Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

Like a Wild Ass at Home in the Wilderness

That's the working title for a book chapter I am working on.  I'm writing about fidelity in the age of a hypersexualized, consumer driven culture.  The title of the chapter a reference to Jeremiah 2: 24, where Israel is described as a donkey in heat, sniffing the air with unrestrained lust.  I'll perhaps turn to a discussion on sexual fidelity being a celebration of relationship, vs. sexual “freedom” being the enslavement to the animal appetite.  I've been reading Rob Bell's Sex God, CS Lewis's chapter on marriage and sex in Mere Christianity, and a I've read this review of Raymond Ortland's Whoredom: God's Unfaithful Wife in Biblical Theology.   Looks good.  Anyway, that's why you have had no posts.  Does that topic sound interesting to you?  I begin with Jesus' passage to "pluck" (that word is so graphic--I always visualize a fork popping an eye right out of the socket with this noise as my mental soundtrack.) out the eyeball if it causes you lust after another.  By the way, as I was trying to find a link with that sound, I stumbled upon this.  Kinda cool.  I've used it before to get the sounds of pigs feeding for a prodigal son experiential worship setting for the Muskogee district confirmation for a couple of years now.  Well.  Back to the grindstone.  

Monday, November 24, 2008

Is God mean like Captain Hook?

Actually, "is Dod mean like Captain hook," asked Wesley (with his mouth full of Cocoa Puffs) as he thrust his crow's nest from his pirate ship at me across the dinner table.

"No," I said, "God is really nice." (Even though my recent sermon prep. has taken me through Leviticus and Joshua, so I kind of smirked at my own simple answer, considering if I were a Canaanite, I would indeed think God was like Captain Hook, or worse, but hey, the kid's three.)

"Because God loves us?" asked/stated Wesley, more a statement to be confirmed than a question to be answered.

"Yes, God loves us very much."

"But Captain Hook doesn't love anybody?"

"Hmmm.. I don't know. Maybe he loves Smee. But, do you think anyone loves Captain Hook?"

"I don't know."

"Well, maybe that's his problem! Maybe he just wants to be loved."

"Like Darth Bader?"

"Mmmm hmmm, like Darth Vader."

(Wesley wanted to see what Darth "Bader" looked like under his mask, so I cued up the scene from Return of the Jedi, and it opened up a whole world for Wesley about how sometimes villains are good on the inside and just need to be loved. I've always loved the bad guys.)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Excuse for minimal posting in Nov.

I've been enjoying these kinds of things, and that hasn't left much time to write.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


Did you know one original use of blogs was to keep track of links and make them available when you were away from your home computer's "add to favorites?"  I'm gonna do that now.  Feel free to connect yo-self.

By the way, I'm finally getting to achieve my dream for the past 6 or 7 years of sitting at a table picking Jonny Baker's brain.  Jealous?  

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The final countdown...

That song always gets stuck in my head in times like these.  Sorry for the long hiatus, but we're anticipating the birth of our daughter Julianna Lee any day now, so we've been making lots of preparations, and haven't had time to blog really.  We went to the OB today, and after doing some measurements (which aren't that accurate, but oh well) said that JuLee was about 8 pounds already--he predicted 1o pounds if we got to due date (Nov. 7).  So he let us know that if we wanted to induce, it would go lickity split.  Lara's "readings" are favorable for a quick delivery, but perhaps we're just being overly optimisic.  She had about a 18 hour labor with almost 4 hours of pushing with WG--but every pregnancy is different, right!  

So now we decide if we want to "schedule" her birth or not.  There are definate pros (like getting her out before she is gigantic), but then there's an odd feeling to tampering with nature and the "due course" of things too.  (Of course, we don't feel weird getting an epidural).  So--look forward to photos sometime soon!  Maybe not next week, but maybe so.  

Monday, September 29, 2008

A place that makes sense

I wanted to pass along this great article by Bill McKibben I found in the Christian Century.  It's about a community close to Stockholm that is virtually waste free.  I like the idea of putting my bananna peels in a pneumatic tube that whooshes them away into some community compost pile.  That sounds like a lot of fun.  It reminds me of the laundry shoot that my friend Brandon and I used to send our He-men down at his house.   That's why I wanted to live in a two story house--so I could have a luandry shoot.  So far, the dream remains a dream.  

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My new name

According to the "Sarah Palin baby name generator," I'd be Chalk Revelations Palin.  Hahaha.  I love that it's "Revelations" instead of "Revelation."  That's funny.  Wesley Garrett would be Wesson Scalper.  Yikes.  I'm leaving it to Lara to have fun with her name and Julianna Lee (who's on the way in Nov.)  Not too late to change her's to a Palinesqe Jinx Lounger or something like that.  

Missing Los Angeles theaters

When the weather is a perfect 70 degrees, I miss Los Angeles, where the weather is like that most of the time.   One thing I loved about living in Los Angeles was going to the movies in theaters that had real character and history and lore and beauty.   One of my favorites was the Majestic, just south of Wilshire on Westwood Blvd.  There's a beautiful backlit mural of the Hollywood Hills and Westwood that glows during the showing of the movie.  I think I saw Finding Nemo and the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind there.  I tried and tried to find a photo of that for you, but as far as I can tell, they are just "coming soon."  

Another great theater is the Fox Westwood Village
This is where most of the premiers are when you see Hollywood stars walking in on the red carpet.  It is beautiful inside and out (as evidenced by the photos.)  Mission revival architecture, and a big star of david on the ceiling in the theater. 
 I think we saw the Lord of t
he Rings movies there, waiting in line with fans dressed like all the characters.  
This one was
 convenient too, cause it was a block away from the UCLA medical center (where Lara worked).   

The El Capitan theater, on Hollywood Blvd, just opposite the famous Chinese Theater, isn't spectacular from the outside, but inside is something else.  
Disney owns this theater and they use it to premier all their features.  It's weird to see Sleeping Beauty 
and Cars right next to 
scuzzy Hollywood shops hawking sex toys.  We saw the premier of Pirates of the Caribbean here.   Oh, they also have a house organist who plays before the film rolls.    

