Showing posts from May, 2011

Book Review: The Pastor by Eugene Peterson

Along the way, I want to insist that there is no blueprint on file for becoming a pastor. In becoming one, I have found that it is a most context-specific way of life: the pastor's emotional life, family life, experience in the faith, and aptitudes worked out in an actual congregation in the neighborhood in which she or he lives--these people just as they are, in this place. No copying. No trying to be successful. The ways in which the vocation of pastor is conceived, develops, and comes to birth is unique to each pastor. - Eugene Peterson, The PastorMonths ago, I had coffee with a older colleague who is nearing retirement age. He's been in his current call for over 15 years, and during that time has led incredible transformation in that church. As far as I can see, his congregation is engaged and energized in the ministry that he has cultivated there, which has included an embrace of emerging worship and technologies, a sense of mission in their surrounding suburban com…

Memorial Day


Pop Culture Roundup

Still reading The Pastor. Weird that it's still the only book I'm reading, isn't it? A review really is coming. Just be patient.

We saw Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides this past week. I am a fan of the Pirates franchise, even the second and third installments. Yes, those two were incredibly convoluted and had way too many characters and plotlines going at once, but as big silly action movies go, I enjoy them. The first, of course, is my favorite. It had the perfect balance of character and story, and also didn't take itself too seriously while also managing to have some good serious moments. Having given that long prelude, how'd number four do? We meet back up with Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow, who has been involved with trying to find the Fountain of Youth. Unfortunately for him, so are several others: his old foil Barbosa, a group of Spanish explorers, and Blackbeard (Ian McShane in classic sinister mode). The new wrinkle for Sparrow is Bl…

Small Sips Likely Needs Therapy

HOLY CRAP MAKE IT STOP. Harold Camping says May 21st was a practice run. The real deal is going to happen in October:
A California preacher who foretold of the world’s end only to see the appointed day pass with no extraordinarily cataclysmic event has revised his apocalyptic prophecy, saying he was off by five months and the Earth actually will be obliterated on Oct. 21.

Harold Camping, who predicted that 200 million Christians would be taken to heaven Saturday before catastrophe struck the planet, apologized Monday evening for not having the dates “worked out as accurately as I could have.”


Through chatting with a friend over what he acknowledged was a very difficult weekend, it dawned on him that instead of the biblical Rapture in which the faithful would be swept up to the heavens, May 21 had instead been a “spiritual” Judgment Day, which places the entire world under Christ’s judgment, he said.

The globe will be completely destroyed in five months, he said, when the apocalypse…

That Thing That Didn't Happen

If for whatever reason you missed it, the rapture was supposed to happen on Saturday according to 89-year-old engineer, radio preacher, and amateur Biblical numerologist Harold Camping. And in case you were wondering, it didn't happen.

Twitter and Facebook were fun places to be for at least a week leading up to May 21st, at least at first. People made seemingly endless jokes about the world ending, which ended up being variations on being left behind, tying up loose ends, partying it up, or being taken up. A Facebook event for "post-rapture looting" was created, which I did say I would attend. But alas, I say it was fun "at first," because by Saturday I was ready for 6 p.m. to come and go, for the nothing to get itself over with, and then move on. I found myself feeling less jovial about it and more seriously irritated, and not just at the jokes but at the entire fiasco that Camping's movement had stirred up. Any cracks that I made late in the week, in…

Pop Culture Roundup

Update: Earlier today, former WWE and WCW wrestler "Macho Man" Randy Savage died in a car accident. I can't let that go unacknowledged in today's Roundup, as his passing brought back childhood memories of watching him on weekend mornings, and later on Monday nights. Savage was incredibly entertaining, and a legend in his entertainment genre. So here's a brief video featuring clips from his career complete with his WWE theme, "Pomp and Circumstance:"

Still reading Eugene Peterson's The Pastor, still planning to write a review.

We watched Dinner for Schmucks this week, starring Paul Rudd as Tim, a guy with prospects for landing an executive position at his company who is invited to an annual dinner his boss holds. The unique feature of this dinner is that each executive brings an idiot along to be made fun of. Tim runs into Barry (Steve Carell), an oblivious IRS agent who stages scenes with dead mice. Along the way, Tim has to deal with his girlfr…

Sabbatical - A Year Later

A year ago this month, I was in the midst of a five-week sabbatical. In preparation, I'd planned a few activities and trips, as well as a few books to read. The theme for that time was how to cultivate a long-term pastorate: how does one keep things fresh, healthy, and creative in the same place for eight, ten, twelve years. I asked this question based on my own life experience of never living in one community for longer than 5 1/2 years, as well as based on the statistic that the average pastorate for a mainline pastor is four years. To me, this was an important issue, so I decided to spend five weeks thinking about it.

As my sabbatical progressed, I heard and read a lot of familiar things about boundaries and self-care, the same sorts of things I've heard since seminary. And I was...well...disappointed:
After reading through these insights and journaling some thoughts on each one, I set the book down and reflected for another few moments.

Then I said, out loud, to no one: …

A Tale of Two Trees

Two trees atop a mountain. One is said to be pleasing to the eyes, its fruit looking perfectly acceptable as something to be eaten. But it cannot be eaten. It is forbidden, for on the same day one eats of that fruit, one will die. The other…well, we don’t know much about the other. But it is somehow life-giving. And maybe that’s enough for us to know.

