Showing posts from December, 2008


The past few days, at least three NFL head coaches have lost their jobs. The Browns fired Romeo Crennel, the Lions fired Rod Marinelli, and the Jets fired Eric Mangini.

Even one who doesn't normally follow football could look over these teams' performances and most likely say, "Of course." Cleveland finished 4-12. Detroit...let's just skip that one. And New York faded down the stretch and missed the playoffs. One may have an argument in favor of keeping Mangini, but the inability to meet high expectations for the season sees him looking for another job.

When sports teams continually flounder or some teams, particularly those in bigger markets such as New York, don't meet expectations, the pattern has been to place blame largely on the shoulders of the coach. It doesn't matter, for instance, that Bret Favre had 2 touchdowns and 9 interceptions in their last five games. No, Mangini's head was the one that was going to roll regardless of other possi…

So, what's up for 2009?

Next year is already shaping up to be a big one, both for me personally and for the family. As I look ahead, here are some of the big things to look forward to in 2009.

The 10-year anniversary of Coffeewife and I being together - Not of being married, mind you. That anniversary will clock in this next year at 7, which also blows my mind. But in January of 1999, we started dating, and one thing led to another, and now we're married (for 6 1/2 years) with a kid. Simply incredible.

Turning 30 - Yeah. My 20s are about to disappear forever. On the one hand, it is exciting. It's a huge milestone sort of birthday, and I intend to enjoy it and mark it well, even if it does fall on a Monday this year. On the other hand, big birthdays like this tend to evoke the whole "Holy crap, when did I get this old/Am I where I want to be?" line of thought. But I can't really say that I'm not where I want to be in life. But I'll flesh all this out in another couple mon…

Blogging First Line Meme

I'm not really sure of the point of this meme, but I saw that a few people had done it last year. Basically, you just go back through your blogging archives for the year and post the first line that you wrote for every month. Maybe it's just fun to see these lines out of context or something. Anyway, I was bored and decided to put this together. Enjoy.

January - It started in my head and has moved down into my chest.
February - I recently finished A Private History of Awe by Scott Russell Sanders, which is a memoir that largely takes place during the 1950s and 60s but occasionally jumps forward to the present day.

March - When I was in elementary school, I wore the same outfit to church every week.

April - Shortly after I started the United Church of Christ Blog Network, I received a request from one member to remove her blog from the list.

May - I finished Gilead this week.

June - What better way to jump back into things than my signature flavor?

July - During the summer of 1996…

Year-End Pop Culture Roundup 2008

And once again, we come to the last Pop Culture Roundup of the year, which features those pieces of media that I enjoyed the most from 2008. They're numbered, but that doesn't mean anything unless I say different.

Five books I enjoyed in 2008

1. The Buzzard - A memoir about the rise and glory days of Cleveland radio station WMMS, written by former production manager John Gorman. He details the steps that he and others took to build up their station through various promotions and concerts, their competition with other stations whom they'd usually easily get the best of, and the eventual internal politics that led to their becoming "just another radio station." I mused back when I read this that it's amazing how little malice Gorman shows for those who sabotaged the station from the inside. At any rate, I found the story of building up and running a radio station fascinating.

2. The Final Season - Another memoir, this time by Tom Stanton, and chronicling his expe…

"Searching for What's Real" - A Reflection for Christmas Eve

Luke 2:1-20

The scene is a Christmas Eve service years ago at another area church. The service there is not tremendously different from what we observe here: there are carols, there are the familiar scripture lessons, and there is the singing of “Silent Night” by candlelight.

One small difference is seen during “Silent Night:” a younger couple, usually one with an infant, walk out dressed in robes to represent Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus, and take their places next to a manger set up in the chancel. They have no lines to say – it’s a symbolic gesture, a final picture before people leave for the evening.

One particular Christmas Eve, everything begins as usual. The singing begins, the young family makes its way out to the manger. The song finishes, and there’s just a slight pause before the pastor says his benediction. And it’s in this pause that the baby, who’d actually been laid in the manger, props himself up on the one side and gives the congregation a huge smile.

No one was …


From the Naked Pastor

Good one, honey.

Scene: the living room of the Coffeehousehold. A commercial comes on for a local church's Christmas pageant.

Pastor on TV: We literally bring the nativity story to life!

Coffeewife: They're going to have somebody give birth right there in the church? Eeeeeeew.

Fourth Monday of Advent

Today begins the slowest two weeks of the year for me.

I'm off Christmas Day, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day.

In case you're wondering, I'm not complaining.

