Showing posts from May, 2006


Someone found my blog today after typing the following into Google:

vampire "over my knee" -xxx -porn -tranny
Whoever it was didn't stay too long. Um...sorry for disappointing you...I think.

Memorial Day 2006

I found the original version of this prayer online. This is my edited version. It'll be the one I use at our cemetery service this morning:

Eternal God, Creator of years, of centuries, Lord of whatever is beyond time,
Maker of all species and master of all history --
How shall we speak to you from our smallness and inconsequence? Except that you have called us to worship you in spirit and in truth;
You have dignified us with loves and loyalties; You have lifted us up with your lovingkindnesses.
Therefore we are bold to come before you without groveling [though we sometimes feel that low] and without fear [though we are often anxious].
We sing with spirit and pray with courage because you have dignified us;
You have redeemed us from the aimlessness of things' going meaninglessly well.
God, lift the hearts of those for whom this holiday is not just diversion, but painful memory and continued deprivation. Bless those whose dear ones have died in accident or misadventure.
We remember with…

Thoughts Before a Sunday Service

I'm 2 1/2 hours away from worship. I haven't showered yet, haven't even dressed. That's a perk of living next door to where you work.

In my continued attempt to preach with as little reference to notes as possible, I did my final 'dress rehearsal' at around 7:30 this morning. It's a good sermon, if I may say so myself. It ties together my experiences at Eden last week, the choosing of Matthias to be a witness, it references ever-so-briefly Memorial Day, it acknowledges the week that this church has had, and it ends with a story that the congregation is more likely to remember than anything else I'll say. I don't know it well enough to stand outside the pulpit the entire time, and yet I look down at my notes and yell at myself: 'I know all this! Why am I having such a hard time with it?!'

So what about this week? Can we stop with the innuendo already? Fine. This church suddenly lost someone in a fall down a flight of stairs last Saturday night.…


First, at the risk of seeming a little obsessed about the piece of FICTION known as the Da Vinci Code, I wanted to highlight something that RealLivePreacher said the other day:

The second thing I’d like to mention is more important for the Church to consider. Christianity is a major, world-wide religion. It is 2000 years old and is the largest common expression of spirituality in the history of humanity. Does the Christian Church really need to worry about a book and a movie? These things are here today and gone tomorrow, almost literally. The Christian Church has withstood the Roman Empire, medieval Christianity, and the Age of Enlightenment. Somehow the Church even manages to survive its most dangerous challenge - scandal, decadence, and corruption within its ranks. Will Dan Brown now topple us?

I understand a carefully worded response to scholarly inaccuracies, but I don't understand the anger, the outrage, and the hoopla. Anything more than a gentle, factual correction is as sil…

Not Heading to Hartford?

There's a possibility that General Synod will not be held in Hartford, Connecticut after all:

The United Church of Christ will move its 2007 national convention out of Hartford if the dispute between labor unions and the operators of the Connecticut Convention Center is not resolved by June 6, and the organization has asked the governor to intervene.

In a letter to Gov. M. Jodi Rell Monday, the organization - an umbrella group of Congregational churches - said that it will soon be forced to relocate its 8,000- to 10,000-person event scheduled for June 2007. Organizers say the event would use 18 area hotels for a week and could bring $10 million in economic benefit to the state. If the convention were to move, organizers say, it would be to a venue outside of Connecticut.

"In the event of a just and significant labor dispute, which we currently find this to be, we will not violate boycotts or cross picket lines," the organization said in its letter to Rell. "We are quic…

Pop Culture Roundup

I've been reading Gilead by Marilynne Robinson on someone's recommendation...I think it was my dad. The book is told from the perspective of an old pastor quickly approaching the end of his life. He wants to tell his 7-year-old son about his life, his failings and dreams, and his hopes for the boy's future. It is set around the turn of last century. He tells a lot about his father and grandfather, who were also pastors, and who came down on opposite sides on a lot of things, in particular the question of war. The war around that time was the Civil War, and there is a lot of back and forth between the two about whether Christians should engage in it. Here, it comes down to abolitionism vs. pacifism. But mostly, what comes across is the love that the narrator has for his son. This is what drives him to tell any of it in the first place. He worries the most about whether his son will remember or know him after he's gone. It's a great read.

Well, we saw The Da Vinci Cod…

My Trip to Eden

As I mentioned, I took a trip to my seminary alma mater last week for their Herbster event. This is an alumni continuing education gathering offered to graduates their first five years out of school. I could tell you all the stories we shared, but I'll stick close to the Official Program and let them trickle in. The thing about blogging semi-anonymously is you don't know how much is too much.

