Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Daily Office/Conquering the world

So, after reading the chapter about The Daily Office in Tony Jones's book The Sacred Way, I got inspired and have been doing my best to observe elements of the daily office each day. I've been pretty good about doing Morning Prayer and Prayer at the Close of Day...not so good with Midday Prayer and Evening Prayer, but hoping to get those under my belt when I'm back in my "regular" routine next week. Anyway, as a part of The Daily Office each day, I read the texts assigned for the Daily Lectionary. One of today's new testament readings was 1 John 5:1-12. Here's vv 1-6:

1 John 5:1-6

Faith Conquers the World

5Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. 2By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, 4for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. 5Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

I spent a good amount of time contemplating these six verses, especially the part that reads And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? So, what does it mean to conquer the world? Is it texts like this that give some folks the inspiration to advocate for legislation that reflects their faith? Do we conquer the world by showing the world what true obedience to God's commandments looks like? What does it mean to conquer? These are interesting words in a book that is usually thought of as a treatise about love. Does love entail conquering? I don't think so, but maybe I'm misunderstanding what it means to conquer. I should probably look up the greek and do some word studies, but I'm in Missouri and don't have those materials handy.

So, what about all this conquering stuff?

Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas remembrances

OK, first of all, I had to look up remembrances to make sure I spelled it correctly. It seems like it should have an e after that b. Anyways...I thought I'd share a few Christmas remembrances I've had lately. So, here goes:
  • TubaChristmas-For those of you who don't know, there's this event called TubaChristmas that takes place all over the United States, and even in some other countries around the world. Tuba and Euphonium players come together and rehearse Christmas songs for an hour or so, and then, an hour later, they put on a concert for anyone in the community who wants to come. When I was in high school, we used to pile into cars and race down to the University of Missouri campus and participate in the Columbia, MO version. I remember one year, we crammed five people, two euphoniums, and one (maybe two) tubas in my Dad's sky blue geo prizm and made it safely to the concert. Crazy. It was one of those events I remember fondly. Anyway, I went to the Nashville version this week. It was huge!! They filled the whole front area of a large downtown church with the musicians and it was standing room only when I got there five minutes early. i think I'll get on the ball and play in it next year. In any case, thanks to all of you RB guys who made TubaChristmas so much fun each year...special shout outs to Jeff and Marc who made low brass a family thing.
  • And heaven and nature sing: I've had a few occasions lately to sing Joy to the World. That hymn always makes me think of my Grandpa, Harold Douglas. I have very clear memories of standing next to Grandpa at First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, MO each Christmas Eve and singing that wonderful hymn. I always thought it was so cool when he would sing the echoing tenor part...and heaven and nature sing...and he would sing it out with so much vigor and strength, and looking back, with so much faith in the truth of the words he was singing. He was quite a man, Harold Douglas...I still miss him.
  • Well, now my mind is racing with memories of Grandpa, so the other whispers of Christmas past have receded back in the recesses of my mind. I hope that everyone's advent has been one of hope, anticipation, and even a little bit of revelation. Grace and peace to you all.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Funny things

So, I was out doing some Christmas shopping today (yes, more than a week before Christmas), and I had two experiences that made me chuckle out loud.
  • The first occured in the CD section at Target. I was looking at the Wow Worship Aqua CD as a potential gift for my brother-in-law, Jimmy. As I was looking at the song list on the back of the CD, this is what I saw:

If you'll notice, for number 2. on disc 2, the song is listed as Angus Dei (translated as Cow of God). It's supposed to be Agnus Dei. I thought that was pretty funny.

  • Then, when I was at the "Nature rocks...Hippy Store," (that's not the real name, but you get the gist) there was a Mother and her son looking at incense and pipe looking objects and this is what the mom said: "I don't want to give Bobby anything that encourages him to use matches." Ummm, I think you might want to worry about giving something to Bobby that encourages him TO USE DRUGS!!

Anyway, these two things made my first run at Christmas shopping more entertaining than usual.

OK, off to tutor at Martha O'Bryan.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Really feelin' like home

  • So, yesterday, while I was out running 3.5 miles (I'm in training for a half marathon), three different people honked at me and waved, and they were actually people I knew. I feel like that's one of those signs that a place has become home...when you go for a relatively short run and see three people you know. It was a pretty cool feeling. Way better than the coke bottle chucking incident from the first few months I lived here (Riding My Bike).
  • Walking into The Good Cup (my favorite coffee shop) and being greeted by name, or at least in that, "What's up, man?" that makes you feel like a regular also seems to indicate that this place called Williamson County is more like home now.
  • OK, now for some pictures that are totally unrelated to the whole "home" theme. They're from a recent visit by my good friend Shelli Latham. These were taken at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel:

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Limits of God's Grace

The title of this post comes from an article I recently read in The Journal of Student Ministries. Here's a link to the article: The Limits of God's Grace.

