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Showing posts from December, 2006

Thanks for Your Patience

"This music reminds me of those old western shows." That's how the conversation--if you could truly call it that--began.

I'd just come from calling hours to show support for a parishioner. Her 19-year-old great-granddaughter--working two jobs to pay for a car, aspirations of finishing school to be a hairdresser, her whole freaking life ahead of her--gone just before Christmas in a car accident. As I expected, the line wove all through the funeral home, mostly made up of the shocked and sullen faces of kids barely out of high school. The family knows me...I'd presided over the death of another relative the year before.

They hadn't called me for this one, though the girl's older brother mistook me for the officiant. That signaled familiarity, memory. We remember stuff like that: who gives the eulogy at your loved ones' funerals. Very clearly I remember the youngish weird priest who oversaw a close college friend's funeral. I remember how he sat and …

Year-End Pop Culture Roundup 2006

Yet again, we come to my year-end review based upon my year's experiences of various media. Each category is in no particular order...I just numbered them for practical reasons.

Five Books I've Enjoyed or Have Found Enriching in 2006
1. New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton - This was my introduction to Thomas Merton, and since reading it I've acquired five of his other books. I admit that I don't identify with him completely. That usually happens when he veers into ultra-Catholic mode. Otherwise, he has wonderful insight into humility and spirituality that Western Christianity could use more of, especially in a landscape of American Christendom dotted with megachurches and lots of defending the faith at the expense of actually doing anything out of faith.

2. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson - I've mentioned before that I have plans to re-read this book every year. This is a novel about pastors, but it is also a novel about fathers and sons. The narrator is a pastor…

Christmas Eve

The Word was first, the Word present to God, God present to the Word. The Word was God, in readiness for God from day one. Everything was created through him; nothing - not one thing! - came into being without him. What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by.

The Life-Light was the real thing: Every person entering Life he brings into Light. He was in the world, the world was there through him, and yet the world didn't even notice. He came to his own people, but they didn't want him. But whoever did want him, who believed he was who he claimed and would do what he said, He made to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves. These are the God-begotten, not blood-begotten, not flesh-begotten, not sex-begotten. The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.

No one has ever seen God, not so much as …

Not Much Work for a Workday

Saturdays, as I've mentioned here before, are considered a workday for me much to the eternal chagrin and annoyance of Mrs. Jeff...who is working today.

But today, two days before Christmas and one day before the whirlwind spectacular that is Christmas Eve Falling On A Sunday, it's pretty quiet 'round here. I'm finding that this is a typical thing for this church and probably for many churches...who wants to talk to the pastor or meet with the pastor when there is so much non-church stuff to be done? I really don't know if that's only a small-to-medium-sized church phenomenon or if it happens in larger churches with larger productions. Regardless, I easily accomodate, turning to final preparations for tomorrow's services as well as some non-church stuff of my own.

I've come to treasure this end-of-year lull. At this point there are only so many more sermons to write and visits to make before logging the grand totals and then skipping town for a while. It&…

Anti-Pop Culture Roundup

Next Friday will be the Year-End Pop Culture Roundup Spectacular, so this week I decided to do something a little different. Today I present to you some of the elements from books, movies, TV, and music that I have decided NOT to patronize...or do my best to avoid.

I usually take this in a certain order, but I've wanted to write about this for a while so I need to get this out of the way first. I subscribe to Entertainment Weekly, and this magazine gives a ridiculous amount of print to Grey's Anatomy. I've only ever watched one episode, for which I am thankful. Here's the thing: when I keep hearing about Dr. McDreamy and Dr. McSteamy, I quickly ascertain that this show is not meant for my demographic. It took me a little while to realize it, but all the people I know who like it are female. I don't think that is a coincidence when your biggest selling point is how hot Patrick Dempsey is. That's all I ever hear about. We always need a Dynasty-Dallas-Melrose Place…

"Get X Out of Xmas"

This was posted on a messageboard on which I mostly lurk nowadays, but it really spoke to me this morning and I wanted to share it here:

OK, for something completely different - I've been thinking about why"keep Christ in Christmas" bothers me (but what doesn't these days?) Nobody kept Christ in Christmas the first time. (OK, maybe Mary) Andwhat kind of Christ is it that we can put into, or keep out of,Christmas? It's all I can do to keep up with him, much less keep him in, out, or anywhere!

My sermon thought on Christmas Eve - it's more important to keep Christ in Thursday than to keep him in Christmas. Thursday comes 52 times a year more often, for one thing. When we're all mellow and tender at Christmas time we hardly feel the need for him anyway. Thursday, though - when you've lost your temper and smacked your kid,or you're wondering why the hades you ever got into this vocation -THAT's when you need Christ.

