Showing posts from November, 2006

Six Strange Things Meme

Erin tagged me for this thing. I'm supposed to list six strange things about me, and then tag six people. I may not do the tagging part, but here's the rest...

1. I make up my own words to songs and sing them around the house. On Thanksgiving I sang the words "Happy Thanksgiving" over and over to the tune of "Deck the Halls." I don't do too badly if I try to make up rhymes. They don't always make sense, but they rhyme.

2. I get excited when I have to go buy office supplies. I don't really know why. Even when I'm just along for the ride when someone else needs to go to Staples, it's like I just walked in to Toys R Us. They'll go look at whatever they need and I'll be fawning over notebooks and calendars and pens. It's kind of sad.

3. Even if I truly need to go, I won't make a doctor's appointment until I'm absolutely forced to do it. I hate going to the doctor's office or to the hospital. It's just a …


For me, youth ministry has always been a "Jonah and the Big Fish" sort of situation. As hard and as far as I try to run, God has always found me, dragged me back, and said, "Do this!"

I like to think that I've had good reasons for resisting. I didn't want to be stuck perpetually in 10th grade, where I feel like I'm being judged on my coolness level more than what I can teach about spirituality. Some youth pastors try too hard to compensate in this area, and I never wanted to be one of them.I fully realized this a couple months ago during a local parade, which featured another church's youth pastor standing atop their float wearing pajama pants with pictures of Sugar Daddy candies all over them (that was actually creepy) and bleating one of their Bible School songs a la Ferris Buehler. I don't want to be That Guy.

But throughout seminary, I found myself playing a big part in organizing youth groups. My age may have had something to do with this, …

Two Years

I've heard a couple different things about the two-year mark of a pastorate.

First, I've heard that it is during the second year when a pastor starts seeing signs that maybe this isn't the place to which s/he's called. It's when the first rough patch hits, or when something else begins to look more enticing. It's when doubt arises. I'll admit that I had something related to this, but my real first rough patch came after I was here about six months, and it's actually been pretty calm since then. So this one applies, but indirectly.And really, I think that this stems more from the so-called "honeymoon period" being over than anything else.When the tone shifts like that, it may be tempting to cut and run. But that'll cause a pastor to keep jumping from one church to another every 12-18 months.

Second, I've heard that for first-time pastors, it is after two years that one's "seminary stink" has completely worn off. I'm not …

UCC Blogring

It's been a while, so I thought I'd remind my readers of the United Church of Christ Blog Network. It's grown steadily since it began back in April, and new members are always welcome.

Maybe it's time to do something more with the host blog. I'll consider that, but the main purpose is the list of blogs off to the side, all somehow affiliated with the UCC and actively seeking the best for the denomination. Go browse a couple.

A few recommendations:

Disciple David - David Loar pastors a UCC church in Akron, Ohio and is also interested in emerging church issues.

Jeremiah's Field - Genxpastor is a seminarian friend, newly called to a UCC church in Illinois.

Kirkogitation - Kirk is a UCC pastor in Illinois and contributes to the Bible section of i.ucc.

Rantings of the Faithful - Pastor Peters is a very new UCC pastor in Maine, who just started her first pastorate a few weeks ago.

New UCC blogs always welcome!

POC Public Service Announcement

Attention sports writers...

While there is no denying that Ohio State is on top of the college football world right now, and has been all season, there is something in which you need to show better judgment.

If you want to be taken seriously, you need to stop using words like "overpowered" and "dominated" when referring to the most recent OSU-Michigan game.

42-39 is neither overpowering nor domination. It is scraping by. It is making it out alive. It is clutching the top spot by one finger and being thankful that your defense was only slightly better than the other's.

Choose your words more responsibly. In the meantime, approach the particular writer that came up with the tagline on your most recent Sports Illustrated and give him an extreme wedgie.

Thank you. That is all.

