Saturday, December 30, 2006


Yes, it's true, I am preaching tomorrow for the first time at Hermitage UMC. I am nevous as HE Double Hockey Sticks!! So, pray for me (even if it's after the fact). We have 3 services which means I get to do this 3 times. YIKES!!

Here's my sermon at least in written form. I typically don't read it or use notes, so I give it all up to God and let my thoughts intermingle with God's thoughts and hope that there is at least a little harmony going on :)

Shalom and HAPPY NEW YEAR (not to be confused with the REAL new year- Advent which already took place)

My sermon:

Scripture reading: Matthew 2: 1-12 from The Message

There was once a very wise and respected Orthodox Priest who was travelling on a boat across a great Russian sea. One night while on the boat he overheard the captain telling his crewman a story about 3 holy men who lived on a nearby island. The priest was intrigued by the story and told the captain, "I have to know more!! Tell me about these 3 holy men."

"They say that these men have been on this island for years and years- and they are as old as the wind", the captain said, "and day and night they pray and talk with God, asking for blessings for all people in the world. I had heard rumors about them for years as I travelled this sea. But last year I actually stumbled onto the island where they live and saw them with my own eyes."

Now the priest was really amazed and curious. "Well what did they say to you?"

"They are men of very few words. They do almost everything in silence, but like I said, it is believed that they spend their day in prayer to God for the sake of their own souls and the rest of the world."

The priest looked out into the distance at the speck that was identified as the island where the 3 holy men lived. He made up his mind right there- he had to go!! Being the distinguished priest that he was he just HAD to see these 3 "wise men" for himself.

He made arrangements to have a crewman row him to the island since the ship could not make it that close to the inland. When he made it to shore he didn't have to walk far when he came upon 3 men who were standing in a circle who all seemed to be mumbling to one another. They all 3 looked very old, and very worn- wearing very little clothing, sun burned and wind worn skin, long unkept hair and grey beards that touched the ground. The priest thought to himself- these are no holy men, they are just 3 crazy men who probably either escaped a prison at some point or an insane assylum.

The priest approached the men and said, "I have heard that you are very holy because of how you pray, I am so curious- when you pray what do you do?"

One of the men looked at the priest and said, "We are not holy men at all. We do not really know how to pray at all, we only know how to help one another when we are in need. When we speak to the Holy One we speak as three and we pray to three."

At that the three wise men who were now looking rather foolish to the priest went back to their mumbling.

The priest, who now felt it was his duty to help these three poor men, decided to teach them the proper way one ought to pray. So he taught them that when they prayed together they should speak the words that Christ taught to pray- "Our Father, who art in heaven..."

All day and all night- for 3 days he repeated the prayer with the 3 men. And together they prayed the Lord's prayer over and over until finially on the 3rd day they could recite the prayer on their own. Feeling quite proud that he had passed along some real "wisdom" to the three hermits, he departed back to the boat on which he was travelling.

That night as everyone else slept the priest looked out over the waters feeling at peace with his experience on the island and a bit proud of what he had accomplished with the 3 hermits. He looked toward the island where they lived and noticed what looked like a bright star, only this star was low to the ground, in fact it seemed to be moving toward the ship.

This bright light was moving closer and closer to the ship and now many of the crew were awake and getting pretty scared at this bright light. Was it another ship coming toward them? Was it a ghost hovering over the waves? Then they could all see exactly what it was- Surrounded in light were the old men walking right on top of the water as if it were solid land under them. They walked right up onto the ship and stood before the orthodox priest. "Father", one of the men said, "we have been saying the prayer you taught us over and over since you left, but we got to, a certain point and can't remember the rest and so we prayed to God that He would lead us to you to teach it to us again."

The priest, now standing in awe of what he had seen with his eyes, crossed himself and fell down before them. "No no wise ones, it is I who this entire time should have been listening and learning from you how to live a holy life. Today I have surely seen the presence of God's child."

With that the 3 holy men left the priest in the boat and still draped in starlight, they walked across the oceans waves back to their island to pray for the world the only way they knew how."*


In our scripture reading for today we encounter another band of "holy men". We don't know much about the wise men except that they were known as "Magi" which can be translated as either magicians or scholars. Tradition has held that they were astrologers from the east, probably in Persia. We're not even sure if there were three of them or if they were all men. Tradition has had the group as large as 12 to symbolize the 12 tribes of Israel but "3 wise men" each bringing a gift for this star lit child king has been the long held tradition that has stuck in our imaginations.

Whether there were 3 or 300, this band of "stargazers" realized that this star was no ordinary occurence. Their imaginations were stirred and like the orthodox priest who heard a story that caught his imagination, they just could not stay put. THEY HAD TO FOLLOW THAT STAR and see where it would lead them.

And so for months they travelled and travelled through deserts and villages following this star. I can only imagine that on their journey they might have talked about what kind of special person was to be found when they arrived wherever this star was leading them.

And so finally they arrive into Jerusalem. Ah yes, of course the star would lead them to Jerusalem. It's the natural place that God's chosen king would show up. But instead of finding a new king they encounter Herod. After speaking with Herod and others in Jerusalem it's apparent that this new king is not in Jerusalm. So they keep going, leaving the frenzy of the city behind them and wander into the small village of Bethlehem.

And finally they come to stable with a child in a manger.... oh wait that's someone else's story. No no, they come to a house where Mary, Joseph and the child, Jesus, are staying. And it is there that they come face to face with God's imagination and their own. How wonderful it is when God stirs our imaginations and invite us to dream what things might look like in the world and then every so often we get the smallest glimpse.