So, the basic gist of the article is that Bart Campolo (author and son of Tony Campolo) refuses to believe in the God of double predestination, and refuses to believe in a God who actively wills things like rape, hurricane destruction, murder, and other evils, to take place. He gives four possible responses to evil in the world:
  1. There are no spiritual forces and our lives have no greater meaning. In this case, he despairs
  2. There is only one spiritual force at work in the universe and everything, including the bad stuff, happens according to its will. In this case, he despairs.
  3. There are two diametrically opposed spiritual forces, and the evil force is stronger and will eventually win. In this case, he despairs.
  4. There are two opposing spiritual forces, and the good (God) will utterly triumph and redeem even the evil things in the world. He says that, "In this case--and in this case alone--I rejoice and gladly pledge my allegiance to the good and loving God."
He goes on to say that he's only willing to worship God if the fourth possibility is true. Otherwise, he'd rather be sent to hell than spend eternity with a God who wills rape and murder. As you can imagine, he's taking some major heat from evangelicals...being proclaimed a heretic and said to make God in his own image.

All in all, I think it's a great article. I think it speaks to the experience of many people who are unwilling to buy into and worship a God who would be so seemingly fickle and unloving as to cause evil things to happen.

As I've asked many times before, what is it about a God of limitless Grace and Love that makes some people so nervous? What if God really does plan to redeem/save everything in the end? What if a profession of faith is more about the benefit of experiencing God's presence in our lives now and less about our eternal status before God? What do we gain by professing a God who will evil to happen? What do we gain by professing a God who will banish some to an eternity of weeping and gnashing of teeth, or at the very least fails to save some from that fate?

Read the article and let me know what you think.

Monday, November 20, 2006

National Youth Workers Convention 2006

I've just returned from the National Youth Workers Convention sponsored by Youth Specialties. i attended the Cincinnati conference with a fellow youth guy from the Williamson County area. We drove up last Thursday and arrived back to Franklin this evening (Monday). Here are some of my thoughts:
  1. I was definitely in the minority as a mainline protestant, and especially as a Presbyterian. There were a lot of folks from community and Baptist churches. The evangelical lingo was prevelant in most of the workshop leaders.
  2. If most community churches worship like we did this weekend, I can tell you that I'd leave feeling empty, and not in that, "I emptied my soul before God" kind of way. You can only call Jesus beautiful and the best thing ever so many times. There was absolutely no spoken liturgy...NONE! We sang for half an hour, heard Scripture (most of the time) and then heard a sermon/keynote presentation. Then, we might sing another song and jump around a bit and then turn around and leave. So, yeah, I think I'd have a hard time worshipping in that way every week.
  3. A lot of people using the term, "my ministry." It's all about God, except I'm gonna talk like it's really about how I present God. I need to do some further reflection on why the term"my ministry" bothers me. Any help would be appreciated.
  4. I was introduced to the term "Christ Follower." Check out these vidoes Christian Vs. Christ Follower at youtube for a glimpse into the difference between a Christian and a Christ Follower. You can pretty much guarantee an entire post or series of posts that parse these videos, but for now, just know that there are some presenters who never used the word Christian or Disciple, and instead talked about being a Christ Follower. Like I said, more on that later.
  5. Rodger Nishioka was one of the keynote speakers/preachers. He was great, as usual. It was great to see a familiar face and have an opportunity to sit down and shoot the bull with him.
  6. I heard a speaker talking about worship who said that it's important that we bring our best to worship. He said something like If you're only bringing a 5 to worship as a leader, you can't expect those in the congregation to attain a 6 or a 7. Um, what? Interesting notion about our role in worship isn't it? I tend to believe that God uses our less than perfect gifts to bring about transformation and to bless the worship of the congregation. Isn't worship about what God has done, is doing, and will do, and less about what I bring. Is it important to bring our best? Yes. Does God's ability to transform lives depend on the level of my best? Absolutely not.
  7. Overall, I had a great time and feel enriched by this conference. I definitely came away with some good ideas and some good resources. I actually enjoy those times when I'm totally out of my element and forced to encounter thoughts and language that are different than my own.
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.

