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Showing posts from November, 2008

Blackest of Fridays

I didn't really read this story until yesterday evening, and now I'm feeling something between depressed and infuriated.  One of the worst parts is in bold:New York police are reviewing video from surveillance cameras in an attempt to identify shoppers who trampled to death a Wal-Mart worker after they ripped off doors and burst into the store in pursuit of reduced items.

Police say the shoppers physically broke down the doors, to get inside the store yesterday at around 5am yesterday.

Jdimytai Damour, 34, of Queens died during a stampede of around 2,000 shoppers at the store in Valley Stream, Long Island.

Other workers were trampled as they tried to rescue him.

The customers stepped over the dead man and became angry when told the store would be closing because of his death.

Police say a pregnant woman was taken to a hospital for observation.

Wal-Mart said the incident was 'unfortunate'.

Vice president for the Northeast, said in a statement. "Despite all of our precauti…

"Keep 'Christ' in Christmas"

From Jurgen Moltmann's The Crucified God: Faith is fearful and defensive when it begins to die inwardly, struggling to maintain itself and reaching out for security and guarantees.  In so doing, it removes itself from the hand of the one who has promised to maintain it, and its own manipulations bring it to ruin.  This pusillanimous faith usually occurs in the form of an orthodoxy which feels threatened and is therefore more rigid than ever.  It occurs wherever, in the face of the immorality of the present age, the gospel of creative love for the abandoned is replaced by the law of what is supposed to be Christian morality, and by penal law.  He who is of little faith looks for support and protection for his faith, because it is preyed upon by fear.  Such a faith tries to protect its 'most sacred things', God, Christ, doctrine and morality, because it clearly no longer believes that these are sufficiently powerful to maintain themselves.I was on Facebook this morning, and f…

Pop Culture Roundup

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I've still been reading The Power of Asset-Mapping, which can be a little repetitive at times.  The process itself is pretty simple, and Snow also provides plenty of techniques for anticipated sidetracks and dead ends.  However, Snow also spends an overabundant amount of ink talking about what groups one can do this with, when these groups can do it, how it might help these groups, what sorts of groups he's personally facilitated it with, and on and on and on.  I get it.  Move on to the process itself.
I saw Twilight last Friday evening with Coffeewife.  Picture a theater filled with adolescent girls at 9:30 at night talking through the previews, shrieking every time a new character appeared on screen (or every time Edward or Jacob appeared on screen, period), and taking pictures of the screen with their cellphones.  There was a pair someplace off to my right who I swear didn't shut up through the whole movie.  The atmosphere was exactly what I thought it would be.  The mov…

Ouch.

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Pre-Advent

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This will be my fifth time preaching on the themes of Advent. That truly amazes me.

A few years ago, I was really worried that I couldn't find any new ways to preach on such familiar themes. As it turns out, it was just a down year. Last year went much better, in part because I actively sought out new resources to consult, namely Borg and Crossan's The First Christmas and Scot McKnight's The Real Mary. Both are excellent. But both provided some fresh insight for my preparations.

What are "the familiar themes," anyway? I have a fairly worn list of them, many of which I touch on in one way or another every year. Besides the themes provided by the Advent wreath (hope, peace, joy, love), you'll probably hear me talk about preparation of the heart, the evils of commercialism, why we need John the Baptist, how sanitary and banal we've made the nativity story and its characters, and the incarnation. There are others, but these seem to be mentioned every ye…

Hey look, it's all Christmasy and whatever now

I realize that it isn't even Thanksgiving until Thursday, but the abrupt-yet-inevitable end of Michigan's dreadful season seemed the perfect opportunity to change things up.

And while I enjoyed fiddling with blog colors according to season or whim in the other template, I enjoy having customized banners more. And alas, while the other template allowed for such things I could never figure out how to center them.

Thus, here we are. Simpler color scheme, but more personal look. Not that quality of content will improve any.

I'll have some pre-Advent thoughts to share soon enough. Stay tuned for that.

