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Showing posts from July, 2010

Pop Culture Roundup

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I've been reading Evolving in Monkey Town by Rachel Held Evans. This is a spiritual memoir of Evans' experiences growing up in Dayton, Tennessee, aka "Monkey Town" due to it being the site of the 1925 Scopes trial. Evans recounts her evangelical upbringing, and the eventual cracks that began to appear in her faith foundation. She begins to question the concepts she'd been taught about God, the Bible, evangelism, and other religions. The reaction from her Christian friends is predictable, as many of them try to get her to "stop challenging God's sovereignty" or blow off her questions with the usual cliches ("God's ways are not our ways"), eventually leading Evans to reflect on how unhelpful and self-sabotaging it is for Christians to not take people's questions seriously. Her faith ends up evolving (like the title!) into something more open-minded, progressive, and appreciative of questions. I'm liking the book, in part be…

Is it September yet?

Share Buttons

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I wanted to take a moment and point out the shiny new "share" buttons at the end of each post.

Now, if you feel so inclined, a click of a button allows you to share this drivel through e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, your own blog (so long as it's through Blogger), and Google Buzz (I don't even know what that is).

Of course, people have been able to do this without such a button. But now you have a button. Before too long, I bet you won't be able to imagine a button-less existence.

So, yeah. There's buttons now. Enjoy.

A Summer of Transition

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The summer of 2004 was a different kind of summer. Maybe there's a better word than "different," but it's the one that springs to mind as I begin typing this. Maybe after I've made it to the end I'll have come up with a better one.

At any rate, the reason "different" came to mind was because it was the first summer where I wouldn't anticipate heading back to school in the fall. I had graduated seminary in mid-May and would begin looking at open church positions very soon. The bad news at the beginning of summer was that my ministerial profile was far from being ready to distribute. The good news was that I could afford to wait a little while.

I could afford to wait a little while because I was on my way back to my hometown for a two-month gig as pastor of my home church while their regular pastor was on sabbatical. When they'd put the proposal together for a grant from the Lily Foundation, they'd included a paragraph about "secu…

Pop Culture Roundup

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I've been reading A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace this week, and I can't really get into it. Brian Cook from MGoBlog has sung DFW's praises several times, so I figured I'd pick up this collection of his essays. I have enjoyed a few of them. There's an essay on his playing tennis growing up, and how he was able to beat people not with superior talent, but by knowing the conditions of the weather and irregularities of the outdoor courts where he played. There's another of his experiences while attending the Illinois State Fair, which is highly amusing. Then, however, there are others: an essay about American addition to TV that 1) is highly and annoyingly dated by the shows he references, and 2) goes around and around on the same point for way too long, and a highly technical essay on poststructuralist interpretation. So he's really been hit and miss with me. This is my first encounter with his writing; I'd lo…

A Panicky Summer

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By the summer of 2003, I'd been living in St. Louis for two years and had completed two out of three years of seminary. By this point, I'd come to love and appreciate life in the big city with its vast array of entertainment options and diversity of cultures.

St. Louis summers are some of the most hot and sticky that I can remember. Ohio has some hot, dry days, but they always eventually give way to cooling rain and even some days that feel like early September. But St. Louis summers never seem to let up: it's hot and muggy and muggy and hot and get your outside stuff done in the early morning or evening because the rest of the day is going to be hot and muggy. Also, the next day: hot and muggy. Coffeewife and I had a window air conditioning unit that was our salvation during those months.

I was already set to spend the height of each hot and muggy day inside, so I wasn't too worried about this. There was one major requirement that I needed to complete before gradu…

A Summer of Foreshadowing

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The summer of 2000 was one filled with a wide variety of experiences and revelations, and at least one moment of foreshadowing.

I was in between my junior and senior year at Heidelberg, and I elected to stay in Tiffin that summer to work on campus as an "ambassador" (read: go-fer for the Admissions office). So I and five others who were also going to be sticking around for various reasons went in together to rent a house: a large fixer-upper of a place that was on the market. It was modestly furnished, with little more than a couple broken-down pieces of furniture left by the people trying to sell it. The plumbing and appliances were suspect, and the basement was frightening enough that we just didn't go down there. Near the end of this summer, I saw the movie Fight Club for the first time, and the house in which the two main characters live resembles our temporary home in more ways than I wanted to admit.

One of the things that marked this summer was music. I'd played…

Pop Culture Roundup

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This week I read Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free. The author, Charles Pierce delineates how American society has bought into a mentality where experts are to be suspected and reviled, and everyone knows everything because it feels right to them. He spends a lot of time talking about the vision and writings of James Madison, who helped envision a republic where people would become educated and govern themselves. He then shows how we're attempting to govern ourselves without the education part: everyone is an expert, the true experts are marginalized as "elitists," and everyone trusts what their gut tells them. All of this, Pierce observes, is thanks in no small part to the political climate that has emerged in the past decade. He presents some of the biggest cultural events of this very young century to make his case: the rise in popularity of talk radio, the start of the Iraq war, Terry Schiavo, the global warming debate, and the…

New Jersey Summers

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I lived most of my childhood in my imagination.