Friday, November 10, 2006


So, I've been intentionally avoiding the blog for the past few days lest my emotions get the best of me and I were to write something overly incendiary. It was particularly providential that I didn't bring my computer home on Tuesday night, election night, because I saw some interviews with proponents of Amendment One (no gay marriage) that sent me through the roof. Anyway, here are some of my thoughts on the week.
  • First, I'm psyched that the democrats took control of both the United States Senate and House of Representatives. Along with that comes some major excitement that we're about to have a woman serve as Speaker of the House. I can't wait to see the next State of the Union address with her back there. I'm eager to see how the democrats address the war, the economy, and various other issues.
  • Second, I'm utterly disappointed in the 80% of Tennesseans who voted to introduce prejudice to our state's constitution. Yes, the amendment defining marriage as a covenant between one man and one woman passed overwhelmingly with an 80/20 majority. I'm still not sure that the semantics are entirely accurate. I mean, can only one man and one woman be married at any given time? What about all the other people who want to get married? All sarcastic academic semantic joking aside, I am deeply saddened by the injustice that's represented in such an amendment. Last night, a colleague pointed out that, with the exception of prohibition, all other amendments to the United States Constitution grant rights to people rather than taking rights away. Why is it that we're now using the constitution to limit the rights of citizens? What happened to equal protection under the law?
  • I heard this guy giving an interview about how he and the proponents of Amendment One respected families and wanted to protect them. What a bunch of horse manure. I'm feeling my blood boil just thinking about the audacious arrogance and unbelievable insensitivity it takes to stand there and say that his definition of "family" is somehow superior to those of us who would affirm the rights of homosexuals to join together in love and form families of their own. What a punk. I could have reached through the TV and slapped him around. I'm still waiting for someone to give me a rational, well reasoned argument as to how homosexual marriage adversely affects the family life or the marriage of anybody else. Seriously, I'm waiting.
  • Finally, i'm thankful to Tim Reynolds for his words last night at the Vanderbilt Presbyterian Student Fellowship worship service. He reminded us that we ought to be citizens, first, of the kingdom/city of God, and only secondarily citizens of America. He reminded us that the world will not be transformed by republicans, democrats, presidents, senators, representatives, or by the empire itself. Am I excited that we have a democrat controlled house and senate? Yes I am. Do I believe that this will bring about wide societal change and a peace that passes understanding? I do not! I place my faith in a Christ who came to break down barriers and who calls us to serve one another in peace and love. I believe that we Christians can best transform the world, not by amending the constitution of the empire, but by witnessing to the gospel of a crucified and risen savior...a gospel of reconciliation and love...a gospel of care for the poor, oppressed, and those who are case aside...a gospel that has transformed and continues to transform the world.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Philly Trip

Just over a week ago, I was in Philadelphia. Here are some pics from my trip. It was so great hanging out with John, Laurie, Wes, Bill, and Sarah. There is something absolutely wonderful about spending time with friends who have known you for more than a year. Thanks to all of them for being so awesome and for showing me such a good time. So, here is what we did. By the way, for some reason, I cannot use my apostrophe key without weird things happening. Thus, no contractions.

So, as I was walking through the Nashville airport, waiting for my flight, I cam across this sign overhead. I thought, "Wow, isn't that cool? They have a playground right here in the airport." I was thinking they might have a slide, some fake cars to drive, maybe even a swing or two. Nope, the picture below shows the Children's Play Area. There were two such squares of letter laiden carpet. BORING!!!

Here's Wes preparing to knock a wiffle ball over the archen wall at St. Andrews School in Middletown, DE. This wall might look familiar to fans of the movie Dead Poet's Society, as the movie was filmed there. Wes, with his huge swing, was knocking the ball over the way like Yadier Molina in game 7 of the NLCS.
Wiffle Ballo Studs

This contraption is called a Table Tap. It's 2 pitchers worth of beer in one big container. Although the tap says Bud Light, I assure you it wasn't Bud Light. It was some sort of local brew, I think. In any case, we had fun with that sitting on the table.

Here's me and my good friend, Laurie. We had a great time Sunday evening just shootin' the bull about youth ministry stuff. I have a feeling we'll be sitting around at General Assembly someday, when we're 60 years old, and still have a million things to talk about.

So, all in all, a great trip to the mid-atlantic region. My trip also included an afternoon exploring downtown Media, PA, where John and Laurie live. It's a cool place. We also played some trivia at a restaurant in Media. We didn't do so hot due to a wicked hard bonus round of questions, but we had a great time. Thanks to my good friends for good times.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Vote No on Amendment 1

I received my Williamson County voter registration card in the mail while I was in Philadelphia (more on that in a later post). In the upcoming mid-term election, I will have the opportunity to cast a no vote on a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. I've ranted and raved about this issue on Renderings before, but, unfortunately, the issue keeps rearing its ugly head. I simply can't understand how legislating this kind of prejudice can have such overwhelming popular support. Why do heterosexual couples get special privileges under the law of a country that proclaims "libery and justice for all?"

