Showing posts from October, 2006

October 31 Riffs

I was in the mood to listen to Dave Matthews Band's "Halloween" this morning. It took me a while to get used to Dave's growling, but I like the percussion breakdown in the middle.

There's a church here that does one of those Judgment know, a scary alternative for Christians except it's all about your immortal soul. I had a conversation recently with the church's pastor since we wound up at the same calling hours. After I described my only experience at such a house (which included graphic depictions of a car accident and Satan yelling at me), he said "it's not one of the scary ones." Apparently the one here follows a girl as she disobeys her parents, gets drunk, questions her eternal state. "There is a heaven/hell room, but it's not like what you describe."Well, I've never gone to this one (and won't), so I'll take his word for it. There's a pretty decent documentary about another such house, called

Late Sunday

I've never had acid reflux like I have had the past week or so. It started as a strange pain in my upper abdomen that came and went. I got really worried at first because I've never had that sort of pain in that spot before. But then came the noticeable lack of appetite and the burping that brought a little something extra with it that I had to swallow back down. I found out today that acid reflux can be stress-related. The stomach starts producing extra acids when you're nervous. Crappy eating helps too, and I've been doing some of that. But I've eaten crappily before and haven't had this happen. The newness bothers me a lot, because it makes me wonder what sort of stress level I'd need to have for this to happen for the first time ever.

[This paragraph used to feature a lot of complaining. Now it's all gone.]

I live next to a church. It's sitting over there now a dark empty building. How many hours a week is it in that state?

We're out…

Thanks, Guys

No Tigers fan ever expected what happened this year. It was fun to watch the whole way (save for maybe that meltdown at the end of the season), even if they aren't World Champions. They're American League Champions, they eliminated the Yankees. From beginning to end, they did a lot better than anyone thought they would. Thanks, guys. See you next April.

Pop Culture Roundup

Don't Eat This Book has a chapter on "The Nag Factor," which is the real title of a report circulated among some big corporations in 1998 talking about the benefit of gearing marketing to kids so that they'll nag their parents to buy crap for them. We have Ronald McDonald, we have the Trix bunny, and a whole bunch of other cartoon characters shilling candy, toys, fast food, etc. all to get kids to say, "Hey, the Rugrats eat Happy Meals. That must mean that I want one too. MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!!!" This is a good book in an infuriating sort of way. Spurlock also says that he once had lunch with Jared from Subway, and concludes that it definitely wasn't just their sandwiches that helped him loose weight. He reoriented his entire life, and it happened to include the healthy sandwiches on a Subway menu.

The other day on ESPNClassic, they showed Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. To many people, this game is better known today as The Buckner Game because it fea…

Choice Made

You may or may not remember the other week when I was asked to be on my Association's uber-Consistory.

Well, I realized yesterday that I hadn't called my colleague back yet, probably much to her dismay.

Last week, a longtime congregation member died and the family couldn't have been more appreciative that I'd been available to minister to them.

Yesterday, I stopped by a hospice facility to pray for a father with terminal cancer...a request made after his own pastor hadn't visited in over a week.

This morning, one of our church's little treasures stopped by to give me pumpkin chocolate chip cookies and say, "Tank you, Pastoh Jeff." And I got her to "Boo yah!" a whole bunch of times.

This afternoon, I sat with a young woman who will be a first-time mother probably sometime early tomorrow morning. She and the father-to-be expressed so much excitement and nervousness...mostly through how they joked with each other and with their other visitors.


This Time I Really Should Be Doing Something Else

Another meme from Wayfaring in Sneakers, this time all about music...

1. What song are you listening to now, or did you most recently listen to? "Extreme Ways" by Moby

2. Who gave the best live performance you've ever seen? I'm going with the "Ska Mania" concert I went to in college: The Insyderz, Five Iron Frenzy, and The Supertones. The most high energy show I've been to.

3. Who gave the worst live performance you've ever seen? The second time I saw They Might Be Giants. It wasn't bad per se, but they did this bit where they tried to play along with the radio and it just wasn't working for them.

