Showing posts from December, 2005

New Year's Rant

Happy New Year.

Do you know how often I say that to people?

Truth be told, this morning was the first time I think I've ever wished someone a Happy New Year while not singing 'We Wish You a Merry Christmas.'

Happy New Year. Does such a wish apply to January 1st, or is it somehow to encompass the whole year? Ever asked someone whether their year has been happy in the middle of June? By December we're anticipating another New Year and have given up on how happy the previous year should have been. Maybe this next New Year will truly be Happy. This last one sucked. They all do. But Happy New Year, this next time for real. No, seriously, I mean it.

New Year's...we expect to feel different the following morning, and perhaps we do...if we had too much to drink the night before. I've never felt cleansed after the ball has dropped, have never felt revitalized after midnight, have never been inspired by 'Auld Lang Syne.' December 31st is an excuse to get together w…

Year-End Pop Culture Roundup 2005

Welcome to an extra-special edition of the Pop Culture Roundup, where I review my year's experiences in the various categories I've put forth through the months. The lists are in no particular order of preference. Perhaps I shouldn't have even numbered them. Oh well.

Five books I've enjoyed or found enriching in 2005

1. Blue Like Jazzby Donald Miller - Miller shares stories from his own faith journey and what he's learned through them. This is a book where spirituality is borne from experience. He doesn't spend a whole lot of time with doctrine, but instead wonders what a Christian life looks like.

2. Help: the Original Human Dilemmaby Garret Keizer - I wasn't sure how I'd like this at first, but once I got started I wanted to read more. Keizer tries to reconcile our call to help others with how others might recieve it. He struggles with when help is appropriate or truly needed. He wonders why we should bother when some so readily take advantage. The…


As I mentioned the other day, Greg has been questioning when pastors are described as 'real.' An excerpt:
The reality, of course, is that every pastor that I've ever met, including myself, has a carefully constructed public persona....Congregations don't want real men and women as pastors. They want carefully constructed simulacra of real people. They want real to be nicer than them but not too nice, and holier than them but not too holy, and smarter than them but not too smart, and more honest than them but not too honest. Pastors learn too quickly that real people are messy. Congregations don't want messy pastors.The concept of the 'pastoral persona' is what I find most interesting. In fact, it got me to thinking about what other personas I have. We show different faces to different people depending on trust level and what we want to get out of different relationships. Sometimes we show the wrong face to the wrong person. Sometimes we need to. Here's a…

Another Meme...

I stole this from Chris T. at Even the Devils Believe, because I don't feel like writing anything more serious and yet feel the need to write something.

Seven Things To Do Before I Die
1. Write a book
2. Play in a band again
3. Earn a doctorate
4. Attend a World Series game involving Detroit or Cleveland
5. Be in a movie
6. Play Hamlet
7. Preach at General Synod

Seven Things I Cannot Do
1. Tap dance
2. Program computers
3. Tuck my legs behind my head
4. Grow a beard
5. Look good in a cowboy hat
6. Hit a 95 MPH fastball
7. Think of a #7

Seven Things That Attract Me to …Blogging
1. Displaying books on the sidebar
2. Writing/Rambling about stuff I want to write/ramble about
3. Different medium to write/ramble
4. Community
5. Web traffic
6. Having my own space
7. Having people I know read it

Seven Things I Say Most Often
1. 'Riiiiiiiiight.' (in a Dr. Evil sort of voice)
2. 'Yeah, whatever.'
3. 'That was definitely not great.'
4. 'Dangiiiiiit' (in a Napoleon Dynamite sort of voice…

Links and Whatever

Christmas is still raging here. We're in between celebrations at the moment. The in-laws get in tonight and then we eat ham and green bean casserole all over again.

The weekend was marvelous. Christmas Eve service turned out to last a quick two hours or so, complete with pre-worship music (I was part of a trio who contributed our own rendition of the Barenaked Ladies' 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen'), lessons, carols, and 'Silent Night' by candlelight. Christmas Day service, unfortunately, felt like an afterthought after a service that seemed to fire on all spiritual cylinders (and with a pastor who was trying to work up the same level of energy but couldn't quite make it). The office has been very quiet this week, for which on some level I suppose I should be thankful after an Advent season that was the opposite.