Well, the theme of the gathering was how church and culture interact.
So right off the bat, we discussed The Da Vinci Code. In a larger sense, The Da Vinci Code was the theme of the week for me, since the movie opened last weekend. Every news channel had a good amount of discussion devoted to this stupid book, I had several conversations with my in-laws about it later in the week, and I even heard a sermon about it on Sunday. I'm going to see it for myself on Thursday. Just between you, me, and the entire public who reads this, I'm not that excited to go see it. I wasn't that ex…

Thomas Merton's Prayer to Etienne Gilson

Merton is Catholic, but don't read this as his praying to Gilson like a saint. Merton wrote this prayer and sent it to him.

And for those who don't know who Gilson is (I didn't), here's Wikipedia's probably mostly reliable work of truthiness about him.

And here's the prayer:

Please pray for me to Our Lord that, instead of merely writing something, I may be something, and indeed that I may so fully be what I ought to be that there may be no further necessity for me to write, since the mere fact of being what I ought to be would be more eloquent than many books.

Back from Vacation

I'm back from vacation, and back to life as usual. Whatever that is.

Back from sitting in a pew listening to preaching, and back into the pulpit to preach.

Back from a few days spent in St. Louis and all it has to offer, and back to small-town Ohio.

Back from the hospital room of my father-in-law, and back to a family that lost a wife and mother over the weekend.

Back from seeing people I haven't seen in months, and back to wondering who I haven't seen in months whom I could call or have lunch with.

A friend of mine shared a story of the last time he visited Eden. He'd spent a few days in and around St. Louis, and eventually commented to someone, 'I'm ready to go home.' I asked myself if I was ready around the middle of the week, and said no, I wasn't. I asked myself again at the end of the week and actually surprised myself how ready I had become.

I'm home now. I'm where I'm ready to be. I'm where I'm supposed to be.

Pop Culture Roundup

Preface: I spent the first part of this week in St. Louis with some friends and colleagues from Eden Seminary. The seminary has alumni back the first five years after they graduate for Continuing Education Structured Workshop Things, but mostly it's a chance to catch up, swap stories, and drink wine. I consider my time in St. Louis and at Eden pretty formative, and so the things I read, watched, and listened to offer little pensieve moments for me. So without further ado, here is a special St. Louis edition of the Roundup.

Steve Patterson was my professor of New Testament, and his The God of Jesus is still one of the most influential books I've read, particularly for his views on Jesus' purposes for telling parables and Jesus' message of the kingdom of God. The former, he states, are not simple moral lessons but rather stories told to shake one's worldview and be interpreted, re-interpreted, and never fully nailed down. The latter, he suggests, is as much here now a…

Questions for Evangelism and a Ballgame

On the subject of evangelism, the Monk has some thoughts on the question, 'How much is too much?'

A sample:

If you are producing consumers or fans or people who think you are really cool, you may be successful and popular, but I’m wondering if you are doing what matters. Our command is clear: make disciples, teaching them everything Jesus commanded. We can’t change the definition of disciple into “guy who really likes the body surfing at the 9 p.m. youth service” and have any integrity.

The Jesus-movement produces Jesus-followers. Wow. What a concept. If you spent $70,000 to entertain people, did you produce Jesus followers, or fans of your show? Answer the question. It’s important.

It is important. It's one of the questions I ask when I find myself in the betwixt and between of wanting worship to be more lively but also have integrity. It's a great post. I think I'll even print it out and distribute it to our Evangelism group.

My wife and I went with my parents to the …

Political Commentary on Why Chris Lost

From the New York Post:

The number of votes seems to remain remarkably constant (this year, somewhere north of 40 million) week to week. This indicates the same people continue to vote each week. It also means that the people who voted for the contestant who was kicked off go ahead and just choose somebody new to vote for.

This is a direct parallel to the presidential primary process. In the early primaries, candidates who do poorly usually drop out of the race, leaving those who would have supported them in other states high and dry. Those supporters then have to pick somebody else among the surviving candidates to vote for.

This winnowing process allows the most appealing candidates to pick up steam by adding new voters to their cadre of supporters. And as they do so, the field continues to be winnowed, until finally there are only one or two candidates left standing. The single-issue candidate, the flash-in-the-pan, the guy who has one fantastic debate - they may all have their moment…

Pop Culture Roundup

I haven't started another book after finishing Lamott, so I guess I'll just plug the Ordinary Time book again. I haven't ordered my copy yet, but I will in the next few days, I'm sure.

