Thursday, December 23, 2010


OK, so I've always wanted to see what the big deal was about Wassail. As most of you know, I'm a history major and lover, so to see 16th - 18th century England obsessed with Wassail, I'm curious as to what it tastes like. Why is this drink in so many songs? Why did the English have such a connection to it?

Yes, I've had the modern American stuff we call wassail, but it's really just a mulled cidar. I've always harbored some doubts that the stuff in church lady's crock pot was the stuff of song and dance! From what I've read Wassail is more of a "hearty" drink. The name itself means "Good Health."

Finally, I've found it: A professional chef's research into a 16th century Lambswool Wassail: It looks stout, hearty, and...interesting! I'm pretty sure it's more ancient than I thought. It's a basically a spiced beer; however, I'm confident it has a pagan religous origin. Apples and eggs were very important to the British Isles' pagan religions, and Wassail has always been related to Christmas...or Winter Solstice, an important holiday for most pre-Christian religions.

Overall, it's been a fun little research project, and now I'm trying to decide if I take the next step! Should I make it...and more importantly, should I serve it! Lol!

See what you think...would you drink it if I make it!?!

Wassail by Alton Brown
6 small Fuji apples, cored
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup water
72 ounces ale
750 ml Madeira
10 whole cloves
10 whole allspice berries
1 cinnamon stick, 2-inches long
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 large eggs, separated

Don't try this without looking up the Foodnetwork show on how to do it (Part 1, Part 2)! Apparently, it takes a few special twists to get it to come out right.

Seriously, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


OK, so I spent too much time playing while I was designing the front of the bulletin cover...

But here is John 1:1-18, our Advent and Christmas Eve texts, in Wordle form! Click here if you want to Wordle!

Wordle: John 1:1-18

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Here are some great links to check out!!!

  1. If you've ever put yourself out there, you'll know this already. But, it never hurts for all of us to be reminded: You will be misunderstood. It's OK...Keep at it!!!!
  2. Interesting parable about ascetic theology from author Steve Taylor.
  3. Cathy Escobar's great blog has a good post about single parents.
  4. Andrew Conard lists some non-negotiables for church staffs. What do you think? What would you add? Subtract?
  5. Is Yoga compatible with following Jesus? Interesting thoughts by my least favorite attention...lover, Mark Driscoll, but I found myself unable to disagree with what he was saying.
  6. Apparently, the founder of the Tea Party movement isn't a fan of the United Methodist Church...and apparently, I'm not a big fan of him either after reading some of his other tirades!?!
  7. If you haven't seen the new translation app called "Word Lens" you're missing out on Star Trek being made real today! It instantly translates any words/signs/etc. you point at...check it out!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Silent Night

I'm a huge fan of Six Pence None the Richer. It seems they get what Christian music should be about, which is probably why they have had a rocky relationship with the industry. The following video is their rendetion of Silent Night. It is amazing. I love the angel smiling at 2:46. It made my day, and I hope it makes yours.

Btw, we're singing Silent Night to this to close out worship on Sunday...come join us if you can!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Peace on Earth

One of U2's great songs (aren't they all!?!) is Peace on Earth.

It asks the obvious question: How can we read and sing "Peace on Earth" when so much of our news, our politics, and our lives are full of anything but peace?

If the Christ Child came to bring peace or to announce peace, where is it? Did God fail to deliver? Is God lying? Is God even there?

Something that I have learned is that the greatest gifts I've received are the gifts that I must do. For example, the greatest gift I received from my parents is how to love and be loved. This love is not something that is just given fails to be what they taught if I only receive. The love they taught is a love that gives. What they gave me was giving. What they gave me was a giving of myself. The gift they gave was a gift I give.

I think the gift of the Christ Child is peace and goodwill; however, that peace isn't something that magically appears. It's not something that just happens.

The Peace of the Christ Child only happens when the birth of Jesus happens in our hearts and lives...when WE become peace and goodwill...when our lives and our selves offer peace.

Where is peace? It comes from the heart that receives the Christ Child. Do we want peace? We must live it! Do we want goodwill to all? Then we must live it!

"Heaven on earth...we need it now..."

May God be with the fathers and mothers who weep this Christmas for the sons and daughters lost to our insane violence. Amen.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Caution! Choices ahead!

As I was walking out of the local elementary school today, I got to the steps. I had a choice to make. If I took the right side of the railing, I would have a small bit of ice on every step. If I took the left side of the railing, I would have a lot of ice on the very first step, but hardly any on the others.

Once choice had small dangers all along, while the other had a big danger right up front...but with relative safety after that.

For some reason it struck me as the way of life (maybe it was the fact I was looking for something to blog on...who knows). We're constantly faced with choices. Some good, some bad. Some choices are neither good nor bad; rather, it's a weighing of decisions, small factors, who I am, who those in the decisions are, who gets impacted by my decision, and can I afford to lose the cost in light of the potential gain.

