility of a B. What is happening to me?
8) If you don't know why this isn't a big deal, then I can't explain it to you. It's like being knighted in the State of Ohio.
I actually met Nichlaus once back in 1991. I was working for Burns Security at Cincinnati Reds games that summer, and the company asked me to pick up some hours working the Senior Open out at Kings Island. Mostly, I spent that week out in the parking lot... except for one day. Nichlaus, Travino, and Chi Chi played in the same group on day two, and the security company assigned me to shadow Nichlaus all day. I don't know what I would have done if someone attacked him... I was armed with nothing buy my car keys. But it went well, and I got to watch some pretty fantastic golf.
At the end of the day, I escorted Jack to the locker room, waited for him at the entrance, and then walked him over the press room (which was the pro shop). After that, I followed him to his car, and upon arrival, he thanked me for sticking with him all day, and asked if there was anything he could do for me (which gives you some sort of idea as the type of guy he is). After thinking for two seconds, I told him that all I really wanted was to shake his hand, because he had always been grandfather's favorite golfer, and he had given him a lot of joy up until he had passed away. And I thanked him for doing so.
The man openly teared up, and gave me a handshake that I would never forget. He's one of the greats, and truly deserved the honor of dotting the "i".
9) One other thing to add to the "why I am greatly blessed" list this month. My brother and sister-in-law are coming to Lima to watch The Game with Dad, Mom, the boys and I (Aimee, I'd assume, will wonder outloud why we are yelling at a TV... what did the TV do to us?). All of us together for OSU- MSchool...... whoa, it's getting a little dusty in here. Here's another video in their honor.
And if it's too long for you, you're probably a fan of a team in the SEC who'll be playing their bowl game in Boise, Idaho this year (I hear Boise is positively balmy in December).
10) I have class all week - Pastoral Leadership with Dale Galloway. Don't worry, I'll stay focused and learn all I can. But when the week is over, it'll be time for the game that will...
- determine the Big Ten championship
- be a ticket to the BCS Championship Game
- cap an undefeated season
- crown the next Heisman Trophy winner
They say anything can happen in a OSU-MSchool game, and that's probably true. But, well, I don't know.... I just got a feeling this guy will be hoisting a Heisman here real soon. From pariah to the pinnacle. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2006 Heisman Trophy winner:
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Have you ever read so much of something that you reach a point where you just don't want to read any more of that particular subject?
I have. Methodist Episcopal Church history. Didn't know anything about Francis Asbury two weeks ago... now I do. Am I a richer, more well-rounded man for it?
I don't know, but I'm so tired of the man that the only thing keeping me awake is my latest playlist. Remember, the idea is to rotate in music that can serve as background tunes while I study. They are also, probably on some unconscious level, a good indicator as to where my head is at right now.
Make sense? Probably not. Whaddya want... this blog is free.
Here are the Top Ten songs in heavy rotation right now:
1) Can't Find My Way Home - Blind Faith
Have always loved this song. Just re-discovered it. It is music for my homesick soul.
2) I Will Follow You Into the Dark - Death Cab For Cutie
"Catholic School, is vicious as Roman rule. I got my knuckles bruised, by a lady in black. I held my tounge, as she told me son, fear is the heart of love, so I never went back." A love song where a man can't imagine the heaven described to him by the church could be any better than the love he shares with his true love. Beautiful and sad, all at the same time.
3) The Bird - Morris Day and The Time
Have been so into Morris Day and The Time that I emailed the people who organize "Square Fair" at home, and suggested them as an act. Hey, it can't be any worse than Loverboy last year... seeing Mike Reno now makes it hard to believe that at one time "I Heart Mike Reno" used to grace bathroom walls and school notebooks across the country. Now he looks like my long lost brother.
4) Peace of Mind - Boston
Once again, I am betraying my questionable taste in music. Seems like every music critic and darling of the creative music scene hates Boston, but I listen to them and I'm transported back to Jack Reeves' family room, Charleston, West Virginia circa 1975. Besides, critics can't play... that's why they're critics. Thom Schultz and his Rockman, forever!