Two trees given to the first man and woman as we meet them. Two trees among perhaps hundreds of others. One gives life; the other, says God, death. Even still they are both available to the man and woman. We are told of no fence around them, no vault, no guards, no passcode. Only a warning: eat of the one tree, and you shall die.

Two other trees, far removed from our story. Under one tree, a young couple stood in the pouring rain one night, tenderly brushing wet matted hair from one another’s foreheads. They were nervous in this moment because of what they knew the other wanted to say, and wished that the other would say it. …

Pop Culture Roundup

I've been reading Eugene Peterson's memoir, simply titled The Pastor. I plan to write a full review of it, so for now this is all you get.

We finally watched The Social Network this week, starring Jessie Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook. The movie chronicles the beginning of the site, starting with Zuckerberg getting dumped (deservedly) by his girlfriend and his seeking revenge by coming up with an online program inviting Harvard students to choose the better-looking between two randomly generated photos of female classmates. This gets the attention of a couple other students who want to create an online social network for Harvard students and who ask him to help build the program. He agrees, only to go off with his own idea for such a site, which eventually gets him sued by the three guys. In addition, Zuckerberg takes up with Sean Parker (whom you may remember as the creator of Napster), who greatly influences his decision-making in trying to make th…

I Don't Write Polite Church Stories

Sometime last year, I picked up on the fact that a couple church members had found my blog. I have never really advertised it to them, for a reason that will sound very selfish to some: in the fishbowl life of a pastor, this blog was pretty much the only thing that was mine. It's not that I didn't want to share it or was afraid of their reaction. I just...didn't. Nevertheless, the cat is out of the bag, and now I have a couple church members--the few interested enough--who read.

Having quickly achieved peace with that, I decided to actively advertise my blog for the first time in a place where I knew church members would see it and possibly click: that ever-expansive blessing and burden out of Mark Zuckerberg's Harvard brain, Facebook. And the entry that I advertised was the one right before this: A Post-Easter Conversation. I won't lie: I was especially proud of that one. I loved how it turned out, so it seemed like a good one to link. And so, the hits came…

A Post-Easter Conversation

Easter was a few weeks ago, but for several years I've had this recurring image in my head of what could happen after morning worship, I finally made it a point to type it out, and I didn't want to wait until next Easter to post it.

Even as it takes its place in the noonday sky, the sun is still tempered by the crispness of late April. The frost has melted, but it now seems to hang just over one's head instead, a shield of sorts from more blistery days that are still weeks away. The birds have long been up to greet it: some pick at the dirt in between blades of grass rediscovering their green, while others playfully hop from branch to branch, their chatter dripping from the air's moisture along with the smell of tulips and dogwood.

I'm sitting on the front steps of the church, the grey concrete chilled by shadows cast by the steeple and the trees. I've long said goodbye to the last worshipper, all of them now scattered to homes smelling of ham or turkey and s…

Pop Culture Roundup

You may find this hard to believe, but I actually haven't been reading a whole least in terms of books. The last book that I finished is Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell, and that was a couple weeks ago. This book caused quite a stir weeks before it was actually released, causing many in more conservative circles to accuse Bell of being a universalist and unfaithful to the gospel and a heretic and a bunch of other things. Honestly, the book is pretty tame, but that's from the perspective of someone for whom this material isn't especially new. Bell questions the logic of substitutionary atonement and the disconnect between a God we proclaim to be love and the belief that God sends billions of people to hell. Bell proposes instead that many are already experiencing hell, and Jesus' call is to bring heaven to them starting in this age rather than the one to come. Bell's approach to scripture i…

Small Sips Stayed Up Really Late on Sunday Night

I Hate That You Did Something I Liked. If you're like me, then you were about to go to bed around 10:00 p.m. on Sunday night until you happened to log on to Twitter and saw that President Obama was scheduled to make an important late-night announcement but wouldn't say about what. Worried that a nuke was heading right for your house, you sat through 45 minutes of blathering and time filler by Wolf Blitzer, during which the announcement was somehow leaked through social media before the actual statement. You then continued to endure the CNN guys saying nothing in order to hear from Obama, out of principle if nothing else for sitting through Blitzer saying, "bin Laden is dead" no less than 500,000 times.

Anyway, my fellow "tweeps" (I guess that's what the kids say) were making all sorts of comments about what this would mean for Obama politically, and how his detractors couldn't help but give him credit.

Or not. Daily Kos compiles a few Republican r…


Hey. Anybody still out there? Hello?

I told you that I'd be back.

Where have I been, you ask? Well, that is a fun story.

I think it started around the beginning of January, when I thought that I was going to take a week off from the blog. It didn't work out, as I felt compelled to keep writing. But the feelings that led to that hadn't abated: feelings that things here had become stale. By the time I posted the recap of my 2010, I just got sick and tired of my blogging self. Who cares about my year? I barely cared about that post and I was the one who wrote it. I became incredibly irritated with the expectations and persona cultivated over years of blogging here, and needed to step back and look at this hobby of mine.

At the same time, I'd been nursing two or three book ideas. I mentioned the idea of compiling a collection of sermons on which I still haven't delivered, and a couple that I haven't mentioned here but that have been in the back of my mind. A…

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