It's good to be back.
1) Things are b-u-s-y in the world of Buchers. Now, both Max and Xave are doing roller hockey and (soon) basketball. I'm working on a lot of new things for next year. Aimee's business is picking up (if you need assistance in web site design click here), she's joined the Junior Service League here in Shawnee, and is "momming" to full capacity. Eli is getting bigger and is showing more personality every day. And, of course, Baby ??? is on the way. As our kids get older, "hyperdrive" is becoming a way of life for us, and slowly we are adjusting. I suppose every family has to deal with this at some point, and is never ready for it. We are no exception. But, we press on. At least we're never bored.
2) One of the challenges right now is to convince Eli that shoes and socks are necessary items while living in the Midwest during the fall and winter (and occasionally at other times too). It's not uncommon to see him him running around outside in barefeet (having disposed of his socks and shoes after we put them on him) on days where it's 45-50 degrees outside. We thought that the fact that his feet are freezing would naturally take care of this (much as it has taken care of his resistance to wearing a coat), but as of now, it has not. Are parents allowed to duct tape shoes on children? We may soon find out.
3) Update on my fantasy league teams. My football team, after starting 1-5, just rattled off it's 6th straight victory and verges on the possibility of actually making the playoffs. David Garrard (QB for the Jags), Donald Driver (R for Packers), and Wes Welker (R for Patriots) have been carrying my team, but it's been the emergence of Marques Colston (R for Saints) that's been the difference. Much like his team, he got off to a slow start, but now he's picking up steam. One more victory next week would cap the greatest comeback in our league's history.
Basketball, on the other hand, has been a little bit shaky. The loss of Mike Bibby, a slow start from Shaq, the trade of Mark Blount, and injuries to Larry Hughes and Corey Maggette have led to a rough start (including a weekly loss to Brother Esq). Generally I'd say I'd cautiously optimistic about the future, but as of now I'm not sure. My team's performance is reliant upon such pick-ups as Jamario Moon, Antonio Daniels (a former BG Falcon), Jeff Foster, and Kelanna Azibuicke (who's been a solid as a starter for Golden State... to bad the Cavs cut him two years ago). Can't say that's a sure thing.
4) Am having a great deal of trouble getting my leaves up. A very, very late fall, coupled with lots of rain/sleet/hail have made it difficult to get things done. Both my neighbors used lawn services to get the job done (in the rain and sleet), but the name is "Bucher" not "Gates", so I'll have to be creative, or scrape up semi-decomposed leaves next March (yuck).
5) Received a good visit today from a parishioner regarding something I said in the sermon yesterday pertaining to those who believe that the miracle narratives in the Gospels are literary devices, and not literal miracles. In other words, they believe the miracles to be part of the literary genre of myth, as opposed to historical events of record on the part of Jesus.
This is major debate raging in scholarly circles right now, and has been for quite some time. I always thought it strange, for example, as to why conservative Christians who believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible, triumph C.S. Lewis as a theological hero. Lewis believed in the power of myth - which is essentially the telling of stories that define moral truths - as it related to the biblical narrative. To him, it was less important that supernatural events in the Bible (miracles of all kinds) were actually true, as opposed to the truth being expressed in those stories. Lewis went as far as creating a whole series of novels (The "Narnia" series) to try to do for people (primarily children) in his time and place what he believed the biblical narrative was doing... using myth to explain the fundamental truth of the spiritual realm. For more on this take a look at this article from Christianity Today and this article from National Geographic. This is not to say that Lewis didn't believe in Christ. He did. But he also believed that in every culture people wrote mythological literature to explain the world they were in, and believed the Biblical writers to be no different.
There are many scholars (like Lewis) out there arguing (as they have in some form or fashion for the past four hundred years, or so) that the miracle narratives are examples of literary myth, meant to convey to the reader the importance of Jesus' teachings, and not necessarily historical events of record. I don't happen to agree, personally. I think the supernatural acts of Christ (including his bodily resurrection) were the fuel that set ablaze the passions of fishermen, tax collectors, and widows who had no other reason to keep worshiping him. In his case, we aren't talking about gods and goddesses created to understand the inner workings of human emotion or the mysteries of the natural world.
Too, a comparison of Jesus with the cult of the emperor is flawed also. For centuries rulers have taken their own successes (while hiding their failures) and built them up into supernatural events as away of solidifying their power and their place in history (think, as an example, of the pyramids in Egypt). Jesus enjoyed no comparable temporal success. He died a criminal's death on the cross. To think that somehow his followers would come up with some kind of construct as to how this defeat was somehow a victory, without the resurrection, and continue on is quite frankly, pretty far fetched. Most likely, had he just died, his movement would have (like many others of the time) melted away. That's the primary reason I accept the supernatural aspect of Jesus' ministry. People can be duped by false prophets (Jim Jones or David Koresh) in one generation, but past their death generally the following dissipates. It is the enduring message and following Jesus past his death, which did not empower temporally any one group of people that helps convince me that the supernatural aspects of his ministry are true. There is no earthly reason his ministry should continue.... thus my belief in the super-earthly reality of who he is.