5) Believe - Brooks and Dunn
There were lots of "Old Man Wrigleys" in my life as a child. The Hartleys (who lost his leg in WWII), The Carneys (he made his own moonshine and like to shoot snakes in the middle of the night when he was liquored up... mom used to use his moonshine to unclog our pipes), Old Man Winter (a sweet man who liked to sit with a three-year old boy on the front porch, watching the world pass by), The Greenlees (great the best strawberries), Joe and Weezie Myers (I don't know how they loved us so much, but they did), and The Kelley's (homemade peach ice cream for all of us kids in the summer). Their faith has become my own.
6) Ramblin Man - The Allman Brothers Band
Beats me. Guess I feel like a Ramblin Man.
7) Rockin' the Paradise - Styx
Yeah.. I can hear my friends in the post-punk band Ho-Ag right now, ridiculing me mercilessly.... Hey, punks! You never even listened to Devo growing up. It was all Mojo Nixon, Faith No More, Frank Black, and before anyone liked them, Nirvana. Now you dress up like Devo on Halloween and everyone says they're a primary influence. I know the truth, you New Wave poseurs. Back in the day, I couldn't pay you enough money to listen to Devo. The Moog synthesizer and theramin is all the weird MST2K and Ed Wood flicks you guys used to watch on TV. I know the truth!!! I need a signed copy of "The Word From Pluto", or I tell your adoring indie punk fans that you grew up playing in a church. Consider yourself warned!
Stop by and say hi if you're home for Christmas!
8) Ghostrider -Rush
There's nothing left if there's nothing left, Ghostrider
9) Do You Feel Like We Do - Peter Frampton
If you were a member at Elkland Pool in Charleston, West Virginia the summer of the year this album came out, you would remember that the lifeguards played it about a million times. Sun, a diving board, and a day playing "shark" with friends... that's when I think of when I hear this song. I can still smell the hot dogs at the concession stand.
10) Kyrie - Mr. Mister
One of the first sermon series I ever did at "The Peak" was "All I Needed To Know I Learned In The 80's". This was one of the songs we did, and as I remember it, it sounded fantastic. May God have mercy on us on all the roads that we must travel.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
So, at the risk of sounding like a whiner or an ingrate (I mean this program is free and very good), here are the Top Ten things I'd be doing if I had just stayed home.
10) Blew out about eight pick-up truck loads of leaves, bark, and nut shells from the gazillion Shagbark Hickory trees that were in our front yard. Sounds pretty boring, I know, but I kind of enjoyed the work. There was a beginning, a middle, and an ending... no brain required. Besides, I'd listen to music all day while I did it. Never thought I'd miss yard work.... I'll rue this statement next year. Mark my words.
9) Lunch with Roger at Arbys on Thursday/Covenant time with Eric on Tuesdays: Looked forward to each of these things each (or in Eric's case, every other) week. Two great guys who work in far different fields (Roger owns the Arbys... makes it easy to decide where to eat /Eric is a family practice doctor) than my own, so it was nice to hear what challenges they faced in their worlds. Good times of discussion and prayer.
8) Sunday Night at the Nest: This one really bums me out. One of the great things about moving back to Lima was that I got to spend time with my grandmother, or as the boys call her, grandma-great, or as she's known in this blog, The Great One. For the past couple of years, most Sunday nights The Great One and I would enjoy some ice cream, an episode of "The West Wing", and then whatever else we could find on TV. But, mostly, we just talked. Politics, my job, catching up on family.... I hate losing this for an entire year.
I'll be back as soon as I can, grandma, I promise.
7) Watching Bucks games with Dad: Another unfortunate outcome of this year. When you've lived in Illinois and Indiana for six years, coming home to land of football mecca is like coming out of the desert to find a really nice pool featuring all you can drink cokes. People are wearing Buckeye shirts and hats. You can say O-H, and someone will say back I-O. Particularly after living so close to South Bend, and working for a M-school fan for five years, living in Ohio on Football Saturdays was just, well.... a blessing.
And, in our own house, which we had to leave, there was this home projection system that featured a 100-inch screen. Believe me, when it comes to TV's, size matters. Dad would come over, and we'd watch the game. Big spread of food at basement kitchenette... phone calls from my Brother when the Bucks scored.... the boys pretending they were AJ Hawk and flying around the basement.
