Saturday, January 31, 2009

Our Dear Darwin

I don't often write about my parishioners, for a whole host of reasons.  Their privacy, my pastoral responsibilities, etc.  But please keep Darwin in your prayers.  Everything I'm about to reveal is common knowledge.  Last Monday, as I was about to leave for Pacific School of Religion's Earl Lectures, I stopped by to visit him in the hospital, as he'd recently broken his hip.  To put it clearly and concisely, it was not good.  For some time, my trip was questionable.  After several hours with Darwin and his family, time of prayer with him and them, we decided it would be okay for me to go.  I expected them to call me on Tuesday at the latest with the sad news of his death.

But by late Wednesday, still no word.  I learned on Thursday at he had been released from the hospital; the word was that he'd apparently rallied enough to go back to the nursing home.  

Today I went to see him; he is non-responsive but still alive.  Please keep him and his family in your prayers.

I also want to give a shout-out to Southwest Airlines.  When I called to say I'd miss my flight and figure out my options, I learned that I didn't have to cancel my reservation or change my plans until I knew better what my plans would be.  If I arrived at the airport at least 2 hours before the last flight left, there would be no charge and I could fly standby.  The woman also checked and made sure that the later flights had room; "they're all wide open," she said cheerfully.  "You should be with your parishioner."  I did not actually make the 2 hour window, but Southwest still did not charge me for the switch.  I even got an "A" seating.  Plus, everyone with Southwest was so friendly and cheerful on all the flights that it was practically a pleasure to fly again.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Random Television Post

Backbencher may have the upper hand on Scrubs trivia, but it is only because I bugged him and bugged him and bugged him to give the show a shot.  He claimed he already had enough shows.  (Is such a thing possible?)

However, I was the one who noticed this weird thing on the show.  It's odd that the staff works at a hospital called "Sacred Heart."  Okay, that's not the odd part.  Lots of hospitals have religious names, especially if they are run by the Catholic Church.  What is odd is that Sacred Heart on Scrubs has advertisements for NuvaRing, a popular hormonal birth control, on practically all its walls.  Which you would almost certainly NOT find at a Catholic hospital.  (At least not the posters.)

Also, now that I think about it, I don't think I've ever seen a priest on the show.  Psychiatrists abound.  Priests, not so much.  Either they just picked a random, vaguely-religious-sounding name for the hospital and took the NuvaRing money without thinking about it, or it's an intentional ironic riff - which makes more sense, given the utter ridiculousness of the show.  And, I realize that "Sacred Heart" is not "vaguely-religious," it's an image fairly specific to and prominent in the Catholic tradition (perhaps also in Orthodox churches, if I remember correctly).

Anyway, it's late and I'm tired.  I'll get to that list tomorrow, and I do promise to get on that Viagra sermon, too!  (In the blogosphere, my seminary professors are wrong: Sunday does not come whether or not my sermon is ready.)

Processing All the Weirdness...

...that was this past week.  It was, for the most part, weird and wonderful, with more blessings than I expected and exactly what my soul needed.

The high points now, and I'll cover them in the next hours and days:
1. Darwin lives!  
2. Jay Bakker.  Seriously.  He's one of the few non-linear, random preacher-types I could listen to all day long.
3. The Miller-Mutias.  best.people.ever.  Except maybe Backbencher.
4. News from friends: pregnancies abound!  
5.  Karen Ward is my new shero.
6. Time with mentors is always great.  I heart Lizann and Kyle.
7. The 'kids' are all grown up, and one of them is my twin, separated at birth.

The weird and totally unexpected things:
1. Darwin lives.
2. PSR worship with the words "Jesus," "Lord," and "saves."  And progressive-theology praise music.  It was Earl Lectures, but still, it was surreal.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Reason, Science and Sanity...

...returns to global family planning services.  Thank you, President Obama!

I know there will be times when President Obama disappoints me, maybe even all of us.  I know he's not the Messiah, or even a political savior.  But today's troubles are enough for today, and today's solutions must be celebrated.

