Showing posts from October, 2007

That Was An Awesome Time

Let me tell you about an awesome time of life for me.

We were living in St. Louis. The ink hadn't dried yet on my M.Div. We were living in an apartment with big windows that let in an overabundance of natural light. Our complex was filled with college students and young professionals. We lived across the parking lot from the pool and the weight room. We had On Demand movie channels. We had one cat, and she and I would sit out on our balcony and read together.

I worked a few hours a week at my seminary alma mater's library while leafing through a half-dozen or so church profiles. Mrs. Jeff was the big breadwinner at the time. I had a lot of time to myself to look these profiles over, my head swimming with possibility. I still have the overstuffed manilla folder from that search and look upon that time of wide-eyed anticipation and anxiety. A few classmates and fellow graduates were still hanging around town, and we'd grab coffee and tell each other how our searches were going…

Open Forum: Pursuing a D.Min

All posts are open to feedback and comments, but Open Forum posts explicitly ask for input from readership.

I think off and on about pursuing a Doctor of Ministry degree.

Let me first say that this is not something that I would start tomorrow. My excuse used to be that I'm not far enough removed from academic life yet. By the time I was handed my M.Div, I had been in school for 20 years straight and had become quite tired of it. As it turns out, you need three years of ministry under your belt for eligibility, and that one's almost taken care of. Still, my new main reason is simply not feeling ready to take it on. I suppose that does tie in to how long I've been at this and how long I've been out of school.

Second, I want people to note that I specifically say D.Min and not Ph.D. I once had a dream of being an academic, but I don't think I'm cut out for that any more, if I ever really was. I like the D.Min route because it may be more applicable to my call and car…

Please Don't Take This Too Seriously

From an irreverent Anglican priest across the pond:
At a U2 concert in Ireland, Bono asks the audience for some quiet.

Then he starts to slowly clap his hands.

Holding the audience in total silence, he says into the microphone....."I want you to think about something. Every time I clap my hands, a child dies in Africa."

A voice from the back of the audience yells out........"Then fookin stop clapping yer hands, ya arsehole!"

Fun Observations About the Other Blogs I Link to

Hey...somebody turn this into a meme. "List ten observations about your blogroll" or something.

~Five of them are written by UCC members.

~Six of them consider themselves to be a part of the emerging/missional "conversation."

~Three of them are college buddies.

~I recently realized that one of them lives in a town maybe 20 minutes from me, and may expect a random drop-in visit sometime.

~13 out of the 33 blogs are written by laypeople or people not otherwise serving in some sort of ministerial position.

~Eight of them live in, or otherwise have ties to, Ohio.

~Four of them live in, or otherwise have ties to, Michigan.

~One is written overseas, in Great Britain.

~One of them has published a book.

~I've met six of these bloggers in person.

Okay, now you go.

Pop Culture Roundup

This week I picked up Stephen Colbert's I Am America (And So Can You!), which is classic Colbert-style satire in book form, complete with "The Word"-style margin notes. He covers issues such as the family, religion, sports, and science. In short, every chapter begins with whatever the subject is being the greatest threat to America today, and it all just goes downhill from there. There's even a Fun Zone at the end of each chapter with games you can play, such as Match the Celebrity With Their Pet Cause, and How Many Differences Between These Pictures of an Upper Class Dinner Party and a Lower Class Family Standing In Front of Their Trailer (answer: One. The Lower Class Family isn't working hard enough.) Colbert goes from the absurd to the Funny Because It's True to the "I really shouldn't laugh at this because it's actually a serious thing," usually all on the same page.

I've watched approximately half of each World Series game so far. Th…

A Bunch of Random Life Happenings You May or May Not Care About

I was going to write about the busy week that I just came off of, but it occurred to me that maybe writing about the specifics of my church life shouldn't be a main focus for this blog. So here's the short version: funeral, preaching class, youth thing, worship service, another youth thing. They all exceeded my expectations (even the funeral, which sounds weird but trust me). I thought I'd be sluggish and unmotivated coming off two weeks' vacation, but 1) I couldn't afford to be, and 2) none of these things were dependent only on my own energy, which is a very cool thing to realize.

So...uh...where did October go? Oh yeah...the two weeks' vacation thing.

I catsat this past weekend, too. My parents headed east to see the family, so I made the trip to my former hometown to drink their Diet Dr. Pepper and sit on the deck. That's the cat's favorite spot, and it was still warm enough to sit out with her. So I shared with her my hopes and dreams for my m…


Once again, Brant at Kamp Krusty destroys American attitudes toward sports via satire. This seemed appropriate this morning for those of us moping around NE Ohio after the Indians' defeat last night. Brant is an Illinois alumnus, and this was written over a week ago, as it surely does not apply to the Illini's game this past Saturday. And with a comment like that, I only proved his point. Enjoy.

