26 August 2008

DNC Day One Reflections: Confessions

First Confession:  I cried when Old Yeller died (no not that version, this version).

Second Confession:  I cried to the conclusion of Savannah Smiles.  

Third Confession:  I cried as Michelle Obama spoke last night (from the close ups of the crowd, I was not the only one either!)  What an amazing speech.

What about David Brooks' tie last night?  Does the pink symbolize his slight shift over to Obama, after all he was not wearing a red tie.  Think about it folks...

23 August 2008

Comb Over Come of Age?

Now that Mr. Obama (Obi Wan, this is the closest I can come to a Mareen Dowd type moniker) has chosen Mr. Biden (Chewbacca?) how will Mr. Biden's presence do for the comb over?  Will America see more or less of the comb over in the next few months?  

If Kennedy was the paradigm shift for men no longer wearing hats in public, will Biden be the paradigm shift for overt and comical attempts to hide baldness?  

If McCain does pick Romney as his VP, what a hair match-up that will be in the VP debate: I'll take Chewbacca over Richie Rich any day.  

If after the DNC you see lots of men without caps, proudly sporting their comb over, watch out McCain!  

19 August 2008

Altar Call Anyone?

By conservative estimates I have heard approximately 1200 altar calls in my life. For years I pretty much gave up on them but recently I have been rethinking the idea of an altar call, or a response to the Word, or a response to the presence of God in your life.

First of all I found the constant drumming message of salvation offered by my home church's pastor to be bit much. Everyone was a Christian, baptized, rededicated at least 3 or 4 times, so the constant call to come forward and accept Jesus got old, in my view. You could say I became cynical of the whole enterprise and have yet to ever issue one, until this summer...

Why? Well the reality is that most of the folk who come to church as guests or visitors are not Christians, or they are lapsed Christians, or folk who have never been properly challenged to follow Christ. I say this will be the norm for my time as a pastor rather than the exception. So I started issuing invitations at the end of my sermons. They are not full-fledged altar calls but invitations to walk the Christian life with me, with one another.

A couple of weeks ago I asked for to join me on the pilgrimage. One woman came up during the time of peace and said she was ready for the pilgrimage. On another occasion I asked folk to cultivate a daily practice to remind them of God's presence and love. One woman left a pebble in her shoe, even switched it from foot to foot so as not to develop a numbness to the prick of the pebble.

Then while reading book #31, The Integrity of the Church, by E. Glenn Hinson I came across this quote from page 130: 
Although justifiable criticism may be made of actual practice, invitations in Baptist churches in America to respond to the word by commitment or renewal of the covenant are doubtless an authentic way of manifesting this response. The earliest Christian preaching, at any rate, included such appeals.

18 August 2008

Dressy Casual

My post on Baptist Headware generated some nice emails from y'all. But none were as creative and humorous as Rick's (last name and relation to me have been omitted in case of law suits). He combined the formality of the Pope with the casualness of my offering. Consider this a hat you could wear for an outdoor wedding at a golf course, your hat will designate you as clergy, important clergy but not the kind of stick in the mud clergy. Think of the dinner prayer conversation from Talladega Nights, when Cal Naughton, Jr says:I like to picture Jesus in a tuxedo T-Shirt because it says I want to be formal, but I'm here to party.

Without further ado:

Thanks Rick.

16 August 2008


Every person has their own Achilles Heel, for instance: Superman has Kryptonite, our President has the English language, and mine...well mine is a pickle. I hate pickles with a passion. And it seems the entire restaurant industry purposely tries to ruin my sandwiches by placing pickles on my plate. I cannot stand when pickle juice spills onto my fries or even worse when my perfectly undefendable and innocent bun is subjugated to pickle juice as it runs over and is forced to soak it up (it is a bun's natural hospitality and the pickle juice fully knows it.!)

