Thursday, November 30, 2006

Pope Coat: Update

Frank sent me a link to this full-lenght picture of the Pope Coat, which gives evidence that he is even super-flyer than we first suspected - Note the snazzy red shoes!

And by the way, here is another hypothesis on why he wasn't all bedecked in Papal Regalia when he landed: Maybe it has to do with Turkey being a secular country in which it is the practice of the priests to not wear their priesty stuff in public? Anyway, I heard that in an NPR story, and it is at least as good an idea as the one about his cross setting off the airport metal detector and being confiscated!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Pope Coat

When the Pope landed in Turkey, he was wearing a super-fly white coat. (I am SO putting it on my Christmas list.) However, Shawn noticed he was wearing no cross, at least not apparent to the casual observer. Question is - why?

Maybe he didn’t want to look overtly Christian, thinking he might offend (or offend again, perhaps) the Muslims in Turkey?

Maybe he has a travel outfit that is more scaled down and doesn’t include all the Pope paraphernalia?

Maybe he left his cross in the overhead bin by mistake?

Maybe the cross set off the airport security alarm and they made him take it off?

Later he had the full outfit on, but when he first landed he definitely had a kind of different look about him. Here in the lobby of Drury Inn in Columbia, a few of us attending the Residents in Ministry meeting have been speculating about the theological implications of the Pope’s wardrobe.

What do y’all think?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Ordination Papers: Stick a Fork In 'Em, They're Done!

See that enormous stack of paper?

Those two VHS video tapes?

That CD filled with my last couple of months' worth of sweat and toil?

That's the stuff I'll be turning in, God willing, tomorrow afternoon in Columbia at the Missouri Conference office as one of the final steps in the process toward being ordained an Elder in the United Methodist Church. And, get this now - it will be there three days EARLY! That'll be a first for me, let me tell you!

What an enormous relief! It's just a huge weight lifted off my back to have this released. It was a great process, really. I haven't had the opportunity to reflect deeply on my theology since seminary, and I was actually grateful for the opportunity. But nonetheless, it is a joy to have it done and away.

Next step = interviews. But there's some time to pass before I have to get too stressed out about those. One step at a time!


Last week was extremely busy - two ecumenical Thanksgiving services at one of which my dad was the preacher, trying to cram a week's worth of church work into three days, two people hospitalized to visit, travel to Columbia, MO for Thanksgiving, then back to KC for the weekend worship services. Needless to say, blog time was limited at best.


What do you do with complainers? The people who will find something bad to say about just about anything that happens drive me absolutely bonkers! One of my axioms for ministry is "Everyone needs something about which to bitch," and that holds true. BUT the question still remains how to react when the complainers take the floor.
Currently, my philosophy is not to acknowledge their complaint at all unless they can make a well-reasoned and thoughtful argument in defense of their position. If they are just complaining, though, I basically just pretend they are my best friend in the world and smile an enormous smile and change the subject. Complainers are poisonous.
Maybe I should go to church here.


ALL ORDINATION PAPERWORK IS DUE THIS FRIDAY!!! I think I'm in good shape, actually, with just a few bits and pieces to clean up. Of course, the Board of Ordained Ministry has scheduled a Residents In Ministry meeting this week - Tuesday noon through Wednesday noon - that will necessitate our all driving to the conference office in Columbia and back also, basically knocking two complete days out of our week. Timing is everything! Just out of Thanksgiving, Advent starting up, ordination paperwork due, be an effective pastor in your appointment, and, o yeah, by the way, spend two days away at a required meeting right in the middle of all that.

Not that I'm complaining, mind you ... ;)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A Life Lesson from Wesley

My son Wesley is sick. So today, I worked on my laptop at the kitchen table while he played quietly in the living room. While I was writing an article for the upcoming newsletter, Wes calls out from the living room, “Hey Dad, it’s kinda nice with just you and me in the house.”

Caught off-guard, I wasn’t sure what to say, exactly. It was so unashamedly honest, and so purely innocent. Here is a five-year-old boy who has to contend with a big sister who wants to be his mama hen all the time, a three-year-old foster sister whose preferred means of communication is whining and stomping at him, and a toddler foster brother who takes up a huge chunk of his parents’ attention. I mean, what’s a kid got to do to get a little undivided attention around here?