Oh, and if this is your kind of thing, there's a website called "Cinema Treasures" that I've enjoyed visiting.  They have the story of historic theaters, with photos, for theaters around the country.  They even have a profile on our local "Orpheum" in Okmulgee, OK!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

It's just a motto

One of Andrew Thompson's articles about the UMC slogan "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors," has always stuck with me. I understand where Andrew is coming from, but his perspective is a little more rigid than mine (an influence of the cantankerously brilliant Hauerwas on Andrew, I would guess) Not that you can't have your own opinion, Andrew--just making a connection, that's all.
Well, I ran across an article today in the Oklahoma Contact that gave me the confidence that appealing to our motto in matters of debate and doctrinal discussion is not ill founded. Whether it came from an Ad-agency or the Holy Spirit--others think of our church in this way, obviously. The article tells of a fatality accident on I40 involving a young Jewish girl on her way home from college in California. When her distrought father searched for help--he googled the local Methodist church nearest his daughter's accident because
"Aren't you the open doors and open hearts church? You people do things like this to help others, don’t you?’"

Brack assured Neuman the church members would do whatever they could.

It may not be hard-boiled dead german white guy theology, it may come off as mamsy-pamsy anything goes religion to critics--but it worked in conveying the heart of the church to this man. That's the power of the Gospel.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Near Death Experiences

I'm listening to a pretty good interview on Studio Tulsa with Sam Barnia, a guy who is a contributor to National Geographic program on the subject airing soon. He's a director of the "mind/body" symposium of researchers, doctors, etc. I suppose anyone who'd living is somewhat interested in what it is like to die--since it's a ride we're all in line for. The descriptions of out of body experiences and traveling toward a light or through a tunnel are intriguing. I read a book called "The Brief History of the Dead," that had a lot of great imagry about the body transforming into the spirit body. I'm also looking forward to reading Spook I really enjoyed her earlier book, Stiff: The Curious lives of human cadavers. Interested in a quircky, good read--well there you go.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Getting caught up on films

During the late summer, I've always seemed to find my way to the library or video store to check out some movies that have slipped by without me seeing. (After my senior year of high school, this practice got me several dates with the foxy video store girl. I distinctly remember trying to look for movies that would impress an older, more sophisticated woman. I guess it worked!) Now that I'm married with silver hairs (Lara loves to point them out.) , my interest in getting dates with the video store girl has waned, and I settle for turning the Tulsa public library website into a free version of Netflix. Here are some that I've seen.

There Will be Blood--Danial Day Lewis is his usual brilliant self. The movie is sparse (first 15 minutes go by without a word) but with a great story filled with sawdust and oil.

Thank You for Smoking-- Aaron Eckhart (sp) is a tobacco lobbyist and a mentor to his son. I love his self perception as one who defends the right for people to make their own minds up about things. Very funny movie.

No Country for Old Men--The new face of the grim reaper! I got into this one and can see why it won the Oscars that it did. I felt edgy and pursued the whole time I was watching, and because I broke it up over lunch and later in the evening, I felt edgy and pursued all day.

The Children of Men--Okay, it was my second time on this one, but had to skim through it again, specifically for two shots--the long long long shot (like 7 or 8 minutes of action without a cut!) of Clive Owen and Julianne Moore getting attacked on that country road, and for the scene with the seige on the projects and "Key" carrying out the first baby born on Earth in 27 years--it's quite a good metaphor for the Nativity, I'd say.

Darjeeling Limited--I'm a big fan of Wes Anderson, and this is the only film of his not in my collection. First one I also did not see in the theater. Well--having kids'll do that to you. This seemed a lot like Bottle Rocket to me, with Owen Wilson playing a similar character: Idealistic schemer set on bringing about a reunion and living life to its fullest. Wes really dresses up the set and background (which he's been doing since the Royal Tannenbaums, I'd say). But set in the visually rich and colorful world of India, his palette has grown larger. That's where he seems to pour his increasing budgets for his films. It's like a kid who keeps getting a bigger crayon box until he finally has the huge-assed one with the crayon sharpener.

If my reviews are lacking something you want--sorry, go to IMDB

on the high seas

I never liked these, but Wes said he wanted to go on it, and mom is preggers, so that leaves me. You can call me Ishmael. Oh, and uh...yeah, that's me. And Wesley loved it--we rode it no less than 10 times.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Best summary on the value of doubt I've heard

In a recent interview in the Christian Century, author Ron Hansen crystalized what I've always thought in an unspoken cloud of ideas. The question is about his new book based on Gerard Manley Hopkins (a poet I've always loved). Now I've requested the book from the library--it's called Exiles. Anyway, the question and answer are as follows:
When people think of Hopkins they often think first of his faith. But he also wrestled with doubt.
I have a priest friend who points out that the opposite of faith is not doubt but certainty. I think God intended that--it is a way of making us creative instead of smug in our belief. God plants in us the seed to love and worship God, and the seed is enough to make us want to seek God out, but not enough to fully get there. That reaching, that striving, is what God is really interested in--that creative activity that all of us should pursue.

Amen Bro. Hansen--I'm gonna comment on Jeremy's "one minute sermon" post that this would be my entirely borrowed one minute sermon.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Eucharistic Theology in Film

I finally watched a movie that had been suggested to me by one of my mentors years ago. It is the Oscar winning Danish film from 1988, Babette's Feast. (that link is IMDB--wikipedia gives away a plot point that I wish I had been surprised with, although knowing it while watching the film was somewhat enjoyable too). There are many beautiful aspects of the film, but what appealed to me was viewing the film as an analogy of the Eucharist--something that important plot point that I found out about before the film hammers home). I won't give you all the details, because maybe you haven't seen it and would like to watch it without spoilers. But, you should check it (Tulsa Library had it) out and comment below. One thing it portrays is the Protestant struggle with Pietistic dualism. Nothing illustrates better the broad indictment of life contained in the words of Ecclesiastes, "Vanity, Vanity, All is vanity," than when they come in this film. Also, I don't know that I've seen a more poignant symbol of the Eucharist than what is in this film. I'll give you a few days to watch before I go to the comments and analyze more deeply. (so if you don't want to have any more info about the movie than this before watching, don't click on the comments if there are any there.) Don't be like me and wait years to watch this one!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Theology of Potty Training

I was reading this parenting book that Lara had read and found helpful, and it sparked some theological thinking. The passage read as follows:

“If guilt is an ice cube, shame is an iceberg: it’s in the same basic category, but it’s bigger, goes deeper, and can do a lot of damage. Guilt goes along with remorse, and tends to be associated with a particular act of misbehavior. Shame, on the other hand, tends to pervade the entirety of the person in question. Shame goes along with disgrace and humiliation. Whereas a person feeling guilty can rouse himself to make amends, a person feeling shame has a much more difficult task.

