It's Almost Here

I'm just getting positively giddy for the beginning of Lent.


Let me just say that if you've never "gotten into" Lent before, iMonk's got you covered with some places to start.

As for myself, I wrote my reflection for Ash Wednesday this week (see? GIDDY~!), in which I play off of those annoying HeadOn commercials. You know the one: "Apply directly to the forehead!" Get it?

The Ash Wednesday service is one of my favorite services that I lead all year. There's a different atmosphere in evening worship, and this service is so simple, yet so meaningful. For a church this size, we get a good crowd for it, too.

Subsequent Wednesdays, we'll do our soup supper and program thing. This year I'm going a pretty straightforward route and leading reflections on Jesus' final week, based on Borg and Crossan's book. I'm especially looking forward to discussing Palm Sunday and views on atonement...I think people will be into that.

As far as any sort of discipline goes, you may recall that I'm going to strive for this quality over quantity thing on this blog, the specifics of which I'll share next week. I figured that maybe with the extra time I'll have I'll pick up a devotional of some sort and work through that as well.

But before we get into all that, every lectionary-following preacher knows that we have to trudge through the Transfiguration first. It only recently occurred to me how large the collective groan lifted up at the prospect of preaching this event can be. Really, how many different ways can one preach on this? I inevitably rag on Peter's reaction to the vision, and it's no different this year. I'm going to state that Peter misses the point by thinking that the best response to this vision is to build a shrine and visit it...oh...let's say weekly. Sound familiar? Okay, basically I'm going to say that weekly worship is part of our lives as disciples, but it's not the only thing or even the main thing. The problem is when we treat it like the main thing like Peter tries to do. The most important thing turns out to be listening to Jesus.

All right, time to get ready for work.

Just Like Dad

When I was maybe four years old, I can recall a moment when my dad and I were at home together. I was just running around doing four-year-old stuff, and my dad was working on some pastor notes or something, using a black permanent marker.

When he stepped out of the room, I decided that I wanted to mark stuff up just like Dad.

So I picked up the black permanent marker and started making my own notes: a few on his, a few on the walls, and all in prominent places so that people could see them and be proud of me.

For some reason, no one was proud of me. Instead, I got yelled at and spanked and my note-taking career was put on hold.

Anyway, for some reason I recalled this incident after seeing this post, and I can't help but wonder if karma will eventually rear its ugly head.

Class Meme

As seen at Nachfolge. I'm supposed to bold all the statements that apply to me. I noticed that #26 is missing. Somewhere along the way, somebody didn't like that one I guess. I don't know what to do with this information afterwards. There's no scoring guide or anything. I guess I just need to Be Aware.

1. Father went to college
2. Father finished college
3. Mother went to college
4. Mother finished college
5. Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor
6. Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers. (Um...I guess)
7. Had more than 50 books in your childhood home. (My dad's a pastor, too)
8. Had more than 500 books in your childhood home.
9. Were read children’s books by a parent.
10. Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18. (Piano and drums)
11. Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18
12. The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed
13. Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18
14. Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs
15. Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs (My grandfather started a mutual fund for me pretty much right after I was born)
16. Went to a private high school
17. Went to summer camp
18. Had a private tutor before you turned 18.
19. Family vacations involved staying at hotels.
20. Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18.
21. Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them. (Where's the question about having ANY CAR AT ALL?)
22. There was original art in your house when you were a child. (If you count all the stuff I brought home from school and Mom hung on the fridge)
23. You and your family lived in a single-family house
24. Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home.
25. You had your own room as a child. (Out of the five houses that I lived in after my brother was born, I had my own room in two of them)
27. Participated in a SAT/ACT prep course
28. Had your own TV in your room in high school.
29. Owned a mutual fund or IRA in high school or college.
30. Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16. (Back when I was maybe 4, and then I didn't fly again until college)
31. Went on a cruise with your family
32. Went on more than one cruise with your family
33. Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up. (Mostly history museums with anamatronic dinosaurs and such)
34. You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family. (I didn't know how much they were, but I knew that I would be yelled at if I turned it past 68)

