Showing posts from January, 2011

Things to Do to Ensure Short, Unhappy, and Ineffective Pastorates

Approach your congregants as being in constant need of corralling and correcting, with no worthwhile ideas or opinions to speak of.

Constantly be jealous of all the wonderful things that your colleagues seem to be able to do in their churches, and grumble about how you'll never be able to do anything like that where you are.

Read and talk about making changes, but don't ever test the waters or put together a plan on how to do it.

Think of yourself as finally the pastor who's going to come in and show them how to do things the right way after decades and even centuries of getting it wrong.

Don't get too comfortable, and constantly have one foot out the door for when that better opportunity comes along.

Remain as aloof as possible from your congregation: never accept invitations to coffee or dinner, or to parties or baseball games. Remain in constant fear that such things lead directly to affairs or your exploitation of them.

Never celebrate the church's accomplishments. …

Pop Culture Roundup

I finished The Hunger Games this past week. I really thought that I wouldn't like it given the themes, but by the end I couldn't put it down. I found myself rooting for Katniss and being genuinely in suspense during the Games themselves. Collins' writing made me care, pulled me into the bleak situation into which the 24 tributes are thrown. The violence is not graphic, but it is presented in unsentimental fashion, the way it should be. Characters do not die honorable or romantic deaths; you very much get the sense that they die as expendable pieces of a game that the government is playing. Katniss is not a sentimental character, either: while very resourceful as a hunter and competitor, she's incredibly clueless when it comes to relating to others. She plays the game, plays life, to survive, just like she's used to doing. And now I have to read the other two in the series.

We watched Despicable Me last night, in which Steve Carell voices Gru, an evil masterm…'d that work out for you tonight, fellas?

Go Blue!

A Helicopter on Noah's Ark

A few weeks ago, I was on the phone with a good friend who lives in another state. It was a typical phone call for two guys who've known each other since college, who pledged the same fraternity, who'd become somewhat notorious around campus for their clownish behavior. When we talk, it's like stepping into the clothing of familiar roles no longer worn regularly, but the voice of the other brings it all rushing back. We're married and have careers and houses, but whatever domestication we've taken on over the years is at least temporarily shed when we talk.

We talked about the usual sorts of things, catching up on whatever we'd missed out on since the last time. The big topic for him at the moment is his impending fatherhood: he and his wife are expecting their first child in April. In fact, their due date is Coffeeson's birthday, so it's really easy for me to remember. He's described feeling "disconnected" from the pregnancy, which I…

Here's a Guy Riding a Motorcycle with a Cow on His Lap

HT to Brant.

Pop Culture Roundup

After months of letting it just sit on my Kindle unread, I've started reading The Hunger Games. In a version of the United States where the country has been recalibrated into twelve districts, Katniss finds herself about to participate in the contest for which the book is named. In order to prevent an uprising, the government has started a program where two kids between the ages of 13 and 18 are chosen from each district to take part in a televised battle to the death. Katniss volunteers after her young sister is chosen. I haven't made it much further than that at this point. I put off reading this due to the combined themes of government oppression and children being forced to kill each other, but felt like I was finally in a place where I could start.

We've watched Shrek Forever After multiple times this past week. In this fourth and final movie in the series, Shrek finds himself missing his old life as an ogre who was feared and left alone; he's growing weary o…

Small Sips is Thinking More Rationally Than Last Week

Okay, but the other thing is still important. David Brooks wrote an opinion piece on last week's shootings in Arizona. After a brief overview of Loughner's reading list and Youtube videos, he says:
All of this evidence, which is easily accessible on the Internet, points to the possibility that Loughner may be suffering from a mental illness like schizophrenia. The vast majority of schizophrenics are not violent, and those that receive treatment are not violent. But as Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, a research psychiatrist, writes in his book, “The Insanity Offense,” about 1 percent of the seriously mentally ill (or about 40,000 individuals) are violent. They account for about half the rampage murders in the United States.

Other themes from Loughner’s life fit the rampage-killer profile. He saw himself in world historical terms. He appeared to have a poor sense of his own illness (part of a condition known as anosognosia). He had increasingly frequent run-ins with the police. In short, …

Responses to a 2006 Religion Survey

Greg at The Parish picked up on a post from Scott, who is answering questions from a recent book by Robert Putnam. Since they both offered/are offering responses to those questions, I thought I'd take a stab at them, too.