My good friend, Wes Goldsberry, reminded of the ridiculous argument that homosexual marriage is like someone creating counterfeit $20 bills in his basement...that somehow, gay marriage "cheapens" heterosexual marriage. Um, OK, in that analogy, the marriage of the "straight" individual is cheapened because there are more $20 bills in circulation, thus driving down the value of the authentic $20 bill. The major flaw being that if the U.S. Mint chose to shell out the same amount of $20 bills as the counterfeiter, the value of the existing $20 bills would go down as well. In this ridiculous analogy, every single marriage in the world "cheapens" the original marriage because there are more. Basically, I have yet to hear a good, rational argument as to why gay marriage should have any effect at all on existing marriages. The marriage between two people is affected by the members of the covenant, not by every other person who is in a similar covenant. Basically, even though I'm sure that this ridiculous amendment will pass by a margin of 70/30, I'm proud to say that I'll be casting a no vote, and I encourage every other Tennessee voter who reads this to do so as well.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Not really a remake

OK, so I know it's just a matter of semantics, but it's driving me crazy that the press is calling this new cinematic version of All the King's Men a "remake" of the 1949 film of the same name. It's not a remake! It's a screenplay adaptation of the pulitzer prize winning book entitled All the King's Men! There's a difference between a remake and a new adaptation of the same book. Remake, to me, implies that this new movie will be based solely on the original movie, when, in fact, that isn't what's going on. I'm afraid that some people will begin to think that All the King's Men is only a set of movies, when, in fact, it's actually an amazing book...a book whose every page is dripping with description and total mastery of the English language. Get out there and read this book. This is the time in the program when Levar Burton would say, "But don't take my word for it," and the screen would cut away to some kid telling you about their favorite book. Ah, Reading Rainbow.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Brief thoughts on a Wednesday morning

Thomas Jefferson:

I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us, that the less we use our power the greater it will be.

I found this quote as I was looking for a "thought for the day" for our bulletin. It seems that we have strayed far from Jefferson's hopes for the parallel paths of wisdom and power.

On a totally unrelated note, I read in The Week this week that 61% of Americans truly believe that God wants them to be financially prosperous. Ummmm...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The coffeeshop shuffle

Whirrr, grind, clank, whizz, glug glug glug...Here I sit at Fido's coffeeshop in Hillsborough Village on a Tuesday evening. As I was waiting for my computer to boot up and for the wireless to connect, I simply looked around and watched everyone as they gave their order and did the coffeeshop shuffle. There's giving your order to the quazi-emo looking person behind the counter, you know, the one with the tattoos and at least one body piercing. The wait for whatever you ordered...this time it's just a decaf Cafe Olei for me, so the wait is short. Some people, however, stand there for the better part of 10 minutes waiting for their double mochaccino no foam double whip blah blah blah. There's the initial sprinkling with cocoa, nutmeg, sugar, whatever. The first few sips and the quick revelation that it's not quite right. The return to the counter for more sugar, cream, 2% (well, you assume it's 2 %, even though the percent sign is mostly scraped away), or other coffee additives of your choice. Then, the search for a seat. Are you a cushy booth sitter or a tall tables and chair sitter, or are you the one who sits all by yourself at the six top? Important questions to be asked and answered. Then, you either settle in to read, check e-mail, journal, blog, listen to your ipod, etc., or you slide in next to your mates who, at some point this evening, have been at various stages of the coffeeshop shuffle as well. Ah, Fido's, you truly are an experience.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Elihu the youth

Job 32:4-10

1So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. 2Then Elihu son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, became angry. He was angry at Job because he justified himself rather than God; 3he was angry also at Job's three friends because they had found no answer, though they had declared Job to be in the wrong. 4Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job, because they were older than he. 5But when Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouths of these three men, he became angry.

6Elihu son of Barachel the Buzite answered: "I am young in years, and you are aged; therefore I was timid and afraid to declare my opinion to you. 7I said, 'Let days speak, and many years teach wisdom.' 8But truly it is the spirit in a mortal, the breath of the Almighty, that makes for understanding. 9It is not the old that are wise, nor the aged that understand what is right. 10Therefore I say, 'Listen to me; let me also declare my opinion.'