Mirth! Merriment!

An assembly of game players, drawn from high schools from around the United States, now performing with matching "Illinois"-themed uniforms, has outscored a highly-regarded opponent in an American-style Football Game!

Should I respond? Oh yes. I will respond, and I will respond with unfettered glee.

1) I'm going to purchase, then wear, university-themed, licensed sportswear!

2) I'm going to purchase and display a university-themed "car flag"!

3) I'm going to continue to link my own self-worth with this particular group of games-men,…

Sunday Morning Haikus

Two-hour youth thing
Took twice as long to plan it
Now what do I do?

Shopping at Wal-Mart
Dodging around many carts
Want to punch someone

We're at thirteen weeks
Wive's tale says we'll have a girl
Mommy keeps barfing

Pop Culture Roundup

During my trip to New Orleans, I started The Spiral Staircase by Karen Armstrong. You may know some of Armstrong's other books such as A History of God and The Battle for God. The Spiral Staircase is her second memoir (actually it's the third, but she makes it clear in the introduction that she'd rather everyone forget the second one). The theme of this volume is her journey of self-actualization: first as a nun and later in various academic settings, she deals with harsh, authoritarian, and at times irrational overseers, and tries to make sense of her own identity while trying to pull out from under them. She details her longtime grudge against religion before discovering how invigorating it is for her to study it, less as a believer and more as a scholar.

I turned off the Indians game when it was 4-1, and woke up to more bad news. I have to say it was fun watching Manny get tagged out standing up at the plate. The aura around the Red Sox seems to have changed since 2004. …

New Orleans, Epilogue

When you're the driver, the object of everyone else in the van should be to keep the driver awake and happy.

This has its upside and downside.

My co-driver and I had a basic agreement: I'd drive mornings and he'd drive afternoons. It'd end up working out about equally, particularly since we started early and ate late lunches.

The driver also got to control the radio. This too made sense. Keep the driver awake and happy. So the first day back I pounced on every rock station that I could find unless they were playing Nickelback. This elicited an involuntary visceral reaction from everyone else in my vehicle. The requests poured in to turn the Fade up front or to switch it to NPR. I remained steadfast in my convictions. But I went ahead and turned the Fade up front.

Then we switched drivers that first day and our van had Sing Along With the Oldies Time. And at that moment I realized that I'd been cooped up with these people for about long enough.

The second morning I deci…

New Orleans, Part 2

Monday morning was orientation at Little Farms UCC, where we heard from Rev. Alan Coe, the Minister for UCC Disaster Response in New Orleans. He told us a little about the situation and how UCC Disaster Response approaches their work. People with whom we'd be working are members of area UCC churches who'd possibly already used up their government assistance to pay back their insurance companies. And as it turns out, faith-based groups are doing most of the cleanup. I saw multiple homes with Catholic Charities banners waving out front, we ran into a Methodist group on the way down, I said hello to a Presbyterian group in the French Quarter. So there is a powerful presence of faith groups working there. The flip side of that is that one house may take a year or two to be rebuilt...who knows if a group will be down to work on one's house one week to the next, and then how skilled they are; how quickly they work?

After that, we were divided into four teams. My team ended up at…

Rethinking Youth Ministry

I was pleasantly surprised to run across a blog today called Rethinking Youth Ministry, written by two Disciples pastors with whom I attended seminary. They're both good guys, and they're contributing to a very important discussion for the church. Check it out.

New Orleans, Part 1

We got an early start on Saturday, Oct. 6th. I was roped into being one of the drivers after our fearless leader's mother died and he had to bow out. We had two vans: a big freaking hit-every-bump-destroy-your-kidneys 15-passenger van, and a smooth-riding Chrysler Town and Country. I was one of the drivers for the Chrysler, which quickly made its way into contention for when the Coffeefamily has to trade in one of their fun cars for a family car.

I was the second in a line of three vans. Another group brought their own van along, so I tried my best to maintain caravan etiquette. Not everyone liked my "white on rice" style of sticking with the lead van. In my defense, my driving when paired up with a certain driver for the other van cut our travel time down. I'd bet on it.

I would say that the drive down was uneventful, but I'd be skipping over a good story. On the first day, we stopped for lunch at a service station housing a McDonald's and a Subway. I…


Hi folks.

I'll write about my trip later, but I wanted to put up something quick to say that I'm back.

I turned comment moderation back off, although I'll be using it again as my watchdog for when I'm away for extended periods. The reason I turned it on to begin with is that there have been some unsigned anonymous commenters lately who haven't been able to read the little sidebar line that says, "Spam and disruptive crap will be deleted."

So yeah, it will.