Shame has to do with a feeling of being wrong, stupid, bad, inept. Shame is the hot potato of mental states: No one wants to be left holding it for long. No sooner do we find ourselves with it than we set about to find some way to hand it off to someone else. There is no wrong without right, stupid without smart, bad without good, or inept without competent. IF you are to get rid of shame—itf you are to feel right or smart or good or competent—then someone else has to be assigned these other, less desireable qualities. As such, shame tends to travel from person ot person. It gets handed off.

(Dana Chidekel, Parents in Charge: Setting Healthy, Loving Boundaries for your Child. New York: Citadel, 2002, 206.)

That got me thinking about Christ taking our shame at the cross, the most shameful way of dying that was available to the God-man. After dying in humiliation, even uttering an unanswered plea to Elijah, he is buried with the shame of the world, and he leaves it there. We can turn over our shame to God, because God has willingly taken it. 1st Peter 2: 6 says “For in Scripture it says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame." We can put a halt to the endless “passing” of our shame to others by giving it up to God. God fully takes that shame in the form of a cross, and rises from shame and death to show us our potential as “re-born” beings. Chidekel states that “Babies do not feel shame.” And then makes a good case for tying shame, which kicks in during the toddler years, to a legacy of toilet training.” As for the soteriological aspect of the freedom from shame, We can be re-born into the world, free of shame…like an infant. We can be saved from shame by yielding this one most private and personal emotion to God

Chidekel states about shame,

“Shame seems to be hard-wired into humans. While someone can certainly set out intentionally to make you feel ashamed, shame will arise in the absence of another’s conscious intent to inspire it within you.”

The author says that shame is seemingly “hard-wired” into us. Perhaps the concept of shame and the concept of the “original sin” are the same. The story tells us that after eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve cover themselves “in shame.” God’s action in the cross is said to be the “equal and opposite reaction” of the shame that is inherent in the human condition. God is offering us a freedom from our shame by taking that shame from us. The only way to stop the cycle of shame, to stop perpetuating it onto those whom we love, is to yield the shame to God and understand that we’re not created to bear it. It is alien to our core as Good Creation.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Poem from the Christian Century: As I sleep

This caught my eye and then my soul.

Turning as I sleep, I take
Across my eyes the silent words
Sung by our old sun's golden birds--
They hope I will awake.

Learning, I have longed to shake
An apple from the sacred tree
That sings sleep into unity--
Before my true day-break:

Yearning, at the end, to make
My entrance in a gown of light
Woven of day, woven of night--
Hearing, at last, "Awake!"

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Treehouse Rock

I've been on a treehouse kick recently, I suppose, since I blogged about the treehouse chapel idea yesterday. Couldn't get enough of browsing thru treehouse images, and came across the world's largest treehouse in Alnwick Garden, in Northumberland. Looks like a good vacation destination for the future.  The Alnwick Garden in England has the world's largest treehouse.

6000 feet would be big enough for a whole college religious life center! The frame of mind that treehouses inspire would just seem to lend itself to a place of worship, dontcha think?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The church I'd build

I came across a note I had made to myself some years ago when I used to carry around a day planner. It said, "Chapel Idea--small chapel built in a tree. A treehouse chapel. Icons Painted on Walls."

What a good reminder. I haven't built a treehouse chapel yet, but I had a dream not too long ago that I do someday. What better place to worship than a treehouse? The loftiness, the views, the unique feel of the closeness of the structure to the tree (with the best treehouses incorporating the tree in the interior of the house, in my opinion.) to me engenders a natural feeling of the soul's closeness and being infused by the Divine.

Doubtful this would ever fly in Oklahoma though--maybe the Pacific Northwest would be a good home for a treehouse chapel. I think in the dream it was in Florida.

Since then, I bought a book called Remarkable Trees of the World, and found that it has actually been done in France. The Chapel Oak in Normandy, built in 1696 (the Oak was a sacred relic for centuries before that) . I like elements of all the other treehousese pictured too, and the chapel would likely be a combination of all of them. Haven't decided if I'd use stained glass, only clear glass, or a combination.)

Perhaps the idea comes from my early experiences at Fay Jones masterpiece chapel in Eureka Springs, AR--Thorncrown? It's tree-housy, and incorporates the landscape around it, no?

Monday, July 07, 2008

Revenge of the Little Cups

Some time ago,
I gave you a little taste of why I regretfully preserve the custom in this church of using little plastic shot glasses of juice during communion. This past Sunday they came back to bite me again. If you're keeping score here are the list of pros and cons for little cups:


  1. Destroy the symbolism of the sacrament messing with the image and words related to "one cup."
  2. Aren't found in scripture.
  3. Look silly when I hold up a little cup or a tray of cups while saying, "and after supper he took the cup."

Okay, so many in my church would add "are sanitary" to the list of pros (which in their mind would outweigh the 3 strikes against) but still--this is my blog, so the little cups have a running tally of -3. And today we make it -4.

4: You have to either over-estimate how many are coming to take communion, or scramble to get another tray in the midst of the worship service.

