1) It was a nice weekend here at the Bucher house. We started it off by celebrating Max's eighth birthday. The Beeson Pastor program sports not one, BUT TWO Maxes this year. Both are in the second grade. Both like Legos, Bionacles (don't ask), and video games. AND both have birthdays this month (kinda spooky). Since they like doing everything together anyway, the two families, the Buchers and Lairs, teamed up to create an M&M Birthday Extravaganza. Here are few pics (lifted from Aaron Wymer's blog (click the link to read his latest installment, which reveals that Aaron doesn't know the difference between MonGALS and MonGOLS - am still chuckling to myself)
Here's Max in all his eight-year old glory.
I remember when we lived in Bloomington, to save his mother's sanity, I used to take him on long, long walks past a little park, around the IWU and ISU campuses, and through a neighborhood that had a lot of beautiful old homes, one of which we were thinking about buying. I'd put him in the stroller, but inevitably he'd start crying to get me to pick him up. He was so little. Now when we wrestle, he's big enough to mess me up. Time goes by quickly.
This is other half of M&M (as they've taken to calling themselves), Max Lair. Max has two brothers and two sisters, but that still didn't stop his parents from inviting my Max and Xavie from spending the night last Friday. They watched the original Star Wars (episode four). Needless to say, it was the greatest birthday, EVER.
About thirty of us crowded into our 900 square foot townhouse for the party. A good, if crowded, time was had by all.
2) Read an interesting book this weekend. The Starbucks Experience details the five principles that the author, Joseph Michelli believes lay at the heart of the rapid growth of Starbucks. Not to steal the book's thunder, but the principles are:
- Make It Your Own: Taking an experience or product and re-defining it
- Everything Matters: No detail is to small in the service industry
- Surprise and Delight: Find unexpected ways to make the customer's experience a great one
- Embrace Resistance: Listen and, if necessary, respond to your critics
- Leave Your Mark: Make community and world transformation, not just selling product, your aim
Normally I turn a jaundiced eye toward making applications from business books to the experience of church life, but in terms of serving others, these five principles aren't bad ones for all of us to think about. While one can get a little nauseous thinking about thinking of people who attend church as "customers", reversing that thought, and thinking about all of us being servants of others opens up new worlds of thought. Which leads me to this...
3) Have been meditating much on The Beatitudes, particularly the first sixteen verses of Matthew 5:
1 One day as the crowds were gathering, Jesus went up the mountainside with his disciples and sat down to teach them. 2 This is what he taught them:
3 "God blesses those who realize their need for him, F29 for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them.
4 God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 God blesses those who are gentle and lowly, for the whole earth will belong to them.
6 God blesses those who are hungry and thirsty for justice, for they will receive it in full.
7 God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.
9 God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.
10 God blesses those who are persecuted because they live for God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
11 "God blesses you when you are mocked and persecuted and lied about because you are my followers. 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted, too.
13 "You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it useful again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.
14 You are the light of the world like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see. 15 Don't hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. (New Living Translation)It's interesting to me (NOTE: I am accepting the text as being stated at the start of his ministry, as opposed to meaning being read back into and added to this text by the biblical author later) that Jesus realized that if a person or church demonstrated being desperate to know God, was open about their feelings even when mourning, were gentle, servant-minded, stood for justice and mercy, tried to approach everything with an open mind and heart (as opposed to being cynical or jaded), and lived to bring peace into the world that they'd be ridiculed and mocked.
Which leads me to believe that for all the talk I hear from people that the world is going to hell in a handbasket, that the world of Jesus was just as hard, cut-throat, competitive, and brutal enough to inspire people to take to all forms of self-destruction as a means of escape, as it is now. The problems might be bigger in scope and potentially more destructive because billions more live in the world than they did in Jesus day, but the basic hard wiring of humanity was the same. And for all the strides we've made over the centuries, people like the one described by the Beatitudes would still be identified as both "easy marks", and also the hope for all our children's present and future.
4) I've discovered yet another former young person whom I served as a pastor in Goshen is serving in the Iraqi War.
Lance Yoder is a combat engineer for the Marines in Company B. He's also a history major at Purdue, scheduled to graduate in the next couple of years, and engaged to a lovely young woman named Wendy Buss
I remember the night Lance came to me after TGIW and told me that he wanted to enlist in the Marines. You can't imagine my surprise. He was an honor student who had no trouble getting into college. His parents, convinced their boy was heading for school upon graduation, were not happy in the least that Lance had decided to do this. We talked it about it a good long time that evening, as Lance expressed a desire to find out not only what he was capable of as a human being - what his intellectual and physical limits were - but also a desire to serve his country. If I told you I was excited about his decision, I'd be lying, but the kid had always exhibited such high character and integrity, I knew I had to give him my blessing, and then help him talk it out with his folks.
Now, Lance is in the desert, trying to do the right thing. There are those who would argue that joining the military is anything but the right thing, and I'd probably have been one of those people when I was younger, but the older I get I find that the Lord works in strange and mysterious ways. He works within and among persons in unexpected places in unexpected fashions. Knowing this makes me thankful that someone like Lance is in Company B, because I've a sense his commitment to Jesus is not being put on the back-burner as he attempts to uphold his duties as a Marine. Your prayers for him would be greatly appreciated.