Short version of New Orleans: the bad parts are really bad and the French Quarter is awesome, although Bourbon Street is incredibly overrated.

But more on all that later.

Entering a Time of Quiet

POC goes dark for a week or so.In the meantime, I posted kind of rapid fire this past week so you may have missed something. So scroll down. There's some good stuff there.And I've turned on comment moderation. It just seemed like a good thing to do.Peace.

Pop Culture Roundup

Last night I started Religious Literacy by Stephen Prothero. The tagline is, "What Every American Needs to Know and Doesn't." If James Twitchell's thesis is that churches are increasingly in the business of selling a nice feeling, then Prothero's is that we have a bunch of people who feel good but don't know anything about their religion. Prothero presents stat after stat that shows how little a "Christian nation" knows about Christianity. Here are some fun ones:

~Only half of American adults can name even one of the four Gospels.
~1/3 of American adults know that Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount.
~A majority of Americans believe that Jesus was born in Jerusalem.
~10% of Americans believe that Noah's wife was Joan of Arc.
~In 2005 a journalist called the ten co-sponsors of an Alabama bill seeking to keep the 10 Commandments displayed in public, and only one of those sponsors could name all ten.

Prothero especially cites new educational techniq…

Michael Kinnamon Nominated to NCC Position

The news broke today that Dr. Michael Kinnamon has been nominated to be the next General Secretary of the National Council of Churches:

Michael Kinnamon, Allen and Dottie Miller Professor of Mission and Peace at Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, has been nominated to become the new General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, also known as the NCC. Upon ratification of the selection in November, Dr. Kinnamon will succeed Bob Edgar, who left the NCC in September to become President and CEO of Common Cause.

“Professor Kinnamon’s nomination to this position of leadership is a remarkably high achievement and one that affirms his gifts for ecumenical leadership and his calling as a servant of the church as it participates in the mission of God in the world,” said David Greenhaw, President and Professor of Preaching and Worship at Eden. “While this announcement brings with it the sadness of saying goodbye to a wonderful scholar and teacher on the Eden Facu…

A Review of Shopping for God by James Twitchell

The tagline for this book is, "How Christianity Went From In Your Heart to In Your Face." I initially picked up this book as sort of a guilty pleasure, but some of this is truly eye-opening. Twitchell is not committed to any particular religion (he calls himself an "apatheist"), so he approaches this somewhat objectively.

Twitchell's book is part history, part analysis of our present situation. He uses a lot of examples from the course of the church's history to show different ways in which the church has tried to market itself. Of course, he notes that for most of its 2000-year existence, it hasn't really felt the need to compete as it was the only show in town. Still, he details the Catholic church's sale of indulgences and icons that led up to the Reformation, and notes that these sales were primarily sales of an experience. If people wanted to experience grace and forgiveness; to experience some kind of emotional high, this was how they could pu…

Vacation Thoughts

So I'm on vacation this week and next.

Lately, it has seemed that my vacation time is cursed. My last three vacations have been interrupted by a congregant's death. I of course fostered no ill will toward the families. I mean, how could I? "Why couldn't you have helped them hang on a few extra days?" See, it doesn't work.

The other fortunate thing is that any plans that I'd made weren't truly interrupted. Two of those weeks, I was just due so I'd planned just to sit around and not do church stuff. The other week I was in New York City when I found out about the death, but I was going to be home in time for the service anyway.

This time I have plans to head to New Orleans on a work trip. I haven't been to that part of the country besides, and to experience this firsthand I know will leave an impression. But I'm bracing myself. I'm bracing myself for it to come, maybe 9:00 on Friday evening as I finish packing: "Pastor Jeff...So-and-S…

Christ the Substitute?

I don't know how it happened, but the other night at my Bible study the question of what it means that "Jesus died for my sins" came up. I ended up deliniating a few views of what the cross means in the New Testament and over the centuries. It genuinely seemed to surprise some people that the view of Christ as a substitutionary punishment isn't the only view in the Bible and elsewhere. I also wanted to make a distinction between Christ being a substitute and Christ being a sacrifice. For what it's worth, I think that there is plenty in the NT that affirms a view of Christ as sacrifice. However, it is much less clear that Christ was acting as some sort of substitute, dying in our place and taking our punishment.

The idea of sacrifice as practiced by the Temple and in Leviticus had more to do with making an offering to God in order to restore or maintain a proper relationship between God and the people. The animal(s) sacrificed are not understood to be dying in some…

Silver Lining

The Tigers aren't in the postseason, but Magglio Ordonez is the American League Batting Champion with a .363 average. He even got a call of congratulations from Hugo Chavez, the president of Venuzuela.Congrats to Maggs, and to the Tigers for a decent finish besides.And now I'll spend October rooting for Cleveland. Those guys are cool, too.

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