Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Ten Things I Think I Think

1) It is getting to be tremendously busy right now. Sermon preps, counseling, making contacts, dissertation writing.... and all of that needs to come second to family stuff. It's just plain nuts. Never knew life could be so insane.

Someone asked if I was busier now that I was the senior pastor as opposed to the associate pastor. The answer is "yes". Am just glad I have a semi-understanding wife (who only wants to kill me about 40% of the time) and kids who don't take "no" for an answer when I'm at home. They keep me grounded.

2) Right now my wife is telling me that I should write a post about how wonderful she is, and how she is the best thing that ever happened to me in my life. She also says I need to write about how much joy she brings me and how my life would be incomplete without her. And it's all true.

(She's standing next me, dictating this post... anything else dear?)

She's also exceedingly modest and humble. There, all done.

3) A couple of days ago, Aimee caught her shirt on fire while reading a book to Elijah. She was out in the kitchen and was leaning up against our natural gas stove, when the polyester blouse she was wearing starting to go up in flames. I was out in the garage getting myself a root beer when I heard these screams emanating out of the kitchen.

Have you ever heard your wife yell out the words, "I'm on fire!", repeatedly, as she hurls herself into the kitchen sink? Well, if you do, standing there in a state of shock, just staring in disbelief isn't the best response. Trust me.

Fortunately, outside of a nasty burn on her back, and a few smaller burns on her hands, she's doing fine. Xavier, fresh off of his summer stint at Safety City, informed her that she should have "stopped, dropped, and rolled". I don't think he knew how close he was to bodily danger, but fortunately her sense of obligation as a mother saved him. We're just glad she's OK.

4) If you live in Shawnee and want to eat in a restaurant full of people you either know or recognize, then "Shawnee School Night" at Happy Daz is the place for you. I don't know what percentage of sales goes to the respective PTC's of the schools, but I suspect it doesn't matter. No other restaurant in the city is as busy on a Tuesday night. If I owned a restaurant I be all over a "Shawnee Night" like white on rice.

5) My friend Mandie, who is a student at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, recently was in a car accident that left her with a very badly broken leg. The budding scholar and prospective pastor is now laid up at home, not allowed to drive, hopped up on happy pills to deal with the pain, while teaching herself to play the guitar. Seems she heard that John Mayer taught himself to play guitar while nursing a broken leg, and I guess the stories I've told her about the pastorate have convinced her that maybe it'd be a good idea to come up with a secondary plan. That's fine with me, as long as she writes a song on her third or fourth album that comes from an idea I had so that I have to be named as the co-songwriter. That way I can get a piece of the publishing action (can't just give this stuff away... we've got kids we need to put through college). Here are three possible song titles:

- "Whatever Happened to Sin, Hippy Pastor?": Written from the point of view of a frustrated parishioner in a mainline denominational congregation who can't take another sermon about how much God loves us and just longs to hear a good ol' fashioned fire and brimstone message.

- "You Can't Steal My Daydreams": Written from the the point of view of a pastor who, in moments of great despair and depression, fantasizes about leaving the ministry to drive a truck that delivers fuel to area gas stations. Could include the classic line you "You stole my dreams, but you can't steal my daydreams" (what can I say... I have a vivid imagination and a flair for mournful country/folk songs).

- "Prayer In The Pew": A song about a woman who prays each and every day, including in the pew on Sunday for her husband and children. The songs follows her lifetime of devotion when her family finds her prayer journal after she dies. Each family member find out what she was praying specifically for in their case and how those prayers actually ended up getting answered in their lives. (Tell me that wouldn't make you cry and fill you with hope?)

Anyhow, get well Mandie, and may your F#minors be few.