4. Do you have a favorite musician that would surprise people? Kelly Clarkson

5. Do you have a favorite musician that would embarass you? See #4.

6. Which two musicians do you want to have hot, passionate sex with? There are certain questions that shouldn't be answered for all to see.

7. Which musicians have you been listening to most lately? J…

Because I'm Refusing to do Anything Else Today...

I picked up this meme from Wayfaring in Sneakers, which I've been visiting more frequently lately.


2. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? Not as far as I know.

3. WHEN DID YOU LAST CRY? To be honest...when the Tigers beat the Yankees. It wasn't a full-out cry, I just got misty. It was cool to see them hopping around spraying champagne on everybody.

4. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING? It's not much to speak of.



7. DO YOU HAVE A JOURNAL? Yes, although I haven't been very good about keeping it lately

8. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS? Yep...all my disposable body parts are still in here.


10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? Cinnamon Toast Crunch

11. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF? When there's something to untie, yes.

12. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG? In what sense?



The Masked Doctoral Student just got back from Minnesota, and was glad not to have been required to surrender the jars of sauce he was carrying:

That's right, gentle readers, BE AWARE: If you fly on an American airline you are now NO LONGER allowed more than three fluid ounces of gels, pastes, or liquids. This, of course, includes all manner of simmer sauces and tomato pastes. I suppose the fear is that through some application of scientific knowledge I could somehow have made either:

A) Spaghetti (a truly tasty, edible object on an airplane flight has been, if not forbidden, certainly taboo for decades)
B) Some sort of concentrated super-acid which might have been used to blind the flight attendants and also to burn through the cabin door locking mechanism allowing me unfettered access to a machine I am wholly incapable of operating successfully.

Bob Hyatt has an excellent post about how pastors might determine who needs their attention, who wants their attention, and how to budget t…

Further "Vacation" Week Musings

Thursday night I had what I'll consider my first true vacation moment of the week.

I sat in bed, Mrs. Jeff already drifting off to sleep, the volume on an eventual Cardinals victory turned down low. I was more interested in listening to the new Robert Randolph than whatever Joe Buck had to say, so I popped on my headphones. All the while, a rich glass of cabernet accompanied my sampling of new music and viewing of my favorite sports pastime.

I sat there, my only light coming from the glow of the 13" screen...and I experienced a peace and a level of relaxation that you can't manufacture. Even my realizing it in the moment didn't ruin it. I'd come to a point I'd been clamoring for all week long...and it couldn't have come at a more perfect time if you'd known anything about my day.

On Friday night, I stumbled across a Dana Carvey standup routine from 1995 playing on HBO. I used to have it on tape, but lost it. Carvey does this "choppin' broccoli&qu…

GalPals Word Association Meme

Someone over at the GalPals is preaching from Job 38. I am not preaching this Sunday since I'm on "vacation." Nevertheless, these five words were pulled from the designated OT lesson and got me thinking about the lectionary anyway. The gist is that one has to write out the first thing one thinks of for each word.

Whirlwind - My "vacation" week in a nutshell. It upsets everything and it blows.

Foundation - The hymn "How Firm a Foundation." We actually sang it just last Sunday.

Lightning - The weather here the past couple days has included lightning. It also made me think of the Tampa Bay hockey team, which I don't care about. Go Wings.

Den - A cozy place where I, like my grizzly mammal friends, can go to escape. Mine happens to include baseball memorabilia and a computer.

Prey - What the Cardinals are now to the Tigers. There's no escaping the baseball references for at least another week.

Pop Culture Roundup

Did you know that corporations sponsor lobbyist organizations masked as "research councils" to release statements that their products are not unhealthy, bad for the environment, or otherwise harmful to the universe? Did you know that McDonald's has a franchise just down the road from the Dachau concentration camp? Did you know that October 16th is World Anti-McDonald's Day in England? All this and more you can learn from Don't Eat This Book. On occasion, Spurlock rides the line between presenting facts and implying a World McDonald's Conspiracy to Make Us Fat (as opposed to simple irresponsibility on both their part and ours), but it's still enjoyable all in all.