So what do you think the VOR made today? That's right Pickles, seven pints of them! (she already gave one away)

I have pretty much avoided going inside today. I mowed and trimmed the grass, I even tied my tomato plants, picked blackberries, weeded the melon patch, and even thought of washing the van. Do you think she looked outside the window this morning and thought how can I motivate him to do the yard's bidding? Hmmm...if I made pickles I bet he would do it. I do not call her the Voice of Reason for nothin'.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear

Yesterday the First Family packed into the minivan and drove two hours north and west to Amherst, MA for a visit to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Outside of the museum is this bug, or a VW hungry catapellar version:
The museum was amazing - whoever designed it knew what they were doing.

For one, the three galleries were not huge and only took about 1/2 hour to fully experience them. Two, knowing this the designers included a library (with story times), an auditorium (which featured Hans Christian Anderson movies), an art work shop for kids and adults, and a well equipped gift shop.  I would highly recommend it.

In the main hall there are four 8 x 15 works by Mr. Carle (he used brushes, pieces of carpet, brooms!)  One of them may be our 2008 Xmas card:

14 August 2008

Its a Lone, Lonely World: By the Numbers

For several years I have been bemoaning the lack of clergy my age.  Every meeting, function or official denominational activity I am the youngest by at least a generation.  I knew there were not that many other colleagues within the ABC, but now, thanks to the Lewis Center, I have some #s to back me up.

ABC-USA clergy under 35:  247  which amounts to a grand percentage of 5.10% of pastors aged: 20-70.  5.10% not exactly an overwhelming # folks...

My plan is for the ABC to reinvest in youth ministry along with college/campus ministry.  If I were a admission officer in the northeast I would focus my efforts in the southeast where there are stronger relations between local churches and campus pastors, (but none of the recruitment folk I talk to pay much attention to my ideas.)

13 August 2008


345  -- the number of consecutive days I have spilled coffee on myself.
17 -- the number of years since I last played football.
17--  the number of years that I have enjoyed not laying down in the dew soaked grass at 8:00 in the morning for stretching before football practice.
35 -- the number of books on my desk currently
1012  -- the number of times I have acted like I did not know one of my children had a dirty diaper.
2235  -- the number of times it was unavoidable that one of my children had a dirty diaper and I changed them.
4  -- the number of times I have said this blog is really quite frivolous. 
8 -- the number of times I have said, "this is the year I follow the Cincinnati Reds from the spring training till October
0  -- the number of times that has happened.

12 August 2008

Being Scared of the Afterlife

As a kid I remember being haunted by vision of hell, I was sure I was going there: for lying, for stealing a Star Wars figure from KMart, for all the things kids do.  My anxiety was not alleviated when I started going to youth group activities (one in particular, on a New Year's Eve Lock-in, I found myself at 11:30pm in a mausoleum watching a proto-left behind movie.  

As I matured I suppose the threat and anxiety of hell dissipated to the point where I began looking towards heaven.  Today I had what I am sure will be part of heaven: a fresh vine ripened tomato with several strips of crisp bacon and lettuce on toasted whole wheat bread.  But there is a deep problem with this picture:  Jesus, Lord of all, was a Jew and Jews do not eat pork.  I know I know there is the whole story in Acts where Peter sees all animals as clean but can I with full confidence know that there will be BLT sandwiches in heaven, I cannot -- and that scares me...

11 August 2008

Robert Burns redux

This weekend we all learned that hairdo had an affair.  On the one hand I am disappointed, he was my initial pick for president.  But on the other hand, it does not come as a surprise -- anytime a political candidate makes her/his biography the centerpiece be ready for a let down.  Human beings are well...human beings, none are perfect (except for John Woolman, he is perhaps one of the few).  In tribute to Edwards I played This Is No My Ain Lassie this afternoon while practicing my fiddle.  I suppose I feel the most pain for Elizabeth Edwards, she is way too smart and savvy for John. 

In other news, the Boston Globe is reporting how lead, depending on where you live and age of your house, can turn up in your backyard gardens.  Just what I needed to hear.  Talk about sins of the fathers...

The mystery of preaching continues to elude me.  On Sunday I went into the pulpit with a 3 x 5 card which had three sentences on it.  After the sermon one member said it was the best I have ever preached.   oh well...  While I am on the topic of preaching, nice piece by Religion and Ethics Newsweekly a while back on Gardner Taylor.  I looked up the British pastor he mentions, Alexander McLaren, thanks to technology several of his books can be found on the google digitized library. My initial read of his sermons intrigues me.  For more of McLaren's books go to Harvard Divinity School's library and search there, better links to his digitized works.

