Showing posts from May, 2008

Two More Things and Then I'm Really Gone for a Week

First, an announcement:

Today, Coffeepastor weighs 190 pounds, back down from 198 two weeks ago. I met the goal that I'd set for myself a few weeks back.

Here's my secret: fish, chicken, salad, fruit, exercise. No fast food, limited sweets and soda.

Boo yah. Slightly leaner me.

The next goal is 185.

I rule.

And now, to mark the beginning of summer, here's a meme:

1.) What first tells you that Summer is here? Memorial Day. My church has a cemetery, and our local American Legion does a brief service to mark the occasion, with me playing a part. I usually attend a cookout somewhere after this. It's a good and distinctive way to kick things off.

2.) Name five of your favorite distinctively Summer habits or customs.
Baseball - Tigers and Indians on TV, and hopefully a game or two at Jac...uh...Progressive Field.
Sitting on my back stoop looking out amongst the slowly sprouting corn and the setting sun, usually with a book and some kind of beverage.
The Sweet Shop - the local i…

Black Coffee

For the next week or so, I'm taking a breather.

You may have noticed that the content has dropped off a little. I've been preoccupied.

Lately I've rediscovered my long-neglected Moleskine notebook, so I'm going to spend some time with that and hopefully come up with some good stuff for this place. That, and I'm just going to recharge and focus on some other things.

I shall return.



Day is done,
gone the sun,
From the hills,
from the lake,
From the skies.
All is well,
safely rest,
God is nigh.

Go to sleep,
peaceful sleep.
May the soldier
or sailor,
God keep.
On the land
or the deep,
Safe in sleep.

Love, good night,
Must thou go,
When the day,
And the night
Need thee so?
All is well.
Speedeth all
To their rest.

HT to Moleskinerie.

The fatherhood circle...

Image now complete.

"Simply Christian" and God's Restoration Project

No Roundup again today, so instead I'll argue with N.T. Wright a little more.

In his book, Simply Christian, N.T. Wright spends the second section of the book with specific themes related to Christian history and theology. He first talks about God, and follows up with a chapter on Israel. This chapter provoked a few thoughts. First...

It is fundamental to the Christian worldview in its truest form that what happened in Jesus of Nazareth was the very climax of the long story of Israel.
The two words that get me in the above sentence are "fundamental" and "climax." I'll take them in reverse order.

First, after some 4000 years of history, it is strange to think of Jesus as the "climax" for Israel. God really took God's time leading up to that, especially with so many false starts, setbacks, and choosing of imperfect guys like Abraham, Moses, and David along the way. To say that Jesus was what all this finally led to begs a few questions. First…


"You two are truly amazing. It's odd that it's called the finale when it's anything but the final — it's the beginning of the start of the destinies of your career. I'm so proud. And just remember sometimes you think it's all about winning but it's the things sometimes that we lose that remind us of how truly special we are as people."
-Paula Abdul, before the American Idol winner was announced

My Weekend

I thought I'd write a little about my weekend.

I had a wedding on Saturday. Normally, this fact does not thrill me. Many couples treat weddings like big stupid Cinderella cultural events, and thus Getting The Church and Getting The Pastor become just two more items to check off a big stupid Cinderella list, and organizing the wedding party during the rehearsal is like herding deaf, greased-up cats.

I might be exaggerating a little. But sometimes, this is just how weddings feel for pastors.

Anyway, I said normally, this fact does not thrill me. This weekend's wedding was one of the exceptions that I've enjoyed during my ministry. I've become very close with this family over the past year, and really met the bride during somewhat of a chance encounter: she's been undergoing treatments for lung cancer, and her future in-laws asked me to visit her one evening while she was in the hospital. A few months later, I baptized both her and her 9-year-old son, ministered …

Small Sips: Racism Alive and Well, UCC Article in U.S. News, No More Internet Monk?

