Monday, August 20, 2007

Ten Things I Think I Think (plus 2)

1) Sorry for "Ten Things..." being posted in so unpredictably. I've just been working hard to get a whole bunch of new things off the ground. Between the youth ministry position, re-grouping the Centrum Stage Design Team, working with a fledgling new drama team, and planning every stinking service from August to next February (among all the other regular things a pastor does like weddings, funerals, visitation, writing sermons, and the like) I've just been struggling to keep up.... so something had to give. Anyhow, I'll try to get back on a schedule. Thanks for your patience.

2) What could be stranger in the pop music world right now than an artist having a top ten song about refusing to go to rehab when asked, while she is, in fact, in rehab right now? Nothing I can think of. I'm just glad that Amy Winehouse finally said "yes, yes, yes" to treatment cause it sounds like she's falling apart. Not to mention I dig her throwback Motown sound. Here's the video if you have no idea what I'm talking about:

I'm just sorry that the song is apparently written from personal experience. They say pain is fertile ground for creativity.... let's hope whatever Amy's pain is, that it will ease with time.

3) If you didn't know, or don't remember, for the entire year we lived in Wilmore, we didn't have cable. It was something I had talked about doing for a number of years, and since money was tight, o6-07 seemed like a good time to give her a whirl. Well, what I learned from that experience is that living without cable, while noble, ain't for me. I mean, I'm glad I did it, but mostly because I DID it. It's done. Kaput. Never, I think, ever to be done again.

And why would I, when there's quality TV on like "Ice Road Truckers", on the History Channel.

What could beat spending an hour listening to truckers cuss like sailors as you wait and see whether or not their rig will either go through the ice, get stuck in a white out, or meet some other grizzly ending? My wife thinks I'm crazy, but I think the show is great. Hard to believe people would go to such trouble and expense to keep a few diamond mines open, but then again, with the demand for "bling" being what it is, I'm sure it's more than lucrative. Anyhow, this is one of my two top shows of the summer.

4) The other show is one on VH1 called "Scott Baio is 45 Single". Another reality show, it's a fascinating look at Scott Baio, (for those who don't know) an actor whose popularity peaked more than 20 years ago and is probably even more well-known for being one of Hollywood's leading ladies men. It doesn't take to long to figure out that now, deep into middle age, Baio's life is now a parody of itself. The entourage he's run around with for years (which includes Jason Hervey, who was the older brother on The Wonder Years) is finally (save one guy, who is in his mid 50's and still glomming off Baio's waning popularity to bed women) growing up. Having run around the Hollywood scene for so long, Baio just looks perpetually shell-shocked. It's like he's seen so much debauchery that he's desensitized to anything and everything that would be shocking to those of us in the regular world, and (on the flip side) shocked by that which most others would consider "normal" (namely, settling down, being monogamous, and having kids). To watch him grapple with the possibility of settling down with one woman and having a family is watching man go through a well-edited midlife crisis. And yet as he struggles to recognize the pain he's cause others (mainly women), and figure out why he's terrified of commitment, I'm fascinated by watching the person cope with what it means to finally admit they need to grow up, and move on. It's a living sermon illustration, both in terms of an example of redemption, and also a cautionary tale. If my parishoner's threshold for acceptable entertainment was as low as mine, I'd write a sermon series around this show (using Samson as the parallel).

Did I mention how much I like having cable?

5) If you didn't catch this post and this post from last week, I spent about a total of 27 hours in New York City last Thursday and Friday. The purpose was to meet with some folks at the UMC General Board of Global Ministry office to talk about UMCOR's (the United Methodist Committee On Relief) future plans for its involvement in Haiti, and how Shawnee UMC might be able to assist. I mentioned in the last post that while the meeting wasn't as productive as I hoped, the trip in and of itself was worth it if only cause I got to spend some time with Sam Dixon, the General Secretary of UMCOR. Outside of the stuff I learned about UMCOR and Haiti, after a shared car ride, and a few hours talking in Delta's Crown Club at LaGuardia Airport, I learned a lot of interesting things about the "relief industry" (Sam's words), which include:

- Denomination with the biggest relief organization in the world? If you said Roman Catholic, you'd be wrong. Apparently the Lutherans (ECLA) are the big player on the block, active everywhere in the world (who knew), largely financed not only by their congregations, but also sizable investments and their insurance wing (of which Aimee and I are participants... her family was Lutheran).