I find it interesting that in God's imagination God used the most unlikely of people to greet God's gift to the world- God used two peasants, who in their culture would never have any sort of power or prestige, to be the parents of Jesus. God sent invitations and announcements of Jesus' birth to groups of people that good religious folk would never be caught associating with- shepherds and gentiles from the East. When we think of shepherds we see them as great people- they cared for animals, they are symbols of people who are loving and caring of others. But in Jesus' day shepherds were looked upon as kind of the lowest of the low- they were dirty and uneducated and could not be trusted. If the shepherds were around today you might find them on the side of the road holding a sign that says "Will shepherd for money". And you might be tempted to lock your doors and turn away as if you don't see them... But God saw them and and not only saw them but chose them as the people to greet his son into the world. But he didn't stop with the outcast. These scholars from the East represented much more than just wise men who saw Jesus as a king.

In God's imagination God could see a world where all people were God's children, not just a select few. You see this star that the Magi followed meant more than they could ever understand. This star lit up the night and created a path for all people to experience God's love. The magi brought gifts for whomever awaited where the starlight rested but what they did not expect was that their gifts would be met by the most wonderful and awesome Gift- God's gift made real.

If we are honest with ourselves and this wonderful story then we are bound to find ourselves somewhere in the story. We are all on a journey of sorts in this life- following a star. The question is what star are we following? And what is waiting in the "Bethlehem" where that particular star shines?

But as the church I'm afraid sometimes we mistake ourselves as identifying with the Magi or the shepherds who praise the baby they encounter and don't realize that we look a lot more like the good religious leadership that was in Jerusalem that was terrified at what this new King might mean for the way things were. You see, when we open our doors and begin welcoming the people that God imagines in God's community things start getting messy- we have to come to grips that the people God calls us to be in relationship might come from a different background, life experience, socio-economic circumstance, or lifestyle.

I have a feeling that the star was God's way of saying that, "you don't get to choose who is a part of my family- I get to choose that. So you better love whoever comes and accept them for who they are."

So now here we are at HUMC and this week's reading puts the question to us- are we following the star? And where will it lead us? Thank God that only God knows that answer but my hope is that as we travel this star lit path together we will see in each other the image of a loving Star Child and as we look at those God brings into the life of this church, whether though our doors or out in the world, no matter who they may be or their background- the light will be shining enough for us to remember they too are following a star lit path.

May we all be Magi who are seaching together. Amen.

* Story is an adaptation of a Leo Tolstoy tale.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


This looks like it could be pretty cool. After Jesus... The Early Church on CNN, narrated by Liam Neeson. I'll be recording it.


Brian McLaren has a wonderful article on "The Politics of Joy". I read it and it indeed brought me a little yule time merriment during the end of this Advent season.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

- Isaac Watts, 1719


- an excerpt from Facing Ethical Issues, by Russell B. Connors Jr

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Since I've spent "a week with radical orthodoxy" last week I've been thinking a lot about how we in the church "use" orthodoxy as a way to yield power over groups who disagree with us. If somehow my group that I identify with can align ourselves with Christian orthodoxy then we can maintain power of those who obviously hold views that are heretical.

There is a problem with this modern way of thinking. There was much wisdom that came out of the Early Church leadership. If one goes back and looks at the reasons for a lot of our "orthodox" doctrines I think you might just find that orthodoxy came out of conversations among heretics.

The issue that really stuck out for me is that of the Trinity. The way we have our "orthodox" doctrine of the trinity is not because Jesus spelled it out to us. It's not because Paul wrote a letter on it and explained it to us.

No, instead we had several groups who had some VERY different ideas about the nature of Christ. Some believed he was comepletely and utterly Spirit and not at all human/flesh. Implication: flesh is evil, the crucifixion didn't really hurt Jesus or cause him pain, etc... Another group believed Jesus was completely and fully human. He might have been the son of God but it was through a spiritual "adoption" by God and Jesus was in no way equal to God.

Orthodox thinking on matters such as the Trinity issue came about when leaders came together and brought these issues "to the table" together. It wasn't easy, they probably weren't always, if ever, "politically correct" (especially since PC is a modernist invention) in order to keep the peace. No, these conflicting Christian voices were tied together through the body and blood of Christ. Orthodox views on doctrine in the early church tended to be a "fusion" of paradoxical views held by the "heretics" on fringes of the church.

So for instance, the orthodox teaching on the Trinity can say to one group- you are right, Jesus IS entirely God, however Jesus is ALSO ENTIRELY HUMAN at the same time. But the orthodox teaching could also say to the other group- you are right, Jesus is entirely human, however Jesus is ALSO ENTIRELY GOD. If we look at the origins of orthodox doctrine I think we'll find that Orthodoxy and "Paradox" go hand in hand.

For us today we like the idea of Orthodoxy but we definitely don't like the idea of paradox.

But I would suggest that Orthodoxy AND Paradox is what we need in our theological conversations, doctrinal conversations, and how we live together in the world. As we talk over hard doctrinal issues we can "practice" not just orthodoxy but a more orthodox version of orthodoxy- "orthoparadoxology"; which does not suggest that that there's no right or wrong but there is a paradoxical nature to the gospel of Jesus Christ that we are called to live out within the Christian community. Maybe in order to be truly orthodox there needs to be more conversations among heretics... hmmm.

A WEEK WITH... RADICAL ORTHODOXY (well not quite yet)

Sorry that I didn't get Saturday nor Sunday posted yet for my week with series on Radical Orthoxdoxy.

Yesterday, Jen and I had much Christmas shopping, cleaning and general "weekend stuff" to get done so blogging took a back seat. I'll get the last two days posted tomorrow and Tuesday. Happy Sabbath Day everyone.

Friday, December 15, 2006



"Isms", in my opinion
are not good. A person should not
believe in an "ism". He should
believe in himself. John Lennon
said it on his first solo album.
"I don't believe in Beatles, I
just believe in me." A good point
there. Afterall, he was the Walrus...

