May 31, 2012

can't stand it, i know you planned it...

Lots of catching up to do, so here you go...

Helpful tips from Ann Randers.

Dan Dick, back at the beginning of the month regarding General Conference: To Rainbow or Not to Rainbow and here he Looks Back at General Conference.

Fred Clark: David Barton says things that are not true. (Again, you have to go back to the beginning of the month when Barton was on The Daily Show; I was sorry to see John Stewart give Barton attention he doesn't deserve).

Godin calls the business world to care more; good advice for the church, too. Also from Godin - Avoiding False Metrics - also good advice for the UMC. One more to check out - The Quickest Way to Get Things Done and Make Change.

Rev. Momma on Defending v. Defensive:
"I'm not interested in proof-texting or debating, I'm interested in relationship, in loving, and in sharing how my life has changed by Christ."
To which I simply say, Amen!

From Lifehacker: Turn Your Cassette Tapes into MP3s. I've done this a few times with some my old radio recordings, but still have more to do.

Julie Clawson: Theology in the Dressing Room.

Adam Walker Cleaveland: Why Pastors Should Only Have 1 Facebook Profile.

Jay Voorhees posts An Open Letter to Bishop William Willimon - great reflection on the "trust problem" in the UMC; Jay also offers an important follow-up, I Love our Bishops.

Leilani Euper: Riding the Thunderbolt.

The Tyranny of Extroversion.

Taylor Burton-Edwards encourages us to Move Beyond the Death Metaphors for the UMC.

Is Mitt Romney a Unicorn?

Shawn Smucker: 35 Years in Church and I Still Don't Know How to Respond to Poverty. Powerful and convicting reflection about how the church fails to equip people to "do ministry" and names the struggle we all face.

If You Build Bike Lanes, They Will Ride.

Millennials in Detroit.

Tough month for fans of 90s era college rock, Ween break up (there was a time at KRUI where it seemed like "Push the Little Daisies" was being played every hour), and much more significantly the loss of MCA from the Beastie Boys...

May 29, 2012

Administrative note

I know I'm way behind again on getting a regular posting out. Hopefully that will be corrected sometime this week.

One quick note I wanted to share - a few friends have asked about getting notified when I do add a new post. I have twitter and facebook set up to provide notifications, but sometimes those get lost in the mix. If you'd like to have new posts e-mailed to you, or if you want to subscribe in your favorite feed reader, those options should now be easily available. Just click/fill out the appropriate information in one of the boxes to the right of this post.

Hope that helps!

May 18, 2012

DAC Poem

As part of the Detroit Annual Conference Eric Kieb, Jeff Nelson, Jeremy Peters and I were asked to write a group piece based on Mark 5 - the story of Jesus encountering the Gerasene demoniac. Here's what we came up with...

The waves were pounding
thunder resounding
While the wind was hounding
And darkness surrounding

On a mission - confounding

The boat sides were creakin’
The water was seepin’
The fishermen were weepin’
And Jesus was sleepin’

Jesus was sleeping?

Then who has been keeping
An eye on this trip,
Crossing over the sea, crossing over the border
Facing the chaos, facing disorder

Can’t we go back just like every other
Group that has ever tried to cross before

No hope is ahead,
nothing in store
But more wind and more rain and more terrible storm
It’s easier to complain and conform

One word
Stills the rain
Stills the wind
Stills the pain

Calls the rabbi, calls the Nazarene

After 50 long years they say this boat’s a sinkin’
Some chalk it up to cynical thinkin’
50 long years of desperation, decline
“What’s all the fuss, aren’t we just fine?”

“Peace” he calls out
After a year of baptisms and weddings
and attempted beheadings
from bridezillas who stalk and they squalk
as they threaten to outline our bodies in chalk
if the dog can’t be the one to bring down the rings
and if her little sister isn’t allowed to sing
“The first time ever I saw your face...”