- The people working in the Women's Division office across the hall from the GBGM offices aren't the warmest or friendliest people in the world, particularly if you are a man. Given my experience with them while in conference ministry (many moons ago as the IGRAC rep to COSROW), I can't say I'm surprised. It was like being Wells Hall's Associated Womyn's Services rep all over again.

- Because relief agencies are being increasingly regulated all over the world, and also because the UN coordinates much of the relief effort in war torn places, relief organizations are hiring a lot of former British military personnel because they understand how to work in the UN's multi-layered command structure structure. Who knew?

- UMCOR has changed its focus. It used to be that it provided emergency relief in disaster situations with the immediacy of a Red Cross. But three or four years ago, it began, instead, to be part of the follow-up rebuilding process. That takes place after other agencies make an initial response. The reason for this is that in the "relief industry", a few organizations have carved out a niche around addressing issues over the first thirty days of a disaster.

- Total amount the United Methodist Church collects in one year? About $6 Billion, with the vast majority of the total going toward work in the local church.

- All of the major denominations in the world now cooperate together through an organization founded for that purpose in Geneva, Switzerland. Thus, while we might be struggling to work together ecumenically in our communities, in terms of serving the world's poor we are apparently much further along. That helps me sleep a little bit better.

6) We did some drama as a part of last week's service. It's was a blatant ripoff of the old TV sitcom, "Home Improvement". A lot of people after the service wanted to know who was playing the title character (the "Tim the Tool Man" character, who we named "Jim"), as they'd never seen him around these part before. Well, when we first had this idea to do seven weeks of running drama with this current sermon series, "Jesus In The Suburbs", I knew that from a drama perspective we'd need someone really good to pull of "Jim". Someone who really knew something about acting, and in particular, comedy.

Enter Jon Hodges. Aimee and I have known Jon since high school. Ever since he played a role in one of Miss Longbrake's plays at Lima Senior back in the day, he's had the acting bug. Now, here in the Lima area, you'll see him in any number of local productions produced either at the Encore Theater or in other ventures of community theater (most recently in the Playfair production of "The Alligator Boy" which ran at the Civic Center the past two weekends). A lifelong United Methodist, Jon is on loan to us for a month from Westside United Methodist Church, where he is a faithful member. If you didn't see him at last week's service, he, and our very own Paul Clemans (who played "Spalding") were great. Don't miss them in the coming weeks.

7) As a quick note, if you liked this past week's sermon, it, and this series, were inspired by two books I read this past spring: "Death by Suburb" by David Goetz and "Plastic Jesus" by Eric Sandras. For anyone who feels like the established church is just kind of "hollow", I'd encourage them to pick up either title. Both books, I think, pinpoint the kind of lackluster-don't-offend-anybody-health-and-wealth theology that's now running rampant in our nation's mega-churches. All of the preachers (and now the author of "The Secret") out there telling people that God wants them to be rich I think have kind of missed the point of a gospel preached by a man who owned almost nothing and called us to pour out our lives on behalf of others. Anyhow, both books are good reads if you are interested in looking beyond this series to more personal study. I'll also be reading "Jesus of Suburbia: Have we tamed the Son of God to fit our lifestyle?" very soon.

