Showing posts from July, 2007

Life Happens When You Make Other Plans

So I had planned for the first part of this week to take a personally designed retreat, and it's already hit a snag.

Yesterday I was called to the hospital bedside of a parishioner, whose health had taken a dramatic turn downward since I'd seen him earlier in the week. Some five hours later, he slipped away. The year's strange trend of death coinciding with planned time away continues (Eden's Herbster event being the exception).

Did I mention that I'm also giving the homily at a friend's wedding on Saturday?

Did I mention that I just agreed to do the funeral Saturday morning?

These two events are far enough apart time-wise that making both of them will not be a problem. However, the overall tone of the week has just changed dramatically. What once was to be a time to rest and refocus has now become a time to write, plan, visit, comfort, oh, and there's that thing that I always have to do on Sunday.

It's going to be one of those weeks.

Retreat Over Coffee

The end of July raises a certain antsiness within me. It means that summer will soon be at a close, and the relief with which I welcomed it has started to turn into boredom and a desire for my favorite four months of the year to begin. Fall brings with it my favorite sights, smells, feelings...a glass of red wine while looking over a multi-colored forest, a chill in the air, the smell after the rain...the thought of those things alone cause me to sink back in my chair in contentment.

In anticipation of this season that won't get here quick enough, I'm taking a retreat of my own design next week. I'm just now starting to learn how to make the most of my continuing education time, and taking a few days of intentional personal reflection seemed appropriate, especially as the completion of three years of ministry nears, a new time of programming is set to begin, life and household changes are planned, and a renewal of creative spirit is desired. I always feel renewed by the…

Pop Culture Roundup

This past week I started The Intimate Merton, which is a condensed collection of entries from his journals. It's somewhat amusing that so far, he's actually acknowledged that he's writing with the intent to publish them. It sort of begs the question: how private are our private lives? I'm at least this self-aware when I journal, for instance. There are certain things that I won't write about, knowing that someone might sneak a peek or decide that they are worth publishing (doubtful). Or maybe that's paranoia. Or both. Anyway, Merton is quite candid about his thoughts and feelings during his travels. It seems to me that for him, the more important thing than what he writes is how he writes it...he says that he wants to purposely write with a certain poetry and flare so that if and when they do get published, they'll be worth reading. It's quite obvious that he's a serious writer...he even rags on publishers for not picking up his manuscripts. That…

Blogger's Block

Right, so my past few entries have either been really short, or have been memes. Memes are easy because you're prompted on what to write. So here's an entry of random thoughts smashed together.

I went to a bachelor party this past weekend. A good buddy from college is getting married in another week or so. I'm filling the role as the Guest Pastor Who Preaches the Homily at the ceremony. Incidentally, the ceremony will be held at the bride's parents' house with maybe 12 other guests (the big party is a few weeks later). This will be the first of three weddings that I'll be involved in this year that will take place at someone's house rather than in a church. That's not a critique, just a point of this some kind of trend, or did I just happen upon a streak of similar-minded people?

My lovely wife picked up the seventh Harry Potter book this past weekend...and then proceeded to ignore me for the next few days until she finished it. Fin…

No Really, It Makes Sense...

This morning's worship service is brought to you by Pink Floyd, NASCAR, and the Pope.

And for now, I'll leave it at that.

Past/Future Meme

Foregoing the Roundup this week since these types of questions have been on my mind lately...

1. Share a moment/ time of real encouragement in your journey of faith. During my first year of college when the notions and theories of mainline Bible scholarship started to raise serious questions and doubts within me, the UCC campus ministry really helped me work through some of those questions and doubts. I point to that whole second semester, but I'll focus in on a trip that some of us took that May down to Atlanta for a young adult ministry event called Come to the Feast (my first experience of Christopher Grundy's music). I really felt in my element there, and began to see the richness of faith within my own tradition and those of a similar spirit. It's also when I started drinking coffee.

2. Do you have a current vision / dream for your work/ family/ministry? I've been thinking a lot about the prospect of intentionally serving smaller churches. I don't look at it fro…

Another Theology Meme

1. On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 high), how would you rate your theological knowledge and breadth/depth of reading? I'll go with 5. I read a lot of the "dead white guys" in college and then was exposed to other more recent theological trends in seminary, but I still think I've only scratched the surface on a lot of it. And I've forgotten a lot, too.

2. What thoughts and feelings come to your mind when you hear the word "theology"? Nowadays I think a lot about people who devote hours of their day to sitting around reading this stuff, and about how "defending the faith" wasn't high on Jesus' priority list.

3. Who is your favorite theologian, and why? Schleiermacher, from whom I adopted the concept of "God-consciousness" and the feeling of absolute dependence (emphasis on dependence, rather than feeling).

4. Who is your least favorite theologian, and why? Kwok Pui-Lan, whom I once heard advocate for a "Christ-less Christianity&quo…

Tuesday Misc.

I've really been paying a lot of attention to the lament psalms lately. It's quite a rich tradition that, as iMonk has recently stated, a lot of Christians are ignorant of. It's a needed counterpoint to the happy-clappy brand of faith that you can pick up in any local Berean outlet. Psalms 13 and 22 have been favorites lately. It can be quite soothing and reassuring to read this tradition when only a bunch of platitudes are offered elsewhere.

