Showing posts from October, 2010

Skeleton Dance

When I was a kid, I loved this old Disney cartoon. Happy Halloween.

Pop Culture Roundup

I continue to read Fellowship of the Ring. I almost gave up again. The hobbits are wandering and wandering and wandering through the woods, they sing some songs along the way. They stop to rest and sing another song. They keep going and run into a guy singing a song. They go back to the guy's house, have a long rambling conversation, and sing a song. They leave the guy's house, they keep wandering, the wandering and conversation is described in meticulous, pedantic detail, there's some more singing, nothing's happening, nothing's happening, nothing's happening...finally, they meet Aragorn, and the plot seems to be picking up after the first 150 pages. I'm seriously debating whether I'll read the other two books now.

I just started reading The Practicing Congregation by Diana Butler Bass for my book study. Bass' project the past few years has been to make the case that there is such a thing as a vibrant mainline church. This book in particula…

Small Sips Buses People In at Gunpoint

Sure, why not? The national offices of the United Church of Christ have started a campaign to get Ellen DeGeneres to speak at next year's General Synod:
In a unique bid to showcase the carefree, creative component of the UCC, the church has officially invited popular talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres to appear as keynote speaker at General Synod 28 next July in Tampa, Fla.

Writing on behalf of the Synod program and planning committee in a letter dated Oct. 1, the Rev. Geoffrey Black, UCC general minister and president, rolled out the UCC welcome mat for DeGeneres to help Synod-goers live the theme of General Synod 28: "Imagine What’s Possible; God Is Still Speaking."

"Your life, values and humor represent the best of what our church hopes to embody through our witness in the world: joy, love, hope and service," Black wrote DeGeneres. "At a time when religion is often used to divide and exclude people, we seriously believe your participation at our biennial even…

There Is No Magic Bullet

In the middle of my 7th grade year, my family moved to the place that I've called my hometown. For the previous five years or so, we'd lived in the parsonage next to a rural church in the same county; I'd basically come up through elementary school during that time. I'd already experienced two moves (three really, but I have no recollection of the first one) by that point.

Five years is a lifetime for a person at that age. I'd basically planted roots for myself, had made some good friendships, had come to love the freedom of the wide open spaces in which our house was located. It really did seem like I'd lived there forever, and my secret hope was that I could. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Staying in that parsonage wasn't an option due to how things had degenerated between the church and my family. Staying in the area wasn't an option due to financial restrictions and other factors. So we moved to a new city, a new house, a new school system,…

Pop Culture Roundup

This past week I read Four Seasons of Ministry by Bruce and Katherine Gould Epperly. I read an article by them on the Alban Institute's website, and it inspired me to pick up this book. The Epperlys use the seasonal cycle as a metaphor for a pastor's vocational journey: springtime is discernment of call, summer is one's first pastorate, fall is "midlife," and winter is pre- and post-retirement. The authors then detail some of the issues associated with each season, how one may prepare, some spiritual practices for each, and so on. The book was okay. Before I started reading, I thought it'd be more about the seasonal cycles that may happen more frequently than that in ministry: peaks and valleys, times of great creative energy and times of doubt and questioning about calling and direction, that sort of thing. But that's my own fault for not looking at the book more closely before buying it. My other beef is that the book jumps from the summer of one…

Friend-Raising Weekend

The UCC has really brought out my inner grump lately. I apologize in advance, because I really am glad to be part of this denomination. I guess I just won't be nominated for General Minister and President any time soon.

Recently, the Stillspeaking campaign announced plans for "Friend Raising Weekend:"
“We are asking churches to promote Nov. 7 as Stillspeaking Friend-Raising Sunday, a day set aside to be intentional about inviting our family, friends and neighbors to come to church with us,” Carrion says. “Then, we want to hear how the day went, so we can announce a tally for the entire denomination.”

After services on Nov. 7, all UCC churches will be invited to record their visitor tally online at On Tuesday, Nov. 9, a national count of visitors will be announced in the UCC’s weekly Keeping You e-Posted e-newsletter.