Anyway, yesterday I happened to mention in the sermon yesterday that it mattered not whether you believe the Gospel writers took the miracles literally or consider them myth. In either case they would have believed that Jesus was the answer to the prayers regarding all that vexes humanity (disease, hunger, division, war, etc...). I had to clarify what I meant today here in the office, as someone took exception to the idea of the miracles not being regarded as historical fact.... which is good. Means someone was listening. But, that being said, we cannot discount the importance of literary forms in the Biblical text, as it uncovers how people understood (and understand) myth in their age and how those forms were being used by biblical writers to convey the truth of the living God in relation to that which was the dominant belief in the greater culture. Hope that makes sense.
Hey man, what do you want? I had to pick up something while pursuing two degrees and making progress toward a third. This blog can't all be about fantasy leagues and what new word Eli is saying ("cake" is the new favorite). Gotta work those intellectual muscles out there for those who are interested (and there are a few).
6) One of the things I'm learning about leadership is that not everyone automatically sees what you, as a leader, sees. I, for example, believe that the institutional church thrives if you take care of three core areas of it's life:
- Creating opportunities for intentional relationship (person with God through Christ first, and and then person-to-person, in and outside your congregation, second)
- Creating structures and schedules that understood by all, and accepted as vital and necessary by all (in worship, administration, finance, discipleship, and prayer).
- Always being on the lookout for new leaders, and consciously developing them.
I learned this the way I learn everything.... the hard way. I didn't generally enter situations where these three areas have been well developed. Relationally, for example, the students involved in the ministry didn't have much of a relationship with one another, or they had an intense relationship with one another to the detriment of allowing new relationships with new people to form, or had no sense of the importance of relationship with God through Christ. This meant I had my work cut out for me as I attempt to begin to change the norms left to me. Or if the group hadn't many strong adult or youth leaders (or worse, negative ones) or their weekly/monthly/yearly schedule or regular meeting/class/bible study hadn't had much rhyme or reason to it, I had to begin thinking about ways to change this systemically in order to get different results. All of this I had to learn by doing, and heaven knows I made a lot of mistakes as I experimented with what worked, and what didn't.
But the challenge of working with a staff is trying to help them keep, in mind, these long-term strategic goals, while at the same time not get overwhelmed with all the details which exist in ministry. In my experience, most of the people recruited as staff people were exceptionally good at taking care of detail work. The transition from doing details to thinking strategically about relationships, structure, and leadership development is usually a tough one. Gone are the days when your effectiveness was measured by how well you did specific tasks. Instead the measure of effectiveness is how smoothly and effectively those tasks are completed as a part of a total ministry strategy, which includes volunteer recruitment/training, teaching of concepts to students, promotion, resource management, etc.... It's a hard transition for people to make, and even harder, I think, as a leader to try to teach. Now that I'm finally starting to find my stride, this willl be one of my major objectives in 2008... moving staff from task orientation to ministry development. Fortunately the staff we have is already working on this, and excited about the possibilities of expanding ministry. We are very blessed. I am confident we will do fine, and despite some growing pains, will have fun in the process.
7) Chances of Ohio State backing into the national championship game? I'd say about 28%. There's no way WVU loses to Pitt, cause they're just firing on all cylinders (i.e. the dismantling of UConn Saturday... you know a game is a blowout when in the 3rd quarter they switch from the feed you've been watching to a new feed with a more competitive game) but they are rivals so you never fully know what could happen (thus, I give Pitt a 3% chance of winning the game). Missouri, on the other hand, has already lost to OU once, so I'd put their chances as being 50/50 to win or lose that game. Hence, a 28% chance.... but it is at least, a chance.
And who knows... remember how Florida snuck in the back door last year (and all the whining Urban Meyer did to make it happen? Fortunately, Tressel's a class act and won't resort to such tactics... he'll express gratitude either way.)? It could happen again.
8) Expressed some frustration last week in my "random thoughts" about the way our annual conference does business. Am still frustrated on many points, but on one I am not. I have been exchanging emails with Stan Sutton in regards to a number of questions regarding our health insurance plan, and I have found his responses to be both timely and helpful. As far as conference treasurers go, he's one of the best. He has an impossible job of managing tight resources, and does it more than admirably. We are lucky to have him.
9) Bryan's Christmas List? Some new long-sleeve button-down shirts would be great. Outside of that, I'm set.
10) And finally, my Aunt Beth is visiting from Logan, Utah this week. We've been catching up on all the news of the Utah branch of the family. Her husband, Dennis (who is a man's man.... Chuck Norris has nothing on my Uncle Dennis - Dennis Riggs doesn't go "fishing"... he goes "catching"), Jenny (doing well with Matt and Cade, although Matt and Cade somehow failed to properly let out the new puppy, creating havoc in Dennis Riggs' home... fortunately Dennis Riggs tempers justice with mercy with the wisdom of Solomon), Trish (she and Josh are in their new house - Hailey is on the swim team and Branson is growing so fast he'll be taller than Trish sooner than later), and Al (working and deciding on a major before returning to Utah State... may I suggest pre-med or pre-vet?).
Now, if we just could Fred, Kathy, and Katy up here for a visit....