Recently the Pope declared that only those in churches under apostolic succession are fully united in Christ. At least he has a point of view, I guess. Some laud this statement as "reaching out" to more conservative Roman Catholics. It sounds a little like circling the wagons to keep out postmodernism and us dirty Protestants. What irks me the most is how high an ecclesiology many people have (not just Catholics, mind you), which depends so much on theory and much less on experience. No one who has spent any time in a local …

Pop Culture Roundup

I finished both my books this week. Jesus Out to Sea was well-done, and I really like the short story format because I can read one in a sitting and then set the book down to do something else rather than try to remember the events before where I left off. James Lee Burke's collection is one that explores human desperation and despair, where one's limits are tested by their circumstances. Which brings us to The New Friars, where emerging types elect to live with the poor in some of those circumstances. A recurring theme in Bessenecker's book is that throughout history when the church seems to be caught up in its own laziness and pride, monastic orders have been the ones to revive it by going out to do the work required of it. The difference this time, I might argue, is that before the church could rest on its place in society and that place is eroding. So the work of these "new friars" may not restore the church in that sense, but certainly might in terms o…

The Emerging Church in Rural Ohio

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: “Oh, the emerging church is just composed of a bunch of hipster types who sit around dissecting U2 songs for spiritual meaning, talk with the local philosophy majors at Starbucks, decorate their worship spaces with swirly avant-garde paintings, and evangelize the local bar scene.” It goes on, but I figured that that was enough for readers to recall the variations that they’ve seen and heard…or perhaps made themselves.

The accusation is borne from a series of stereotypes, to be sure. Apparently everyone associated with the emerging church movement is young, wears a turtleneck, and hangs out in cosmopolitan areas, whether coffeehouses, pubs, art museums, or clubs. Other stereotypes are much more serious: charges of heterodoxy, relativism, and heresy are frequently leveled at those who self-identify as part of the emerging conversation.

Of course, it isn’t just the medium that is attacked, it’s the message itself. In fact, it may be that such accusations a…

In the Beginning...

In the beginning, man aspired to play guitar.

Man started with an acoustic, for he did want to be like unto the Dave Matthews.

Man realized that being like unto the Dave Matthews would be a lot more work than he realized, so he did thus settle for being mediocre and functional.

Eventually, man did want to expand his aspirations, and thus acquired an electric guitar.

But lo, the man was underwhelmed, even with knowledge bestowed as to quickly play scales. The electric did not please the man, for simple rhythmic playing did not suit the electric's intended purposes.

The day came when the man borrowed a small guitar amp. But lo, the man was still underwhelmed.

"It is not good for the electric to be strummed," the man said to himself. "For surely a clean strum is not that for which it was intended."And the man did begin to plan selling the guitar and returning the amp.

The man did then discover a small square button on the amp labeled "Drive." Upon pressing the …

Pop Culture Roundup

It's a day late, but whatever.

I've been reading Jesus out to Sea by James Lee Burke. In an effort to read something not related to church or theology, I picked up this book of short stories, which are meant to be set against the backdrop of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Hardly any of them mention or even allude to that event, though. The one I most recently read, "Mist," is the first to deal with it in any sort of direct way as it follows a young woman trying to cope with her alcoholism. There are, of course, theological themes to be parsed out whether Burke intended them or not: welcome, the treatment of creation, atonement, brokenness...just to name a few.

At the same time, I couldn't help myself and started reading The New Friars by Scott Bessenecker. I'm not very far into it, and just sort of picked it up on a whim to begin with. Bessenecker seeks to profile some young emerging types who have chosen to go live in the midst of the world's poor. He…

"I Confess..." Meme

I happened upon this meme elsewhere, and thought it would be fun to try. As best I can tell, the purpose is to list some "confessions" about your theology. This may have begun as a "confessing your faith" thing, but after following it back a few blogs, it seems to have evolved into an "apologizing for your theological quirks" thing. Well, I'll probably do a little of both. Here we go. I'll try for ten...

~I confess that after the initial excitement that I felt over the emerging church movement, I'm starting to get cynical that it's largely a big city phenomenon.

~I confess that when I was a hair's width of giving up Christianity, I'd considered switching to Buddhism.

~I confess a bewilderment and even some anger over the concept of "closed table" communion.

~I confess that I like a lot of John Calvin's actual thoughts and words from his own pen but not necessarily the second-generation theology that bears his name.

~I conf…

You Mean...It's Working?

All of the nuances of what I'm about to try to say probably won't come through very well, but I hope that this makes sense. People in a similar setting may "get it," and I'm not sure about everyone else. So bear with me.

I'm scared that something I'm doing here is working.

It's still too early to tell, but there has been enough indication that people are interested and even energized by it that we could build on it quite easily, and even have it blossom into something wonderful.

Let me start at the beginning. With the approach of the summer months, I offered an open invitation to the congregation to join me in a few trips to local mission agencies to help out and learn about what they do. It was a very simple approach: "I'll wait for people in the parking lot, and we'll go with whomever shows up." It was initially to help illustrate that we don't need a lot of planning or church programs to do what God wants us to do.

My first t…

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