I stayed up to see who the Tigers are facing in the World Series. In light of last night's result, I'd like to quote something that I wrote on this blog back in July:

There was one beautiful moment during the All Star game last night that I wanted to make sure my wife shared with me.

Pudge R…




This has become a week of waiting.

It's supposed to be my last vacation week of the year before the whirlwind of November/December descends on our little church. I suppose that, in a way, I'm still waiting for it to start.

Monday, I had to tie a loose end that I didn't tie before the week started.

Yesterday, I got an emergency phone call from a church member's family who was given another day or two. They wanted prayer. They had no way of knowing I'm technically on vacation, but I also wasn't about to correct them. I spent an hour or so by her side and with the assorted relatives who were there. I suppose that now I'm waiting to get The Phone Call.

Last night while getting ready for bed I had to reflect on the experience through my dying parishioner's eyes. What is it like knowing that you're not long for this world, surrounded by your family and your pastor who are waiting for you to take your last breath? I don't know how aware she is of …

"Exciting" Churches

I hope that this entry doesn't make me sound like a stick in the mud.

I said some things to my Consistory this week. It's part of what underlies something that I want to get up and running here over the's give it two years.

Ever heard of cell group ministry? You help people plug themselves into small groups of 8-12 people and they encourage each other in Bible study, fellowship, etc.? Ours is what is known as a "regional" church, so it seemed like something worth trying in the 4-5 different communities from which we pull instead of trying to get people to always make the drive. I figure the church go there instead of people come here.

And that last sentence is the essence of a "missional" church vs. an "attractional" church.

Here's where I went on a fairly calm rant during the meeting about "attractional" churches. First, what's "attractional?" "Attractional" uses a "y'all come&q…
"Not too bad, huh?" - Jim Leyland

Pop Culture Roundup

This week I started Don't Eat This Book by Morgan Spurlock. You may know Spurlock from his documentary Super Size Me. Well, now he's written a book further detailing our nation's battle with its own obesity and fast food's contribution to it. It was between this book and Fast Food Nation (which I've been wanting to read forever), and I finally went with Spurlock because I knew it'd be humorous and FFN looked a little more dense. I'm not very far along into it, just the first chapter or so. Spurlock begins with a rant about warning labels: those little fresheners in sneakers that say "Do Not Eat," for instance, probably didn't have a label on them until somebody thought they were mints. Cigarettes, he says, haven't always had labels on them either. But the difference between the two is that there isn't a billion-dollar campaign to get kids hooked on sneaker mints as young as possible. This is his introduction to our nation doing things …

Missional Tension

This is the entry that I said I'd post the other day. I've been sitting on it for a while.. It's rank with my own hypocrisy and in that regard it stings to read. But maybe that's why I should publish it.

I've had a couple really rough phone messages lately. The other week, a woman called asking for help to meet rent. Her family is facing eviction. I listed the usual list of pros and cons in my head: cash might not make it to where it needs to go, do I trust someone with the information on a personal check, why doesn't the church have a separate account for this sort of thing, etc. I sat on that message for a week before calling her back, apologizing for taking so long and that I had no money to offer her. I did pass along an agency's phone number--a number she's already familiar with--and there wasn't much more that I could do. More accurately, there wasn't much more that I was willing to do. During this conversation she shared that her stepson h…

Faced With a Choice

I got a call today from a colleague in my Association.

I quickly remembered that she's the chair of the nominating committee. The reason for my remembering this is because my "name came up" in a discussion of who might be best to fill positions on the Association Council, sort of the uber-Consistory for the Association. It makes the big decisions and it sets the direction.

Guess why I was asked. Go ahead, guess.

Young. We want a young voice. One of these days I'm not going to be that young any more. Then what will people do?

I've had more questions lately about how much the wider church matters if it does anything other than support and encourage and equip local churches. It's my view that local churches are the ones doing real ministry and mission work. In fact, I've been tweaking an entry to this effect that I'll go ahead and post later in the week.

