30 March 2012

There Is Always Hope, as long as Jamie Moyer is the big leagues

Every year as my age advances and opening day approaches I realize that the chances of me making a MLB baseball team diminishes significantly.  But hope springs eternal as long as Jamie Moyer continues to pitch!

He is trying to make it back into the bigs as a member of the Colorado Rockies pitching staff at the tender age of 49.  ESPN reporter Jim Caple wrote a great piece, 49 Things You Should Know About Jamie Moyer.  If you haven't read it, I suggest you do.

My favorites, 28-30:

28.  Moyer never threw much harder than 82 or 83 mph, and according to fangraphs.com, his average fastball was 80.2 mph in 2010. "I came to realize in my late 20s that my velocity is not going to grow so I had to learn to utilize what I had.''
29.  His changeups have been clocked in the mid-60s. A player once described Moyer's repertoire as "throwing feathers'' while Colorado's Jason Giambi says, "You don't think the ball can stay in the air that long.''

30.  Not surprisingly, Moyer thinks there is too much reliance on radar gun readings. "I'm not saying it's inaccurate, but I wonder if it is. I think a lot of that is for fans.'

After Tim Wakefield retired this year I thought there was no way I could make it.  My thinking went how hard could it be to develop a knuckle ball?  It does not take a tremendous amount of arm strength.  Perhaps the greatest trait one would have to possess would be stamina and self-confidence.  I think I have enough of those to toss in MLB.  But he retired.  My hopes sank.  But if Moyer makes the Rockies, so too does my dream!  I can throw 82, and I'm pretty sure my breaking and off speed pitches rarely go above the mid 60s. 

Come on Jamie!

And if Johnny Bench ever makes the Senior PGA, oh brother.  

29 March 2012

Telling Time: The Signs of Spring

In January the missus and I put our tv in a closet.  It has been an interesting change in our lives.  It was fine in Winter but now that it is Spring I don't know.  I don't know if I can not watch at least a round of the Masters or MLB games, and what about Baseball Tonight?  I'm sure I'll get by.  Sports, more so than agriculture, have become the demarcation of seasons.  Because it is always Spring in New Orleans, flora is always in bloom, all the plants are evergreen!  So sports tell time.  I knew it was Spring because of the all The Master's commercials, the emergence of Baseball Tonight, and all of those college basketball games.  This weekend baseball begins, it is officially Spring.  In preparation, yesterday, I took the boys to barber shop for baseball haircuts: buzz cuts.

I love taking the boys for buzz cuts.  When I watch them in the chair I am immediately taken back to my first buzz cut: Roy's barber shop.  It was located right beside the railroad tracks.  I loved sitting in that chair and watching the coal trains trundle by.  I hope I am instilling the same kind of memories with them.  

When I first moved to NOLA I thought, well this is a big move in my life and I probably need to get a real haircut.  So I tried the hipster place down on Magazine, the place that gives you a complimentary drink - a shot of Jameson or a glass of Abita - have you ever tried to have a drink while you are getting a haircut?  Don't.  Plus the barber didn't even know how to tie his bow tie, so I didn't go back.  I next tried a genuine saloon, but that was a disaster!  I'll always be a barber shop guy, I hope they will be too.

Yesterday marked a major milestone in the time of buzz cuts: they were super excited (last time the barber gave them a tory car) and...and when they arrived home, Mom did not cry!   Enjoy the Before and After pics.  

28 March 2012

Rest in Peace Earl Scruggs, thanks for the music

I know everyone loves Foggy Mountain Breakdown, it is a great piece of music.  But my favorite will always be Pearl, Pearl, Pearl.  I challenge anyone to find a better line in any music genre than

Pearl, Pearl, Pearl, come be my loving girl
Don't you marry Lester Flatt, He slicks his hair with possum fat
Change your name to Mrs. Earl Scruggs

next place?  easy, the next stanza by Scruggs,

Pearl, Pearl, Pearl, he's nutty as a squirrel
If you'll be Mrs. Scruggs, We'll live on kisses and hugs
Like Juliet and Romeo.

If you have never taken the time to listen to Pearl, Pearl, Pearl take the opportunity to now.  