8) In a strange twist of fate, Mayor David Berger will be advising the City Council before tonight's third and final reading of the Inter-Governmental Agreement between Lima and the Eastern Shawnee to NOT vote for the agreement and the subsequent posting of it on the ballot this coming fall. The city, which spent $15,000 to hire a lawyer with extensive experience dealing with Indian tribes to check out the agreement that it's attorneys had hammered out with the Eastern Shawnee, found out that IGA didn't turn out to be all that great. Now, the two sides are back at the table, and the Eastern Shawnee are balking at fixing a number of loose ends in the current pact that could be possibility exploited at the gain of the Tribe and their corporate financial backers.

What a surprise.

This isn't the last we've heard of this, I'm sure, but if doing a little homework on this agreement turned out to be so eye-opening that the Mayor would one-eighty on something only a week ago he was pushing City Council to pass without reading a final agreement, how much more valuable would an economic impact study NOT commissioned by the Tribe be to helping local officials and voters decide whether or not this really is a good thing for the community?

9) If it rains anymore today, I'm going to start building an ark. We are approaching 3 inches of rain for the day, and still counting. My dog had to swim out into our backyard to use the bathroom this morning. It's really coming down hard.

10) Finally (if you think this takes a long time to read, you ought to try writing it), I've got four of the church visits I need to do for my dissertation tentatively set up. In the coming months, I'll be at the Downtown Baptist Church (Alexandria, Virginia), Indian River United Methodist Church (Indian River, Florida), St. Luke Community United Methodist Church (or as the locals call it, "The Luke", in Dallas, Texas), and Fairhaven Church (Fairborn, Ohio). I could also too be visiting Mt. Pisgah UMC in Atlanta, but I'll have to wait and see on that one. Just letting my Beeson brothers and sister know that if we don't get that free trip to Israel for all be done with our work by May 2009, that it won't be because of me.....

so get crackin' you Beeson slackers!

Just kidding. I miss you guys.

+1) Just read the pending deal that Michael Vick will agree to in regard to the charges he's facing thanks to be being involved in dog-fighting. What in the name of all that's holy was Vick thinking? Is dog-fighting so lucrative that a $130 million dollar contract to play football worth risking? And who gets their thrills watching two dogs fight to the death? Turns my stomach just thinking about it.

+2) A couple of weeks ago, a fellow Beeson pastor, Nolan Donald sent me this news article link and another related link. The articles refer to Southwestern Baptist Seminary's new program where women can take classes toward earning a certificate in becoming (I am not making this up) a Certified Christian Housewife. You too can take classes in doing laundry, sewing, screening content to be watched by your kids, cooking, and even a class in what it means to be the wife of a purpose-driven pastor.

Um..... yeah.

I like this excerpt from the USA Today article:

Seminary officials say the main focus of the courses is on hospitality in the home — teaching women interior design as well as how to sew and cook. Women also study children's spiritual, physical and emotional development. Yet the program is raising eyebrows among some Southern Baptists, who say a degree concentration in how to be a Christian housewife is not useful, and a waste of seminary resources.

I just can't believe this is for real. That's what makes it so strange... this is really for real.

Call me a liberal hippy, but I'm guessing that in 50 years when someone looks back at SBS' academic catalogue there will be more than a little bit of cringing. Kind of like the way the Catholic church now regrets telling Galileo he was a heretic for believing that the earth revolved around the sun.

Anyhow, I've got to go. Tongiht I'm cooking dinner while destroying gender stereotyping. We'll be having mac and cheese with a side-dish of mutual respect and dignity. I'll let you know how it turns out.


Anonymous said...

I'm stoked that "Plastic Jesus" has been helpful for your current sermon series! I'd love to hear some of your preaching. Do you have anything on line? I applaud your willingness to challenge people to get out of there comfort zones and love Christ deeper and further. I know I'm still trying grow...
-Eric Sandras

ElleBee said...! As a fellow MU alum, your #5 comments take me back! I remember the President of the Association for Womyn Students commenting during my freshMAN year that the University should eliminate the term and go with "first year student". I wrote a letter to the editor of The Student saying that as a female, I was offended by her comments and I was still a freshMAN. A bit overboard, if you ask me! :)