After mission trips and bring-a-dish dinners
"Green-bean casserole - now there’s a winner”
And vain attempts to reach and to preach,
invite and incite, proclaim and teach
After all of the fighting’s without and the fears within
I’m not even sure where to begin

He calls out
After ten days of Tampa high-drama
It's not a period, we’ll call it a comma.
Unsettling storms seem to dampen the Spirit
Of unity and pride, but we cannot hide

The disciples they arrived on the other side of the sea,
And here today we gather both lay and clergy
At Adrian College or in the country of the Gerasenes
We come seeking Jesus always ready to seek the lost and unclean

And just as Jesus stepped out of the boat
A man came up not wearing a coat
Disheveled, delusional and demon possessed
Coming to Jesus beating his breast

Stuck outside living among the tombs
No hope no cure, everyone presumes

Today they like to say that our church is dead
Easier to blame than fix problems instead
Fighting constraints, restraints,
Chained down with no one to hear his complaints

Locked up with lanyards and empty platitudes
A landslide of legislation and bad attitudes
Robbed by Roberts and his Rules of Order
Stuck in the past like some kind of hoarder

“You’re out of order!”
“No you’re out of order!”
"This whole place is out of order!”

Shattering shackles, breaking the chains,
Is there’s no balm in Gilead to heal this man’s pain?

Should we skip the plenary to go see the Avengers?
No, the Hulk is right here, among the Amen-ers
A chain-snapping giant with incredible hope
That’ll make us feel like inevitable dopes
When they tie us down with inflexible rope
Wondering why we just keep trying to cope
“Wouldn’t it be easier to become Presbyterian”
“I’m finding a place with an infallible pope!”

Living night and day in the cemetery
Dawson Auditorium and Shipman Library
Howling and growling, bruising himself with stones
Marginalized madman left all alone

And his fist said to face I don’t need you
And arm said to chest, I think we are through
And his feet they said to his padded posterior
In this body, I am superior

And he deployed the Discipline, like a back-alley razor
Cut himself to pieces like black eye-lined teenager

Running to Jesus he got on his knees,
Listen to me Jesus, listen to me please
Don’t you torment me, don’t make me leave.

He bowed before the cross,
she put her hand in the air
They broke bread with Bishop,
sang hymns with flair

Praying so hard with all of their heart
“Lord, please go away...” don’t mess up our part
We’ve become accustomed to our messes
Our routines and our tombs
Our beautiful colored glass
And Sunday costumes
Leave us to sit in our comfortable pew
We’ll just sit and complain how “the workers are few...”

When Jesus asks,

“What is your name?”

Are we so honest that we proclaim:
My name is anger, resentment and hypocrisy.
My name is faction and fear. My name is pulpit envy.
My name is naked ambition, pride mixed with doubt.
My name’s in incomprehensible acronym, the meaning we’ve forgotten about.”
My name is bumper sticker theology,
my name is Pharisee,
My name is intolerance and ignorance,
and ‘Hey! Look at me!’”

"My name is Legion; for we are many.”

They begged him earnestly not to send them away
Please not to Marquette, that’s all I can say.

Don’t send us a pastor too young or old
Not sure we’re quite ready for a woman or theology too bold.

Don’t send me to the dirty
the downtrodden,
the drop outs and delinquents.
Don’t send me to the queers
to the ones baptized with tears
to those assaulted by fears.
Don’t send me to the
or distraught
I don’t wanna be reminded
that there’s little that separates me
from them
from you
from me
from us.

Lord, heal our church.
Cast out our demons.

Imagine a church united
Imagine a people clothed in mercy.
Imagine a crew willing to engage broken people in broken places.
Imagine setting sail through torrents and storms.
Imagine getting out of the boat and getting the world right
The gates of Hell themselves would tremble at the sight.
After the storm
ministry happens.
On the other side
demons are defeated.
Lives are changed
Grace happens... even in graveyards...
especially in graveyards.

Get out of the boat
Cast out the demons
The world is our parish.
Michigan is our mission.

May 2, 2012

Book Review: Love Does by Bob Goff

  As part of Thomas Nelson's Book Sneeze program, I've had the chance to read and review the book Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World by Bob Goff. If you are familiar with Donald Miller's book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years (affiliate links), you might recognize Bob and parts of his story - Don talks about Bob as the guy who is engaged in writing down all his memories (chapter 1) and who he meets while kayaking in British Columbia (chapter 24).