This text is part of the daily lectionary today. These words are spoken by Elihu after he's heard his elders give their advice to the mourning Job. I love the fact that Elihu begins by listening to the wisdom of his elders and waiting to speak until those who are supposed to have wisdom have spoken. But, in the absence of what he sees as wisdom, he decides that it's time for the voice of youth to speak up. As the youngest one present, possibly a high school youth on a committee, he becomes frustrated with both Job and his "friends," because neither side seems to be adequately repentant and neither side quite gets it right. Elihu goes on to provide what I see as a kind of middle ground between Job and the other friends. Anyway, as one who works with young people, this passage struck me as one that calls upon young people to speak up when the wisdom of the elders seems flawed.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Biff Fink

This Sunday is Jazz Sunday at Harpeth. One of our church members does some jazz workshop stuff and is bringing her friends along to share some jazz with the congregation. Anyway, last night at choir practice, we were practicing a children's sermon that tells the story of how jazz came about. It's a story about a frog who wanted to sing in a forest where only the birds sang. When he finally gets up to sing, he sings a jazz beat and everybody loves it. So, Biff Fink, our Director of Music is playing the frog. There he was last night, being totally goofy and funny and entertaining. I really do stand in awe of Biff's love for music and his willingness to do whatever it takes to get a message across. He's one of those people who's willing to let go of any need to be "composed," and yet he can turn around and be totally deep in his thoughts and meditations about Scripture, life, people, music, etc. For that, and many other reasons, I hold him in very high regard. Biff Fink is just one more reason why I love being at Harpeth.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

My day off

Today was day off. I didn't set an alarm and woke up when I felt like it. I had a leisurely breakfast and watched some people win stuff on The Price is Right. A friend of mine in college, named Sara Stienecker, just loved game shows because they were all about people winning stuff and being happy. She took such pleasure in watching other people be happy...kind of like Stargirl, the main character of a book by the same name. Stargirl is written as a truly selfless person who is punished by her high school classmates who just can't figure her out. Tonight, at Vanderbilt Presbyterian Student Fellowship worship, Jennifer Fouse talked about being so full of the spirit that we make other people nervous...that we make people wonder if we've been drinking. I thought of Stargirl...oh, that everyone was more like Stargirl. In our prayer circle at the end of worship, people shared some really deep joys and some really deep hurts. As I stood there listening to these college student sharing all that they would lay at the feet of a loving God who sends a powerful Spirit, I wondered if I would have been as willing to share such things when I was in college...I wouldn't have. What a place of privilege to be in the midst of that circle and be asked to clear my throat and say, "Ahem, God, did you hear that? What's your plan for that? What's my role in that? Make things better, God. Bring them your comfort, God. Bring them your peace. Bring them your grace. " Yeah, to be entrusted with someone's deep pain and deep joy, that's...well, that's...that's something amazing and powerful and, dare I say it, spiritual. Oh, that we would all be willing to share our brokenness in our times of need and that the community of believers might hold the broken as God does God's amazing work. So, yeah, it was a good Thursday. Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A parable...of sorts

This, um, parable was left on my desk by one of my youth last Sunday. It's got a surprise ending, so be ready. :)

One day, the devil challenged Jesus to a boxing match. Everyone placed bets on Jesus, then Satan appeared. He was muscular and 300 pounds. Everyone except one changed their bets. Fight night, Jesus wouldn't fight, then two boys inspired him to punch and once he did, Satan fell over and lost the match, and said "I was the one who bet on Jesus, so I get all your money." The End.

At first, I thought, maybe, he had heard that Carman song called The Champion (is that right?), but he definitely took it in a different direction. Is it a parable against gambling? Does he like to picture his Jesus as a boxer with white gloves, shorts, and boots? Or maybe Jesus did his boxing in his traditional off white garment. Anyway, I thought I'd throw it out there and see what everyone thinks.

Monday, August 28, 2006

I have a dream

In 1963, 200,000 people participated in a peaceful civil rights rally in Washington, D.C., where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

I found this on the New York Times website. I just thought I'd give a shout out to one of the coolest moments in United States history.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Long time no blog

Wow, this may be the longest I've gone without blogging since I started this up a couple of years ago. I've had every intention of doing so, but have been too busy, or too tired, or battling my neighbor's wireless internet. So, what has Alan Bancroft been up to. Well, here are some pictures to tell the story.

This is a picture of Weicher, Shelli, and me at Rock Spring Presbterian Church in Atlanta, GA. We brought our middle school youth groups together for a combined mission experience in urban Atlanta. It was awesome!! Watching the young people meld into one big group really warmed my heart. One of the reasons I love being Presbyterian is our emphasis on connectionalism...that the body of Christ is bigger and more powerful than one individual or even one individual congregation. This experiment in middle school mission will henceforth be called Mission Possible.

This is a picture of Wes Goldsberry (Rabboni) staring purposively at a street sign for the town of Goldsberry, MO (yes, this is a mirror image, for all of you spatially minded folks). Yes, Wes Goldsberry and Alan Bancroft made the trek from Nashville to Columbia, MO a little over a week ago. Our trip was full of meaningful discussion as well as some utterly ridiculous, but hilarious rants and raves. The day after arriving in Columbia, MO, we explored the rural countryside of the beautiful state of Missouri, including the towns of Ethel and Goldsberry, with a stop off in Kirksville, MO to admire Truman State University. As you can see below, there's a gas station in Kirksville called Kum and Go. Seriously, that's what it's called. Check it out as Wes and I stand in front of the sign.

