Showing posts from November, 2005

Wish I could explain it that well...

RealLivePreacher answers someone's question about judgement. Quite a gem.

And an awesome post about the Bible here.

Why do theology?

From Brian McLaren's A Generous Orthodoxy:

“Defenders of orthodoxy were seen more like referees than basketball players; nobody cared if they could pass, dribble, or shoot, as long as they could blow a whistle and name an infraction in their black-and-white striped shirts…You want to know the rules, not so you can blow whistles as a referee, but so you can have a lot of glorious good clean fun as a player, throwing passes and making assists and sinking three-pointers and layups without fouling out.”

Font of Every Blessing

I've decided that baptism is one of my favorite things to do in ministry.

Yesterday was the first of two that we'll be celebrating during Advent. I've only officiated two others during my time here. Actually, for this church perhaps that's just about right.

The weeks leading up to it were a little nerve-racking, as I haven't yet perfected the art of properly instilling the importance and meaning of such an event in the family. Pastors like to do lots of instilling. It may be one of our favorite things, after taking a nap on Sunday afternoon. We like to instill in people that events such as baptisms and weddings aren't just cultural relics that churches still perform; they are living breathing events where God is present and active in relationships between couples, families, congregation, and so on. We MUST instill this in people, or they will enjoy the day for all the wrong reasons. And so we try our best at instilling.

I was worried that time was running…

A Week to Remember, Epilogue

You might have caught a rant of mine last week about the Borders Religion section...a place where pop psychology masked as spirituality and countless theories on what the church needs to be more or less of rules the day. In retrospect, it might have been a little overstated. Among all the Osteen and Meyers and Warren there are deeper thoughts to be found. I was also gearing up for two funerals over a four-day span and a little burnt out on theory. Maybe you noticed.

I then attacked the blogosphere. Maybe attacked isn't the right word. But I used the words 'bored' and 'oversaturated,' so I could have been attacking it. Most of the blogs I read have something to do with wanting the church to be better at what it's supposed to be. Last week, in the midst of a time of grief and pain and shock for two families in particular and our little church in general, I said that I was a little tired of reading about what the church needs to be and somewhat prayerfully …

Maybe It's the Tryptophan...

Once upon a time, a young pastor started the silly little blog that you are now reading. It was, as he has said, to serve as a focus for some of his writing endeavors. You see, he can't help but write. And he's always wanted to write well. The internet has served as an outlet for this need in various ways, which he has also explained before.

One day as he offered one version of this explanation, a fellow blogger left a comment that read as follows:

Let me suggest that next place to move to: I went from Forums to Blogs to.....books. So should you. You write with great accessibility, sensitivity, and clarity. The world is full of publishers.

The pastor chewed on that comment for a day or so, wondering if such a thing was possible; wondering if he was truly capable of such a task. To publish? Nay, that is for more serious writers than myself, he thought. How could I...publish?

From afar, another blogger announced the publishing of essays from his blog. From afar elsewhere, a …

For Your Advent Devotional Needs...

Songbird at Set Free is part of a webring known as the RevGalBlogPals. A few weeks ago I found out about an exciting thing that she's a part of.

The ring has published a book together called A Light Blazes in the Darkness: Advent Devotionals from an Intentional Online Community. As if that isn't enough, the foreword is by RealLivePreacher. All proceeds from the book go toward Katrina relief, which makes it even cooler.

Check it out.

Pop Culture Roundup

Another early edition for Thanksgiving...

I've returned to Devil in the White City, which I'm actually starting to enjoy. It took me a while to really get into it, but now that I 'get' the writing style and the overall flow of the text, it's a much more interesting read. It's a slow build, though.

