Showing posts from March, 2006

Pop Culture Roundup

I've finished New Seeds of Contemplation, the last 50 pages of which, I'll admit, I just skimmed. I like Merton's thoughts, but he tends to repeat his ideas. The book is overall a decent read (I have the page flags to prove it), when he's not spending three chapters on variations of the same idea. There are also some chapters focused on Catholic doctrine that I didn't reasonate with, although it was interesting to hear his take.

I began To Kill a Mockingbird last night, which I've never read. This is part of my 'stay away from theology books' season. In fact, I'm making a note to myself right now that next year for Lent I'm giving up theology books. But I digress. The first chapter is a little slow, but then we get more into the story. Honestly, at this point I'm trying to figure out if the narrator is white or black. I have little to no knowledge of this book's plot, other than that there are a couple kids and a black man who goes on tri…

UCC Commercial Available Online

The new UCC ad, labeled 'Ejector Seat,' is now available on the Still Speaking website.

See for yourself what all the fuss is about.

I still don't think it's funny.

More thoughts on the commercial below:

Description of New UCC Commercial Leaked
And They Tell Two Friends...And They Tell Two Friends...

System Failure

I am giving up any attempt at creating a systematic theology.

I actually think that I did this long ago, but I'm finally admitting it to myself.

Allow me to explain what I mean by 'systematic' theology. Imagine a jigsaw puzzle, with pieces fitting perfectly into one another to form a complete picture. Imagine that these pieces all have words written on them: 'God,' 'Christ,' 'salvation,' 'Bible,' 'heaven,' 'Holy Spirit,' and so on. Each contributes to a larger graphic that each can't capture on its own.

Now imagine that one day, you pick up the piece marked 'Christ,' take a pair of scissors, and cut around the edges to form a new shape. It no longer fits into the old puzzle with the other pieces the way they are. Your next task, then, is to take your scissors and re-shape every other piece immediately around the 'Christ' piece, which in turn affect the other pieces around them, and so on. Soon, you end up wi…

Church Hog-Ties Intruder

Hat tip to Wesley Blog for this tidbit:

Parishioners fed up with a string of burglaries at their West Palm Beach church took matters into their own hands by capturing and hog-tying a man who climbed in through a window early this morning.

Armed with baseball bats, members of the Church of Nazarene at 5312 Broadway spent the night in the building to guard it.

At about 1 this morning, a man broke in. Church members were waiting for him inside. They beat him with their bats and tied him up with tape.

Police identified the burglary suspect as Ralph Thomas.

Thomas was treated at a local hospital and charged with burglary and possession of burglary tools.

An accomplice got away, police said

Wow. My first reaction is from the depths of my id, where I cheer the church members for doing this and laugh at the man for thinking he could get away with repeated break-ins. But my more reasonable side takes a second look and, while I'm glad he's been arrested, wonder about the use of bats beyo…

Pop Culture Roundup

I've been reading Thomas Merton's New Seeds of Contemplation, which has been one of the most enjoyable and thought-provoking books I've read so far this year. It's a work of theology, but it's far from systematic. It's more a work of spirituality and reflection on true and false selves (I'll be using this piece in my sermon on Sunday). He writes of the difference between the self that God has created, the self that God loves and calls us to be with our unique gifts and identity, and the false self of our own creation that serves our own desires and relies on addictions, possessions, and the opinions of others to give us a sense of value. It ties in beautifully with Ephesians 2:1-10, and pretty much all of what Jesus said.

We've been watching Angel Season 3, which really seems to be when the series comes into its own. The big difference between Buffy and Angel is that Angel is one continuous story over seasons: still battling Wolfram and Hart, still …

Quotidian Ramblings

I've been sucked back into watching American Idol this year. A more accurate description is, I like being in the same room as my wife in the evenings, so I'll read or journal or work out while she watches American Idol...and I end up picking my favorites. I've deemed Chris Daughtry this year's winner. He's basically this year's Bo Bice, only cooler. He reminds me of Ed Kowalczyk, the lead singer of Live.

