Showing posts from January, 2010


Hey. Anybody else up yet? It's after 7:00, so I'm guessing that some of you are.

Me? I'm the only one awake so far. That could change at any moment, though.

I'm just sitting here, enjoying some coffee, thinking about the day.

I've got my non-notes ready to be preached. Last Sunday was low-energy, so that felt stunted. But I've got some good stuff for today. I think. The lectionary included 1 Corinthians 13 this week, and I figured it'd be good to reclaim its message as something more than just a wedding text. Because it really is much more than that. "Faith, hope, and love abide...and the greatest of these is love." How many Christians disagree whether in word or action whether love is the greatest out of those three things? How many would rather slide faith in there when nobody's looking? Yeah, that's pretty much the Corinthians' problem, too.

So then it's our annual meeting. Approving the budget, a change to the by-law…

Pop Culture Roundup

I'm still reading The Process Perspective. It's really not holding my interest that well, I must say. I'm just not in a place to pay attention to it. It may just be that I haven't chosen the best times to continue reading it. But it just doesn't excite me at the moment.

I've also been reading For the Love of God for my book study, the second section of which is entitled "The God Within." These are essays all about how God can be found with us or in us. The first essay in this section is by Lynn Andrews, an American Indian shaman, who provides this quote that I found helpful: "Life is not a belief structure; shamanism is a way of experiencing life that expresses the Great Spirit." There are, I believe, parallels to the Christian life in this quote. Faith and discipleship are less about a belief structure and more a way of experiencing God in Christ in everyday life and expressing that through how we live. I never would have picked up …

Open Forum: Sabbatical Reading

As I've mentioned a few times on this blog, I'll be taking a sabbatical near the end of April. It'll be for five weeks, and will last until the end of May. I have planned some activities for that time, which I'll lay out fully later. Those are not what this post is about.

Aside from those specific activities and trips, I have a few larger goals for this sabbatical.

On one hand, I want to spend time reflecting on Bigger Professional Things. I'd like to take stock of what passions I've discovered since beginning full-time ministry, as well as passions I've let fall by the wayside. I want to think about possibilities for further education or training. I want to think about who I want to be and what I want to be about as a pastor in general.

On the other hand, I very much want to think about me and my church. 5+ years is a long time to be together, and I want to avoid getting stuck in a rut. I want to continue developing healthy ministries, and I want us t…


Every year on this date, I listen to or watch my ordination service. I don't know how much longer I'll keep up this tradition, but at least for now it seems fitting.

When I do this, I especially pay attention to two parts.

First, I grab my UCC Book of Worship, and read along with the vows. This helps me reconnect with the promises that I made five years ago. I reaffirm them, and wonder how well I'm doing at keeping them. The promise that has stood out to me in years' past has been the one to minister impartially. That's been a difficult one to swallow at times, I must admit. But I've done my best to honor it. I read along, and I hear myself speaking the words over and over: "I will, relying on God's grace."

Relying on God's grace. I have certainly had to do that. In moments both strange and routine, both joyful and frustrating, "relying on God's grace" has applied in each instance. More recently, as I've pondered what …

Pop Culture Roundup

I finished Volume 9 of The Sandman, entitled The Kindly Ones. This is the longest volume, and a huge turning point for the series. Many familiar characters from past stories re-emerge; some meet tragic ends. Reading this very much felt like watching the last episode of Angel...there is resolution for some characters, things are left wide open for others, and still others don't make it to the end. All of it happens with this sense of foreboding and finality, and when the Big Moment finally comes, it's almost a relief.

I've also begun re-reading The Process Perspective by John Cobb. I re-read Cobb's introduction to process theology last year and meant to re-read this shortly after as a refresher, and now I'm finally getting around to it. This book is a "frequently asked questions" list about process theology, with a few pages of explanation at most for each question. Still, I think it assumes some advanced knowledge and thus isn't an introduction …

This Is The Penguins' House. Recanize.