Of course we went to see Harry Potter 4, and this will be the last time I mention it for a while. This was my favorite book, though I found Half-Blood Prince to be excellent as well. Anyway, the movie is as good as it can be given how much they had to pick and choose what would make it to the screen. There are a lot more special effects and while the actors have certainly matured in their craft, the character depth that makes the books so interesting is not as apparent as it could have been. The movie centers around the action of the Tri-Wizard tournament and sometimes the cast's personality complexities get lost in the shuffle of CGI. Ralph Fiennes is an exc…

Blue Christmas...Before Thanksgiving

I woke up this morning to find the light dusting in the field that I had wanted so badly a month ago. It's perfect for today, two funerals and two grieving families in ten days. We'll celebrate two baptisms in Advent, so hope looms on the horizon as it creates an irenic scene in my backyard that Thomas Kincaide couldn't match on his best day.

I've never felt the holiday crunch the way I do this year. We'd ventured to the mall the other week and I couldn't bring myself to take more than three steps into a women's clothing shop my wife was sure would contain a gift for a relative. I stood by the entrance sipping my caramel coffee, noting a few ladies' vibes of discomfort with my standing near a rack they'd meant to explore. No problem. I'll move sideways (not forward) to another rack. There you go. Make someone's spirits bright.

Have you seen that JC Penney commercial where the disembodied voice promises that your family's Christmas …

Monday Morning Playlist

Five songs I've been enjoying over the weekend, in no order:

1. Vince Guaraldi Trio - Christmastime is Here (Instrumental)

2. The Decemberists - Eli the Barrowboy

3. Celldweller - Frozen

4. Sneaker Pimps - Walking Zero

5. Circle of Dust - Waste of Time

Seacrest Out.

A Week to Remember

A church member had been preparing for knee replacement surgery this past Sunday. She walked through the greeting line after worship, asking for thoughts and prayers. I answered that I and others would do so. Monday morning, she suffered a heart attack and died. She hadn't even made it to the surgery.

The week would be spent in conversation with her family about arrangements. I'd take a break from the proceedings by seeing Harry Potter, which I'd enjoyed, with a few friends. Nearby was a Babies 'R Us. The girls went there. The guys went to Borders.

I had no agenda, no special book I was seeking. I rarely do, but can end up with a handful anyway. Twisting and turning through cookbooks and cat care, I found the Religion section.

Here's the thing about the Religion section in stores like Borders. One doesn't (or shouldn't) puruse this section expecting to find the same amount of depth one might find in a seminary bookstore or library. Go to Borders if you …

John Cooper, Where Art Thou?

A well-played game on both sides.

But still...dammit.

Pop Culture Roundup

The Roundup comes a day early this week, as tomorrow morning I see Harry Potter, tomorrow afternoon I stop by calling hours for a funeral at which I'm presiding Saturday, and I'm going to try to stay off the computer otherwise. So here we go...

Devil in the White City has fallen by the wayside, as I sort of expected it would. I just can't stick with history books for too long. I end up losing interest. Maybe I just need to intersperse it with other reading. I cruised through Borders while Christmas shopping and picked up Al Franken's latest, The Truth (With Jokes). I couldn't help myself as I had enjoyed his last book so much. He's a little more serious in this one, although it works for him. How is it that I can breeze through a political book, but not history? Interest in the subject, I guess.

As mentioned many times the past 24 hours, I'm seeing Harry Potter tomorrow morning. It's not the only movie I've seen this week, though. We sat down to watch…

Harry Potter and Christianity

Apparently, the debate has flared up again about whether Christians should read the Harry Potter books. This comes up in varying intensity every time one of the books or movies comes out, so this is to be expected.

The basic argument is thus: the kids engage in magic, so somehow the franchise promotes the use of magic which is prohibited in the Bible. Some replace the word 'magic' with 'paganism' or 'wicca' or something more sinister-sounding to rouse more emotional reactions. It glorifies such things, some say, and for that reason we as responsible Godly people should refrain from reading/watching them. An excerpt from the article:

Wohlberg denies he is a zealot bent on trampling other Americans' freedoms of religion and speech, and admits Rowling's talent.

"I can be marginalised really quickly as somebody that is an extremist, as someone that is rabid," he said.

"I am not a witch basher, I don't believe in stoning witches, I belie…

And Here He Is...

Chris T., formerly of Progressive Protestant, now resides at his new home.

