Thursday, November 20, 2008

Active church

(picture courtesy of flickr user tukanuk, under creative commons license.)

What image comes to mind when you hear the phrase active church? Hands working? Youth cleaning up the shrubs at the home of a shut-in? UM Women filling care packages? I wanted a picture to put with the phrase active church and with the Google image search, I got a lot of pictures of church buildings (although the deeper I went, the more people I saw). Granted, Google is not necessarily and indicator of what people think, but it is interesting.

People inside the church may see how active it is. We know that those folks visiting the nursing home are doing so because of the church, we know who is visiting prisoners or filling Thanksgiving boxes, but outside the church, it may not be so obvious.

I never really liked the UM "Open hearts..." campaign. I don't know too many people who did, and I don't know that it was the best use of the church's money. The United Methodist church starts a new ad campaign next year, and I look forward to hearing more about it.

The subject of the campaign is "Rethink Church." Some of the quotes in the article trouble me:

...the church population, institution and hierarchy will need to understand and embrace the idea that it is OK for “church” to start out as day care, a youth-group ski trip, a men’s basketball league or something that solves a secular need, such as Habitat for Humanity.

but overall, I think the concept is one that should even be good for people already in the pews. Church is living, breathing, a full time commitment, not just a place you go on Sunday. Hopefully (especially at the cost of $50 million) the campaign will strengthen us as we make disciples for Christ.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Second Life Divorce

This article, which comes from CNN, sounds like it comes from The Onion. Second Life affair ends in divorce. From the article:

she...hired an online private detective to track his activities: "He never did anything in real life, but I had my suspicions about what he was doing in Second Life.

At least the wife in this case seems to understand that mind and body are not entirely separate, but the fact that she went on to start a relationship with someone in World of Warcraft seems to indicate she has not entirely learned her lesson.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

vote for Obama -- go to Hell

A friend's child was told by a Roman Catholic priest that anyone who votes for Obama was going to hell. Perhaps this is an isolated incident. But of course, in 2004 some RC bishops suggested that John Kerry shouldn't be allowed communion based on his pro-choice stance. And now, a priest in South Carolina has told his parishioners that they should do penance for their vote if they voted for Obama, or risk putting their souls in peril if they take communion.

This is not isolated. I know I can be as myopic as the next guy, but this is horrendous. Why is pro-life defined only in regard to abortion? Granted, the Catholic church has a more consistent view of life issues than most faith traditions, but why not a similar stance on the death penalty, health care, war and other issues that are pro-life? (answer: because everyone who voted, or failed to vote, would have to repent, and perhaps we should anyway).

A great Christan blogger, Andrew Thompson, suggested a term last year that I have been trying to spread around: Pro-Vita. He wrote:

I propose a new term: Pro Vita Christians. It is a way of saying "for life" or "in favor of life" but without the political baggage of the term "pro-life." It is a way of affirming God's love and care for all of his creatures - from the unborn baby in the womb to the convicted killer on death row.

There is also an organization called Consistent Life which is
committed to the protection of life, which is threatened in today's world by war, abortion, poverty, racism, capital punishment and euthanasia. We believe that these issues are linked under a 'consistent ethic of life'. We challenge those working on all or some of these issues to maintain a cooperative spirit of peace, reconciliation, and respect in protecting the unprotected.

I really don't know what else to say here without tearing my garments. This is disturbing. RC clergy are not the only ones doing this. I've seen various pastors on both sides imply that if you vote for the opposition, you're not following God's will. It's too much.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bad economy - Good!?

If we think of the word economy, and use it in the sense of efficient use of resources, maybe the bad economy we're looking at today will be helpful. I'm not making light of those who will lose their jobs, or their homes. It's serious business, and it's a symptom of how we buy. Richard Foster has given some good advice on such things. I post it here as much to remind me as to remind others. (and maybe a little bit because I like the word shun.)

From Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline.

1.Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status.
2. Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you.
3. Learn to give things away
4. Refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry.
5. Learn to enjoy things without owning them.
6. Look at all buy now, pay later schemes with healthy skepticism.
7. Develop a deeper appreciation for the creation
8. Use plain, honest speech.
9. Reject anything that will breed the oppression of others.
10. Shun whatever will distract you from the Kingdom of God.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

As Episcopalians go...

George Will provides a useful summary of the Episcopalian struggles. Similarities to the UM church may not be purely coincidental.

A Faith's Dwindling Following

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Bad Christian Music Thursday

Thanks to youtube, there are probably more of these sorts of videos out there than can even be counted. Yikes.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Colbert on Computers

Colbert helps Nicholas Carr make his points regarding computing and our lack of concentration. I've blamed my difficulty concentrating on aging, and I think there is some truth to that, but I know - because I can feel it - that my work on the internet has also added to that lack of focus.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Pirate Church

It's International Talk like a Pirate Day, but I really couldn't find a Pirate themed church service. Why can we have "cowboy church" but no pirate church? If there was such a thing, it would have to include this fabulous pulpit from Moby Dick.

Like most old fashioned pulpits, it was a very lofty one, and since a regular stairs to such a height would, by its long angle with the floor, seriously contract the already small area of the chapel, the architect, it seemed, had acted upon the hint of Father Mapple, and finished the pulpit without a stairs, substituting a perpendicular side ladder, like those used in mounting a ship from a boat at sea. The wife of a whaling captain had provided the chapel with a handsome pair of red worsted man-ropes for this ladder, which, being itself nicely headed, and stained with a mahogany color, the whole contrivance, considering what manner of chapel it was, seemed by no means in bad taste. Halting for an instant at the foot of the ladder, and with both hands grasping the ornamental knobs of the man-ropes, Father Mapple cast a look upwards, and then with a truly sailor-like but still reverential dexterity, hand over hand, mounted the steps as if ascending the main-top of his vessel.