From now on, we will over-estimate.
This past Sunday, with about 10 left to serve at the chancel, and with a family of visitors just kneeling there for 5 minutes, my ushers had to do the "little cup scramble." My communion server turned to me with wide open eyes after I had gotten to the end of the chancel distributing bread, and I saw my trusty usher at the back getting ready to head to the kitchen. "Get the big cup," I mouthed to him while gesturing in a chalice type motion. He misunderstood what I was asking for and brought me the "little cup filler" thing with the bulb that Wesley likes to play with. We hadn't given him a tray to bring in the little cups, so this is what he had to do. Un-beknownst to him, I had put bleach in the little cup filler before the service to try and clean the mold that had accumulated in the bottom of it. However, in the heat of the moment, I'd forgotten this little tidbit of information. The juice had a strange look to it, like purple kool-aid instead of juice. "What--are we out of juice?" I thought as I began to fill up some little cups on the table. My next thought was--"hmm....what is that smell? Bleach!" I'm glad the Spirit opened my nose to smell or else we might of been like another kool-aid swilling church. So, I turned around again and simply said to the usher, "we're going to need the chalice." Chalice to the rescue! I gave the 10 or so who hadn't yet partaken another piece of bread, and they dipped them in the chalice. Communion accomplished. I explained to the congregation what had happened (because some of the folks who had been the last to receive the little cups were visitors who had been kneeling there for like 7 minutes while we got the whole thing straitened out, and I didn't want them to think communion regularly included such theatrics.) Even so, this isn't a change I'll be making soon--most of the people are just a little too skittish about it, and I want to encourage a welcoming stance toward communion. On every other Sunday we offer communion in the chapel after church by intinction, so....

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Any freudians out there?

Dream about preaching
Church was full to the gills.  My liturgist was off the bulletin, had prepared something different, but very Spirit led.  Randy Johnson, a musician from Bartlesville, was also in attendance and played a bassoon and a flute during the call to worship, which I had written using the lyrics of a contemporary song, but that the liturgist took to mean she was supposed to sing.  I could tell the church had been working behind the scenes unbeknownst to me. 
During announcements, I started by asking congregation what they would announce.  Many evacuees were there to worship, they started sharing great things.  Testimonies.  Katherine stopped me when she remembered she had an announcement.  The evacuees had opened these doors in the side of the church to let in the fresh air.  K went weaving in and outside the doors as she gave her announcement.  I remember her saying, “and there are going to be canoes, and wilderness, and pine trees” it was kind of a spontaneous thing. 
When I finally decided I needed to give my sermon, (first of all I couldn’t find a bulletin, and secondly I couldn’t find my sermon.  I could find a bunch of old sermons, but not today’s sermon..
The whole time I was fumbling around, kids were just running around like crazy.  They were going up to the microphone and announcing car washes and all sorts of things.  Some of the kids in my present church mixed in with some of my youth from Bartlesville.
Another interesting thing, the pulpit kept changing size, and I kept taking apart the microphone trying to get it to work.  I remember walking up to give the sermon, and I couldn’t find it, but even if I could, you couldn’t even see me behind the pulpit.  There were also flowers right in front of the pulpit to where when it was the right size, even the flowers were obstructing my view and the cong’s view of me.  I kept embarrassingly trying to move the flowers.  Worried that the cong. would think they “had” to be watching me, and thinking they would think I was full of myself for moving the flowers so they could see my face as I gave the sermon.  But I was actually just concerned for the people who hear better when they can see what they are listening to.   

Friday, June 27, 2008

Roma fingerprinting and Holocaust death toll: Common Knowledge?

I heard an interview on BBC radio today that brought up the new Italian plan to fingerprint Roma, or Gypsy, children in that country in an effort to punish the parents who may be using their children to panhandle, steal, etc. The interviewer compared the plan to what the Nazis (and participating countries) did to the Roma, Jews, etc. in the 30s and 40s. (Gotta love British interviewing) It got me thinking about the holocaust and its death toll.
It seems to me that most people, when asked how many people were killed during the Holocaust would say "6 million," or "6 million Jews." Which is only about half of the death toll of the holocaust , as most historians estimate. Poles, Communists, Roma, mentally and physically disabled people, and other "undesireables" account for up to 5 million more people. The Roma are probably the hardest to estimate, since there are no hard and fast population statistics on them.
Jewish people were of course most drastically affected by the Holocaust, and have culturally woven that experience into Jewish identity through Yom Hashoa and the other ways. But I don't know that the Poles or the Roma have similarly taken the genocide of their populations into cultural memory.

Have you had similar experiences of the general public being ignorant of the true death toll of the Holocaust?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Reaching out with the Old

Sometimes it's nice to hear you're not just an oddball, I read in Christian Century's June 17 issue the following...."
By a ratio of almost 2 to 1, unchurched Americans prefer churches that look more like medieval cathedrals to the modern, utilitarian church facilities that currently are being constructed.
This preference for the Gothic, found among both unchurched Catholics and unchurched Protestants, is even more pronounced among people between the ages of 25 and 34. "I don't like modern churches, they seem cold," said one survey respondent. "I like the smell of candles burning, stained glass windows and an intimacy that's transcendent." (survey by Lifeway Research.)
....From the article linked above...“Quite honestly, this research surprised us,” said Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research and LifeWay Christian Resource’s missiologist in residence.

“We expected they’d choose the more contemporary options, but they were clearly more drawn to the aesthetics of the Gothic building than the run-of-the-mill, modern church building.”
Well, I'm not surprised, Ed.
I've always had a feeling about this---now I know that feeling is part of the collective unconscious and not just my own uncommon preference. Ha! I'm right. (I try to get in one of these "Ha! I'm right"s at least once a day. Usually my wife is the lucky recipient of said "H!IR's" but today, you all get to share in the glorious experience. ON the topic of really helpful worship findings, make plans to attend the Worship in a Postmodern Accent Workshop
So, how would the Oklahoma Conference like to sink money into building materials that would be required to build a church that 25-34 year olds would prefer to worship in--or should the New church starts initiative be in the market for a good, "pre-owned" gothic church? You want to see photos of my dream appointment in New York City? It was built by the Methodists--but they wanted to attract an ecumenical congregation in a Byzantine neighborhood. Yes, I fall in line with the preferences of the unchurched, and struggle with the implications for how we might allocate resources to start new congregations.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Camp Communion Three Day theme

Next week I'm helping to dean Muskogee District Camp. I've been given leadership of the morning communion service before breakfast, which isn't mandatory. Because of the time and the probable spiritual disposition (maturity level) of those youth willing to wake up early to start the day with communion, I'm going to go ahead and go "a little deeper" than I would with your average cross section of camp kids. I'll let them know that I hope they can make it to all three services, because they're going to be somewhat connected. The final communion service on Thurs will be structured much like a Quaker meeting (even though the Quakers don't celebrate the sacrament) and will focus on helping the youth speak about what communion means to them (in the interest of the camp theme being "know it, live it, SHARE it." and "being ready to give a reason for the hope that is within us." (main camp scripture from 1 Peter 3) Thurs service will also be the chance for the youth (and whoever else) to serve each other communion (further "sharing it.") Working backwards, Wednesday will be focused on silence and contemplation with a walking meditation. Tuesday will be focus on creation and inspiration as I share what communion has meant to me and my experience with communion at camp and when I introduce the idea of the three day focus: CReation, Observation/Silence, Speaking. Well what do you know, an acronym for the three day theme is CROSS. How handy.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

RIP Back to the Future Set and Bihops Schnase's book

Lamentations! Sounds like the Universal studios burned. As an honorary resident of Hill Valley, I mourn today.

