Thursday, May 24, 2007

Ten Things I Think I Think (Thursday Edition)

1. My life is completely out of whack right now and I have no daily or weekly schedule. As we near the end of this Beeson experience, and look toward a move home, the kids being in school after Memorial Day has pretty much just put us into the Twilight Zone. So we're moving into our house Saturday, but we aren't coming home until June 1st. Just a strange, strange time. Couple that with Joseph and Marty having cleared out today, our Beeson friends moving out one-by-one, and a growing list of things to do in a church office in Lima and you get this weird mix of sadness mixed with excitement. That's where we are right now... in a limbo of sadness and excitement surrounded by cardboard boxes.

2. Last year in the NBA playoffs, every time Dwayne Wade touched the ball he got a foul call. Now, this year, LeBron is getting hammered virtually every time he touches the ball. So, how many times do you think he got to line tonight? 7 The officiating in the NBA, which has been horribly erratic all year, is now devolving into letting teams slug it out so that the teams that do the most mugging and commit the most felonies get to go to the finals. The result? In the end, you end up with basketball that's ugly to watch, while blog readers everywhere go "You mean, they're still playing basketball?" Very upsetting.

3. Spent three days this week in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee with the Lairs, who used some passes they had (as season ticket holders) to treat us to a day at Dollywood. Now, right now, I know a lot of you out there are thinking, "How can a day at an amusement park named after a country singer who hasn't really been all that popular for twenty years be a treat?" Well, I must admit that I too was a skeptic, making snide comments at every opportunity leading up to our little excursion regarding Dolly Parton's prowess as an amusement park baron.

Well, let me say, publicly, that ol' Dolly, just like virtually every other business decision she's made, hit a home run by pairing up with whatever business partners came forward with the Dollywood idea. The place was clean, the workers friendly, and the opportunities for the kids numerous. Of course it was too crowded and the food was way overpriced (could have bought a case and half of coke for the price I paid for two large cups of that glorified sugar water), but overall, the Buchers agreed that we'd go to Dollywood again even if this time we had to pay to get in. And we're pretty cheap, so that's saying something.

Way to go Dolly... you knows what the people like.

4. We thoroughly enjoyed our time with the Lairs, and that's really saying something when you consider that between the two families we had eight kids (ages 10 months to 10 years) and we stayed at The Family Inn (Twin Malls location in Pigeon Forge). On a side note, if you like being lied to about the features of your room, an elevator that smells like an outhouse for a family of weasels, people at the front desk whose mantra is "I would love to help but I need to ask my manager first and she's not here", and a breakfast buffet that features Little Debbie cakes and chocolate milk, then by all means, call The Family Inn. They'll leave the light on for you (but it'll only be a 40 watt bulb, so bring a flashlight).

Anyhow, we could have stayed anywhere, really, and the kids couldn't have cared less. As long as they were together, that's all that mattered. They are going to miss one another very much come mid-June. And for all the Family Inn's faults, they did give us a rooms with lots of space... not very clean space, but space none-the-less. All-in-all, it was a nice time with good friends.

5. Immediately upon returning home Tuesday, I had to hop on the bike and head for Columbus for our annual clergy session (which is fancy talk for a "big meeting of all the pastors in our conference'). I'm not much for interstates, so Aimee chose a route for me - US 68 from Lexington to Maysville, and then US62 from Maysville to Columbus. On a sunny day in the high seventies, on roads that wove through the hills, along the Ohio River and up through a beautiful part of Ohio, I could not have asked for more. I even stopped in Aberdeen, Ohio at the Dairy Yum Yum and got a Boston Shake (chocolate shake in the bottom half of the glass, and a hot fudge Sundae on the top). I discovered this little known delicacy nine years ago upon taking a rather large, rambunctious group of middle school students to that part of the world to so some mission work. The church we stayed in was right down the street from the Dairy Yum Yum, and upon my discovery of Boston Shakes, my ranting and raving convinced one and all to make a daily Boston Shake apart of their ritual. Now, years later, after dreaming about one more Boston Shake but convinced I'd never be in Aberdeen again, I got one more shot (and about 11,000 calories) of glory.

Just goes to show, that as a child of the interstate, that I'm realizing that the whole two-lane highway thing has a charm all of its own. Particular on two-wheels (which are averaging 50 mpg), the experience of travel off the beaten path soothes the soul in a way very few other things can.

7. Upon arriving in Columbus I hooked up with a couple friends from college I hadn't seen in (I'm told) over ten years. Wayne Kintz, Steph Mills, and I caught up on what's been happening the last decade, laughed about old times, and talked about the need to get together with more of our old gang again soon. Our group of friends kind of found one another first semester of our freshman year, and never lost touch. As a matter of fact, Stephanie still sends out an updated "Gang List" where we get to see who had a kid, or who moved, or whatever over the last year. It's one of the things I look forward to seeing each Christmas. A great night catching up with old friends. I am a blessed man, indeed.