26 March 2012

Preaching Advice #35

This morning I was the guest speaker at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans.  I volunteered to speak on the legacy of Ralph Waldo Emerson.  I have been carrying an idea for some time on RWE, I thought by preaching on this idea it would force me to flesh it out more - didn't happen.  Oh brother, from my p.o.v., it was a disaster.  But the people were gracious.  I had a good time meeting the people and reading to the kids.  I was saved, however, by a serendipitous hymn choice.  Being a freelance preacher I do not pick hymns, I leave it to the choir director.  The choir director saved my reputation!  She picked a rousing, lively, and thumping closing hymn.

This is my piece of advice: Nearly all, if not all, poor sermons can be expiated if the last hymn is a doozy. I learned this by accident one Sunday in RI.  The sermon was well below my standards, someone even dozed off, and most of the congregation had those "did I leave the iron on" look.  But the hymn was a rousing number the congregation had not sung in a while.   To my surprise as the congregation flowed out they were all smiles, humming the tune, and had nothing but great things to say about the sermon and the service.

Do not doubt the power of music!  As I left I had all kinds of people thank me for my sermon, told me they were going home to read Emerson, and someone even boiled my sermon down to such a concise essence it could have been a tweet.

However, the converse of this phenomena is true as well.  The best sermon can be ruined by a poor hymn following the service.  I have seen happy go lucky people walk out as if I had just told them they look terrible in plaid (even though I think everyone looks good in plaid)!

Now a few more notes on this morning.  Get this: nearly everyone sat up front!  The first two rows were filled!  And if that wasn't enough they put their best chairs in the back AND they were not filled.  Historical note: the church lost her pews in Katrina, now they have rows of cushioned chairs - the last row is a row of high back, large comfy chairs.  If I were a congregant I would arm wrestle for those chairs!

Since I posted this post this morning I have had several requests concerning what rousing hymn this post refers to, so here you go,  "Come and Go with Me"

24 March 2012

The Setup

The missus posted the setup of her booth for the Congo Square festival this on facebook this morning.  I am sharing this because I am so proud of her and the risks she has taken to follow her passion.  And to think, years ago I thought of myself as the creative one!

23 March 2012

Santorum's Visit to New Orleans

My Article on Santorum's visit to New Orleans. This may make the syndication routes. Read it first here as a blog entry.

Santorum visits New Orleans

Responding to the presence of the Gingrich in New Orleans camp Santorum arrived in the Crescent City last night to meet voters and, hopefully, shore up another southern victory this Saturday. Candidate Santorum spoke before a befuddled audience in Mid-City. It seems his staff did not do their homework considering the eccentricities of New Orleans Culture. They thought they would be speaking in a lounge before the big men who are members of the prestigious Louisiana Club, instead of the location where he spoke: The Big Man Lounge on Louisiana Avenue.

Santorum made the most of situation, climbed up onto the bar and addressed the crowd with the usual, "Hello." But the crowd confused the candidate by responding with, "Alright." In his moment of stunned silence a patron of the establishment approached the bar, just to the right of Santorum, and ordered a Biere Pale and a side of boudin. Perhaps it was the smoke in the air, perhaps it was the uncommon accents, perhaps he was dizzy but what happened next could very well put the final period to his candidacy.

When Santorum finally began speaking again, his manner had significantly changed. He chastised the patrons of the Big Man Lounge saying, "This is America and in America we speak American! When I say hello you say Hello back. And in America we order Coors Light, because it says right on the can that it is cold and has a large drinking spout so we dont spill it all over ourselves! And in bars, not lounges, we order American food like hot wings and fries." He could have, he should have, ended his speech there but he went deeper into his soul, something last night triggered a rant that can only be likened to Dr. Seuss' character Sam from his bestselling Green Eggs and Ham.

"I hate it when Americans do not speak American. And I tell you what else I hate:
I hate creamy Jif peanut butter.
I hate it when men wear ties with sweater vests.
I hate multicolored bowling balls.
I hate cut off denim shorts
I hate blue jeans that are not blue
I hate it that Costco sells Herman Miller chairs
I hate it that I cannot buy a chalupa from Taco Bell without being labeled soft on immigration
I hate it when reporters bring up that I lost to Bob Casey by 18 points."

He may have kept going but Big Sam's Funky Nation had a 8:30 gig.

Your Weekend Is Taken Care of

Take a deep breath and say thanks for I am about to plan your weekend for you.