Now, we've got a 19 inch TV and no cable. I always said I'd like to go a year without cable, and now was my chance. The Verdict? In Hell's Sports Bar, all the TV's are 19 inchers and there's no cable. That's the verdict.... oh, that and all the games feature SEC schools. Can't forget that one... nothing but Arkansas and Alabama (or any of the rest of them) crapping all over themselves each and every week.
(gotta say, one of the good things about living down here is the trash-talking.... especially when your team is the unanimous number one in the polls, and everyone else is whining about the SEC is so hard.... good times!)
6) The Lima YMCA: Now, here's the deal... I go through these phases. Sometimes I exercise on a regular basis, sometimes I'm spotty, and other times I think about exercising while I watch Law and Order re-runs. I like working out at the Y. It's a great facility, and I always see a lot of people I know. Plus, this would have been the year that Max would have gotten into winter swimming and Xavier would have learned to swim during our Friday Family Night Y excursions. All I do here is read, write, pray, eat, and sleep. I'm getting so big that pretty soon I'm going to have my own orbiting moon and start effecting the tides. Once again, I'm saying I'm missing exercising, Cathleen Baker is reading this, and now I'm opening myself up to a whole new round "get off you duff, chubby" motivation when I return. I will rue this too.
I'll have plenty to rue.
5) Grocery shopping with Xavier: Every Friday, I'd take the day off, and Xavie and I would head on out to Meijer and do the grocery shopping. We'd find the special cart built for larger kids to ride in, find all the stuff we needed, pay up and take off. All the while I'd listen to Xavie tell me what was going on his then 3 or 4 year old life. Next year he'll be in school all day.
Fortunately we have another son, so the tradition will continue, only now the passenger will Elijah, but this is just another reminder that my kids are growing up, and there's nothing I can do about it.
4) Help Out my In-Laws: For those who don't know, my mother-in-law, Carol Allen, is undergoing chemotherapy for liver cancer. For a number of weeks now, she's felt so tired that her day pretty much ends when she comes home from work. There's plenty to do at her place, and my father-in-law who is 70, has bad knees, and even though he can still beat me senseless he can't get around quite as well as he used to. They've been such a huge help to us our entire married life.. it'd be nice to begin repaying the favor.
I remember one time when we were living in our trailer in Oxford... first year of marriage, two college-students, little money, living on love, ready to kill one another. Often there was nothing to eat in our kitchen cause we just didn't have much money. I used to hustle guys over at Miami's Rec Center in games of HORSE for money to buy something to eat (true story... kids, don't try this home). Well, one night I was working, Aimee was at home, it was the end of the month, and the only thing we had to eat in the entire house was canned spinach. Who knows how it got there... Heaven knows I'd never even go near a can of spinach. Popeye must have snuck into the house and left an extra can, just in case he had to kick Bluto's keister in the Ray Day Trailer Park.
Anyhow, Aimee finds the canned spinach, checks our bank account, which is probably $4 in the red, and proceeds to break down. At that very moment, her mother called. My blubbering wife attempted to tell her mom what was wrong, but all she could say was "all we have is canned spinach", over and over again.
Next day, who's there with a car load of groceries?
Just makes you want to help that person, that much more.
3) Laying on the floor with our dog, Lucy: We're not allowed to have a pet down here. Not even a fish, although our gold fish, W, has decided to be a rule-breaker. Sidenote here... when we bought W (named by Max, after his favorite letter at that particular time), we really thought he'd be one of those disposable goldfish... like the ones you win at the county when you throw the ping pong ball into the glass. The average life expectancy of those county fair fish is like, seven hours. They almost guarantee you'll be doing a "burial at sea" where you have to explain death to your kids for the first time. Well, W has survived multiple moves, a broken fish bowl that resulted in him getting stuck under a refrigerator (I don't have time to explain this), cold weather, hot weather, not getting feed... you name it. And now I think he's about five years old, which in disposable fish years is 258.