The perpendicular parts of this side ladder, as is usually the case with swinging ones, were of cloth-covered rope, only the rounds were of wood, so that at every step there was a joint. At my first glimpse of the pulpit, it had not escaped me that however convenient for a ship, these joints in the present instance seemed unnecessary. For I was not prepared to see Father Mapple after gaining the height, slowly turn round, and stooping over the pulpit, deliberately drag up the ladder step by step, till the whole was deposited within, leaving him impregnable in his little Quebec.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Heifer Ranch

In the post below, I described my experiences at the Heifer ranch in Arkansas. Here's a video about the global village, though it was filmed in a far different season then when we were there. You couldn't even end up in the refugee camp when we were there because it was too hot.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

40000 square feet

A friend of a friend of ours knows someone who's building a 40000 square foot house. This is not a Bill Gates or an Oprah, not even a country music star. It's someone who lives in Tennessee. I didn't type an extra zero. 40000. The Las Vegas Hilton Superbook, a sports betting paradise within the Las Vegas Hilton, boasts of its more than 30000 square feet. The 40000 square foot house is being built for a typical family of 4. (That's not a picture of the house, it's just to give you an idea of what we're talking about here.)

No one would call my house extravagant, (especially if they could see the living room right now - it is obvious that we don't have a housekeeper) but it is plenty. I can walk just down the street and see houses that are boarded up, houses that change renters several times a year. My nine year old even knows there's a disparity and has admitted that he doesn't like being there. It makes him uncomfortable, and he acknowledges it, though many of us just ignore it. I wonder if my house seems like a 40000 square foot house to any of them.

A few years back, I traveled to the Heifer Ranch in Arkansas and spent a night in the global village. They have an area set up that represents living conditions in various regions, based on the average for that area. Everyone wanted Guatemala. It had a roof and running water.

My daughter, M. , just 11 at the time, got assigned to the urban village: basically wood floors with tin roofs, no windows, just an open hole for a door. I got Thailand, which wasn't much better, but for July in Arkansas was catching a decent breeze. M. slept in Thailand. The urban village was too much for her. The Guatemalan home, as humble as it would seem if put next door to my house, was a mansion for that day.

Monday, September 15, 2008

POTUS08 Christian Civility

In Sunday School this week, we talked about how we can disagree about politics and still respect one another as Christian brothers and sisters. We used Jim Wallis' Plea for Christian Civility as one tool for witnessing in the political realm.

Other Christian bloggers are saying similar things. Scot McKnight has studied the issues and candidates and give his take on the matter in several blog posts: Public Issues.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Jesus, sake and sushi.

The internet is an amazing thing. I google Christian folk art because I love simple folk images, and I find out about a Japanese folk artist whose work was partially responsible for preserving an art form as well as spreading the Gospel.

Watanabe Sadao : 1913-1996

thanks to Matt Overton for having the image in his somewhat dormant blog

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

POTUS08 - Lies are Lies

Regardless of which side we're on (and we can also not be on any side, really) it would be nice if we would check facts. Sarah Palin has her faults, as do all the candidates, and focusing on those faults is fine. We should be aware of the political missteps and maneuvering that fill us in on how these people will lead. However, taking issues and fabricating new stories from small details is just wrong, regardless of to whom it's being done.

The specific issue is with Palin's alleged banning of books while Mayor of Wasilla (If you're looking for a name for a band, Mayor of Wasilla is pretty great). Simply, she didn't ban any books. Didn't happen, no evidence, no books gone. Did she dismiss the librarian? She asked her for her resignation, along with several other Wasilla employees, but she didn't leave until nearly the end of Palin's first term.

You can read the details here: Boston Herald. The feed comes from McClatchy, which is a smart news source and can help us follow up on stories we've "heard."

Obama's religion, McCain's wife, Biden's train rides, Palin's children: all are topics being discussed by people all over America, yet lies are being spread instead of truth. Our best witness as Christians may not be for whom we vote, but how we speak about those for whom we choose not to vote.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Getting Ugly - Politics

I think I'm going to be really glad when this Presidential campaign is over. It's ugly. The news media pays attention to ridiculous small stories (What do the pastors of these candidates say!?) while ignoring the major stories of Afghanistan and the economic crises. We have pundits and politicians of both sides saying using double standards. Bring on November. At least we have Jon Stewart to help us through it.

Daily Show Catches Rep. Double Standards (yes they also make fun of Democrats, just not in this clip)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

John Wesley in film

Thanks to the UM Reporter blog I am now looking forward to a film biography of John Wesley. I've seen one before, and it may was probably this 1954 version which has the redeeming quality of at least being accurate, if not entertaining.

That's a shame, because John's life is interesting and full of good drama, so I'm hoping that this film will raise some interest in his life. I wish that it had been completed a few years ago, when the church was celebrating the 200th anniversary of his birth, but October is good too. Taking the church to see it would make a good church trip for All Saint's Day.

You can watch the preview here: Wesley

Friday, August 22, 2008

TMBG Names and what they do.

There's been lots of ink spilled on names and identity and those sorts of things. Some churches have been sublimating their denominational name as a means of reaching out to the unchurched. So you get "The Westfield Church" instead of "Westfield Baptist". I don't necessarily like it, but I understand it. It reminds me of the video below. It's a good song, which I think would have gotten more play if it hadn't been for the band name.

It's They Might Be Giants, an alternative band that doesn't get much radio play. I heard it on XM Kids. I wonder how much more play it would get if it was by some anonymous band. Then again, would I have given it a second listen if it WASN'T from TMBG, a band that takes up some space in my CD collection?

This video is just someone's homemade Youtube video. I couldn't find a better one on Youtube.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Derek Webb

I was trying to do music on Fridays, but my whole blog schedule has been thrown off lately, so I'm posting this anyway.

I like Derek Webb for his singing style and his heart. That he covers great artists like Dylan and Elvis Costello is also part of his gift. It's amazing to me that in this song he makes the Nick Lowe song, (What's So Funny About) Peace, Love and Understanding? which Elvis Costello turned into a hit - sound like a Derek Webb song.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Battlestar Judaica

I don't watch much television, but it's not because I hate tv, it's probably more that I could sit and watch it for hours. However, there are some shows, such as Lost, that I watch and spend time looking at. It probably has to do with good writing. Battlestar Galactica has writing that appeals to me.