I've run through two books this week: The Color Purple by Alice Walker and Under the Overpass by Mike Yankoski. In their own ways, they'…

Christmas Eve

Charlie Brown: Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?

Linus: Sure Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.

(Linus walks out to the center of the stage)

Linus: Lights, please.

'And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'

That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

Dirty Jesus

Why not head down to the pub and talk about Jesus? Just strike up a conversation with a table of four who really weren't planning on doing much else than sharing a few pitchers?

Why not head to a bowling alley, ask some dude to bum a cigarette, talk about this weird story about a Samaritan between frames?

Why not play darts with these two guys and talk about a son who squandered everything, but not before he more or less told his dad he wished he was dead?

I'd wear my favorite frat shirt. I'd have buffalo wing sauce smeared all over my mouth. Maybe my jeans with the hole in the knee, and by the way that hole got there 'cause I wore 'em out, not 'cause I f'n bought 'em that way.

How would they react? Would they take me seriously? If not, why not? Would it be because I just wandered up to them to talk about God, or because I wanted to talk about God without wearing a collar, holding a Bible, donning a WWJD bracelet, with my hair combed neat on one side and ni…

Pop Culture Roundup

I have finished both McLaren's A Generous Orthodoxy and Devil in the White City. One thing I appreciate most about McLaren's book is that he is chiefly missional. His concern for the church's interaction with the world is of great importance and it is as if the question 'How should we live?' permeates every chapter. At the same time, I find it fascinating how quickly 'Emergent' is becoming a name brand. 'White City' was a good book. It wasn't always a good read, but it was a good book. At times I felt bogged down by the historical information. I understand that he had to include it, but at points I was looking for the story he was trying to tell beyond the dimensions of the Ferris Wheel or the finer points of the Midway's design. So now I'm on to The Color Purple, which I'm already over halfway through. This is a much quicker read. Most chapters are 2-3 pages in length. In the book we meet Celie, a young black woman who st…

One Minute Spin

You might have noticed that I haven't updated my other blog in a while (or maybe you never visited to begin with). That's because I can't be bothered with being the sole maintainer of two blogs. What was I thinking? So go on over (it's listed in the sidebar), relive the week that it was lively, and then we'll let it slowly fade away (actually I'll wait a few weeks and just delete it).

'How can I get faith?'

Shane at Wesley Blog is planning to lead a study sometime soon and is tossing around a few options for a theme. One such option is a study around the concept of faith. He lists some questions that he might explore, one of which is, 'How can I get faith?' I share here the comment I left there, along with some other musings:

When I see the question, 'How can I get faith?' I think of a doctor writing a prescription: 'When it runs out, it's good for one refill. Then let me know if you need more.'

Something about the question seems to quantify it in a way that it probably doesn't intend. It's probably just how I read it.

So I guess that this is all to say that I tend to stay away from explanations of faith suggesting that one can 'get' it through simple proposals ranging from 'just pray hard' to 'just read your Bible a lot' to 'just go to church and Bible study enough' to 'just ask Jesus to [come into your heart/dump…

The Nightstand is Starting to Tip Over...

With less than 100 pages to go in Devil in the White City (cue 'Hallelujah Chorus'), it's time to look toward my next venture...

~Who Killed Jesus? by John Dominic Crossan. Bought for $2.00 at a Christian bookstore that was never going to sell it.

~1984 by George Orwell. Not because I want to look for parallels to modern times but because I liked Animal Farm.

~The Color Purple by Alice Walker. One of my seminary buddies makes it a point to read this every year. He says he learns something new every time. That was enough of a plug for me.

~Faces of Poverty by Jill Duerr Berrick. I saw this in a college bookstore while my wife was shopping for her textbooks. Why not? It explores the history of the welfare program while attaching names and faces to some of its beneficiaries.

~'Tis by Frank McCourt. He wrote Angela's Ashes. This is his memoir. I've had a thing for memoir lately.

~Beyond Belief by Elaine Pagels. Proposes that there was a conspiracy involving t…

Jeff the Wedding Smarta**

Pastor: 'Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. and Mrs. [John Smith].'

Me: (rather loudly) 'What's HER name?'

