Tuesday, December 28, 2004


Matthew 2:13-23
13 Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ 14Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt,a 15and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’
16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.
bc 17Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: 18‘A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’
19 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, 20‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.’ 21Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.
d 22But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. 23There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He will be called a Nazorean.’

Today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents within Christian Tradition. It is not an accident that the Feast of the Massacre of the Innocents follows so close upon Christmas: the two are deeply interconnected. The Christ child is only half a story - a full reading confronts us with not only the joy and promise of Christmas, but its cost and its redemptive agony.

As we move into a new year, we are reminded with both the tragedy of the Tsunami in Asia and the war in Iraq that we live in a world where many innocent people are victims to both imperial oppression and natural disaster. As Christians who are neighbors with all God's children in the world let our response to victims of war and to victims of natural disaster be quick and compassionate.

"Lord, you give us life even before we understand" (Prayer Over the Gifts, Feast of the Holy Innocents).

South and Southeast Asia: UMCOR Responds to Catastrophic DisasterUMCOR has issued an urgent appeal for donations to assist tens of thousands of earthquake survivors in South and Southeast Asia.

The death toll has risen above 59,000 according to press reports today, in one of the most devastating earthquakes in a century.

UMCOR will be working with church-related alliances such as Action by Churches Together and Churches Auxiliary for Social Action to provide food, clean water, shelter, and sanitation services in a broadband of nations from Asia to Africa. The areas affected include parts of India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh, and islands such as Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

The exact extent of the destruction is not immediately known. Waters from tsunamis-the term is Japanese for tidal wave-pushed far inland, and many of the affected regions are remote.

In India CASA has deployed 12 teams to assess needs and assist people in the coastal states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala. The organization told UMCOR it expects to work with 50,000 families.

The island nation of Sri Lanka was one of the hardest hit. As many as 10,000 died there. UMCOR assistance there will be coordinated through the National Council of Churches of Sri Lanka. Immediate need is to provide food and housing for displaced people.

Cash gifts will be most meaningful in the initial days and weeks of this response, according to the Rev. Kristin L. Sachen, head of UMCOR's international emergency services. "We have some initial funds to send this week," she said, but noted that long-term support will depend on the offerings local churches receive in response to the disaster. A bulletin insert will be available at umcor.org later this week.

You can get involved through giving to UMCOR Advance #274305, South Asia Emergency. UMCOR is also accepting online donations at http://MethodistRelief.org .

O God, Master of this passing world,
hear the humble voices of your children.
The Sea of Galilee obeyed your order and returned to its former quietude;
you are still the Master of land and sea.
We live in the shadow of a danger
over which we have no control.
The Gulf, like a provoked and angry giant,
can awake from its seeming lethargy,
overstep its conventional boundaries,
invade our land and spread chaos and disaster.
Spare us from past tragedies whose memories are still so vivid
and whose wounds seem to refuse to heal with the passing of time.
O Virgin, Star of the Sea,
Our Beloved Mother,
we ask you to plead with your Son in our behalf,
so that spared from the calamities common
to this area and animated with a true spirit of gratitude,
we will walk in the footsteps of your Divine Son
to reach the heavenly Jerusalem
where a storm-less eternity awaits us. Amen.
Rosary Creations

Saturday, December 25, 2004


Matthew 2: 13-23

The birth of Jesus comes to us a festive retelling- with the excitement of angels singing, shepherds coming to visit, the incredible scene of Mary and Joseph not finding room in the inn and settling down in a stable for the delivery, animals around, a bright star, and then several months later- strange star gazers coming to bring gifts for child. What a way to start your life…

But my thoughts quickly turn to what was going on after the birth. When Jen had both Jonas and Abby I think of the number of family members we had waiting in anticipation in the waiting room for me to come out and say, “He’s here, or she’s here”. And then the excitement that came with that. In then since then, the support and nurture that has come with having family to surround and love Jonas and Abby. This has been a large part of our lives.