6) Read Ronald Lederman's Sunday editorial in the Lima News, which cites how great the casinos now operating in downtown Detroit have been for the local economy, while not contributing to a uptick in crime. Lederman cites crime statistics which either remain unchanged, move slightly up, or down as proof that casinos don't create more social problems, while also citing the millions of tax dollars the city of Detroit has raked over the last two years. He also makes it a point to mock the idea (as suggested by various pastors and councilman speaking against the casino) that "trusting God" would somehow turn the city around, stating that this is what the community has been doing since the 70's. Lederman openly mocked the suggestion, stating...

Those of us who believe in taking action to make change just must be too impatient. Relax. We’re on that 40-year plan God uses. Why get a casino when another decade or so will bring divine intervention?

Of course, then today I read in my latest Time Magazine that the city of Detroit in 2007 is seeing an increase of 11% in its foreclosure rate over the previous year, which was, as the author indicated:

In metropolitan Detroit, the 11% drop in home prices over the past year was just one more sign of a local economy in decline thanks to the troubles of the auto industry.

Just another indicator that no matter how you spin the numbers, the reality is casinos don't turn around economies in depressed areas. They simply re-direct discretionary spending, leading to job shifts from existing service industry in the community (restaurants, hotels, recreation facilities, etc...), while either not stemming the tide of poverty and all that comes with it. Also, while violent crime may not be up in Detroit (which might also be a function of the rapidly declining population that is moving elsewhere looking for work), we have no idea how gambling addiction has attributed the increase in foreclosures. That would be an interesting study, indeed.

If we were going to "trust God" as a community, as Lederman sarcastically states, doing so I believe would mean using the creativity, gifts, and graces we have been endowed, with great self-discipline and integrity to seek opportunities to compete in the global marketplace. We'd find ways to capitalize on assets (like a booming health care system and state of the art facilities), resources (abundant land, water, and proximity to huge markets), and our people (who are a willing labor force) to create an environment conducive to economic entrepreneurship. More importantly, we would socially treat one another the way we'd like to be treated, striving to make each person feel respected, so that poor, rich, or in-between, lives would be lived honestly and forthrightly. People would go out of their way to sacrifice for one another, so that mutually our community would possess a spirit not found in many places on the face of this earth.

We would trust God would provide, but would live in such a way that exhibited our belief that God was right to put his trust in us. That'd be God's plan. I'm convinced it would work and it would work far better than trying to cut corners by offering folks a chance to win a few bucks at a slot machine.

End of sermon.

7) Not more than a couple years ago when Notre Dame gave Charlie Weis a ginormous contract extension, in this very blog I predicted that within a couple of years Irish alums would be calling for his head. Why? Well, first and foremost, Irish fans are the most unreasonable and unrealistic fans in all of sport. They long for a yesteryear where best and brightest that Catholic families had to offer would dream of attending a school nestled in the bosom of Middle America, playing for God, Country, and Notre Dame.

Ah, but if only these days, were those days....

Now Irish fans must wake up and realize they live in an age where South Bend is just another cold, mid-sized midwestern city, fighting for blue chip football players who could instead sun themselves in places like Los Angeles, Miami, and Gainesville or attend state schools willing to make far greater exceptions to enroll marginal students who can throw, run, or catch a football.

That, and coaching defense doesn't seem to be a skill Charlie Weis can master.

Anyhow, now my prophecy has come true. Alums across the country are flustered and angry at the lack of progress they are seeing the program making, and largely because the expectations they have are unreasonable. Most folks think ND will stick with him cause he's their boy, but believe me when I say that if they miss a bowl this year (which at 0-3 is a real possibility) that a slow beginning next year will buy Charlie a one-way ticket out of Northern Indiana, and the faithful pining for Urban Meyer or Nick Saban. That's just the way things are working there now.

And, quite frankly, the day has come for Notre Dame to fess up and think about joining a conference. You can see that if ND football keeps spiraling downward, there'll be no way the BCS will give the Irish the free pass it gets now (by making them BCS bowl eligible with just 9 wins) just because of their national following. As the mid-majors get better, the major conferences stronger, and America longs to see the best do their thing, at some point, ND's free ride will be over, and no schedule manipulation (like, say, playing all three service academies and a couple of MAC schools each year) will save them. If they were smart, they'd join the Big East (which is even weaker, top to bottom, than the Big Ten) where they'd have a legit chance to be competitive immediately and would receive increased exposure insuring that they'd continue to be a major player in recruiting kids all along the east coast.