Pop Culture Roundup

This past Monday on my day off, I barely did anything. In fact, besides eat and eventually switch on wrestling, I read The Year I Got Everything I Wanted by Cameron Conant in its entirety. I've had a thing for spiritual memoir the past few years, so I picked it up on a whim. Conant tells the story of the year he turned 28, a year when he moved from Grand Rapids to Nashville for a girl with whom he was smitten but who didn't seem to return the sentiment. The relationship falls apart unsurprisingly and he quits the job she'd helped him get and that he hates, and along the way he has a great deal of questions about relationships: to God, to others, to himself. Falling into a deep despair, he makes the decision to backpack through Europe for three months as his way of hitting restart. Conant uses the book of Ecclesiastes as his main reference for his reflections, which feature not only his struggles but also a slow spiritual awakening that takes place in the midst of it. While I thought the book started a little slow and clunky, by the end he's sharing deep, honest insights about where he was at that point in his life.

Last night I watched Smokin' Aces, which I thought I'd like more than I did. With a cast that includes some of my favorites-Jeremy Piven, Ryan Reynolds, Jason Bateman-in a mob movie, I thought it'd be a proven winner in my book. Piven plays a Vegas magician who has turned state's evidence against the Mafia, so a whole slew of hitmen and women show up to collect on the contract on his head. Some of the gun battles are over the top (one involves a chainsaw...seriously...) and we get a couple characters who just won't die to build suspense as to whether they are or not. There's a plot twist that they telegraph several times leading up to the payoff, and Reynolds ends up being the only likeable character at the end. It wasn't my favorite of its type, but it did okay.

This past week on The Sarah Connor Chronicles, the group begins trying to hunt down the other guys from Cyberdyne who may have helped build Skynet. Sarah ends up tracking down and subsequently dating one of them, who as it turns out has already developed a computer that can "think." Meanwhile, another guy from Cyberdyne actually helps put new skin on a Terminator that somehow followed the Connors...but I don't think I've paid full attention to how that happened, or why he'd been in a junk heap. There are a few funny moments where Cameron tries to speak teenage girl lingo, and John finally shows glimpses that he's destined to turn into the rebel leader. There's a running voiceover from Sarah tying the building of Skynet to the building of the A-bomb. The Terminator movies were always about humans thinking they'd done a good thing until they realized they'd done a bad thing, so it makes sense that they went there. I keep waiting for a cameo from the psychologist who shows up in all the movies.

Over the Rhine. I get it now.

Around the web, here's a library shelving game.

My Thoughts Exactly

I just read that Kansas' favorite Church of Psycho Fundies is planning to protest Heath Ledger's funeral.

I'll take a Large, please.

(HT to Jeff)

Books Read in 2008

In various spaces around the internets this year, I've noticed several of the other blogs on my sidebar calling to read more books. There's some kind of "book challenge" going around to that effect...basically to read more books to make up for the large portion of the population that doesn't even read one book a year.

(I tried looking up the blog that I first read this on, but I don't remember and the few whom I thought would have it, don't have it.)

So I stole this idea from Jeff Greathouse, who is keeping a running list on his sidebar of books that he's read this year. You can find mine right below my LibraryThing...uh...thing.

Being a Lutheran is Hard Work

Okay, not really.

I have to admit, though, that going into yesterday morning's pulpit exchange, I felt a little daunted by what would be expected of me when I stood up to lead worship at the local Lutheran church. With the exception of a few scripture readings, I was responsible for the entire liturgy.

Of course, the Lutheran pastor walked me through the whole thing earlier in the week. He told me where to stand and when, what prayers could be found on what pages of the Big Lutheran Prayer Book, how the communion elements are handled and served. I think that two things daunted me the most:

1. The Big Lutheran Prayer Book. I was really concerned that I'd forget to turn a page, turn too far, skip a prayer, lose my place, etc. Fortunately, everything had been marked out for me beforehand. I did turn too far once, but caught myself before reading anything out loud. And I didn't chant. I might have if I'd had time to practice.