Tomorrow and Sunday you are encouraged to scoot on down to Louis Armstrong Park for the Congo Square New Rhythms Festival.  Why?  Because of the great music? Yes.  Because of the food?  Yes.  But even more!  The missus will be there selling her latest designs!!!  If you haven't liked her on facebook, now would be a great time.

There is your Saturday.  Now Sunday, usually a rest day, is a real whizbanger - a twofor.  Sunday morning start your day at 10:30 (this is New Orleans after all) with an engaging reflection centered on the legacy of Ralph Waldo Emerson: the creative tension between the mystical wanderings of the soul and the need for anchored community.  This reflection/sermon will be delivered by none other than yours truly at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans.  After this, hop into your vehicle of choice and head back down Congo Square!


20 March 2012

Free to Fail

I recall a sage professor from seminary one day discussing the need for an honest conversation on failure.  Specifically, he wanted to know why churches and pastors do not discuss and share what didn't work rather than what did?  I believe he even forwarded the idea of a newsletters of failures.  I think it was a great idea, it seems we as human beings learn more from failure than success.  Indeed we learn from success but it seems the learning curve is steeper in times of failure (that is if we acknowledge our failure).  I would say that most clergy (myself included) are afraid of failure and to admit failure.

Did anyone read the interview with Ms. Tracey Matura in the Sunday New York Times?  Allow me to share a key section:

Q. What questions do you ask when you’re hiring?
A. “Tell me who your favorite boss was, and why, and who your least-favorite boss was and why.” And you quickly get a sense of what leadership styles work best for them. I would also ask them about a time they took a risk and failed. I have not hired people who have told me they’ve never failed. You don’t learn if you don’t fail.
Q. People really say that they’ve never failed?
A. People might say, “You know, I don’t think I’ve ever really had a complete failure.” Really? I don’t even ask the question in terms of just business. Everybody’s had some failure in their life.
Q. So they’re just trying to figure out the right answer?
A. Here’s what I want: My leadership style is to be transparent and authentic, so if you’re going to tell me you’ve never failed, it makes me wonder if you always hide your failures. I don’t like that — surprises are bad for everybody. I can’t fix or try to fix something I don’t know about. Some people have that fear factor if they admit to failure, as if they say to themselves, “If I say I failed, she’s going to think I’m a loser and not hire me.” Quite the opposite. We’re human. We all fail.
(emphasis added on the last answer) 

There has been much chatter recently on the forthcoming death of the mainline church, but I do not see that as a reality.  For the record I do not think American mainline Protestant Christianity will blossom the way it did a few generations ago, but I do think it will be a flourishing and life giving expression.  I offer a way forward to vitality is an open discussion of failure and a freedom from the anxiety that stems from the fear of failure.  

During this (and past) search process and my own experience serving three churches I cannot get over how the fear of failure, i.e. closing down, dwindling membership, finances, building issues, & etc. damn near constrict and take over the present mission and life.  Rather than take risks most play it safe.  But what if there was some way to transcend this fear to honor it but not let it reign?  What if there was some way to imagine life as a congregation without the overwhelming presence of anxiety?  It seems to be me that this fear makes congregations bedridden scared to death (literally) to takes some risks and chances.  But without taking some risks and chances we are preventing a grand jump towards new possibilities.  

What if we started with naming our fears but also owning our failures - what has not worked.  And then what about naming five crazy, zany, risky, creative ideas to break through the current stalemate.  

Several months ago Lori shared with me a link of a poster.  A week or two later I purchased this poster for our bedroom.  I wanted to wake up every morning and remind myself and the missus about the active role we were going to take in our lives.  Every morning (and evening) I see this poster, the woman who chose to marry me, and the usually the snoring of my progeny.  It stifles fear and loosens the grip of anxiety.  Go here to purchase one for yourself.  

What if churches and pastors rewrote this for their lives?  What if churches put a hiatus on producing mission statements and instead developed passion statements?  What if we defined our passions as our reason for existence?

Consider this one step forward.

15 March 2012

Write a sentence with the word "job."

As many of you know I am involved in the search process (i.e. seeking a new pastoral call).  The search process is coming along quite well.  You may recall Tobias Funke's response when Michael Bluthe asked him how the job hunt was going, "Good, er...it is going to be good."  I would say it is good.  