After our adventures in Missouri, Wes headed west to Kansas City and then flew to Las Vegas. You'll have to check in with him about that, but chances are, he's gonna tell you that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

A few days after Wes left (I cried profusely), I embarked on a journey with Jeff, Samantha, and Roger to Madison, WI for the Drum Corps International World Championships where my corps, The Cavaliers, was favored to win the whole shebang. Well, after some shuffling in the top twelve, they did just that. Their performance was freaking amazing. For those of you who are into such things, you would have been in awe. I love it that The Cavaliers are always on the cutting edge of innovation and implementation all at the same time. Go Go Green Machine. Below, you'll find a picture of the Cavaliers as they prepare to win their 5th DCI championship in 7 years. Thanks to Jeff, Samantha, and Roger for providing wonderful company and letting me tag along. I should also say that, on Sunday, we had brunch with our friend, Lisa and her husband. Lisa went to junior high with me and Jeff and then moved away, but somehow, over the years, we've remained in touch. I love having friends like that.

So, I've been to Atlanta, Columbia, Ethel, Goldsberry, Kirksville, and now back to Nashville. We're gearing up for Rally Day here at Harpeth. I can't tell you how psyched I am to begin my second year of ministry here.

As somebody used to say, "See you in the funny papers."

Friday, July 21, 2006

In between

I'm currently sitting at a Panera bread store, waiting for the Green Hills Mall to be open. Who knew that the mall didn't open until 10:00 am? Ridiculous. I'm waiting to take my ipod to the Apple store. It's giving me the poopy face, you know, the one with a ipod that has x's for eyes, and I'm hoping to have it fixed. Anyway, here I sit.

I'm in between mission trips. The trip to The Duvall Home went really well. I think I'd forgotten how exhausting mission trips can be. It's such a different climate than Montreat or camp. I was really proud of the way our youth handled themselves while they were there. We encountered some difficulties along the way, and the youth of Harpeth stepped up with maturity and grace. I also owe a huge thanks to Ruth Knab, Jennifer Bent, Carrie Jones, and James Peeler for giving a week of their time to be chaperones for the trip.

Next week, I'll be in Atlanta with our middle school youth. We'll be joining up with two other churches where John Weicher and Shelli Latham are the Associate Pastors. It should be a great week.

Friday, July 07, 2006

On the road again

Yes, I'm about to leave on another trip. This time, I'll be traveling to The Duvall Home in Glenwood, FL for the Harpeth Presbyterian Church Sr. High mission trip. This will be the first time I take this group on a long trip. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little bit nervous. My first trip with a new group always makes me nervous. So many what ifs run through my brain:What if I forget something really important? What if I ignore a sacred ritual? What if its the worst trip ever and nobody ever comes back to youth group? What if someone gets injured? What if? What if? What if? It's times like these that I have to take a deep breath and do my best to let it go and trust that God is in control. It really has nothing to do with me, after all. But still....I worry. :)

This evening, after we load up our vans and uhaul trailer, I'm going to see the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie with some of the youth. Here's a picture from a year ago when I was at Montreat.

I wore that pirate hat around for an entire day, and talked like a pirate a lot, too. As you can see, I was pretty menacing with my hook. I think I forced some people to walk the plank, too. My good friend Ashley Lamar got a big kick out of looking over and seeing me work with that hat on. Ah, Ashley...what a good guy. I miss him. Anybody who's close enough to give him a hug, please give him a big one for me.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Montreat West...Friday

It's Friday night, around 1:00 am, and I should probably be climbing into bed for a much needed rest, but my brain is kind of racing, so I thought I'd finish up my week of blogging from Montreat West. First of all, here are some pictures:

This is Jeffrey, Rex, and I at the last rec event. These two guys are cool cats. Jeffrey was the music leader, and he did a fantastic job. I loved his theme song. He goes to school at Belmont, so he and I will definitely be hanging out. As for Rex, well, he's the mack I always wished I was. :)

Laurie and I...Man, where to start? I had an absolutely wonderful time hanging out with Laurie this week. She is such an intelligent, insightful, beautiful, thoughtful, fun, talented, funny, amazing woman. I don't think I realized how much I missed her until we had this chance to be with each other everyday. John Weicher, you are a lucky man. For what it's worth, I think she is gonna be one rock star of a co-director at Montreat West next summer. I am extremetly grateful to God for friends like Laurie.

