Showing posts from February, 2013

Small Sips Makes a Monty Python Reference

None of them about unladen swallows, surprisingly. Jan suggests that there are three questions that every church must answer: After an excellent weekend spent with core leaders from four congregations, it occurs to me that every spiritual community could benefit from asking the following three essential questions:  Why does our congregation exist? What breaks God’s heart in our community? Name one spiritually transformative moment you personally experienced in the last year.   Three simple questions. Note that they're deeper questions than, "How do we get more young families?" or "How do we boost attendance?" The questions Jan wants to ask try to get at the core of why a church does what it does; its sense of self, its sense of mission to the community, and each member's sense of personal faith. There are other possible questions, but these three are a good start.

What Gen-Xers Want. Tim at Black Coffee Reflections reflects on what those deemed "Generat…

The First Week

Perhaps you're familiar with the term "hit the ground running."

Or "baptism by fire."

When I was in seminary, it was traditional to hear letters written by recent graduates giving updates on their ministry endeavors. I recall more than one of these letters describing having to deal with crises within the first few weeks. It instilled within me a slight fear that mostly lurked in the background of my mind that this would be my experience as well. Thankfully, that was not the case. My earliest days as a pastor allowed me to settle in and learn at a relatively easygoing least for the first six months or so, after which the first big crisis hit. I shared snippets of that story on this blog as it happened.

My first week in my second pastorate was a little different.

I walked in Tuesday morning, expecting the same sort of easygoing pace complete with greetings from members who were around for various activities. The greetings happened, which I welcomed and…

Pop Culture Roundup

I've been reading Dreadnought, the second book in Cherie Priest's Clockwork Century series. It's not a sequel per se, although it takes place in the same universe and has a couple tie-ins to the previous book. Mercy Lynch, a nurse at a Confederate hospital during the Civil War, gets word that her father has suffered some kind of affliction and she needs to go out west to help him. So she gets a ticket to ride the Dreadnought, a Union military train purporting to be taking civilian passengers while transporting war dead. Of course, there's more going on than that, and the ride isn't nearly as smooth as she's assured. I'm as engrossed in this book as I was the last.

I've continued to enjoy The Walking Dead, and am curious how things are going to resolve, if they do, between Rick's group and Woodbury. As of writing this, I still have the latest episode on my DVR unwatched, so maybe that'll clue me in. I have to say at the moment that I'm not a…

How It Ends

In the fall of 2007, I participated in a mission trip to New Orleans. It was open to the entire Association who wanted to go, and garnered a fair amount of response from a variety of area churches.

On the way down, we stopped at McDonald's for lunch. This gave people a chance to bond over terrible food, which I mainly did with a clergy couple from the southernmost part of the Association. The wife at one point made an observation about her yogurt parfait being at the expiration date, which we didn't give much thought to at the time but would end up being a difference-maker. Pleasant conversation ended and fatty gross concoctions consumed, we continued our trip.

This is where the detail about the yogurt parfait becomes important, because the woman who ate it against her better judgment urgently requested that we stop somewhere, preferably at a place with a restroom. There was no questioning of this, and we ended up at a winery in Kentucky called Springhill Vineyards.

While our…

"To Be What We Have Seen" - A Prayer Based on Deuteronomy 34


40 Days of Creativity

I must say that the past few Lenten seasons for me personally have been...underwhelming.

I used to be incredibly gung-ho about taking on a discipline for Lent, be it giving something up or taking something on. But the last few years I haven't really given myself to a practice the way that I should, to my own spiritual detriment, I think.

So many people nowadays seem to push back against taking on a Lenten discipline. "Don't take it too seriously, you don't want to kill yourself." Or, "what you're doing (giving up Facebook or chocolate) doesn't take Lent seriously enough." If attempting to choose something wasn't difficult enough, the rise of the Lenten Discipline Critic seems only to have made things worse. There may be some reading this thinking, "What's the big deal? Who cares?" But I myself love the intentionality of a practice during these 40 days as a way to move through the season.

Well. Yesterday was Ash Wednesday. Lent…

"Stay Here"

Yesterday was Transfiguration Sunday. In my setting, it was also Confirmation Sunday. I opted not to preach on the transfiguration itself, but rather from Exodus 34 where Moses comes down the mountain, his face glowing from being in God's presence for such an extended period of time and the Israelites unsure how to receive the sight of it.
For one reason or another, the story of the transfiguration shows up again in the lectionary the Second Sunday in Lent. This year, that also happens to be my first Sunday at the new church. So me and my Type A personality decided that that would be my focus text for that day, even if I didn't yet know the specifics. If nothing else, I figured that it would be some version of the Transfiguration Sunday sermon that pretty much every pastor has preached at least once: our experiences on the mountaintop inform our lives at the mountain's base. We can't stay on the mountain; we leave inspired to serve. I figured that some variation on th…

Pop Culture Roundup

I was given The Hunger Pains as a Christmas gift, which is the Harvard Lampoon's parody of The Hunger Games. So we meet Kantkiss Neverclean who lives in District 12 which is known as the telemarketing district. A boy and girl are chosen for The Hunger Games (the only name they don't mess with) by being the last to touch their finger to their nose at the count of three. Parts of it are pretty amusing; I chuckled and even outright laughed more than once. There were many other points, however, when the humor seemed forced, uninspired, and tiring. Surely there are better efforts at sending up The Hunger Games than this.

The WWE Royal Rumble was January 27th, and is my favorite wrestling pay-per-view of the year. The gist: 30 guys enter the ring at regular intervals, the only way of elimination being to be thrown off the top rope and have both feet touch the floor. The winner gets a shot at one of the world titles at Wrestlemania. If that wasn't enough, The Rock returned to ch…


To the left is a picture of my church office, taken a few months ago. The old saying is that a picture is worth a thousand words, and to me this picture captures the busyness and coziness that I have experienced and enjoyed in this space over the years.

There are many places on those shelves where books lay haphazardly on top of otherwise neatly- lined rows. I bought that small bookcase at Target because the supplied shelves weren't enough for my ridiculously-sized collection.

The cork board on the wall has a few trinkets accumulated over the years: pictures of church members, a Coffeeson baptism announcement, a palm frond folded into a cross. To the left of the window is a picture of St. Louis; just looking at it calls back to mind some of my most formative years. Strewn across my desk are papers for classes to be taught, mail to be answered, a sermon to be preached, the next Sunday's bulletin, action figures from Happy Meal boxes, and--duh--coffee.

I've always enjoyed t…

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