Even the Devils Believe

Provocative title, to say the least.

Loving These 'Just Writing About Stuff' Posts

I love fall...but we've moved past nice fall and now we're into brown not-quite-winter fall, which is not as fun. It's a rainy morning. I'm a fan of rainy mornings. I'm generally a fan of precipitation in its non-threatening forms, which is a reason I want to visit Seattle. My wife doesn't think I really have any other good reasons (my best one is 'I've never been there') and she thinks that the rain is a reason NOT to visit. We've been together almost seven years and married almost 3 1/2 and we haven't taken a honeymoon yet. Seattle is not on that list.

At the same time I don't want to go to one of the cliched places: Hawaii, Bahamas, Florida Keys, any place mentioned in a Beach Boys look, another sunny beach. Hey, we can hang out with some of the other 5,000,000 honeymooning couples at our campy 'we have to appease the tourists' pig roast.

You know where I want to go? Stratford, Ontario, Canada. They have a Sh…

Begin Again

A year ago this week, I had my trial sermon at the little church I serve. They have a tradition that they've been observing the past few years in conjunction with one of their mission projects. They pack shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child,* and the second Sunday in November is when they dedicate them. As part of my trial date (interesting phrase), I was asked to lead this part of the service as well. I had the children gather around the shoeboxes and stretch their hands over them and led them in prayer. Two weeks later, I officially began my time as pastor of the church.

It's the second Sunday of November, so that means we once again piled the shoeboxes in the chancel, and we once again prayed over them. This was my first 'once again.' As time goes on we'll celebrate Advent once again, and then Christmas, and Lent, and Easter. No more firsts. Now it's once again. Once again. Once again. At least in terms of the church year. There are plenty of …

An Online Colleague Re-emerges...

Actually, he hasn't ever really left, but heck if I knew that.

His (temporary?) livejournal is here.

His old blog is here.

His new digs will be here.

Which to put in the sidebar...?

Pop Culture Roundup

I've started Devil in the White City, which is different from what I expected. I thought it was going to be a piece of historical fiction, but instead it details the seedy underbelly of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. It doesn't need to be fictionalized. There's plenty of non-fiction to make it interesting.

Lately I've been rediscovering a Christian hardcore act called Klank. As far as I know, they only ever released two albums (technically three, but the one was a bunch of remixes). They're a healthy mix of Nine Inch Nails and Korn: a little industrial, a little electronic, a little metal, and then some undertones of faith (do NIN and Korn have undertones of faith? Well, anyway...). A lot of Christians don't like bands like Klank because they aren't explicitly Christian enough. If you're looking for another 'O Jesus, you are Jesus, thank you Jesus for being Jesus' album, this won't satisfy. Klank asks the hard questions, expre…

'Religious' and 'Spiritual' and Why Anyone Should Care

I ran across this quote on a trip through the blogosphere this evening:

"A religious person is trying to avoid hell; a spiritual person has already been there."

I found this quote interesting. I can't fully articulate why. You always hear people talk about how they're 'spiritual, but not religious,' and others like to say that Christianity 'isn't a religion, it's a relationship.' The above quote must be one of the latest spins on trying to distance yourself from institutional religious life and move more toward this alternative way of being that forsakes the regular, the traditional, the confining, the ritual. Usually, that's what people mean when they say they aren't 'religious.' The best scenario when considering the 'spiritual, not religious' connotation is that one acts out and explores on some form of faith or belief, but does not feel a need to be a part of a formal organization. My inner cynic tends to think that &…


Here William Willomon preaches a sermon on one of my favorite texts, 1 Corinthians 1:18ff. An excerpt:

One of the dangers of being in church as often as I am is that it all starts to make sense. I speak of the Christian faith so casually and effortlessly that I begin to think, “Fine thing, this Christianity. Makes good sense.” And then I find myself believing all sorts of things in church that I wouldn’t let anyone put over on me in the real world. That which people would choke on in everyday speech, they will swallow if it’s in a sermon. That’s a blessing for those of us who get paid to preach Christ crucified.