Some girls from FPC Columbia, MO and Alan. These girls were part of the crew that made the trek out here from Columbia, MO, my hometown. It was so great to reconnect with some and meet some new members of the church that is so close to my heart. There's just something about making connections with people who are from your hometown. Somehow, I feel like there's a certain level of automatic understanding and respect. It's so great to see that the youth program back home is going so well. Big props to Nathan and Morgan See, and Jeff and Lori Fox for bringing them out here, and for being important adults in their lives back home.

Cindy Edwards (the keynoter) and I. This woman is absolutely amazing. She brought so much creativity to the keynotes. I guess I'll overlook the fact that she had me dressed as a woman three days out of five. :) It was a real honor and pleasure to share the stage with someone so fun and insightful. I'm hoping the youth who were here will take Cindy's words, skits, videos, and challenges back home and make a difference in the lives of those around them.

OK, I think my brain has slowed down enough for me to turn it in for the night. This was a great week at Montreat West. I feel rejuvenated and excited. I feel convicted to get off my duff and do some transformative work in my community. I feel excited about taking some youth to Memphis to help J. Herbert in his endeavors. I feel exhausted in a way that only happens at youth conferences and on mission trips. I feel nervous about preaching on Sunday. I feel gratitude for new friends that I've made. I feel inspired to get back home and cross boundaries.

And that, my friends, is all I have to say about that.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Montreat West...Thursday

Earlier today (Thursday), the Servant Squad spent some quality time exploring the theme of conflict. Some of them worked with modeling clay to sculpt their response, while some finger painted, and others wrote their own "blogs" in response to scenarios posted around the room. Nobody took advantage of the liturgical movement station.

Between last night's sermon and this morning's keynote, hopefully the youth here at Montreat West are thinking about issues of race, gender, sexuality, power, oppression, and control. J. Herbert did a fabulous job of talking about the racial injustices that are still prevalent in our society. He gave us a glimpse into his world as an African-American man, and some of it made me so sad. He talked about being painfully aware of where his hands are at all times when he's in a store, because he doesn't want to appear as if he's stealing something or getting ready to pull a weapon. This morning, Cindy encouraged us to think more seriously about the civil rights movement, and what it means to seriously engage in conversation with "the other."

The sermon last night was pretty convicting for me. As I heard J. Herbert speak, I realized that that "voice" very absent from my day to day encounters. I feel like there was a time, in seminary, and some in college, when that voice was a part of my life, but not so much now. Nor have I been intentional about speaking in that voice in my current situation. When I run, my thoughts no longer focus on the ways that I can transform the world around me or how I'm going to speak the truth to power, but instead I worry about my car payment and my house payment, and whether I have money in my account to cover them...I think about how quickly I can pay off my student loans, or when I'll be able to afford a new TV, or what I "need" at Target, or when I'm going to play golf again, or vainly, I think about how much better I'm gonna look now that I'm running every other day. Yeah...J. Herbert's words were convicting. I need to get back to the roots of questioning the status quo and speaking up for those who don't have a voice.

Why is it so easy to feel fired up about this stuff when I'm here at Montreat or when I was in seminary? What is it about "the real world" that saps away my energy from truly transforming the world around me...from living into the kingdom?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Montreat West...Wednesday

Here are some pics from the last few days here at Montreat West. I'm having a ball with the leadership and my servant squad pretty much rules. I've been in two skits with the keynoter and been dressed as a woman both times...Awesome. I led music this morning as well. Poor Jeffrey didn't listen to my advice and ate at the Mongolian restaurant called Hu Hots (I mean, come on, with a name like that, you have to be a little bit wary) and his stomach didn't respond well. Anyway, here are some pics:

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Montreat West...Sunday

The youth have arrived. Today was a crazy day of skit rehearsals, registration, rec events, scrambling, scurrying, and hurrying to make this place ready for a youth conference. I'm pretty wiped out at this point, so this will be short.

I'm totally psyched that First Presbyterian Church Columbia, MO is here. I already had some quality time with some of them. Unfortunately I didn't get any photos with them yet, but I will. There's something cool about hangin' out with folks from your hometown. I found out that the current youth directors have been hanging out with some friends of mine from Truman. Small world...small world.

Here are a couple of pics I took with a couple of my peeps:

Laurie Taylor Weicher and I at registration

Rex and I (I love this kid)

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Montreat West...the day before

Here I sit on Saturday night. There's a lite rain sprinkling down outside the office window. Plannint team members are either scurrying about to be ready for the onslaught of tomorrow, or are taking a much needed break...a little calm before the storm. Rex is lying down with his head propped on his hand reading a book...his second during his time here. Robert and Jeffrey are finalizing the song list for Sunday night. J.Herbert is adding some visual flair to Monday night's worship service. I love to watch the dedication of all these people working to make Montreat a wonderful experience for the youth who will attend.