2. Communion. I run a pretty simple communion liturgy at my own church, and really by all accounts, the liturgy was pretty simple yesterday morning. It was more the movements that I was worried about: when to uncover/re-cover the trays, how to serve the communion assistants (who were VERY helpful and understanding), and the actual serving of the congregation.

The uncovering/re-covering wasn't bad. It took me a minute to realize that the chalice was underneath the pall (I looked that up), but other than that, that part was fine. Serving the assistants also went one point I got the impression from the adult assistant that I was doing something different from what he was used to, but I'm the clueless guest pastor so I get a pass. Finally, serving the congregation was the easiest. They do it across the altar railing, and since my own church recently re-introduced this style I already knew what to expect.

One aspect of the service that I'm only just now beginning to process is the fact that most of the liturgy is said from the communion table. The only time that I spent in the pulpit was for the Gospel reading and the sermon. That's actually a very cool theological statement that makes the common meal central rather than the spoken Word. Neither one is right or wrong per se, but there was certainly an emphasis different from what churches with a Reformed background might be accustomed to.

I made it back to my own church's worship service, entrusted to the local Nazarene pastor for the day, right before he began his sermon. He gave a great message based on Jesus' invitation to "come and see" where he was staying in John 1, observing that invitation into one anothers' lives can be and is much more meaningful and genuine than preaching at people about your beliefs. If you think about it, that's the same message as standing behind the communion table rather than the pulpit.

It was a good morning. The afternoon was a different story, as I was called to the bedside of a critically ill parishioner. But that's for another time.

RevGals Book Meme

What book have you read in the last six months that has really stayed with you? Why? Today I'll go with Shopping for God by James Twitchell, which details the way churches market themselves and sell their message. Surprisingly, this book is devoid of cynicism and relates observances of typical practices in the American religious marketplace from a marketing point of view. Now I recall his points quite often when planning or observing church activities.

What is one of your favorite childhood books? Frog and Toad. Any of them. I read them all the time when I was little.

Do you have a favorite book of the Bible? Do tell! The book of James. A superb reconciling of faith and practice that has been ignored by the church WAY too long. Only a superficial glance will result in dismissing it as advocating "works-righteousness." All due respect to Martin Luther, but he got that one wrong.

What is one book you could read again and again? I've read BBT's Leaving Church and Richard Lischer's Open Secrets a couple times each, and I probably will read them again.

Is there a book you would suggest for Lenten reading? What is it and why? Borg and Crossan's The Last Week for a deep treatment of familiar Lenten texts. Bonhoeffer's Meditations on the Cross for more of a devotional emphasis.

And because we all love bonus questions, if you were going to publish a book what would it be? Who would you want to write the jacket cover blurb expounding on your talent? I've actually been thinking this week about what might go into a book on pastoral spirituality. It would be different from a theology of call or of the pastoral office. I'd make it more of a book about maintaining a sense of God's presence in the midst of ministry's daily tasks and frustrations. It'd be related to call, but not an extensive Willomon type of treatment. I'd have a few ideas about the blurb, but I'm not going to share them here. This could end up being a real thing.

Pop Culture Roundup

I started reading Tigers Essential this past week, which is the other book that I got for Christmas this year. This is a general history of the Detroit Tigers, and gives brief glimpses into the tenures of players such as Ty Cobb, Hank Greenberg, Norm Cash, Willie Horton, Al Kaline, Alan Trammell, Kirk Gibson, and into the present age. It also highlights changes to the ballparks, owners, and announcers. The book is already a little dated, as it ends after the 2006 season. It's also not particularly well-written: there are an insane amount of sentence fragments, and reads like an amateur fanboy's take on his favorite team ("And then it all went ker-blooey."). While far from a masterpiece, it does its job as a general recap of the team's history. Fun fact: before joining the American League, they were known as the Detroit Wolverines. You're shocked, aren't you?