A Long-Winded Pop Culture Roundup

I've been giving A Generous Orthodoxy a lot more of my time than Devil in the White City, but am still reading both. McLaren gives his own take on what's positive and potentially destructive about a whole slew of schools of thought, ultimately sharing why he's a little bit of each one. I finished up with his chapter 'Why I am a Fundamentalist/Calvinist' last night. He dares to redefine TULIP! His objections to Calvinist thought are typical: make too much of Calvin's take on predestination, end up falling into determinism, why does anything I do matter in such a system, what the heck kind of God is that, etc. He even goes so far to suggest that as we move out of modernism and into post-modernism, Calvinism will be making a mad scramble to hold its worldview as it works better in modernism. I'll have to read more about modernism/post-modernism, because I find that I need to read paragraphs of McLaren a couple times before understanding the difference he sugge…

Blue Christmas Prayer

Around us, O God, the singing can be heard: ‘Joy to the world…let heaven and nature sing.’ This season is to be one of hope eases our minds, when peace soothes our hearts, when love warms our souls, and when joy comes each morning.

But there are many who do not feel this joy. Some might try, others have given up trying. ‘Where is this joy for us?’ they ask. The world has found joy but some feel as if it has passed them by. Our minds are not at ease…we feel too much doubt. Our hearts are not at peace…there is too much to do. Our souls are not warmed…the chill of death is too troubling. Where, O God, can joy be found? We ask this as we come before you in prayer, opening ourselves to the possibility that hope, peace, joy, and love might still come to us.

We pray for the lonely, that they might find comfort in another’s touch.

We pray for the downtrodden, that they might find relief from their burdens.

We pray for those wrestling with depression, that a light of calm might bring them…

Doogie Howser, M.Div

I don't mind being The Young Pastor as much as I used to.

The reaction was almost immediate when I started. 'Oh, he's so young...he won't want to visit the older people.' This quote was relayed to me within the first month. I'd barely moved my stuff into the office and already I was the whippersnapper who wouldn't give the retired folks the time of day.

Being introduced to the community was what really got me, though. First swiss steak supper, I quickly found out that I could only fake a smile and laugh so many times when received with any of the following reactions: 'Oh, you're so young!' 'You're young enough to be my grandson!' 'You look like a teenager!' I mean really, do I have to pretend that this is the first time I've ever heard this, play like it's still the cutest thing that someone could say to me?

After a while, I started coming up with a running list of comebacks, some of which I've used, some of which I…

Rock on, man....

You Are an Indie Rocker!
You are in it for the love of the music...
And you couldn't care less about being signed by a big label.
You're all about loving and supporting music - not commercial success.
You may not have the fame and glory, but you have complete control of your career.What Kind of Rocker Are You?

Theo-Babble Joke

I heard this joke a while ago, only it was just with Tillich. This version is much more elaborate:

Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, Reinhold Niebuhr, and James Cone find themselves all at the same time at Caesarea Philippi. Who should come along but Jesus, and he asks the four famous theologians the same Christological question, “Who do you say that I am?”

Karl Barth stands up and says: “You are the totaliter aliter, the vestigious trinitatum who speaks to us in the modality of Christo-monism.”

Not prepared for Barth's brevity, Paul Tillich stumbles out: “You are he who heals our ambiguities and overcomes the split of angst and existential estrangement; you are he who speaks of the theonomous viewpoint of the analogia entis, the analogy of our being and the ground of all possibilities.”

Reinhold Niebuhr gives a cough for effect and says, in one breath: “You are the impossible possibility who brings to us, your children of light and children of darkness, the overwhelming oughtness in the m…

Dark Night of the Soul, Epilogue

Our youth went caroling this evening, and our last stop was at the woman's room. As soon as we came around the corner, her eyes lit up and she threw her arms around me the most enthusiastic way an 80-year-old woman can. The light of love pierces the darkness and the darkness has no chance.

Dark Night of the Soul

Lately I've been encountering a couple references to the 'Dark Night of the Soul,' a phrase coined by St. John of the Cross in reference to the moment one has of doubt...not just doubt, but they find their faith crushed by any number of factors. The Preacher talks about his Dark Night of the Soul in his book. I described mine a while ago. Thinking more about my own I might call it a Dark Year of the Soul, or perhaps the Dark Year that led to the Dark Night.

