Friday, February 27, 2009

Well, This is Interesting

James Dobson is resigning from the Focus on the Family board. The article states that this will "lessen his administrative burden" while keeping speaking on his radio programs and write the monthly newsletter.

The march of time includes us all, I suppose. Some are hoping this will hasten the end of FotF's relevance in evangelical culture, with younger evangelical families tending not to froth at the mouth every time the words "abortion," "gay marriage," or "feminism" is mentioned (issues FotF seem to be built to oppose), and who tend to be concerned about issues like the environment and feeding the hungry (issues FotF seems to give little heed to). Perhaps.

We're seeing a sea change of this generation's evangelical leaders retiring and a resultant implosion of their ministries (Crystal Cathedral, Oral Roberts University, to name two others). I would like to see evangelicalism embrace a wider agenda - though, not really being a part of the "club" I guess I don't really get a vote in how they view the world. And there are opportunities for that; it just seems as if evangelicalism is entering a new era of uncertainty. Will they continue to embrace a "cult of personality" approach with one central leader, or will they embrace postmodernity in a sense and give voice to multiple leaders, who may not speak univocally on the issues of the day?

I dare not speculate at the moment, but I suspect that these organizations will face the same problems that every organization faces when its founders die off....including the Church. (But that's another blog post.)

Shameless Self-Promotion

The Clarinda Herald-Journal has a review of "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten," the community theater production of which I'm currently a part. Go check it out. Then come back tell me how great the show is (it really is terrific!).

Better yet, come see it yourself - the run ends this weekend, with shows tonight and tomorrow at 7:30pm and the Sunday matinee at 2:30pm.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Deep Thought

What happens when the expression "jumps the shark" ... itself jumps the shark?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Remember That Thou Art Dust, and To Dust Thou Shalt Return

The Order for Tonight's Ash Wednesday Service

Words of Adoration
Search us, O Lord. Know our hearts and know the deepest chambers of our spirits. Invite us, as living souls, to enter into the life eternal Christ offers in this and every moment.
Words of Welcome
Welcome to this evening’s Ash Wednesday service.
Lent stretches for forty days from Ash Wednesday until Easter, not counting Sundays. In this season of penitence, the church invites us – individually and communally – to reflect on all that keeps us from full union with God and holy relationships with one another. We hear again the stories of Jesus' ministry and the people he encountered, and we seek like them to be made whole by his touch and his love.
Later in this service, I will ask you, if you feel so moved, to come forward to receive ashes on either your forehead or your hand. The words we use at this imposition are ancient: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” See these words not as harsh judgment for our imperfections, but a humble acknowledgement of our frail humanity, a holy recognition that we are not invincibile, and a devout renunciation of our desire and practice to live as if we were in the place of God. Though we are dust, that is not all that we are. We are also blessed creatures possessed of mighty wonder, passionate power, and daily grace - all gifts from a loving God.

Prayer of Readiness
Leader: Let us pray.
People: God, this is a hard time. The focus of Lent is on the pain and suffering of Jesus and our own need for penitence. It is a time of gathering darkness. But we would rather skip this part and go straight to Easter. We would rather ignore the suffering—in you and in the world—and avoid the hard work of true self-examination. Forgive us for wanting this to be bright and painless and easy, when we know that Jesus did not take the easy way, but chose the path of the Cross. Teach us the true meaning of penitence, so that we use this Lenten season to humbly seek a clean heart and a renewed spirit. We pray in the name Jesus Christ. Amen.

We Hear the Word of God
Scripture Readings:
Hebrew Scriptures ~ Isaiah 58: 1-12
Psalm 51: 1-17
Gospel Lesson ~ Matthew 11: 28-30

Reflection: Power, Need and Brokenness

We Respond to God’s Call
Litany of Confession

Leader: God, from the depths of your creative power you have shaped the world in love and beauty. You have given to human beings the gift of vision, the power of imagination, and the will to do the good.
People: We confess to you, O God, that we have neglected all that you have given us, have squandered our gifts and wasted precious time.
Leader: We have given in to the sin of pride and self-satisfaction, thinking ourselves better than our brothers and sisters. We have lived inauthentic lives, trying to be that which we are not in order that others will not see who we truly are.
People: Have mercy on us, O Lord of all that lives and breathes.
Leader: We have let ourselves be ruled by fear and anxiety rather than faith and hope. We have let the world change us rather than work to change the world.
People: Have mercy upon us, O Lord of all that has been made.
Leader: We have given in to judgmentalism and a lack of grace in our hearts. We let partisan beliefs and divided opinions divide our hearts and our relationships with other.
People: Have mercy upon us, O God of all people and nations.
Leader: We have given in to apathy about the world’s conditions, circling the wagons around ourselves rather than enlarging your welcome to all who have need of you in this and every time.
People: Have mercy upon us, O Author of Days.
Leader: We have been indifferent to the sufferings of others and of the sinful systems that oppress the poor and people of color throughout the world. We have strived for power and glory instead of seeking to follow you humbly.
People: Have mercy upon us, O God of the dirt and the gutter.
Leader: We have treated the earth with disdain, as if it were one more possession to use and throw away. We have not cared for what dwells upon this planet, and we have abused the very things you made in love.
People: Have mercy upon us, O God of earth and air and water and fire.
Leader: O God, hear in our voices and see in our hearts the desire for true repentance, and help us to find the way back to you.
People: Come to us, Lord of our lives, and show us the fullness of your great mercy.