Pop Culture Roundup

I haven't made any progress on Spook at all. I just haven't set any time aside to read. So it's a wonder that I've decided to alternate between Roach's book and Thomas Merton's autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain. I've heard good things about it...that it's some of Merton's best writing. If I'd actually read either of these before typing this, I'd have more to say.

We saw Casino Royale this past week, which was excellent. Daniel Craig should alleviate any hardcore fan's fears that he'd make a poor Bond. He's actually one of the better ones. This is a gritty, no-BS Bond along the lines of Connery. Brosnan was too noble, too clean. Craig's Bond is more morally ambiguous. The black-and-white sequence at the beginning was my favorite. The love story is actually a love story, whereas in other Bond movies the girl is just a nice bit of frosting on the cake after beating the bad guy....and it doesn't go too well a…

A Very Similar Day

Last year around this time, I wrote an entry called Blue Christmas...Before Thanksgiving. The other week, this entry flowed back into my consciousness as I began to think about readings that would be fitting to read during our Blue Christmas service. Last year I used parts of a RealLivePreacher essay and an excerpt from the GalPals' Advent book (so needless to say, the blogosphere has been very helpful in putting together this service). I try to hit a multitiude of themes during this service, because it's not just grief that arises during the can be stress, or the reminder of how financially limited you are, or loneliness, or doubt. I like looking for essays that touch on these other themes.

So I was reminded of my Blue Christmas essay from just before Thanksgiving, and I remembered the circumstances surrounding it: our church had two people die in the same week, I was just beginning to feel the most incredulous about holiday commercialization that I've ever f…


I had two church-related dreams last night.

In the first, I couldn't find any of my stoles and the prelude had already started. So there was this long time of silence while I looked for them. And I wasn't looking in my office for them, either. I was looking in the back room where I know they wouldn't be. So then I walk out to begin the service. I'm not actually in my church's sanctuary, but in my dream I think that it's my church's sanctuary...know what I mean? And a neighbor church has brought its youth group and at some point it's become an evening service. And the youth group won't shut up. Some start chanting and some are talking at regular level voices and some start singing. I try to direct them to the call to worship, but no one is having it. By this point I realize that all of the congregation except for this youth group has walked out. Finally one of the adults with this group explains that their church has embraced a much more re…

Michigan Pride

Okay, so when it comes down to it, the Wolverines lost 42-39.

I can't bring myself to get too upset about 42-39. And after a week of stewing and moaning about Troy Smith and the expected "Hey Pastor, how'd your team do HAR HAR" that I'm already recieving, I'm pleasantly surprised that I feel this good.

Truth be told, I've been riding a high since June. That's when I first realized that the Tigers might have a shot at appearing in their first World Series in 19 years. I took every opportunity that I could get this summer and fall to wear my Detroit hat out and about. Then college football season started, and simultaneously I got to watch the Tigers plow through the first two rounds of the playoffs and the Wolverines make up for an absolutely miserable season last year.

I told a story during one of my sermons recently. I have an autographed Tigers baseball and I talked about my first visit to Tiger Stadium...the first of a handful of such f…

Y'all are in trouble...

...because now, they're gonna do it for Bo.

RIP, and Go Blue.

Pop Culture Roundup

I've started Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach. You may know Roach's other book, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. In Spook, Roach turns her attention to such subjects as ghosts, the soul, and heaven and hell. I've only read the introduction so far, so I don't have a whole lot to say about it other than that Roach's humor is intact.

TV-wise, tomorrow I'll be watching the Michigan game with my hands over my face.ButI'll spread my fingers enough to see what happens.

As for music, I broke down and started listening to Christmas music this past week. I wanted to find something to arrange and perform in church for Christmas Eve, but my particular crop of Christmas CDs doesn't really lend itself to that. This is what I have to choose from:

Bunch of Believers, Ska-La-La-La-La - A Christmas ska CD. Their take on the classic carols are much better than their originals, where they sing about putting on a Christmas play at church and gettin…

Bowing to Culture or Being Realistic?