05 August 2008


A few minutes ago I finished #30, it was   The Reaffirmation of Prayer by E. Glenn Hinson.  Methinks I began this book a bunch of years ago but never finished it.  I say that because one day I was talking to Lady E, his daughter, and asked if E was an avid golfer or skilled woodworker.  She looked at me rather dumbfounded and said her dad rarely did either.   On the bookjacket of this book it clearly states that E's hobbies include golfing and woodworking; I suppose they are the general habits of most Baptist clergy, if not the majority of at least Protestant denominations.  

The book is the first, that I know of, where Hinson develops his idea of Love Energies in relation to prayer.  It is a great read, lots of excellent NT translations.  I also like how he uses biographies from Christian history to illustrate points.  The book touched on a number of points for prayer and worship (note this a good Anglobaptist/Anglican Oversoul book).  I could not get over how many sermon series and worship ideas flowed through my mind while reading this book.

Here is a teaser that will hopefully entice you to read it (I read this at the start of the diaconate meeting last night)

If God is to break in upon us, he will do so in moments of solitude, in the stillness, as we yield ourselves to him.  He does not come crashing through our hearts' doors with a bulldozer.   He stands there knocking gently, waiting for us to invite him in.  And it is precisely here that our culture creates the most problems, for it does not encourage quiet listening or solitude.  Rather, it stresses activity.  It fills our ears and minds constantly with its cacophony of sounds and activities.  

This means that if conversion is to take place, we will have to want that to happen.  We will have to make time for solitude.  We will have to practice listening with the ear of the heart,  We will have to bow our knees to the Father and yield ourselves to him in praise and adoration.

04 August 2008

Preaching Headware

Yesterday the church held its service outdoors in the newly completed outdoor chapel.  It was a nice idea and nice time. Luckily the chapel is located in a cedar grove so there is plenty of shade and a nice cool breeze - for everyone that is but the preacher.  I stared out into the crowd squinting for the most part of an hour.  

Before I went to bed last night I noticed a distinct red glare on my forehead and nose.  I was sunburned, from preaching no less.  I bet that has not happened since the Second Great Awakening.  This coming Sunday if the service is outside I vow to do something about the sun: wear a hat.  But what kind?

The Pope wears a hat at outdoor functions:
although this one is a bit over the top for me:
So does the A of C

But what about a Baptist preacher?  I think I found the answer:

02 August 2008

Friday Adventures

A couple of weeks ago the VOR and I had a sudden terrible realization: only seven Fridays left in Summer.  So we developed a list of activities we would like to do on Fridays.  Last Friday we went the Harvard Museum of Natural History: it was like an old persons Bass Pro Shop, with all the stuffed animals and aroma of mothballs.  The kids liked it and so did the VOR and I.  The highlight for the kids was the train trip on the T and the spraying fountain outside of the Science Center.  I looked at the VOR and said: we came all the way to Cambridge, MA to play in a sprinkler.

Last night we took the kids to a Paw Sox game.  The kids enjoyed the popcorn, the dippin' dots, cracker jack and lemonade - the game, well you know, however, they did enjoy the music before the batters and the attempts of we will, we will rock you.  

We left in the 5th inning (the longest we have ever stayed for a game).  There were four home runs before we left, which brings me to the central story for this blog.  The last home run we witnessed was a bullet of a hit by a Paw Sox hitter.  The trajectory of the ball had it coming in our direction.  I jumped up in anticipation, but the batter hit a curve ball which made the ball's flight curve also which meant it curved out of my range.  Nevertheless the ball did land about 15 feet behind me and about 15 feet to my immediate right.  A dude, say about 55, was standing there downing a dog and cold one.  As the ball came near he threw down the dog then discarded the beer without a second thought.  

Looking back on the moment, that dude really wanted the ball.  Who else throws down a beer for a baseball?  Dedication, is what its all about.