My time off has given me a deeper appreciation of the pastoral life.  My time as a "freelance preacher" - I do not believe I invented that term, but I do think it is fairly original - has given me a deeper appreciation of the preaching moment, the writing process, and the intimacy shared between preacher and congregation and the intimacy shared between congregants.  Interesting how the congregation feeds, lifts, and takes cues from one another.  But the greatest insight thus far has come from my kids.  I love listening to what they love and miss about church. 

My time off has provided my family the unique blessing of talking openly about the future.  What brings us joy and frustration, what feeds us and drives us crazy, what we like best and what frustrates us to no end.  (I have not introduced them to the What I hate game, yet).  I would say the greatest difference between this search and any other searches has been the inclusion of the kiddos.  Before we always had to keep the search process hidden from them until the day we sprung on them.  So one day I asked the kids, "Kids, what do you want next?  Where do you want to move to?"  They provided me with this set of criteria:  One, it must snow there.  Two, we must have a backyard to play in.  And three, there must be a tree large enough for us to have a tree house."  I was impressed with this criteria.  I told them I would do what I could.  

I mention all of this because one never knows how much kids actually pay attention and pick up on the conversations around the house.  Last week #3, who is in kindergarten, showed me a paper he had completed in school.  The assignment was to use one of the words he had learned in school that day in a sentence.  Last Thursday the word of the day was "job."  #3 wrote the following sentence:

Transliterated: "My dad is looking for a job."  

I nearly fell out of the chair with laughter.  The search process, it is good.  

14 March 2012

Social Media Hype

As I prepared to preach last Sunday I used the tools of twitter and facebook to hype up the occasion, in jest of course.  Yesterday someone asked if I would include them together on the blog.  In order as they appeared.  You may want to sit down while you read these, the intensity is pretty severe.

-well it's monday and most of you are already fretting about where you are going to worship on Sunday and on top of that you are anxious about if you will ever get the chance to hear Travis Norvell preach -- well comfort's comin' This Sunday I'll be the guest preacher at Parker Memorial United Methodist Church (1130 Nashville Avenue) at 11:00am. Sermon: The Spirituality of Imperfection. This an intimate venue, I would suggest getting there at least a half hour before the service begins to assure seating.

-i just returned from outside Parker Meth. and told those camping out that really there was no need, there will be plenty of room come Sunday. it appears that someone leaked that I would be preaching there this Sunday. folks enjoy your Friday night and Saturday - I'll rope off a pew (just message me).

-i just received word from one of the lay leader at Parker Meth. stating that they are making available a limited amount of rush seating for the service this morning. so if you woke up late and dont have enough time to get in line, dont worry there will be room. this is a casual place so if you come with bedhead it'll be ok, coffee breath however will be frowned upon. 11:00am 1130 Nashville Ave. Sermon: The Spirituality of Imperfection.

-It seems scores of you attempted to get into the church yesterday morning only to walk away once you arrived at the door. Yes, there was a line at the door but those present were signing in. Most of you presumed the remaining space was standing room only. Most of you hoped that I would post at the least a textual version of the sermon this morning. You were correct and I'm even sweetening the pot with a link to an audio version as well! all of this and more can be found at theobilly.

12 March 2012

The Spirituality of Imperfection

Good morning all.  I hope you are enjoying your Monday.  Yesterday I had a wonderful experience preaching a sermon titled, The Spirituality of Imperfection, at Parker Memorial United Methodist Church in New Orleans.  I have been working on this sermon for a good while, more with my life than with my pen.  I almost didn't preach it. I was tempted not make myself vulnerable in the preaching moment, but I decided to any way.  I am glad I did.  Thanks to the wonderful people at PMUMC, it was great fun.

The audio link for the sermon is below, I'm working on the video.  I put my iphone in airplane mode and recorded it as a voice memo, thus you will hear my robe rubbing the lectern every now and then.

The Spirituality of Imperfection

After the sermon I received one of the nicest compliments I have ever received, "That was a good old fashioned sermon."  I may even make up new business cards that has my name underneath will read, Freelance Preacher then underneath that in italics lettering, "A Good Old Fashioned Preacher."  When I told the missus about the comment she smiled and said, "that was anything but a good old fashioned sermon."

The text follows.  If you listen to the audio version you will note how much I improvised.  I specifically left the sermon text "open."  I was not sure how much I would or wouldn't say - thus a representation of what I preached yesterday.