Oh, wait?  Did you want to hear that one more time?  Me too.  "President Obama."

Tears in My Eyes

I know it's a little bit old news, but last night as I was driving to a meeting, I heard that President Obama had outlawed torture and said that Gitmo will be closed in a year (at the longest). This morning, I heard on NPR that he says interrogations must follow the Army Field Manual. Now, I'm not an expert in the Army Field Manual, but I do know it says everyone we capture has to be treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention, which the previous regime was loath to agree to. (and why was that again? Oh, yeah....because we TORTURED.)

We're not all better again, we need to make amends for the ways we have hurt our fellow brothers and sisters - and I have no idea how we can repair some of these wounds - but at last, our president is calling us to account, and to a new and better way of operating in the world. AT LAST!

Can I repeat that one part again? Sure - President Obama. And that other part? No more torture. Music to my ears, kids.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Shameless Self-Promotion

Look, Ma's, I'm published!

There's lots more I wanted to say, and more nuance that 600 words simply does not allow.  And, of course, they took the most provocative statement of my column (the phrase that frankly, I was least comfortable with, though I believe it to be true) and made it the title.  

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Random Miscellany

1. Backbencher is AWESOME!  Tonight I went to play practice, which meant I missed my precious CSI (please don't tell me what happened in Grissom's last episode).  No problem, we have a VCR.  (Yes, a VCR.  We're too cheap for a DVR [to clarify: I'm too cheap for a DVR.].  And yes, you can buy VCR tapes, but not real easily.  But I digress...)  Well, tonight was Bush's farewell address, and Backbencher was concerned that the recording would end at 9pm, which might have been in the middle of CSI.  He changed the end time of the recording, but he expressed his anxiety that it might not work and that none of CSI would have gotten recorded.  He said, "I realize if this doesn't work, it may be grounds for divorce."

Silly Backbencher.  I can also watch CSI online if I need to.  But, he gets all kinds of points anyway ... (even though, upon checking the tape, he inadvertently got the start time a couple of minutes late.  No one's perfect, and anyway, it was just a rebroadcast of the prior episode, so no harm, no foul.)

2.  Dude, why has John Basedow not aged in a decade?  And why haven't his commercials changed in that time period, either?  His "Fitness Made Simple" ads are just plain weird.  

Time for bed, kids.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Random Football Post

Look, I don't consider myself that much of a jock.  True, I ran cross-country and track in high school and college - but I attended a Division III school and went on an academic scholarship.  (And, as Backbencher likes to point out, I do have a school record - in the 2000-meter steeplechase, which is no longer run because now the collegiate authorities have determined that we womenfolk can handle the rigor of a 3000.)  

However, I enjoy watching sports, particularly baseball and football.  I like to think I have more than average knowledge about the games, but this season in football I've learned two things that, frankly, I'm surprised I never knew about before.  I think this may be due to both the sheer volume of football I've watched this season, and to the fact that I'm paying more attention to what's going on the field in a bigger-picture sort of way.  I find I'm no longer just watching where the ball goes, but also how the offensive and defensive lines work (or don't).  I think I'm figuring out "plays," in other words.  (Though, God help me, I could never memorize the volume of plays most NFL players have to know.)

Here's my learnings from the 2009 season:

1. Play Action - this is when the quarterback (QB) pretends to hand off the ball to a nearby player, thus buying himself a few more seconds to throw the ball down the field.  I mean, I've seen this play for years (and I'm always surprised when it works, and when it doesn't), but it's only this season that I've heard announcers refer to it as such.  I guess I didn't pay that much of attention to the announcers previously....because this is clearly not a new move.

2. "Offsides, defense, unabated to the QB" - this is a foul called when a member of the defense crosses the line of scrimmage before the snap and has a clear path to the QB.  Apparently, defensive players can cross the line of scrimmage before the snap, as long as they get back on their before the snap AND they don't touch anyone on the offense; however, if that defensive player has an "unabated path" to the QB, it's a foul.  I just heard this foul called today for the first time, and I've heard it called at least 3 times this afternoon.  What is up with that?