I was old enough to watch Battlestar Galactica, the first series, as a 10 year old fan of Star Wars. It failed to grab my attention. When the second series came out, 4 years ago, I was not interested, until some fairly interesting and intelligent people I know started saying "you have to watch this." And so I did, and now I'm a junkie. It's got a monotheism/polytheism angle, and a Christian/Jewish angle, and issues surrounding identity and sin and predestination and on and on.

Here's some great talks on the show, which are good to watch even if you haven't yet gotten into the show (and there's only a half season left, so I encourage you to get into it.) The links come courtesy of Galactica Sitrep, which is the best Galactica blog out there.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

St. Paul ate my breakfast.

(something odd is happening with my blog formatting this morning, so I apologize for the lack of paragraph separation. I have redone it five times now, and before I smash something, I'm giving up)
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.(Romans 7:15,16)
Well, maybe Paul isn't exactly clear on what he did that he hated, but isn't it possible that he ate two Pillsbury cinnamon rolls and drank three cups of coffee and a glass of milk before 6 a.m.? He could have had a bowl of oatmeal, but he chose the wrong thing.
Which leads me to a review of Dan Ariely's Irrational Predictability. I ate the cinnamon rolls this morning knowing that they would not make me feel great. I know I'll have to eat something with protein in it later, and I know that I need to lose weight. But the cinnamon rolls were there. I didn't have to cook them, because I made them yesterday for a group of my daughter's friends who spent the night. So they were easy, and they were also tasty.
Ariely makes the case that we don't always make good choices. Not a difficult case to make, but he provides some unique insights into how we behave through his experiments in behavioral economics, which he describes as "an emerging field focused on the (quite intuitive) idea that people do not always behave rationally and that they often make mistakes in their decisions."
A number of experiments he arranged deal with dishonesty. At MIT, where he conducted much of his work, he put 6 packs of Coke in various common area refrigerators. Within 72 hours, they were all gone. No one had the right to take the drinks, they didn't belong to them. He went back and put plates with $6 dollars on them.When he returned, 72 hours later, they were undisturbed. It's ok to take a Coke, but not a dollar.
So cash influences our decisions, as do the number of choices we have, and the types of choices. There's nothing in the book that's terribly surprising (given the opportunity, students will cheat; when people are aroused, they make bad decisions; people procrastinate) but the way he illuminates the poor decision making is great reading.
It's also relevant to religious discussion.
When reminded of the Ten Commandments prior to an exercise, people were more honest while completing the task. This makes the tefillin seem like pretty good crime prevention.
In social situations, people will go further than they will in economic situations. "Our church" has a thrift store. It's mostly run by retired people in the community. They work hard for this store, despite the fact that they are "volunteers" (actually, servants). I heard one of them say at one point "you couldn't pay me to work this hard." They were right.
We make decisions for strange reasons. When Ariely talks about how we make economic decisions, it gives us insight into our human behavior.
Though he doesn't speak about gambling in this book, his experiments have further application. Our psychological ties to cash are obvious to lottery runners and casinos. It's why we exchange cash for chips. It doesn't hurt as much.
Imagine going into a convenience store, handing the guy a dollar and having him push a button and say "You lose, next!" How long until we had to find other state income plans?
This book will not make me quit making bad decisions. Even Ariely admits to some of his own. But having some knowledge of what influences our decision making can help us improve our chances. There will be no cinnamon rolls on my counter tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

100 Books (some great)

Thanks to Mary Beth for this list. Last year, there was a survey in England to determine 100 books you couldn't live without. For some reason this is now making the blog rounds, allegedly attributed to the NEA's Big Read project. It's not in any way related to that, but it's a fun list anyway.

The blogging suggestions are to "embolden" the ones you've read, italicize the ones you intend to read and asterisk the ones you love. I'll do the bold part, but I'm too lazy to do the rest. I will add that the fact that The Davinci Code is on a list, of any sort, placed before Hamlet and A Prayer for Owen Meany, seriously calls into question the sanity of everyone in the UK.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Friday, June 27, 2008

Farm Rescue

It doesn't take much to realize how few family farms are left, and as a result, the network of farms that used to help support each other are fading as well. Though I am no farmer, I was around farming during my adolescence, and I often saw one farmer helping another because of various issues. Maybe you might borrow a tractor while yours was in the shop. Your neighbors fields got wet and he had to plant in a hurry, you would jump in so he could get it done.

That kind of thing becomes more difficult as families turn the farm over to big business. There is hope, however, in that the number of small farms has actually been going up over the years. And there are also organizations like Farm Rescue which assist farmers when they face hardships.

Read the CNN article about Farm Rescue.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

NT Wright and Colbert

Several bloggers have this clip posted. It's well worth watching. Thanks Gavin, Allan.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Atonement ends Thursday

Someone named Andrew Miller took this pic, which was up at, but the one who truly deserves the credit is either whoever booked the movies or set up the sign.

Monday, June 23, 2008


I've been looking at Bookswim for at least a year now, and finally decided I'd give it a try. Of course it's most often compared to Netflix, and that's a very apt comparison, though Netflix recommendations and categories are far more advanced than Bookswim's.

Bookswim does have an amazingly deep catalog though, and the turn around on getting my books was fast. I have yet to return any, so I'll have to update when I do that. I ordered my books on Saturday, received an email on Monday and received the books on Friday, which isn't bad considering it's shipped USPS Media mail.

I love my local library, and I like visiting bookstores. But Jackson, the closest city with a bookstore, has very little to offer. My local library, and the Jackson library, are very helpful and I use the interlibrary loan program regularly, but there are just some books you're not going to find through ILL, and when you do, you may get them at a point when it's difficult to read them and get them back in on time. Bookswim seems like a good solution for book fiends.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

My train wreck.

I feel like I've been through a train wreck.

That pic is of the front of the train that I was trying to take to New Orleans at the end of May. I did get there, but on a bus.

I was traveling with family (and friends who might as well be family) and we still ended up having a good time in the Crescent City. Only one person on the train was seriously injured, but two people on the garbage truck that got in the way of the train were injured, and one of them may still be in the hospital, though I don't know for sure.

So, a vacation and catching up from vacation have slowed my blogging down tremendously. Time to jump back in.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

God, Cornbread and Elvis.

