Saturday, January 31, 2009

25 Random Things Meme

Well, I guess all the cool kids are doing it, so here goes...if you're reading this, consider yourself tagged. =)

Rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you.

1. Sweetie's and my first date was on Valentine's Day. By accident. All I knew when I asked her out was that it was a Friday and I wasn't doing anything.

2. Moxie is by far my favorite soft drink. Unfortunately, it's also only available in New England.

3. I think bacon can make pretty much anything taste better.

4. In the 17 years between 1990 and 2007, I gained 10 pounds. During Sweetie's last pregnancy in 2007-08, I gained 15. I'm still working to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight. Item #3 in this list isn't helping with that goal, however. =)

5. Game 6 of the 1986 World Series was the first time a sporting event made me cry. I still carry the scars today.

6. I'm still waiting to get the memo that there was some horrible mistake and the Red Sox didn't actually win the 2004 World Series.

7. I was named "Most Improved Runner" on my 9th grade track team. Which meant that I sucked, but worked really hard during the track season.

8. I tried out for the Jeopardy Teen Tournament twice. Both times I passed the initial test and got to meet Alex Trebek for the second round of tryouts. Never made it on the show, though.

9. All Christians should be required to work at least one summer at a church camp. The eleventh commandment, perhaps?

10. When I was in elementary school, I was secretly disappointed in my pastor because he needed the book in order to lead the liturgy, and I had the whole thing memorized.

11. Also in elementary school, I used to lead entire worship services in my room for an imaginary congregation. I used checkers for communion wafers.

12. I used to drive a van to pick up kids and drop them off at daycare. 5-9 AM every day. My last day at that job was the Friday before the great October snowfall of 1997.

13. I also used to work at the Cliffs Notes headquarters. My former supervisor is now a member of the congregation where I serve.

14. I think I've learned more from the teenagers I work with than they'll ever learn from me.

15. The story of the Prodigal Son is my favorite parable, I think. Mostly because I've lived it, and have experienced the forgiving love of a father when I came home.

16. I was once engaged to someone before Sweetie. I think my former fiancee and I are much happier now than we would have been if things had worked out.

17. I've played on Vladimir Horowitz's piano.

18. Some of the best advice ever given me was this: "If you turn 30 and you still don't know what you want to be when you grow up, chances are you belong in ministry."

19. I always knew my parents loved me unconditionally and would do anything for me, but I never truly understood the depth of that love until I became a parent myself.

20. "Jesus Christ Is Risen Today" on a big ol' pipe organ with brass accompaniment never fails to bring me to tears.

21. In the last couple of years, I've discovered that I have three goals in life: to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. Everything else is basically an extension of those three things.

22. In May, I'll be seeing Billy Joel in concert for the 6th time. He is SO much better in concert than his recordings.

23. I've come to the conclusion that it's impossible for me to show or tell Sweetie exactly how much I love her, but that's not going to stop me from trying.

24. The youth I work with at church are pretty much some of the coolest people (in the best sense of the word) that I've run across. I mean that sincerely. And some of them (you know who you are) REALLY need to be thinking about ministry. =)

25. While I don't really believe that God has a specific plan for our lives, I DO think God creates us with specific gifts and abilities and says, "I can't WAIT to see what you do with this!"


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Jesus Wants to Save Christians

That's the title of the book I finished reading tonight after the kids got to bed. Some very compelling, thought-provoking stuff in there. Rob Bell, the author, tends to get a little cutesy for my taste in trying to make his points sometimes, but that doesn't diminish the very real value that can be found in these pages.

One sidenote--earlier in the book, the author pointed out that the word Eucharist, a word many Christians use for the bread and wine of communion, comes from two greek words that literally mean "good gift." He then goes on to use the word "Eucharist" liberally through the rest of the book in reference to the "good gift" we as Christians are called to be to the world, in an intentional double entendre. That might clear up some initial confusion in a couple of the quotes.