And so Kierkegaard could say, “Christianity has taken a giant stride into the absurd,” and again, “Remove from Christianity its ability to shock and it is altogether destroyed. It then becomes a tiny superficial thing, capable neither of inflicting deep wounds nor of healing them.”

It’s when the absurd starts to sound reasonable that we should begin to worry. “Blessed are the me…

Worthwhile Reading

Meg at Bridget Jones Goes to Seminary is having some run-ins with sexism.

Scott Williams reflects on measuring success in churches, both traditional and otherwise.

Jason at TheoSpora proposes a metaphor for theological reflection.

The 'Word of God'

Every time the prophets say 'the Word of God came to me...' they don't mean the Bible.

The Psalms equate the Word of God with God's instruction, but doesn't relegate it to scripture or the Bible.

John 1 describes the Word of God as Jesus.

Hebrews says the Word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword, but again a specific reference to the Bible as such is nowhere to be found.

Somewhere else the phrase 'Word of God' was linked to the Bible only.

About here is where 1 Timothy 3:16 comes in. I'm guessing that a Christian who cites this verse does not then cite a verse in the Koran which contains similar verses about scripture being 'God-inspired' and uses it to prove that the Koran is what it says. It's circular logic for starters (the Bible is God-inspired because it says it is). Secondly, which scripture? The apocrypha? The Gospel of Thomas? The Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant Bible? The Old Testament?

The Word of God is living and active.…

Making an Impression

A couple months ago, a young family began attending worship with us. They'd just built a house on a development nearby and wanted to check out some local churches. On one Sunday in particular, I did a children's sermon on prayer, where I satirically likened it to a magic trick. I first had a huge buildup where took out my wallet and said that with one little prayer it would suddenly fill with money. With another, a Porsche would appear in my driveway. With another, my muscles would grow. So I prayed my magic prayer, and of course nothing happened, the point being that these are not the types of things that we should be praying for. To close this little demonstration, I jokingly asked if anyone wanted to be sawed in half for my next trick. The daughter of this young family wildly and enthusiastically waved her arm, begging to be picked.

We didn't see this family for a few months, and I'd figured that they had found another church home. I'd even sadly and som…

You Can Tell That It's a Slow Day

I picked up this meme from Emerging Grace. In a manner of speaking, I have a 6-day work week this week, so I have no problem looking like I did absolutely nothing today. That was my intent. So without further ado...

Ten years ago
I was just starting my junior year...of high school. So that means that I was playing a snot-nosed British kid in a murder mystery, was cheering my school's football team to a (failed) run at the championship, and dealing with the ups and downs of my first serious relationship with the opposite sex. You know, teenager stuff.

Five years ago
Senior year of college. I'd all but completely quit on the evangelical college group, was writing my Honors thesis on the theology of Karl Barth, was engaged to my now lovely wife (she's now my wife, she's always been lovely), and wishing that I'd tried out for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. I believe that it was in the fall that I'd made my first visit to Eden Seminary as well.


Gotta Bone Up...

Thanks to Dwight at Religious Liberal Blog for pointing me to this Bible quiz.

Topic % Right



I'm a little disappointed in myself for my results, especially my Gospels and Pentateuch scores. It just means I have to keep studying.

Thoughts Not Tied Down

~I've often been told that a pastor doesn't hit his/her ministerial stride in a particular setting until somewhere in years 3-6. That gives me hope as I look back almost one year in, on everything I could have done better and hope I do better next time.

~This afternoon my wife and I got into an argument (well, a discussion during which I got increasingly defensive) about legalizing and regulating drugs. She seems to think that it would eliminate a lot of the Prohibition-esque problems we're facing with substances such as cocaine, heroin, and so on. I think it's a bunch of crap. My only problem is that I can't articulate an argument much better than that right now. But I'm working on it. I can't come up with anything other than moral outrage, and logic says you need more. However, considering the act of CD bootlegging is a start, I think. People do it because prices are high, not because it's illegal. If someone can get an ounce of crack on the c…

Pop Culture Roundup

I've been working my way through The God-Bearing Life: The Art of Soul-Tending for Youth Ministry. This book suggests an alternative form of youth ministry to the traditional Wednesday meeting model. Instead of enticing youth with pizza, invite them with the gospel. Instead of preoccupying them with games, involve them in life-changing projects. It's been a good theory book so far, but at times a little lean on practical application. But the theology of ministry the authors use is spectacular.