I could be the Walrus and I'd still
have to bum rides off people.... Ferris Bueller

RADICAL ORTHODOXY speaks about "isms"

click here to listen. (about 3:45 minutes, it will cut out for about 30 seconds and then come back on, keep listening)

Listen to: day 1; day 2; day 3; or day 4

Coming Up:

Sat: Cultural Transformation and the Christian moral imagination

Sun: Faith, Reason, Scripture and Negotiation



Thursday, December 14, 2006


Find out here. I have to say I'm a little ashamed now and my family lives off of a teacher's and youth minister's salary. Yikes.

Consider this:
$8 could buy you 15 organic apples OR 25 fruit trees for farmers in Honduras to grow and sell fruit at their local market.

$30 could buy you an ER DVD Boxset OR a First Aid kit for a village in Haiti.

$73 could buy you a new mobile phone OR a new mobile health clinic to care for AIDS orphans in Uganda.

$2400 could buy you a second generation High Definition TV OR schooling for an entire generation of school children in an Angolan village.


In yesterday's "A week with post" Graham Ward is speaking about how radical orthodoxy is to move from being an academic engagement to being worked out within the local church.

An interesting question was posed by my friend Drew, which was, "I wonder though, how do we get radical orthodoxy from the Church to the rest of the world?"

My response was that maybe RO's gift to the church is to help the church rediscover it's peculiar and unique culture and language thus empowering it to transform the world in a way that is truthful and faithful to the way of Christ.

As I was reading the methoblog I came across this post by Bishop Will Willimon on "Resisting the Clutches of Consumerism". In it I think he relates why passing on our unique "practices", "way of life", "liturgical language", and "unique identity" is SO VERY IMPORTANT. I apologize up front for posting so much of this but IT'S GOOD!!!

The immediate problem that confronts is that our church is accommodationist. Even though we know that there is a strong, critical strain in Wesleyanism against the evils of “riches,” we quickly learned in this society that there is no way to be a successful, responsible, public church, without submitting to the political vision that says that there is no greater purpose of human community than accumulation and aggrandizement.

For this reason, the “user friendly” approach to church won’t work. There is no way to entice people off the streets with hymns that are based on advertising jingles and end up with the cross-bearing, self-sacrificial, burden-bearing Jesus. Evangelism cannot be based upon our basic selfishness (“Come to Jesus and get everything you want fixed.”) and end up with anything resembling historic Christianity.

One of the reasons why Church is difficult is that the modern media culture (a culture which has no other purpose than giving us what we want, since “getting what we want” is the main purpose of life) has been so successful in forming us into such consumers.

In the middle of a sermon I said, “If you bring a child into this church, say a child of four or five, that child will have a difficult time during the service. Church does not come naturally. The child will have to be trained to sing this music, to bend his life toward these stories, to pay attention to that which he quite naturally avoids. If you take that same child into Toys R Us, no training is necessary. Greed comes to us quite naturally. After all, this is America.”

But then I caught myself in mid-sentence, and said, “No, that’s not quite fair to Toys R Us. Billions have been spent, and our very best talent expended, in forming that child into the habits of consumption. Barney is not innocent.”
(exerpt from Bishop Willimon's blog A PECULIAR PROPHET)

I think this exerpt captures why a "sensibility" such as Radical Orthodoxy is quite important for the church. There are many different narratives, and "practices" that arise out of those narratives, that form and shape who we are and how we see the world. Which narrative are we going to pass on to our children?


RADICAL WAY OF LIFE? Graham speaks on Christian Practices, How we live, Christian suffering and Christian pleasure.

Listen here (2.5 minutes)

Listen to: day 1; day 2; or day 3

Coming Up:
Frid: "isms"
Sat: Cultural Transformation and the Christian moral imagination
Sun: Faith, Reason, Scripture and Negotiation


Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Radical Orthodoxy graduates with honors? In this segment Graham discusses the implications and possibility of Radical Orthodoxy graduating from college and moving into the local church:

Listen here (3 minutes) Let me know what you think about this stuff, cause I find it intriguing.

Listen to posts from Monday, Tuesday

Coming up:

Thur: Christian Practices, How we live, Christian suffering and Christian pleasure

Frid: "isms"

Sat: Cultural Transformation and the Christian moral imagination

Sun: Faith, Reason, Scripture and Negotiation



Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Canon 12: Those who, called by grace, have shown the first zeal, and have laid aside their belts, but afterwards have returned like dogs to their vomit, and have gone so far as to give money and presents to be readmitted into military service, shall remain three years among the audientes and ten years among the substrati.

But in the case of these penitents, their intention and the character of their repentance must be tried. In fact, those among them who, by fear and with tears, together with patience and good works, show by deeds that their conversion is real, and not merely in appearance, after having finished the time of their penance among the audientes, may perhaps take part among those who pray, and it is in the power of the bishop to treat them with greater lenity... (from The Ecumenical Council of Nicea; 325 c.e.)


It's pretty obvious that during the first few centuries the Church took Christian involvement in violent action pretty seriously. In the beginning of the early church, all Christians were pacifists. There were two reasons for this. First, they interpreted the teachings of Jesus as prohibiting violent acts (such as the Sermon on the Mount, or Matt. 5: 38-48). Second, joining the Roman Army entailed taking an oath to the pagan gods of Rome, which included the Emperor. That was an act of blasphemy and idolatry that the Church could not tolerate and that no Christian would do.

Christian peace keeping served the Church quite well when it consisted mainly of working-class people and slaves, but by the early part of the fourth century, Christianity had not only become legal, it had spread to all social classes, including political leaders in power. If for no other reason, nonviolence was an immediate and pressing problem because of the conflict it imposed for those Christians who were now in power ruling over a nation state (darn you Jesus and your idealistic community). How was (and is) a Christian guard/policeman to apprehend a violent criminal? How was (and is) a Christian ruler to deal with an armed insurrection or a military invasion?