If you're curious, I took the bad first step. Bold, gutsy, full of danger...OK, so it was just a step, but then again, perhaps it was more than that...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lots of News

All of our friends are having babies! Mookie, Todd & Tamara, and a few others have had babies this month.

Of course, these children are destined for greatness as all November babies are. Congratulations to all of our friends! And, we're glad that everyone made it OK!

Btw, if you don't get the Song of Songs tag, read the book...

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Yesterday was an election day. Overall, I think there were some good things that came from the election. #1 being that Nancy Pelosi was removed from Speaker of the House...yikes! What an embarrassment to our nation! I'm very glad she's gone. #2 I'm glad that people are starting to take some ownership of the political process. The voters must speak discontent when the politicians aren't hearing us...or following through with our message.

However, I am appalled at the whimsical nature of this election: Basically, what came back was: We changed our mind, we don't want healthcare...we don't want higher taxes...we don't want to fix our economy. Afterall, those were the platform of the last election's winning party!

And it all boiled down to "my money." Here's some info for you, America: You payed less taxes last year than you have since 1950! Yes it's true, read about it here.

So you're expecting the American government to give you free stuff, fight wars over seas, build roads, educate your children, and they are supposed to do that without money? How?

Taxes aren't the's the spending. Yet, spending always is loved voters because we benefit from it...we just want it at someone else's expense. And right now, we lovely Americans are choosing to bankrupt our children and their children.

Here's to you voters! Getting for yourself, and ruining your children!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Back From Vacation!

I'm back from a much needed vacation. It was a wonderful time...

I went to two days of continuing education at Duke. It was awesome listening to N.T. Wright and Rob Bell share their insights and thoughts regarding God and ministry.

After that we stayed at a beach house on Topsail Beach, NC. Wow! It was really of all, some friends of ours owned it and blessed us with a gift of staying there with no cost. Talk about a great vacation :)

If you're interested in pics from Uncle John's funeral, Duke, our trip just click on each of the links for my FB page pics! Sorry, but you have to be my FB friend to see them...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Outdoor Dog

Our dog has a body odor problem. No, seriously, she really stinks. It's purely a dog smell. I'm pretty sure it's not an unhealthy or bad teeth smell. I think that just like some humans, our dog has B.O. issues.

And it isn't the greatest experience that she is an inside dog.

As the weather cooled down, we (read "I") took Lily outside. She has a little house, a fenced in living area, food, water, and a huge bathroom. At first, the kids and Lily were very disappointed. The kids cried, and Lily paced outside the door. I might've cried, too, but it was because the loss of stench made me happy.

After a few days, though, we do think everyone is happier. Our house smells better, the dog isn't making that annoying sound of drying off her tongue (yeah, it's weird, she likes a dry tongue), and she seems to be having fun being outside. I enjoy watching her gorge on grass, then barf it all up. Very exciting, we have a bulemic dog.

She chases bugs, barks at stray dogs, and sunbathes to her hearts content...You can see that she is much less stressed, and she is much happier. Proving something I already believed....dogs were never meant to live inside...and when we treat animals like animals and not people, every creature is happier.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


I'm always stunned at the wide variety of ways that people deal with conflict. I suppose I shouldn't be. People are different. There are lots of ways for people to be different. We speak different languages, live in different areas, have different cultures, have different families, and our genes even differ.

Here's my take on some different approaches to conflict that I've seen:
  • The Labrador - They just want to be friends, and as long as you feed and pet them, it'll be O.K. with them. Bad thing is...dogs smell.
  • The Turtle - They hide from conflict. Hoping that in time the conflict will go away, they hide, retreat, run away. Did you know that turtle soup is tasty...mmmmmm.
  • The Lion - They roar. They fight. They don't back down. Kings of the Jungle, they'll take on the world just to prove they're in charge. Interesting factoid: Lions don't live in jungles and the males don't hunt.
  • The Bulldog - To your face they get along....but leave the room, and they've jumped on the coach again. Don't trust a bulldog, yet, the irony is that they are amazingly loyal to their pack.
  • Frog - Oblivious to conflicts heating up, they get boiled in hot water. Contrary to rumors, frog meat is NOT good. It tastes like rubbery chicken dipped in fish oil.
  • Tazmanian Devil - They yell...lots...But, they're pretty harmless. Lots of bark and no bite.
  • The Homo Sapien - Conflict? [gun shot] What conflict? Homo Sapiens destroy everything in their path without regard to consequences.
  • The Human - Has the ability to speak. No really, humans can speak, talk through conflict, and find ways for everyone to have some gain. Again, speaking is the difference between humans and other homonids and animals.