8. Our clergy session lasted all day Wednesday... I mean "all day". We had to be there early, and since apparently its time to do some sexual ethics training, we had to sit in a seminar on the subject for six hours, across the afternoon and into the evening. I understand the need for such things (for practical and legal reasons), but let me say this... I think if you attended a state university in the late 80's or early 90's, when Political Correctness rose up in full force on campuses across the country, you ought get some consideration for having received training in the past. I mean, back in the day, you could end up in front of the J-board at Miami is you were speaking disparaging of a member of the opposite gender in a private conversation overheard by someone else. You could get reprimanded as a guy if you held open a door for a woman. Papers not written in gender-inclusive language were immediately failed on the spot. To condone any sexist behavior was unthinkable, and frankly, the lessons have stuck with me. I was doing background checks on adults working with minors long before insurance companies required it as a part of a church's liability coverage. Thus, much (I'd say about 98%) of what was presented was just review. The two percent I'd never heard before related to brain imaging and neuro-pathway study that's been done on people while they were engaged in sexual activity (which was in and of itself, worth the price of admission). But if they had given us an exam before the presentation of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, or sexual misconduct, I'm sure I'd have passed. Such is the case thanks to Miami University. It seemed like a pain then, but to be honest, despite some of the stupidity that comes with PC thought and practice, it's probably saved me quite a bit more pain in the long run.

9. Today, my father-in-law donated the big metal butterfly sculpture that was in my late mother-in-law's "Butterfly Garden", to the Master Gardners of Allen County. The sculpture, as per Carol's wishes, will now become part of the "Children's Garden" located behind the Allen County Museum on West Market Street. She put hundreds and hundreds of hours into the children's garden, and I sense this sculpture will be a lasting testament to her efforts. Just another sad milestone that has had to have been made in our family since she passed away in January. I take comfort though, in knowing that every time now we go to the Children's Garden (which our boys love to visit), we can point out the butterfly, and in the midst of all those beautiful flowers, remember Carol's home garden, and her love.

10. And finally, if you are available Saturday morning from about 8:30am to Noon, we could use your help moving our stuff out of storage. I large and growing crowd will be assembling that morning, and we plan on feeding everyone before they go home. So if you don't have anything better to do, it'll be about as much fun as moving can be.... and, we promise, we'll hire someone to go get the grand piano so you don't have to. Just email me at if you can help, or would just like to come hang out with us. We'd love to have you.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Sorry to have disappeared on everyone. After a hectic weekend, a two-day trip to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee with our friends the Lairs, a lovely motorcycle ride to Columbus, and an evening with some old friends from college (Steph and Wayne), I've just not had time to make an update. But I promise a full "Ten Things..." tomorrow (either early if the Convention Center here in Columbus has wireless access, or late when I'm at my folks) with all that's been happening in last week.

Thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A Farewell to My Beeson Family

Last night we celebrated the end of our Beeson experience at a very nice closing banquet. I've wrestled with how to say "good-bye" to these people. Here's what I came up with...

(a bad poem written with good intentions)

Eleven months... TIME'S UP!

Time to go back into the real world.
Time to wrestle with budgets.
Time to massage egos.
Time to lead with an eye on the prize
and another on the grim faces of those
wondering if we know what we're doing.

Time to move to Oklahoma and Ohio.
Time to move to Texas and Tennessee.
Time to move to Alabama and Georgia.
Time to stay in Kentucky
and teach others that "servant leadership"
means taking the initiative to serve others.

Time to work in the attractional church.
Time to preach to moderns and post-moderns.
Time to do what's been done.
Time to wonder what is coming next
as the Holy Spirit continually renews
the hearts of God's children.

Time to leave the townhouses.
Time to leave the waterpark behind building #208.
Time to leave train whistles at 4am.
Time to leave one another's children
whose lives we have mutually invested in
and whose smiles we will miss.

Time to plant new churches.
Time to renew old churches.
Time to return home to our churches.
Time to faithfully lead from vision
while wearing our heart for our people
and our Savior on our sleeves.

Time to offer them the Gospel.
Time to add conditioner to tangled lives.
Time to call people to commitment.
Time to remember that a hand
that offers a Bible
better be coupled by another hand with a bowl of soup.

Time to laugh and cry
Time to uproot and be rooted
Time to this moment to die and the next to live
Time to remember these words of wisdom:
"Fear God and obey his commands
for this is the duty of every person."

Time to talk about graduations.
Time to talk about reunions.
Time to look forward to children grown.
Time to think about occasional phone calls,
emails, letters, visits, and questions that begin with
"Have you heard from...."

Time in this life is a cruel master.
Time will not relent, or forgive.
Time always demands more from us
Time will forget you,
but I never will.

I hope you make it where you're going,
and you know how much you've blessed me along the way
now and for all time.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Ten Things I Think I Think

1) Wow! What a worship service! Lots of laughter... lots of tears... just everything you'd expect, and more. I cannot think of a more fitting end to Joseph's tenure at Shawnee UMC than the celebration we had yesterday. Special thanks to everyone who participated and attended. I know that Joseph and Marty felt honored, and if you know Joseph, you'll know that he'll be talking about that service for days... months..... years! You can bet that he'll describe it as the best last service EVER, and he'll breathlessly re-tell everything that happened, punctuating each episode with "and you won't believe it when they did (fill in the blank)...". You can bet too, that the morning, as all things done in love and grace do, will grow in meaning in he and Marty's heart as the years go by. I don't know if I've ever felt more humbled. It was a truly glorious experience.

2) People are asking if now that Joseph has said "farewell" if we are now back in Beantown. Well, unfortunately, no. While Joe will no longer be in the office (as he's started some vacation before he begins his new work), Marty still needs to finish her school year (she teaches at Vantage Vocational School), thus we will not be taking possession of our home until May 25th. But even at that, we have a couple of minor obligations we need to fulfill here in Kentucky before we can leave. I have just a couple of things I need to do toward the completion of my degree, but the major obstacle we currently face is that the boys don't finish school until the end of the month. Thanks to a couple of "snow days" (if it even looks like it might snow down here, they cancel school) the school year has been extended to May 31st. So, here's the plan...