I think I'm going to have to put this book on my wish list. Joe Pennel, in addition to being the father of some people I knew from Lambuth, was a well-respected bishop, and a collection of his "Ponderings" is probably a worthy read. You can read a review online at The Tennessean.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Music Saturday (First week after Pentecost)

So far, I've posted religious music on Saturdays. Today however, the song that's stuck in my head is an old one, but it's really fabulous. The video is just a still image, but the song, The Girl from Ipanema, is classic. To view it, go to the youtube link.

Youtube: Girl from Ipanema

Also, this week marks the 42nd anniversary of the day that changed rock music.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Bible Park USA

From the time of childhood to the death of Opryland, I've always lived within easy driving distance of an amusement park. Now someone wants to build one near my in-laws in Rutherford County, TN. The theme of this park will be the Bible.

Maybe I'm overreacting (now that I think about it, that should probably be the title of this blog, because it's usually the case) but this is a horrible idea. Why do we, as Christians, feel the need to have a Christian equivalent to every secular form of entertainment? When will someone start a Christian casino? We have Christian books, Christian music, Christian greeting cards, Christian t-shirts, Christian ring tones, and the list goes on and on.

Is Six Flags over St. Louis somehow anti-Christian? Does all of our entertainment have to be Christian based? Is everything that's not explicitly Christian then anti-Christian?

I should add that the planners are saying that it will not offer Biblical interpretation, it will an entertainment park with a Bible theme. (Christian Post article) At the same time, people in the area are promoting its possibilities.

Here's one person who is in favor of the new theme park:

But this park may help some peoples souls. This park could be the one thing that changes peoples hearts back to loving God the way we need to. If we save once [sic] young soul we have profited more than all the gold.

It's possible that someone could learn more about Christ through one of these theme parks. But if this amount of work and money was spent on things specifically intended to nurture God's kingdom, how many more would learn?

In a recent blog post about Bible story murals, "Prodigal Jon" calls for a mural with the story of Elisha and the bears:

From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some youths came out of the town and jeered at him. "Go on up, you baldhead!" they said. "Go on up, you baldhead!" He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths.

Sounds like a good ride for the kids.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

100 Great Books

Aside from the basics of food, clothing, shelter, insurance and orthodonture, the thing I probably spend the most money on is books. So I'm always interested to see what "great books" people have in their lists. There are a lot of books that I've read in this top 100, and many that I've never even heard of. It's a subjective list of course, but it's fun skimming through what others like.

The Essential Man's Library

Granted, the Bible doesn't make a direct appearance until page 4, but the authors of the list do realize its significance:

...half the books on these lists make Biblical references that must be known by the reader for them to understand the message of that book. If a Western man desires to understand the culture that surrounds him, he needs to have a thorough understanding of the Book that has shaped that culture.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Lighting to Unite

That photo is from a light display at the Washington National Cathedral that took place this weekend. You can look at other photos on the flickr stream: Cathedral though I have no doubt that photos cannot possibly do justice to seeing the illumination in person.

Here's some info. on the project:

For three memorable nights in May, Swiss lighting artist Gerry Hofstetter brings his artistry to Washington National Cathedral for a spectacular exterior illumination of the south and west sides, in celebration of the Cathedral’s centennial. Numerous vivid images will be projected directly on the Cathedral sunset to midnight on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, illustrating its mission of reconciliation, spotlighting its role as a spiritual beacon for the nation, and proclaiming hope for all humankind.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Music Saturday (7th week of Easter)

I've been to very few Christian concerts, but through the Ekklesia Project, I was fortunate to hear The Psaltersat a gathering two years ago. Now my son, who is only 9, has some of their music on his MP3 player. It's rock and roll for the desert fathers. It borders on cacophany, mania, and pure spirit. Their music calls to mind the scripture of 2 Samuel, in which David dances before the Lord with all his might. Praise the Lord.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Liturgy: Pentecost and Mother's Day

This Sunday is Pentecost - the day we mark the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church. It is also Mother's Day. In America, Mother's Day began in a church. Within a decade, the woman who helped to start it was bemoaning its over-commercialization.

If you want to go out to eat Sunday, fine, I'm all for it. I've gone, and I'll probably go again (I think I'm grilling this Sunday though.) You won't be alone. It's the most popular day of the year to eat out.

Buy Mom a gift. I'll be buying my mother one, and we traditionally send my grandmother's to church with corsages. Flowers and plants are our favorite gifts. My wife already bought hers. The average amount to spend is somewhere around $125-$140 -- roughly 15.8 billion dollars will be spent to honor Mom.

The commercialization of Mother's Day bothers me, but it's not a major concern. What bothers me is that Mother's Day will be part of the worship service in a large way. The choir at church will be singing a song which is in reference to Mother's Day. We'll probably do the "Who's got the most kids here?" "Who's the oldest mom?, Who's the youngest?" sort of thing.

What's the harm? There's no harm whatsoever in acknowledging that it's Mother's Day. I wouldn't even mind if we gave a few extra moments during the greeting and said "make sure you greet mothers". But Mother's Day is not a church holiday. It shouldn't be.

Think of the other Holy Days. Pentecost, Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, throw in All Saints' if you want, Ascension, Trinity, whatever. Who are those days about? They, including All Saints', are about God's relationship with us. We honor God when we honor those Holy Days. All Saints' may be the most tenuous, but it is certainly a remembrance of how God has worked through those members of the church who have gone before us (including mothers). Yes, we can be thankful for our mothers, but Mother's Day will not be celebrated outside the US this Sunday, other countries have other days for doing this. It's simply not a Holy Day of the church.

In a recent article, in Christianity Today, Mark Gaill says the following about the liturgy:
It is precisely the point of the liturgy to take people out of their worlds and usher them into a strange, new world—to show them that, despite appearances, the last thing in the world they need is more of the world out of which they've come. The world the liturgy reveals does not seem relevant at first glance, but it turns out that the world it reveals is more real than the one we inhabit day by day.

I know I'm overly cranky about this. I know I'm borrowing trouble before I even go to worship, that I will be challenged to be worshipful and reverent instead of grumpy and scowling. But that doesn't mean that the liturgy isn't important, that we shouldn't be aware of the tension between how the world shapes us and how we're called to be shaped by God in the church. Happy Mother's Day, Blessed Pentecost.