Anyhow, Lucy is at our in-laws. The boys and I picked her out at the pound cause she was the only dog who wasn't barking or jumping. She was horribly thin, had been abused, was gentle, quiet, and just had to come home with us. Of course, Aimee was like, 8 months pregnant with Eli at the time, and had expressly told me NOT to bring a dog home from the pound (we were dropping off newspapers... that's why we were there). She didn't talk to me for two days after we brought her home. But within weeks we couldn't remember why we hadn't got a dog sooner. At night, after everyone else was asleep, she'd lay on the floor next to me so I could pet her and rub her belly. The scared abused dog we brought home became a part of the family. We all miss her.
2) Visiting Mom: What can I say... I'm a momma's boy. Always have been... always will be.
1) Church: I miss all the faces on Sunday morning. I miss Cathy, our secretary, obsessing over which place sells paper cheaper (Sam's or Office Depot?). I miss thinking through things with Charlotte. I miss my hug from Big Bill and Don Johnson every Sunday. I miss the way Dr. Becker ties his tie. I miss Don Knepper's smile. I miss Eric Truxal getting us up and singing. I miss Sharon Barr's laugh. I miss doing "Pastor Bryan Storytime" with the nursery school kids. I miss praying for people in need. I miss planning worship service. I miss that moment when you know everyone is listening. I miss teens stopping by office to ask questions like, "What do you do all day?" (Answer: Listen to people complain that pastors don't work enough). I miss Ad Board, PPR, Finance and Trustees. I miss visiting at the hospital, and doing funerals. I miss looking up the Aramaic word to figure out what Paul was trying to say. I miss riding and dining. I miss Tara Yunker calling me Pastor Bryan, even though she's the only one in church that does it, and we're the same age. I miss people poking their head into my office to say hi. I miss Stan Weller inviting me over for chili. I miss Lunch Bunch lunches. I miss Ruth Anne Lohr's quiet strength.
I miss the people God called me to serve, and the closeness I feel to Him as I do it as best as I can. I am a blessed man, indeed!
But, I've got to do this. There's an unsettledness, a fear, some pain, that some how, some way, is getting confronted down here. And I'm starting to dream dreams, and see visions (I'm middle aged, so I do both). So, my life isn't on hold, just filling out... just like me.
Better start hitting the gym..... chubby.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
In But Not Of The World, Or In and Of The World, Or In and Of This World and Other.... What's the Point?
But, I digress.
Since Dr. Kalas is now President Kalas, he was in Orlando at the Asbury-Disney Campus speaking and taking questions about this whole "presidential crisis" thing, and our class headed off in a decidely different direction.
Skip this paragraph if you already know why, or aren't really interested in why Dr. Kalas is Asbury's interim president. (For those who haven't been following, earlier this year, Asbury's last president, Jeff Greenway, after two years in office, reached impasse with the Board of Trustees over his style of leadership and vision of the future. After a number of weeks of Board and President refusing to yield to one another, essentially the Board in a special session, voted "no confidence" in Greenway's presidency, and asked for his resignation. Now, Ellsworth Kalas is the new Interim President of Asbury while the Board cleans up the last mess, and starts the process to figure out who should be the next Big Kahuna. In a strange twist of plot that nobody in my home conference could have anticipated, Greenway resurfaced in of all places, the West Ohio Annual Conference as the new Senior Pastor of Reynoldsburg UMC.... our conference's second largest church. Reynoldsburg's pulpit had been filled with an interim senior pastor, since their last senior pastor was removed by the Bishop for improper conduct.)
With Dr. Kalas gone, today a guest lecturer, Dr. Michael Pasquarello II, read to us from a chapter in his upcoming book, which asks the question "What is the point of preaching?". This is a valid question, as there is a growing movement from within western Christianity that is proclaiming that preaching has been so abused as a means of, among other things, manipulating people to support the institution of Christendom, pushing limited agendas, enriching preachers looking for power, and affirming what we already believe even it's wrong, that its time as a vital part of worship has passed. Thus, particularly in the growing "house movement" and in other "emergent church" circles, preaching is being done away with in favor of mutual biblical study and discussion.
This wouldn't be such a big deal to me, if not just yesterday, a friend of mine from a former church was expressing the exact same kind of frustration with the institutional church. A frustration that the local church has done so much "navel gazing" so as to perpetuate it's own existance, that it has missed the greater purpose of Jesus in the world.... to live into the Kingdom of Heaven. Thus, my friend and his wife had a discussion of whether or not to turn their back on the church as a whole, and simply starting something else. And, what's more, these are life-long church, baby-boomer upper-middle class folks living in middle America.
