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Showing posts from August, 2012

Vintage CC: A Helicopter on Noah's Ark

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The reflection on fatherhood that I included in Monday's Small Sips caused me to remember this post that I wrote back in January 2011. This is probably one of my all-time favorites, and I hope you enjoy reading it again or for the first time.

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 …

Small Sips GO BLUE WOO

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We don't need no thought control. Apparently I can add this to my list of worries about what my kids will experience growing up, resulting in emotional trauma. Well, it sort of already was, just not in this specific form: A 5-year-old boy learned the hard way that Columbus, Ohio, isn't the only place that hates Michigan -- apparently Oklahoma does too.   Young Cooper Barton wore his favorite Michigan shirt to Wilson Elementary in Oklahoma City and was told it violated the Oklahoma City Public Schools dress code and was asked to turn the shirt inside out. According to the dress code, students are only allowed to wear Oklahoma, Oklahoma State or apparel from another Oklahoma state school. Everything else is a violation (especially Texas).   "They should really worry about academics. It wasn't offensive. He's 5," Cooper's mother Shannon Barton told News9.com. Remind me never to live in Oklahoma, for this and many other reasons.

I remember last fall right bef…

Pop Culture Roundup

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We watched the movie Beastly this week, starring Alex Pettyfer as Kyle, a shallow, rich high school kid who gets on the bad side of classmate/witch Kendra (Mary Kate Olsen), who casts a spell to make him as ugly on the outside as he is on the inside, with the exit clause that if he can get someone to tell him "I love you" within a year, he'll be turned back. Due to his appearance, his TV personality father sets him up with an apartment elsewhere on Manhattan where he'll have a private tutor (Neil Patrick Harris). Vanessa Hudgens plays Lindy, a cute book-smart hopeless romantic who's always had a crush on Kyle despite himself, and who eventually ends up having to live in Kyle's apartment due to being threatened by a street thug. If you haven't figured it out yet, this is Beauty and the Beast set in a rich New York City private school, except with a rushed plot, underdeveloped characters, and mostly bad acting. As you might expect, Harris is a bright spot …

Helping Others Seek

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The cartoon on the right is by nakedpastor, who shared it a few weeks ago. There was something about it that resonated with me as a pastor, particularly in this time as my understanding of the role seems to be shifting a little.

For several years now, I've been wanting to be the pastor who Makes Stuff Happen. Whether on a programmatic level or on a pastoral care level, I can look back and see just how results-oriented I've been at points.

What this cartoon really stimulated for me was reflection on the pastoral care level. I can point to instances where I've wanted some visual change to take place in the person for whom I'm providing care. I've hoped for some "Aha!" moment to happen for them, perhaps even as I sit talking to them.

I should have known better from the beginning.

I should have known better that human nature doesn't work that way, and that ministry doesn't work that way, and that God doesn't work that way.

I should have known bet…

So...uh...here's a thing.

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HT to 411mania.

A Post About God

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In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, everything was formless; a swirling, chaotic void. But God interacted with the void, shaping and ordering it. God commanded the light and the darkness, the waters and the sky and the land, the birds and the fish and the animals, and eventually humanity. God took that swirling primordial soup and fashioned something from it. And God called all of it good.

Was God finished? Did God never create anything after calling it all "good?" No. God kept creating, shaping, and ordering. Stars and planets and entire galaxies formed, and some eventually burned out or began again after ice ages or collisions. God created a dynamic universe, full of novelty and change, our own galaxy expanding and contracting, our own earth experiencing shifting plates and the circle of life that is basic to all of existence: life, death, rebirth. Change.

Humanity, it turned out, is a dynamic species. We learn, we've developed, we've adva…

Pop Culture Roundup

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The other week I read If The Church Were Christian by Philip Gulley. Gulley lays out a vision of church that is focused on helping the poor, inviting diversity, and following Jesus rather than only believing things about Jesus. I found it to be much in the vein of Marcus Borg's The Heart of Christianity or pretty much anything by Brian McLaren. For me, it was a lot of familiar terrain and thus not very challenging; another "What if we lived Jesus' values rather than what we've concocted as a church institution" sort of book. It's an important message and one that I value. This just isn't the first time I've heard it. All the same, this is a very accessible book to use in a church study of some kind in order to help others work through some of these themes. I might consider using it for that, although Borg and McLaren would also be good.

True Blood continues to roll along. By this point in the season, the vampire Authority has been taken over by purist…

A Challenge!

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So, remember all that stuff I wrote about Tony Jones on Monday on my latest Small Sips entry? Some may argue that I was a bit excessive focusing on not one, but two of his recent posts criticizing liberal Christianity/mainline denominations. But I thought they were both worth commenting on, and I was in the sort of mood where that stuff was causing strong reactions.
Well, yesterday Jones added a new wrinkle to his ongoing commentary regarding these subjects as he laid down a challenge for liberal/progressive theo-bloggers:
These have prompted me to think that progressives have a God-talk problem. That is, progressives write lots of books and blog posts about social issues, the church, culture, and society. But we don’t write that much about God. That is, we don’t say substantive things about who God is, what God does, etc.   You might say the same thing about conservative Protestants (i.e., “evangelicals”). But the thing is, their people pretty much know what they think of God. It’s …

Small Sips (Too Often) Sucks

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Oh. This again. Tony Jones has chimed in again about the state of liberal Christianity. He uses the recent Douthat/Bass back-and-forth as his jumping-off point, and ends up being as blunt as he's probably ever been regarding his views on liberal/progressive faith. Interestingly enough, this time he even hints at self-identifying as a progressive Christian, which is refreshing. At any rate, he makes three points about what he thinks is wrong with liberal Christianity, by which of course he really seems to mean mainline denominations: 1) Contrary to the Tea Party narrative, the US is the most “Christian” that it’s ever been: persons of Africa descent can sit at lunch counters with everyone else; women can vote; evangelists can stand on street corners and ply passersby with tracts. Liberal Protestantism is largely responsible for the freedoms we enjoy today, and we should trumpet that truth loudly. “If you love America” we should preach, “You should love the Congregationalists and Pre…

A Week in Appalachia

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I've been on a lot of mission trips. Ten, to be exact. I've helped on a farm, served in soup kitchens, sorted clothes in thrift stores, cleared urban lots overcome by weeds, cleaned out an abandoned inner-city house, scraped paint in an old convent, helped maintain a campground for troubled youth, assisted in building a church on an American Indian reservation, and helped restore a house in the Lower Ninth Ward. And to be honest, there has come a point before most of these trips, no matter how used to the packing, the general flow and structure of a typical week of service that I am, when I've felt a tremendous sense of anxiety. There have come points along the way when I've wondered how else to spend the week, whether I really should go, fretting about the unknown before me.

But I've always ended up going, and I've always been the better for it.

Last week, I traveled with over 70 people from at least four congregations down to Jonesville, Virginia to work wit…