We will be coming home Memorial Day weekend, and on Saturday May 26th, we'll take our stuff out of storage (thank you Craig and Carol Montgomery for graciously supplying us with storage space the last eleven months) and move into our home. If you'd be willing to help us move in that morning, please email me at
so we can give you directions on all the details. We certainly would appreciate the help.

On Memorial Day, we'll head back to Wilmore so the boys can finish their last three days of school. Then on June 1st, we'll move out of our townhouse in Wilmore, and come home for good. I'm sure there will be many tears when we have to say final goodbyes to people that we have grown to love and admire.

Finally, on Sunday, June 3rd at either 9 or 11am come join us for what will amount to my worship services as Senior Pastor of Shawnee United Methodist Church and will be essentially my third "first Sunday" at Shawnee. A long strange trip that began in August of 1991 (v1.0) when I started as a part-part-part-part time youth director, was re-kindled again (v2.0) in 2004 when I returned as an associate pastor, and will culminate now in (v3.0) the next step in this leadership journey.

I can't think of a better church to keep coming back to!

Anyhow, hope to see you June 3rd. Until then, Charlotte will be holding down the fort (so be kind and gentle... she's worked especially hard the last year).

3) Am receiving significant blowback from friends and family who are mocking my choice of the Golden State Warriors in this the semi-final round of the Western Conference playoffs. If you remember my last column (The Basketball Judas), I tried (without much success) to make it clear that I was rooting for my beloved Jazz, but believed that the playoffs would end up being far more entertaining and unpredictable if Golden State could keep pushing forward. Anyhow, at this point, with the Jazz up 3-1 in the series, it's clear that with the re-emergence of Andre Kirlenko as a defensive stopper and the team being ignited by Derek Fisher's commitment not only to his sick daughter but also his teammates, its looking like the Jazz will be facing either the Spurs or the Suns (most likely the Spurs) in the Western Conference Finals.

And I'm fine with that... giddy even! Go Jazz!

4) In the (L)Eastern Conference, another team is starting to come together unexpectedly at the right time of year. When Mike Brown moved Larry Hughes to the point guard position, and inserted Sasha Pavlovic into the starting lineup, who could have predicted that the Cavs would rattle off an 11-1 record? Nobody really. Hughes isn't really point guard and Pavlovic has been up and down all season. But the change has somehow ignited Big Z and Drew Gooden. Coupled with Eric Snow handling his demotion from starting lineup with the grace you'd expect of a true professional, there is a real chance the Cavs could be playing in the Finals this year.

Jazz v. Cavs in the Finals? Could The Basketball Judas' dream match-up become reality? Could you imagine the reception Carlos Boozer would get in Cleveland after wagging them over three years ago? If I could spend an entire year, particularly this year, living next to a University of Florida grad who's from Indianapolis (two collegiate championships at the expense of my Buckeyes, a Super Bowl ring, and I even had to room with the guy when the best college team money could buy beat the Bucks for the NCAA basketball championship... insufferable) why not one little gleam of hope for this poor suffering sports fan? A guy can dream.

5) Great editorial today in the Lexington Herald by Richard Dawahare regarding the empty legacy and promises states have been left with in the aftermath of legalized casino gambling. One would expect, given all the promises that have been made regarding economic windfalls, that state governments relying on gaming revenue would be flush with cash while the tax burden on citizens would be minimized. However, three states - Illinois, Connecticut, and Rhode Island - despite gaming companies realizing ample gambling revenues all now sport state governments that are broke and tax burdens that are relatively high. I mean if millions in tax revenue are promised by mega-companies (or Native American tribes fronting mega-companies) promising the world, how much in disposable income do you think has to be spent in order to generate high rates of revenue on 4% of a return?

By locating a casino so closely to people's homes, all the gambling corporations do is create new markets, while local municipalities are left holding the bag. And unlike a place like Rising Sun, Indiana, where essentially the size of the population was minimal, it appears that in places that already experience significant social issues, that those issues are only compounded by casino gambling. I mean, are you any more excited to vacation in downtown Detroit or Gary, Indiana?

Given the sale of the refinery, the emergence of the energy industry as part of the new backbone of Lima's economy has created the first positive news in terms of the community's future in quite some time. Why add to it a "business" where it appears in virtually every place it is invited into the local mix, bankruptcies escalate?

6) Got too see both my buddy Paul Rebelo, and the post-punk band Ho-Ag in Chattanooga, Tennessee last week. Paul is confronting the challenges that face a growing downtown church with limited resources while Ho-Ag has been confronting a booking agent that didn't follow through with what they said they were doing. Both Pauly and band are doing well however. Was particularly gratified to see Paul's kids who are all growing like weeds. Just a great visit.

Also got to visit a bit with "The Clouse", a former fellow staff person of mine at Goshen First UMC over an afternoon last Friday. It was neat catching up on how the fam it doing, and where he's at in the ordination process (he's working on a MDiv at a seminary in Elkhart with the intent of becoming a UM-pastor). He's a good friend, who is also dearly missed.

7) Once again, thinking of "Ten Things" to think about is proving challenging. Since I'm typing this at a Panera Bread (where the Wi-Fi is free), I guess I'm thinking about good coffee. I think I'll get up and get a cup!