From the Huffington Post:
These penguins are hard, man. Real hard. When you see them walking down the street, you better recognize. Because you do not want to cross these penguins on their own turf. Not on anybody's turf. So do yourself a favor: get out of the way. Penguins are coming through.

The Weekend

This was one of those weekends that stood out; that was especially notable and seemed worth blogging about.

Friday evening was my first bass lesson. I didn't really know what to expect, but I knew that I wasn't going to pretend to be better than I am. From what I'd heard, the first lesson is more about the teacher evaluating your skill level and getting to know you so that he knows where to start. We talked a little about my musical background, and he had me play a song I knew just to judge my technique. I chose the opening riff from Dave Matthew's Band's "Crush." Overall, he thought I looked pretty good, but gave me some pointers on that and then showed me some stuff about the root note, the 4th, and 5th. I sort of knew about this, but had never looked at it in a disciplined way...which was the point of me starting lessons to begin with.

Saturday evening, I traveled to the Catholic church in town. Right around the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity,…

The Devil Writes Pat Robertson a Letter

Satan tries to set things straight with Pat:
Dear Pat Robertson,

I know that you know that all press is good press, so I appreciate the shout-out. And you make God look like a big mean bully who kicks people when they are down, so I'm all over that action.

But when you say that Haiti has made a pact with me, it is totally humiliating. I may be evil incarnate, but I'm no welcher. The way you put it, making a deal with me leaves folks desperate and impoverished.

Sure, in the afterlife, but when I strike bargains with people, they first get something here on earth -- glamour, beauty, talent, wealth, fame, glory, a golden fiddle. Those Haitians have nothing, and I mean nothing. And that was before the earthquake. Haven't you seen "Crossroads"? Or "Damn Yankees"?

If I had a thing going with Haiti, there'd be lots of banks, skyscrapers, SUVs, exclusive night clubs, Botox -- that kind of thing. An 80 percent poverty rate is so not my style. Nothing against it -…

Pop Culture Roundup

As I mentioned, I re-read Preaching Without Notes this past week. And I'm going to go ahead and get that going this weekend. It's been amazing how effortless the process has been, how easily I've slipped back into preparing this way. A big reason for that, of course, is that I actually took heed to some things in this book that I skipped over the last time. I recommend this book to anyone looking to preach without notes, and even to people who don't think they can do it.

I've returned to reading The Sandman graphic novels, having finished World's End this week. I might call this volume one of my favorites. Gaiman structures these such that each volume can be read on its own or in sequential order, and this volume is about a group of travelers who are stuck at a mystical tavern at the edge of all worlds, who tell stories to wait out the "reality storm" (a huge shift in reality caused by some metaphysical event). It would take me some effort to re…


I was going to write a response to Pat Robertson's latest spewage about the earthquake in Haiti, but I don't have the energy for that.

Plus, the people of Haiti need much more attention than theologically inept blowhards.

The United Church of Christ has set up a fund for relief, as I'm sure most if not all other denominations have done. The Red Cross has as well, of course.

If you are part of a faith community, please consider taking an offering for such efforts.

And pray. They need that, too.

Preaching Without Notes

A couple years ago, I attended my Conference's annual gathering, which always features a "professional event" for pastors the day before or after. I normally don't attend these (actually, I haven't been big on attending the Conference gathering besides, but that's a separate post), but I did that particular year. The featured speaker for this event was David Greenhaw, president of my seminary alma mater and occasional professor of preaching and worship.

I honestly don't remember what Dr. Greenhaw talked about. It surely had something to do with the church. What I do remember, though, is how struck I was by his delivery. Understand that I took two classes from this man, so I saw this same delivery for a year or so, not to mention the times he preached in chapel, convocation, graduation, and whatever other official function arose. But on this evening, in a different context and a year or more removed from school, it just hit me differently. He'd s…

Coffeehouse Chaplaincy

A few years ago, I learned of a colleague who makes it a point to spend a few hours at a coffeehouse each week. Same time, same place. It's advertised on his church's website: "You can meet with our pastor at [this time] at [this coffeehouse]." And as far as I know, he gets visitors. I don't know whether they're members or curious seekers or what. Every once in a while, he advertises that on a particular day he'll have another colleague with him to talk with people. On one occasion, Brian McLaren sat at that coffeehouse with him willing to talk to whomever accepted the invitation.