The Spirituality of Imperfection
The Third Sunday in Lent – 11.March.2012
Parker United Methodist Church
New Orleans, LA
The Rev’d G. Travis Norvell
text: “And immediately the spirit driveth him into the wilderness.” Mark 1:12

Let us pray,
O God take our hands and work through them
                            our eyes and see through them
our minds and think through them
and take our hearts and set them on fire. 

Our story rushes us into the wilderness, for the Spirit did not allow Jesus one merry moment after his baptism, immediately the Spirit drove Jesus out to the wilderness for forty days of temptation. 
            Immediately.  In all fairness this is how Mark tells a story, he or the community we call Mark wrote quick & dirty.  Mark is an impatient author who did not have the time to make the rough smooth.  Mark is street Greek, rough, edgy, and raw.  There are no beautiful long flowing sentences followed by short sentences allowing you to catch your breath as the author moves from one scene to the next; they are all short and packed, rapidly moving from one scene to the next.  Mark is like one of those new roller coasters that hurls you forward instantly, there are no slow gradual uphill ascensions in the second gospel.   

Immediately.  I think there is in another immediacy at work: The Spirit of God wanted to make sure her investment in Jesus was a proper choice, wisdom wanted to make sure she made a wise choice. 

Immediately.  There was even another immediacy at work: time was not on Jesus’ side.  He knew full well that time was not on his side, the average life of a peasant in 1st century Palestine under Roman occupation was only 30 years.  He knew his death was nearer rather farther away.  Could it be that the fear of failure so engulfed him that it almost won the day! 

            Immediately.  I believe there is something else going on here as well.  I believe Jesus was scared.  We will never know for certain what Jesus feared but there is no question his fears seized him.  My hunch is that Jesus had the same fear you and I all have: the fear of failure.  Why did he wait until he was 30 before embarking on his mission?  It took a poet, the re-creative force of creation, the voice of Yahweh God and the flight of a dove to awaken him.  And the awakening scared him.  When Jesus immediately went into the wilderness he was running away (and to) his fears.  And Jesus ran…the Spirit drove him…

            Let us pause and slow the text down for a few moments.  Mark wrote on the run, but we don’t have to read on the run.  Let us dwell this morning in the white space between the text.  Something happened in the wilderness.

In the wilderness our Lord and Saviour learned what we all learn in these types of situations: we cannot run from our problems, from conflict, from our fears they follow us wherever we go.  If we were to take a rocket ship to the moon and live there by ourselves we would take all of our fears, problems, and conflicts with us.  Over the span, that enchanting span of 40 (days) Jesus confronted his fears. 

            Imagine Jesus in the wilderness letting the events of his life sink in.  His fears did not rise up at once upon his arrival in the wilderness, but after the rush of his baptism wore off, after the adrenaline in his blood cured, after he finally looked around and began to think what in the world Yahweh God’s declaration of him being the Beloved, the one whom God was well pleased with, meant, then, then he embarked on the inward pilgrimage.  Once the journey began fear began bubbling up from the depths of his conscience, soul, and heart; the fears made their presence known. 

For an unspecified amount of time Jesus had been naming and realizing his fears, until one day he was ready to face them.  We have traditionally received this moment as the temptations of Jesus – and yes they are temptations by none other than the tempter par excellence, literally The Tempter, Ha Sa-tan.  (For the record I am not talking about a literal red suited dude with a trident, pointed tail, and suave looks.  I am, instead, referring to the spirit, the force, the presence, the principalities and powers, the experience of evil, anything and all in that category that calls/tempts/seduces/allures/teases/taunts us to be anything other than our full/true/authentic self.  The Biblical authors in their creativity personified this thing as Satan, feel free to do likewise – but if that aint your thing, fine – just don’t fool yourself into thinking evil on a personal and institutional level doesn’t exist).  Now back to the temptations; they are more than just temptations to do one thing in exchange for another – they are Satan’s temptations to take care of Jesus’ fears, to allow an outsider take away and alleviate his fears rather than confront them himself.  Satan, in a clever fashion, should we expect otherwise? tempts Jesus to allow him to control/manage his fear(s) with a set of conditionals:

If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread
If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down
If you will bow down and worship me

            To each opportunity Jesus said NO.  In each instance Jesus stated he would confront his fears himself. 
            When Jesus stated over and over and over No to the opportunities presented by Satan he was beginning the process of cleansing his heart.  Jesus was developing a perfected love free of fear.  From that moment on he resolved, I may fail, but I will not allow the fear of failure keeping me from the work of my life. 

