Showing posts from February, 2007


I haven't "given up" something for Lent for a few years now. Lately I haven't wanted to go that route because when I do it, I want it to mean something.

Well, this year I'm giving up blogging. I actually spend quite a ridiculous amount of free time on here, and I really don't need to be doing that. Instead, I'll read and journal, maybe schedule some morning prayer time.

So for the next six weeks, I wish you all well in your reflections and as we journey together, at least in spirit, toward Easter. I'm also turning off comments. Nothing personal.

Don't eat too much fried fish.


Pop Culture Roundup

I'm still taking Buechner a sermon at a time, and he's going to make it into no less than two sermons between now and Easter. Aside from that, this week I was handed a copy of the latest book one of our Sunday School classes is discussing, Muhammed: A Prophet for Our Time by Karen Armstrong. I thought it was really cool that they're being intentional about understanding other religions, and Armstrong has a great reputation as a religious historian. I've gotten through the first two chapters, and so far Armstrong has detailed the context out of which Muhammed came, how tribalism ruled the day and how Mecca emerged as a huge trading center, and the beginnings of Muhammed receiving and sharing his revelations. It's been a huge help in better understanding Islam as a whole, and in particular its understanding of its central figure.

Non-wrestling fans, go ahead and skip down. For Christmas, I got a DVD entitled The History of the WWE Championship. I'd watched a coupl…

Somebody's Slipping

Okay, my Oscars/Grammys post hasn't been up a full day and it's already linked at a big James Blunt fansite. Apparently any news is good news. In fact, this post will probably make it on there, too.

But my Left Behind: Eternal Forces challenge has been going since Sunday with still no appearance from the spambot.

Perhaps my word verification foiled them. It is a truly mighty shield. I just didn't know how mighty...until now.

Edited for Blunt-related site accuracy. But his music is still astronomically crappy.

The Oscars vs. The Grammys

Joseph Barsabbas posted a brief rant about the Grammys, which I reproduce here:

Besides the Police, I dabbled very little into the actual awards show, because the Grammys are generally a joke. Justin Timberlake may be the hottest thing going, but I think he puts out drivel. Meanwhile, deserving artists like Neko Case or the Decemberists, that is, the truly best artists out there today are nowhere to be found. I liked the Dixie Chicks song "Not Ready to Make Nice" and I guess they were somewhat vindicated for winning five Grammys, but the fact that the Grammys are useless makes it a fairly hollow vindication. After all, these are music awards, not "free speech" awards, but if it makes 'em feel better, then more power to 'em. The right wingers will still insist that it's liberals voting for liberals anyway.

This got me to thinking a little bit, and here's the comment that I posted:

Agreed on the Grammys, and the Decemberists.

I used to get pissed wheneve…

Transfiguration Sunday

It's snowing. A lot. Both my visit and my evening meeting have been postponed for other days. So today was made my lectionary study day, where I look ahead to next month's lectionary readings and tentatively plan out my extended preaching itinerary. It usually works well. There are some really good ones coming up, including the prodigal son.

But before I get there, I have to go through Transfiguration Sunday. I sat down with Luke's version of the story recently and thought to myself, "What else could I possibly say about this story?" I used the well-worn "have the mountaintop experience, then go serve" bit last year. I've always managed to focus on Peter's misunderstanding the event, and I'm tired of ragging on the poor guy about it. Luke does have some notable differences, but I haven't found them notable enough to center a sermon around them. As the adage goes, "the preacher is the only one who wants to find out what happened to th…

Don't Read This If You Really Like Valentine's Day

My brother sent me this list of sayings for Valentine's Cards that Hallmark won't use for some reason. Enjoy.

~If love were a flavor of ice cream, it would be Mint Chocolate Chip because I love that flavor.

~I used to think that love was something I could feel only once in a lifetime. And then I met your sister.

~Love is like applesauce--it's mushy and makes me want to poop.

~Two lovers in love are better than three lovers in a love triangle, because two is less than three, and too much love can give you gas.

~Roses are red, violets are blue, yada yada yada here's a card.

~If Chuck Norris were your boyfriend, he probably would have gotten you more than this crappy card.

~The Beatles once philosophized that all you need is love. I would argue that you need food, water, and shelter, too.

~If my love for you were a television show, I would definitely TiVo it every week.

~I would really like to vocalize my feelings for you, but I'm a wuss, so this card does it for me.


Let The Great Experiment Begin!

You've probably heard about the video game Left Behind: Eternal Forces and what a pock mark it is on the face of American Christianity. If not, that's okay.For what it's worth, here's my favorite analysis of the game from Brant at Kamp Krusty.

Anyway, that's not the point. The point is from a recent article from Talk 2 Action which features the observation that LE:ET actually has its own spambots. Yeah, if a blog mentions this stupid game, one of these spambots will come along and say something like:

Hey, with so many people having an opinion about this game, how many have actually played it? And what credibility do they have? Focus on the Family has publications which can set the record straight for [link deleted].

I've actually seen this exact message turn up on two blogs, one being Brant's. That's why I have begun this little experiment.

I'm going to try to get spammed by the Left Behind: Eternal Forces spambot.