All good things come to an end.... the bell tolls for thee, ND.

8) Am reading the book, "I Sold My Soul On Ebay: Viewing Faith Through An Athiest's Eyes" by Hemant Mehta, an Indian-American who abandoned his family's Jainist faith at the age of 14.

It's a book written by a guy who maintains a website you can find on your own if you want to (I'm sure a good many people would find much of what he publishes offensive) dedicated to pretty much to exposing how ridiculous conservative Christians look. But the book itself is a fascinating look at what happens when a young, 22-year old atheist decides to begin attending church, and then write about what he sees.

One of the more interesting tales he tells is how very early on, Kirk Cameron (he of "Growing Pains" fame, who now espouses a very, very conservative faith and stars in the "Left Behind" movies)
Very early on, Cameron, who at the time hosted a radio program (and might still... I don't know), called Hemant to do an interview with him on his show. Hemant expresses in the book Cameron's unwillingness to talk about Hemant's work at the time (which was going to churches, and writing as an atheist what we experienced), and willingness to mock the author while repeated telling him that he was going to Hell. Thus begins Hemant's journey into discovering Christian America, much of which he shows great appreciation for (it is refreshing to hear an atheist say that the most influential and effective means of making people ethical and moral is through the teaching of religious faith), but you also get to read about his growing disillusionment with conservative evangelical Christianity, which he believes treats people of no Christian faith as the enemy, as opposed to someone Jesus calls us to love. Good stuff.

9) Was in Warsaw and Alexandria, Virginia last week doing research for my dissertation. The focus was the effects of a pastoral transition at the Downtown Baptist Church, which is the least Southern Baptist, Southern Baptist Church I've ever experienced.

While in the 70's and 80's the Southern Baptist Convention grew increasingly more socially, theologically, and politically conservative, DBC was becoming more inclusive racially, economically, and culturally. As women were being cast out of seminaries and church staff positions as the SBC strengthened their position on women not hold positions of leadership in the church, DBC added female Deacons and staff people (including a Minister of Music) to its ranks. While churches of all kinds remained racially exclusive, DBC fostered a welcoming attitude that has now led to a culturally-rich and diverse congregation that is growing and growing and growing. Under the leadership of Don Bowen, a self-described Southern Baptist country preacher, the church discovered a willingness to reach out to all people mostly because in the 60's and 70's they were desperate to keep their doors open in Old Town Alexandria, which was deteriorating due to "white flight". That willingness to reach out and embrace all people, monied or homeless, black or white or whatever color, American or some other nationality, has payed off in creating a unique atmosphere not found in many other churches... a biblically-based (almost fundamental) church inclusive of all people.

It's not liberal, or conservative.... just some other term not coined yet.

A big thank you to current pastor Dale Seley, for his hospitality, and kudos to him as the church continues to grow even more diverse as Old Town gentrifies. Here's a picture of he and his wife.

If you ever get the chance to go out to eat with them, do it. You will laugh out loud, think new thoughts, and enjoy yourself immensely. If you live, or end up moving to the Alexandria area, I wholeheartedly recommend that you give the church a try.

10) Finally, more than $4000 has been raised to established the Jeremy Hutchison Memorial Scholarship Fund. If you live in the Lima area, look for some fun activities designed to raise additional funding to fully endow the scholarship over the course of the next year. Thanks to all who have contributed, and know that you can still do so at the church, or at the Superior Credit Union. Just email me if you have any questions.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

when your wife yells "i'm on fire" she does NOT mean meet me in the bedroom...she really is on fire....Peace! Amy of Goshen!