Let us look at this from another angle, with a question, what is the opposite of love?  {A literal pause}  I would say most if not all would say hate, hate is the opposite of love.  But from a biblical perspective hate is not the opposite of love, fear is.  Nestled in the 4th chapter of the first book of John (near the end of the New Testament) we find a beautiful sentence that illuminates fear as the strange antonym of love.  In the 14th century John Wycliff translated the passage this way, Drede is not in charite, but perfit charite puttith out drede; for drede hath peyne. But he that dredith, is not perfit in charite.”  A century and a half later William Tyndale (which the King James Version is largely modeled after) translated the passage in this manner, There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out all fear, for fear hath painfulness. He that feareth is not perfect in love.”  At all costs we avoid our fears, of failure, of our hearts being broken.  But during our forty days in the metaphorical wilderness we too are presented with the opportunity to confront our fears and to begin to practice a fearless love.  Or to use a nice Methodist term, during Lent we are to begin the  sanctification/cleansing of the way we love. 

I have titled this sermon The Spirituality of Imperfection, a fine title for Lent, don’t you think?  We are imperfect creatures striving towards perfection.  We are striving for biblical perfection, wholeness or a practice of our authentic self.  Whole, complete is a much more biblical translation than perfect.  In the bible I used to have, I lost it, she was my favorite bible of all time, I had even gone so far to cross our perfect in Matthew 5:48 Be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect to, “be authentic, be the full flourishing person reflecting the image of the One who loved you into being.”   

Now I have not mentioned myself at all during this sermon but I confess it is one of the most autobiographical sermons I have ever written.  For most of my 37 years of existence I allowed the fear of failure to haunt my days.  At times I have been able to rise above and pass over this fear but not always.  And then a few months ago I realized I had failed at the one thing I never thought I would fail at.  And then one day I began to laugh at myself and at my fear.  You mean this is it, this is what I was so afraid of?  As I worked on this sermon I kept running into homelitcal road blocks, it just didn’t make a bit of sense.  And then I smiled and realized the fear was back again.  I found myself saying, “It’s good to see you again.” 
In the 4th and 5th centuries young people from the four corners of the Roman Empire began emulating Jesus’ wilderness example; they went to wrestle with their fears.  They were successful but disillusioned citizen who left their comfortable lives to find their authentic selves.  In the course of a few decades abandoned cities in the deserts of North Africa, Egypt and Ethiopia became repopulated by this generation.  They went seeking the silence, freedom and the courage to fail.  And fail they did; they failed at almost everything.  And it seemed that those who failed the most, learned the most, and were thus elevated as spiritual mothers (Ammas) and fathers (Abbas).  From the experience of their failures exists a corpus of wisdom that is some of the most practical and authentic expressions of Christian life.  They learned how to live with imperfection and in some ways welcomed it.
Poemen said about John the Short that he asked the Lord to take away his passions. So his heart was at rest, and he went to a hermit and said, "I find that I am at peace, with no war between flesh and spirit."

The hermit said to him, "Go and ask the Lord to stir up a new war in you. Fighting is good for the soul."

When the conflict revived in him, he no longer prayed for it to be taken away, but said, "Lord, grant me the strength to endure this fight."

            The Christian life is a constant revisiting and refining of the same things over and over and over again.  We will cast out one fear only to have another appear and down the road the original fear we casted aside will reappear in a new and different expression.  And when that happens, we can meet our fears with a smile, “it’s you again.” 
You can picture Jesus re-entering society after his wilderness experience energized and excited to live without fear.   Mark’s transitional sentence for this seminal moment, “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee.”  Fear didn’t take holiday. It’s you again. 