Christian theologians were therefore dealing with a pressing, practical issue: if Christians are in political leadership roles, how do they run the police force, the army, or a nation state?

My friends, when WE the Church took on MORE than simply BEING faithful to BEING Christ's embodiment in the world- The Church, we traded in Christ centered practices (which nurtures and sustains a Christ centered life together) for a different set of practices that don't quite look like the teachings nor the lifestyle of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

Anyone else looking for leaders in the church and congregations who love justice, love their enemies, love the poor, walk alongside the dispossessed and displaced, and are simply trying to live out a faithful life ever so humbly even if its imperfect and tainted at times? I'll walk with ya. Gee, I might even drink out of the same cup as you. :) at this point i have inserted my tongue into my cheek.

a great read for more on pacifism in the christian tradition is jaroslav pelikan's jesus through the centuries.

i love you,



How RadOx approaches our Western culture's crisis of "lack of values" versus how fundamentalism approaches it. (Professor Graham Ward is the RadOx representative in the recording)

Listen here (2 minutes)

check out day 1

coming up:
Wed: Can RadOx graduate? Moving out of academia and into the local congregation
Thur: Christian Practices, How we live, Christian suffering and Christian pleasure
Frid: "isms"
Sat: Cultural Transformation and the Christian moral imagination
Sun: Faith, Reason, Scripture and Negotiation
(Oh yeah, this is some good stuff- I don't care who you are...)


Sunday, December 10, 2006


One theological "sensibility" (i would say movement but i might get a slap on the wrist from my friend jamie) that has really engaged me over the last year or so has been that of Radical Orthodoxy. In it I have seen hope for a new/old way of being church in the world, a way to be uniquely political as "the people of God", and a robust theology that is both open and peculiar at the same time. How's that for a mouthful?

About 6 months ago I came across an interview that Graham Ward did for a radio station. In it Graham lays out Radical Orthodoxy pretty well. Graham Ward is Professor of Contextual Theology and Ethics at the University of Manchester. Some of his previous books include Barth, Derrida and the Language of Theology (1995), Theology and Contemporary Critical Theory (1996), The Postmodern God (Blackwell, 1997), Radical Orthodoxy (1998), The Certeau Reader (Blackwell, 1999), Cities of God (2000), The Blackwell Companion to Postmodern Theology (Blackwell, 2001), True Religion (Blackwell, 2002) and Cultural Transformation and Religious Practice (2004).

I go back and listen to this every now and then because he just makes so much sense to me.

Well for this I've decided to spend a week with Mr. Ward and Radical Orthodoxy and I hope you will take some time and engage this theological sensibility as well. I welcome remarks and thoughts.

Any of the days this week, I'd love to hear about what engages you/troubles you/sparks your imagination or whatever else.

Please enjoy a week with.... Radical Orthodoxy through the lens of Graham Ward.

Question: What is Radical Orthodoxy? and What is meant when Pomo Theologians speak of a "Post Secular Society"?

Rad Ox response (4.5 minutes)

Thursday, December 07, 2006


"I am a Christian pacifist. From my perspective that is an unhappy description, since I believe the narrative into which Christians are inscribed means we cannot be anything other than nonviolent. In other words, Christians do not become Christians and then decide to be nonviolent. Rather, nonviolence is simply one of the of the essential practices that is intrinsic to the story of being a Christian. "Being Christian" is to be incorporated into a community constituted by the stories of God, which, as a consequence, neccessarily puts one in tension with the world that does not share those stories." - Stanley Hauerwas, "Whose Just War? Which Peace" from Dispatches from the Front

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


The Apostolic Tradition is an early manual of Christian church life and discipline which includes early forms of worship. It is widely held to be the work of the third century Roman theologian Hippolytus.

It has been described as of 'incomparable importance as a source of information about church life.

From the Apostlic Tradition:
"A soldier under authority shall not kill a man. If he is ordered to do it, he shall not carry out the order; nor shall he take the oath. If he is unwilling, let him be rejected. He who has the power of the sword, or is a magistrate of a city who wears the purple, let him cease or be rejected. Catechumens or believers who want to become soldiers should be rejected, because they have despised God."

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Is exactly what Jonny Baker wants to do through creativity!! This is a great interview with Jonny. Thanks Will Sampson for leading me to that one.


There's an interesting discussion taking place over at the Methoblog. IS PACIFISM A DOCTRINAL STANDARD OF THE UMC? I wonder if the broader issue going on is how "hard and fast" do we adhere to the doctrines of the umc? Are we selective in which doctrines we choose to press?

Jonathan Marlowe states, "You are exactly right about this. The Articles of Religion of the ME Church and the Confession of Faith of the EUB Church are doctrinal standards, and it is a chargeable offense for anyone (lay or clergy) to disseminate any doctrines contrary thereto.
Also, remember that the Confession of Faith of the EUB states that "War and bloodshed are contrary to the gospel and spirit of Christ." This is not just a statement from the Social Principles (which can change every four years and are not binding). This is a quote from a doctrinal standard, and as such, it is binding on all UM clergy and laity."

His source for this is article 16 in the Confessions of Faith in our Book of Discipline.

John the Methodist resonds with, "I had never noticed that before. In the context of this entire article and The Confession of Faith as a whole, the sentence suggests that pacifism is mandatory. Unless I can find evidence that the original intent of this sentence was not to establish pacifism, then Jonathan has a strong case."

Funny I've been writing about these issues with these same points for well over a year and my responses from John tend to be things like, "Was Jesus a pacifist? Yep. Without a doubt. The Biblical case for pacifism is stronger than the case for just war.Maybe I could be a pacifist and stand by and watch my countrymen incinerated by terrorist nuclear bombs. Maybe I could watch the bodies of Saddam Hussein’s hundreds of thousands of victims poured into mass graves. But I’m just not that cold blooded."