Pasquarello's idea is that the last gasp of the Christian Church as we have known it since the days of Constantine is the "mega-church", and it's demise is very, very close. These are churches who find their meaning, in the end, in mainly growing large in term of worship attendance and inner-church programmed activity, changing few lives but attracting a lot of people who already believed in Jesus but wanted more convenience and service. They distill what most existing believers want into a highly refined form of what has been (namely worship, but also teaching, child care, environment, etc...), pummling existing churches who try to offer the same things, but much more inefficiently and ineffectively.
Those who are pushing the post-modern Christian movement, believe that for about 1700 years now, Christianity has been embraced by western culture as being the "right faith", but since the church became enamoured with establishing its dominance over all facets of the world in incredibly detrimental ways, the kind of transformation you would expect Jesus' teaching to have in a world, socially, politically and relationally has not been realized. Thus the end product of this ineffective way of evangelization and Kingdom manifestation is now be confirmed in it's end product which is measuring success solely in the numbers of worshippers acheived, while achieving little impact on individuals and the world as a whole. Post-modern Christians want to de-construct what has been the purpose of the church (self-perpetuation of the institution, the elevation of the individual over collective responsibility, confirming existing power forms, de-spiritualizing the Gospel message, etc...) and re-construct it in such a way that individual AND earthly transformation (a living out of The Lord's Prayer) can take place.
Of course, a lot of post-modern ideas are pretty wacky... everything from hyper-spiritual emotionalism to hyper-stoic self-denial, but Pasquerello's work, while critical of the more bizzare post-modern forms, identifies the disconnect between what preachers say they believe, and what they preach, in ways that enable the modern church to still exist, but become increasingly marginalized. Thus, pastors either deny the call of Jesus to individual AND earthly transformation (generally a mistake of more conservative preaching) or the work of the Holy Spirit to reform the forces that shape individuals and the world (generally a mistake of more liberal preaching). His work does not really shape what the alternative will be, but defines what is in harsh tones.... which kinda got the gander up of a number of my classmates, who didn't care for some of polemics he was drawing.
And, it'd be accurate to say that it served to animate me also, but in the sense that what I thought I heard coming out of my classmate's mouths was that the greater Christian struggle was for the individual to survive this wicked world as a Chrisitan faith in-tact, AS OPPOSED TO living every day as Christian who believes the world is redeemable but understands the true cost of that redemption... and that the cost must be paid anyway.
In one case, the Christian is trying to survive the way the world is, and the other the Christian is contemplating what is being demanded in terms of transformation. Thus, does greater dispair come from believing that the world is flawed and must be survived, OR that the world is transformable but that it will come at great personal risk and cost, forcing us to ask how much we really trust the Lord?
You can guess what I think, and maybe in our discussion this morning, we were just different people saying the same thing a different way..... (right now I'm wrinkling up my nose)
Which got me thinking..... has the church, out of sense of failure, exchanged the vision of humanity's participation in God's transformation of lives and the world, for an escapist theology where we say "come over here and be like us, and you'll escape the true horrors of living metaphorically (in our teaching), physically (in the blessing of good health and material goods if we only believe OR in by giving stuff away but not yourself to my cause), and eschatalogically (by avoiding the tribulations that come with Kingdom living AND transformation OR not acknoweldging the reality of spiritual reality).
AND if this is the case, if the church has lost its way, or at least has become destracted, what then should its object be? How should that be lived out, individually and corporately? How are the powers and principalities that shape the world redeemed to shape it into what God intends.
Most importantly, should we even aspire to transformation of the creation, as well as the lives of individuals... or even believe it possible?
Christians have been burned so many times over the years, that even thinking there might be the possibility that power, knowledge, and the collective will could be re-oriented in a way that all people could live out lives of dignity and respect in a world cared for in such a way as to perpetuate the kind of life God intended for ALL, in some Christian circles is like muttering a swear word. It's like you either compromised "born again Christianity", or are hanging onto to some spiritual myth. You say this stuff, and the detractors say...
Don't you remember how we colluded with kings who used the cross to perpetuate bloody wars?