Time of Silence

Receiving of Ashes

Leader: Accomplish in us, O God, the work of your salvation,
People: That we may reflect your light and glory.
Leader: By the life and death and transformation of Jesus Christ,
People: Bring our minds and hearts to such a depth of understanding that we, too, accept the full promise and challenge of your love.

Go now, marked with the sign of Christ's outrageous love, to live as God's humble children in service to our broken and blessed world. And may the Holy Spirit be with you today, tomorrow, and in the life that is to come. Amen and amen.

This service includes elements taken or adapted from traditional sources, the UCC Book of Worship, and

I Just Couldn't Do It

After all those years of "speeches" by GWB over the years, I just couldn't bring myself to watch much of President Obama's Address to Congress last night. I just couldn't do it. It's not that I don't love our new president, because I do. And it's not that I don't think he's a great speaker, because I do.

But I will admit that there were times during the campaign when his rhetoric didn't match what I knew he was capable of. Without tanking, he just wasn't what I knew he could be. His speech on race was actually what finally tipped me from being a lukewarm supporter to a passionate advocate for his election, because it was then that I saw him give the speech I had known all along was inside of him. And while he has seldom disappointed me since that day in terms of his speeches, I just couldn't get into it last night.

I watched part of it, and was impressed that so often the entire chamber applauded at his words (I remember so many States of the Union where one side sat stone-faced throughout the entire speech), and it was very nice to be spoken to like a grown-up for a change, but attention just faded in and out. No doubt it was due to 1) being gunshy after so many terrible, terrible States of the Union (GWB was deeply annoying with his "noun, verb, 9/11" routine, too), and 2) just plain being sad at my Nana's death. Instead, I focused more on making travel arrangements and talking to Backbencher's family, with whom we'll be staying for part of our trip.

And Gov. Jindal's response was so, well, just plain ludicrous, that I had to go bathe the dogs. It was treacly, and it was much less a response to the President's speech than it was an opportunity to position himself as a credible conservative in the folksy, feel-good mold of Ronald Reagan. Gag me with a spoon! His bi-partisan stuff was okay, and a step in the right direction (though Backbencher will argue that point, I'm sure), and he was far less prickly than other responses have been in the past (again, that chipper Gipper routine); but, my God, the man is a political wonk with a Harvard degree and is a Rhodes scholar. Man up to your identity and your intelligence, and give us more of that! I might not agree with you, but at least we can wrestle with substance together.

In the end, I'm kind of sorry I missed President Obama's speech, because the more I hear of it, the better it sounds. He, at least, gives us what we need: frank and honest assessments of where we're at, an acknowledgement that we have different ways we'd like to get to the places we'd like to be, and SUBSTANCE that we can tussle with. Like Jacob at the river, wrestling with God - this is what I want in a President.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


So....we may be a little busy here at Casa Liturgygeek, what with Lent starting and all.  

Also, my grandmother died this morning.  Lots I'd like to say at the moment, but I think I might wait until I can gather them into something a little more coherent than, "She was fierce, and awesome, and I love her a lot."

Friday, February 20, 2009

Oh, and this is just for fun

Christians who hate the haters who claim to be Christians? Check out this blog! (And, since the title of the blog is wtfwjdbitch, consider yourself warned on the language front.)

h/t Dan Savage

This Is Why I Do What I Do

...and why I believe what I do about reproductive health, access and justice, and why as a Christian minister I support Roe v. Wade. Right here. This is why. Go and read.

And Matthew, bless you for all that you do, all that you are, and all that you were for this family.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

This One's For Shar

Just a reminder that I am not, nor do I any longer in any way whatsoever (nor did I ever closely), resemble Tonya Harding.

G-mo, it was your stupid friend who said that in the first place. I still blame you, because I don't remember who he was.

Internet Down... Casa Liturgygeek/Backbencher. Still. So that's why the lack of posts. That, and I've been insanely busy getting ready for the premiere of our community theatre show - in the brand-new theater! We open tomorrow and tickets are still available.