For Halloween we had a mixed bag of young adults from church and college friends over to watch a few Halloweenish movies. The first we saw was Shaun of the Dead, which is easily one of my favorites. It belongs in the same sub-genre (if there is such a thing) as the Evil Dead trilogy in terms of having Joe Average as the hero and the overall wit of the script. We then watched What Lies Beneath, which I'd also seen before but up until now hadn't realized that it was so long.

Back and Forth

Last night at Bible study we discussed the exodus from Egypt, and had a great conversation about where the Israelites actually entered the wilderness, what body of water they really crossed (the Hebrew translates 'Reed Sea' and not Red Sea and if you read the text while consulting a map of the area one easily sees that there's no way they crossed the actual Red Sea) and how much it matters what actually happened. The general consensus was that what happened is not as important as that it did happen, and the meaning behind it. I likened it to the resurrection. So many place the specifics of the event above its meaning for our lives. One attendee astutely pointed out that usually the reason behind that is that evidence about specifics will help others come to believe. I agree. It's a large part of why some Christians bend over backwards to seek evidence for creation, Noah's ark, the exodus, the resurrection...that others might believe.

We also talked about the I…

Unity? Justice?

Some disjointed, somewhat frustrated, semi-tired, quasi-irritated, nominally hopeful musings from the UCC forum:

GLBT people are accepted, 'conservatives' feel shunned.
'Conservatives' get their way, GLBT people don't feel welcomed.

I've come to accept that unity (at least the definition of unity that is being used here, that is, holding together despite glaring differences in ideas) is largely an illusion to which we can aspire with all our might but ultimately is not possible. Chalk it up to our sinful nature, chalk it up to people placing more importance on 'being prophetic' (liberals) or 'speaking the truth in love' (conservatives), chalk it up to [the group you don't agree with] just being a bunch of poopyheads.

It just all gets absurdly tiresome, doesn't it?

I was a little frustrated in my last post. I've since gotten out of the house and feel better.

I vaguely recall a line from Neibuhr's 'Christ and Culture' that rou…


For those who are newer to the blog and thus haven't heard me write about it recently, I serve a smaller church surrounded by open fields, and live right next door. We've deduced that the owner of said fields planted soybeans this year, and spent the past two weeks harvesting them, so now the fields are left bare until summer. The other morning I woke up, glanced out the kitchen window, and experienced a rapid sensation of my hopes getting way up and then being let down all within a few seconds. I had thought by the way the daylight was hitting the ground, that the field had recieved a light dusting of snow. Such a sight would have brought peace to me, like a painting that you wish you could crawl into. But of course it was October and no such thing was really possible.

We all crave those magical pictures or moments in time. We crave to hold onto them, to somehow capture them on film and just hit 'repeat' for a few hours. They soften the harder moments, they bala…

Another Worship Post

Scott is soon starting a new entity called Club365. It's a church/nightclub hybrid borne from an emergent mind. I really wish that there was more to the club's page because I'm curious as to what this place will entail. Obviously your grandparents' church, it ain't. One can inquire about the definition of church. I'm fairly certain that this place won't gather on Sunday mornings and if it does it won't look like anything that one would think to find in a worship service.

In an earlier post I mentioned a candle that I used during late-night meditation sessions where all I did was watch the shadows bounce around the walls, maybe sip a drink, pluck a bass string, talk out loud. This might not be considered an act of worship. To even think of proposing this as the new format for Sunday mornings would already assure its failure. It wouldn't die in committee, it would be tied to a cinder block and thrown into the river. We need our 3 hymns and a l…