Showing posts from December, 2011

Year-End Pop Culture Roundup 2011

And so, it's time once again for the final Roundup of the year, where I recap my favorites from the past 12 months. Numbers are for convenience purposes and not really "rankings."

Five Books I Enjoyed in 2011

1.Apparition and Late Fictions -In this collection of short stories (and one novella), Thomas Lynch clearly bases his writing 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: one concerns a man who takes his father's ashes fishing, another is a woman who teaches at the University of Michigan who takes an extended vacation, and another is about a divorced pastor who becomes a best-selling author. They're not the happiest, though. So you've been warned.

2.The Hunger Games trilogy -In a version of the United…

Hunger Games Trailer + Announcement-type Content


I hope that your holiday season has been a good one, whatever the specifics you observe.

Mine was excellent. For someone like me, obviously, it involved a lot of worship. Christmas Eve was its usual time of reflective quiet, and Christmas Day was just fun. Aside from that, good times were had with family and I ate too much.

So. A few notes.

First, here is the trailer for the movie version of The Hunger Games, for which both I and Coffeewife are very excited. I meant to put this in the last Pop Culture Roundup, but forgot. Watch, and anticipate:


Now, the reason I didn't wait to just post this in the next Roundup directly relates to my other announcement: this Friday will be the last Roundup of 2011, which means it will be no ordinary Roundup. Instead, it will be The Super-Fantastic Mega-Awesome Year-End Pop Culture Roundup of and Happiness. There will be lists (LISTS!) of things (THINGS!) that I especially enjoyed over the course of this past year in boo…

"Who Notices Now?" - A Christmas Eve Prayer

Where in your world is it quiet? Where in your world is there light?

In a time of occupation and oppression,
a time of purported destiny acted out through victory over others,
a time of starvation for many, survival for most, and plenty for a few,
a time of elevating earthly leaders and states to godhood,
a peasant girl walked unnoticed.

You visited. You proclaimed.
Somehow your grace fit inside her human frame and would birth that same grace to a noisy, cluttered, anxious world.

In a crowded city,
while war raged elsewhere,
while people cried out in their hunger,
while Caesar was praised,
a baby was born in a barn.

Who noticed?

The Savior is born. Who notices now?
Will those ordering or carrying out attacks notice?
Will those suffering from bloated bellies or their uncaring overseers notice?
Will those trusting modern Caesars to save them notice?
Will the grieving, the self-shaming, the unforgiving, or the exhausted notice?
Will we in our noise and darkness notice?

We ponder the mystery of Light and Lov…

Blue Christmas

Cast: Michigan Head Coach Brady Hoke, OC Al Borges, DC Greg Mattison, QB Denard Robinson, and legendary fan Lloyd Brady.

HT to MGoBlog, of course.

Wondering What It's Like

Longtime readers of this blog know that I have a thing about longer pastorates. I've come to conclude that my life experience and the general state of the American Church necessitates that I strive for and study how to achieve them. I spent a five-week sabbatical reading and thinking about them. I've written numerous posts about why the subject is important to me. Yeah, I consider it kind of a big deal.

The question that I use as a handy reference point to gauge the state of a pastorate goes like this: "What's it like to preach during your tenth Christmas Eve service with the same congregation?" By that point, are you approaching it as a completely routine thing? Do you grumble, "here we go again," and roll your eyes while seeking something new to say? Are you recycling stories or entire sermons by that point? Does the event of Christmas Eve feel special to you anymore? What's your internal monologue and spirit like by that point?

The questio…

Pop Culture Roundup

I'm still reading This Odd and Wondrous Calling. I'm in no hurry to get through it, and I even wonder whether I should be reading something else. Copenhaver and Daniel share good stories and reflections; I just don't feel a sense of urgency about finishing it. I do have to give Daniel props for playing bass in a punk band before she started seminary...for someone who seems to have become so entrenched in the Progressive Christian Establishment since those days, I was glad to have learned that about her. Copenhaver, meanwhile, shares his reservations about telling people that he's a pastor, which I completely understand. He tells a great story of meeting a jazz musician to that effect.

Last week, Coffeewife and I burned through all the episodes of Boardwalk Empire that we've missed in the span of 2-3 days just in time for the season finale on Sunday night. Nucky dealt with his new adversaries in Jimmy, his brother Eli, and the Commodore surprisingly well. There…

Putting Advent in Park

I'm going to let everyone in on a little secret. This secret varies from church to church and from pastor to pastor, but I wonder if it generally isn't true for most pastors of most churches my size.

Ready? Here it is: December is one of the slowest months of the year for me as a pastor.

A lot of people, even some other pastors, assume that due to the activities of Advent and Christmas, pastors are just completely frazzled during the month of December. The assumption is that we're running around, constantly coordinating and calling and organizing and making sure everything is lined up in just the right way to ensure the perfect season for our members.

Nope. Our church has a Christmas program and two extra worship services, and that's about it. I do take great care to plan what I need to plan and lead what I need to lead, but this month does not feature the whirlwind of holiday chaos around the church that people think it does. In fact, now that this weekend has pass…

Small Sips Is Going Bowling

Gimme some sugar, baby. Yeah, I said it. The Michigan Wolverines have been selected to play in the Sugar Bowl on January 3rd against Virginia Tech:
The Sugar Bowl will serve as Michigan's first trip to a BCS game since the 2007 Rose Bowl. The Wolverines lost that game to USC, 32-18. One year later, Michigan made it to the Capital One Bowl and beat the Tim Tebow-led Florida Gators in Lloyd Carr's last game as head coach. Rich Rodriguez's first two seasons didn't produce any trips to bowl games, but last year Michigan made it to the Gator Bowl. It was a forgettable trip, though. Mississippi State blasted Michigan by a score of 52-14.

Michigan has only played in the Sugar Bowl once before in its history. The Wolverines lost to Auburn by a score of 9-7 in the 1984 edition of the game to finish with a 9-3 record. This year Michigan has already won 10 games, meaning a win over Virginia Tech would give the Wolverines their first 11-win season since 2006.What is this strange se…

The Triple Colloquy

In my journey through Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises, I've been encouraged lately to reflect on sin: its effect on my life, how the surrounding world influences me in negative ways, how self-aware I really am, and how repulsive and wretched my sins really are. This is the "First Week" of the Exercises, although the version that I am observing has this Week spanning several calendar weeks.

A friend and colleague of mine is making her own way through the Exercises, and is actually set to go through the program at the Ignatian Spirituality Institute the same time that I will (pity the professors now). When recently discussing our experiences of the Exercises, we talked for a while about how grounded they are in a particular tradition. In contrast, we Protestants aren't always good at exploring the true depth of an idea of tradition. Many of us make nebulous claims that the Bible or Christ are all we need, but we don't often use any strand of Christian traditio…

Pop Culture Roundup

I started reading This Odd and Wondrous Calling this past week, where Lillian Daniel and Martin Copenhaver share stories and experiences from their time in pastoral ministry. I resisted picking up this book for a long time, both because I've read so many books on ministry but also because I've taken issue with things that Daniel has written in the past. But there was something about my looming anniversary with my church and the questions and issues it has raised that inspired me to take up and read. Daniel and Copenhaver tag team on the chapters, balancing each chapter with story and reflection. In the first few, Daniel tells of discovering that three years of graduate school had really just prepared her for council arguments about chili mac, while Copenhaver reflects on learning to pray in seminary after a lifetime spent in the church. The book has a light tone and is easy reading. Not sure how much it's helping me, but it's fine for what it is.

It's been nea…

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