8) Speaking of coffee, I am stunned at how dependent the ol' stomach has become on Dean's Beans high-octane-yet-low-acidity java. I ran out of Dean's (oh Mocha Sumatra... where art thou?) a few weeks ago, and have been drinking cups of joe brewed from beans given to us for one reason or another. The upshot is that the coffee tastes fine, but since the blends I've been buying all year possess lower acidity content, my stomach is not reacting well to the change of product. Or maybe I'm just so ridiculously out-of-shape right now, that my body is rebelling. In any event, I'll be making a Dean's order as soon as we return home, as well as making some dietary changes (already occurred, hence my being here at Panera) and exercise (from "zero" to "more than zero"). A year's worth of sedentary living where I've done little more than read, write, think, and occasionally surf the digital waves has left me feeling bloated and lethargic. Time to raise the bar again on what goes inside the whole piehole, and how I use my time. Those who love me deserve better. Expect a regular feature on this blog on said subject by mid-June.

9) Speaking of changes, for those haven't heard, last Friday I added a 2001 Kawasaki Voyager XII to the Bucher Transit Authority's stable. It's a four-cylinder, 1200cc riding machine the runs as smoothly and effortlessly as a twig on the shoulders of a mighty stream. Haven't taken a picture yet (and can't figure out how to get pics off my cell phone onto my computer because I am older than 17 years of age), but here's what it looks like:

The coloring and features are pretty much all the same as the bike in this pic. It only had 5200 miles on the odometer and was owned by one of "those guys" who maintains everything and keeps his garage looking like a surgical center. So far I've been getting just a shade below 50mpg, and after a trip from Lima to Wilmore yesterday on I-75, I am beginning to get a sense of this bike's quirks and personality. The best part of the whole deal is that the seller through in four helmets, including a real police helmet he picked up at a garage sale. With it and black leather jacket, I look like Erik Estrada on milkshakes. I even had a clueless teenager ask me today what the speed limit was on Man of War Drive today (I told her 30 mph.... if you are that clueless, you should have to drive really slow). Anyhow, the bike is a blessing, enjoyed not only by me but by the boys (who like taking rides around the block). Another year of practice, and Aimee and I will make that trip to Toronto on it that I have been dreaming of.

10) Finally, say a prayer for Wade Broadwater. Wade, who is serving as a Marine in Iraq, hasn't been heard from by his family in awhile, and we've got him on the prayer chain at the church. If you could remember him in your time with God, I know they'd appreciate it. And while you are at it, pray for all our troops who are in harm's way this day. Pray that they might not only be delivered home safely, but for peace for all in this world so that mothers and fathers everywhere might be able to rest a little bit easier.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Basketball Judas

Woke up this morning to this text message from "The Official Brother of From Bryan's Office":

"Read blog. G-state? Judas!"

Why in the world would my own flesh and blood - the one who as a child I took to the arcade, movie theatre, and amusement park, the one who learned about Jesus as a child in my youth group, the one who learned how to ski at my knew and developed a love for the NBA because I took him to his first game - call me a Basketball Judas?

Well, he has good reason.

See, I think I could safely speak for Andy and I when I say that in the (L)Eastern Conference, our favorite team is the Cavs (me cause they've been my favorite team since I saw World B. Free light it up at the Richfield Coliseum back in the day, and he because he's been a fan since the post-Shawn-Kemp-pre-LeBron era) and in the Western Conference our favorite team is the Utah Jazz. Why Utah, you ask? Well, we have an aunt, my mom's sister, Beth, who ended up moving from Lima to Logan, Utah after meeting the guy who became our uncle, Dennis. Ever since then, the big family trip has been making the trek out to Utah to go visit the fam, and enjoy the recreational aspects of that part of the world.

Well, years ago, when Andy was but a lad, Aimee and I took him out to Utah to do a bit of skiing. One night, when we had nothing else to do, we discovered the Jazz were playing the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Delta Center, and decided to take a chance on finding some tickets on the cheap. Thus, Andy, Dennis, our cousin Jen, and I piled in the Riggs mobile and headed down to Salt Lake. Back in those days, virtually all the games at the Delta Center were sellouts (as the duo Stockton and Malone were rising in prominence, and there's nothing else to do at night in Salt Lake City) so we're out on the street talking to scalpers looking for a deal. Fortunately, that was Kevin Garnett's rookie season, and the T-Wolves could beat their way out of a wet paper bag, so we are able to get our tickets for face value.

And what tickets they were! Six rows up from the floor midway between the baseline and half-court. We were so close we could hear the players talking trash. I remember A) being surprised at how big the players (particularly Mark Eaton, who is 7'4") were, B) that John Stockton was actually taller than my dad (he looked smaller on TV... Stockton, that is), and that C) Antoine "The Big Dog" Carr could put up more shots per minute than any other basketball player alive. Anyhow, the Jazz won in a walk, and we had the time of our lives. I've been to a number of games in a variety of arenas since that one, but I've never had those kind of seats since. You just don't know how big and fast those guys are until you see them live and down on the floor. They are gifted freaks of nature.

Hence, our undying allegiance to the Jazz, even post Stockton-to-Malone, and even after Carlos Boozer messed over the blind owner of the Cleveland Cavs for a bigger contract out west. I mean if that doesn't kill your loyalty, nothing will.

Thus, you can imagine my brother's dismay when he saw that I was pulling for Golden State to win it all even though they are facing our beloved Utah Jazz. He misinterpreted that statement to mean that somehow I wasn't rooting for Utah, even though I'd like to see the Warriors keep going forward in the playoffs.


Well, it's like this... even as I sat at my computer last night and listened to the game (as per our act of spiritual discipline we as a family are going without cable during our sojourn here in Wilmore) I was rooting for the Jazz... but as far which team would make the playoffs more exciting to watch, you'd have to take the Warriors, hands down. They run and run and run. They let 3-pointers fly with no conscience. Every guy on the team can take it to the hole and dunk with ferocity. They gamble on defense and much like the crazy team at the YMCA that never loses but always seems about one more profanity from a major brawl, their behavior is totally unpredictable.