Alternate Christmas Eve sermon tho…

Wisdom from RLP

After fretting about Advent preaching yesterday, I came across these words from RealLivePreacher this morning:

I’ll just say this about sermons. I never spend one single moment thinking about what I want to say or what I might have to say. Who the hell cares what I have to say? I only think about two things: First, what exactly is the text saying? Second, is there a way I can break this story open on Sunday morning so that my dearest friends, my brothers and sisters, cannot help but listen? All the action you need is right there in the text. You just have to shine a light on it. Who knows, maybe someone’s life will be broken open this Sunday.

It could happen.

Third Time Through

Believe it or not, I've been thinking about Lent and Easter this week. Yes, I know Christmas Eve is on Sunday. Yes, I know it's not 2007 yet.

Preaching has really been a struggle this season. The familiar themes of Advent are so familiar to me that I've already talked about them twice. How do I present them in new, creative, refreshing ways? Again?

I freaking love the purple seasons. I usually find them to be so stimulating. This Advent, I just haven't felt like I've found my groove.

It'll get easier from here on out...Sunday morning I become Joseph's advocate and talk about his important yet largely forgotten role in the popular rendering of the Christmas story. Matthew doesn't forget him, I say, but everyone else has. We don't sing "Joseph Did You Know?" (I'd actually prefer not to sing the original version either...that and "Breath of Heaven"...they complete the Unholy Trinity with "Feliz Navidad") Half …

Stories From a Week of Ministry

I was invited to a parishioner's company Christmas party yesterday. We met at his house and caravanned: him, his wife, his sister-in-law, his wife's cousin and her family, me and Mrs. Jeff, and another family friend. This party had been built up for us beforehand as something much bigger than standing around an office drinking punch, so after a morning of tidying up before Sunday, I gave myself permission to head off and join in the festivities.

It was held in one of the convention centers of downtown Akron, with an entire large conference room dedicated to the proceedings: tables upon tables of food, air hockey and foosball tables, inflated bounce-around-bungee-game-things, a caricature artist, and Santa Claus. They weren't kidding. This was a huge deal. The company can afford it, and they need to with their amount of employees and loved ones.

I ate a whole bunch of the wrong things: a cheesesteak sandwich, chicken wings, ice cream, and Mountain Dew. And it was fantas…

Pop Culture Roundup

I haven't made much progress in Merton's Seven Storey Mountainthis week. However, this is as insightful a book as I've read this year, with Merton speaking to my own experience in wonderful and unexpected ways. Here's one of my favorite quotes:

It is almost impossible to make much sense out of the continual rearrangement of our lives and our plans...People came into our lives and went out of our lives. We had one set of friends, now another. Things were always changing. I accepted it all. Why should it ever have occurred to me that nobody else lived like that? To me, it seemed as natural as the variations of the weather and the seasons.

I'm still trying to wrap my head around generations of the same family living in the same town and attending the same church for their entire lives. That's so foreign to me. The area in which I live now is the closest I get because my high school is only 15 minutes away...but I only really lived there full-time for 5 1/2 …

Spoke Too Soon

Scene: A popular family dining establishment which the POC household likes to frequent. They are on a mission to purchase new trays for their self-scooping litter box and have taken an opportunity to have lunch before completing their errand.

"Jingle Bell Rock" begins playing over the speakers. Jeff takes another bite of his burger. Mrs. Jeff has another sip of soup.

After another moment, Jeff fully notices the music playing.

Jeff: Huh.

Mrs. Jeff: Hm?

Jeff: This song is pretty corny.

Mrs. Jeff: (stops to listen for a moment) Yeah, it is.

Jeff: Hey...but at least they're not playing "Feliz Navidad." I haven't heard that [deleted] song once so far this season.

Mrs. Jeff: You shouldn't have said that! You just jinxed yourself!

Jeff: Oh. I might have.

"Jingle Bell Rock" ends. The very next song is...come on, guess. But it's not the guy singing through his nose...it's Celine Dion, which Jeff considers to be even worse.

Jeff: [Deleted]

Mrs. Jeff: Told y…

"Post-Liberal"

Without fanfare, I recently added this descriptor to my blogger profile. I figured that I should write an entry to explain it and discover for myself what it means as well.

The term (which I won't claim as original) came to me while I read a recent iMonk post where he declares himself "post-evangelical." He explains that the kind of evangelical that he's talking about is the doctrinal mindset, the subculture. He wishes to remain evangelical in the sense that it means sharing the good news, but discard any sort of towing the line, any sort of approach to an issue that begins, "Well, since I'm an evangelical, that means I have to believe/say/do X." He's over that. He's post that. The most concise sentence that he includes that speaks to what I'm trying to establish is this:



In this sense, “post-evangelical” means that I have not identified completely with any of the attempts to “close” the evangelical conversation around a particular denominati…

POC in Next Wave Magazine

Head on over to Next Wave E-zine to read "Exciting Christianity," written by yours truly.