One of my favorite parts of the book series Dune is when Paul Atreides is see if he's human...or just another animal.

Perhaps, it's a question we shouldn't take for granted...Most conflict is handled poorly.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Right...But, Oh So Wrong

President Obama finally came out and lent support to the legality of building a mosque in close proximity to Ground Zero. Correctly, he states that our Constitution does not allow us to discriminate against anyone based on religion. Barring the mosque's construction would be against the very fabric of American liberty and freedom.

However, what I cannot fathom is the Islamic community's insistence on the location of this mosque. Public outcry has certainly been vocal, yet respectful, in stating that building a mosque here is at best inappropriate...and at worst an outright insult to the victims of 9/11 and our nation.

I can only see two reasons why they would choose this sight, and both are terrible decisions. The first and less heinous is simply: This is the Muslim version of Selma; however, I don't think this will help the Muslim call for less discrimination in the USA. In fact, I believe that building a mosque on 9/11 grounds will only enflame an already contentious relationship between the Muslim community and the American populace.

Within Islam there is a concept called "Dar al-Islam," which means "The House of Islam." Anyone or any group that submits to the Islamic beliefs is within Dar al-Islam. If you are not a Muslim, you belong to a different group, "Dar al-Harb," which means "The House of War." Some (but definitely not all!!!) take this literally and believe that Islam is at war with a non-Muslim world. I pray that the mosque is not a flag planting, a sign of conquest. I don't believe this is the reason, but I also have witnessed some very disturbing manipulation by religious figures in other similar situations. Unfortunately, religion can bring out not only the best in us, but the worst as well. Muslim, Christian, atheist, etc., all religious views have done terrible things in the name of their gods. My prayer is that this mosque does not become a symbol of Islamic Terrorist "power."

In the end, I think that the Muslims desiring this mosque need to reconsider this site. If I could say one thing to them it would be: Have the decency and the compassion (and the common sense!?!) to choose a different location! In the long run you'll make more friends by saying, "You know, we don't want to make a situation worse, how can we work with the NYC community and the nation as a whole to help heal this wound?"

This is a classic example of how being "Right" can be so amazingly wrong.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Remember the Days...

Remember the days of Duck Hunt, Contra, even Donkey Kong?

They've been brought together in some stunning videos...

Mortal Combat with Donkey Kong

Contra Meets Duck Hunt

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Proving Once Again Purdue Is An "Almost" Away From Greatness

Long time Indiana native and Purdue fan, Brandon Dawson, who spoke highly of Purdue, committed to MSU yesterday.

A five star recruit that EVERYBODY wanted had Purdue and MSU on his shortlist. Most people believed that Purdue was a lock...Here's to assuming...

The Fumbles - Purdue @ ND 98'
The Missed FG's - Purdue vs. Georgia 98' (any one of 4 FG's would've won the game).
The Missed FG - Purdue@ OSU 93'
THE Fumble - Purdue vs. Wiscy 94'
The Tear - Purdue (BB) 10'

A long history of tragedy for Purdue sports...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

It's All In How You Say It...

Stephanie and I were talking at lunch today. In the middle of a story, I stumbled over the correct way to grammatically state something, and I had to stop and say it both ways until I figured out that I said it correctly the first time.

Trying to be funny I restated my communication, but lost the whole discussion:

I won't repeat exactly what I said because, well...It didn't sound good at all...even though I was saying the same thing a different way.

The point is this: There are right ways to say things and wrong ways. This is determined by several factors. Your clarity of verbal communication. Your clarity of nonverbal communication. And MOST importantly, the listener's understanding of your communication.

We can't communicate well until we understand how people understand what we are saying. Semantic range within culture and locale is very important. For example, here in the USA, asking for a napkin at the dinner table is normal. In London, this would be quite unexpected and rude. Same word, different meanings.

Funny thing is that this happens all the time, and IMHO is the reason behind most miscommunications.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I'm Hungry

I'm hungry. No, REALLY hungry. I've begun eating breakfast every morning, and now if I don't get it, which I didn't this morning, I'm starving.

Of course, when I read a blog post like this, it's all put into perspective.

I don't know hungry. I don't know thirsty. I don't know not having.

So when you hear me complaining, you can say, "Mark, you just don't know." (to which I'll probably reply, "You don't either, you jerk!", but that's a different Markan spiritual issue we'll deal with later).

God, may the only hunger and thirst your children ever have is for you.

PS - Thanks, Kara, for the blog post. I needed it today. You're the best!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Church & U2: Grace

Sermon Snip-It:

It's only been in the last few years of my own faith journey that I've begun to understand the true horror of karma [the 'baggage' of bad deeds that determine who you are]. It is to me the most evil side of religion. For its result is to wall away those that we humans deem unworthy, too dirty, too bad, or unloved by God. We wall them away, cast them aside, and pretend like they are not there...all around us. And brothers and sisters, let's not pretend that we aren't doing it, too, right here in [insert where you are]...