Do you think any member of the Jazz would lose their mind for a moment and randomly, say, take a bite out of a photographer's leg or flash some sort of obscene gesture at Commissioner David Stern, knowing they have to face Jerry Sloan on the bench? No way. Sloan is a classy guy who runs a class outfit, and takes no funny business off of anybody. He's like, 67, and still is still best fighter on that team. Don Nelson, on the other hand, during a game looks like he's wearing a pair of pants that don't fit quite right while deciding where he'll be going to dinner afterward. The team has no discipline, and could run off the rails at any moment.

It's like this: Some people watch NASCAR cause they like seeing guys turn continually turn right, and some people watch NASCAR for the wrecks. Of the eight people still watching the NHL, two watch it cause they like hockey, and the other six because of the fights. Some people watch football cause they like football, and others watch it to see a wicked hit.

So, basketball purest and true fan in me would love to see the Utah Jazz move on to the next round of the playoffs. There's no question about that. But for pure entertainment value, because they are fight or wreck waiting to happen.... who wouldn't want to see the Warriors keep playing? And if that makes me a Basketball Judas, then so be it.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Ten Things I Think I Think

1) I think, first and foremost, that it's kinda of amazing how you can look toward something happening in the future, or maybe multiple things happening the future, and then experiencing them happening..... all at once. Yesterday, standing in front of that long line of motorcycles, looking to my right, seeing Joseph standing in front of one cross blessing bikes, while I stood in front of another cross doing the same thing, it just kinda hit me that's all coming together. The job, the responsibility, what we are becoming as a family, the degree the future.... so many dreams are slowly becoming reality.

While I am approaching what is emerging, particularly the sense of what I'll now be responsible for, with some fear and trembling (although, a little fear can be a good thing), I have this sense that now, as far as the Kingdom of Heaven is concerned, this is my moment. The time God has said it's time to write my paragraph or two in the continuing story of the church. The infinitely short period in history where I'm supposed to help be a part of the Body of Christ's brain, and start whispering like Run DMC (or Aerosmith, if you prefer), "walk this way". This moment could have arrived anywhere, but whatever reason, call it fate or the fate I helped make cause I'm a homebody, or both, it's all coming together in Lima.

Shawnee UMC: The site of my "quan".

For those who don't know what "quan" is, well, you can be forgiven because it's not a real word. It's a word invented by Cameron Crowe when he wrote the movie, "Jerry Maguire". Quan is the culmination of all things you've been working towards for virtually all your life. It isn't just about money or work, but seeing what you tried to teach you kids lived out in their lives, moments in spiritual journeys that are realized, moments when you realize that vows made in a wedding service years have become manifested in your life. Societal respect (whatever form that looks like... people who are counter-cultural, for example, can wake up one day and realize that their's has been a life lived out on principles not established quo), spiritual maturity, material possessions, professional advancement... all of that and more, all rolled up into one.

That's what, I think, Crowe would define as "Quan".

How strange it is to wake up and realize that what you first set out to do, has been done. Not completely, but at least things are as done as they could be at that particular moment in time. It is terribly gratifying, and more than a little humbling.

That's where I'm at right now.

2) Just walked out of my dissertation proposal hearing, and contingent on making a few more small edits, my proposal was approved. Now I have two years to complete the research and dissertation. It was suggested that the material was informative enough that I should consider turning it into an article or two for the benefit of the church, which felt pretty good. Who prints that kind of article, I have no idea, but that folks could think that a few thoughts that I have on planned pastoral succession might be helpful to the greater church is a good indicator that what has been written was good, and will be useful. I'll get those edits done before we leave Wilmore the end of the month, and move on to completing the research.

3) We closed on our house Friday. Took one last walk-thru with Joseph to just get a sense of what work we'll want to do to the place upon taking possession. As far as any kind of maintenance, we'll have nothing for the foreseeable future to do. In the last three years, Joe put a new roof, new windows, new bathroom and kitchen fixtures, a/c and furnace, light fixtures, concrete work, landscaping, and much, much more into the place. We just want to knock out a couple of walls in the basement to put in a new rec room and maybe turn the kitchen/dining room area into one space (as the kitchen is tiny). Beyond that, we can't wait to start making Sandy Lane our family's home.

4) "The Official Brother of From Bryan's Office" graduated from law school Saturday, and the whole clan was there for the occasion. The boys were really well-behaved throughout the graduation ceremony because A) Max and Xavier were playing their Game Boys (with sound off) during its duration and B) Eli fell asleep. But, you know... after eight years as a parent with three kids, you take what you can get. Andy looked good in robe and mortar board. He only received a blank piece of paper (as did all the grads) because final grades still have not been tallied from the last semester.... but that's just a formality. The downside of law school graduation is that it provides little immediate relief from the grind of study, as now Andy must continue to log ridiculous hours in the law library getting ready for the Bar Exam. But at least no check will need to be written for tuition this summer and next fall... so I guess its gratifying in that sense. Anyhow, Andy will be in the throws of getting ready for the Bar until July, so "The Official Brother of From Bryan's Office" will still need my support, and occasional late-night phone calls about the NBA to keep his sane.