Don't you remember how our missionaries went out under the auspices of spreading the Gospel, and succeeded mainly in paving the way for colonialism?
Don't you remember how we persecuted scientists for daring to say that humanity wasn't the center of the universe, and paid dearly by abdicating any authroity in areas of science that desperately need an ethical framework so that good gifts aren't once used in destructive ways?
Don't you remember all the churches who became more about their interpersonal relationships and internal structure, than impacting their communty?
Don't you remember when we thought that the way of the kingdom was paved through social causes and political organization, only to result in more relational complexity and confusion?
Don't you remember how we confused blessing with materialistic self-gratification?
And some say we lost our way cause we made it all about "alter calls", and others say that we lost our way cause we stopped calling people to the alter. So, in one quarter your told, "Eh, forget world transformation. It'll just take a supernatural act of God anyway. It's all about transforming one life at a time, and living out life while everything else goes to hell only be saved fully by God sans our sinful selves in the end." OR "We've been enamoured with all the wrong things, trying to uphold myth and fantasy while millions have died due to malnutrition and disease. We've got to transform the world ourselves, and quit waiting on a supernatural act of God to save us."
And yet, Jesus calls us to use, not bury our talents. He calls us to defeat and foolishness as a means to greater wisdom and kingdom manisfestation. He calls us to live in a Kingdom that is, but is not fully realized, and yet will be! He casts out demons and raised people from the dead.
He takes what is despised or considered impossible, and make it reality. Stuff as crazy as the meek inheriting the earth.
Living in, but not of the world, I dare say, is a bastardization of what Jesus said when he told us to take ahold of that which was intended to be given to us from the foundation of the world.... which to say, is everything. Living in, and of the world doesn't take the spiritual reality of that which cannot be seen seriously.
Jesus said that the sheep and the goats are separated at the end of time as a direct outcome of how we saw the world and God's presence when we were living here. Do we believe that the creation though it has been perverted by sin, was still created good, and has been redeemed?
Gotta go do something else... but it was a good class.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
2) Saw very two good movies this weekend, but good for different reasons. First, if you haven't rented it yet, go get Akeela and the Bee. The movie is a "poor girl from the ghetto rises up against incredible odds" tale, but thankfully avoids all of the cliches you find in these movies. There is no evil teacher, or horrible rival who humiliates her repeatedly, a gangbanger who doesn't want to see her rise out of the community, or any of that crap. This is a serious movie about race, gender, class, grief, and embracing your community. I won't give away the ending, but one scene from the movie still sticks with me.
Early on, just after Akeela learns that there is such a thing as a Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee, she watches a tape of the previous year's competition (which is televised by ESPN and is one of the most compelling television moments of the year... this blogger is a fan). As each child comes forward and spells, or fails to spell the word given to them, the movie cuts through the contestants quickly, while occasionally flashing to Akeela's eyes which increasingly are filled with fear. Why? Well there are all kinds of different races and both genders represented... but not one African-American girl. A great movie where a young girl learns not be afraid to be herself, and to be great. There's some language in the movie that we're not ready for Max to learn yet (let alone Xavier), but for older kids, particularly middle school and older, I wouldn't hesitate to show them this movie. It was very, very good.
3) Last night, after Aimee and the boys hit the hay, I had intended on reading a book for my Pastoral Leadership class. But after an hour of such gems like "cooperative and or uncooperative, this could be your biggest attitude choice" and "bitterness, unless handled, will cause you trouble", let's just say I was getting tired of mastering the obvious. A quick trip to the computer, and I discovered that at the beautiful, old historic Kentucky Theater in Lexington, there was a 10pm showing of This Film Is Not Yet Rated, which is actually rated NC-17.
And with good reason.
The movie, by filmmaker Kirby Dick, focused on the history and practices of the MPAA - the group that determines whether or not a movie should be G, PG, PG-13, R, or NC-17. What became very obvious, quickly, is that the MPAA favors major studios, as opposed to the independent filmmaker, the motive of which is probably to limit competition for movie screen space. Thus, while major studios receive detailed instructions by the MPAA as to what cuts need to be made in a movie to make it an R instead of NC-17 (which is commercial death because you can't advertise it on TV, can't sell it places like WalMart and Blockbuster, and can't show it at most theaters in the country), independent filmmakers aren't told anything, and just need to guess as they re-cut the film for re-submission.