Hopefully we'll get our wireless up and running in the next day or so....and just you wait! I've been mulling over that Viagra sermon, and with no preaching duties this week (thank you, blessed Intern!), I just may get to writing it for y'all.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Coming Out

So, the time has come. I need to come out.

I Jazzercise.

There, I said it.

I used to blame "Pope" Laura for this. When I interviewed for the church I currently serve, she, the chair of the search committee, invited me to join her for a class. Maybe partly to show off the new Y, and partly to see how I dealt with strangers? I saw it as a test, kind of, and thought it'd probably be good if I went. Well, everyone was super-friendly (it is Iowa), no one yelled at my ridiculously poor rhythm, and when they asked if I'd be back, both Laura and I kind of looked at each other and said, "Hopefully." As in, hopefully I'd get called to the church, and hopefully I'd want to go back to Jazzercise. I really wanted the former, but I wasn't sure about the latter.

I'm a little ashamed to admit that before I moved to Iowa, I had a rather snobby attitude regarding Jazzercise, seeing it mostly as something that white, middle-aged Midwestern women did to try to stay in shape. It's the vestige of being a former collegiate athlete, I suppose, but I saw Jazzercise mostly as a gateway activity until I got myself motivated to run or swim more consistently. The music is pretty good and the moves are all right, but I always found myself snickering on the inside (and sometimes on the outside) when I confessed to Jazzercising. I was embarrassed to admit it, especially to my running friends.

Well, five-plus years in, and I'm ready to come out. First of all, I admit that I had a lot of misconceptions about Jazzercise. In our community there are tons of young people who Jazzercise - I've met most of my friends in town there. (Also, when I visited Backbencher in Georgia, the class was very multicultural.) Second of all, the workouts are pretty good. If I went more often, I'd probably be in better shape. You should see what Judi Sheppard Missett looks like - she's as old as my mom and she is hotter than ... well, she's in outstanding shape, let's just say that. (Or, judge for yourself.) Our instructors, Sandy, Carrie and Tina are also incredible, each in their own way. Third of all, the main instructor refers to me as "the stripping minister" and everyone thinks it's hilarious! Especially me. Sandy is a riot. If nothing else, your abs will get a great workout from all the laughing. Fourth of all, my friend Shar's little sis sometimes teaches Jazzercise. And anything connected to Shar is automatically cool.

We lovingly refer to becoming a part of the Jazzer community as "joining the cult." And, I've drunk the Kool-Aid. It is a great community and I'm no longer ashamed of who I am.

Oh, and unlike teh gayz, we recruit. See you in class, 5:45 pm most evenings at the Montgomery County Y, 8:45 am on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. If you are insane, join Tina at 5:45 am on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Tell them "the stripping minister" sent you - they know me there.

Friday, February 06, 2009


Catch this video (yah, I'm still learning how to embed these things, so for now you'll just have to click the link).

I won't rehash the marriage equality arguments here, or give a big shout-out to my moms, who are among the 18,000+ couples legally wed in California. But for those of you who are married, try to imagine if someone tried to force you to get divorced. Literally force you. Like, going to court against your will to forcibly have your marriage ENDED. Bet you'd love that.

Ironically, the same people who want to force these married people to be forcibly divorced are the same people who lament the "casualness" with which heterosexuals enter and leave "traditional marriage." So, the best way for our culture to honor marriage vows is to ... force happily married people to not be married to each other any longer? Way to honor the sanctity of marriage, you jerks. (Backbencher, who's from the South, says I can say, "Bless their hearts" at the end of that sentence and it doesn't count as an insult.)

h/t Street Prophets and The Pocket Mardis

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Oh, God, the Snark!

Have you seen those ridiculous Snuggie commercials? It is a weird pitch for a 'blanket' that looks more like some creepy secret society cult ritual robe. Well, I came across a hilarious ad parodying it that I simply felt I had to share. Check it out here; but fair warning, the language is a little coarse and not for tender ears or for people who are sensitive about such things. Sorry, Moms.


Monday, February 02, 2009

Jesus in Worship?

Last week, I had an interesting experience at PSR's Earl Lectures.  

As probably most of you know, I attended PSR, an extremely progressive UCC seminary in Berkeley, CA.  It is also interdenominational (not non-denominational), which means we have students from all sorts of religious backgrounds.  UCC, obviously, and also DOC, UMC, and MCC.  But also Swedenborgians, UUAs, and a smattering of students from other denominations.  When I was there, the range was pretty broad - from Episcopalian to Church of Religious Science to someone who was really about the Urantia Book/Movement to a Buddhist to .... well, you get the idea.