5) The eighth annual "Blessing of the Bikes" was held at Shawnee yesterday, and it was everything you'd expect it to be. Fun, crowded, and poignant. Among the regulars, there was a bit of a pall hanging over the day, as everyone realized that it was Joseph's last. Of course, this won't be case, really, as I expect to see Joe back in future "Blessings" in some form or capacity, but there was a palpable feeling that it was an end of an era. One of the pre-reqs for the job of Senior Pastor at Shawnee was that you not only needed to ride a motorcycle, but had to really enjoy it. It was never written or stated, but the "Blessing" has become so integral to the church's identity and it's reputation, that if you had half-a-brain you'd realize pretty quickly that you really didn't want to be the pastor who killed off this ministry. Fortunately, after a motorcycle class last year, the procurement of my license, and a summer riding Sue Dickerson's Honda Shadow (she's selling it, by the way... email me or call her if you're interested), I discovered that I enjoyed riding very much. So much so that very, very soon I'll be investing in my own ride (a 2001 Kawasaki Voyager XIII).

Note: Shawnee has be one of just a few churches in the country where you could legitimately write off buying a motorcycle as a business expense. How great is that?

Anyhow, while I'm still not all that experienced, and must listen to the howls of my parents who desperately want me to stay off two wheels and stay on four (because they love me), God has answered a prayer, I guess, in that I'll be able to relate to folks not just theoretically, but in actuality as I make treks of my own on the open road. One would think I would be too much of a wuss to actually enjoy being on the same road with eighteen-wheelers with nothing but my leather jacket and a pair of jeans between us, but I do.

So, the "Blessing", with the blessing of the senior pastor, continues...

6) Check out this good looking fellow:That man is Steve Wheeler, a friend from my college days. Steve and I met actually at freshman orientation. He was from San Jose, California, and didn't really know anybody (he came to Miami via the Navy ROTC program, which he ended up dropping out of, if I remember correctly, largely due to the math requirements.... social studies teachers generally aren't all that great at math) and I was from Ohio, and didn't know anybody (except for my roommate, Mike Cairns, who I had graduated with at Lima Senior). Low and behold, a couple of months later, Steve ended up living down the hall from me in 3-Central of Stanton Hall. He taught me how to drink coffee, and on the occasional holiday where he didn't have the funds to fly back to Northern California, he came home and celebrated with the Bucher family. Back in those days a good time was kicking back to watch Clint Eastwood in those Sergio Leone westerns, playing two-on-two football (The Toilet Bowl.... I think I'd die if I tried that now), or Steve waxing me at Frisbee Golf (he's from California... I think out there you aren't allowed to graduate from High School unless you can whip a frisbee two-hundred yards on a windy beach).

Years later, now Steve (who married his college sweetheart, Kristie - they now have three kids) is teaching middle School Social studies and English at Boca Christian School in Boca Raton, Florida (which is kinda scary, thinking that responsible adults would turn their kids over to him to be educated, but probably no more scary than rational adults coming to a church where I'm the senior pastor... so there you go). He also coaches their high school cross country teams, and imagine my surprise when I discovered, via their school website, that Steve's girl's team went to state, and there's a little multi-media video presentation. To see it click here.

Two favorite moments of the video: Steve stating that he loved as a cross country coach, turn kids from "slugs into studs", and him telling us that on the team's motto on their shirt this year is "Die Now... Cry Later" (I'm guessing the same guy who as a college student used to love our Cold War profs anti-communist rants and liked to play a game called "beefball" because it essentially consisted of two guys beating the crap out of one another, was the one who came up with that motto). Seeing him brought back lots of great memories, and plenty of laughs.

Ah, the internet..... will the new uses ever end?

Anyhow, I sent Steve an email via his campus email system. Haven't talked to him in years, and hope to catch up soon.

7) My pick to win the NBA Championship now that the First Round is complete? Well, the chic pick now that Dallas was thoroughly outplayed by Golden State is San Antonio. The experts all think the (L)Eastern Conference has no shot at all, although Detroit is looking pretty good and any team with a star that will get star treatment by the refs in the playoffs (i.e. Cleveland) always has a shot (like Miami last year, when fouls were called on defensive players that breathed wrong on Duane Wade). But, Cleveland doesn't have the necessary horses (the Larry Hughes and Damon Jones signings just haven't panned out), Detroit can't stop big men on the blocks without Big Ben (who is a Bull now), and Phoenix, while I love watching them play, can't play in a half-court game and win the game. I'm intrigued with Utah (if AK-47 keeps getting his act together, but, I'm going out on a limb here and I've decided to back Golden State as far as they can go. Why? Well, they're peaking at the right time, the team is fearless (kind of like that team at your local YMCA who almost never sits down because the guys on it are just meaner and more competitive than anyone else), and they've got one of the three craziest guys in the league in Stephen Jackson so there's always a chance he'll break the leg of his opponent's best player while taking the chunk out of the ear of their second-best player. Gotta love the NBA... it's FAAAANNNNNN-TASTIC!

8) Bad thing about thinking ten things is that sometimes you can't really think of more than seven.

9) Been listening to Avril Lavigne's new album on my Yahoo Music Jukebox. I don't want to call the lyrics "dumb" and describe the music as "21st Century bubblegum", but if the shoe fits... makes me glad I grew up in the eighties when we listened to intelligent, well-composed songs like "I Wear My Sunglasses At Night", "Nothin But A Good Time", and (a personal favorite) "Da Da Da", which was made famous by this commercial for the VW Golf:

It just goes to show that as far as pop culture goes, brainless music targeted at teenagers will probably always be made, and while the subject of the lyrics might be a little bluer at some times than others, or the looks of the artist are far more captivating than their musical ability, kids will always be willing pony up some cash for their piece pre-packaged angst and rebellion.