The arguement I take issue with most here is Mitch Lewis. His response so far in this is that of the eschatological view- that God intends for there to be world of nonviolence and harmony but for now it's something we should strive for but not practice- it's more of an expectation that we'll experience in some "pie in the sky" time when we all fly away or Jesus returns.

Lewis says, "Who will provide protection for the innocent, guarantee human rights, enforce the law and defend the nation's sovereignty? Do our doctrinal standards make that that the responsibility of only the ungodly? "

One thing I know is that Jesus' kingdom living was about a wonderful expectation of a better day, but it was also ALWAYS about "living into that expectation" NOW. Here's a few things that ARE indeed explicit- 1) Jesus said "love your enemy", 2) Jesus' practices of daily living came out of living out a kingdom vision that God dreams for all the world, and 3) Jesus' practices for daily living never included violence (prophetic anger yes, but never violence that invoked harm).

I believe our doctrines are not intended as a statment for how our nations respond to one onther. It's not a matter of "do these doctrines say that war is just or unjust", but "ought Christians take part in a practice that is contrary to the teachings of Christ".

You are right- war will be with us probably forever, or at least until God puts an end to it. However we, as the body, the extension of Jesus Christ are called to model a different way of living- an alternative of love, compassion and friendships in the middle of chaos and hostility. This might mean that even though war continues and our leaders decide that it's the "just" thing to do- we'll stand together and say, you go to war, but the One I follow says that it's incompatible with our lifestyle.

We don't know our tradition, and have forgotten where we've come from. This is why the American church is neutured today.

ps: I didn't say a thing about jazz in this post. I think jazz does a better job of reconciliation between the world than the church. Just look at all the great global jazz music and how it transcends language, conflict and doctrines- and just brings people together. Why can't the body of Christ do that? Because in order to play jazz- you have to know your music theory and structure- only then can you play improv that makes jazz jazz. The Church needs to go back and learn it's music theory and chord structures and then we can play together a little better.


Daddy's Little Virus

I'm sorry that I have not posted yet this week. Over the last 3 weeks Abby has had a stomach virus off and on. For the past week I've had it, as well. During the weekend it all hit me harder than ever and even this morning I'm still feeling pretty crummy. Please keep our household in your prayers this week as we try and strike back. I don't get it, Jonas was never sick quite like this. His always hit suddenly and then less than 24 hours later he was better...

and I seem to catch whatever Abby has. Does this make her a Daddy's Little Girl? Hmmmm.....


Thursday, November 30, 2006


Today is World AIDS Day. Around forty million people are living with HIV throughout the world - and that number increases in every region every day. As a practice today, learn someone's story who suffers or suffers alongside someone who suffers from AIDS. I visited the online aids quilt and read several stories.

As a worshiping community, we have been challenged by such a moment as this!

A moment when we know we are living with AIDS and that we are loved and affirmed.

A moment in which we can offer compassion to those with AIDS and HIV.

A moment where we can sit and comfort those who suffer illness or grieve loss.

A moment when we stand in solidarity with the care partners, health care workers, and researchers as they continue their diligent labor.

A moment and an opportunity to be with all those who are ill with any disease. Those worried, fearful or weary. Those carrying others in prayer.

In this moment:
We all stand in need of God's healing.
From Worship Resources for HIV & AIDS Ministries by Patricia D. Brown and Adele K. Wilcox, p. 8, copyright © Health and Welfare Ministries, General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church, Room 330, 475 Riverside Drive. Visit our AIDS Ministries Pages on the web at


I was thinking about music for next week's advent soundtrack and then thought to myself, "self, why don't you post your ideas." So here they are:

Waiting hopefully – d*note
Waiting Line – Zero 7
Wait til you see him – ella fitzgerald (version on verve remixed)
I will wait – maggi dawn
FUGAZI - Waiting Room
Tom Petty - The Waiting
Pink - Waiting For Love
Depeche Mode - Waiting For The Night
Leonard Cohen - Waiting for the Miracle
The Smashing Pumpkins - Waiting
PLACEBO - Waiting For The Son Of Man
FAITHLESS - One Step Too Far
Ben Harper - Waiting for a miracle
Ben Harper - Waiting On An Angel
U2 - With or Without You
U2 - Crumbs from your table
Seal - Waiting For You
The Cure - Waiting
ANI DIFRANCO - The Waiting Song

Sufjan Stevens Christmas series:
Vol 1: Hark
Vol 2: Hark! Noel!
Vol 3: Ding Dong!
In the Bleak Midwinter- James Taylor
O Come O Come Emmanuel- Third Day
Lo! How A Rose Er' Blooming- Sufjan Stevens


I had everything planned out and was ready for the evening, so I thought. The dynamics of having all ages together for a spiritual formation/program/conversation is amazing, awkward, humorous, challenging and ENERGETIC all rolled up into one big ball of Holy Spirit. And I'll leave it at that.

Although last night's Advent series did not go quite like I had planned it, God showed up and took over. It was wonderful to listen to children tell about their favorite Christmas traditions at home, for us to talk about traditions that we have here in our congregation and then to let everyone loose and encounter God through art and prayer. Some really got into it and some enjoyed catching up with friends chatting and watching the children, adults and youth who were wandering around from prayer station to prayer station. In the background played some celtic guitar music, Sufjan Stevens' "O Come O come Emmanuel", James Taylor's "In the Bleak Midwinter" to images of the Annunciation.

So here was the flow for last night (some of actually went this way, and some of this is how it was planned):

+ When participants arrive they receive a number which leads them to a small group of 6 people (adults/children and youth) *1

+ Once everyone is gathered they are greeted and welcomed and we have an opening prayer along with lighting one candle from an advent wreath in the middle of the room.

