Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Signs of Spring

I am very excited to be a Tiger fan and put on that Magnum PI Olde English D hat...

Monday, February 25, 2008

Putting out fires

It's not exactly what I want to be doing, but sometimes it is what I find myself doing, and it's usually when I my time is limited, as it is this week. I'm only in the office 2 days. But I do wish that I'd had a nice fire to cozy up to last week in the midst of my thrice yearly cold. While I can count the number of times I've had the flu in my life on one hand, I seem to get colds three or four times each year. As much as I hate blowing my nose - it certainly beats lying on the couch with enormous pain in my abdomen, wanting to die and eventually praying I'll stop throwing up. But enough of that talk, I've gotta go put out another fire now...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Words Matter

I doubt anyone disputes this, but I'm a little hung up on this for one particular reason, that I may have blogged about in the past, or may simply have thought I blogged about. But I ran into it again today - THEN vs. THAN. These two words are NOT synonymous. They have vastly different meanings, and much greater differences than the single vowels that separate them.

THEN is a marker of time. THAN is a comparison.

I know that in our hasty wired world people shoot off e-mail and blog posts & responses without too much thought. But PLEASE, can you do at least a little grammar work and know the difference between these two words? Yes, it annoys me when I continually have to work out what people say in their electronic transmissions. Take a few extra seconds and proof read what you submit - it'll be all the better.

Now, I recognize that I've got my own problems. I've got my own mistakes I'm sure I commonly make. I continually find errors in my own work that I have to edit, so I'm the pot calling the kettle black. And right now, I'm letting off a little steam.

But this leads me to a little theological thought. I had a conversation yesterday, which referenced the slogan "theology matters" and called into question whether it was really ever a question. Yes, theology matters, but what KIND of theology matters - and practice matters too. And this goes right into the current debate between potential presidential nominees in the US. Whether it's real or perceived, there's a question of whether we're hearing pretty words or real substance. And so my thought is this: At the end of the day, "mere words" will not be enough to make a real change - whether you're talking politically or spiritually. And that's why Christ DIED. And was resurrected for that matter. Words aren't enough by themselves. HOWEVER, everything begins with words, and if the right words are absent, or misused, the resulting behaviour cannot help but be corrupt.

John reminds us that THE Word began it all. The least we can do is have some reverence for our own words, and to make sure that our actions and our thoughts behind them match the words we use. Which reminds me, I've got to finish that book in the next 6 days...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

What a way to end a day

That picture below is a picture of two people who had no idea what was in for them just a few short hours later. Brennan had a cold, that got worse as the day wore on. What we never expected was the vomiting that would begin as we were @ Panera, continue as we drove home in the evening, spike as we tried to put him to bed WAY LATE, and continue through the night, if not in a big way - the memory and resulting coughing was enough to wake him up 4-5 times. Of course, that meant we were up too. But I was realizing just a little while ago - how you finish is as important as how you get there. We had a fun weekend with my family. It wasn't overly stressful. We enjoyed their company. They left, Brennan got sick, and somehow the only thing I want to do is sleep and it feels like I've been on the go and crazy-busy-stressed, not like I had a relaxing weekend with my family. Again, goes to show that the ending DOES matter...

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sitting here...

...enjoying a few "quiet" moments with my pregnant wife on the eve of the 3rd anniversary of her 29th birthday. I know by July there won't be any of these moments coming for YEARS, so I'm taking this in as much as I can. The quiet rest may have to be broken at some point though, I still need to find some kind of gift for her. Any suggestions? I'm thinking "beautiful"...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Sometimes you do, sometimes you don't

Two days, two vastly different experiences. Yesterday I dragged. I can't exactly explain it. It was what it was. I'd planned to stay for our Lenten Soup Supper and worship service - but I just couldn't do it. And I knew if I did, I'd have a hard time completing the work I wanted to at home before Bridgette returned Friday evening. That, and I knew I'd be putting in nearly 12 hours today. I can't exactly say that anything led to yesterdays relative malaise - maybe the $442 I spent on brakes & oil change, maybe paying too much attention to Breaking News and maybe it was just a caffeine crash. Who knows. What I do know is this, today has been Worlds Apart - pun intended?