See you next fall

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Pop Culture Roundup

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Coffeewife is making me go see Twilight with her this weekend, so she made me read the book this week. She also did it to try to get me to stop ripping on it all the time...as if reading it would cause me to stop. See, this whole "human girl falls in love with male vampire" thing...to me it's been done before and done better *coughBuffyandAngelcough*. But nevertheless, here we are. I finished the book in a few days. It's a quick read with large print besides. But the writing drove me nuts. How many times does the reader need to be told how perfect and/or beautiful Bella thinks Edward is? I suggested to Coffeewife that a drinking game could be made out of that: described as perfect or beautiful, take a drink. I'd have been plastered within the first 50 pages. And some of the conversations are so meandering and drawn-out; I prayed for certain chapters to end. Some better editing could have tightened that up, as well as some of Stephenie Meyers' writi…

Church and Starbucks

This video is making its way around a few blogs that I read, so I might as well post it. I honestly haven't totally made up my mind about it yet, because I find the message a little convoluted. I mean, I get what they're going for, but I think they could have used a different example. Anyway, go ahead and watch and leave a comment. I'll save further reflections for later.

Token UM-OSU Post

So. The Game is on Saturday.

There's nothing on the line. No Big Ten title. No BCS hopes, really. Just bragging rights. Because beating UM this year would be such a monumental achievement, right? Nah, beating your biggest rival never gets old. It certainly didn't when Michigan did it regularly in the 90s.

(Side note: it's been pointed out that Sparty needs UM to win on Saturday for a chance at the Rose Bowl. How's that feel? Go watch 300 again.)

Forgive me if I'm not looking forward to this game. When UM fans have had to watch the team's single-worst season ever...EVER...it gets a little harder to get hyped up.

Part of me believes that an upset is possible. It happened against Wisconsin, why can't it happen here? It would be the greatest upset in the rivalry's history, since Michigan is like a 1,000,000,000-point underdog or something. And all the agony of the entire season would be washed away with such a moment.

But nobody is kidding themselve…

Quotable

Questions are not scary.
What is scary is when people don't have any. -Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis

Merton's Most Famous Prayer

Lately, it's been my prayer too...
MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. If you feel so moved, please lift up a prayer for your buddy Coffeepastor.  I have to be cryptic about it, though.  I hope you understand.

They're Our Rivals

In the spirit of the best rivalry in college football coming together this week (though my expectations are extremely low), here are some other things that I would like to declare as rivals:

~People who rag on community organizers
~Political double standards
~The Jonas Brothers
~High School Musical
~Especially that bushy-haired guy
~Hanna Montana
~Anything else that Disney has created for adolescents
~"We want this, but we won't help you"
~Dogs
~July
~Coffeeson's bedtime
~30-50 mph wind
~Brett Favre
~Slow computers
~Nickelback
~"Culture war" Christianity
~Political e-mail forwards
~Half-mumbled dispassionate liturgy
~Poopy diapers
~House centipedes
~Lack of coffee
~Maroon 5
~Coffeeson's runny nose
~Coffeewife's workdays
~Oatmeal raisin cookies
~Left Behind
~Those adult soap opera comic strips
~Coconut
~Larry the Cable Guy
~The University of Toledo
~Kirk Cameron

Endtimes Musings

During the month of November, the lectionary becomes very Endtimes-heavy.  The last few Sundays of the church year before we wrap back around to Advent 1 feature texts describing "the day of the Lord," or at least include admonitions to be prepared for its arrival.
We heard it last week with the parable of the bridesmaids and Paul talking about the dead saints being taken up first in 1 Thessalonians 4.
We'll hear more tomorrow by continuing in Paul's letter.  And next week, Reign of Christ Sunday, will feature the sheep and the goats being separated during the final judgment.
For the bridesmaids, I talked about the incredible emphasis that some Christians place on The End.  They pray that it comes as soon as possible (a bit escapist, no?) or they use it to justify not caring about working for justice or caring for the environment in the here and now, i.e., it's all going to burn anyway, so let's use and abuse it before it does.  This later attitude ignores state…

"Could you give us a sign of your presence?"

This isn't about "proving" God exists.

Actually, it's about the ghost hunting trip I joined this past Friday.
If you've never seen Ghost Hunters, this is a group that travels all over the country to investigate people's claims that their places of residence or work are haunted. To aid in their investigation, they make use of technology: digital voice recorders, digital cameras, thermal imaging cameras, gauges that measure temperature and energy. There's theory behind all of it that I won't go into.
The team carries all of this with them (along with several stationary video cameras that they place in strategic places) as they move from area to area, long into the early morning hours. Teams of two branch off and spend time in each area, and ask questions such as the one in the title: "Could you give us a sign of your presence?" "Is there anyone here who'd like to speak with us tonight?" "Is there something that you'd l…

Pop Culture Roundup

We watched Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull this week, which was...meh.  Maybe it's just because I grew up on the first three and this one is so far removed from them, but there was a certain quality about it that didn't resonate with me.  The movie is set 20 years after the last one, so Jones is now battling Soviet communists instead of Nazis.  Marian is back from the first movie, as is Shia LaBeauf trying his best to look tough in a leather jacket as Indy's son.  The plot revolves around the crystal skulls that have been discovered in South America, which the film ties to aliens.  Yeah...aliens.  The religious themes from the previous movies give way to aliens.  There was just a lot here that wasn't working for me.  Most of it probably has to do with nostalgia, but this film just didn't have the same zip that the others did.