So here I sit turning over this position and am of two minds:

1. I'm already on a couple committees and…

Monday Morning Celebrating

The Detroit Tigers beat the New York Yankees in the playoffs. There is no one part of that sentence that feels as good all by itself. Kenny Rogers really did pitch the game of his life, and Jeremy Bonderman followed it up with five innings of perfection. If the Yankees had won, would we have seen them run back onto the field from the locker room with champagne to celebrate with their fans, people who have waited to see something like this for 19 years instead of, well, again? The As will be tougher. They actually have pitchers. But this is a much better moment than dropping three to the (FREAKING) Royals.

Do other pastor readers know that October is Clergy Appreciation Month? I didn't until last October when a whole bunch of cards started showing up from church members. My church takes it pretty seriously. Yesterday, one member got up and presented a gift card to a local sushi restaurant in recognition of the month. I wanted to use it after worship for lunch, but I think …

GalPals Election Meme

This one seemed fun and harmless.

1) How old were you when you voted for the first time? I think I was 18 or 19. I do remember that it was in college, because I was home that week for some reason.

2) What was the contest at the top of the ballot? It was an off year. No presidency, not even Congressional. So it was probably some levy. I remember voting for some district judges, too.

3) Can you walk to your polling place? Technically, but it would take an hour or so.

4) Have you ever run for public office? Absolutely not.

5) Have you run for office in a club or school or on a board? The first time I ran for a school office, I was asked if I wanted to be on the VP ballot for my high school's drama club and ended up winning. The next year I was president. I held various low-ranking positions in my college fraternity and just yesterday was elected (read: told I was) the new president of my town's ministerial association, the duties of which include calling meetings and handi…

Pop Culture Roundup

I've finally crawled out of my book slump and found some reading that speaks to what got me to give it up for a while. I'd heard some really positive things about The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne, which is not a true autobiography but does recount portions of his Christian experience as he seeks to return to what Jesus truly asks of us. He calls himself an "ordinary radical," and parses out the term so we know what he means: "ordinary" as in not special, and "radical" is getting to the root of something's meaning. So here is a guy, not special, trying to live the root of Jesus' message. I picked up a book a while back by Erwin McManus called The Barbarian Way and from the back cover thought that it would be what Claiborne is describing. Where McManus gives a handful of analogies, likening raw Christianity to jetskiing and other Xtreme activities because of how risky they are, Claiborne organizes hundreds of college kids to go…

What's In Your Cup?

October is Fair Trade Month.

Fair Trade is the paying of a set minimum wage to coffee farmers, first to pay them what they need and deserve and second to help stimulate the economy in which they find themselves. These farmers find themselves in more depressed regions of Latin America and South America, and in a free trade environment see diminishing returns for their labor, barely enough to support themselves. The United States consumes 1/5 of the world's coffee, and coffee is second only to oil in how widely-traded a commodity it is. So yeah, it's important.

Learn more about what Fair Trade is here.

And here's something I wrote a while ago about how much better Fair Trade coffee tastes. Drink a cup of Equal Exchange "Mind, Body and Soul" and then a cup of Maxwell House and seriously tell me Maxwell House is better. I will laugh at you. HA.

That's how justice tastes, man. Truly good to the last drop.

Monday Morning Grumblings

What. The hell. Happened. Ever have one of those dreams where you aren't prepared for something or your worst fears come true? Any minute now I'm SURE that my alarm clock is going to go off and the Tigers really beat Kansas City (FREAKING KANSAS CITY) and won the Division and aren't going to play the Yankees in New York tomorrow with NATE ROBERTSON starting. Where'd all the spark, the confidence, go? That's what Detroit players were saying all summer long when asked about the big turnaround: "Well, we've just got our confidence back." And you couldn't find any the last week of the season when you're on the verge of winning a title against Kansas (FREAKING) City?


Even apart from that, I wanted to crawl into a hole yesterday morning. Due to events the past week or so around here I've been in a little more sensitive mode. I asked my kids during the children's sermon what we can find in a newspaper. Back to back, I got "f…

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