And that's what is so amazing about the message of Jesus: No karma. That's what's so amazing about Grace: No more karma. God doesn't hate you for what you've done. You don't deserve living in a slum. No one "earned" being disabled. Grace makes beauty out of everything. It was a revolutionary idea in Jesus' day, and it's just as big an idea today.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Church & U2: One

Sermon Snip-It:

The number one mission of the Church is to be the undoing of Babel, the curse that made one into many. The healing that flows from the Spirit of God through the Church brings the many to One.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Church & U2: She Moves In Mysterious Ways

Sermon Snip-It:

"The Spirit moves in mysterious ways that we can't always predict or understand, but we can rest assured that the Spirit of Power is at work and moving in our lives...."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Grouchy Smurf

I'm just now getting over my back pain flaring up again. This was the worst it has been, and it took a while to get over it this time.

Unfortunately, the pain is severe enough to really get to me. It makes me uncomfortable (obviously), unable to sleep, stresses me out, and over time wears me out.

All of this leads to grouchiness. Extreme grouchiness. I tend to go quiet until the grouchy-meter hits the point of blowing, and in those moments I snap...often at the kids, whose yelling, screaming, and willful defiance test me on good days.

I couldn't help but think of myself as Grouchy Smurf the last two weeks. I knew I was grouchy, there was little I could do about it.

God bless my beautiful wife for putting up with me, loving me, and being there even when I wasn't the most fun person to be around.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sermon Snip-It

From this Sunday there are some words I would like to share from my sermon...

Scripture Reading: Acts 1:1-11 (The Ascension of Christ)
Sermon: "Why Are You Standing Around?"

We aren't to be looking upward...We're to be looking forward. To be looking at the world around us, at the mission God has given us!

We have not been called to be followers of Jesus in order to stand around, sing songs, put on fancy clothes, or even to be nice. No, we have been bought with a price, redeemed, and called into the mission of God, bringing new life through Christ to all the world around us: Yes, in these walls, but also in our homes, at work, in our neighborhoods, at school, with our friends, with our family.

The Ascension reminds us that Jesus isn't here: BUT WE ARE!!! WE ARE!!!

Brothers and Sisters, we are called to be Jesus to a hurting a broken world. We are called to love with our words, our actions, and all that we have. The Body of Christ was not meant to stand around. It was meant to get busy.

Here we are. Here we remain. And, here, we are are called. Amen.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


We just finished confirmation classes. There were three girls who survived the classes, and they did a great job. While it's about learning, it's also about relationship building...that they would feel included and accepted as practicing members of their church. I loved it because it's the only confirmation class I've led where students invited their friends to come. Fun!

So, on Sunday, the ladies reaffirmed their baptism, took their confirmation vows, and I awarded them some "presents" to remind them of who they are in Christ.

Princess Tiaras for the daughters of the King.

Scepters and Rings symbolizing that all authority has been given to Christ, and as his ambassadors and followers, we too have authority. But with great authority comes great responsibility. church, home, school, work, etc.

Fruity candies to encourage them to bear much fruit.

Symphony Chocolate bars to remind them that last week we talked about God giving us a lifesong...but as members of THE Church, our life fits into something better than ourselves!

It was fun, and I hope it was a day that they won't forget for in ceremony is a truth: We all must accept Christ as Lord, renounce this world, and seek to live in love with God and neighbor. Today, publicly, they said this is what they wanted.

Ladies, may God grant you the courage, strength, and grace to live out those desires.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Uncle John

My Uncle John is one of the most interesting men I've ever met.

It's important to know that my mom was an "accident" (of which I'm especially grateful of) born to her mother at 40. Her siblings were the same age as my dad's parents, so that will help you connect timelines...

Uncle John fought in World War II. He was in the 2nd wave of the invasion of Iwo Jima. What he saw and experienced there has been recalled as some of the worst fighting American troops have experienced. He never talked about it much, but I remember he spoke of being on sentry duty one night after the island was taken. An asian man began walking toward the line he was guarding. In Japanese and English he yelled out, "Stop or I'll fire!" The man's response was to start running toward him. In the moment of saying this Uncle John's eyes betrayed that he wasn't in Indiana anymore; rather, he was far he continued, "So I shot him." And the story ended with a long quiet. He is one of our veterans who defended the world, and though he did his duty, he was reluctant to be the warrior.

On the GI bill, Uncle John studied Aeronautics and Aerospace Engineering. He went on to work for NASA. He was responsible for solving a major fuel mixing issue with the Gemini project. He also helped design some of the electronics of the shuttle. His last big project was helping with the Hubble telescope. I always remember him bringing pictures and talking about NASA (because I'd always ask). I loved when he'd send patches to me. I still have a couple of them. He oozed intelligence, American ingenuity, and a proud Builder sense of accomplishment.