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Secrecy of Bishops, DSs and the SPRC.

Somewhere deep in the catacombs of West Tennessee in November of each year, the SPRC meets under candlelight. Once the sacrifices are made, they cast lots to determine whether the leader of the church will stay or go. They gaze into the reflections in a pool to discern what other pastors may be available. Then they mind meld and let the Bishop and his cabinet know what will take place in the upcoming new year.

Spring comes and the Bishop and the cabinet dance around the Maypole, wreaths of flowers in their hair. They fall in exhaustion and sleep visionary dreams. When they wake, in complete silence they determine the paths of those in their conference through examining tea leaves, watching the stars and playing Ouija.

Or not. Usually the SPRC gets the general consensus of the church, discusses the needs of the church, and makes the best decision they can. This, despite the fact that in the case of a recently appointed pastor, they may only know the person they're discussing for a total of a 5 months.

The Bishop and the cabinet take those things into consideration, look at who's retiring, who's available, which big churches will get to pick someone outside the conference, and then fill in the gaps as best they can.

I know that everyone, from the members of the SPRC to the Bishop, is a less than perfect human, a Christian doing what they can to discern God's will while trying to make the people happy. So why does this become such an ordeal every time it's obvious that some sort of change is needed in a local church? Why does it have to be cloak and dagger secret society sort of work? Can the local church not handle it? I think they can.

We have got to do something to make the appointment system work better. From what I can tell of the votes at General Conference, that something is study the topic for another four years. Frankly I don't think that's good enough.

Can we, on the conference level, say that here you'll get three years when you go to a new church before you have to worry about such thing? I know, that means technically you have three years if the new pastor doesn't work out, but how can you even know that it's going to work out without one cycle through the lectionary?

Can we say that at least we won't make a decision during the first November that a pastor has been at a church? Would pastors be a bit more patient and observant when they arrive at a new church if they knew that they had time to get to know these people before they were going to have to look at moving again?

Of course, I have more questions than answers. I've not served on SPRC, and I doubt that my gifts would benefit that committee. I'm not a pastor. I don't know what that's like either. But as a church leader, I know that the current system, which doesn't allow the majority of the church to know much of what is going on until weeks before a new pastor arrives, does not work. We need to be more open; open in discussing the problems we may have with pastors, open to how the SPRC and Bishop's cabinet make their decisions, and most importantly, open to how the Holy Spirit may lead guide and direct us in the work of God.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Music Saturday

I can never make clear how much music means to me spiritually. The great hymnbook of Psalms stands as a 2500 year old testament to the fact that the Judeo-Christian faith has always been tied to music. One of the songs stuck in my head this week is something I learned in choir. It's a Rich Mullins chorus known as Step by Step, and it's part of his song Sometimes by Step. The chorus is:

Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
I will seek You in the morning
And I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You'll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days

What I didn't know is that it's likely that when the choir sang this, Mullins was dead. You can read more about him on his Wikipedia entry. He died in a car wreck at the age of 41. He intentionally lived a life of economic poverty. He was an inspiration to Caedmon's Call. He was a fine player of the hammered dulcimer.

I know very little about contemporary Christian music. I find a lot of it to be spiritual candy, tasty but not very nourishing. It appears that Mullins was nourished and through him, the spirit can provide fulfillment. The video below is of another of his songs, based on the Apostle's Creed. It is worth watching all the way to the end.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

REVIEW - The Year of Living Biblically

A.J. Jacobs' book, (subtitled "One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible") has been out long enough that there are probably many reviews available, so mine will just be a quick summary of why you can skip it.

It's contrived. You may be aware of people who can play the handsaw. They can play recognizable songs. This guy is playing Somewhere Over the Rainbow. I'm sure it took some time to learn to do it, and it's interesting, but it has very little impact on the musical world.

It seems to me that A.J. Jacobs has made a similar contribution to religion. He spent a year, looking at Biblical law and trying to follow all the rules, no matter how obscure. (His previous book was about his year spent reading the Encyclopedia Brittanica) He did this with the help of some advisors, but not in community. He acknowledges this deficit.

I'm trying to fly solo on a route that was specifically designed for a crowd....This year I've tried to worship alone and find meaning alone. The solitary approach has its advantages...But I was doing it [specifically, observing holidays, but I think it sums up the whole exercise] cluelessly and by myself, and it felt empty.

The Guinness Book of World Records is a fun book.In it you can find out some cool things about odd people doing odd thing. Jacobs' book is similar. He plays the saw, or dances for 72 hours straight. It is not really a faith journey, though some of it allows him to discuss his lack of belief. He does not end up seemingly much further down the road then he was when he began.

Jacobs has a good sense of humor throughout his self-imposed ordeal. I imagine his wife had to have had the patience of Job. Jacobs writing is worth reading, I just wish his wit and energy was put into something a little more substantial.

General Conference 2008

“Local churches provide the most significant arena through which disciple-making occurs.”

Andrew Thompson reminds us of what the General Conference can and can't do.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Mickey Carpenter

Last week when Mickey's boat was found, I was affected from the loss of someone who meant a lot to me. I wanted to post a remembrance of him because I knew that he meant a lot to others in the United Methodist church. Many people have left comments and prayers that have been forwarded on to Marsha and the family.

As I received information, I had posted it to my blog until I was told that people were taking that information out of context, and with no knowledge of the family or the situation, were using that to create rumors and speculation on other internet pages.

I am sorry that I ever posted anything about it. That people would spread hatred and meanness when what is called for is prayer and encouragement is disturbing. I am sincerely sorry that I was part of adding to the pain that Mickey's family is going through. I can offer only my apologies and prayers that God will heal our broken world. Come Lord Jesus.

(I will not be posting any comments to this item, in the hopes that any further discussion will simply cease. If you leave a comment, I will receive it, but it will not show up on the website. Thanks.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

NT Wright

The Bishop of Durham came to Music City last night and provided a great synopsis of his book, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. I haven't read the book, but Wright has been working through this topic for some time, and it's present in his work Jesus and the Victory of God. [correction: The Resurrection of the Son of God] You can also find some summaries of his views on the unofficial NT Wright page, and he discussed it in the Serious Answers to Hard Questions video series.