The answer seems to be, “Run a fever of one hundred one and stay home from school.” Come to think of it, his staying home from school sick was the first time he had been away from other kids for ... I honestly don't know how long. At home, church, school, dance, soccer - he is always with other kids. The only time he ever gets to be alone with me seems to be when he is home sick.

And in the middle of the misery of his high temperature, runny nose, aches and pains, and periodic sneezing fits, he pauses long enough to reflect on how things feel, and he finds it “kinda nice.” And not only does he find it “kinda nice,” he also takes the time to tell me that it feels “kinda nice.” What a good kid!

Thank you, Wesley, for being who you are. And thank you for reminding me to appreciate the quiet moments of life, when a dad and a son are just hanging around together, not doing much of anything. I promise not to wait until you are sick to make time to be together, just me and you. It feels kinda nice to me, too.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Thursday is Methoblog Day

Every Thursday, I'm signed on to be an editor of the Methoblog.
I'm still not quite sure what that means, but nonetheless, I have posted something over there. Go check it out, if you'd like.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Ordination Questions: A Few Suggestions?

In my quest for ordination, I have answered a whole lot of questions that were given to me by the Board of Ordained Ministry, some of which I have posted here. I still have a bunch to do, although it seems like I've been working on them forever.

The questions have covered all the doctrines of the church pretty much, but I have sometimes wondered, "Now why in the world are they asking me that?" as I have answered a question here and there. And on the flipside, I find myself formulating questions that they SHOULD be asking candidates for ordination, in my humble opinion.

Here are some that would be fun to answer for the board:

- What is the best way to be in ministry with a person for whom Christian Orthodoxy is a stumbling block in their relationship wth Christ?

- What's more important, making sure someone accepts Jesus as Lord or making sure someone has food in their belly and a warm place to sleep?

- List the top seventeen reasons to affirm the separation of church and state.

- Construct a theologically grounded argument to counter the assertion, "But we have never done it that way before."

- Pick a controversial social issue and write an essay arguing for the opposite of your own perspective on the issue.

- What will the Church look like fifty years from now?

At the very least, they would generate some productive conversations at the interview sessions.

How about you? Anyone reading this have any ideas for a question that everyone being ordained a pastor in the United Methodist Church ought to be asked? I know there are some Missouri BOOM members who check my blog out every now and then - what do you REALLY want to ask us? ; )

Friday, November 10, 2006

Ordination Questions: Quadrilateral and the Church

What a week.

I devoted two whole days this week (Monday and Tuesday) to ordination paperwork, and I am happy to say that I got a lot done. I’m still not completely finished, but I’m a lot further along than I was. I posted a couple of my answers below. I’d love your comments. More to come!

Theology and Doctrine:
4. The United Methodist church holds that Scripture, tradition, experience and reason are sources and norms for belief and practice but that the Bible is primary among them. What is your understanding of this theological position of the Church?

The four sources for Christian belief and practice are a metaphorical jazz combo, with Scripture as the solo instrument and tradition, reason, and experience as the rhythm section. To the tune of this combo, the church seeks to undertake our theological task, which the Book of Discipline indicates is “the testing, renewal, elaboration, and application of our doctrinal perspective in carrying out our calling ‘to spread scriptural holiness over these lands’” (¶ 104). The melody is played by the soloist, and is the recognizable essence of the tune, just as the Word of God is contained in Scripture as the primary resource for understanding God’s salvific mission in the world. The piano, bass, and drums that comprise the rhythm section are vital to the overall performance, and give an accompanying harmonic and rhythmic structure, or “groove,” for the soloist, just as tradition, experience, and reason provide the groove upon which our Biblical interpretation is done.
Specifically, the tradition of the church is a historical measuring system for testing the authenticity of our faith. This does not mean that we do it this way because we have always done it this way, but rather that we acknowledge the debt we owe to generations of faithful witnesses before us whose work for the sake of God’s mission has afforded us the opportunity to be where we are. But even a scriptural faith tested by the tradition may still be a dead faith if not enlivened by our own experience. In other words, faith has to be relevant, to make a real perceived difference in people’s lives. And finally, it has to make sense in a reasonable way. This does not discount the supernatural by any means; surely God is capable of working miracles in every moment. But there must be a kind of common sense rationality to the faith that is confirmed in its interaction with other spheres of the human endeavor.