+ In their small groups they are to go around the circle and tell everyone: 1) their name, 2) what school they go to/ or what they do for a living, 3) something they love to do, and 4) their favorite Christmas time traditions

(adapted from a folktale from the Hasidic tradition)
There once was a man who became very dismayed with the way the world was. He grew tired of all the violence, injustice and war. Day after day he dreamed of a world where everyone got along and loved each other. He heard that their was a heavenly city that existed- and sure enough in this city people treated each other with respect and kindness, and their was no war and peaceful living prevailed.

So one day the man declared to his family that he was leaving to go on a pilgrimage to find this heavenly city. So he prepared a modest pack with a modest amount of food and a modest bedroll and a modest amount of clothes and set out in search of the heavenly city.

He travelled for several days heading in the direction that he was certain would lead him to this city. One night he stopped to sleep and as his custom he took his boots off and placed them pointing in the direction of the "heavenly city". During the evening a person lurking around who was absolutely up to no good came upon the man. Thinking that he wanted the boots he picked them up, but then as the man stirred he become frightened and put them back down and hurried off into the night. In the process of putting them back down though, he placed them facing the opposite direction.

The next morning the man awoke, ate a modest breakfast and put his boots on, being careful to notice the direction in which they were facing. He walked and walked and walked. And after several more days he approached the heavenly city.

It looked strangely familiar. Faces there looked like faces he'd seen before. But these faces were so much nicer. He smiled and greeted them and they greeted him back. He walked up to a house that looked a lot like his house back home. He knocked on the door and was greeted by a family that looked like his family. From that day on the man stayed in the heavenly city having found a place where he lived in peace with others and saw in others what he had only hoped for in the "city from which he was from".

+ IN SMALL GROUPS: What is God's dream for the world? If God asked you what your dream world would look like, what would you tell God?


Station 1: Seeds of Hope
materials needed: plastic purple tablecloth, potting soil, a few candles, pots or containers for the soil.

Prayer Meditation Sheet:
"When the time comes, I will make a fresh and true shoot sprout from the David Tree... The motto for the world will be, "God Has Set Things Right For Us."- Jeremiah 33:14, 17

Trees... vegetables... flowers... none of these things can grow or thrive unless the soil has nurtured them while they were still seeds. When we look around at the world we could use more flowers to brighten our lives. MEDITATION: In front of you are trays of soil. You are invited to put your fingers, or your hands, into the soil. As you do this- think of ways you can be a "seed of hope" in the world.

STATION 2: THE WAILING WALL (picture not available yet) *3
Materials Needed: Large piece of butcher paper attached to wall, markers, crayons, newspapers, magazines, glue, scissors

The Wailing Wall is a place to write or draw about the things you see in the world, or have experienced that you wish might be different.

We will have an opportunity each week to add to the wall. Consider bringing pictures or newsarticles that trouble you- to put on the wall.

Materials Needed: Christmas Tree, Christmas ornaments (metallic type balls), hooks or ribbon, paint pens.

Prayer Meditation Sheet:
"The time is coming- and I will make a fresh and true shoot from the David Tree." Jeremiah 33: 14-15

God promised God's children a sign of hope. We as Christians see that hope through the birth of Jesus. But have you ever thought of yourself as a sign of hope? Anyone who follows Jesus is a sign of hope- just like Jesus was and is. MEDITATION: Take one of the ornaments and on it create a symbol or a word that describes who you are. When you are finished place that ornament on the tree. Look at the tree and realize you are part of God's big family.

Materials needed: Sheets of paper, 8.5x11 cut into halves- 1 for each participant; small magnet strips, crayons and markers.

What is your dream for the world? Take a sheet of cardstock paper and draw an image or word that expresses the world of your dreams. After you are finished stick a magnet strip on the back of it and you can put somewhere prominant during Advent to remind you to be a sign of hope in the world.

+ COMING BACK TOGETHER AND SENDING FORTH: allow space for participants to share one thing they experienced during the prayer time, along with prayer concerns. Close with a benediction.
*1: we ended up staying all together and not doing small groups this week, but plan to next week.
*2: I didn' get to tell the story, I could tell that we were going to be pushed for time.
*3: turned out great, but I forgot to take a pic

Next week we will be focusing on the narrative of John the Baptist "preparing the way". That should be a lot of fun!!


Tuesday, November 28, 2006


This week I'll be coming up on my 1 year anniversary as the youth and young adult pastor for Hermitage UMC (Dec. 3). I can't believe it was this time last year that I was cleaning out my desks at Blake'ville.

My first night at HUMC I led a small intergenerational group of youth and adults through an advent prayer walk.

Last year went so well that we'll be doing it again this year but revamping it for a 3 week series. so for the next 3 Wednesdays about 140 adults, youth and even children (kindergarten and up) will be gathering for experiential worship, intergenerational small groups, and a lot of formation and fun together. I have several prayer stations planned for each week, story telling, and some activities planned for the intergenerational small groups to bond together.

After the programs on Wed. I will be posting the ideas and pics on the blog just like last year.

Please keep me in prayer on Wed. The next 3 weeks will be the most leadership responsibility that I've had for such a wide and diverse range of the congregation. It should be a great experience!!



As I wrote on Friday, Jen and I left the kids with my mom and off we went for 3 days of Sabbath rest at New Life Christian Retreat Center in Buchanan TN. When we pulled in we were greeted by the caretakers Gene and Susan Oliver and their two boys. They had the little cabin that I had stayed in back in April ready for us.

The Hermitage sat in front of a creek and you could hear the water flowing. It sounds amazing and was wonderful.