What Racism Problem?:An article on MSN reports on some of the discrimination and hate that local Obama supporters are running into...For all the hope and excitement Obama's candidacy is generating, some of his field workers, phone-bank volunteers and campaign surrogates are encountering a raw racism and hostility that have gone largely unnoticed -- and unreported -- this election season. Doors have been slammed in their faces. They've been called racially derogatory names (including the white volunteers). And they've endured malicious rants and ugly stereotyping from people who can't fathom that the senator from Illinois could become the first African American president.The contrast between the large, adoring crowds Obama draws at public events and the gritty street-level work to win votes is stark. The candidate is largely insulated from the mean-spiritedness that some of his foot soldiers deal with away from the media spotlight.Huh. You don't say.
So, for every P…

Friday Five - Destinations

Haven't done enough to warrant a Roundup, so I'm playing along today...

Name five places that fall into the following categories:

1) Favorite Destination -- someplace you've visited once or often and would gladly go again I had an awesome time in New Orleans last year, between the work I did and The Best Cup of Coffee Ever at the Cafe du Monde. I keep waiting to hear if another trip is being organized, but nothing yet. Honorable mention goes to The Big House in Ann Arbor...anyone got some extra tickets?

2) Unfavorite Destination -- someplace you wish you had never been (and why) My junior high school. I pretty much hated every minute that I spent in that place. My hometown has been tearing down a couple of the old elementary schools, and I hope that place is next. I'll set up a lawn chair, pop a beer, and gleefully watch every second of it.

3) Fantasy Destination -- someplace to visit if cost and/or time did not matter I've never been to Cooperstown to see the …

Back on the Wagon

When I graduated high school, I weighed 150 pounds. It was pretty much all metabolism, as I didn't necessarily eat the healthiest. Portions weren't huge, so maybe that helped.

By the time I graduated college, I weighed 185 pounds. There were many late-night runs to Burger King. There were also many meals obtained from the pasta bar, because 1) it was really freaking good, and 2) the stuff on the line usually looked so unappetizing to the point of making me angry. My tuition was paying for this nasty crap?


After a while in college, I realized how unhealthy my diet had become, so I tried to take steps to rectify it. Walking around campus to classes and other activities was a plus, but I knew that I needed to do more. I tried working in more salads, and I began exercising during my senior year: first semester at the new fitness center twice a week, second semester in my on-campus house with standard push-ups and sit-ups. I still didn't cut out Burger King, a…

No One Comes Near

In my haiku post from the other day, I included what may or may not have been an eyebrow-raiser for some folks:

Father McKenzie
Sermons for non-attendees
Yes, no one comes nearI thought that I might offer an explanation for this one, lest it be mis-interpreted. I don't know how or if anyone will mis-interpret it, actually. But I wanted to give an explanation anyway.

First, maybe you got the allusion to The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby:"

Father McKenzie, writing the words
of a sermon that no one will hear
No one comes near
Now, at a glance, the above haiku coupled with the lyric may seem to indicate one of two things. First, it's a complaint that no one showed up to hear my sermon. Second, it's a complaint that people showed up but no one paid attention. It's actually a little more complicated than either of those things, and I don't want to give the impression that I wrote this poem to complain about my church.

When pastors write sermons, they sometimes hav…


Diaper change again
That's the seventh one today
Stop sniffing that, cat

Trying to slim down
Eating well and working out
Three pounds lost so far

Six days' work this week
Wedding, and then baptism
There could be worse things

Father McKenzie
Sermons for non-attendees
Yes, no one comes near

"A Different Kind of 'Exciting'" - A Sermon for Pentecost

Acts 2:1-21Throughout junior high and high school, I went on a lot of mission trips through my church’s youth group.These were week-long work trips to inner city Philadelphia or Cincinnati, or more “outer reaches” type places in Illinois and Massachusetts.The place in Massachusetts is called Heifer Project – if you’ve never heard of Heifer Project International, this is an organization that raises various animals to send to Third World areas to help their economy or their food supply.So essentially, Heifer Project is a farm, so we basically did farm work for the week when we went there.I’ve been to Heifer Project twice.The first time I was a newly minted confirmand, and took the trip with some fellow confirmands (it was my first mission trip ever, actually).The second time I was a junior in high school – and my mom signed up as one of the chaperones.Actually, she’d become the youth group coordinator by this point, so there was no escaping being on that trip with her.So during this wee…