5) So how are you living out being a "Beatitude Person"? How to live out Jesus' teaching in the midst of a less-than-ideal world? Are you choosing to withdraw from society and subsuming yourself in a Christian sub-culture. Have you assimilated into the culture so completely that you wonder if your own values, Jesus values, and culture's values are really all that different? Have you become militant, secretly recruiting others to bring down the temporal powers of this world as you seethe over issues of injustice? Or do you blame those who are poor and irresponsible as those who are bringing down society?
Is there a way to successfully remain fully engaged in society, looking to redeem it and those in it, while still maintaining some sense of civility toward those in power, and a willingness to serve the poor and irresponsible? That's the challenge we're given. How easy is it to pull it off?
6) Other toddlers walk around with a blanket or a stuffed animal. I, myself, carried my puppy-pillow pretty much everywhere I went. What does my kid carry? A spoon. Yes, for whatever reason Elijah has taken to taking a spoon with him wherever he goes. I don't know if he thinks he needs to remain prepared for an ice-cream emergency that could occur any minute, or what, but that spoon is ever-present. Anyone else out there have a kid whose favorite toy is a spoon?
7) Been wrestling with my negative attitude toward mega-church preachers. While I suspect that some of my criticisms of them contain some validity, I've a larger sense that maybe I just like sitting in judgment of other people for petty reasons. I've decided to commit myself to praying for a number of them, particularly a few I seem to be the most judgmental of as pastoral leaders. I mean, we're supposed to love everyone right? At what point to we get to violate that ideal, even if we think it's for heavenly reasons? That's what got Darth Vader. He ended up turning to the Dark Side out of concern for his wife and unborn children.
Did I just write that? Yikes.
Anyhow, I don't want to be that way. God and his people deserve better.
8) There is a real chance that the Bucks will over take Florida in this week's college basketball poll after Florida dropped a game to Vanderbilt. Both teams seem to suffer from the same malady that they can't really seem to get UP for a game until they fall behind. Thus, they tend to play at the level of their opponent, as opposed to their full-capabilities. The question, though, is what are their full-capabilities? We think we know Florida's. What are the Bucks?
And more importantly, in a year where all of fellow BP Aaron Wymer's favorite teams are winning championships, (Gators and Colts) is it possible for the Gators to NOT win the NCAA tourney? Considering he's a big Indiana Pacers fan, you've got to figure "The Year of Aaron" is bound to come to an end, but will it happen sooner (March) or later (June)?
I vote for sooner. Go Bucks!
9) Stumbled on a feud that's occurring in the world of comedy. Joe Rogan, the host of "Fear Factor" and a former "Newsradio" cast member, is accusing Carlos Mencia (who hosts a show on a cable channel) of stealing other comic's jokes. I'd give you the link to the on-stage confrontation the two comics had at The Comedy Store in LA about a week ago, but let's just say the language is a bit, er..... blue. The situation is interesting to me because in a world where digital production and mass availability on the Internet is now the norm, stealing intellectual property is a real issue. Even a personal issue.
- We've never flushed out the conversation together completely, but I think the main reason that Shawnee doesn't reproduce sermons for download on its website is Joseph's concern that his sermons will be lifted by other pastors who will claim them as their own. I gave up on the issue after hearing say for the umpteenth time that the only people who listen to online sermons are pastors looking to steal material.
- My wife had a student last semester who for every assignment turned in, had lifted his answer from some other place on the Internet. Aimee caught him every time by noticing the difference in work quality, and then Googling the subject. Considering she teaches on-line, she's wise to this, but I wonder how many students are skating by in high school and college cutting and pasting essays and answers from some bulletin board?
- I'm finding that as I work on this dissertation that I'm finding myself going to Wikipedia to find leads on information on my topic and various sources. Considering anyone can change the definition of a Wikipedia subject, I figure that if I cite it as a source, I'll get laughed out of my hearing. And yet, it has proved invaluable as my work evolves.
I wonder as more information can be transmitted even more quickly and easily, what impact this will have on the church? Theoretically, this could result in making "live preachers" obsolete. It could create virtual support, study, and fellowship groups that span the country, or globe. Your church bible study could be taught by a respected professor or pastor somewhere else in the country. Seminary campuses, as we know them, might disappear, or downsize significantly. It will probably force congregations, who have largely been working out of a capitalistic mindset where they feel like to have to offer all kinds of programs, to start networking in real ways as a means of lowering costs and serving communities more efficiently. And, with the proliferation of YouTubing and on-line information gathering, it will make the idea that hidden sins have real costs as a less theoretical reality.
The possibilities are endless.
10) Finally, Haiti Sunday happened yesterday at Shawnee, to rave reviews (or, at least my Mom and Dad really liked it - that's who I talked to yesterday). Here's hoping that thousands were raised so that service to those who are among the world's destitute poor might continue in earnest. Can't wait to get home and become a part of it.
My only question is "Why did it take five hours?"