While Coffeewife was at work on Sunday, I caught We Are Marshall on HBO. This is the movie about the college football team that died in a plane crash in the early 70s and the rebuilding that took place afterwards. This is a film that wonderfully portrays delayed grief: we don't see a lot of characters truly come to grips with what happened until the new team takes the field the following year, because that's when people tangibly see that it's not the same. At this point I became skeptical because it seemed like the movie was about to say that the only way for these people to overcome grief would be to have a big winning season. I was pleasantly surprised when the new coach argues against that very idea, and hammers home that the mere fact that they're playing is what helps everyone move forward. At the end, a voiceover even states that the new team only won two games that first season back, and in fact wasn't really that good until the early 80s. Yeah, there's the Big Win At The End like almost every other sports movie, but at the same time we're told that that wasn't the point. It was more of a win to symbolize that the team, the university, and the town would continue. There are some questionable "Hollywood" moments such as everyone rushing to the crash site, but it was a decent effort all in all.

We watched Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles this week. I could see myself getting sucked into this show. It could be the next Buffy if FOX keeps it on for more than three episodes. The show follows Sarah and John Connor, still on the run after the end of the second movie (it picks up there and pretends that the third movie doesn't happen, which is fine with me). In the first episode they meet another Terminator sent back to protect them, played by Summer Glau from Firefly, which actually supports my fear that this show will be cancelled in a few's some kind of curse. Remember how long Drive with Nathan Fillion lasted? Probably not, which proves my point. Anyway, they've already hinted at John possibly falling for a robot that looks like a hot girl. That'll be...interesting. And Glau seems to channel River in a couple scenes...the two characters aren't far off from each other, really. On the other hand, Glau seems to have some trouble deciding at times how "human" her Terminator is...sometimes she's more in the cold Arnold mold, sometimes much softer and accessible (as accessible as a cyborg can be, anyway).

I dug out Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy after hearing "The Ocean" on the radio the other day. This album has a couple songs that the casual fan would recognize if they heard them. I myself like the Who-like "The Song Remains the Same" and the wandering "The Rain Song," which probably wouldn't be the first two people might think of or recognize. To each their own.

Around the web, A Church For Starving Artists has had some good stuff this week, including one post on the overprogrammed church and another on "fun" church.

Lent and POC

I've been thinking about Lent since before Advent started, because if I'd waited until now I'd only have a couple weeks to prepare. The usual round of activities will be featured at the church, which I'll talk about at another time.

For now, there is that matter of some kind of Lenten discipline. When I really began taking this aspect of Lent seriously, I was mainly of the "give something up" camp. I've given up TV, fast food, alcohol, the internet, and blogging, not all at once. In more recent years, either in addition or as an alternative, I've added a spiritual discipline of some kind, usually a routine prayer time. A few years ago I took on the discipline of lectio divina and made my way through two of the Gospels, which I found quite meaningful.

This year, on the one hand, I'm taking a pretty traditional route and giving up fast food, because it just needs to happen. But I also wanted to add something. The more I thought about what I wanted to add, I realized that I wanted it to involve writing. I wanted to buckle down a little on my writing and see what a little more discipline and effort could add to what I offer on this blog and to my writing in general.

It was a recent Internet Monk entry that inspired this thinking, wherein he writes:

1) A person who does as much work on a blog as Mr. Challies or yours truly actually harbors dreams of being a real writer. Shocking, I know, but the truth is out. Ask us to write a real book, and ambitious fellows that we are, we’d say yes. We want the limos, the adoring fans, the blog tours…

2) Blogging is appealing to aspiring writers precisely because the medium levels and simplifies the playing field. All of us, from the President of Iran to my blogging dog Van Til, are sitting in front of a screen doing the same thing. We write it. We post it, and the world comes to read it. Or not.

I’ll never forget when I got an email from a “name” who had read my blog. It freaked me out. It still does. When Time called me for a quote, I thought it was a goof. But when you’ve worked hard at this “thing,” it is great to get whatever comes back to you that says “we’re reading!”