In the meantime, my Christmas Eve reflection that I thought was finished is going to get another look. I have a thing about comparing artificial Christmas trees to real trees and then commenting on the difference that the incarnation makes in terms of what encounters with a real person did for people who'd interact with Jesus. But I can't get comfortable with the tree seems weak to me.

I'm thinking of swapping out the trees for a sight seen at a Christmas Eve service years ago. At my home/former church, the tradition on Christmas Eve is for a younger family with an infant to come out during the singing of "Silent Night" as the Holy Family. On one particular year, we sang, the family came out and the infant was even laid in the manger. After we were finished singing, there w…

"No, Mary Didn't Know" - A Sermon for Advent 4

Luke 1:26-38

It’s a story that we’ve heard in many different ways over the years. It’s a story that we’ve heard many different spins on; a story immortalized in children’s books, in songs, in pageants, in TV and movies. And each has their own dramatic twist or their own amounts of creative license.

First, the story itself. The angel Gabriel appears to Mary. He greets her, calls her “favored one,” and says, “Do not be afraid…you will conceive and bear a son, and name him Jesus.” He rattles off a lot of terms and phrases about her son’s significance, in quick succession: Son of the Most High, heir to David’s throne, he’ll be holy, he’ll be called Son of God.

When it comes down to it, Gabriel is incredibly vague about what Mary’s son is going to do; who he’s going to be. She’s certainly familiar with the terms he uses. They show up in Jewish and Roman culture. For instance, when David’s throne is mentioned, she can probably figure out that he’s talking about the arrival of the Messi…

Pop Culture Roundup

Still reading The Fidelity of Betrayal, which is now on the concept of God. Rollins spends some time examining various views on knowing or speaking God's name. A commonality among the pieces that he shares is that knowing God's name bestows a level of power over God. He first tells the Lilith myth (Adam's first wife, who refuses to be subservient and tricks God into sharing God's name so she can use the bestowed power to escape Eden). He moves onto the Egyptian sun god Ra, who endures a similar situation, and before we know it we're at the burning bush with Moses, where God shares God's name with him when asked. The meaning in Exodus, Rollins suggests, is that God willingly shares the name because God is not so easily controlled or manipulated. At the same time, he suggests, God does allow a certain level of understanding. He then deconstructs Decartes' theory about God being the greatest thing that we can think of, but winds up retaining the concept…

Hey, Baby...Does My Meaty Scent Turn You On?

No, seriously: The way to a man's heart may be through his stomach, but the way to a woman's heart — according to Burger King — may be through a new meat-scented body spray.

While fast-food chains aren't exactly best known for selling signature fragrances, on Sunday The Home of the Whopper rolled out a men's body spray called Flame by BK. The 5-ml bottles are available for sale in Ricky's stores in New York City and on a dedicated Web site,

If you're salivating for a chance to marinate yourself in flame-broiled flavor, relax: The experience can be yours for just $3.99 — a small price to pay for some seriously mouthwatering mojo.

"My assumption when I heard about it was that it would smell like french fries and burgers," said Luis Bejaran, 24, who manages a Ricky's store on Eighth Street in Manhattan. But, he said, that wasn't the case. "It's a combination of Axe body spray, TAG and this YSL cologne I have. It's on…

POC's Greatest Hits 2008

Being so close to the end of the year, it's time to look back and point you to my favorite blog entries of 2008.

Green - The first of ten entries that I wrote for my Big Serious Lenten Blogging Experiment. This was a reflection on what kind of father I hoped to be, and what kind of relationship I hoped to forge with my son. I might even call this entry my absolute favorite from this year.

Darren - Another Lenten post reflecting on my experience of a friend's death.

I Was Watching - Yet another Lenten post explaining the truth about how exactly pastor's kids end up in the ministry. Hint: it's not because they're pastor's kids.

I Want to Preach at General Synod - Preaching at the UCC's national gathering is actually a long-shot dream of mine. But until that actually happens, here's my satirical take on how I'd need to convince whomever it is that makes that decision.