GalPals Christmas Song Meme

Right, so this is self-explanatory:

1. A favorite 'secular' Christmas song. Nothing beats Jingle Bells. The second verse includes the line "take the girls tonight," which my brother and I like to sing extra loud.

2. Christmas song that chokes you up (maybe even in spite of yourself--the cheesier the better) It doesn't really choke me up, but Christmastime is Here from Charlie Brown gets me.

3. Christmas song that makes you want to stuff your ears with chestnuts roasted on an open fire. Feliz Navidad...it's annoying in and of itself, but then that guy on the radio sings it through his nose.

4. The Twelve Days of Christmas: is there *any* redeeming value to that song? Discuss. Not really. It promotes indentured servitude if you think about it. "For Christmas, my true love gave me some ladies dancing and some other chicks milking...all for my enjoyment. Uh oh...she's not milking hard enough. TO THE STOCKS, WENCH!!" Yeah, real redeeming.

5. A f…

Stupid Stupid Stupid

Hey folks.

After a long wait, Blogger finally offered me the chance to upgrade to Blogger Beta.

However, it is painfully obvious that there are still a lot of kinks in this system...to which I comment, "you obviously weren't really ready to upgrade me, but now I've been duped and apparently have limited access to my blogs until you figure yourselves out."

So in case you don't see any updates on this site for a little bit, that's why.

In the meantime, I'll try my luck over at a temporary home. Who knows? It may become permanent.

Edit: This seems to be working now. So here we go.

Pop Culture Roundup

I finished Spook, which was pretty enjoyable. Roach's final chapter deals with near-death experiences and whether they're real or a psychological reaction. She interviews a guy who tries to study them by hanging a computer from the ceiling of an operating room...if someone who is clinically dead wafts out of their body toward the sky, then they'll presumably see the picture on the computer screen and then relay what it was when they come back. Of course, this all assumes that when people die, they'll waft upward. Apparently no data has been collected yet. Roach ends the book with a short epilogue about the preconceived notions with which people approach these sorts of studies: if you're skeptical you'll be skeptical, if you believe in something, you'll look for what supports your belief. This theme runs throughout the book, actually. The end of Spook leaves me with Merton's Seven Storey Mountain, which details his moving around and the fascination he de…

10 Random Thoughts on a Sunday Evening

~Yeah, like Florida really stands a chance against Ohio State. I'll root against OSU regardless, but mostly I'll be rooting for the stadium to collapse.

~If you visit the UCC Forums, you'll find that their theology forum just recently became overrun by their first poster proselytizing atheism. It's surprising that it took so long, but all the same it's cute watching him act like he's smarter than everyone else.

~Pray for my grandma. She was diagnosed with breast cancer and it has since found its way into her bones. This is going to be a difficult year, methinks.

~In the same evening, I learned that a seminary buddy of mine will be at General Synod this summer. That made my evening brighter.

~My sermon tanked today. Here, tell me if you get this: a guy sees a sign in a storefront that says, "Pants Pressed Here." Immediately interested, he walks in and starts taking off his pants. The store owner exclaims, "Hey! What are you doing?" &quo…

RevGals Advent Meme

I wanted to play, although I make no promises on effort.

1) Do you observe Advent in your church? We do. We light the wreath and every year it seems I end up tying in my sermons to whichever candle that was just lit. My first year here it was intentional, but after that it found its way in anyway. The church also puts up with my refusal to have us sing Christmas carols before Christmas Eve...last year I discovered what a great selection of Advent hymns the old E & R Hymnal has, which helped a little.

2) How about at home? We do have an Advent wreath somewhere, but I can't find it. We don't light the candles, but if and when I locate it, it has a presence. I also keep the baby Jesus out of the nativity scene until Christmas and keep the Magi from visiting until January 6th (but that runs out of steam by New Year's).

3) Do you have a favorite Advent text or hymn? "O Come O Come Emmanuel" by a mile. And I always dig the Isaiah passages because when I hear …

Pop Culture Roundup

I've been able to get through Spook a little more this week. Back to back are chapters on the soul: first, where exactly it is (the discussion ranges from theories on when life begins and thus whether the soul is in the sperm or egg to a Jewish belief that there is a "soul bone") and second, how much it weighs (one guy who owned a TB clinic rigged a cot on a scale, weighed some patients as they died, and concluded that the soul weighs 21 grams, which apparently inspired the movie title). Roach handles it all with her trademark humor and grace as she explores how well theories like these match up with modern scientific knowledge. The short answer is that not many of them do.

A church member randomly gave me a copy of Heidi with Shirley Temple this past Sunday. Usually people pass along specifically Christian books or videos that they found inspirational (I have a tape of Joyce Meyer somewhere in my office), but this was a first. Mrs. Jeff loves Shirley Temple, so her eyes …

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