Naturally, worship was fraught with all sorts of peril.  Inclusive language for God was pretty much the expected norm, which meant that people could say "Goddess" but "Father" raised some gasps.  "Lord," pretty much out of the question.  Jesus could maybe be used, but too much orthodoxy (bodily resurrection, Jesus as divine Son of God, etc.) was definitely looked at somewhat askance.  There was a lot of intellectualizing our faith, showing off how smart and theologically astute we were, as opposed to too much confessional/devotional language.  We were earnest and this is definitely where we were at the time, but in retrospect there were some different things I might have liked a bit more.

Having grown up in a progressive UCC tradition, the inclusive language for God was not really a problem for me.  But, I confess I sometimes found it kind of annoying that "inclusive language" too often meant "really generic language" or occasionally "deliberately provocative language."  *sigh*

Examining the language  we use for God is always something I favor, as well as a robustly intellectual faith.  But one thing we didn't do too much in seminary was acknowledge that some people have legitimately examined their language, and they still find "Father" language to be what moves them.  That is not a sign of an intellectually vacant faith.  

Yet I was still really, really shocked by the closing worship at Earl Lectures.  I think "surreal and confusing" was the wording I used in a text to a friend I was supposed to meet for worship, but got late to because ... worship went longer than I expected.  There was praise music - with relatively progressive theology.  There was Jesus language.  Someone said "Lord."  Repeatedly.  Did I mention the praise music?  

I confess that it was very weird for me.  On the one hand, I was really happy to hear Jesus mentioned at my seminary.  On the other hand, praise music kind of annoys me, even if it has a good theology.  Back to the first hand, the worship team at PSR (worship professor Andrea Bieler, director of worship Andrea Davidson and music director Aeri Lee) are freaking awesome!  And the students who are also involved in worship planning are also pretty outstanding, including that Pentecostal student.  Wow!  

On the other hand, did I mention how WEIRD it was?  Jesus, Pentecostal-y stuff, praise music, professors authentically revealing their faith in appropriate ways, and, um, Jesus.  Who knew?  

I'm still processing it.  I'm so used to my worship experiences at PSR to be more intellectual than devotional, with little Jesus-as-Savior, that I did not know what to make of what I experienced at the closing of Earl Lectures.   It was everything I could have hoped for...and yet I was also really uncomfortable.  I tried to pretend it was on behalf of others who might be uncomfortable (you know, solidarity and all)....but the truth is that I was a little weirded out by the whole thing.

And it's not as if I never use Jesus as Lord language - I rather believe that progressive Christianity ought to reclaim that language.  Or that I'm opposed to praise music....okay, I kind of am, but that's really more a personal preference as opposed to some sort of theological stance.  And this praise music had really good theology!  Or that I'm not appropriately self-revelatory in my preaching and praying.  I think and hope that I am.

So, I don't know exactly what it was, but the whole thing was so bizarre.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Recovering Fundamentalists

So, I have to confess that I've not had much experience with fundamentalist churches as a parishioner.  I grew up in the UCC, with a significant detour into Lutheranism.  Now, to be honest, those Lutherans were Missouri Synod, which here in the Midwest pretty much counts as fundamentalist to many.  But this was in California, and the minister was really progressive, so if you'd asked me which branch of Lutheranism our church was, I would have said ELCA for sure.  But even at Faith Lutheran, I strongly identified as UCC, primarily because of my participation at Camp Caz, a UCC camp in Northern California.

So I've never gotten the whole struggle with the Bible and homosexuality, or the Bible and earth stewardship, or the whole thing about the world coming to an end in our lifetimes.  I'm trying not to judge folk who believe that homosexuality is a sin, or that we shouldn't care about loving the earth because Jesus is coming soon to destroy it, or I'll be carried away in the Rapture, but this stuff is just

Maybe it's because I've never had to reject the theologies of fundamentalism, never had to recover from the spiritual abuse that so many experienced in these traditions, that I'm less defensive or afraid of engaging it, or of being in relationship with people who share these theologies. Even though I totally disagree with what so many of them believe.

In fact, I have a strange love for these folk.  And especially (though unsurprisingly) for those who leave such traditions in favor of a more inclusive Christian gospel of unconditional love.  In that vein, I encourage you to go read this blog.  It's written by the ex-wife of a Christian singer Ray Boltz, who came out a while ago, and it is just sweet and wonderful and I'm learning a lot about straight spouses in what is known as a "mixed-orientation" marriage.  And, how we can minister to such people.

By the way, my seminary president Bill "Shut up!" McKinney pointed out a while ago that I always had an openness to more conservative/traditional/fundamentalist theologies, even though I often think I'm about as liberal as they come, and that maybe that's why I'm more open to this kind of stuff now in my ministry.  It seems as if people have a hard time putting me in a theological box, what with believing in the bodily resurrection of Jesus AND in marriage equality for gays and lesbians and all.