3) Mr. Challies’ and I persist in this hobby out of a set of motives that are quite similar, I’ll wager: We love to write. We love to be read. We like working for ourselves. We like knowing there’s someone out there reading and being encouraged or entertained or informed. We have too much of a real life to do all the things real writers have traditionally done to be published, so we love our blogosphere. When it turns, as it has for Tim, into a book, we love it even more. In a way, Tim or any one of us who experiences some success via the blogosphere has all of you to thank.

Or consider that blogosphere staple, the RealLivePreacher, who carts his laptop to coffeeshops not necessarily to write sermons, but just to write. Just to write. And then when he feels he's worked a particular piece over long enough, he posts it or Christian Century pays him for it. Oh yeah, and he scored a book deal a few years ago.

A lot of the stuff you read on here is pretty off-the-cuff and written in a single sitting. There's a certain raw quality there that I know some people appreciate, but at other times it shows. My best shot at a book is self-publishing, which for me has been on the table for as long as this blog has existed, mostly because I'm vain and impatient. But a lot of this stuff isn't book-worthy let alone magazine worthy. Christian Century once told me so. I have scored a few magazine appearances, but it's because I put in the extra effort to begin with.

So here's what's happening, CoffeeNation. This Lent, I'm going to put in the extra effort. I want to see what my blogging would look like if I put as much time and sweat into my entries as iMonk and RLP seem to. I want to produce a few entries worth publishing. I want to dream big and to take my "aspiring writer" bio thing seriously. I'm thinking two of these Big Serious Blogging Entries a week, plus the Pop Culture Roundup.

I'm already regretting that I'm going to do this because of what it will involve. But that's why they call it a discipline, right?

Lutheran for a Day

This Sunday, my ministerial association is going to have its second annual pulpit exchange, and this year I'm heading to the Lutheran church, of the ELCA variety. I've actually been to a service there once before, when the previous pastor was about to begin another call in Chicago. I'd wanted to see him in action before he left, as I thought he was a pretty cool guy. For starters, he was a Michigan grad, but he'd also helped make my ordination ecumenical. So anyway, I kind of have a feel for what to expect when I roll in to preach on the 20th. It also helps that the UCC and ELCA are part of a full communion agreement that dates back to 1997. This probably helped in the decision-making as to who would go where, so I can officiate at communion.

I have great memories of Lutherans from my seminary days. Every year, most of the St. Louis seminaries would get together for a Day of Theological Conversation (for some reason, the conservative Reformed guys didn't like the rest of us or something). Besides the ragtag bunch from Eden, there was always a strong presence from the Missouri Synod seminary. I can remember one particular year when, after the official stuff was over, a bunch from Eden and Concordia headed over to a pub and that's when the more honest discussion and fellowship took place. We also played them in ultimate frisbee a couple times.

I've also been drawn to a couple Lutheran blogs the past month or so as well. There's the beer-loving Nebraska fan Scott at Nachfolge, the tattooed, Hemi-loving Lutherpunk, the totally-in-touch-with-her-feelings emerging church fan Sarcastic Lutheran, and another Nebraska fan, LutheranHusker. I'm drawn to these blogs because of their sense of the sacred mixed with their earthiness. They have such a deep appreciation for the liturgy and for their heritage, and yet seek to express it in modern ways for a new generation. Blogs like these inspire me, because they try to keep this balance.

I'll head over to the Lutheran church on Tuesday to be briefed on what'll be expected of me. The pastor who just started there seems to have a less long-winded liturgical style than the previous pastor. I remember a lot more read and sung responses when I visited last year. I'm not one who minds less of that. In fact, my church's worship had a few more Lutheran-ish elements to it before I came in and started "low-churching" everything (that's right, kids, "low-church" is a verb now! Tell your friends!). Maybe when I go there on Sunday I'll find a way to work in my guitar. Or not.

I look forward to this experience. I expect that it'll be 180 degrees different from going to a Methodist contemporary service last year.

By the way, the pastor of that Methodist church is moving on in July after seven years. Given the massive turnover that our group has experienced in the past year, that means that I'll have seniority. Whatever that means.