I write this in honor of Uncle John, who today is suffering from Alzheimer's. A once proud intellectual has trouble doing the simplest of tasks. A responsible man is now dependent upon his wife to take care of him in every aspect of life. Here's to you, Uncle John. Thank you for the inspiration to love learning, to love exploration and space, and to believe in the power of the "can-do" attitude.

My God grant you release.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Isaiah Reading

My son, Isaiah, officially read for the first time last night! We've been working on letters and sounds and some words.

Last night Stephanie pulled out beginners' reading material, and I sat down with him to read. He read two books "Matt" and "Sam" all by himself!!!

As I posted on FB, it was a sacred moment for me. From this day forward, Isaiah will never be the same. The wealth of human knowledge passed on through millenia is now open to him through something we take for granted: Reading.

Being an amateur student of languages, I've experienced the difficulty of learning to read and write in new ways as an adult. I've also experienced the awe of having new information being opened up to me by learning a new language and writing style.

"Matt" and "Sam" are the beginning of an adventure for Isaiah. Interestingly, he and Sophia during the night will pull books out of their bookshelves and bring them to bed. When we come into their rooms in the morning there might be 5-10 books in bed with them. They love books. They love stories, and right now they do their best to put the stories together through the pictures...

And now, Isaiah will be putting together the stories with a whole new set of tools: Words. From now on, those books will be read. Most of all, Isaiah has begun the process of self-learning. He will no longer be dependent upon another person showing him or telling him (orally). Now he can read and figure things out on his own.

My little homo sapien is developing, and I couldn't be prouder.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Easter TV: CSI Miami

I'm using this clip Sunday morning to help illustrate the historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus.

The Resurrection is not something we believe blindly; however, it is something we believe by faith. Did you know that NOTHING is historically "provable?" Prove George Washington lived without relying on someone saying he did. The first step to historical research is understanding and rating the trustworthiness of your sources.

The resurrection of Jesus is found in all four Gospels, in the Epistles, and in other Early Christian literature. Christian claims are prevalent in Roman texts without firsthand dispute. That's fairly strong textual evidence!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Sunday Communion

We used a beautiful, poetic communion liturgy for Easter Sunday.

Thanks to Johnny Baker for getting this liturgy started...

The word became flesh,
and the flesh becomes bread.

Today the bread becomes the body,
and the body becomes the word.

For God is bread,
and the bread is broken.

His pain becomes wine,
and this wine becomes our joy.

The wine bursts the wineskins,
just as God bursts out of the tomb.

The stone rolls away...
Bread breaks into song...
As together we shout:

"Hallelujah! Christ is risen today!"

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Post-Palm Sunday Reflections

Palm Sunday must be important. It is one of the few events recorded in all four Gospels.

What makes it so important? It is the message Jesus is sending, which is often misunderstood and too often taught incorrectly.

The story has Jesus riding a donkey into Jerusalem. The Jesus' followers and even the crowds began cheering. They were offering up the interwoven spiritual and nationalistic cheers for this donkey riding rabbi. Luke has the Pharisees telling Jesus to quiet the crowds to which Jesus responds that even if he did, the stones would cry out.

So what's happening? Let's put the story into the context in which it occurred. First, we must remember that Jesus is Jewish. Jerusalem's people are Jewish. The religious leaders are Jewish. So it strikes me that we should look at this event through Jewish eyes to understand it (which most do not ironically).

The first mistake people make is the very reason Jesus is riding a donkey. Jesus rides the donkey NOT to be humble. On the contrary, he rides the donkey to elicit praise and adoration. From the O.T. tradition, the kings of Israel rode donkeys. Yes, Zechariah has a verse about riding the donkey in humility, but the very image of the donkey is one of kingship. So, when Jesus rides a donkey into Jerusalem, he is in fact making a startling claim: He is King and worthy of praise.

The second mistake is what this does to the crowds. They are not worshiping Jesus as the Son of God. They are adoring a challenger to Rome. In Jesus (or anyone willing to lead them), the Jews saw a possibility of overthrowing the Romans. As this young, popular leader takes the mantle of leadership/kingship by riding the donkey, the people cheer for they want the oppression, the taxation, and the humiliation of Roman occupation to end. The crowds are cheering a hero-to-be. They want a military coup, and symbolized by donkey, Jesus is a tantalizing possibility.

The third mistake is continues this same theme. The Pharisees are not asking Jesus to avoid being adored. They are begging Jesus to not rouse the attention and anger of the Romans. Potential Messiahs had come and gone...each leading failed rebellions against the Romans, and each one leaving the Jewish people in a worse position as the Roman military tightened the vice on Palestine. This is, from a historical perspective, the reason why Jesus is crucified. He was a threat to Rome. The Jewish leaders were quick to hand him over to the Romans as a peace offering. What an irony for that is exactly what he was.