10) And finally, one last trip to Shawnee as an associate pastor this Sunday, as we celebrate Joseph's last service as the Grand Pubah. Considering that the year before he arrived, the church wrote fourteen letters asking for money, and still couldn't pay their apportionments or thought they could keep their associate pastor (the great Barry Burns), the turnaround he's done at the place over the last seventeen years has been remarkable. Considering if the church hadn't gone out on a limb and hired a young punk youth director with $4000 it didn't have, I'd probably be talking about by law practice right now instead of ministry stuff.

So Kudos to you, sir, as you kicked upstairs by the Bishop himself to become a District Superintendent, working out of Chilicothe Ohio. Godspeed to both he and Marty as they continue to be used by God in the emergence of his Kingdom. Join us for our only service this Sunday morning at 10:30am as we send him off, if not in style, with love and affection.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Our Upcoming Schedule and a Few Thoughts

Well, two final papers, one sermon, 1700 miles of driving, two nights in a HoJo's, nine interviews, and three finished chapters of a dissertation later, there appears to be a little light at the end of what was a dreary, long tunnel. I don't believe I've ever encountered a more demanding month than April in my life. Between all the assignments due, trips to Korea, California, Arizona, and Connecticut, a dissertation that never seemed quite right or finished, and just everyday life, it was a killer thirty-days. Now I've a couple days of respite before we start looking toward moving back to Lima, and actually working for a living again (as opposed to living on the Beeson Center dole to read books and travel around the world). I'm using this time to hang out with the boys and stay up late to watch the NBA playoffs, and Aimee, right now, today, is using this time to not be in the same place with the three boys she has largely been single parenting for the last month. She's taking a day to run some errands, get a new cell phone (hers is in pieces), eat food she doesn't have to share, and maybe get a massage. That's what she wanted: a whole day alone!

Her wish is my command.

Anyhow, the thing about the future is that it's always becoming the present, no matter whether you want it to, or not. So, here's what we're looking at as a schedule for the next month:

Friday, May 4th
We'll be in Lima to close on our new house. For those who haven't heard, we bought (well, the bank mostly bought actually) the Bishman's home (and former SUMC parsonage) on Sandy Lane. Joe and Marty made us a pretty good offer which we decided to accept. They've done a ton of work on the home, and given that I'm about as handy as a foot, the prospect of not having to do things like replace windows, a roof, furnaces, and the like, appealed greatly. Not mention, we think Sandy Lane is one of the best neighborhoods where you could raise boys, so we're looking forward to the move.

Saturday, May 5th
On this morning, my little brother will be graduating from the Law School at the University of Toledo. Our family, of course, wouldn't miss it. I don't know what kind of lawyer UT's school has made my brother, but it sure did teach him a whole new work ethic and sense of organization. Given that foundation, a budding love for the law, and his time clerking in the Lucas County Public Defender's office, I sense he's off to a great start on his career. Of course he's still got the Bar Exam to contend with, but about that, I worry not. My brother will ace that puppy. Now, hopefully, when he starts working for his father-in-law this year he'll be too busy to put together a decent NBA fantasy league team... and I'll steal next year's title. A guy can dream...

Sunday, May 6th
Shawnee's annual "Blessing of the Bikes" will be in full swing, and it should be a bittersweet kind of morning. It'll be sweet in that hundreds of bikes will in our parking lot, carrying with them dreams of the open road. It'll be a little sad, however, in that it'll be Joseph's good-bye to a community that didn't exist at our church before he arrived. I'll be there that day complete with a motorcycle endorsement on my license, and no motorcycle. I'd own one, but Aimee said something about us not having enough funds to buy both a house and a motorcycle right now, and she refused to live on a motorcycle... so there you go. Some people are just selfish. But I'll find a way to procure a permanent iron steed before the summer is out... I mean, they're always buying plasma!

Monday, May 7th
Say a little prayer at 9am on this day, as I'll be entering room BC-149 for my dissertation proposal hearing. This is the meeting which determines whether or not the study I want to do is a) worthy of academic study and b) well thought out enough to be of any value. I'm not worried about the worthiness of the study, as my bishop requested that I study this topic. That alone should settle the question as to whether or not it would be of any value in the church world. It's the "well thought out" part that's got me a little spooked. After initial negative feedback on my first try at my methodology (a fancy word meaning the systematic plan I have crafted to complete this study) on the part of my mentors, I basically re-wrote it in its entirety Sunday and Monday. Initial response on the part of those in the know has been positive, but we'll know more by Monday afternoon.

Wednesday, May 9th

My favorite post-punk art/math punk band, Ho-Ag, will be playing at Cafe MiAroma in Chattanooga, Tennessee for one night only! If you're wondering how many other post-punk bands I follow, the answer is zero. I just dig Ho-Ag because two of the current members, Matt Parish and Tyler Derryberry, are former youth group-ites from back in the day at Shawnee. These guys have always written weird, somewhat inaccessible music even back when they were in middle school. The cool think about them now is that they never compromised the type and kind of music they wanted to make, and slowly but surely their audience has come to them. Not mention the fact that I can remember the day neither one of them could play a guitar chord, and now they have become truly gifted musicians. Anyhow, much like dark coffee, I have acquired a taste for Ho-Ag, and look forward to hearing them again.

The other very cool part about this show is that Cafe MiAroma is located in the former Fellowship Hall of the First Christian Church of Chattanooga, which is pastored by good friend, Paul Rebelo. Gotta say that I, indirectly, was responsible for this serendipitous meeting of peoples, in that upon looking at Ho-Ag's tour schedule, I emailed various parties to let them know that a) there was a great venue that booked bands like Ho-Ag in Chattanooga and b) that Ho-Ag might be available for a show. Of course, I won't see dollar one for my efforts, but hopefully I can score a discount on a Ho-Ag T-Shirt and a free mocha at the coffee bar.