Also--I started a sermon series and book study of the "Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations," which OK Conf. has used as a foundation of its strategic plan for all local churches. The study tonight had about 8 discuss Radical Hospitality. It was a great conversation, and the folks had some good insights into our church. I'm looking forward to the rest of the conversation.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Lay your hands on me.

My ordination was this past Wednesday at Boston Ave. UMC. I was ordained with about 15 other new and old friends. Bishop Hayes preached from 1st Timothy about how ministry isn't making a living, it is a way of life. Good sermon--you can watch the whole thing--including my ordination-- here. My dad and Jennifer Long were the two who I selected to lay hands on me, and they were joined by my DS, Linda Harker, and other BOM members who've helped me along the way. Judy Benson, the conference lay leader, held a Bible out in front of me as I was kneeling--it was open to Ezekiel 31 and 32--the song of the Cedar of Lebenon and the lament over the pharoah. When I saw this open Bible out in front of me as the Bishop was pronouncing the ordination, I forgot that she was doing it so that I could put my hand on it, and instead started looking through the chapters to see if I was meant to see something in particular. Woops. Oh well, I trust I'm ordained anyway. As for the Cedar of Lebenon, it is a beautiful piece of poetry, and it reminds me to take a dose of humility along with all the praise and congratulations coming my way.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

3 year old existentialism

Wesley is very much in the "why" phase right now. I like it. Here are some of the highlights:

Wes: Why does the sun go down?
Me: (thinking, hmmm, do I give him the scientific answer, or should the earth just be flat right now--I opt for the real reason and use my fist to be the earth and the sun to be a basketball.) Well, we are on the earth, and the earth spins like this (twist my fist around) and we're on the surface of the earth (I point to my knuckle with the other hand--so, I'm tangling up my hands and trying to keep the sun in place while I use the finger to show that we're on earth and when the earth spins it just looks like the sun goes down. I think my teaching job is a miserable failure, but notice Wesley explaining to his mom the next day and spinning his fist around too. :)
By the way, Wesley seems extremely interested in astronomy. One time he asked Lara what an "orbit" was (he was looking at one of his magic school bus books) and Lara explained that we were on the earth and were flying through space around the sun in a big circle. She said, "but we don't really feel like we're flying, do we." Wesley responded--"I can! Weeeee!"

Wesley: "Where are my feelings?"
Lara: (Baffled) "Well, sometimes they're inside our heart, and sometimes they're inside our heads."
Wes: "What's inside my head?"

Wesley, pointing to a man at McDonalds: "What's his name?"
Me: "I don't know."
Wesley: "Don't say, 'I don't know.'" (He's been saying that a lot lately. He is clearly perturbed when I don't know something.)
Me: (Debating whether I should let Wesley go over and ask the man his name.) "Son, we don't have to know everyone's name."

Wesley, pointing to a picture of Jesus feeding the 5000, "That's Jesus. I like Jesus. Why'd they nail him up on that cross?"
Me: "They did, didn't they. Why do you think they did?"
Wesley: "They nailed him on that cross like this, bam bam bam bam bam, and it hurt him."
Me: "That's right. But Jesus wanted us to know how much God loves us, so he went through the hurt because he knew it would show what God would do for us."
Wes: Oh, God loves us?
Me: Yes. God made you, and He loves you.
Wes: Jesus loves us?
me: Yes, very much.
Wes: Oh.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Brain Drain

To my loyal readers or the casual lookers: Sorry I've been kind of out of the loop, especially during the hallowed blogger free for all that is General Conference. Truth be told, my wife is having a difficult pregnancy (hyperthyroidism--which causes her an inordinate amount of nausea and exhaustion.) She's had to cancel all of her clients until further notice and has been confined to bed or short periods of activity. Meanwhile, I've had more of the household chores and childcare to attend to, so everything combined makes for a bad case of brain drain. I can't really think of anything that would be worthwhile for you to read. Somehow, the Spirit has been gifting me with some sermons that are inspiring, but as for the blog, it has been few and far between. Stay tuned, hopefully we'll be out of the woods in a couple weeks. (We hope to get away to Colorado Springs later this week, but we'll have to see if Lara can make the flight.)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Tending the Lamps

I canceled youth tonight because earlier this afternoon I felt like crap. Had a fever, which the woman who took Wesley for us this afternoon told her daughter is "sometimes God's way of saying to you--"You need some rest." That I did. I slept this afternoon for a good long while, and Lara called the youth who usually come to tell them to take the night off.
After resting, I felt much refreshed around the time we usually have youth, so I went over to make sure no one showed up who didn't get the message. While there, I went through the church turning off lights and marveling at the classrooms and recognizing God's work within a couple in particular which house thriving Sunday school classes. I ended up raising my hands and asking God to work to make the other classes stronger too, asking God to bless the pastor's office, and so forth. When I got into the sanctuary, I cleaned up the communion elements and made sure the candles were all out. We've recently started offering communion in the prayer chapel after every service. I just consecrate the elements before the hymn of invitation, then invite the congregation to come and partake if they will during the hymn of invitation or after the benediction. So far no one has come forward during the hymn of invitation, so maybe I'll stop including that in the times when people can come forward. Or perhaps I'll start having the elements prepared before the church service so people can go in before or after the service....hmmm. Anyway, I didn't ask our communion stewards to take responsibility for setting up for this quite yet because I wanted to only change a few things at a time.