But for Mary and Joseph, what should have been a time to enjoy this new baby, God’s child of hope and promise, through a dream God came to them and tells them to leave their home, family, and sense of comfort and community and head to Egypt.

(When have you had to leave a place or a way of life for another?)

Now in the midst of Mary and Joseph taking Jesus and heading to Egypt, we hear about Herod. Rome has occupied Israel and appointed Herod, a Jew, as the king over this area of Palestine. Herod was known as ruling with an iron fist. He was the kind of leader who reacted ruthlessly and violently if he felt his power was in some way threatened. So when Herod hears from the wandering magi that they have come to worship a king- the king of the Jews, Herod becomes concerned, to say the least. So concerned that in a drastic action to make sure this child doesn’t continue to be a threat- he orders that all male children 2 years of age and younger be killed. It’s interesting how far leaders in the world will go to “KEEP THE PEACE”.

In Christian tradition this story has been known as the slaughter of the Holy Innocents. The children killed are called holy innocents because they represent the people of our world who have no voice, who have been marginalized and victimized.

(Who are the “holy innocents” in our world today? Who are the babies and children at our mercy in our public life – who suffer from the lack of clean air and water, medical care, good schools? Who are the holy innocents who suffer in war, who endure violence in their homes and neighborhoods, who have no voice in the life of our community? Do we recognize them and speak out on behalf of them, or simply read about them, and then turn the page, and move on with our lives?)

When I hear the story of Joseph having the dream where God tells him to take Mary and Jesus and head to Egypt, it connects them into the story of God calling God’s people into a certain way of life.

We recall Abraham hearing the voice of God come to him saying, “Abraham, I want you to leave your country and way of life and go to a place that I’m calling you to. If you go I will make you a parent to a nation of many people. So in a sense, God is calling Abraham to become a refugee and to uproot his family and go to a new place. With that new place comes a promise from God.

We recall Moses who lives in Egypt, whose people are being oppressed by the Pharaoh. God calls Moses to lead the people out of Egypt into a “promised land” where God will be their God and the Israelites will be God’s people. And so this people become refugees wandering to a new place.

God’s calling Joseph, Mary and Jesus to leave their home and head to Egypt is calling them to become refugees- uprooted from their family, community and way of life, but it also suggest two things
1. Jesus is living out of the same “way of life” as those who have gone before him.
2. Jesus’ leaving his homeland for Egypt, the place his ancestors where oppressed, enslaved, and brought out of is a symbolic act of reconciliation. Through Jesus, God is bringing people together, tearing down walls that separate us, bringing peace where there is division, and, through Jesus, embracing all people as The People of God.

(When have you experienced God’s presence when you didn’t expect to?)

I want you to consider the idea that God is calling us as God’s people to become a refugee people- a people that gives up places of power and are open to God’s leading and direction. Because it’s when we allow God to lead us that we are able to meet and become a blessing for those in our world who are the voiceless, the needy, and powerless.

Maybe God wants the church to look like a refugee camp- providing friendship, hospitality, basic necessities to those who have been uprooted and driven away from their home. Why, because our God is a God that entered the world as a baby who quickly became a refugee.

Last week I worked at the 61st Ave. UMC “Last Chance Toy Store”, where we gave out toys to low income families so they would have gifts for their children. In the course of 4 days, over 3000 children were served. On Tuesday I carried gifts to the car for a young Hispanic woman. I tried to talk to her, I know no Spanish. Very quickly it becomes apparent that she knew no English. But every time I asked her a question, she smiled and said, “Merry Christmas”. In fact, she probably said Merry Christmas at least 10 times to me with such joy. At this refugee camp- where people came to receive gifts of hope that their children would have a meaningful holiday- I met and angel who blessed me, and hopefully I was an angel to her as well.

May we be both refugees in this world and a refugee camp for the world. Amen.