The congregations with the most visitors overall and most visitors per capita of membership will …

I'm Still Here

Last week, Real Live Preacher called it quits. That's the end of a blogging era, man. His blog commanded quite a following. It produced several books and retreats, and at least a few hundred people touched by his writing in one way or another, including me.

When a blog like that ends, you start to wonder about this medium. Suddenly there's a big hole in the blogosphere that'll be impossible to fill.

The thing is, the blogosphere has suffered several of those lately, at least from where I'm sitting. Michael Spencer of Internet Monk died earlier this year; even though there are others trying to continue his legacy, it ain't the same. You can't convince me that it is. Letters from Kamp Krusty has been AWOL (again) for close to a year. Pastor Dan apparently abdicated Street Prophets.

I really don't have much left in terms of go-to blogs that I check daily any more. A Church for Starving Artists and MGoBlog are really the only ones left standing that fit t…

My church will not be ordering these

HT to LutheranChik.

Connections Meme

Courtesy of the RevGals:

So here are some questions to ponder for this Friday Five about connecting with:

1. Self: Who was your hero/heroine when you were about ten years old? At that time, it was a handful of cartoons, most notably The Real Ghostbusters (based on movie of same name). Whenever my friends and I played Ghostbusters, I was always Winston due to my darker complexion (please don't read too much into that and go off on my 10-year-old self about whatever). At any rate, Winston was always my favorite Ghostbuster as a result. I had also just started to watch pro wrestling around that time, back when guys like Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, and the Ultimate Warrior were in their prime, and I really got into those larger-than-life personas.

2. Family: Who are you most like? Who is most like you? Personality-wise, I'm a mix of my parents. My dad is the quiet, more introspective one while my mom is the more outgoing boisterous one. It depends on the situation who comes out …

Pastoral Grief

I've been thinking a lot lately about pastoral grief. I don't mean grief in the "wounded healer" sense, where a pastor ministers to someone in grief while aware of his or her own brokenness and emotions. I mean grief in terms of a sense of loss in one's ministry. It's not a pastoral care issue, but a vocational one.

I first started thinking about this when I read Dan Allender's Sabbath earlier this year, and near the back of the book he mentions loss as something that may creep up in moments of silence. When preparing for a six-month sabbatical, he tells of meeting with the academic dean at the school at which he teaches, where he is asked if he'll be prepared for the grief that may surface in moments of silence:
He reminded me of what I knew--most start-up organizations are fraught with untimely departures, chaos, mountains of blame, monumental mistakes, heartache, exhaustion, and loss. He then prayed that our sabbatical would be the beginning of …

Thoughts after a Saturday in Ann Arbor

My brother and I were at the debacle known as the 2010 Michigan-Michigan State game. We rolled into Ann Arbor that morning around 10:00, and wandered around beforehand. Here are some bullet points about our day:

~It was HOT. As mentioned, I bought a cool new maize hooded sweatshirt to wear (the game was deemed a "maize out," where all M fans are encouraged to wear maize), but left it in the car. By halftime I was on my third bottle of water. Unexpected for an October day in Michigan, I have to say.

~We walked around the entire University sports complex. We were mostly looking for a place to eat lunch, but wanted to find places like Schembechler Hall as well. We ended up wandering down past all the frat houses, where all manner of pre-game exercises were being observed. I felt very much like a 31-year-old walking through there.

~Tailgates everywhere, of course. As we wandered past Schembechler Hall and continued until we could round back, I saw one tailgate with a custo…

Heading Back Again

The Michigan Wolverines battle their bitter and annoying rival, the Michigan State Spartans. It's my first Big Ten game and my first rivalry game.

The weather is expected to be in the low 70s and sunny. I got a new sweatshirt for this trip, and now I won't need it. But hey, I still have a new sweatshirt.

Go Blue!