Anyway, putting the elements in the yard for the birds and squirrels and all the benedicting before had put me in a priestly mood, so I also decided to tend the lamps. I had noticed one of our candles running low on oil, and also the sanctuary lamp in the prayer chapel had evidently gone out on its own (it's a 7 day lamp, but we only burn it when folks are in the building.) So I knew we needed to re-oil.

As I was doing so, it occurred to me that tending the lamps must have been a priestly Levitical duty because it is relaxing. It may be "God's way" of helping the priests get rest. I realize it was ascribed to the priesthood in a very different context than mine, and probably involved more than just grabbing the bottle of oil and making sure the wick wasn't sticking out to far, but for me this afternoon it was a blessing. I was always captivated by the idea that simple tasks such as preparing tea and washing the dishes seem to hold such attentiveness in Zen Buddhism. (Actually , the tea ceremony is a central ritual). Tending the lamps gives the priest the opportunity to be in the sanctuary, to check up on things, and to take care that the worship space of the congregation is being maintained and beautified. Maybe this is a pleasure that is prone to "delegating away" in most churches (my chair of trustees also keeps tabs on the amount of oil) but if you are in a ministry context where these kinds of tasks fall to you, the pastor, I'd suggest thinking of this kind of task being in the sphere of the priesthood.

* you may be surprised to see that this rural Oklahoma Methodist church has sanctuary lamps, but indeed we do, and they were here when I got here. (Not the one in the prayer chapel. That has been a project that I've been here for.) But for whatever reason, this church of Methodist/Baptist families has some high church DNA somewhere in it.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

General Conference Opens with Druidic worship service :)

Looks like it has Marcia McFee written all over it!

Just kiddin----i think it looks beautiful, although I wonder if a circle of bishops blocked out the view of the elements?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Earth Day Youth Skit

The youth are helping me in church on Sunday since it will be "Earth Sun Day" I couldn't find a skit on the internet, so I wrote one. If you'd like to use it, feel free to change the names and adapt to your location.

Carson walks to sanctuary from back. Notices the overhead lights are off as he walks down the aisle


gets to the front, turns around

CARSON: LET THERE BE LIGHT! Gestures up in dramatic fashion.

(Lights come on, (turned on by Byjou in the prayer room))


Carson points at the ground:

Carson: Let there be a million dollars!

(Nothing happens. Byjou laughs from the prayer room. )

Byjou: You didn’t know I was in here, did you?

Carson; Well……

Byjou: Hey, you know where light really comes from?

Carson: The light bulb? (Sarcastically)

Byjou: No, like where the electricity comes from—you know, like we were talking about in youth last week—where our tapwater comes from, where our toilet water goes. Where the cheese on our pizza came from….

Carson: Oh yeah—well, I’d say it probably comes from a power plant somewhere.

Byjou: Yeah, I was noticing that power plant outside Muskogee on the way to Camp Egan the other day. It was a really clear blue day except for the brown haze that was coming out of the plant.

Tori and Kassy enter with a Bible

Tori: Hey guys, get a load of this!

Offstage voice (Kendall) speaks into cordless mike from prayer room when Tori opens the Bible.

Kendall: I love you guys!

Byjou and Carson: Whoaaaaah! What was that?

Kassy: I think its God.

Kendall: That’s right! (Pleading) I’ve been telling ya’ll!

Carson: Hold on, God’s talking to us?

Kendall: Well, you’ve got the Bible open, don’t you. What did you expect would happen?

Carson: uhhhhh.

Byjou: Words! But—words on a page. This is weird.

Tori: God told me to come over here because ya’ll were discussing something important.

Carson: I was just kidding about that million dollars thing, God. Um, sorry!

Kendall: But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.

Carson: Oooooookay?

Kendall: That’s 1 Timothy 6:9. That’s kinda how this “Me talking to you” thing works—you’ve got the Bible open, so the things you find in it you apply to your own life, and that’s one way I can speak to you. I really know you were kidding about the million dollars thing, I’m just pulling your leg, man!

Byjou: Man? (a little surprised that God is speaking to them so informally, like teenagers speak to each other)

Kendall: Well, almost man, I guess. But it’s really just a colloquialism. (ko-lo-kwee-al-ism) Like, “what’s up?”

Byjou: You!? (Kendall and Byjou laugh heartily)

Kendall: Oh, Byjou: You slay me! You’re not of Roman descent are you? (Laughs again with Byjou. Rest of teens are simply perplexed)

Tori: Well, what was it that you thought was so important, God?

Kendall: It was what Byjou was talking about the power plant. Kassy, why don’t you read Psalm 24: 1

Kassy: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the earth, and all that dwell therein.”

Kendall: ITS MINE, ITS ALL MINE! Mmmuuuuhahahahahah. Just kiddin! It’s actually kind of yours too. You hold it in trust for me. I needed some janitors for Creation, and you all seemed pretty handy. Check out Genesis 2: 7 and 15

Tori: “Then the Lord formed Adam out of the dust of the ground…The Lord took Adam and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.”

Kendall: Exactly. You kind of missed a few things from the original Hebrew. I like to play with words from time to time, but you sometimes don’t catch the brilliant little double entendres. (on-tawn-dras) The Hebrew word “Adam” simply means “human.” And “adamah” means “dust.” “Adam” comes from “Adamah.” Like it?

Carson: Cool!

Kendall: It is cool Carson! It is cool! But what do you expect, right? Anyway. What I was trying to get across by pairing those words together is that you humans are part of the earth. You are pretty deeply connected. That’s something you tend to forget, especially these days. Kassy, read Isaiah 24: 4-5

Kassy: 4The earth turns gaunt and gray,
the world silent and sad,
sky and land lifeless, colorless.

5-13Earth is polluted by its very own people,
who have broken its laws,
Disrupted its order,
violated the sacred and eternal covenant.

Byjou: So, you’re saying you care about that coal plant in Muskogee because we’re connected with the earth and we’re not really paying attention to how we’re polluting it?

Kendall: It’s not just one power plant I’m concerned about. It’s the whole system. It’s hard for you to see the big picture sometimes, but from my vantage point, well, like I said to Job one time, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?”