Wright challenges the popular concept of heaven as the final resting place where we will sit on clouds and play harps. His entry point for the discussion last night was from a coffee cup he got at Starbucks:

The Way I See It #230
"Heaven is totally overrated. It seems boring. Clouds, listening to people play the harp. It should be somewhere you can’t wait to go, like a luxury hotel. Maybe blue skies and soft music were enough to keep people in line in the 17th century, but Heaven has to step it up a bit. They’re basically getting by because they only have to be better than Hell."
-- Joel Stein
Columnist for the Los Angeles Times.

I won't continue to attempt to speak for Wright. He does a fine job on his own, and I'm sure this book will start discussions about the resurrection in which the church should definitely be engaged.

The atmosphere was not fully like a rock concert, but I admit that I was excited to find that he was walking into the church right ahead of us. There were no concert shirts, but plenty of books which Wright kindly stayed after to sign. Wright was not presenting a new album, in that this was material that he has covered, and was familiar to many who were in attendance, but it was delivered and received well. The audience skewed younger than The Police concert I attended last year.

West End is a large beautiful church and Wright towered over us from the pulpit. He was fighting a cold, but I was sitting close enough that it didn't have any affect on hearing him. He is an engaging speaker, and to further strain my concert analogy, it was a great set. Wright's benediction reminded me again of my need to be joyful. The Cubs won, I had a good India Pale Ale and conversation with a friend, and I was blessed by the Bishop of Durham. Not a bad evening.

UPDATE (Hat tip to Gavin Richardson Tennessean Article re: Bishop's visit.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Rev. Mickey Carpenter - prayers

Any comments or prayers you leave here will be forwarded to Mickey's family. Thanks.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Race and the church

I am part of a church that is mostly rich white people. We have some people who might be at the low end of the middle class, and we have had a few people of Asian descent, and one woman whose husband is black, but he's a member of another congregation.

One group that I'm part of, the Ekklesia Project, is also mostly middle and upper class white people. We'll be discussing some of the reasons when we meet this year at the gathering.

Another group that I'm a member of, though I'm not much of a contributor, is the Emmaus community, and it's also mostly middle class white people.

And yet another group which I am involved in, which has no name other than coffeehouse theology, is middle class white men. In May we'll be discussing issues of race as well, using this article by Dr. Gene Davenport as our starting point.

During Holy Week, our church hosts other churches for noon services. There's a thirty minute worship service, followed by lunch. One of the CME churches in the area led the Good Friday service. Then we ate together, or at least we ate in the same room. A few of their members sat on the side of the room that was largely occupied by members of our congregation, but most from the CME church sat at two long tables. After the meal, we did more socializing, but eating was separate, and I'm not sure how intentional that was from either group. But it was noticeable.

There are members of each congregation that are old enough to remember separate fountains and movie theater entrances. The best hamburger joint in Tennessee (which happens to be here in Henderson) has a walk up window. It's handy for ordering a quick milkshake, but I'm wondering if that was its original purpose.

I don't know what to do about this. I have heard that there are efforts by the United Methodist church to work more closely with CME and AME churches, to help us all figure out why we're still so divided by race and economic circumstances. Locally, I'm going to do what I can to connect Methodist congregations in the county (regardless of whether they're United, Christian or African) so that we'll all be aware of one another. Maybe the Holy Spirit will help us to pray together, worship together and eat together a little more often.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Homeschooling, home church, and the internet.

I learned a lot about New Monasticism this week, though as is often the case with discussions regarding theology and ecclesiology, I'm left with even more questions than answers. It was good to sit and eat with Jon and Sparky and talk about NCAA basketball, long drives and what it means to be church.

The coffeehouse theology group that meets once a month also discussed this topic, and we had originally hoped to sit with Jon together, but schedules just didn't work out. The coffeehouse group helps to sustain and enrich me because the people who gather there are all committed to Christ and to truly working for the body. I hope it enriches the others as well.

In discussing New Monasticism, our discussion also involved home churches. We also touched on the topic of homeschooling, which shares some things in common with home church. One of the things that we can all acknowledge is that the internet has played a large role in growing these movements.

People who had so often felt alone, whether in removing their kids from public and private schools, or in preferring to worship in small group settings, are now able to talk about this with people in other towns, states and countries.

Certainly, the groups existed before the internet was such a cultural force in the world, but they were restricted by the costs of publishing and travel as well as the difficulty of even finding others who were thinking in similar ways.

Now, regardless of your particular interest, you can just google it. You may have to go to the second or even third page, but you will find others with similar interests. This is both blessing and curse, of course, but it's certainly a phenomenon that we didn't have 25 years ago.

We have used a very new technology to fortify ideas that are very old. New Monasticism leans heavily on the monastic orders that have been with us for ages. Public schools have only been around for minutes in the days of history. It will be interesting to see the directions that these movements take as they continue to build on the resources the internet provides.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Small Group Members Decide to Stop Feigning Interest

Occasionally I like to see what particular aspect of church life is being parodied at Larknews. This one is worth passing along:

Monday, April 07, 2008

New Monasticism

These folks are Sparky, Katrina, Karlie, and Jon. They work at Windows Booksellers in Eugene Oregon. They are also part of a Church known as Church of the Servant King. Jon is on a book buying trip this week which will bring him through Jackson.

I've mentioned before that I'm interested in new monasticism. Every year, when many of us gather for a meeting of the Ekklesia Project I enjoy talking with those members from Eugene, not least because Jon has fabulous taste in cigars and is generous.

Another reason is because the culture in Eugene is probably the furthest you can get from West Tennessee and still be in the same country. It's interesting. I'm looking forward to sitting with Stock for a few hours.

Annual Conference changes

I'm sure every UM Annual conference is looking at some changes this year. I would guess that whenever General Conference is held, more changes are suggested at Annual conference, but I could be wrong. The "transition team" for the Memphis annual conference has suggested many changes. Several of them are available for viewing at the Memphis conference page. I'll save you the ridiculous clicking lens noise of that site by direct linking them. I'll also try and scan the brochure provided by the team and post it sometime this week.