Anyway, read, digest, and enjoy:

from pp. 165-166:
"The Eucharist is not fair.
Giving to those who can’t give in return, that’s not fair.
Serving those who have no way to serve in return, that’s not fair.
Breaking yourself open and pouring yourself out for people who may never say thank you, that’s not fair.
Because God is not fair. This is a God who is defined by action on behalf of the oppressed. God is about giving the good gift. Jesus is God’s good gift for the healing of the world. The Church is Jesus’ body, a good gift for the healing of the world. It's for the benefit of others. For the good of those who look different from us.
A church is an organization that exists for the benefit of nonmembers."

from pp. 177-178:
"The Eucharist always costs. It isn’t just about trying to save the world. It’s about saving ourselves.
From the kingdom of comfort.
From the priority of preservation
From the empire of indifference
From the exile of irrelevance.
Jesus wants to save our church from thinking that the priests are someone else."

from p. 179:
"Jesus wants to save us from making the good news about another world and not this one.
Jesus wants to save us from preaching a gospel that is only about individuals and not about the systems that enslave them.
Jesus wants to save us from shrinking the gospel down to a transaction about the removal of sin and not about every single molecule of creation being reconciled to its maker.
Jesus wants to save us from religiously sanctioned despair, the kind that doesn’t believe we can make the world a better place, the kind that either blatantly or subtly teaches people to just be quiet and behave and wait for something big to happen ‘someday’.
The Bible begins with Abel’s blood crying out from the ground. The Bible ends with God wiping away every tear. No more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain.
Hope…The church is always about this hope."


Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Week of Vomit

My family is currently in the middle of what shall go down in history as The Week of Vomit.

Note to the queasy-stomached: proceed at your own risk.

And I'm currently taking care of 2 sick kids and a sick wife, so this will be short...MUCH shorter than it deserves.

The pukes started Tuesday morning with Pumpkin and continued into Wednesday.

Thursday morning she was mostly better, but then I got it (pukes and diarrhea every 2 hours ON THE DOT from 5 AM until 3 was actually kinda weird...the furthest away from on the hour any of them got was the 9:00 episode, which actually hit at 8:56. Freaky.), then Kiddo came down with it Thursday afternoon, and into the evening.

Friday I was still sick, my son was feeling better, and my daughter started throwing up again in the afternoon. 9 times total between 2 PM and 8 PM.

8 changes of clothes for her, and 4 changes each for Sweetie and I.

Yesterday we did 12 hrs of 2 tsp. of pedialyte every 10 minutes with Pumpkin, she did well so we put her back on half strength bottles...then in the evening Kiddo threw up again and at 10 pm Sweetie started.

Now Sweetie's full blown sick, Kiddo's thrown up once this morning and Pumpkin we're back to the pedialyte every 10 minutes. And nothing but gatorade, water and toast for Sweetie and Kiddo.

I'm about to go out of my freaking mind. And I'm tired of getting puked on.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Hop on Pop

Earlier this afternoon, Kiddo and I were rolling a ball to each other, when he decided to come tackle me. Pumpkin, not to be outdone, joined in.

Hilarity ensued. =)


Monday, January 05, 2009

Pizza God

So on Christmas Eve my family decided to attend the 5:30 PM service at church, for basically 3 reasons. First, the next service started at 7, which is typically when Pumpkin gets her bedtime bottle and lays down, and we wanted to keep things as close to schedule as possible for her. Second, the 7 PM service was a candlelight service, and Pumpkin's arms are usually about 10 inches long UNTIL she sees something she wants, then they turn to rubber and can stretch nearly a quarter of a mile.

You think I'm joking. I'm not.

Sweetie and I didn't want her getting in her head that the pretty fire would be something she wanted to grab. There were no candles in the pews at the service we attended.

The third reason was that the 5:30 service was specifically geared toward kids, and we thought Kiddo might get a little more out of it.

As part of worship, there were 3 wrapped "Christmas gifts from God" at the front of the sanctuary. At different times in the service, the pastoral intern would ask for a child volunteer to open one, then he'd do a little sermonette on what was inside. The three gifts were actually words--Joy, Hope, and Peace.

Kiddo thought it was all quite cool, though when the intern finished his talk on "the peace of God," Kiddo looked puzzled.

He turned to me and whispered, "why was he talking about the Pizza God?"

It was all I could do to keep from guffawing right there.

But wait, the story continues.

This past Sunday morning, we were back in church. For any non-Lutherans reading this, most Lutheran worship services end with a call and response between the pastor and congregation. The pastor says, "Go in peace, serve the Lord" (or a variation thereof), and the congregation responds with a rousing "THANKS BE TO GOD!" Supposedly as an affirmation of the joy of serving God out in the world, but when I was a kid it was mostly out of the joy of knowing I was about to eat lunch.