The Great Bonfire of '96 - Around the time that I wrote this entry, some feelings…

Third Monday of Advent

Was yesterday the third Sunday already?  Advent goes by so quickly.  It can be a difficult season to savor sometimes due to all the obligations one may feel: parties, programs, extra services, shopping, preparing for meals, and whatever else.  This season to stop and light a few candles and reflect can end up being anything but.  
I think that I've been doing okay in that area, for what that's worth.  I'm not moving through a devotional book this year, as I usually do, but I've been able to find moments to sit, reflect, journal, enjoy, savor.
Coffeeson and I have had some really good days together lately.  It's not that we had a lot of bad days before now, but with him now crawling and even able to pull himself up on things, he's fun to chase around and lie next to on the floor and everything else.  Every once in a while he gets a hold of a low-hanging ornament on the tree, which I just have to laugh at.  His first Christmas has just been shaping up to be a good …

Pop Culture Roundup

I haven't been reading Moltmann as much, although I still find it an incredible analysis of the full impact that Jesus' crucifixion should have on Christian theology and church practice.  He has a lot to say on how following a crucified Lord (who loses his identity in such a humiliating death) entails the forsaking of identity.  That is, Christianity with the cross in its proper prominence is the opposite of the version that seeks political power, that wants recognition, that complains about the "war on Christmas."  
Which leads me to the book that I've started reading that continues this theme, The Fidelity of Betrayal by Peter Rollins.  I don't know what caught my eye about this book in Borders, but it nevertheless got my attention.  Rollins' basic thesis is that, in order to exhibit true faith, one may need to forsake the faith they've learned.  The best way at this point that I have to explain this is in a story that he tells in the introduction, i…

Five Things for Advent

I'm nearly a week late for this RevGals meme, but when it was first put up I wasn't in an inner space where patience or reflection were very appealing. I wanted something trite and forgettable like, "What's your least favorite carol and why?" and "Do you open gifts on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?" But noooooo, they wanted me to think about stuff.

Anyway, the point of this one is to list five things you're longing for this Advent. And the above should be an indication that I actually need this meme more than I thought.

1. Patience - I don't feel like I've had a lot lately. I've just been moving from one thing to another. If I'm not at the church working on stuff, I'm watching Coffeeson at home. And through all of it, I've been wanting to rush things or get the next thing done with very little time to reflect.

2. A chance to just sit in a coffeeshop for a morning and read and journal for as long as I want without interrup…

Second Monday of Advent

I've been really self-conscious about my preaching the past month or so. I just think I've come across as pretty grumpy. A few weeks ago, for instance, I ragged on the Left Behind series three or four times in a sermon. And yesterday, I start in by talking about war, the "protect Christmas" crowd, and the Black Friday Wal-Mart incident as examples of what we're NOT preparing for during Advent.
Now, some may only see this as attempting to disabuse people of bad theology or faulty attitudes about what Christmas is really supposed to be about. And that's what these sermons ultimately set out to do. But while writing them and practicing them, it just feels like I've been grumpy.

Grumpiness is good sometimes. Grumpiness can fuel these messages with the correct amount of passion. "Righteous anger," if you will. I think that for me, I'm just disturbed by the amount of grumpiness that I've been experiencing about this stuff lately, and h…

"Prepare" - A Sermon for Advent 2

Mark 1:1-8

In 1914 during World War I, British and German troops stationed in Belgium begin decorating their trenches on Christmas Eve. They begin singing Christmas carols, first among their own ranks, but eventually along with soldiers on the opposing side. Eventually, the two sides call a truce for the night. They exchange small presents, they drink together, they each allow the other side to collect their dead and hold joint funerals. They play soccer. After hearing about these truces, military higher-ups on both sides take steps to ensure they don’t happen again: they order bombings on Christmas Eve the next year, and they rotate troops often so that neither side becomes too familiar or friendly with the other.

What are we preparing for?

In December of 2000 on a college campus, a group of students loudly sing Christmas carols outside a Jewish student’s window. The student asks them to stop, and the Christian group responds by singing more loudly – willfully oblivious to how the…



100 Things Meme

This is a meme that I found at Rantings of the Faithful, where you highlight all the things on this list that you've done.
1. Started my own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis 
10. Sung a solo 
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched lightning at sea
14. Taught myself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown my own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person (from both sides)
34. Visited the birthplace of…

Pop Culture Roundup

I've been reading Jurgen Moltmann's The Crucified God. I actually tried to get through this a few years ago, but for some reason never finished. This book is as much a critique of the church as it is a theological analysis of the meaning of the cross. In fact, Moltmann argues that there's no way the two can be separated; that the cross is a critique of the church in and of itself: it challenges the church's seeking out special societal privileges, the church's theologizing of the cross to the point that it becomes numb to its horror, and the use of christological titles (Christ, Son of God, Logos, etc.) without the lense of the crucifixion. Moltmann argues that the cross jars, or is meant to jar, most of our theological and ecclesiastical assumptions. He also undergirds a lot of his thinking with an eschatological hope (laypeople's terms: future fulfillment of God's new order). He argues that the cross is a beginning point for that hope becoming fulfi…

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