One could say that about most kids. But there seems to come a point very early on with most kids where they realize that the boys should be playing the sport du jour during recess and the girls should be giggling and talking and whatever else they do. Call me stereotypical, call me sexist, but think back to what most boys and girls on your elementary school playground were doing on a typical day. Yeah, that's what I thought. Whether this is by nature or nurture, it's what tends to happen.

I was not athletically gifted. I'm still not. I learned to play various sports growing up, but learning how to play them, loving the idea of them, and being good at them are very different. I knew how to play, but I was better off staying away from the field or court.

Eventually, I occupied a good amount of time by learning to play the drums. By high school, I was both a band and drama geek. It's what I was good at; what I was dedi…

Summers Past

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"...my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer." - Psalm 32:4b

Nowadays, I'm not a big fan of summer. The days are long, hot, undifferentiated, and generally uneventful. I find this time of year to be soul-sucking, and while I always head into it with good intentions, I eventually revert to the same thoughts of wishing for it to be over.

For many reasons, I'm a fall/winter person: college football, leaves changing, cooler temps, hooded sweatshirts, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas, shoveling snow (yes, really). Lately, summer just seems like something to endure in order to get to those more pleasurable times.

Of course, I've loved summer in the past, particularly when I was in elementary school, junior high, and high school. I've loved more recent summers as well. And that's why I'm typing this.

Over the next two weeks, I'm going to blog about some of these past summers, back before my current attitude about this hot and muggy sea…

Pop Culture Roundup

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I read Jesus Freak: Feeding Healing Raising the Dead by Sara Miles this week. I loved Take This Bread, so I was really excited to get her follow-up. This is largely a collection of stories about people whom Miles has met through her work at the food pantry that she organizes: addicts and those recovering, ex-cons, the poor and homeless, the mentally ill, and a chaplain at an inner-city hospital, among others. She intersperses these stories with some commentary on Jesus' call to serve, which she takes at its most literal, radical meaning (hence the title). This commentary includes some critique of the church, and well-meaning-yet-overly-cautious liberals in particular get the brunt of it. She repeatedly expresses that the food pantry is literally open to anyone and everyone, which she contrasts with programs that place heavy restrictions and entry requirements on people either before considering or even while helping them. Through these stories, she shows how the food pantry …

July 5

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It's a lazy Monday morning.

The house has that post-party feel to it after being filled with food, family, and laughter yesterday.

Coffeeson enjoyed his first fireworks...at least the part he was awake for.

Now the long stretch of July summer days begins where one day doesn't seem especially different from the next: they're all sunny and hot, they're all filled with the daily tasks of ministry or time with family. The church sanctuary is warm without being uncomfortable this time of year. I'll roll out the grill just because I can, or I'll sit on my deck sipping a beverage in the morning or evening when the temps are cooler.

For the past few years, I've lamented the summer months: they seem long, uneventful, and undifferentiated. I'm beginning to appreciate these days again, largely for those same reasons. What good does it do to wish them away when so much could be made from them, even if it's simply enjoying the quiet?

This is Ordinary Time for the…

Pop Culture Roundup

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I read The Magicians by Lev Grossman this week. Think Harry Potter, except it takes place in college and the characters are deeper and grittier. The main character, Quentin, is a directionless sad sack at the top of his high school class who one day finds himself in a placement exam for Brakebills, a college for kids with magical gifts. The characters are incredibly flawed; incredibly human. They indulge in typical college-kid exploits. At times they're jealous of, resentful over, or passive-aggressive toward one another. While HP could get dark and the characters would show emotion at times, this is something else entirely. A major theme is seeking ultimate meaning for one's life - not in a religious sense, but in an existential sense. As magicians for whom the world is basically yours for the taking, what kind of purpose do you find in that? Some take a nihilist/ hedonist approach, some try to stave off boredom by indulging in pointless projects, others try to contr…

What's the Future of Judicatory Gatherings?

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For my denomination, summer is the time for annual Conference gatherings. Quick UCC polity note: while the local church has the ultimate final say for itself, it is grouped with others geographically into Associations and Conferences. At the Conference level, representatives get together every year for an annual gathering featuring worship, workshops, some business items, networking, yadda yadda yadda.

The Ohio Conference Annual Gathering was held a few weeks ago at Heidelberg University in Tiffin (Go Berg!). I didn't attend, because I haven't felt inspired to go in a number of years. I like going to our Association gatherings because I like running into colleagues, it's not as far of a drive, it's not an overnight, and I generally feel much more connected to the Association than the Conference. All that, and a Conference gathering a few years ago that they decided to hold in a reception hall rather than Heidelberg turned me off to the enterprise. Oh, and the cost…

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