We saw Mission: Impossible III this past week. We weren't sure if we wanted to with Tom Cruise going all loony the past year or so (or perhaps we could say publicly loony)...and after the less-than-great production that was Mission: Impossible 2, we were more skeptical about this sequel's entertainment factor. But III is minus John Woo and plus Philip Seymour Hoffman, so we gave it a shot. It was much better than 2. Hoffman is a brilliant bad guy in particular and actor in general. Cruise's character is the usual hybrid of Jerry Maguire/Maverick which passes him. The only really really unrealistic part comes near the end. Otherwise, it's a decent action flick.

Mercifully, Buffy is over. So we've moved to the fifth and final season of Angel. Here we are minus Cordelia, p…

Chris Daughtry and a Sabbatical Idea

Chris Daughtry was voted off American Idol tonight, which reinforces my view that America's collective taste in popular music should be condemned whenever possible. Seriously. I could place all my hope in Taylor now, but they'll probably screw that up, too. It'll probably be the girl, because it's usually the girl.

I came up with a sabbatical idea a few months ago, and I figured that I'd share it here. I get sabbatical leave after five years at this particular church, so I have a while to think yet, but not as long a while as others. Well anyway, I call this idea 'A Tour of the Alternative Church.' I use the word 'alternative,' but mostly I mean 'emerging.' I just use 'alternative' because I'm not sure that I want to take the time to qualify 'emerging.' But if you want to read more about it, you can start here or click on a number of blogs to the right as a lot of them consider themselves emerging. I've been checking …

Ordinary Time Now Available

The RevGalBlogPals webring has published their second devotional book this week entitled Ordinary Time. It covers the liturgical season of same name. I was privileged to be a part of this work, and I know of the writing talent of many others on this webring. Enjoy.

Heading to Hartford

This afternoon I was elected to act as a delegate to the 26th and 27th General Synods of the United Church of Christ. I was asked to step in as a delegate for the 25th General Synod which met last summer in Atlanta. Maybe you heard about it.

These will be my third and fourth trips to Synod, which includes the UCC's celebration of its 50th anniversary next year in Hartford, Connecticut. I was planning on attending the next Synod anyway simply for that reason. Now I will be able to go as an active participant in the business side of things as well.

As I did last year, I will post thoughts on the issues that will face delegates that day, think out loud about resolutions, and, pending web access, will post on happenings during Synod as well. A sample of what I did last year can be found here and here, although there's much more if you browse the May and June archives.

I'm legitimately excited this time around. Last year before I left, I was a little wary of what to expect. I'…

Pop Culture Roundup

I've been reading Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott this past week. It's my first encounter with her, and I've been pleasantly surprised. For some reason, I expected her book to be sort of a fluffy pie-in-the-sky devotional book. I don't know what cultivated this expectation within me, but it is the exact opposite in the very strongest possible sense. Lamott details her struggles with alcoholism, bulemia, and single motherhood, and how in the midst of it all she discovered faith. The prayer that she prays the night she 'gives in' is better than any pre-packaged 'sinner's prayer' I've ever read. Truly a great book.

We continue to trudge through Buffy Season 7. I honestly don't like it. I can't wait to start watching the next season of Angel. The big bad guy is interesting enough, but the subplots are getting a little tedious: the Potential Slayers being whiny and scared, Spike and whether we can trust him or not, Dawn pouting. It's just…


I have vacation time coming up.

While most other pastors jet out mere moments after shaking the last parishioner's hand on Easter, I elected to stick around a few extra weeks.

Last year, my first year at the church, I had two weeks allotted for vacation time. I rationed them carefully, aware of particular ways that I wanted to spend the majority of it. When October rolled around, I happily discovered a few leftover days and used them to attend a friend's wedding.

This year (and all subsequent years) I have four weeks, which compared to last year seems like an overabundance. This month I'll be spending my second week of it hanging out with fellow Eden alumni. There's an Ultimate Frisbee game that I'll try to make, followed by some organized discussion surrounding the ups and downs of ministry. This year we're focusing on the theme of how church and culture connect and collide. That should be worthwhile, but I'm mainly looking forward to 1) getting out o…

Another Aspect of My Life

I don't talk about much of my college experience on here, save for a few reflections on the mixed bag of goods that was my time with campus ministries. Here's another aspect of my time there. I recently went back to Heidelberg to celebrate the 85th anniversary of Alpha Phi Tau, the fraternity of which I was a part.

I know. When you think of fraternities you think of Animal House. I can't really present a strong case against such things, but I'll let people explain for themselves how thousands upon thousands of college students who DON'T belong to frats exhibit the same stupid behavior (seminarians, this is for you, too...and you know EXACTLY what I'm talking about).

Okay, that's the extent of my defense of fraternity life in general. It really doesn't amount to much, other than to say that what you think you know about frat life isn't confined to frat life.

But this post isn't about that. I forged some lasting friendships within this group, and th…

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