Anyhow, I haven't seen Pauly and his family since I preached his installation service two years ago. I look forward to see the Rebelo kids (my how I'm sure they've grown), his lovely wife Christine (who, after twelve years married to Pauly, qualifies for sainthood), and of course, one of the few people in this world who not only gets what I do for a living but has been there every step of the way since virtually the beginning of seminary. Paul and I talk at least once every, or every other, week, and have so since we graduated from seminary in 1995. We made the decision to do this after hearing Bishop Reuben Job suggesting that you should as a seminarian find someone, before you become a pastor, you can talk to that doesn't live in your community or go to your church, but still understands ministry. Since then, Pauly and I have walked through all the changes in our family (seven kids between the two of us), eight moves, one change of denominational affiliation, lots of hard times, and lots of laughs. I can't wait to see him, and though I say it every time, we gotta not let so much time go between visits in the future.

Pauly - Thaw out some Portuguese sausage and and dust off the Tecmo Bowl... I'll see you next week!

Sunday, May 13th
Joseph's last Sunday at Shawnee at the Big Kahuna. I'm sure we'll share lots of laughs and tears. Of course, we wont' say "good-bye", but rather, "see you later"... in this life, and in the next.

The cool thing about being a United Methodist pastor is that when you go through a change like this one, you know it won't be long until you see your friend again. Twice a year, at Annual Conference and at our annual Clergy Session, I'll be able to give Joe a hug, and see pictures of the grandkids. To some degree, since he's always been a mentor, he will continue to be, I'm sure, a source of encouragement and wisdom. In any extent, in a lot of ways, Joe has been ministry-wise like a dad (or maybe sometimes a crazy uncle) to me. And I'd be crazy to let that go.

Tuesday, May 15th
For all intensive purposes, the Beeson Pastoral experience ends with our end of year Banquet. In what will be another series of "see you laters" my eleven com padres will be going their separate ways, to live life once again in the grace of Jesus' ministry. Three of them will be moving to Houston, two to various parts of Alabama, one to Georgia, one to Oklahoma, two to Tennessee, one will stay here in Wilmore to work at the Beeson Center, and two of us will make the trek to Ohio. I'd like to say we'll all see one another again, together, in one place, in this life, but reality is that the chances of this are probably pretty long. Life gets busy. People get pulled into different directions. It just becomes more and more difficult to stay connected to people who, at one time, were folks you saw everyday. That's the nature of life.

But as for my eleven fellow BP's: Kent, Alicia, Matt, Aaron, Jason, Scott, Gordon, Travis, Jim, Trav, and Nolan... well, they'll never be far away from me. I count it as the greatest privilege to have been invited to make this journey them. And as much as I learned from Bono in Chicago, a bunch of charismatics on a warm fall day in London, a group of monks in Kentucky, some of the nation's most important pastors in Houston, a very wise bishop in Seoul, and a slew of professors and presenters (not the least being Father Cantalamessa, Richard Foster, Brian McLaren, Steve Chalke, Ben Witherington III, Jerry Walls, and in what was personally the most fascinating presentation of the year, Sandy Richter's take on the historicity of the Old Testament) in the Beeson Center.... all of that paled in comparison to what my friends have taught me. We have had a moment in time that can never be recaptured, and it's that the moment is partially mine that I celebrate now.

(Hey, those aren't tears... it's just a little dusty in here.)

Monday, May 21st
The Bucher's take possession of our new home. I'm guessing Joseph won't have kept up with the lawn work, so I'll be there, breaking out the lawn tractor and tearing out the walls in the basement (to convert it from three smallish bedrooms, to one large rec room). All this to prepare for our moving our stuff out of storage and into the house on Saturday, May 26th. If you're available to help us out that morning, lunch will be on us!

Friday, June 1st
School will be out, so we'll load up the U-Haul and leave Wilmore for good. Sad, and not sad, all at the same time.

Sunday, June 3rd
The culmination of the end of a long, long journey. Probably for five years now I've flirted with the idea of succession. Initially at Goshen First, my former Senior Pastor, Dick Lyndon, dreamed about us switching places - me becoming Senior Pastor and he becoming an associate. That way he could plant more "Life Centers" while golfing more, while I took on the weekly routine of preaching and leading. It was something he talked about quite often after the idea was suggested by Lyle Schaller, a church consultant we heard speak at a conference in Indianapolis. An unresponsive bishop, and (I'm guessing, for a variety of reasons) a more than divided congregation stood in the way of that dream, and when Dick died unexpectedly in early 2004, it all but died with him.

But, I'm not sure why.... maybe it came out of the conversations Joe and I had about what was going on at Goshen, or maybe it was the conversations Dick and Bishop Ough were having about better ways to appoint pastors at local churches, but the dream that began in northern Indiana found it's legs in Northwest Ohio. And while there have been many moments these past three years where I wondered if really, it would ever become reality..... the day is quickly approaching that this which I first discussed in a Texas Roadhouse in suburban Indy, will finally find its day.

Who knows, really, if it will end up working out for the best for the church, the conference, and our family. Those kinds of predictions are hard to make. All I know is that I've kept telling God that the whole crazy scheme was just too hard for me to pull off, and he said, "Good. That means you'll have to depend on me, every step of the way."

Gotta say... my life has been a whole lot better since I took that advice.

That being said, it's good to be back! If I can't get in another post before then, see you next Monday with next week's new "Ten Things I Think I Think". Until then, be good.