Tori: That’s Job 38, isn’t it?

Kendall: Well done, my little padawan.

Tori: What?

Kendall: Woah—not a Star Wars fan? Well now you know I am! A padawan is a young Jedi…oh nevermind.

Byjou: So, basically, you’d like to see us put less pollution in the atmosphere?

Kendall: Yes indeed. Read Ezekiel 34: 15-19

Kassy: And I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep. I myself will make sure they get plenty of rest. I'll go after the lost, I'll collect the strays, I'll doctor the injured, I'll build up the weak ones and oversee the strong ones so they're not exploited.

17-19 "'And as for you, my dear flock, I'm stepping in and judging between one sheep and another, between rams and goats. Aren't you satisfied to feed in good pasture without taking over the whole place? Can't you be satisfied to drink from the clear stream without muddying the water with your feet? Why do the rest of my sheep have to make do with grass that's trampled down and water that's been muddied?

Kendall: See, there I’m making a little metaphor. You all are like the sheep. When you foul up your environment, you affect others. And in this day and age, the ones who are hurt the worst by pollution and the climate change that results from it are the poorest people in the world already. And you know what? Matthew 25:40!

Tori: “Whatever you have done unto the least of my bretheren, you have done unto me.”

Carson: What can we do? We don’t own the power plant. We’re just “almost men” and “almost women!” Should I command all these lights to turn back off?

Byjou: Well, we’re using these lights while we worship, but we can at least turn off the lights when we leave a room. Then we’ll be using less electricity. And if we use less energy and convinced others to as well, then the power plant wouldn’t have to burn so much coal to produce electricity.

Kassy: Or I’ve seen those windmills west of Oklahoma City and they produce energy too! We could write our legislators and tell them we’d like to see more of those collecting energy without polluting the air rather than building more coal or gas plants. We’ve got plenty of wind, after all!

Tori: Or we could turn up our thermostat one degree, turn down the fridge one setting, or switch to those swirly new light bulbs. All those things aren’t that big of changes that add up to save energy.

Carson: Or right here in church we could start using glasses instead of Styrofoam when we get drinks at youth. That’ll take less energy, and we won’t be throwing away those cups that don’t decompose.

Kendall: Right on, guys! “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” Peace out!

Friday, April 11, 2008

"I would forgive anyone, if it just meant I could count on them."

I was struck by this radio broadcast on all things considered today. Star Diaz speaks about the prospect of aging out of foster care. I was on the way to pick up Wesley and was just captivated by the story, especially the quote that is in the title of this post. I was thinking about the scriptures for this week and what kind of sermon I might prepare. Maybe I'll use this this as an example of a voice of the shepherd/someone who is struggling to hear the shepherd.

Awesomely Awesome Bold Leadership skillz

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Coffee Cup Police

I'm thinking of infiltrating the Sunday morning coffee club soon with the suggestion that they use regular coffee cups instead of deathrophome. My initial idea is to say to them that I'd be happy to take the ceramic cups home and wash them in my dishwasher so they don't have to worry about doing dishes. That may set it up to be only a short term change. I've tried to lead by example without necessarily "preaching" about it, but I think the first step we could take on this front begins with this group because it is the smallest group and would take the least energy to "correct." Do people enjoy drinking out of styrofoam cups? We have enough ceramics for all of them, but they go right to the styro--laziness! Any input from fellow eco-messiahs in our own minds?

My big thing these days is to help encourage lasting change in the congregation instead of simply taking the reigns and altering behavior, thereby making it "the pastor's thing." I think I've "earned enough capital" (to daringly quote a phrase from the former gov. of Texas) to convince the people by my own witness, but worry that simply changing their behavior for them is too heavy handed and won't be long lasting. When do I put away the subtlety and just say "quit using the damned styrofoam?" This is also an issue with moving this congregation toward weekly communion. I know we need it, they aren't overtly opposed to it, when do I just take the initiative and make the change? I've been here 2 years.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Blog Honing

I was just reading John the Methodist's old blogger profile of my friend Andrew Thompson. Here's one question he answered that convicted me:

What would be your main advice to a novice blogger?
Well, I’ve only been blogging since last August, so I guess I’m still something of a novice! But if I were to offer advice to others, it would be to orient their blogs toward issues that they are passionate about. I don’t think most people want to read somebody’s random thoughts about life, the universe, and everything. They want to read cogent, thoughtful commentary on issues of relevance. Related to that are two other small pieces of advice: post regularly and develop a primary subject matter. I think that those elements are key to developing a consistent readership.

I don't know if 3 years of blogging under my belt gets me out of the "novice" genre, but Andrew's point is well taken. I don't believe this blog has much of a cohesive theme. Should it? I suppose lack of feedback will be an answer in the affirmative. Though I didn't think about a theme, per se, when I opened the doors of this blog, I kind of thought the title alluded to the purpose and I hoped to do what Reinhold did with his book of a similar title: that being various accounts of pastoral life from a rookie. Is that enough of a theme? Andrew, you out there?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Scanning party.

I did about 2 hours of work with an hp customer service chat room person (whom at one point I just had to ask "are you a real person," because she kept repeating phrases like "no need to worry," and "I'm glad to be of assistance, let us now try removing the Universal Serial Bus Driver." When I asked "Danielle" point blank if she were a "real person," she merely said, "I am Danielle." I felt like I was talking to HAL.

So, after a while of stilted conversation with "Danielle," we finally got my printer, scanner, copier working. It was good Easter season work, brining my printer back to life. Afterward, we had a scanning party, and I decided to scan some of my art that I have over here at the house. I did this one at an "emerging worship" service with the General Board of Discipleship. I'm unhappy with how the scanner shot right through the areas of thin paint to the canvas, but oh well. We were supposed to paint "hope," and I decided to combine imagery from the burning bush and the nativity. Also, the flames/light is encroaching into the darkness.

Is that a brachiasaurus head? No! It's a new little Mattox!

My wife is going to kill me, but this is what I first saw when I saw our ultrasound photo.