I originally had a youth function scheduled for this Saturday evening, but after a lot of back and forth I rescheduled it.

You don't have to think very hard to guess the reason. There's a football game being played that afternoon that a lot of people take to be a big deal. When I'd scheduled this thing, I hadn't realized that that was the same day.

It finally fully hit me this past Sunday, when I was told by one person that they'd at least be late because they wanted to watch the entire thing. Immediately I started questioning how many others would either be late or not come at all for the same reason. At first, I thought I'd just make do and plow through. But after a while I realized that after an afternoon and early evening of what can really be an involved, emotional event for people (especially in this silly state), would they truly be able to switch gears for what I had planned?

Plus I wanted to see the entire thing, too.

To a certain extent, I feel like …

Big Week

I've been dwelling on the High Holy Day that will once again descend upon us this Saturday. I use the word "dwelling," because it captures the bad mood that such reflection has put me in over the course of today.

If you aren't a fan of Michigan or Ohio State, you probably don't see Saturday as anything more than the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

For us, it is a crucial day. A sacred day. A day of Super Bowl proportions. And this particular year couldn't be bigger with pretty much everything on the line: a Big Ten championship, a National Title game appearance, bragging rights.

I myself have had to endure The Most Insufferable Fans in the Land for three years running now. I can't avoid it. I live in their state. I pastor 200 of them or so. They all have my phone number. I can't call off the day after the game.

Michigan is a different team this year, this is true. They're mad about last year's craptastic season and the flak that Carr is getting. And…


It's already Monday.

Monday of the second full week of November.

The Monday after the second Sunday of November.

As far as my schedule is concerned, we're over halfway through the month already.

Only five more days until Sunday. Five more days to write a sermon, prepare a confirmation lesson, make ready for another go.

Only four more days until a youth function.

Two more days until Bible study.

Less than a day until Consistory.

I live in seven-day increments. Get to Sunday, hit restart. Begin again.

It's already Monday.

And soon Monday will be over, too.

Pop Culture Roundup

I started Christianity for the Rest of Us by Diana Butler Bass. Bass took on a three-year study course to attend mainline churches, speak with their members, and experience their programs. The purpose was to show that mainline churches, in their own skin, are thriving. She cites emphases on spirituality, experiential worship, and progressive theology as some of the marks of these communities. However, her book also features the refrain, "as opposed to those other churches" mixed in, which especially seems to contradict her chapter on diversity in which she celebrates how it is about the absence of "as opposed to those other groups." I think her overall point is that mainliners have been written off for so long as spiritually dead, sleepy, and worshippers of tradition (by some of those "other churches" in particular) that she wants to respond to those claims. In that regard, I've sometimes wondered who exactly this book is for. Is it a pep talk for mai…

Feeding the Hungry

Imagine being buried without books;
a situation making haunting justifiable.
Everywhere: books. Books written after your death,
books written before that you neglected to read-
all their pages unturnable, their riches kept from you.

Living readers, can you feel them?
Peering over your shoulder jealously as you squint in darkened libraries,
as you huddle under covers hugging the words close
and drift towards the Jealous Ones in sleep,
as you lazily scan pages in waiting rooms and the back seat of cars.

If you're wondering, it's why at night,
while locking doors and dimming lights,
I leave books open on the stairs, the table.
It's why in sympathy with the Damned
I spend my lunch hour reading in the graveyard.

Back against tree, gold leaves hissing as they hit the earth,
though I can't quite see them, I can feel them
hovering around me,
pushing each other out of the way like children-
the Dead, bereft readers who try to read my book.

Sometimes, on rare, quiet days when the clouds drift overh…

POC Gets Political and Other Stuff

It's a relaxing day for your POC blogger.