Monday, December 13, 2004


Well, it's 34 degrees and Jen and I are off to see the TN Titans play. I've never been to a pro football game so I'm really pretty excited! It's cold, we're bundled up and ready to see some Monday night football. GO TITANS!!! I'm not even a big sports fan and my adrenaline is flowing. SHALOM ALL. Wind chill at the stadium- 24 degrees YES!!

Saturday, December 11, 2004


Posted by Hello

Advent is stirring me more than usual this year- and not in a good way. Maybe its the fact that as I sit here writing this post, there are church family members off in Iraq fighting a war. Maybe its the story I heard on the news about 3 children who are left at home with grandmas as both of their parents, who are in the reserve, are being shipped out to Iraq for Christmas. I'm sad. I am waiting this year... really waiting... for something to change.


I've been going back and forth on Doug Paggitt's blog this week in talking about a Christian's role in being nonviolent. I am disappointed, though not surprised, that many have no problem following a Savior who went all the way to the cross rather than calling up an army when faced with conflict, and supporting the resolving of conflict among nations with violence.I have no neat and insightful answers except that I follow a God that chose to come to show us a better way to live, and I choose that way- LIFE not DEATH.

So I pray- for peace.
So I pray- for friends I know and those I dont' who are away from home and serving their country.
So I pray- for our leaders: that they will make decisions that reflect "True" Christian Principles. So I pray- for not my will, nor yours, but God's will be done ON EARTH.

In times such as this my patron saint theologian Stanley Hauerwas brings me words of wisdom:

"For Christians, the proper home for the language of evil is the liturgy: it is God who deals with evil, and it's presumptuous for humans to assume that our task is to do what only God can do... Does that mean there is nothing we can do? No, I think that a lot can be done — once we free our imaginations from the presumption that the only alternative is capitulation or war. Nonviolence means finding alternatives to the notion that it is ultimately a matter of kill or be killed... "


Friday, December 10, 2004


Waiting and watching
pacing back and forth
in eager imagination
anticipating a young girl
expecting a child
a child of hope
a child of promise

fill my arms
steal my stares
Apease my cares
Concerns for you
Concerns for a world
In desperate need of your return

for a people...
a kingdom...
That loves like...
you love

Monday, December 06, 2004

Monday's Musings

Last night our youth group hosted our 3rd contemplative worship gathering. It went really really well. Several youth groups from the Nashville area came which made it quite an event. My partner in crime Gavin and his youth group helped plan and pull the worship off. In fact if you check out his site, http://gavoweb.blogs.com, you can see pictures from it. It was a beautiful Advent worship, with multiple prayer stations, art, poetry, contemplative music. Very fun, and very prayerful, or prayer-filled.

I just started reading through Robert Webber's book, Ancient-Future Time. The premise of this book is shaping our spiritual lives through the traditional Christian Year. I've thumbed through the entire book and like the way he sets it up. Each chapter he visits a Christian season- Advent, Christmas, Lent, The 3 Great Days, Easter, Pentecost, and Ordinary Time- and talks about the significance of each season and how the season can uniquely inform our spiritual formation as Christians.

The other emphasis that I like about this book is that the Christian Calendar represents the countercultural nature of the Christian Community. By living our lives based around the Christian Calendar we show ourselves as unique and different to the culture at large- it is another way to show that we are resident aliens in a foreign land.

I look forward to reading this book and seeing where it will take me in my exploration of a faith rooted in scripture, tradition, reason and experience.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Jive Turkey

Happy Jive'Turkey Day my shizzles!!!

Thursday, November 18, 2004

St. Benedict's Youth Group pt. 2

"As often as anything especial is to be done in the monastery, the abbot shall call together the whole congregation, and shall himself explain the question at issue. And, having heard the advice of the brethren, he shall think it over by himself, and shall do what he considers most advantageous. . " - The Rule, "About Calling in the Brethren to Take Council"

I really liked this passage when I read it this week. Although the abbot, whom I imagine as a very wise sort, is the spiritual leader and administrator of the abby, still he is mindful to call all the monks together to discuss issues of the community.