Jen and I both came with no agendas except some quiet, a couple of books and little bit of chocolate and junk food and a little r&r.

Usually when I go on my pilgrimage retreats I'm either by myself in solitude or Gavo goes along. So the idea of a couple's sabbath for us was a little different. Jen wasn't real sure at first what to make of staying in this little hermitage that seemed less like a retreat center for her and more like a small cabin in someone's yard. It took a little processing to move beyond feeling like we were staying in someone's spare room and more like these nice caretakers had extended hospitality to us.

It was wonderful to have time to just sit and read. Jen devoured some emo depressing book about young love and suicide. I keep telling her she is a closet emo grrrl. She keeps just asking me what emo means. :)

I spent time with Scott McKnight's Praying With the Church and Robert Benson's Venite.

Jen and I walked the trail and I noticed how beautiful the area was. At one point I just stopped and watched these little birds fly around and sing. It was amazing.

This creek was an area where chairs are set up and you can sit and chill, meditate, pray or read. I did all of the above.

sitting with scott mcknight's words on praying "with" the church. this book was really profound. he basically goes through all the different major prayer books that the christian traditions have and how by using these "fixed hours" of prayer we don't simply pray in the church, but pray "with" the church. it was an absolute gem. i do feel like i have a better sense of what i'm doing in my practice of daily prayers. out of the weekend i have devoted myself to chanting or saying the psalms twice daily.

On saturday morn we slept in a bit, said morning prayers and then went in to downtown paris, tn. what a cute little small town. one of the quirky things jen and i enjoy doing together is going to little small towns and visiting their local shops- especially the "junk" style antique stores. the more cluttered the better!!!
you never know what you are going to find in one of these antique stores!!!

one of jen's traditions when we go on little trips like this is to buy a christmas ornament to remember our trip and time together. i think it's a cool ritual.

i saw this episcopal church in the town square. i loved the doors and was drawn to the building. i tried to get into the building to pray the midday office but it was locked. too bad!!

We were walking in the town square and ole Uncle Sam jumped out of the window with his finger pointing right at me saying "I WANT YOU". I said sorry, Jesus Christ already has a claim on me and he doesen't allow me to fight my enemies. Geez, Sam is even in small town TN, but thank goodness, so is the Prince of Peace.
Susan, the New Life caretaker, suggested that we visit Miller's Country Store. So we drove out into a Mennonite community and found both Miller's Country Store and Yoder Brother's Meat Processing Plant. Since it is hunting season the Yoders were quite busy with a motley bunch of hunters.

I talked to Ms. Miller for a bit. She and Mr. Miller are both Mennonite and moved to TN from a community in Virginia. She thought that I was Mennonite at first and was pretty sure she had met me before. I thought this was funny since I am such a "wannabe" mennonite. Jen and I brought home some Yoder Brothers Bar B Q Sauce and some of Ms. Miller's Jam. Yummy!!!

Ok, so on the drive home from our Sabbath Weekend Jen and I passed this road sign. All I can say is- only in the rural south.... WOW!! You gotta appreciate that very very big family of God's children and all our crazy ideas.
Not the best pic but the best I could get with the timer set. I don't think either one of us was ready for the timer to go off. Oh well....


JONATHON Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 27, 2006


SAINT GREGORY OF SINAI, is considered a saint within the Eastern Orthodox tradition. He was probably born at Constantinople of a noble Anatolian family sometime in the 13th century. From his youth, he was attracted to the monastic ideal, and successfully persuaded his brothers and sisters, along with his widowed mother, to take up the monastic life. Around 1318 he and his two brothers went to Mount Athos, where they learned firsthand the traditional hesychastic way of contemplative prayer.

With the encroachment of the Turks, he was forced to flee to Thessalonica, being ordained a priest there in 1326. Afterward, he took up the eremetic life at a mountain near Beroea, and eventually returned to Athos in 1331.

He is known for living fully in the spirit and teachings of the early Desert Fathers. St. Gregory spent the last 25 years of his life on Mount Athos.

Amazing Architect and Creator,
You built Your Church through the love and devotion
of Your saints, and we give you thanks this day for
Your servant Gregory of Sinai:

Inspire us to follow his example
that we in our generation may rejoice with his in the vision of Your glory. Amen.
(from The Venite Prayer Book)

Friday, November 24, 2006



In just a few minutes Jen and I will be heading to small town, Buchanan TN, for New Life Retreat Center. New Life offers clergy times of Sabbath in one of their cabins. My mom is on her way to get the kids for the weekend so sabbath may actually happen :)

Hiking trails, many naps, great reading, and morning midday and evening prayers abound in this road trip pilgrimage. It will be great to get away for the weekend with Jen.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006


I started reading the "THIS HOLY MYSTERY" document that deals with the sacrament of Holy Communion. The Order Of Saint Luke has just published a study guide for youth and children. I think I'll be spending some time reflecting on this book here at the blog and see what kind of discussions might come out of it. Shalom.


Traditionally Holy Communion has been referred to by several different names. Here are some of them:

1. The Lord's Supper: reminds us that Jesus is the host and we participate at Christ's invitation.

2. Holy Communion: invites us to focus on the self giving of God, the grace that comes from participating in the sacrament, and the communion with God and church community.

3. Eucharist: means "thanksgiving"; reminds us that we are thankful for all the gifts God has blessed us with through creation and salvation.

4. Mass: "sending Forth"; focuses on how the sacrament brings worship to a close and sends us into the world to live as God's children. Traditionally Roman Catholic.

5. The Divine Liturgy: refers to the practice of eating and drinking of consecrated bread and wine in the worshiping community. Traditionally Eastern Orthodox.

