Showing posts from November, 2009

First Monday of Advent

There are already only three Sundays of Advent left. This season seems to pass so quickly. But then again, if it was any longer it may not hold as much meaning. If, for instance, Advent began the second or third week of November, I may find myself complaining about how long it takes.

Thus, this is a season to be cherished; to be savored. The theme of preparation takes on a certain richness. I wouldn't say that preparation should have an urgent tone, though, as I think Advent is meant to invite reflection in contrast with the frantic atmosphere found in malls and shopping centers.

I preached yesterday on the idea of "pregnant pause," inspired by a post at this blog. I talked about how "pregnant pause" connotes expectation, and knowing that something is due to arrive. But we still need to wait and prepare in the meantime. Of course, the pregnant pause of Advent is the awaiting of a child, so the phrase is especially fitting. I also took a moment of persona…

Five Years

Early in my ministry at my current call, I gathered with a group of fellow Eden graduates for a meal and conversation. There had been a strong contingent of us from northeast Ohio who'd attended Eden around the same time, and so we wanted to make it a point to get together occasionally for fellowship and support. That has since changed due to the arrival of children into the mix, and/or people moving away.

At any rate, during this particular gathering we'd eventually migrated to the back deck of our hosts' home, where one colleague shared something she'd observed during her time at her first church: "After three years, you'll find that the tone shifts. People will be more open and honest with you, and you will find that your relationships will change and deepen."

I respectfully disagree. That may have been when it happened for her, but for me it occurred closer to the end of Year Four.

That was when anxiety surfaced about the church's future, as well as…

Pop Culture Roundup

There's a part in Gilead where Ames writes about Jack attending worship, and he feels inspired to launch into an extemporaneous treatise on Hagar and Ishmael and their abandonment by others charged to care for them. This, of course, is an allusion to something in Jack's past. Ames expresses regret for it afterwards in Gilead, but in Home, of course, we get to read about it from the Boughtons' perspective. As one could guess, the incident gets all of them upset, and we read about trust being broken; the deep relationship between Ames and Boughton that should have produced reconciliation rather than what Ames did.

I got dragged to a late showing of New Moon this past weekend. To be honest, I was actually looking for a way to wind down after a long day of moving, so there was some willingness there. The line was just as long, but the screaming tweenies weren't nearly as abundant. We did sit right in front of a row of women in their late 30s or early 40s who'd gas…

I'm thankful...

...for Coffeewife, my best friend and partner, who pushes me and supports me in all that I do and who loves me sometimes in spite of myself...

...for Coffeeson, who has already shown such intelligence and creativity in his short 19 months, and who warms me with joy and laughter on a daily basis...

...for a church that has been patient with a fresh seminary graduate as he has shed that freshness and worked alongside them in ministry and mission...

...for our new house that we're just beginning to transform into a home...

...for other family that have come and gone and will come and go this week to help with that transition...

...for departed loved ones who have left lasting impressions on my heart and soul...

...for music and its intangible way of saying the right thing when words fail...

...and for much, much more. Truly, there is so much for which I am thankful, and sometimes I need to be reminded to express that thankfulness more often than one day a year.

Happy Thanksgiving.

You didn't notice, but I left. I'm back now.

I took a few days off from the internet.

From the moment the clock hit all zeroes in Michigan Stadium on Saturday, I decided I didn't want to have anything to do with the internet for a while. I didn't want to read the despair, bellyaching, and second-guessing on my Michigan blogs. I didn't want to read the Buckeye-ness of my Buckeye fan friends on Facebook. And I didn't want to write anything for this blog, because it'd inevitably be about the game, kind of like now but longer and with more anger.

So I just gave it up for 72 hours or so. I feel better now.


Okay, now I feel better.

Actually, I was doing much more important things that necessitated a break from the internet as well. I'm typing this from my new home office, amid plenty of boxes. Yesterday was the Big Move Day, when the vast majority of our stuff was moved by two men and a truck from the company of same name. Today, I have to commute to my church for the f…

Pop Culture Roundup

I'd hoped to finish Home this week, but I still have about 100 pages to go. Lately, Ames' family has been present more, with Jack wanting to play catch with Robby and Rev. Ames giving Jack lots of disapproving looks. Since this is from Glory's point of view, there is only interaction between Jack and Ames when the Ameses visit the Boughtons, although we get more of Jack's side. In particular, we discover that Jack really wants to make an effort to win Ames' approval. He's a much more sympathetic character in this book. Or at least is sympathetic more throughout.

The week of The Game, ESPNClassic always shows a handful of past games. The very first that they showed this year was the 1969 game, which was Bo's first. With this year being the 40th anniversary of that game, I made it a point to sit down and watch. Boy am I glad Michigan doesn't do the helmet sticker thing any more. Later in the day, the 1995 game was on, during which Biakabatuka ran …

Between Homes

I hate moving. Not counting college and the time my family had to move back and forth after a house flood, this will be my 10th time moving. And I've hated it every time.

I hate tracking down boxes. I hate scheduling movers and/or renting a truck. I hate the meticulous process of going through all my crap and packing it (although there's something cathartic about throwing stuff out). I hate driving back and forth between the old place and the new place. I hate thinking I have everything packed up and then discovering that there's still so much left.

When we moved here from St. Louis, I discovered something new that I hate about moving. I've probably hated it all along, but I never picked up on it until that time.

I hate the feeling of being between homes.

When you pack up all your stuff, there are decisions to be made. What are the essentials that need to be left out until the last moment we leave this house? What pots and pans do we still need to cook with? How …

Still All In.

"Never mind. Brown fumbled it. They suck today."

This was one of many texts sent to me by my brother during this year's Michigan-Penn State game. It coincided with my church's swiss steak dinner, so I needed to rely on him for updates. But some variation of it could have been texted during the second half of the Illinois game. Or the second half of Purdue. Or the second half of Wisconsin.