I see this speaking to the youth pastor as abbot in a way that allows a youth group to really be empowered to be the incarnated body of christ when it comes to "doing ministry" together. So much of my past youth ministry has been me planning events, service, and study "for" my youth. Obviously I've been the man with the mission to help my kids grow in faith.

Although my passion is to see them grow in faith- what I take from this passage is how youth ministry is not about the youth director anymore than the monestary is about the abbot and the vision of the abbot. Youth ministry is about a group of people creating a community that runs counter to the world. Everyone in this community has a place and something to offer.

I have discovered that some of my best moments of Youth Ministry have been when I've opened decisions and direction of our group up to the youth. In fact they've never let me down.

Interestingly enough Benedict doesn't say that the abbot decides in favor of the community's opinion every time, in fact the abbot after asking for direction from the whole community, takes aside some of the elders of the monestary and talks seriously with them. Then through prayer the abbot makes decisions.

I think we call this discernment- what a novel way to function as a youth group.

Thank you again Benedict.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Need sleep....

Man, oh man, classes have kicked me in the butt this week. I ought to be reading Hans Frei and Jurgen Moltmann right now- but every part of my body and brain is hurting right now. Oh well...... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Our Contemplative Worship Gathering Needs a Name

Ok, so our youth group has really gotten into contemplative spiritual practices- reading scripture meditatively, silence, creative prayer stations, icons, prayer candles, etc....

We were doing these practices on Sunday nights for our youth group meetings and then decided to put together a worship gathering and invite others- adults, youth and children to come and share in the cool way we worship together as a group. So last month we led our first contemplative worship experience. It went so well that we've decided to give it a go at once a month.

We don't really have a name for this worship time, but I'm thinking it needs to relate the vibe that it emits- sort of ancient meets modern (ie postmodern???) feel.

So here are my ideas for naming this new venture (please after reading- reflect and then add your own ideas):

1. "BREVIARY": the breviary is an ancient pattern of worship that follows a daily rhythm of morning, midday and evening. Monks prayed this worship together and still do today. The style of prayer/worship that we do together is a form of breviary. Check out: http://www.beliefnet.com/story/21/story_2169_1.html for more information.

2. "BENEDICTION": prayer, a blessing; http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=benediction

3. "BENEDICTUS": old english version of benediction

4. "SANCTUS": middle english/latin for holy, http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=Sanctus

5. "ENIGMA" OR "CONUNDRUM": A custom was among the ancients of proposing an enigma at festivals. --Pope.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Please post your vote or add an idea.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Great Local Music in Nash'Vegas

All right everybody- here are my picks for upcoming live music in Nashville for the month of November. If you happen to be in D'ville, then you should definitely catch these bands playing.

Nov. 3- Model Citizen at Springwater; cool emo/alt.rock band, pretty intense
Nov. 11- Dubconscious at Windows on the Cumberland; spiritually uplifting reggae band playing at a historic music venue, great brew selection too.
Nov. 13- The Guy Smiley Blues Exchange at Windows on the Cumberland; this is one amazing jazz/funk jam band, many of the musicians whom I know. You will definitely not want to miss this one!
Nov. 20- Foggy Bottom at Windows on the Cumberland, bluegrazz and jazz, what a blend!
Nov. 23- Del McCoury Band at The Grand Ole Opry, probably the finest bluegrass band around
Nov. 25- Mile 8 at 3rd and Lindsley; rock flavored jamband from knoxville, tn, great guys and great music.

Catch some of this toe tappin' booty shakin music. I'll try and keep ya' posted on the music scened monthly. Maybe when Emergent folks are in town we can all catch some music together!


Sunday, October 31, 2004

Happy Halloween and Reformation Day

Today is Halloween. My 3 year old Jonas is soooo looking forward to trick-or-treating. He's dressing up like Darth Vader (oh my pride and joy lies in the fact that I've passed along a love of Star Wars to my son), and I'm gonna be Yoda. I'm Crazy Tall Yoda Man- now give me some candy!!!