What is at stake in this scene is the Kingship of Jesus. Notice that this is all the Romans are concerned with during the trial and crucifixion: "Are you the King of the Jews?"

Jesus riding the donkey made that claim, and the people spread their palms out before him. Yet, just a few days later those same people were apathetic or fleeing or even condemning Jesus to death.

I cannot hold a palm on Palm Sunday without thinking of Ash Wednesday for I see in the palm waving in my hand the sin and betrayal of Jesus I have and will commit even while I wave it in worship of Him. The tension of the Sunday is hard to hold, and maybe it helps us understand the Grace we live with...for every day we worship Jesus we also end up betraying him. It's nothing new.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Holy Week Thoughts

Today at the Men's Tuesday Morning Breakfast, we talked about Jesus in the Garden of Gathsemane (read Matthew 26:36-46 here). It takes place on Thursday of Holy Week, after the Last Supper, late in the evening.

It is such a fascinating scene. The Divine Word made flesh praying in the Garden that God's Will would be done...Why? Because, the very human Jesus does not want to endure the Cross. "If there's any other way?...But, I will do whatever you will, Father God."

It is the loneliest of scenes in all of Scripture. Yes, Jesus' friends and students all fell asleep instead of staying awake and praying for him, but I think it's more than that. On the eve of arguably Jesus' most important day, he's not so sure. The Cross is closer than ever before. The betrayal is closer than we would expect. The comfortability of the now is more tangible than ever. Today, worship, teaching, and friendship. Tomorrow, suffering, despair, and death.

Too often we dehumanize Jesus. It's actually a long standing idea: Jesus was too good, too perfect, too divine to be like us. "There's no way that Jesus got tired, smelly, irritated, cranky, angry, or even scared." Yet, the Scripture says that he was fully human. Just like us, and so he must have had the same feelings that we have.

Jesus was scared in the Garden. Reluctant to give up all the things we take for granted, I believe he knew what was coming, and he didn't want to do it. But, he did want to do what God called him to do. I think that is what I take away from the Garden: Jesus' love for God was so strong that he would do anything God called him to do...Sounds obvious! Of course Jesus would! Yet...

Often I find myself not wanting to do what I know I'm called to do: To leave the comfort of my bed at 2 a.m. to pray and talk with someone in the mist of a crisis that words cannot fix. To turn the other cheek when people are intentionally hurting me. To apologize for hurting someone else. In these moments, I hear the struggle happening in my heart: You don't want to do this...You don't HAVE to do this...You don't DESERVE this.

I'm positive that Jesus felt the same way, except those things were way more true of him!

So when I taste that moment, I know that I have tasted just a tiny speck of Jesus' night in the Garden. This helps me to understand just how unobvious the temptation really was for Jesus, how human he really was, and, ultimately, how much the Father loves you and me: He loves us enough to put Jesus through this. Enough that when Jesus begged for something different, God stuck to the plan.

In the Gardens of our lives, my prayer is that we might find the strength in our hearts to love God and follow Him...wherever the Spirit may lead.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Excerpt Regarding the Cross

The following is an exerpt from the April Newsletter...

The Cross of Jesus is about death. Scriptural claims that Jesus died as an atonement for the world’s sin. It was a substitution death. His death for our death. However, the Cross stands as a symbol of our death, too…a death to sin, a death to shame and guilt, and even a death to ourselves and our selfishness. The Cross is literally a garbage heap for all of our sin, shame, and internal “junk”. When Jesus suffered and died on the Cross, he took all of that “junk” and it died on the Cross with him. It’s sad that so often we put gold on our crosses for the Cross is ugly, horrid, and deadly. We should see it no other way. It truly is a symbol of everything ugly in humanity.

And everything beautiful about God.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Proud of the Boilers

Purdue was knocked out of the NCAA tournament last night in a good game against Duke. The officiating wasn't terrible aside from moving screens and headlocks and goal tending not being called, but the big difference was the talent and size of Duke.

Kudos to a 29 win team, Big Ten Champs, and an impressive resume despite the amazingly unlucky nature of the year: Three very serious injuries to two starters (PG Lewis Jackson and SF Robbie Hummel) and one promising back-up (PF/C Sandi Marcius).

With Moore and JJ saying they will return, only a major bout of injuries should sideline this team from at least a Final Four.

With Carroll and the two Johnsons coming in, this team might be very, very special next year.

Thanks to Chris Kramer and Keaton Grant for coming to Purdue at its lowest and leaving it at a very high level that continues to climb! You both were the heart and soul of Purdue basketball for these last four years. Keaton's shooting and Kramer's taking over a game with defense will sorely be missed...yet, their hard work has laid the foundation for a program ready to earn the "elite" status.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Another Game...