Pop Culture Roundup

As I mentioned the other day, I started N.T. Wright's Simply Christian, and since writing that entry I haven't made it any further into the book. That other entry may make it seem like I don't like the book too much, but that wouldn't be accurate. In the first two chapters, Wright has first argued that all humanity has an internal compass of justice (basically the philosophical Argument from Morality) and that all humanity has certain spiritual tendencies as well. I never really bought into the Argument from Morality (the notion that our natural sense of right and wrong proves that God exists) because I don't think it adequately addresses environmental factors in which people are nurtured. Unless one whittles things down to a very bare argument that people tend to believe that certain things are good and other things are bad without getting into specifics about which things fall into either category, this argument doesn't always work that well. Anyway, the…

"Simply Christian" and Spiritual Thirst

Last week I picked up Simply Christian by N.T. Wright for three reasons: 1) It comes highly recommended in various corners of the blogosphere, even touted as a new Mere Christianity, 2) I've never really read anything by Wright, except perhaps an article here and there in college or seminary, and 3) I wanted to argue with it.

It didn't necessarily need to be this book that I could have argued with. I've been meaning to re-read Marcus Borg's The Heart of Christianity, and I just as easily could have started arguing with that instead. But I chose Wright because of the first two reasons listed above, but mainly to use it to discover where I stand nowadays on this or that theological issue. So there'll probably be an occasional post here and there as I look through this now.

The second chapter is entitled "The Hidden Spring," in which Wright presents a somewhat tedious allegory of a dictator who cements over all natural water supplies except the …

"Age of Anxiety" - A Sermon for Easter 7

As a sort of epilogue, here's what I ended up preaching this morning. In order for certain things to make sense, the title that appeared in the bulletin was "That They May All Be One," and it was a communion Sunday.
1 Peter 5:6-11The first thing we need to do is change the title.After two weeks away and some mild sleep-deprivation, I’ve been slow to come up with something to say.And since the bulletin had to be run by Thursday, I was feeling a little pressed for time.Likewise, even though John 17 appears as the focus text this morning, we need to back up to 1 Peter 5.This is a chapter—an entire letter, really—about suffering.The writer has a lot to say about suffering, as he addresses the actual suffering that his community was going through.When times get really hard, one understandably wonders a couple things.First, you may wonder whether you’ll eventually crack under the pressure.One may try to resist breaking down completely in frustration, anger, or depression.One m…

Saturday Special

I hate writing my sermon on Saturday, but that's what I'll end up doing this week.

I do my best to avoid this predicament. In fact, my routine usually sees the notes finished on Wednesday or Thursday, and then I can spend the rest of the week thinking about the moment itself: how to flesh out a particular point more, or the tweaking of words or phrases so as not to be misunderstood.

This week has been a shorter week. Due to officiating a funeral over my paternity leave, I came in on Wednesday rather than Tuesday. And ever since then, I've been wrestling with what to say on Sunday.

It's not for lack of material. This week I've become increasingly aware that Jeremiah Wright is on the collective mind of my congregation. Questions of how it all relates to us, or how someone like him is a part of our denomination, or whether there are different "branches" of our denomination have been put to me recently. Wright has been on my mind besides, because I've …

Pop Culture Roundup

I finished Gilead this week. At one point, I was about to give up on it, thinking, "What made this so special for me the first time that I wanted to read it again?" I hit that point, and then the moments of grace begin to happen between characters. The narrator, after hearing his story, blesses his best friend's son in a train station, and then goes to keep vigil with his friend as he awaits the end of life. These are both such beautiful moments that answer my question. Gileadis about fathers and sons: estranged, reconciled, repentant, unsure of how to be one to the other, one giving the other second and third chances, and so on.

In the midst of finishing Gilead, I started reading Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner. Winner converted from Judaism to Christianity, and yet retains a strong appreciation for Jewish spiritual practices and seeks to appropriate them to her new Christian context. She seeks to do this not only out of a love for her heritage, but also to se…

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