Transition team PowerPoint

Transition team final revision.

Structure Diagram

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Randy Cooper for Bishop, part 2

I blogged about Cooper's nomination back in July, but the time nears for the jurisdictional conference vote, coming this July. Jonathan, over at the Ivy Bush, uploaded Randy's video (all episcopal candidates, have to do videos, presentations, web pages etc.,.) to youtube. Watch it, and visit Randy's web page too.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Missing Members

12"What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying?

13"If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray.

14"So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.
-Matthew 18:12-14 NAS

My wife and I have been members of at least one church at all times for the past 17 years. Our attendance and our involvement has varied some, but I don't think we ever missed long enough to earn the term "unchurched." I'm glad for that, but I know that a major reason for our regular attendance is that we've always lived in a town where someone knows us.

The first place we lived was near her parents, and my wife Amy was a member at the Catholic church where we were married. Now we live in the same town where I graduated from high school, and I have become thoroughly obligated to attend the church where I was confirmed. We had a brief window of opportunity when we first moved back to skip out on church, but it was closed pretty quickly by friends and family who simply insisted.

Before too long, I found myself teaching an adult Sunday school class (can we come up with a better name than Sunday school, it sounds so felt-panel and koolaid?) and then a pastor informed me that I may well be teaching this class forever, so now I'm pretty much locked in.

The fact that I am connected to this area is a big part of why I'm expected to attend. But that's rare in this area. We have lots of transplants -- people who come from all over, who find it easy to attend occasionally, or not at all. We have had people who have joined our church one Sunday, and a year later qualify as unchurched. A year after that and we remove them from the membership roll.

We know what we should do about this, and we try. Small groups, phone calls, not overwhelming new members, but making sure they know what's expected. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I think we do have to be more intentional, and I think a good portion of that responsibility lies on the pastor's shoulders, because that is who people go to when they are thinking of joining the church, even if the reasons for joining have more to do with the congregation.

One of our pastors mentioned one time that he occasionally lost sleep over members who quit. We should all be more concerned about the missing members. My mother is one of the ones who no longer attends. I remember her making me go when I was under 18. She quit coming when our previous pastor offended some friends of hers. Her friends have been back for over three years. Now she's waiting on a new pastor. I don't expect to see her in July. Even though she has friends and family at the church, it's not enough to combat the things she'd rather do on Sunday morning.

And I suppose that's what I have to remember the most. Despite all our planning, our intentional work, members still have a choice. We can't make them come, and once they come, we can't make them be disciples (though my tendency towards legalism says we should try a little harder). When all else fails, we have to turn to God and ask that His will be done. Help us find the missing sheep, Lord, and help them to rejoin the flock.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Avalon Acres

I own part of a farm.

I don't really, but I do share parts of two farms. I actually participate in community supported agriculture, on two different fronts. One area is in my local church. For three years now, I get a whole lot of beef in my freezer in January or February, from cows that I pass just about every day. I go to church with the people who raise these cows. I helped organize the wedding of their daughter, who has watched my kids on several occasions. When someone stole money from me, they helped me cover the costs of what was taken. I've even had occasion to be angry at them.

The other part is with an "official" CSA, and I'm not nearly as tied to the community that it comes from. The farm is over an hour away and if I ever happened to be just driving by, I would be seriously lost. But I'm still glad for it, and have seen the farm, and met some of the ones that have done the work. This farm has the Avalon Acres name.

As the result of work from a local reading group, several families have been participating in this through the winter, taking turns going to pick up the food and bringing it back to distribute. It's been great. It's not organic, but it's raised by people who care about what they're doing and want us to share the harvest with them.

If you're in most of Middle Tennessee, or the Jackson area of West Tennessee, you can participate too. I haven't balanced out the cost vs. the grocery store, but the difference in other areas is phenomenal. The quality of the meat (we'll soon find out about the vegetables)is great. Yes, there are downsides (I have no idea what to do with hog jowl) but I am glad that about 80% of the meat I eat comes from within 100 miles of my house.

There are many reasons for the resurgence of interest in small farms. Books like Fast Food Nation and movies like Supersize Me have reminded us of our separation from the origins of our food. Opportunities like CSAs and fair trade purchases shouldn't just be about assuaging our guilt, but about being closer to one another.

Find out more about Avalon Acres or Community Supported Agriculture in your area. CSA Avalon Acres

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Conference differences

At the same time that I rail against the bureaucracy of the church, I also get angry about lack of good technology. Do I contradict myself? Of course.

Compare and contrast:

The Memphis Conference webpage

The Tennessee Conference webpage

And, the Tennessee Youth Conference page

and Memphis Youth Conference Page (yes, it is in fact, 5 years old)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Organized church

When I was in my college days, I had issues with organized religion. Then I got over it. Now I'm in yet another phase, that may pass, which is primarily against organized church. Maybe reading Leithart had something to do with that, but I think it had more to do with acquaintances I've made through the Ekklesia Project. People who are members of cell churches, house churches, new monastic groups all make me wonder how things might be different.

And then I read Wendell Berry, and he gives the passage below which sums up a lot of things I have been thinking for a while.

(from Wendell Berry, What are People For? God and Country.)

The organized church comes immediately under a compulsion to think of itself, and identify itself to the world, not as an institution synonymous with its truth and its membership, but as a hodgepodge of funds, properties, projects, and offices, all urgently requiring economic support. The organized church makes peace with a destructive economy and divorces itself from economic issues because it is economically compelled to do so. like any other public institution so organized, the organized church is dependent on "the economy"; it cannot survive apart from those economic practices that its truth forbids and that its vocation is to correct. If it comes to a choice between the extermination of the fowls of the air and the lilies of the field and the extermination of a building fund, the organized church will elect -- indeed, has already elected -- to save the building fund.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Don't build ugly sanctuaries.

The building that our church worships in may be the prettiest church in the county. If it's not, I have no doubt that the prettiest church in the county is another Methodist church. We're lucky. We have no competition in that regard. There are no high church Presbyterians, Episcopalians or Catholics to outrank us. We don't even have a Lutheran church, so we're the only ones who think in terms of pretty when we build.