While I was up late and woke up a couple times in the middle of the night, partly due to my breakfast plans, I got up early and showed up a few minutes late to a 7am breakfast at what is becoming more and more of a weekly excursion, Bob Evans. After that great breakfast, I headed in where I've pumped out a few pages of material, and answered some crucial e-mails. Whereas yesterday I was dragging, today I feel fairly energized. And it's not just the coffee - unless Bob Evans is much stronger than Tim Hortons, but honestly, I couldn't tell the difference. The only thing I can think of, and this goes back to a very personal thing for me - I'm a pressure guy. No, I don't always perform WELL under pressure, just ask friends and former teammates, but I do seem to get more energized when I'm under pressure. And if I've done the right preparation, I find myself much more focused and much more able to keep those distractions at bay that would sap my energy and leave me a lethargic turd on the couch.

The funny observation for me is that during my very first interview with the Committee on Preparation for Ministry with the Presbytery of the Pacific the Presbytery I was under care of and eventually ordained by in July, they asked me what my greatest weakness was. I offered up a throw-away - "procrastination." Honestly, who's going to share their most intimate struggles with a bunch of strangers the first time you meet? I got lambasted! They told me that procrastination wouldn't do in ministry, I wouldn't survive, that I should seek out the professional counseling offered at Princeton to eliminate this from my life before I entered ministry. Whoa! (my liason was blown away). Yes, I recognize that procrastination isn't exactly a gift. You can't survive life or ministry, working entirely in the "necessary & urgent" quadrant. HOWEVER, I remain a believer that at times, procrastination can be the best way to proceed. I mean, Jesus used procrastination successfully. I just need to keep aware of the big picture, and not rely on it as my only method of operation...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ohio + Snow = Empty

So, is this what it's like to be a solo pastor? I'm sitting in my office right now and the only other person that I can see (as evidence by his truck) is the custodian. We have a staff of over a dozen people here at Liberty, mind you some of them are part time and not usually in at 9am Tuesday, but I'm still surprised that I'm the ONLY other person here. Ok, check that, our Music Director just showed up, that makes 3. What I'm continually amazed at is how people in Ohio react to snow. I originally thought it was only a New Jersey thing, but I'm realizing that more and more of the US doesn't "get" snow and how to exist when it's coming down. As I look out my window I'm seeing a slight breeze driving snow ever-so gently from my right to left. The ground is covered by an inch or a little more and it's beautiful. But all I heard this morning on the news was "if you don't need to be out, don't" and I thought "Are you SERIOUS?!" Anyway, my day might be a little different than I originally expected - which might mean I can get some of that stuff I've REALLY been wanting to do done...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

I'll miss you...

Bridgette and Brennan head out of town for the next 5-6 days. It's going to be a neat adventure as they'll see some family and Bridgette will have a couple days to go up and visit another college friend who's recently had a baby. She'll do it without Brennan, so it'll be a mini-break of sorts for her too. But at the end of the day, I'll be very much looking forward to them coming home. Bridgette and Brennan, you haven't even left yet, and I miss you already...

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Ashes to Ashes

Doing something a little different this year with the Ash Wednesday service at Liberty - they gave the service to me and as soon as I recognized my 6 months of "no change" was up already, I promptly threw a curveball. Well, it didn't work quite that way. I wasn't all that concerned about doing something out of the ordinary based on my tenure - although as I reflect, I have made "getting to know people" a top priority over "getting a program changed/started." Down the road I think this is a better strategy, but that's not what I'm concerned about here.