6. Describe the nature and mission of the Church. What are its primary tasks today?
The church is a community called together by God to be an embodiment of God’s reign on earth and a herald of the good news of Christ Jesus. The church’s mission is to participate in God’s mission: to make disciples of Jesus Christ by proclaiming the gospel and living out the commandments to love God and neighbor, toward the end of realizing the reign of God on earth. The primary task of the church today is translation, namely, translation of the message of the gospel into a language that can be heard and understood by new generations of Christians. Of course, this has been the primary task of the church in every generation, but the sociological and cultural changes of the twentieth century have been more drastic than ever in history, including radical shifts in communication, transportation, and technological innovation, and these changes require hard work on the part of the church in order for it to continue to be relevant. Relevance is not important for its own sake, but for the sake of the gospel itself. Simply put, if the gospel of Jesus Christ is not translated into a language that is relevant, that people understand, then the church fails its mission.
Relevance is needed at all stages of church participation, which includes invitation, formation, and sending. As the church reaches out to engage and invite people into the community, it must do so in a way that will encourage participation and be enjoyable. As the church nurtures the spiritual formation of the congregation, people must experience real growth and transformation that impacts them tangibly. And as people are sent into the world to serve God by working for justice and peace, they ought to be making a real difference in the lives of the people they serve. One way to say this is that the church, in all it does, must “keep it real.” A healthy doctrine of incarnation means that a retreat into mystical, ephemeral, other-worldliness is incompatible with who God calls the church to be. The church is in the world, rolling up her sleeves and getting to work, digging into the messiness of real life.

Friday, November 03, 2006

This is NOT a Funny Post

Did anyone see October go by? Seriously, though, wasn’t it September just … like last week? I have got to slow down, or else I’ll be retired before I really get started.


Please do not smile, and read this VERY SERIOUS column by Kansas City Star writer Lewis Diuguid. (You pronounce his name Do-Good. So yes, that means he is a left-wing opinion columnist named Do-Good. (Insert punchline here.))

Diuguid doesn’t want any more laughing. He thinks it detracts from the seriousness of the world’s situation. He wrote, “Laughter … deflates and diverts people’s attention from what should be a buildup of public outrage, causing folks to vote for change.” It “trivializes serious things” and “diminishes suffering.”

His column cites a study called “‘The ‘Daily Show’ Effect: Candidate Evaluations, Efficacy and American Youth.” This study proposes that young people in America are more cynical and negative about politics because we watch The Daily Show. Actually, I think young people in America watch The Daily Show because we are cynical and negative about politics. And furthermore, The Daily Show is thriving mostly because the American political scene is a joke, worthy of nothing much more than cynicism and negativity. Whatever, Diuguid then spins this study to try to prove his hypothesis that humor is deteriorating the level of public discourse in our society.

I usually agree with Mr. Diuguid, but not this time. If anything, we need MORE laughter in our public discourse. Like the soldiers in Iraq who responded to John Kerry’s recent stupid remark with a banner that read, “Halp us, Jon Carry. We R stuck hear in Irak.” Hilarious! Some people were “outraged” by Kerry’s remark – that’s their problem, bunch of fuddy-duddies. Laughing about it is a much healthier response.

Have you ever been in an emergency room and heard the banter among doctors, nurses, and staff? As a hospital chaplain a few years ago, I heard E.R. humor that most sensible Midwestern churchgoers would likely have deemed a smidge … umm … inappropriate, if not downright offensive. But when confronted with the nasty stuff they saw, the E.R. staff had a choice, either make jokes or go insane. Thankfully, they choose to laugh, and subsequently were better able to handle the stress so they could do their jobs.

When one takes oneself too seriously, a whole bunch of bad stuff starts to happen. One’s face gets all frowny and wrinkled, one’s shoulders start to hunch over, the acid produced in one’s stomach starts to eat away one’s stomach lining, and one ends up locked in a padded cell somewhere. Either that or becomes vice president of the United States. It is hard to imagine just how many problems we could fix if we would just agree to lighten up a little bit. Chill out! Relax! Don’t worry, be happy! And all that kind of stuff.

One other thing: I hereby decree that just typing “LOL” on your computer screen doesn’t count unless you actually Laugh Out Loud. Don’t abuse it, people, or else it will be taken away, probably by someone like Lewis Diuguid, who in my humble opinion is not doing anyone a bit of good by telling us to be more serious. As Dr. Seuss says, “From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere!”