What's more, the MPAA is an anonymous group of people, whose names are withheld from the public, and process for making ratings is totally secret. Thus the issue of accountability becomes even murkier. Since many independent filmmakers portray aspects of the culture most of us rarely see (i.e. lots of issues regarding sexual identity), what happens is that movies about these subjects aren't seen by the majority of the country because their rating prevents them being shown there. Is this an act of censorship? The movie poses the question, and isn't afraid to give you an answer.
But, to be honest, even as someone who loves independent film... most of these movies wouldn't be seen by the majority of the country no matter what they were rated, cause, to be honest, most of them are short in the "good" department. You gotta be kinda patient to be a fan of independant film..... let's just say there's a reason nobody will put up money to make a lot of these films.
But, by far, the most damning aspect of the film is the double standard the MPAA seems to have toward sex and violence. Four times as many films are rated NC-17 for sexual content than for violence. So while "The Cooler" gets an NC-17 rating for showing a two-second clip of a woman's pubic hair during a sex scene, "Sin City" can show all matters of people getting killed in the most graphic fashion you can imagine, and gets an R.
The movie isn't perfect (it gets a little preachy... I would know), but it will definitely make you think. Not for the squeamish, people who are Republicans, or the easily offend.
4) The Ted Haggard situation sort of resolved itself today, as far as his church is concerned, when he was permanently dismissed as the pastoral leader in the wake of the allegations made against him. Haggard might have weathered this storm a little better if he hadn't allowed himself to be interviewed, in his car, in his driveway, in front of his wife and three of his kids, admitting to buying crystal meth from a gay escort who he had hired to give him a massage.... particularly after he had denied even knowing the gay escort in question.
Whatever happened to "no comment"?
Friday I made a post where, as opposed to condemning Haggard, I tried to give people a sense of the pressures pastors face to teach and preach things that maybe, they can't live up or question, in their own life. And how, if you continue to do this, you will begin to find yourself isolated from the very group of people, the church, who should be your community.
Today, though, I want to make something very clear. There's a reason I refuse to call myself an Evangelical Christian (as if there are Christians out there who are opposed to evangelization), and it has to do with the shameful way this particular group exploits the homosexuality issue for profit and political clout. I wrote a post earlier this summer where I express my dismay for liberal Episcopalians who used their General Conference to push particular theological and social issues, because my feeling is that those kinds of conferences (which all mainline denoms have) are turning into opportunities for certain people to take serious issues and turn them into sound bites... which makes it impossible for us to deal with issues like homosexuality and scripture with any kind of maturity. They just become free-for-alls where each side competes to gets the best quote on AC360.
Well, conservative evangelicals are pretty good at this dirty little game also, and the upshot is that groups of people (gays and lesbians) are painted with broad hateful strokes, mostly to convince people to get to the polls and write a check. I personally don't think Jesus needs a whipping boy or girl to make his point (isn't that the point of the Cross?).
Ted Haggard became famous deamonizing the homosexual community, which is what makes this whole affair so seamy. Maybe this is will be a wake-up call to people who have taken these issues, and blown them way out of proportion... as if the future of the world hinged on their outcome. Surely you can be principled, and yet still civil. Surely you can believe that homosexuality is a sin, and yet realize that you sin willingly each and every day (I just did with three consumed Monster Cookies I didn't need.... don't eat that chubby) or feel that it isn't but can still appreciate the damage sexual sin can do.
5) Great quote that fuels the plot of "Akeela and the Bee":
Our Greatest Fear by Marianne Williamson (from her book A Return to Love)
Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate,
but that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be
brilliant,gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.
It is not just in some; it is in everyone.
And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously give
other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.
6) Three games into the NBA Season, the Cavs are 2-1, with big wins over Washington and San Antonio on the road. And the Utah Jazz are 3-0, tearing up Phoenix and the Clippers among others. Will this be the year that my dream NBA Championship, Cavs v. Jazz, is realized? Oh to dream the impossible dream....