My pregnant pampered princess just informed me that she thought I thought the whole uterus looked like that nostril thing on the brach's head. This was not my original comparison, but it also fits I suppose. No, Lara. Look at the actual embryo. You can click on the picture and see that it looks like a brachiasaurus with its mouth open.

I enjoy coordinating clothes with my son, but love him enough to stop in a few years

Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter Sermon: It's How you believe

Sermon Text: Colossians 3: 1-4Matthew 28

Sorry, no transcript this week either. I'm preaching in more of an extemporaneous style now. If the manuscript sermons have been a big help to you, leave a comment, and I'll look into getting an ipod or something that I could put podcasts of the sermon on the website. If I don't hear from anyone, I will keep giving you the talking points of the sermon and what I can remember of it. (and some improvements I've made in the past 24 hours. :) )

My earthquake experiences have been unextraordinary. Leaning back in my chair during seminary during one, asleep during the other.

Quite possibly, this earthquake that Matthew recounts was not that extraordinary too. After all he's the only writer to remember it. Perhaps this was just indicative of a resurrection that kind of "flew under the radar," anyway. John tells of the disciples going back to their fishing after the encounters with the risen Christ.

So, no hard feelings if you merely think of Easter Sunday as a day to go to church in pastel colors and have an egg hunt.Our ultimate antagonist to having a life of faith is the disease of apathy. Apatheism, some call it. (Here, some of the teenagers in church were busy texting each other, and made a good illustration about apathy and the Easter story.)

But perhaps we are apathetic because we believe that the Easter event is just another event that we are supposed to believe "happened" so that we can "believe the right things" and "get into heaven." Once we've gotten the story down, and believe that it has happened, we're "okay." Hmm.

Perhaps all this talk of an earthquake and an angel and the clunky narrative about guards being placed at the tomb is just Matthew writing in a convenient explanation as to why the Romans and Jews keep dismissing the early Christians talk about a resurrection by saying that they had stolen the body. Or, if you watch the Discovery or History Channel, you can learn about all the other theories about how Jesus might have "come back from the dead." Some say Jesus was drugged, feigned death, and later escaped from the tomb. Others say the disciples just got so worked up in their grief that they made up the whole thing.

So, that "story that we have to get down right" in order to "believe the right things," isn't so simple after all, is it?

The gospels sure don't help us.  They each tell the story in different ways. Which one am I "supposed to believe" preacher?

What if Matthew, with all this talk about guards at the gate, is trying to communicate to us the idea that it's not what you believe, it's how you believe?

The guards at the tomb witnessed everything the women did! They surely "believed the right things." They were right there so scared they couldn't move! They got the information, because they took it back to the authorities. The difference was "how they believed." They were content to be paid off to change their story. They sold out while the women shared the good news.

Bishop Will Willimon points out. "There are so many ways to "explain" the resurrection. The point is, we can't explain the resurrection. The resurrection explains us!"

This past week, we recounted the stories about how Jesus was "there for us," but how his disciples failed to be "there for him." They deserted, they shrunk away in fear. They lied about their association with him. They betrayed him. Now an angel who "has the appearance of lightning" is telling us this man is back. Uh-oh! But notice what Jesus tells the women. "Greetings! Tell my brothers to meet me in Galilee." My brothers! The two most important words of this story. My brothers.

The women become not only missionaries of the resurrection message, but also agents of reconciliation.Resurrection faith isn’t just a matter of believing that a dead body came back to life. The soldiers and the priests believed this as well, and were quick to work against the resurrection. Resurrection faith is knowing that this event heals a relationship between you and God. It is the understanding that you are a “brother” or “sister” being summoned to go and share the good news with others. Dear friends, Matthew tells us that it’s not about “believing.” It’s about what you do with that belief that identifies you as a child of the Resurrection.

When the Resurrection compels us to be agents of reconciliation, that's letting Easter shape "how" and not just "what" we believe. Easter means you have another chance to be the person God created you to be, and you can start doing that at any moment, even after you think it's too late. The disciples whom Jesus called "brothers" and "sisters" learned that it was never too late. This is "how" we believe. We believe in the resurrection by believing in the possibilities for redemption and reconciliation that happen every day. We believe in the resurrection by making those moments happen.

But, if you think being a child of the resurrection means you have everything figured out, then think again. When the disciples meet Jesus on the mountain in Galilee, Matthew tells us "but some doubted." That's okay. The resurrection is big enough to handle our doubt. "Thus the same elements of worship, doubt, and little faith inhere in the church after Easter as before. Whatever the nature of the resurrection event, it did not generate perfect faith even in those who experienced it firsthand. It is not to angels or perfect believers, but to the worshiping/wavering community of disciples to whom the world mission is entrusted." (New Interpreter's Bible) This is the good news.

This is what is exciting. The resurrection hasn't ended. It is still going on in your life and in mine. We have the opportunity to participate in it by our life lived in the name of Christ. That's why it is so beautifully fitting that we had a baptism today and added another sister to the community of faith. We've added a witness to the resurrection. She will be brought up in the faith.And it won't be what she believes that makes a difference to Christ. It will be "how" she believes that witnesses to the resurrection.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Dilemma Resolved

I went to speak with the family, mentioned in the previous post, early this past week and discussed with them the meaning of baptism. I also told them about the celebration of a new birth service in our Book of Worship. By the way, reading the book of worship's intro to Baptism, I found that "naming ceremonies" are supposedly common in Native American settings, so that certainly applies to my context. The family decided that they didn't have to make a decision for Easter and called at the end of the week to let me know they were interested in doing something on another day during Easter season. They are going to continue to discuss what it is that they will do. So, that issue was blessedly resolved.

As for the baptism today, it went beautifully. My son gave some creative commentary while I was pouring the water into the font as I was beginning the thanksgiving over the water.

"Is he pee-peeing?!" It sure sounded like it, I have to give him that. People laughed, and the family baptizing their baby was genuinely amused as well. I tried to not laugh. Wes is going through potty training right now, so I guess that is on his mind quite a bit. I've attached photos of his Easter duds and a couple from his birthday bloodbath. (He slipped on our tile floor and busted his chin wide open. 3 years hath 7 stitches!

Oh yeah, it's not exactly an afterthought, but mi esposa esta embarazada! Looks like the new Mattox could be a Halloweener!