We got up fairly early to cast our votes and then go out to breakfast. I was confounded briefly by the electronic voting machine because I couldn't find the card slot. After that, however, it was smooth screen-touching for me.

I have never had more pre-recorded phone messages from anyone before this election season. The most interesting part was that they were all from Republicans, urging me to protect our country and values from the bad people. I even got one while I sat down to type this telling me that "it's not too late if you haven't voted!" None of them did any good. Sorry.

For my Ohio readers, I'll go ahead and let you know that I'm against the encouragement of gambling addictions and increased revenue for race track owners, for the restriction on risk of lung cancer and emphysema in public places (the state law, not the corporate-sponsored constitutional amendment), for the raising of the minimum wage...a…

Fishbowl on a Pedestal

Most blogs I read regularly have picked up the current woes of Ted Haggard. The reactions are all over the map, too. Some are worried about how this will tarnish the evangelical image, some are worried for him and his family, some hope that the allegations aren't true, some hope that he, as well as other evangelical Christians, learns something from all this. I am pleased, however, that not one blogger I've read is twisting the knife or trying to use this to prop up an anti-Christian, anti-Religious Right, or anti-Evangelical agenda. I'm sure that some bloggers somewhere are, but the ones I read haven't and that includes some that are usually pretty scathing when it comes to the groups with which Haggard identifies.

There's been a lot of discussion of sin and hypocrisy coming out of this (well, more "conservative" blogs are more concerned with the sin part because they have a particular idea in this case). After all, Haggard has before now been elevated on…

I'm Going to Write About Music Now

Okay, first a disclaimer. If you've been reading this silly blog for any length of time, you've probably noticed that when it comes to my Pop Culture Roundups, I never go into great detail about the music I'm listening to. I have a very good reason for that. Beyond describing what genre the artist fits into, I find that I can't write much else without sounding cornball. I can't describe music in print without it sounding forced or cheesy.

Here, watch: The Black Keys provide a mix of blues sensibility with raw rock flavor. The drums are no-nonsense, the guitar riffs simple yet powerful, and the singer is comfortable in his own voice.

Actually, that didn't go as bad as I thought it would. But my overall point is that you don't read or write about music. You freaking listen to it. When you write about it, all you get are words like "raw" and "sensibility" and "flavor" and "simple yet powerful," and that really doesn't…

Pop Culture Roundup

I'm finally finished with Don't Eat This Book. From beginning to end, this was an indictment of what we eat and all the factors of why we compel ourselves to eat it. Did you know that the USDA's Food Pyramid has changed twice since it first came out, mainly because various parts of the food industry whined that their piece was too small (and thus would drive profits down)? Yeah, our best interests are being kept at heart there.

At our Halloween get-together this past Friday, Mrs. Jeff popped in Underworld before I had a chance to stop her. In fact, I think she purposely did it while I was out of the room (actually, I would have put in Army of Darkness, which is probably another reason she took her opportunity). I don't know why she likes this movie so much. You have to pay extra attention to get all the convoluted backstory, and seriously, vampires and werewolves using guns? Biting gets you too dirty and bloody nowadays I guess.

I'm at a loss for TV shows now that ba…

A Sad Post-Halloween Church Story

This story from The Parish really got to me:

Let's pretend you're a young mother, about 24, with a biracial one year old son. You've not had much of a good life, to include a stint with drug addiction. Almost all of your experiences with church people have come the salons where you've worked, and almost all have been negative. With the exception of a few Christian stylists with whom you've worked, the clientele has usually evaluated your dress, tattoos, piercings, hair color, comportment, language, etc., and found you oddly lacking in Christian character. Strange? Not really; you didn't grow up in church. Your family was a disaster, and your first marriage was abusive and drug-hazed. Now, you're trying to make things better for your son. You're working steadily, drinking a little with the girls, found a better man, and gotten clean of meth. What should you do on Halloween?

Turns out the church down the street from where you work is having a "Fall Fes…

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