...another Big East loss!

I'm sure after the tournament, we'll hear all about why the Big East really is good but somehow the stars were aligned against them in the tournament.

Wake up talking heads! The Big East is NOT the best conference in the nation. It only scores the most points. One problem: Some schools actually play defense.

In the Coastal NBA love-fest, the sports media doesn't understand that defense and fundamentals still matter in college basketball. Butler gets it. Northern Iowa gets it. The Big Ten gets it.

Now if only Purdue can pull the upset tomorrow night. It doesn't look good on paper. Three high scorers. A forest of big men. Several McDonald's All-Americans. Coach K. The name: Duke.

But, we have heart. Go Boilers!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sweet 16, Baby!!!

Wow, what a game!

Purdue, the most hated team by analysts world-wide, is proving the critics wrong. Chris Kramer pulled out one of his best games. As Larry Krisbee said over the radio, "Chris Kramer has written himself in the books as a Purdue legend."

Good for Chris.

Now for what I consider the best team in the tournament: Duke. I was worried about them before we lost Robbie. I hope Purdue proves me wrong, but I think we will really struggle against Duke.

But, then again, this team has proved everyone (except Purdue fans) wrong so far!!!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

NCAA Night #2

ESPN experts: Big East is the best league in the nation. Big Ten overrated, not that good.

Big East Tournament Record: 4-4 (including a close game with questionable officiating for a win of #2 Villanova over a #15, and of course #3 Georgetown getting embarrassed).

Big Ten Tournament Record: 4-1 (with the one loss being the 7th best team in the BT).

Upset of the year: Purdue over the mighty, powerhouse of Sienna. How Purdue managed to overcome the sure defeat by such an overwhelming opponent is amazing...or at least that's what we heard all week. CBS "experts" went so far as to say, "Is picking Sienna really even an upset?" To that I reply....

I have some college friends who host a nationally recognized Purdue blog...The language is a bit suspect, but I think some of the recent content adequately summarizes how every Purdue fan feels...I'll let them say it here.

Friday, March 19, 2010

What Is Wrong With Our People?

I have been generally supportive of the Obama administration with the exception of ramming the health care bill through. That being said, there was a CNN news story that sadly demonstrates how easily we USAmericans are willing to give up our freedom of speech.

In this story, a teacher in a poor, Hispanic school, hampered by assanine statistical assessments based off a dreamland understanding of learning, tied a string to the feet an effigy of President Obama holding a sign saying to fire all of the teachers in the school (mass firings are in the works).

It was not a "hanging" or "lynching" as the media are "innocently" suggesting by using the word "hang". The doll was hung by its feet. It is not a hate crime. It is a political statement against a bad policy. Yet, the superintendent is blazing a trail toward firing the teacher with as much media spotlight as possible. Granted, I've yet to meet a school superintendent that I liked, but the Gestapo is alive and well if a teacher can't argue against the President of the USA in his classroom...especially on behalf of his students well-being.

Even more appalling is that the media are giving this superintendent airtime. By shutting down free speech, marching lock step with popular opinion, and putting on a farce of a disciplinary action, this superintendent hearkens back to a different era...My hope is that the teacher fights for his rights in this case for this case is not about a teacher...It's about our freedom to Rage Against the Machine.

America is doomed if we so easily give up our rights and our thoughts.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

NCAA Night #1

Phrase of the night...Phrase of the year...Phrase of the last two years...

The Big East is WAY overrated. Plain and simple, this league does not play disciplined basketball. Their defense is suspect, they turn the ball over, and they don't play smart. It really is a shame Villanova won, or it could've been a perfect start to the tournament.

So far my brackets are looking pretty good, though Vandy broke my heart and my Sweet 16.

Tomorrow, the Big Ten teams get some PT. I have two Big Ten teams in the Final Four (OSU and Wiscy), and I have a "shocker" if I'm correct: Five Big Ten teams in the Sweet 16. That's right. Five for the underrated conference that knows how to play ball.

Kudos to Ohio University...Only you thought you could do it, and you did. Great job!

Sick & Sicker

Well, the whole family is sick...Some of us have the respiratory stuff. Others of us have...well, the OTHER stuff!

I hate being sick, and I especially hate being sick to my stomach. It's funny how I haven't had "stomach flu" for years, and then we had kids. Bam! Every year now. Ugh. I wanted to commit seppuku at one point, but I think the worst is over now.

Poor Sophie was coughing so hard that she puked last night. Everywhere...Over everything...

Usually I'm the one to clean up the mess, but I had to defer to Steph. After a few failed attempts and a couple of heaves herself, I jumped into the fray, arms deep in puke and saved the night.