Today is also Reformation Day- a day in the life of the church where traditionally the protestant reformation is remembered. Reformation Day is the anniversary of the act that began the movement in 1517 — Martin Luther's nailing of the manuscript of his 95 theses to the door of the palace church in Wittenberg, Germany.

To the church of today I invite us to reflect on how God through Spirit is always moving through the Body of Christ to continually "reform" and reshape itself. Let reformation not divide, tear apart, nor bring any form of violence toward another. But today allow reformation to breathe life, creativity, love, hope, and unity (even when we disagree theologically and doctrinally) into the Body of Christ.

That's all for now.... I'm off to sneak a snickers out of Jonas's halloween pumpkin :)

Saturday, October 30, 2004

St. Benedict's Youth Group

I'm reading the rule of Saint Benedict for my morning devotion time. Within the context of youth ministry I really like the metaphor of "The Abbey"- with the Youth Pastor as the Abbot or spiritual guide/nurturer and leader for the monks of the Abbey.

In Chapter 1 Benedict outlines 3 basic types of monks:

1. Cenobites: these are the core who make up the community- who follow the rule and serve under an Abbot. I see the cenobites as the core kids of the youth group who help shape the basic character of the group. HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO HELP SHAPE THESE KIDS THROUGH PRACTICES SO THAT THE YOUTH COMMUNITY MODELS THE KINGDOM?

2. Anchorites: these are the monks who have progressed in faith and spiritual character that they are ready for a life of solitude in the desert. For our postmodern time this monk could represent where we hope students might be after 6 years in the Abbey of the Youth Group- equiped to face the sometime harsh desert life of the world- strong enough to it alone knowing that there is a community of faith lifting them up.

3. Sarabaites: these monks are not rooted in practice, Benedict sees them as basically still influenced by the world but wanting to be a part of the community. Obviously within youth ministry we probably have quite a few students who are here- whom God has entrusted us with and we hope to help nurture and move towards becoming a cenobite- rooted in practices of faith.

4. Syrovagues: Benedict is quite harsh on this group, but basically these monks travel from one monestary to the next never commiting at all to a community- only taking advantage of the hospitality of each abbey. In my opinion Benedict is harsh simply because he was concerned with creating a community of cenobites and the syrovagues represented the exact opposite.

Again in our post modern day where hospitality is a real rarity, especially among young people, we could stand to offer a safe welcoming environment for the wandering pilgrim who is casual, as long as we don't water down the practices that make us as a Christian community unique.

In fact, hospitality might just be one of those unique practices....

Rock on St. Benedict!!!! Inspire my youth ministry to be more Christ Like!!!!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

My New Baby Girl

Well, I am now the proud father of a 7lb 3oz gorgious baby girl. Abigail Erin Norman was born Monday evening at 9:30pm. My wife, Jen, and I are still at the hospital and hope to head home by tomorrow sometime. I'll post thougths and reflections sometime next week when I've settled down a bit from the high I'm feeling from witnessing a wonderful miracle. GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME!!!!



Friday, October 15, 2004


I wonder just how inclusive the church could be before it would run the risk of losing its integrity. Would the church simply collapse if we let down the borders of "who's saved/who's not, who's in/who's not"?

Or I also wonder if maybe the church runs the risk of having no intergrity by defining who is and who is not accepted, welcomed, extended grace, seen as a person with a voice and gifts, instead of allowing God to do so.

I wonder if Christians ought to simply invite others into a peculiar way of life that loves God and loves neighbor, continues to tell its story, and let God handle the rest.

I dunno. Maybe, maybe not. Right now I'm leaning towards maybe.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

What's up world? Posted by Hello

here goes nothing....

This is the first time I've really tried to do a blog so we'll see what happens. I'm looking forward to the conversation...