7) Went up to Highbridge Park today. The boys had a great time looking at the bridge and playing at Highbridge park. Apparently Sue Dickerson, a member at Shawnee went to school down here, and the big deal in her day was to go up on the bridge and play chicken with trains (of which, she admitted to doing.... I will leave this here so someday it can be discovered by her grandchildren). All I know is 308 feet in the air above a shallow river playing chicken with train is, well..... just plain stupid. I leave a pic of the bridge, and of a historical marker nearby (primarily for my father..... he's a civil engineer. Enjoy Dad!)
Capped a great family day where we went to church, got lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant, the parents got a short nap with the youngest whilst the eldest children played, we hiked around a pleasant little park, and ended the day with some ham and beans for dinner. I am blessed, indeed.
8) Leadership, I am beginning to realize, is an art. Experienced a very good presentation by James Holsinger, who was (among other things) an undersecretary of Health and Human Services (in charge of all the VA Hospitals) for President George HW Bush and the President of the Medical School at UK. Holsinger now teaches "Situational Leadership" classes to medical students in intense 5-day sessions. There, he instructs students in understanding what people you are leading need, in terms of instruction and support, at different points of their employment journey. Holsinger, who has studied extensively the work of Ken Blanchard, posits that leaders, if they can present exactly what they are willing to offer (coaching, directives, space, whatever) to those they lead, and work out with those led what they think they'll need to succeed, stand a much better chance of helping that person succeed than dictatorial leaders, or leaders who simply take their hands off the wheel and say, "Go ahead and drive".
I know I didn't explain that well, but to me it made sense. I have been guilty at certain times of being a dictator, and others of being almost a non-existent leader. What Holsinger helped me understand is that the role of the leader to the follower needs to change as the skill sets and competency of the follower improves. Thus, the high support - high directive model (where you tell people how and when to do things, and then correct/praise them accordingly) is necessary early on, where as later, I might need to provide high support (correct/praise so people know their headed on in the right direction) but little direction (cause they know what to do). The goal is that every employee would be become low support (because they know where they are heading and are self-motivated to get there) - low directive (cause they probably know their job better than I do).
This reminds back in my youth ministry days, when I would teach kids how to play guitar. Now, anyone who has heard me play knows that I know almost squat about guitar playing. I can finger enough chords to lead praise songs, and that's about that. But here's the deal. If you teach a kid a few chords, and they bust their hump learning them, chances are you won't have to do much else. The kid who then wants to learn how to play, will bust their tail learning and practicing all they can. In short order, they end up knowing more than you do, and making the band sound great. All I do then, is provide the sheet music, a tempo, and a sense of what kind of playing will be necessary to give the song the "feel" we are looking for. Anyhow... it was good stuff.
9) For those who haven't heard, my lovely wife has become a budding website designer (here's her homepage: www.aimeebucher.com ). It all started when a member of the church, Millie Hughes, asked Aimee if she'd be willing to teach music to middle school and high school kids, on-line. Of course, Aimee would have to design the curriculum first, cause it didn't exist, so the promise of a nice chunk of money per class designed (and the need to take college courses to get re-certified as a teacher in Ohio) led her to take an online "web design for music websites" class from the Berkeley School of Music in Boston.
Now, a couple of years later, she's working on her first gig... designing a commercial site for a jewelry designer who lives somewhere out west. She's being paid in jewelry (kind of like the Indians when they sold Manhattan for some beads... believe me when I say this is an accurate comparison), but she's learning all about e-commerce, flash, and all the stuff you need to put together a cool site. Now, others are starting to inquire about her services. I think something good is starting to get rolling here.
10) And finally, Max joined the ranks of the eye-glass wearing world, which given the gene pool from which he emerged, was pretty much a given. Fortunately, he loves his glasses, doesn't mind wearing them, and enjoys being able to see all the stuff he couldn't see before (like signs and the chalk board.... stuff like that). And what's more, it appears, at least, that he hasn't been teased at school, which is great. Of course, now he looks like the little Einstein he is. Never in my life thought I'd hear one of my children thank me for buying him glasses, and then play a game of catch with him to celebrate the fact that now he can see the ball.
And this big ol' world just keeps on turning, I keep getting older, and life is becoming just so much more sweet than bitter. I am a blessed man, indeed.