And, can I just express my displeasure with the common play of handing off the ball to a running back who goes straight down the middle, right into a big mob of defensive players?  This is a silly move, IMO, and it seems like it isn't very effective.  True, sometimes all you need is a few yards, and this play can get you where you need to go.  (It is also very popular near the end zone, where, okay, it makes some sense.)  And, of course, sometimes you go straight up the middle, find a fantastic opening, and are twenty yards down the field before anyone else knows what's happening.  

But that second scenario is not that common.  Mostly, the running back ends up at the bottom of a huge dog pile, and has gained his team at most 2 or 3 yards.  Yes 2.5 yards x 4 downs = first down (usually), but it seems to be a very rough and ineffective way to get the job done, particularly if you are mid-field.  Plus, I've seen it fail so much, and teams actually lose yardage in the process.  It's not a bad play, but I'm just annoyed at how often it's used.  (As a side note, I think - and Backbencher agrees - that there is a good possibility that I prefer passing plays to the diving plays because of my love for the Joe Montana and Steve Young years of the 49ers.)

Friday, January 09, 2009

My friend, the genius

I think it's very admirable that my beloved, Backbencher, takes no offense at or bears no jealousy toward my near-continual pimping of our mutual friend Matt. Now, go read this.

I think I can say with some certainty that Matt would be a little pleased and proud to know that I find his blog post about not being impressive to be, well, rather impressive. Because, as much as we all (and by "we all," I mean we preacher-types) claim we don't want to be impressive, um, deep down, we do. We really, really do. (We know it's wrong and soul-killing, but we want to impress nonetheless.)

We want to impress not only for our own glory (which is nice), but also because we are on some level convicted that if we're impressive, what we'll really be doing is representing the Gospel really well. We seldom take it to its logical next step, because when we do, we're embarrassed at where it leads us. That is, if we're not impressive, then the Gospel - the call of Jesus Christ - won't be impressive.

As if!

And, way to go, Matt! Enjoy your friends, your beloved, and your time today. Use it wastefully, extravagantly, even, and give thanks to God for the freedom and power of the Holy Spirit.

Extravagant Welcome

When a church, like, say, our church, says it has an extravagant welcome, and that everyone is truly welcome, no matter who we are or where we are on our faith journeys, the amazing thing is that people believe us. They come to us, looking for that extravagant welcome which is to supposed to be representative of God's love for each and all of us, and they bring their full, true selves.

The humbling thing is, sometimes we don't like what they bring, and wish they'd be different. They bring their smells, their travails, their bad prior choices, their bad ongoing choices, and their unrealistic expectations of who and what God/the church/the pastor is supposed to be and do for or with them. And we are so tempted to try to fix them up, to make them "respectable," or at least less embarrassing.

Thank God for reminding us that it's not our job to fix people, but to love them, unconditionally.* (And to marvel at the transformations that come from unconditional love.)

* "Unconditional love" does not equal "tolerating any kind of wretched or abusive behavior." That's not what I'm talking about in this post. You can look for me to talk about that in my "doormat for Jesus" spiel, which should be posted sometime after the upcoming "Viagra Sermon."

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Sorry to be on an unplanned hiatus...

....for the last week or more.  First there was Christmas, then there was the New Year's Adam party (which this year took place on the day after Christmas), which itself entailed massive housecleaning, and then, just about the time I thought I might recover, a dearly beloved 90-year-old church member, Gretchen, died rather unexpectedly on Monday, hours after I rushed to be with her and her family.  Her funeral was yesterday.  And that has been my week.

Tomorrow I will baptize Gretchen's great-granddaughter, in another somewhat unexpected (but this time very happy) situation.  So, trying to work in baptismal theology with the remnant of Israel and the "In the beginning was the Word..." has proven interesting.  Also, my children's time was going to be about gratitude to accompany the Ephesians text (1:3-14), which I may or may not work in, or do it well.

If it all works out, maybe I'll post the sermon.  If not, well, I've got some other ideas rattling around, including the perhaps previously-unmentioned "Viagra Sermon."