Anyway, that brings me to last night's vote, which (finally) saw the departure of Kevin Covais, this awkward 16-year-old kid who would do much better in his high school show choir. On the radio the other day, Simon was quoted as saying, 'He won't win, but if he does I'm quitting.' Indeed.

I haven't said as much as I'd like about my Lenten series, besides that the content can be a downer. Before Lent began I said that I'd write an entry for each week's text, which obviously hasn't happened. In the next few days, I'll get…

Who I Am

This overblown commercial 'controversy' has brought a lot of people to this space the past few days.

Some may question my motives. Some may question my alliances. Some may see this, that, or the other group mentioned and jump to certain conclusions. Allow me to lay it out so that no mistakes are made.

I was born into the United Church of Christ. That makes me a 27-year member. My father is a UCC minister. My mother is the youth director at a UCC church. I've attended UCC churches my whole life, was baptized in one, was confirmed in another. I was married in a Baptist accomodate the guests.

I am a graduate of Heidelberg College, a UCC-affiliated school with a Reformed background.

I am a graduate of Eden Seminary, a UCC-affiliated school with an Evangelical background.

I've been a delegate to General Synod twice. I've served as a counselor at Templed Hills and Pilgrim Hills, the UCC camps of the Ohio Conference. I participated in a UCC-affiliated campus minist…

And they tell two friends...and they tell two friends...

I don't mean to harp on this commercial thing, so hopefully this will be my last post on the subject for a little while.

UCCNews has responded to UCCTruths' article about the commercial, which borrows heavily from my post below:

A website known for its negative critiques of the UCC’s National and Conference settings has published a description of the UCC’s newest national TV ad, a full week before church leaders were planning to release the new ad publicly at a press conference scheduled for March 27 in Cleveland.

On March 20, , which said it possessed a copy of the UCC’s new ad, posted a description of the commercial, along with critical comments and an unflattering still-image "video grab" which gives a false impression of the tone of the UCC’s newest commercial – known as “ejector seat” – especially its treatment of persons with disabilities.


In an email to at 7 p.m. (ET) on March 20, Stillspeaking Coordinator Ron Buford appealed to the site to not publish the ad …

Screen Shot

UCCTruths has a screen shot of the new UCC commercial on its site.

Yeah. Looks hilarious.

Lenten Midpoint

Lent is really turning out to drag me down.

Lectio divina isn't it. It's one of the bright spots of my day. So no complaints there.

It's how I've been handling it otherwise.

As I mentioned a while back, I've been leading a program on Wednesdays called Bible Stories You Won't Learn in Children's Church. The first week, we talked about marriage and sex. Last week we talked about revenge with some segways to war. This week we talk about rape. The week after, racism. The week after that, probably more war.

Sunday mornings have seen a preaching series on the cross: how it's a comfort, challenge, commentary...and the next two weeks an invitation and revelation. How many weeks in a row can you force yourself to talk about suffering and death with a slightly different focus?

Maybe 'drag me down' isn't the right phrase. Maybe 'has been very intense and draining.' Maybe it's the same thing and I just like one expression over another…

Sure...Why Not?

All right, so in this little game you're supposed to hit 'Shuffle' on your media player, and as you ask each question, you hit play. The title of whatever song comes up is the answer. The scary thing is, most of these end up making some sense. Thanks to Beth for helping me waste 10 minutes.

How does the world see you? Lullabye (Good Night my Angel) - Billy Joel

Will I have a happy life? Coming Back to Life - Pink Floyd

What do my friends really think of me? Alabi - dc Talk

Do people secretly lust after me? You Got Lucky - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

How can I make myself happy? One More Robot - Flaming Lips

What should I do with my life? Into Jesus - dc Talk

Will I ever have children? The Engine Driver - The Decemberists

What is some good advice for me? Time Waits - Widespread Panic

How will I be remembered? Goodbye, Goodnight - Jars of Clay

What is my signature dancing song? Common Riddle - The Insyderz

What do I think my current theme song is? Split Open and Melt - Phish


Pop Culture Roundup

This past week I read Choke by Chuck Palahniuk. He's also the author of Fight Club, if that gives you a point of reference. It's a novel about a man named Victor who pays the bills for his mother by pretending to choke on food in restaurants and then mooching off his 'saviors.' The book touches on some great themes such as addiction, illusions of goodness and independence, and what we think we know about people. Expect it to be satire in the same vein as Fight Club, right down to disregard for convention. Now I'm about 60 pages into Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. At first it seemed kind of scatterbrained (which fits my experience of Vonnegut in general), but now we've settled into a narrative.