My Cohorts in Emergent

So last night I did something I'd been meaning to do for a few months now. I headed over to meet up with the local Emergent cohort.

For those unfamiliar with this, groups of people sympathetic to the emerging/Emergent church conversation set themselves up in local clusters called "cohorts" to talk and have fellowship together.

Last night's discussion centered around words used in church circles that may be out of place or that have been overused or misunderstood. The word our leader came with to kick off the discussion was "excellence." I shared that the word "excellence" belies a certain idea of the church's meaning or purpose, namely that we (whoever we are) are presenting a product to you (whoever you are) and we want to achieve excellence in presenting it. What this model neglects is a more communal idea of the church where we are in mutual relationship rather than some being presenters and others being consumers.

Other words/phrases we talked about were "missional," "emerging," "accountability," and the one I brought up, "go to church." In fact, I'm using Peter's misunderstanding of the transfiguration to rag on that phrase in a couple weeks. More on that later.

I had a great time connecting with other local emerging types, one of whom, incidentally, was Jeff Greathouse, whom I've blog-known for quite a while now. What I appreciated the most about this group is that it wasn't a bunch of pastors. It was a good mix of pastors, a university administrator, a couple house church members. I told them as much that I liked the mix. I fit right in, too. I thought I'd spend most of the time feeling things out and getting comfortable, but I ended up jumping in with both feet.

I even learned a little more about the difference between the Church of Christ and the UNITED CHURCH.................................of Christ. Did you know that fellowship halls are evil? Me neither.

So all in all, a good time. I look forward to future meetings with this group, as it really fed my soul.

Pop Culture Roundup

I was given A Testament of Devotion by Thomas R. Kelly as a Christmas present, and started it this week. Kelly was a Quaker, and this book brings together several of his essays. The thought here is in some ways Schleiermachian, which only I might appreciate, but Kelly constantly hammers home the idea that one's pursuit of the spiritual life begins with an awareness of God's presence, and a sense that one is dependent upon that presence. Kelly also has a great essay about "holy obedience," part of which has made it into my sermon for this Sunday. It also made me more curious about what exactly Quakers believe. All I really know is that they started in Pennsylvania and like to sit around in silence a lot. But this book, if it is any representation, provided a lot of help in that area.

We saw Juno this past week, and both greatly enjoyed it. The title character is a tomboyish high schooler who finds out that she's pregnant after a one-off night with her best friend, Bleeker (played by Michael Cera with his trademark awkwardness). I had thought that this would focus on Juno's experience with her classmates and the general ups and downs of teenage pregnancy, but this movie takes a different tact by focusing more on relationships. In fact, in some ways the pregnancy is more a starting point than the centerpiece. The way they're able to do this is by having Juno immediately decide to carry the baby for an adoptive couple, played by Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner. Garner's character is really the one who keeps reminding us that this is all because Juno is pregnant, and she portrays past disappointment and hopeful expectation and dedication so wonderfully that by the end one can feel what she's feeling. Bateman's character is the kind of dad that I want to be until about the last 20 minutes, but one can kind of sense that we're going to end up someplace close to where we do with him. One other thing: the soundtrack is silly. Not bad silly, just silly.

We also watched Employee of the Month this week, which at times tries to be Office Space set in a Sam's Club-type store and at other times wants us to believe that anyone who works in retail takes their job as seriously as some of these characters do. During my stint at Wal-Mart I could count them on one hand. And there were no long lines of hot women watching cashiers do tricks while checking out their purchases. Dumb.

This past week was the season premiere of L.A. Ink, and the commercials pulled a fast one. In the ads, Kat is prominently featured saying, "I'm pregnant" and then her co-workers supposedly reacting in awe and happiness. But in the actual episode, we found out that she was joking and those pieced-together reactions are really to other things. Good one, TLC. Besides that, Kat has some employee issues. One of her artists takes a trip back to Chicago and discovers how homesick she is, and another took a trip or didn't take a trip or something and for some reason Kat is mad about it...I only partially paid attention to that. But anyway, Kat now has to decide whether or not to fire her best friend because of it.