I know the "If it looks Catholic, we shouldn't do it" protestant history of why my Baptist and CofC brothers and sisters worship in such plain surroundings, but I don't think their rationale holds up. And I know there are pretty Baptist churches out there, just not in this county.

There are some issues with having a pretty sanctuary. I know that, but I don't see how having an ugly one is the alternative. My preferred alternative would be NO sanctuary.

I've mentioned before how I'm not sure what to think about new church starts. Part of my hesitancy is because it seems like all new church starts come with a mortgage. Granted, because Methodists believe that the sacraments should be given by an ordained elder, it would be difficult to have new Methodist churches that are cell groups of 10 or 15 people, but does that mean we shouldn't do it?

The words kyriakon and ekklesia have both come to be "church" but it seems to me that despite our "I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together..." type hymns we still are tied to the buildings almost to the point of idolatry. I suppose that's why some make ugly sanctuaries, as a way of fighting that, a way of making the space less attractive, more utilitarian.

Cell churches, house church, "new" monasticism all intrigue me. They seem to help emphasize the people of God rather than the house. Maybe they'll help us all to be less tied to our buildings, whether they're pretty or not.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Leaders on War

Robert E. Lee: "It is well that war is so horrible. For we should grow too fond of it."

George Bush: "I must say, I'm a little envious."

"If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed.

"It must be exciting for you ... in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You're really making history, and thanks."

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Stuff and more stuff

I am somewhat drawn to monasticism. Even in high school, when I knew very little of what it might mean to take such vows, a friend and I discussed it as a possibility. He was hard-pressed to find a good Baptist monastery though. I guess there really aren't many Methodist monasteries either.

Friends of mine are "new monastics" though they're part of a group that's been around longer than that term. They have my attention. I wonder what it would be like. They're not just men, they are families, and they work together and live together, not sequestered, in the world, but not of the world. One of them, will hopefully be visiting us next month. I look forward to seeing him.

One of the things which I think draws me to this sort of living is the necessity of not having too much stuff. I don't know how it happens that I have 6 stainless steel travel mugs when 2 years ago, I just wanted one. Why it's possible for 3 of our family members to be on a computer at once (and if I really wanted to, it wouldn't be difficult for all four of us to do so) is explainable, but it's probably not good.

Enough about me. Here's an old article about new monasticism. Jon Stock, mentioned in the article, has also worked with others on a book about it. It's the pic above. I haven't read it yet, but I'll discuss it when I do.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Nedroid is someone I know of solely through the internet. His art has a children's sense of wonder to it, but he obviously looks at the world with a perspective that is somewhat different from most people. He has a store here: and the rest of his artwork is at

Saturday, February 02, 2008

I love Google.

I know that it may be a problem, but I really love Google. I shouldn't. It's the big guy, the heavy-hitter, the Goliath of the internet. But they can do amazing things.

Try it.

Play around with it a little while. See what you can find. If you have a google account, you can add books to your library, much like Library Thing (which I also highly recommend) except with bookmarks to full texts of some books.

Do you have a copy of the 1905 Methodist Hymnal? Congratulations, you do now. You can download it, print it, do whatever you want with it. Want to read about Wesleyan conferencing prior to the 100th anniversary of Methodism? Help yourself.

I know, I'm totally geeking out on this, and there are certainly other ways of coming up with these books, but this really is an example of the good things of which the internet is capable.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

My Perfect Church

This entry is heavily inspired by an article in Relevant Magazine. I don't know much about the magazine, but the article's worth reading if only for the acknowledgment of similar frustrations.

Of course, I'm not in the same age bracket as the author, but there are some things on his top ten list that I'd love to see. But instead, I'm going to work on a list of 10 things I like about my church.

1. When we decided to start a food program, there was no vote, no forms to fill out, just people who showed up and worked.

2. Members of our church started a thrift store. The money they make goes to help people who can't pay their utility bills, or don't have enough food. When they decided they needed a bigger building to do this work, the church voted unanimously in favor of spending the money. They've been doing this for more than 10 years.

3. A man who once spent many of his nights living under a nearby bridge now has a home in his name, and a life that he enjoys. This is entirely due to the grace of God and the people whom he worked through in our church.

4. There are many Sundays each year when three generations of several different families are present for worship.

5. Many of our members have had their weddings in our sanctuary, and some have had their funerals there as well. Funerals in a church sanctuary somehow seem so much more reassuring, perhaps because we don't gather there ONLY in times of death.

Ok, so that's 5. This might be a good blog tag sort of thing. Pass it on.

Monday, January 21, 2008

New Churches

The church I attend is 100+ years old. I have been associated with it (sometimes living other places, but returning to visit while away) for 27 years. Yikes. Now I feel old.

I understand that new church plants grow, and that United Methodists see this in the Southern Baptist church and hope to emulate it. I know that the UMC has things to offer that simply aren't offered in any other church. I understand that my congregation is fairly static in membership numbers because we don't conscientiously reach out to people who have no church background. But I don't know that I think that a constant building effort by the church is the way to fix that. Those churches will become old some day too.

This article is what brings me to think about this topic currently: Amid Growth...

Saturday, January 12, 2008


I'm a teacher. I don't get paid for that skill, but I use it in Karate and at church. I'm decent at it, and more importantly, I'm willing to do it.

But I need something. I can't keep teaching like this. Karate isn't too bad right now, since it's bodily involved, but the classes at church are not inspiring me, so I know I'm not inspiring my classes. I've read about the different learning styles, and I understand how different people learn from different styles, but nothing has jumped out at me in recent weeks.

Maybe it's because I'm in about the third month of the book of Acts and I need a jolt. Maybe it's the fact that my class seems perfectly happy to just sit back and listen to the few who have questions. Or, that they practically refuse to argue with me. Are they afraid that if they hurt my feelings I'll quit teaching?

Preparation helps, and I can tell when I'm better prepared. I should work on that, since it's one of the things that I can actually do. I can't make the students care more. I can demonstrate how much I care. Keep trying.