I imagine that it won'…

Denominational Musings

Every once in a while, a blog that I read with ties to another denomination provides some commentary on the state of their church that strikes me in such a way as to ask how it may apply to my own denomination, the United Church of Christ. This morning, that blogger was one of my favorites, the Internet Monk, speaking about Southern Baptists:

News flash professor: It’s over. While you were selling your 3,535th denominational bumper sticker, the denomination generationally and culturally changed. Hybels, Warren and Driscoll have the attention of your pastors[...]Giglio and Piper have the attention of your student leaders. And this isn’t going to change. It’s going to increase and multiply. Denominational headquarters may be talking, but not most younger leaders aren’t listening. They are talking to each other, trading resources of their own, using the new technology, and the old denominational lines are, sorry to say this, a hassle rather than a help to many of them.

Now, I've been …

Pop Culture Roundup

As critical as I've been about Buechner's style and what sort of audience he had in mind when he conjured these sermons, I have to say that the past several weeks I've noticed a slight change in how I think about and write my own sermons. Buechner has quite a mystical edge while attempting to balance that with the religious experience of the typical American Protestant. He addresses the mix of doubt, boredom, apathy, anxiety, devotion, and tradition that one can find in most mainline churches, and he's helped renew my awareness of ways to preach with these elements in mind.

We've been watching a lot more Scrubs. It's a good thing that one doesn't necessarily have to watch this show from the beginning in order to keep up with continuing storylines. We've got season 1 through Netflix, but are also able to catch episodes from various seasons on Comedy Central, and the new season on NBC. That's a lot of Scrubs. I do have a limit in one sitting. And …

Should I?

So I'm working on a short reflection for our Ash Wednesday service.

The focus text is 2 Corinthians 4:7, which talks about having treasure in clay jars.

I'm using an illustration from Buechner, who talks about humanity's madness in trying to speed up death, focusing on a smoking ad.

Possible title: God's Mad Pottery Skills.

I'm glad I'm a UCC pastor...

...because it means that I'm not a United Methodist one.

I really don't mean any malice in that, so please don't read it that way. Hear me out.

One of my pastoral colleagues recently notified the rest of us in town that he's been reappointed to another church. To those outside the UMC (including myself, whose knowledge of UMC polity could fill a thimble), this type of act is reputed to be a capricious game of Methodist Roulette, where bored bishops throw darts at a map and pull names out of a hat.

I'm sure that there's more to it, and I'd love for a Methodist reader to chime in and tell me that this is a more careful process than that.

But it remains that I'm thankful for the search-and-call process as the United Church of Christ observes it, which can simplistically be summed up like so: you interview, you find what you hope will be a good match, and you stay for as long as you want.

I couldn't stand being forced to move every few years, or even months…

"It's Colder Than It Looks Outside"

That BNL lyric popped into my head this morning as I watch the morning weather forecast. Here in northeast Ohio we're expecting a high of 6. That's all. 6. If you factor in the windchill up on the hill where I live, it's about -30. A lot of schools are closed today because of it. I only remember one time when school was cancelled because it was this cold. I think it was when I was in elementary school out in the sticks. The most amusing thing about watching the news this morning has been the fact that they've made reporters go stand outside to report how dangerous the cold weather is and how we should all stay indoors. Maybe that's not really amusing.

The cold certainly kept people away yesterday morning. I figured that it would keep our older folks away, but it kept everybody away. I usually have 10-12 kids for my children's sermon and I had four. And it was a good thing, because the lesson depended on having at least three to help demonstrate what a seraphim l…

GalPals Change Meme

1. Share, if you wish, the biggest change you experienced this past year. Does my second tattoo count? If not, I suppose being on South Beach for most of last year might.

2. Talk about a time you changed your mind about something, important or not. There was the moment that I changed my mind about getting a third cat. I'm glad that I did, because he's so freaking cute.

3. Bishop John Shelby Spong wrote a controversial book called "Why Christianity Must Change or Die." Setting aside his ideas--what kind of changes would you like to see in the Church? One of my big ones lately has been easing the stiffness in "traditional" worship, where we say "Alleluia" with the spirit of someone whose mother just died, where clapping is seen as disruptive and inappropriate, and where if it ain't written on a cue card, we'll say it begrudgingly at best. We wonder why young people run screaming...

4. Have you changed your hairstyle/hair color in the last five …

Pop Culture Roundup

I continue through Secrets in the Darkat a leisurely pace, taking one sermon a day. So far, Buechner's sermons entitled "A Room Called Remember" and "Faith" have been highlights for me. I maintain that these read well, but I'm not sure if they "hear" well. And unless Buechner's going on a preaching tour any time soon, I won't ever be sure. The other option, I guess, is simply to read one out loud. They just seem like they would work best in an educated middle- to upper-middle class setting. I think I'll go look up where he was pastor. At any rate, here's one of my favorite paragraphs:

The world and all of us in it are half in love with our own destruction and thus mad. The world and all of us in it are hungry to devour each other and ourselves and thus lost. That is not just a preacher's truth, a rhetorical truth, a Sunday school truth. Listen to the evening news. Watch television. Read the novels and histories and plays of our …

My Birthday is in February

Scene: a Subway restaurant. The POC household steps in to pick up some quick dinner before Mrs. Jeff does homework. As Jeff details what he wants on his chicken breast sandwich, "My Lovin'" by En Vogue begins playing overhead.

Jeff: Wow...I haven't heard this song in years.

Mrs. Jeff: 1987?

Jeff: This didn't come out in 1987. More like 1992.

Girl Behind Counter: Yeah...not my era.

Jeff: What? What year were you born?

Second Girl Behind Counter: 1992.

Original Girl Behind Counter: 1989.

Jeff: That's insane...