I rediscovered my Gomez CD the other week. Why don't I have more of their stuff?

Around the web, I'm thinking of doing what Sarcastic Lutheran is doing, and if/when I do I'll pray a similar prayer.

"Meanest Mom on the Planet"

Heh. From MSN:

DES MOINES, Iowa - Jane Hambleton has dubbed herself the "meanest mom on the planet."

After finding alcohol in her son's car, she decided to sell the car and share her 19-year-old's misdeed with everyone — by placing an ad in the local newspaper.

The ad reads: "OLDS 1999 Intrigue. Totally uncool parents who obviously don't love teenage son, selling his car. Only driven for three weeks before snoopy mom who needs to get a life found booze under front seat. $3,700/offer. Call meanest mom on the planet."


The Internet Monk reflects on pastors' temptation to quit or to move on to a different ministry:

We all- and I say this not with omniscience, but with confidence in what I’ve learned over the years- ALL have moments where we want to just type a letter and say, “I quit. I can’t do this anymore.” Quitting looks good at times. It promises a jolt of power, self-determination and the ability to demonstrate to others the depths of grievance or upset.


I have great appreciation for people who don’t quit, even when they are strongly tempted to do so. There are honorable ways to leave a ministry or job, and there are ways that amount to nothing more than an infantile tantrum. There are ways to leave that are so hurtful, they surpass whatever unfairness or frustration the person may have felt.

I appreciate all of you who haven’t quit when it’s been hard to keep going in ministry and serving others. I’m glad my parents didn’t give up on their marriage. I’m glad my wife hasn’t given up on me. I’m glad that I’ve stayed at this ministry 16 years. (And I’ve often felt I couldn’t do anything else that could possibly make it worth another day.)

Read the whole thing. It's very good.

Brant gives us a great mental image:

I went running and shoved my glasses up my nose and almost killed myself.

I went running, and I had a towel in my hand, and my glasses were in the towel, and I wanted to dry my eyes, but the ear-handle-thing from my glasses was sticking out, and I didn't see it, and when I raised my hand to my face, I shoved the ear-handle-thing up my nose, all the way. All the way.

I went running, and my glasses went deep into my sinuses, and, from what I could tell, behind my eye. I went running, and I think I did what I normally don't do during my run, which is to say, I think I touched my brain from the inside.

Half my face started crying. I went running, and I felt like someone just punched the inside my face.

Just curious...

Dear Honda,

How come your CR-V is now only made with an automatic transmission?


Happy Blog-iversary to Me

Three years ago today, Philosophy Over Coffee was born.

It began on a lark and its writer figured that it'd fizzle out in a few months.

Over time, the writer discovered that he was too much of an internet nerd to let it go.

Nowadays, most of his closest friends and family stop by regularly (Coffeefriends? Coffeefamily?), along with at least one colleague from his Association and one of Coffeewife's co-workers. But it also has found regular readership from fellow bloggers and loyal readers.

The great debate for him remains whether to go totally non-anonymous and what difference it would really make.

In the meantime, thanks to all members of the CoffeeNation for reading. Yes, I just coined that term now and I'm keeping it.

Pop Culture Roundup

The first Roundup of the year and still no particular book to speak of. I'm even on vacation this week. Probably next week.

We watched Superbad, and I expected it to be more like the other offerings from people associated with this film (Knocked Up, 40-Year-Old Virgin) and was disappointed. There was much less of an overall point and a lack of heart to this excuse to make a bunch of sex jokes. Maybe it's unfair to lump those movies together, but it still wasn't as good as I thought it'd be. Plus, the basic plot ("Let's try to have sex with girls way out of our league") has been done before. They attempt to counter this with a focus at times on the guys' friendship (or co-dependence, whichever), but for me it seemed forced. I'm hoping for better from Michael Cera when we go see Juno today.