We also watched Get Smart this week, featuring Steve Carell as Maxwell Smart.  There are nods to the TV show (such as inclu…

Comics Meme

From the RevGals.
1. What was your favorite comic strip as a child?  It's a tie between Peanuts and Calvin & Hobbes.  With Peanuts I grew up on both the comics and the specials.  And I could relate to Calvin's imagination.  Whenever I'm in traffic and see a decal featuring a ripped-off image of Calvin peeing on a car logo or praying to a cross, I wish to do bodily harm to the person in that vehicle.  Calvin & Hobbes, besides being hilarious, had a creator with much more integrity than that.

2. Which comic strip today most consistently tickles your funny bone?  I really like Zits.  More than one of these ended up on the fridge while my brother and I were in high school and college.  I also enjoyed Opus, but I guess that's not eligible now.

3. Which Peanuts character is closest to being you?  I'm going to say Charlie Brown.  He can't play sports that well, he can't bring himself to talk to the Little Red-Haired Girl, and he can see the beauty in a little…

A New Day

Coffeeson was born into a world where a black president is not only possible, but reality. He wasn't even 7 months old when it happened, but it will be woven into his life's experience. I even picture him one day asking, with an incredulous look on his face, "You mean there was a time when people wouldn't have elected him because of his race?"

In one sense that question is very tragic, and it always will be. But in another sense it is hopeful, as he will have no memory of a time when this wouldn't have been considered seriously.

So I'll have to fill him in. And while I'm at it, I'll tell him about the scene at Grant Park, which featured such a multi-cultural, multi-generational crowd. I'll tell him about the conversation on CNN noting that this is representative of a "new electorate," a reflection of the diversity that the United States has been experiencing increasingly over the past few decades, and a sign that Joe the Plumber only r…

Election Day

Radiohead - "Electioneering"



I will stop, I will stop at nothing.
Say the right things when electioneering
I trust I can rely on your vote.

When I go forwards you go backwards
and somewhere we will meet.
When I go forwards you go backwards
and somewhere we will meet.
Ha ha ha

Riot shields, voodoo economics,
it's just business, cattle prods and the I.M.F.
I trust I can rely on your vote.

When I go forwards you go backwards
and somewhere we will meet.
When I go forwards you go backwards
and somewhere we will meet.

Interesting...

Iverson's a Piston and Culpepper's a Lion.

I'll need a bit to form an opinion about this.

Caroling During Advent

When it comes to Advent, I've been a bit of a purist.
Much to the chagrin of the entire congregation, I've always saved our Christmas carols until Christmas Eve and the Sunday or two after. In the meantime, I have chosen a couple lesser-known carols for Advent, and a lot of Advent hymns (as I've mentioned, the old E&R hymnal has a great selection). Of course, I've heard the occasional question as to why we don't sing the more familiar songs during the entire month of December.
I've always regarded that question as a good teaching moment. Advent is Not Yet. Jesus hasn't been born yet during this season. Instead, we anticipate Christmas. So it doesn't make much sense to sing all the songs mentioning Jesus in the manger when Jesus isn't in the manger yet.
The main counter-argument that I've heard is that Christ is always with us, so why keep him out of the manger? As such, some pastors I know don't see any problem with peppering Advent with a …

All Saints Sunday Morning

I'm sitting on my living room couch. The scene outside is a dreary grey. The array of fall colors are fading into that singular late-season brown.

I'm drinking coffee out of a Michigan mug. On purpose. I repeat to myself over and over that we're rebuilding. Actually, by this point in the season, I've effectively numbed out to the whole thing. I actually haven't watched any of the past two games (yesterday's was on the Big Ten Network, so I didn't have a choice).
I can hear Coffeeson's breathing over the monitor. He'd been up from around 5:30 to 6:45. Coffeewife was getting ready for work at that time, so he got some playtime in before falling back asleep.
It's a quiet, reflective morning. Soon Coffeeson and I will load up and head for the church.
This morning, I'll invite confirmands and their sponsors to share their "life timelines" with each other and try to spot moments when God may have been especially present.
I'll inv…