I actually have yet to ask my colleague about this practice. But it immediately perked up my ears. It doesn't get more missional than what he's doing. I have to imagine that he's getting to know the restaurant staff and other regulars. He's a visible presence on behalf of his church for the community. He's getting out of the freaking church building…

Pop Culture Roundup

My first book of 2010 is The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks. I'd leafed through it a couple times at Barnes and Noble, curious but never committed, and then I got it as a Christmas gift. I thought it would be more madcap, but part of the joke is how seriously the author approaches the subject. In effect, this really is an instruction manual for how to defend yourself from zombie attacks. The most interesting part has been simply learning more about the world of zombies: the book details the root cause of zombie-ism, how to kill zombies, what weapons work best, best options for safe havens, and most effective methods to take down a zombie army. The book finishes with 80 or so pages of zombie outbreaks throughout history. It's been quite fascinating, and entertaining.

I've also been reading For the Love of God for my book study group. This is a series of essays on spirituality and God-experience by a diverse array of authors such as The Dhali Lama and Matthew Good…

The Best and Worst of Five Years of Blogging

Today is my five-year blogiversary. In honor of this more-or-less monumental achievement, I thought that I'd take a look back and bring you my five absolute favorite posts, followed by five mea culpas for posts that should never have been posted.

My Five Favorites

1. I Was Watching - During Lent 2008, I decided to take on a blogging discipline where I would intentionally write longer essay-type posts. This was one result, about how pastor's kids who enter the ministry themselves may often do it despite being pastor's kids. I tell part of my own story in the process.

2. Darren - Another result of that Lenten discipline, and I might call it the single-best entry that I've ever written in five years of blogging. This is about the loss of a college friend and experiencing the community of mourners who gathered to say goodbye.

3. Children's Sermons That Textweek Rejected - I don't know how much time you spend on, or whether you've ever ventured to th…

Playing Bass

One of my plans for 2010 is to take bass guitar lessons.

"But Coffeepastor...didn't you say something a while back about wanting to focus on drums? Like here?"

Oh, you remember that. Well, here's the thing. I play guitar on Sundays for worship, and the amount of talent and dedication that it takes for that is all that I believe I'm willing to devote to that instrument. I'm actually comfortable with my current "praise song level" of ability. And make no mistake that "praise song level" is a true, albeit unofficial, level of ability...just learn the most common chords and become competent with a few barre chords and you can play no less than 98% of all praise songs ever written. What I really want is something I feel more passionate about, something I can dedicate myself to musically.

I thought that that would be drums. It was a no-brainer, really. They're my first musical love. However, I have a 20-month-old, and the only time I c…

Michigan 73, Ohio State 64

Image win is a win. I'll take it.

Go Blue.

New Year's Meme

From the RevGals:

1. What will you gladly leave behind in 2009? Fast food. Cheap, fried meals in a bag of all kinds. I don't need it, I no longer want it. This past year I ate way too much of it.

2. What is the biggest challenge of 2010 for you? I'm going to be 31 soon, and my metabolism ain't getting any faster. It's a New Year's cliche to resolve to lose weight, but when I completely give myself to it I do what I need to do. The challenge is to do it in light of Coffeeson's schedule. With all I'm looking forward to doing this year, this is the one thing I don't have a clear plan for yet.

3. Is there anything that you simply need to hand to God and say "all will be well, for you are with me"? I just began my sixth year at my church, and I've been reflecting a lot on what it takes to maintain a long-term ministry that is effective and creative. I know that I'm going to be here for a while yet, so letting God handle this would be…

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