We also watched Little Miss Sunshine, which had much more heart to it. Here is a very quirky family that all ends up in a Volkswagon bus together in order to see their youngest member compete in a beauty pageant. Before their trip even starts, we learn that Uncle Frank (an excellent Steve Carell in a more serious role) tried to commit suicide and that Grandpa enjoys heroin. Once we begin the trip, other characters find things out that derail their dreams, and Grandpa's hobby catches up with him. The beauty pageant itself is portrayed with just enough creepiness and absurdity to successfully send up the entire enterprise, and by the end a vanful of people who have each experienced grave disappointment try to save their youngest and most innocent from one of her own.

Of course I watched the Capital One Bowl, and in case you missed it, Michigan beat The Heisman. It wasn't always pretty or even watchable, but a national championship, multiple Big 10 championships, and regular victories over OSU pre-Sweatervest is nothing to sneeze at. Thank you, Coach Carr.

I got Scrubs Season 5 for Christmas, and finished watching that the other day. I actually cheated a little and skipped some of the episodes that I'd already seen and didn't like. This season has some of my favorites, though. It includes the Mandy Moore guest appearances as she plays J.D.'s female equivalent, Dr. Cox losing three patients and going into a deep depression, and Michael Learned as a patient the entire staff comes to love. We're also introduced to Kim, who plays a major part in J.D.'s life for the rest of the series.

I picked up A Momentary Lapse of Reason the other week, and there is a distinct difference between Pink Floyd with and without Roger Waters. First off, they should have left the saxophone at home, because in this context it just yells, "Yeah, this was made in the 80s." That, and there's a strong presence of synthesizers. David Gilmour had a much different approach once he started handling most of the songwriting, one that at least for this album lacked some of classic Floyd's ethereal quality and more edgy creativity. One notices this on The Division Bell as well, but by then they'd shed the 80s feel and regained some of Floyd's signature spaciness. But one thing remains, and that is Gilmour's guitar playing, which is at the very least every later Floyd album's saving grace.

Around the web, Sarcastic Lutheran has been added to the blogroll.

Some Stuff Happened

And thus I hit my halfway point of glancing across the parking lot, looking at my place of work, shrugging, and then doing something else.

Yesterday was a good day, as perhaps the graphic below indicates. We headed over to my parents' for the day for food, finally getting around to exchanging presents, and what we thought would be an afternoon of wincing through the Capital One Bowl. As it turns out, there was a little wincing involved, but all in all it was a surprisingly enjoyable game. Michigan, as others have written, showed what could have been if 1) everyone had been healthy, 2) they hadn't believed their own hype before App. State, and 3) Carr had been a little more adventurous. A strong game by everyone, including Mike Hart. My brother and I turned on him a little after he fumbled a yard from the endzone and then laughed about it jogging back to the sideline. Yeah. Real funny. The rest of the evening was spent playing various games including the most vicious game of Catchphrase I've ever been a part of.

Today was spent looking across the parking lot, shrugging, and moving on. Then after Coffeewife left for work, I meandered over to Barnes and Noble to make use of the gift card I received from my in-laws. Thanks to the entire Christmas experience this year, I have a stack of books from which to choose for the first time in quite a while. I've got a book recounting the history of the Detroit Tigers, I've got a devotional book, I've got a memoir...there will be no need for any book purchasing for quite a while, and honestly, at the rate I've been reading the past few weeks, that'll be okay.

Of course, I have had a few ministry/church things on my mind this week. But I'm refusing to write about them at least until Monday. Honestly, I needed this week like I needed...uh...something I really freaking needed. Good similes are in short supply.

But enough about that. Maybe tonight I'll take down the Christmas tree.


Ten Thoughts on New Year's Day

1. It started in my head and has moved down into my chest.

2. Dick Clark looks better than he sounded last year.

3. I came in last place in the Game of Life.

4. The "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" board game is a lot easier than the TV version.

5. I kick butt at Guitar Hero.

6. I enjoy Cranberry Sierra Mist.

7. Coffeewife made it home by midnight.

8. The wind blew one of the top doors open on our recycling bin, and it's really hard and annoying to shut it again.

9. At least I'll get to watch Michigan play today.

10. I don't feel no different.