Pop Culture Roundup

I'm still reading The Search for God and Guinness. The latest chapters I've read give some history of the Guinness family, particularly the various heirs who ran the company for the first couple generations. Each successor did his best to innovate; to make use of the latest techniques of the time to expand business. At the same time, they all made it a point to care for their workers and for the surrounding community. The potato blight really helped turn Dublin into a horrendous place to live, and so the company doctor visited workers' houses and wrote a report to present to the board, resulting not only in the company changing practices to meet their needs but also the needs of non-workers. For the Guinnesses themselves, this intentionality to help the people of Dublin was informed in part by a Christian upbringing. Arthur really took to the Wesleyan way of things: down-to-earth evangelical faith mixed with a call to service. While not every generation of Guinness …

Today is Enough

I've had this thing about time in recent years. I hardly ever really made use of a daily planner before seminary. I was vaguely aware of dates before that, but there wasn't a whole lot of organization, and it got me in trouble a few times.

In seminary I started using the UCC desk calendars. For me, seeing the entire month laid out really helps. I even wrote in when all my major assignments were due. And the UCC calendar lists the lectionary! Woohoo! Awesome! I became a functional, date-aware person!

Nowadays I'm a bit of a slave to the whole scheduling thing. It's almost unholy, really. I look at the month, and I think about how life will be a little less stressful or a little more enjoyable once I get past this meeting, or this youth event, or this week, or this month's lectionary, or this season, or...

This time of year is worse, I think. I always look forward to fall, trying to reason that once I get through summer, life will be more enjoyable. Now once…

October Causes

There are a couple causes highlighted in October that I always like to remind people about.

First off, we're right at the beginning of Mental Illness Awareness Week:
In 1990, the U.S. Congress established the first week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) in recognition of NAMI's efforts to raise mental illness awareness. Since 1990, mental health advocates across the country have joined together during the first full week of October to celebrate.

MIAW has become a NAMI tradition. It presents an opportunity to all NAMI state organizations and affiliates across the country to work together in communities to achieve the NAMI mission through outreach, education and advocacy.

This year’s MIAW coincides with election season. The sample press release, letter to editors and op-ed article included below therefore incorporate NAMI’s “Mental Health Gets My Vote” election theme in addition to the general MIAW theme: “Changing Attitudes, Changing Lives.” Additional information …

Hoosier Pride

The Michigan Wolverines play the Indiana Hoosiers this afternoon. Via Michigan Against the World, here's a funny story from back when Lee Corso was Indiana's head coach:
The whole idea started in 1951 when Indiana beat Ohio St. Woody Hayes said "that football team will never beat me again- ever".

Before the kickoff of the 1976 game, Corso asks Woody how he was doing, and Woody just growls at him. Corso's response was "What the hell are you mad at me for? I was 10 years old when those guys beat you". Woody throws his hat and laughs at Corso.

OSU gets a pick 6 and misses the extra point. Then Indiana drives down and scores to take a 7-6 lead. After the extra point, Corso walks across the field and tells the official "We quit".

The official says, "What?"

Corso - "We quit. We ain't playing no more."

Official - "You can't do that."

Corso - "Why"?

Official - "You’ll lose."

Corso - "We are going …

Pop Culture Roundup

I just started a book called The Search for God and Guinness by Stephen Mansfield. The book is about pretty much what you think it's about: the history of Guinness, and how faith has been interwoven with it. Mansfield first gives a history of beer in general, and highlights its role in religion since its discovery/invention. Ancient religions such as those of the Babylonians and Egyptians used it in rituals. The Pilgrims and Puritans (the PURITANS) brought it with them, and a brewery was one of the first things they built, part of the reasoning being that beer was cleaner and better for you than water. Catholic religious orders produced and sold it; Martin Luther and John Calvin (JOHN CALVIN) loved it; St. Francis used it as an evangelism tool.

I've been trying to start a discussion group in a pub through my church, and have encountered some natural wariness about such a venture. I think I'll share this paragraph with people:
Luther spent much of his life in the tavern…

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