The term is flexible. No one comes to their Dark Night suddenly. Life is not rosy one day and rocky the next. Things pile up and weigh one down: a death, the nightly news, experiences with less than loving Christians, questions about the Bible, illness...the questions start to come more rapid-fire: 'What kind of God would allow this?' 'Why didn't my prayer work?' 'Why does the church act the way it does?' 'Why do people act the way they do?' 'If miracles happened in the…

Pop Culture Roundup

I'm playing 'dualing books' right now. I'm using the GalPals book as my Advent devotional, and I'm loving the stories they tell. Today's entry is about relationships with a dear friend lost to AIDS. I also continue to work through Devil in the White City, which switches back and forth between the history of the Chicago Fair (which can be quite dull) and the development of a particular character as the sociopath (much more interesting). I've also started McLaren's A Generous Orthodoxy, which is...fine.

We watched Hostage last night. It got to be a little much, as it's basically two plots that weave in and out of each other. Three guys take a rich family hostage in an absurdly huge house. Bruce Willis, negotiator-turned-small-town-police chief, finds that his own family has ALSO been taken hostage because the father of the rich family is involved with an unnamed organized crime outfit and they want something in the absurdly huge house. We watch…

Not Sure Whether to be Excited or Afraid

Coming Soon: Coca-Cola Blak

Coca-Cola Co. , the world's No. 1 soft drink company, on Wednesday said it will launch a coffee-infused soft drink called Coca-Cola Blak in various markets around the world in 2006.

The news of the launch came hours before Coke Chief Executive Neville Isdell was scheduled to address financial analysts and investors in New York.

The new drink, a combination of Coca-Cola Classic and coffee extracts, will be first launched in France in January before being rolled out in the United States and other markets during 2006.

A Coke spokesperson said Coca-Cola Blak will be a mid-calorie drink, similar to Coca-Cola C2, which was launched in April 2004 and contains half the sugar, calories and carbohydrates of regular colas. The formula for the new beverage is expected to vary based on local tastes.

Analysts have said one of the keys to the company's future is capturing more consumers who have moved away from sugary soft drinks to diet versions, or to healthier low-…

He's Back

You might remember Ian from his adventures in Belfast. After he returned to the States, his Belfast blog fell by the wayside. It's still in the sidebar for prosperity.

Well, he's returned to the blogosphere under the mysterious title of The Masked Doctoral Student. A new adventure begins...

Christmas Culture Wars

'Are we still having church on Christmas Day?'

I wonder how many other pastors around the country have heard that question this year. No one ever asks that on Easter (in fact, oddly enough, you have to print extra bulletins that week). No one's even asked it about New Year's. Side note: I just thought of what I'm preaching on for New Year's. We always celebrate communion the first Sunday of the month. Maybe I can compare and contrast all the champaign drinking from the previous evening with the sign of grace in the communion cup. Maybe I should think about that a little longer before that morning.

Is this Christmas' commercial side rearing its ugly head again? It's too bad I can't do much about that, as apparently cutting off one head produces two more. It's one of those regenerative monsters that can only die in small increments when it gets ignored. And these are VERY small increments, I'm afraid.

Truth be told, I asked it once upon a time. …

New Blog

I've started a new experimental writing blog called One Minute Spin. I'll try to 'spin out' a thought fragment that passes through my brain during the day. My hope is that it will be updated daily.

Meanwhile, of course, this blog remains my pride and joy; my place to wax eloquent (or pretend) on whatever I've been trying to wax eloquent. What I'd like to do is spend more time and effort on what I post here, so that might mean fewer entries a week.


I've been kind of 'phoning it in' again lately. That's Advent for you. Except last year wasn't like all.

Well anyway, here are a few blogospheric references to mull over.

Meg at Bridget Jones Goes to Seminary has some good musings on ethics, modernism, post-modernism, and church.

McCarty Musings presents some delicious satire based on these statements from an SBC seminary president.

The Internet Monk talks about his experiences in a small church.

Wesley Blog hosts a discussion on the existence of Satan.

Pop Culture Roundup

Yesterday I received my copy of the GalPals' book, A Light Blazes in the Darkness. At present I've been marveling at the sturdy job the publishing company did more than the content, but from what I've read it's a good resource as well.

I, Robot presents an interesting commentary on human identity.

Circle of Dust isn't the greatest Christian industrial/hardcore act around, but they put forth a good effort.

Around the web, The Dying Church always has something thought-provoking to read.

Not feeling long-winded today.

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