We finished Buffy Season 6 this week, and I maintain last week's 'shark-jumping' comment. Spike gets his soul back at the very end. We've never had a storyline featuring a vampire with a soul before. No, never. And all Dawn contributed to this…

Description of New UCC Commercial Leaked

Thanks to by way of the UCC forums...

Many mainline churches see multimillion-dollar advertising campaigns as the latest evangelistic tool, but none hit the news like the “God is Still Speaking” campaign from the United Church of Christ—in part because major TV networks classified the ads as “advocacy” spots and rejected them. The first series, aired on cable networks, showed gruff bouncers turning away select worshippers at the church door—including racial minorities and gay and lesbian couples—followed by the text “Jesus didn’t turn people away. Neither do we.” The newest ads, launched in November, show “unwelcome” minorities being shot out of church by ejector seats, accompanied by the text, “Jesus didn’t reject people.”

“These commercials are like modern parables,” campaign coordinator Ron Buford told Sojourners. “When people see these ads, they get it.” In fact, the ads won the Association of National Advertisers annual award for multicultural excellence. Buford is confid…

Name What No One Wants to Name

A young man sits alone in his room. A cot and an endtable are all the furniture he has. The walls are painted an institutional off-white that he stares at for hours. His only daily visitor is the nurse who brings him his medication. She smiles, trying to brighten his day. He half-heartedly returns the gesture.

Day in and day out he sits. His family doesn't come very often. They've become too busy. They hardly acknowledge that he's there. They don't have to deal with it any more. His friends have almost completely forgotten him, save for an after-work drink that always includes the phrase, 'It's a shame, what's going on...'

Then one day, a young woman visits. They'd known each other from high school. Hadn't spoken much, but she'd heard about him.

She comes, aware of the time she's taking away from her own family.

She comes, aware of what her friends may think if they find out she's visited.

She comes, aware of the dishes in the sink, the l…


"If I affirm myself as a Catholic merely by denying all that is Muslim, Jewish, Protestant, Hindu, Buddhist, etc., in the end I will find that there is not much left for me to affirm as a Catholic: and certainly no breath of the Spirit with which to affirm it." - Thomas Merton

Rediscovering Jesus

This lectio divina thing has been working out really well.

I'm in the middle of chapter 10 of the Gospel of Luke, and am meeting Jesus again for the...5th or 6th time. I thought about whether to use that cheap allusion to Borg and figured what the hell.

It's been refreshing to get my nose out of books about the Gospels and actually into the Gospels, books about the Bible and actually into the Bible, blogs about stories about Jesus and into the stories about Jesus.

I'm coming away with a different picture...again. It seems that every time I pick up the Gospels, I do.

But this has been building for a while, and what is building up is starting to be affirmed, to solidify, to take shape.

I'm letting the pre-Easter Jesus inform what the post-Easter Christ really wants.

I'm letting him say for himself what salvation requires (except his references to salvation are few...he likes talking about forgiveness). I'm letting him say for himself what things like faith and love ar…

I Write About Satan

I mentioned Satan today during my sermon. The lectionary suggests Mark 8:31-38 as the text, so I talked about Satan being a symbol of all that is against God, all that opposes what God wants. Someone got real excited about it: 'I wondered where Satan was. That's the first time you've ever talked about him!' Maybe that's an integral part of her theology and she finally felt affirmed...or she wondered why a Christian preacher doesn't talk about Satan very often. Either way, apparently I satiated something within her.

For me, the jury is still out on whether I would designate Satan as a being, as more than a symbol. Of course, this comes from someone who believes in God and ghosts, so it would be a disconnect for me to simply write Satan off as a superstitious concept constructed by ancient people. In the Bible, Satan evolves from a test administrator on a leash in Job to a tempter and inspiration for betrayal in the Gospels to the unholy enemy of the chur…

Pop Culture Roundup

I started Seeds by Thomas Merton this week, but I didn't get very far. It's a collection of paragraphs from all his other books. I'd rather read one of those other books and get the full context and original intent of the work, rather than soundbites compiled under categories. What really attracted me to the book to begin with was the cover: it shows Merton in his full monk's garb with the sleeves rolled up and a baseball cap. Cool.

We saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the other week. A friend suggested that you really shouldn't compare it to the original, but I am, and I don't really like Johnny Depp's Wonka. He doesn't have the edge that Gene Wilder's Wonka had. I understand that they tried to give more of a backstory to why Wonka started the factory, but the original was more about the greed of the families and children. Wonka weeded them out because of that, not because he didn't want his successor to have a family to weigh him down.


Pot and Kettle

“I think that provocative statements and actions only further isolate Iran from the rest of the world,” White House press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters traveling with President Bush to hurricane-affected states in the Gulf Coast.

The press secretary for this White House said that?


link here

'Where Should I Start?'

The other day I was asked by a regular attendee about books to introduce her to the Christian faith. I actually don't have many books that could be considered 'introductory' other than a few church history textbooks, so I went with books of the Bible instead.

So here's the question for my readership: what books of the Bible would you recommend to someone looking into Christian faith?

This is what I passed along to her...

The Gospel of Luke - Illustrates Jesus' purpose to 'bring good news to the proclaim the year of the Lord's proclaim the kingdom of God.' He tells a young man that love of God and neighbor leads to eternal life and follows up with a story about neighbors with a surprise ending. A story of forgiveness and grace is told about two sons and their father. Jesus is revealed in the breaking of bread to two downtrodden disciples. This Gospel is one of hope and challenge.

Philippians - Emphasizes Jesus' obedience and t…

What...Nothing About Ash Wednesday?

I've been struggling this year with what to choose as a Lenten discipline. For those unfamiliar with the practice, it is a tradition during the season of Lent (40 days and 6 Sundays before Easter) to take on a discipline that helps to humble you and help you reflect on Jesus' suffering. Sometimes this involves being more intentional about prayer and study, sometimes this involves 'giving up' one of your favorite vices such as chocolate, soda, and so on. Through college and seminary, I relished this practice and wanted to make it mean something. A couple years in a row, I gave up television. One year I gave up the internet. I've given up fast food and alcohol a few times each. I've added a daily study before (something I've wanted to do outside of the Lenten season). One year I fasted every Wednesday.

Last year's Lenten practice didn't go so well. I started with the one-day-a-week fasting, but quickly lost my way. Then I decided to alter the fasting p…


Missouri has quite an interesting bill being proposed:

Missouri legislators in Jefferson City considered a bill that would name Christianity the state's official "majority" religion.

House Concurrent Resolution 13 has is pending in the state legislature.

Many Missouri residents had not heard about the bill until Thursday.

Karen Aroesty of the Anti-defamation league, along with other watch-groups, began a letter writing and email campaign to stop the resolution.

The resolution would recognize "a Christian god," and it would not protect minority religions, but "protect the majority's right to express their religious beliefs.

The resolution also recognizes that, "a greater power exists," and only Christianity receives what the resolution calls, "justified recognition."

State representative David Sater of Cassville in southwestern Missouri, sponsored the resolution, but he has refused to talk about it on camera or over the phone.

KMOV also cont…

Pop Culture Roundup

I finished 1984 the other day, one of the best and scariest books I've read so far this year. It's one of those books that is so well-known that you already know the basic plot, but then to read it for yourself and see how exactly we get from beginning to end is still needed. Winston works for the Party, the government and propaganda machine of Oceania. It's a fascist state that removes 'heretics' from society and breaks them down until they love the Party. The scenes during which the Party's tactics are revealed are particularly disturbing. They govern through fear and the perpetuation of hatred for dissenters and non-Oceanites. It could be considered satire if it were funny. Perhaps a better word is prophecy.

Lately I've been listening to Matisyahu and Phish. There are similarities...somehow...maybe. They both feel good, they're both upbeat. They both have long hair. They both talk about love.

We finished Buffy Season 5, which was pretty mu…

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