Since Michigan's 4-0 start in September, which included an instantly classic win over Notre Dame, they've gone 1-6. That one win was a blowout against an extra-sweet cupcake team, which was an enjoyable Saturday spent at the Big House, but we knew the outcome back when the game was scheduled.

But back to the Notre Dame game. After that win, the fanbase began licking its lips for what this season could possibly bring. There began talk of going 8-4 or 9-3 and a New Year's bowl. Their 3-9 record from the previous season was becoming more and more of a distant memory.


From Jaroslav Pelikan:

"Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living."

HT to Songbird.

Video-Heavy Pop Culture Roundup

I continue to read Home, but was glad to read 50 pages or so yesterday. That did a lot for me getting into the book more. Robinson is beginning to intersperse snippets of theology, mostly as Jack and Glory converse. The two muse on what a soul is and whether one can help save another. It's nothing too heavy, which would have weighed down the narrative, and since this isn't theology thinly masked as story like The Shack, that's all the deeper Robinson is going to take it. Fine by me. Interestingly, the relationship between Jack and his father hasn't been dealt with too much. There are small scenes here and there, but then the father gets tired and wants to go back to bed. I'd expected more interaction from those two.

I've finished Keating, which wasn't hard. In the final chapter, he offers the briefest of treatments to a handful of spiritual practices, and not all of them are necessarily practices: he mentions lectio devina, self-differentiation, sta…

Sean Hannity's Epic FAIL

Did I mention...

...that the final walk-through is this Friday?

And that we close next Wednesday, at which point we will be handed keys?

And that we should have electricity, cable, phone, and security all by Thanksgiving week?

And that we'll be moving all our stuff that same week?

And that despite that, we're still planning to host Thanksgiving?

Well...there you go.


Maybe She Was on to Something

Scene: The greeting line after worship yesterday.

An older woman walks up to the pastor and says, "That was a really good sermon!"

The pastor half-jokingly responds, "Yeah, for once!"

The woman quickly replies, "Oh no, I like a lot of them! I want a book of them!"

For a couple years now, I've toyed with the idea of a book project. Not coincidentally, it didn't really pop into my head until after I started blogging. This was due in large part to books generated by the RevGalBlogPals and RealLivePreacher, which of course were direct products of their blogging ventures.

So I started with a similar idea, but I've never been convinced that I have enough quality entries even from nearly five years of blogging to create a collection of "greatest hits" essays like RLP. I've tried to make this blog about that kind of serious content before, and it's just never worked out.

One idea that I've had more recently, however, is a collectio…

Pop Culture Roundup

I've continued to read Home, though still slowly. I passed page 100 recently, and we've gotten hints of Jack's past actions and current concerns, thought they've been subtle. It is still too early in the story for that to be developed too much. Again, an afternoon in a coffeeshop may really get me into this book.

I've picked up Invitation to Love once again, now that my book study group has discussed the previously assigned chapters. The book is only 138 pages long, so I expect to be finished with it in the next week or so. Keating provides his own interpretation of the Beatitudes from Matthew, which he totally reads the monastic life back into. For instance, he takes "blessed are the poor in spirit" to mean that those who are not only poor, but who have consciously chosen to leave possessions "as God or others require," and instead place their trust in God, then they will be blessed. That's such a monk-ish interpretation. There are w…

Local Church Ministries Told to Take Some Cues from Emerging Church

Rev. Steve Sterner, Executive Minister for Local Church Ministries for the United Church of Christ, reported to the board that "existing churches" could stand to learn some things from "emerging churches:"
In his report to the UCC's Local Church Ministries board Oct. 23, the Rev. Steve Sterner looked back on two years as LCM's Executive Minister and charted a future for relationships with local congregations that serve two expressions of the church: "existing" and "emergent" churches.

"The Existing Church is far and away the largest partner in our mission from a numerical perspective," Sterner said. He expressed that the existing church:

is interested in perpetuating where it is, or where its memory is.
has members. Membership requirements are few.
supports the wider church out of historic obligation.
looks to the denomination for resources for its life.
has lots of committees that focus on programs.
is often pastor- or program-driven.

Terrains of the Heart, Take 2

Last June, I wrote an entry entitled Terrains of the Heart. The phrase refers to physical locations that replenish our spirits whenever we're able to return, and that hold special places in our hearts when we're away from them. I played with the definition a little, suggesting that "terrains of the heart" can change over time, and depending on the company you keep while visiting them.

I was thinking about this phrase again the other day, because I believe that I've been grieving the passing of my latest terrain of the heart for the past several months.

Putting it into those words surprised me, but it makes sense. In the other post, I name St. Louis as my current terrain of the heart, but I'd probably narrow it to Eden Seminary. This past May, I returned to campus for my final eligible year to attend Herbster, their event for the five most recent graduating classes. It's always a time to revisit our favorite St. Louis haunts and share ministry advice an…


Yesterday evening, I haphazardly banged out a post about Michigan football. It was angry and doubtful and bitter. My mood was aided by a less-than-festive feel to Halloween...there was just nothing really Halloween-ish about it. We still live out in the middle of nowhere, so no trick-or-treaters bother to come up to see us. The live Ghost Hunters was a disappointment because it was mostly an online thing this year, which kind of goes against the fact that it was being hosted by a TV know, that shows TV shows. On TV.

Out of this sense of irritation arose a post that I decided to hold off on posting. What good would it do to post it? It was overly emotional and harsh, and it's not like I have many fellow Michigan fans who read this who'd chime in with support anyway. That, and what am I doing allowing a football game to affect me like that?

So I waited. I waited, and then I slept.

And then I got up an hour too early because Coffeeson didn't get the memo…

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