When Jesus proclaimed, “‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news’ it did not mean from that moment on he did not make any mistakes along the way.  It only meant he resolved not to run from his fears anymore, to love without the fear of failure.  He was going to give his life to healing, forgiving, and gracing creation into a new existence.  Brothers and Sisters mistakes will come, imperfect we will be, but let us embrace our imperfection, not suppress it.  Let us welcome fear, not run from it.  We too are called to participate in the healing, forgiving and gracing creation into a new existence but we cannot let fear run amuck and keep us from our authentic selves.  During this season of Lent let us resolve to cast out fear and love anew.  Or if you need a New Orleans jazz reference, he laid his burdens down by the riverside.  May we lay down our burdens (our fears) and begin to work towards a fearless love, a love supreme. 

            Amen and Amen.  

07 March 2012

Preaching Schedule

It is Wednesday and most of you are probably fretting, biting your nails, and feeling that anxious feeling in your belly as you ponder where are you going to worship this Sunday.  And you also have that nagging question in the back of your mind wondering if you are ever gonna have the opportunity to hear Rev. Norvell preach again.

Comfort's comin'

This Sunday, March 11, I'll be preaching at Parker United Methodist Church at 11:00am.  Sermon: The Spirituality of Imperfection.

If you can make it I suggest you arrive early, it is an intimate setting.

Now if you have a sinking feeling of remorse settle down.  I will also be at The First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans the last Sunday of the month, March 25.  Sermon: The Church and The Soul: The legacy of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

And for those of you on the northshore I'm throwing you some love too.  On April 1 I'll be at North Shore Unitarian Universalist in Lacombe, LA preaching on The Gift of Humor (it will be April Fools Day after all & Palm Sunday, one of the most sarcastic -IMHO- days of the Christian year).

Hope to see you at one, at all, or wherever or whenever you can.

06 March 2012

Yo Ho Ho...The Benefits of Developing a Pirate Voice

Several years ago I became acquainted with International Talk Like A Pirate Day (Sept 19th, you've got plenty of time).  The day harkened me back to swashbuckling tales of Blackbeard and Long John Silver (the pirate, not the restaurant chain).  After learning about this fabulous (probably not a term most pirates used) day I went home and began talking like a pirate to the kiddos.  Immediately they were enthralled, and immediately I knew I had to cultivate and work on my pirate lingo and lore.

Jump ahead five or so years to last week.

Last week I was called to substitute for the librarian at the school my progeny attend.  Librarian.  I couldn't think of a higher honor then being a librarian (think of it as my George Costanza always wanted to be a pretend architect/marine biologist).  I thought how hard can this be, let the kids check out books, sing some songs about books, recommend my favorites, and maybe even read a story or two.  To my surprise the librarian left lesson plans, and worksheets, and books for me to read to the kids, and told me they were not allowed to check out books since she would be gone that day.  Ah man.

Again I still did not see any complications: worksheets, detailed lesson plans, and books dutifully marked for me.  All in all it was not a difficult day - other than kids being kids: a little noisy, letting stinkers, asking to get a drink, sharpening pencils every five minutes, picking their nose, fighting over where to sit on the carpet, & etc.  But the hardest part, believe it or not, was reading to them.  How many of you have read out loud for 15-20 minutes for seven periods?  It is quite the strain on an adult voice.  Plus the kids drift in and out of the story.

Okay reader, here is where you go aha, they only drift in and out of the story if you don't have a pirate voice!

I was absolutely amazed at how they paid attention when I would slip into my pirate voice.  It didn't matter if they were almost asleep, day dreaming, or salivating over the cookie in their lunch as soon as I would start talking like a pirate they would perk up and give me their full attention.

I do not have many voices, only three, and those kids demanded all three.  They did not ask for them but to keep their attention I had to pull them all out.  Other voices, yeah I have two others.  One, the southern lady - Why, Sylvester I've never didn't know you could grow tomatoes so big.  And Two, the Jack Perkins voice which Darrell Hammond dramatized on Saturday Night Live.  When the Kindergardeners and First graders came to the library I read them biographies.  After reminding them what a biography was, and explaining the Greek etymology (probably went a little overboard there) to them I said kids this is a "biography" in my voice, then had them repeat after me.

you only need to watch the first five seconds to hear the voice.

I am curious if of the kids when asked what they did in school today went, "We read a bi-o-gra-fee"  And yes there aint much difference between my Jack Perkins and pirate voice.  Get to work folks, you never know when you may have to lull a pack of kids to a workable calm.  I think I may even try this on this Sunday during the sermon...probably not but I will at least put this into my pastoral toolbox.