1) Are you absolutely sure, somewhat sure, not quite sure, not at all sure, or are you sure you do not believe in God? I echo both Greg and Scott by first asking, "What do you mean by God?" In terms of an omni-everything Sky Grandfather, no, I don't. Terms such as Father are helpful as metaphors (and Jesus certainly found it helpful as well), but not in a literal sense. I believe in a process God ever working out God's unchanging love in a changing world as revealed through Christ, ever-present and influencing rather than intervening, and existing in a sense other than as a Supercreature who pops in and out of the world as he sees fit. That's how I begin to answer that question. I imagine that a lot of these are going to need such cla…

Pop Culture Roundup

I'm still reading Apparition and Late Fictions. Lynch clearly bases his stories somewhat on his experiences as a mortician and funeral director. I think that such a profession, like ministry, affords one a lot of time to ruminate on the human experience, the nature of relationships and emotions and actions. I guess I find him a kindred spirit in that way. His stories are very good. I have a ways to go still, but have been enjoying them. They're not the happiest, though. So you've been warned.

I watched The Town this week, starring Ben Affleck and Jeremy Renner as bank robbers who've lived their entire lives in Charlestown, an apparently notorious neighborhood in Boston. After pulling off a job, they realize that the assistant bank manager that they'd briefly abducted lives right in the neighborhood and may end up recognizing them. So Affleck's character tails her and eventually befriends her in order to see whether they're really in trouble that way…

Small Sips Backpedals and Insists that It's a Surveyor's Symbol

Can we stop the crazy now? Political blogger Robert Zimmer shares some thoughts on the shootings that occurred this past Saturday in Arizona:
When the dust settled at the Safeway on Saturday, six people had been killed, and twenty wounded. It was a savagely effective display of the "Second Amendment remedies" infamously suggested by Nevada Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle, as a cure for members of Congress who dared ignore the demands of her flock of right-wing crazies. Indeed, Mama Grizzly Sarah Palin even included Rep. Giffords in her list of "targeted" members of Congress, when she urged her followers "Don't retreat -- reload!" – which will likely go down as one of the most unfortunate tweets in the short history of the new medium. A political map (now removed from Palin's website) that accompanied Palin's inflammatory tweet even helpfully included crosshairs over each offending congressional district, in case anyone missed the gun allusion…

The Right Fit

This has nothing to do with what's been happening with the Michigan football program in recent days, because this blog extensively references coffee and I'd need to be drinking something harder in order to write about that.

Okay, this has a little to do with Michigan, because a lot of what I've read lately (and I've read A LOT) is that Rodriguez just wasn't a good fit as head coach. He rubbed the alumni the wrong way (some of which was their own damn problem), he showed a lack of appreciation for the culture at times, he blew things up and wanted to do things solely his way, he didn't take into proper account that there are three phases of the game and team to account for, and all three are crucial to winning in the Big Tenelve, and within Schembechler Hall he was highly critical of what Lloyd Carr had left him, and since there were still a bunch of people who liked and worked with Carr hanging around, they weren't very appreciative.

Rodriguez wasn't the…

Pop Culture Roundup

Yep, that lasted a day. Shut up.

My first book of 2011 is Apparition and Late Fictions: A Novella and Stories by Thomas Lynch. You may remember Lynch from The Undertaking, which I read last year. This is a collection of short stories that he's had published in various magazines and journals. I've only read the first one so far, which is about a man taking his father's ashes fishing. Given Lynch's background, I imagine that all of these are going to have something to do with dead people.

I've also been reading Faith and You by Terry Pluto, who was a sports and faith columnist for the Akron Beacon Journal, now for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. This is a collection of his faith columns from over the years. They're relatively short and uncomplicated pieces that seem to have a common theme of wondering about the hard questions of faith while trying to make it through day to day existence. Pluto doesn't have the same poetic touch or theological depth of a Rea…

Maybe It's Time for Something Different

Years ago, I was part of an e-fed. For the uninitiated, an e-fed is an online wrestling roleplay game: you create your own wrestler, and then engage in a "feud" with other wrestlers by writing a story together, playing off of what the other person wrote. When the feuding period ends, the person who wrote their part of the story better wins. One can write the basic things seen in professional wrestling such as backstage interviews and the like, but after a while the e-fed that I was a part of became more and more lenient, which could make for some rich and creative storytelling that one normally wouldn't associate with that particular entertainment genre.

I've just revealed something about myself that I never though I would to too many people. Then again, raise your hand if, even now, you've ever been part of a fantasy football or baseball league, or gaming such as Dungeons and Dragons. There, now I don't feel so alone.

The point of my sharing it at all is …

A Cartoon for Epiphany