Anyway, I'm "preaching" tonight, if you can call the few minutes I'm going to share during a 30 minute service preaching. It'll be more of a homily or sermonette. But I'm titling it "Marked by Christ" and my curveball is that everyone will be exiting the service and receiving ashes at the same time. My goal is to send people out with the message that they have been marked for service by Christ. That is their sole purpose. Lent is a season of preparation, not simply sitting on our hands all pie-in-the-sky and all. Preparation is work. So, if we've been marked to serve during this season of preparation, people should know we've got work to do. Hopefully, that message will come through tonight and people will feel moved to serve with the love of Christ - and maybe it might even carry over past Lent, or at least through next week...

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

On the one hand...

Sunday was the Super Bowl. Yes, I watched, and I've got the bruise on my elbow to prove it. But what was more formative for me than that game Sunday evening, was what I was doing Sunday morning and afternoon, and they couldn't have been further apart.

First, I had been invited to preach at a New Church Development in a very nice suburb of Columbus. It's gorgeous. It's one of these planned developments, where everything looks like it's from 1780 (made of Brick, two story, etc) but it's recent. Very clean, very nice. The people at the church were wonderful. Their worship was fun and they made me feel very welcome. One of the biggest things that struck me is after the service, I was standing around chatting when someone passed along the "count" for the Sunday - more than half as many kids as adults. That's a growing church.

After preaching and worshiping with them Sunday morning, I headed into Columbus, downtown, to participate with one of our partner ministries. This church runs a "Street Church" in an abandoned lot, a dozen blocks from their church. They come, sing a song, pray, have a little "homily" and bring food for the homeless men and women. There were more than a dozen who showed up and that was low - probably because of the cold. They worshiped together, we held hands and prayed and had time to talk with them. THAT was moving, particularly listening to the story of one man who had three sons and the particular advice he gave one of them - it was profound.

These two experiences were extremely different. In one, I was worshiping with affluent people in a beautiful neighborhood, far removed from the hustle and bustle of the "big" city. In the other, I worshiped among men and women who not only had no money, but had no shelter and were willing to stand in the shadow of KFC, in an abandoned lot and worship with strangers - just for a free meal. But the interesting thing was not about the difference between these experiences but the similarity. In both, we shared bread and juice, we shared the bread and the cup - we shared communion together. More than anything else, this cut across social, economic and racial divides. In a moment, these two congregations, these two contexts were one, one in Christ. And it had nothing to do with anything I did or said...

Friday, February 01, 2008

Productivity is Overrated

Less than two months ago the biggest issue in the upcoming presidential race was the war in Iraq. Now, it is obviously the infamous "economy." I heard a quote that the GDP has virtually "ground to a halt." By and large, the biggest deal for us in North America is to produce, to be productive. If you're not productive, you're dead weight. It's the so-called "protestant work ethic". And not to say that there isn't something there, but it's interesting that productivity isn't the main issue when we look at the bible and how God orders life for the Hebrew people or when Jesus forms the community that will be the Church.

Instead, there are other words that seem to be much more central to life in these situations, ordered by God. For the Hebrew people, Shalom is important. While it is often translated as peace, it goes well beyond this English word. It is an all-encompassing term that speaks not only to non-violence but to health and well-being individually and communally. In the New Testament we have the word "sozo" which is often translated as "save" but it too has a much wider meaning than simply that. It also is translated as "heal" and refers not simply to physical but emotional and spiritual health. Again, it contains the idea of wholeness.

These two words are a great reminder to us, living in North America that we are called to be about something different than economic "progress" or stability. We're not simply to be concerned with the bottom line, with "productivity." We have been called to a life of wholeness, both individually and in community. On a day where we find news of 17000 jobs lost in January juxtaposed with ExxonMobil posting record profits and Microsoft pitching billions for Yahoo we have to be reminded that we're not just here to produce things, to make money but to live and to live life to its fullest. So, feel free to do the things, those completely unproductive things that make life full - like taking a nap or playing with your kids or sharing a good meal with friends...