Moral of the story: Despite all this, I received a great treasure: A night spent on the couch holding my daughter, having her hug me and say, "You're the best daddy ever!" Despite the puke, the coughing, and the OTHER stuff, it was a precious moment.

Side note: I'm ready to not be sick.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Carl Jung & the Bible

I was looking for a quote attributed to Joseph Campbell. In reality, it was Campbell quoting Carl Jung, famous psychoanalyst. It comes from Campbell's The Power of Myth. It is so very wonderful: "Religion is a defense against religious experience."

If nothing else, that is the nugget for the day; however, in reading this article regarding an analysis of Answering Job by Jung, it dawned on me a very important point that I've always felt, but never heard articulated: The Bible must stay together, lest we turn God into a horrid beast, sub-human, something less than worthy of our worship.

Jung argues that the God of the book of Job is amazingly self-serving. God allows ha-satan, the adversary in Hebrew...something akin to " the prosecutor," to set a wager of Job's response. Jung uses the word "bamboozles." All in all, Jung, a believer in God (not necessarily the God of orthodox Christianity...but shaped by the Church and Scripture), makes some blasphemous statements...

But, I had a hard time arguing with him...I wanted to, but there are some really crazy things in that book. That got me started on the book of Joshua....more crazy things. Yet, each of these books have some beautiful things, too.

I think perhaps what Jung is pointing to is the incarnational nature of Scripture. Job was never meant to stand alone. It is a book of a community talking about suffering. Joshua was book of national identity and power. The book of Judges is about survival. The Gospels are books of hope and salvation. The Epistles are about community conduct (ironically so are Numbers, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy).

Taking a glimpse of God given to us by these inspired men and women allows us only to see in St. Paul says, "We see through the mirror dimly..."

Looking at the Bible as such takes some faith because it's not neat, pretty, and concise. It takes work, hope, and faith to see the God of the Universe behind the pages, behind the stories.

It takes courage to sit through the argumentation of having a book like Ezra in the same Bible as Ruth....or the Epistle of James alongside St. Paul's writings.

Jung and Campbell are men I love to converse with (through their writings...they're both dead), and I often leave conversations with them provoked, disturbed, and questioning...

And for that I thank God for them, for their minds, and for their courage to write uncomfortable questions and thoughts...I also thank God for the Spirit giving me the courage to cling to faith and question at the same time.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Creativity and Busy-ness

I have been sparse in my blogging recently...busy-ness is a part of it, but to be honest, my creative juices just haven't been flowing.

I remember one of my senior pastors told me one time that associate pastors always have more creative ideas because senior pastors are immersed in the details while the associates get to sit back and look at everything from a distance. At the time, I scoffed, but I think I'm eating some of that scoff right now...

It kinda has me thinking...what is creativity? Where does it come from? Why are there some days when it all comes so easily, when there are other days that it's impossible to pull an idea?

I think being creative requires intentional, hard work. Last week I took three days to be intentional about laying out sermon series and schedules for the year. My first day I finished one series...ONE! It was frustrating, but rewarding. I was able to take time to really think through some issues we need to deal with, how God's Word applies to those situations, how do we apply that Word, and lastly, creative vehicles to communicate that Word in tangible and receivable ways.

I stayed at home to have total quiet, total concentration, and absolutely no interruptions. It was worth it because as I went, it got easier, and soon I had until September planned out...with some nifty sermon series in there I might add!!!

Perhaps, I just need to be more intentional about blogging now!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

New District Superintendent Coming

Dale Mendenhall has been the Muncie District Superintendent for several years. Dale is a great guy, an awesome "boss", and a wonderful peer (in a profession that lacks peer sociality). I was very sad to see him moving back to the pastorate...but at least it's close!

That being said, we have a new DS coming. Click here to read more about David Byrum.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Year, New Plans...New Plans!?!

I like a plan. In fact, I don't do much without a plan or an idea of what I want to accomplish/do, how I would like things to go, and about how I'm going to do it.

One of the things that I like to plan are my sermons. I usually plan them at least 6 months out. I try to be flexible, so things change along the way...But, I really like to have a "Master Plan" to guide me. It keeps me on track, accountable, and I think it adds substance to the concept that we as a church are trying to align with the vision God has given our church. Shouldn't the sermon planning augment vision goals!?!

That being said and to quote Top Gun, "I'm on vapors!" I planned to the end of 2009 with an eye to use the lectionary in January 2010. However, I am going to a few days to sit down and plan out the year.

It's more than just a sermon schedule though...To do it right (in my mind at least), it has to take into account what other teams in the church have planned....UMW, Missions, Education, etc.

So, as I meet with people this January, it becomes important for all of us to be thinking ahead and asking God what He is calling us to this New Year of 2010!