 Without a doubt Bob Goff has lived a remarkable life - he's a successful lawyer, the founder of Restore International, which is a ministry focused on restoring justice to children in India and Uganda, and serves as Honorary Consul for the Republic of Uganda. This book, in part tells some of Bob's story, highlighting memorable moments in his life, connects it with his faith, and builds the argument that faith and love isn't about intellectual conviction as much as it is about revealed action.

 Overall, it's a great book. The stories Bob shares are inspirational, engaging, and memorable. The way he speaks of faith, likewise, is in a very straight-forward, accessible way; it feels like you are having a conversation with a friend, instead of someone trying to convert you with a theological worldview. Likewise, the chapters are relatively short and clear to the point - making this both a fairly quick, but also an addictive read. This is one of those books, where you start reading, and the next thing you know it's 2 hours later and you are almost at the end of the book. (For any preachers who might be reading this review, this book is also a great source for some solid illustrations, if you, like me, are always in search of a good story that help show a Biblical truth in a practical way).

 My only criticisms of the book are that towards the middle of the book, the structure of each chapter starts to feel a little formulaic - Bob shares a personal story, relates it to a passage from the Bible, offers some brief concluding words tying it all together, and then moves on to the next chapter. Towards the end of the book, he breaks this routine and more naturally integrates his life story into his theological understanding. My only other complaint would be that I wish Bob would tell more of his life story in a more chronological fashion - I felt like the moments he used were a little too random, and too safe; he never really delves into serious struggles he has faced along the way or how he had ever honestly wrestled with faith. I would guess that's because he wants to keep this book optimistic, focused on the grace in our midst, but I think grace becomes more real when we confess to our brokenness as well - as Donald Miller says in A Million Miles - there needs to be conflict for a story to really work, and I feel Bob shielded us from some of the conflict. Alongside that, at several different points in the book, Bob tries to admit that he is just an "ordinary guy." I know he's making an effort to relate to the average reader, and help us to know we all have the opportunity to do extraordinary things, which I would agree with, but the fact is most "ordinary guys" I know don't have the ability to take our daughters to London for their birthdays, or are asked to be the consul for Uganda. Through, what I'm sure, is a combination of hard work, dedication, and opportunity, Bob has built a life that is anything but ordinary, and I just wish he could acknowledge that and share the story, more fully, of how that happened. Guess I'll just have to wait for "Part 2" of the story to be told.

 As I said before though, I really do feel that overall this is a great book; one that you'll want to read and pass on to your friends. If you are looking for some inspiration in your life, please go and grab a copy. There's the added bonus that all the proceeds from the book go to support The Mentoring Project and Restore International's Leadership Academy.

 (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book for the purposes of review. The free book didn't influence my review in any way).

they don't, they don't speak for us...

Seth Godin (via Domino Project): Piracy? You Wish. Great reminder it's the ideas and the art that matter, not the sales. Also from Godin: Tracts, Manifestos and Books.

Jen Lemen: How to be Happy (Part 6).

Bread for the World: Congress Wants Your Church to Spend $50,000 (via Fred Clark). While I sort of "get" the attempt to argue that feeding the hungry should be the work of the churches, it conveniently seems to forget that many of the church pantries I know are already stretched pretty thin even as donor generosity has increased, and it is VERY unlikely that people will turn their personal tax savings into charitable contributions (certainly not at a 1:1 ratio). It also fails to acknowledge the economics of scale - government programs can simply get much more value for each dollar, rather than a bunch of different churches working independently.

I'm pretty sure that when Jesus said to "pray for those who harass you" (Matthew 5:44), this is NOT what he meant. (also via Fred Clark)

Mark Engler: Tax Day Doesn't Belong to the Tea Party Anymore.

My main focus this past week has been the General Conference of the United Methodist Church. Some of the key posts that have caught my eye:

Andrew Conrad developed a #gc2012 Twitter Word Cloud Project.

From Dan Dick: April 25 Reflections; Same Language, Different Meanings; Specific Conference; Value-Addled; and Safety in Numbness.

Rev. Momma on Guaranteed Appointments. (I'm hoping to get a post with my own thoughts on this soon).

Lovett Weems: The Tussle Over Metrics.

And while this post on God's Different Kind of Arithmetic wasn't necessarily General Conference related, it certainly fits some of the main concerns and themes of the week.

Found myself in the mood to listen, once again to the amazing Radiohead album OK Computer this morning...