I tend to favor Eucharist as the word used for naming communion. Which term do you tend to use more? Is one more valid for Wesleyans?


from my morning prayer today (lauds)
Luke 19: 11-25
While he had their attention, and because they were getting close to Jerusalem by this time and expectation was building that God's kingdom would appear any minute, he told this story:

"There was once a man descended from a royal house who needed to make a long trip back to headquarters to get authorization for his rule and then return. But first he called ten servants together, gave them each a sum of money, and instructed them, 'Operate with this until I return.' "But the citizens there hated him. So they sent a commission with a signed petition to oppose his rule: 'We don't want this man to rule us.' "When he came back bringing the authorization of his rule, he called those ten servants to whom he had given the money to find out how they had done.

"The first said, 'Master, I doubled your money.' "He said, 'Good servant! Great work! Because you've been trustworthy in this small job, I'm making you governor of ten towns.' "The second said, 'Master, I made a fifty percent profit on your money.' "He said, 'I'm putting you in charge of five towns.' "The next servant said, 'Master, here's your money safe and sound. I kept it hidden in the cellar. To tell you the truth, I was a little afraid. I know you have high standards and hate sloppiness, and don't suffer fools gladly.' "

He said, 'You're right that I don't suffer fools gladly - and you've acted the fool! Why didn't you at least invest the money in securities so I would have gotten a little interest on it?' "Then he said to those standing there, 'Take the money from him and give it to the servant who doubled my stake.' "They said, 'But Master, he already has double . . .' "He said, 'That's what I mean: Risk your life and get more than you ever dreamed of. Play it safe and end up holding the bag.


"... Then he sent for the servents to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it."

take care of me
Dream inside
my dreams
Waker of my
Light within
my darnkess
Your rays break
through and
illuminate and warm
me in the dark hours
of evening

She is a ray
I've seen almost my entire life
At times I have been cruel
somtimes selfish
sometimes so loving and in awe of us
that I hurt...
You've entrusted her into my care
Together we love
not perfectly but the best
we can...
I hope you are pleased

They are rays
bright and young
So much potential...
so much to offer...
Give me wisdom
Sacred wisdom
Like sages and magi
To see the starlight within
Travelling to each ray
To help them see their source
A sun so bright so warm

They are rays I've seen...
Lighting up forgotten places
I try and stay away
Their lights shine too bright
upon places I'd rather not see nor go
Forgive me for trying to keep
the light extinguished
Empower this hour and
this heart to go
to the forgotten place
to the forgotten rays
to see them shine

You place these rays before me...
in my hand to hold
in my hand to love
To see these rays grow into
something bright
Your delight
A twilight
of love

She is beautiful
from start to finish...
I remember the girl I loved and see her now
more wonderful than ever...

They are my harmony my rhythm
melodies and sometimes counter melodies
They give me hope, they give me peace
They help me grow...

They help me remember that I am human
and imperfect... that we all have a way to go
That I am incomplete and need them as they need me

take care of me
Dream inside
my dreams
Waker of my
Light within
my darnkess
Your rays break
through and
illuminate and warm
me in the dark hours
of evening

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Friday, November 17, 2006


Who has conquered the Middle East over the course of world events?

See 5000 years of history in 90 seconds....



JESUS AND HIS BROTHERS... episode = family trip to damascus

Thursday, November 16, 2006


From my journal during today's midday prayer:

Luke 17: 20-25
Jesus, grilled by the Pharisees on when the kingdom of God would come, answered, "The kingdom of God doesn't come by counting the days on the calendar. Nor when someone says, 'Look here!' or, 'There it is!' And why? Because God's kingdom is already among you."

He went on to say to his disciples, "The days are coming when you are going to be desperately homesick for just a glimpse of one of the days of the Son of Man, and you won't see a thing. And they'll say to you, 'Look over there!' or, 'Look here!' Don't fall for any of that nonsense. The arrival of the Son of Man is not something you go out to see. He simply comes.

"You know how the whole sky lights up from a single flash of lightning? That's how it will be on the Day of the Son of Man. But first it's necessary that he suffer many things and be turned down by the people of today.

Live it
in your heart
speak... act...
the stories of
a loving God's imagination

See the home
prepared through a song
Mystic mountain
so colorful
with rainbow shades
of skin and a cross

See the home
prepared through a dance
Divine Lead invites a partner
to do a mountain waltz:

Three steps to love
Three steps to peace
Three steps to Christ
Three steps to you

Its all there- the Kingdom
in your heart if you just
breathe deeply

Tuesday, November 14, 2006



Luke 17: 26-37
"The time of the Son of Man will be just like the time of Noah— everyone carrying on as usual, having a good time right up to the day Noah boarded the ship. They suspected nothing until the flood hit and swept everything away.

"It was the same in the time of Lot—the people carrying on, having a good time, business as usual right up to the day Lot walked out of Sodom and a firestorm swept down and burned everything to a crisp. That's how it will be—sudden, total—when the Son of Man is revealed.

"When the Day arrives and you're out working in the yard, don't run into the house to get anything. And if you're out in the field, don't go back and get your coat. Remember what happened to Lot's wife! If you grasp and cling to life on your terms, you'll lose it, but if you let that life go, you'll get life on God's terms.

"On that Day, two men will be in the same boat fishing—one taken, the other left. Two women will be working in the same kitchen—one taken, the other left."

Trying to take all this in, the disciples said, "Master, where?"

He told them, "Watch for the circling of the vultures. They'll spot the corpse first. The action will begin around my dead body."

As the sun rises and sets...
As the moon peeks out
in a pitch black night
among dancing glowing stars

I watch my love, my creation
so wonderful and confused...

Come together now
and light the darkness
illuminate your hurting places
Loving touch embracing
wind worn and life-bruised faces

As leaves change dancing down
to the autumn colored grass
Let your ways change from
fear to faith in one another
from hate to love
selfishhness to other-ishness
And dare to dream of something beautiful