So this past Sunday, Kiddo started laughing after we all said "thanks be to God" at the end of the service. That cute, uncontrollable 5 year old belly laugh. I asked him what was funny, and he responded:


It's too bad I couldn't tell him how funny I thought that was, because if he had ANY idea, he'd do it every time and I don't want that.

But it was pretty freakin' funny.


Saturday, January 03, 2009

Words I needed

You know how sometimes you hear (or read) exactly what you needed to hear (or read) at a given time, and the person doing the talking (or writing) has no idea that's exactly what you needed to hear?

Some call it coincidence, others call it serendipity, and others the still, small voice of God.

Call it what you will. A couple of days ago, I had one of those experiences thanks to Gordon Atkinson over at Exactly what I needed to hear/read, and wanted to share it, in case these words were some that somebody else needed to hear or read.

by Gordon Atkinson

So here’s what you do. You take a phrase or a word or a short teaching out of the Bible. Something like “The book of life,” or “The Son of Man,” or “The Light of the World,” or “No one comes to the Father but by me.” These phrases could mean anything. They meant something in their day, surely, but the deepest and most scholarly study in the world cannot unravel exactly what they meant.

But you. You somehow know the truth. You take these phrases with no study at all, and you fill them with your theology, like someone filling helium balloons at a carnival. Then you hang a little basket below your balloons and float away, so delighted in the complex theological construct that you’ve put together. And from your elevated position you lay burdens on people that you could never keep yourself. Lightning bolts thrown down from the sky. Zeus never wielded as much power.

You are going to hell for your lack of faith or for your participation in a religious life or non-religious life that I don’t understand and therefore don’t approve of.

You may not be a sexual person, but must live in strict, celibate loneliness. You will fall in love many times over the years, but you must deny your love and break your own heart over and over and over again, all the days of your life.
(And this from a preacher who can’t say no to a second bowl of ice cream.)

You must believe the things I tell you about the world, the earth, the sky, the stars, and God. You must give intellectual consent to all parts of my message. And if you cannot believe what I say, SHAME on you! Shame on you even if you tried very hard to believe but could not.

Give me your life; give me your money; give me your mind; give me your time. Give me all of these things, and I shall take them from you and use them to fill up more balloons so that I can fly higher and throw my lightning bolts down on more people.

And the hard thing for me is that you think this is the right way to treat the Bible and the mysterious phrases found within it. In your mind, you are the great Bible scholar, while I am a little weak in this regard. Weak and liberal and not very serious about the Bible.

For I, in my weakness, can hardly stand before the mystery of the ancient scriptures. I am hurt by them, filled with joy by them, angered by them, and sometimes inspired by them. And I often can do nothing more than confess my own confusion and brokenness.

You shake your head at me and say, “What kind of a minister are you? Don’t you believe the Bible?”

And I look back at you, just as puzzled. “Believe the Bible?” What does that even mean? I say it over and over to myself.

“Believe the Bible. Believe the Bible. Believe the Bible. Believe the Bible.”

Eventually the word “believe” starts to sound like something you do with your hands. Like punching something or pushing a vacuum cleaner around. Like you could believe the Bible all over the house and then out into the front yard, where you could believe it around in little circles while waving to the neighbors. Then you could believe the Bible back into your house and store it in the closet, where you keep it until you feel like believing it out in public again.

Do I believe the Bible? I’m trying to know the Bible. And by knowing, I mean the way that Adam knew Eve, and the way that the Creator knows us. I mean the kind of knowing that is like falling in love. I’m trying to love/know the Bible. And I will always struggle with how I can love/know the scriptures when some parts are so hard and mean and awful that you feel bad for even reading them. And then some parts are so beautiful that you can’t stop crying when they whisper little hints of truth and mystery to you.

So that’s all I’ve got. Whatever that says about me is what I am. I’m less sophisticated and more unsure than when I began years ago as a young minister. I’m tired and fairly broken myself. I just turned 47, so I’m half dead if I live to be an old man, and more than half dead if I don’t. So there’s just no time left, really. No time for talking or fighting or judging.

It seems like it is the time for listening and loving and accepting all who seek truth in peace and are open-minded enough to confess that they are simply not up to the task.