I spent the better part of four hours this afternoon in small group leader training. I can't say it's my favorite place to be, but it was good to meet the other folks who will be leading small groups this week. Unfortunately, numbers are a bit down, so it's a small crew. The word needs to get out that something awesome happens here at CSU every June.

Laurie Taylor Weicher arrived today. I love that girl. I love seeing friends like her...friends who make you feel known...friends who make your heart smile.

Tomorrow, the conferees arrive. Look for some pictures as I get into the midst of things.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Montreat preparation

Hey folks. That's right, it's almost Montreat West time. I'm out in Ft. Collins helping the planning team get ready for the arrival of approximately 200 young people. I arrived here last night, dropped my bags, said hello to some folks, and went for a run. It's funny how good it feels to get out and run now that I'm past the point of huffing an puffing after five minutes. I actually only ran for about half an hour last night, because I had to be back for skit rehearsal, but I felt like I could have gone a good bit longer.

Anyways, it's fun getting to hang out with the planning team folks. And, I've met a couple of stage leaders who I'd always heard about but never met. For all of you out there who sang the praises of Jeffery Harpeth and Kenneth Slifer, I've found your singing to be right on key. I'm looking forward to seeing what they have to offer from the stage.

The theme of this year's conference is Crossing Boundaries. It should be interesting to see how the leaders dance around that line of which boundaries we're called to cross and which ones we aren't.

OK, more from Montreat West as the conference progresses.

Monday, June 19, 2006

All of this FEMA business

So, it turns out that when given money following Hurricane Katrina, some folks chose to spend their debit cards in ways that FEMA doesn't like. Apparently, people spent the money on NFL tickets, champagne, and other "frivolous" items. Folks at FEMA are upset because they don't think that's what the money was for.

Now, I'm not too excited about folks spending relief effort dollars on NFL tickets when people were struggling to get food and some people still don't have homes.

That being said, I hope that there are no Republicans on the hill crying too loudly. I mean, isn't it the Republicans who say that government should get out of the way and allow people to have more access to their own money? That it isn't the role of government to tell people how to spend their money? That Americans know best how to spend their money? The only difference, as I see it, between this latest situation, and the drastic tax cuts propegated by the current administration is that this time, the expenditures of "the people" could be tracked. I imagine that if we were able to track the money given in "tax relief," we'd find some similar trends. Meanwhile, the national deficit counter is back on in New York City.

My main point here, is that this situation ought to be an eye opener for those who argue for tax cuts for the sole reason that Americans know best how to spend their money. If people who have just lost everything buy NFL tickets and stay in fancy hotels with their relief money, I can only imagine what the rest of us do with our tax relief money.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

I love camp

I spent all of last week, June 4-9, at NaCoMe, which is a camp within the bounds of my presbytery. It was a great week. I just love all that is "camp." I love that youth get to disconnect from their hectic lives and simply enjoy God's beautiful creation with a bunch of other youth. I love standing around a campfire at night and singing songs...or yelling songs as in Screaming Jesus. If you haven't heard that one, you simply must find someone who knows it. I love it that high school students still wear t-shirts from their various clubs, sports teams, musicals, bands, choirs, know, the t-shirts that kind of brag and bring attention to the love that that youth has for a particular activity. When do we quit wearing shirts like that? I guess I still do with my Cavaliers shirts, but mine don't have fun slogans on them. I love those t-shirts. I love games called Jedi and Ultimate. I love worship services that are seriously rockin' with the Holy Spirit. I love watching quiet youth come out of their shells. I love watching the loud youth be at a loss for words. I love simply walking around from place to place...walking, not jogging, not running, not driving, not even biking...just walking. I love silly fun songs that youth sing to bless meals. I love it that youth have to sing if they get too much mail or packages or e-mails from home. I love it that most of them act like they hate it but secretly ask Mom or Dad to send a package so they have to sing. I love it that camp is a place where thousands of youth experience God each and every day of the summer. I love it that God sets apart special places for youth (and adults for that matter) to recharge their batteries before walking back into "the real world." I just love camp. Thank God for camp.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Pride and Prejudice

I just finished reading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It's definitely a funny book, and Austen does a wonderful job of describing the characters in such a way that makes you feel like you know them personally. I think I chuckled out loud in each chapter. However, I'm a bit stumped as to why so many women think that Mr. Darcy is the quintessential example of what a man ought to be. In some ways, he's kind of a jerk, and while he eventually overcomes his prejudices, it's not so much because of self reflection for self reflection's sake, but because a girl he likes calls him on it. To be sure, his willingness to handle the situation with Lydia was noble, but he had the money to do it without really sacrificing much. Is it that he is so attracted to a free thinking woman? Is it his patience? Is it his willingness to be molded and scolded? I just don't understand why he's so much beloved by all of you women-folk out there. Give me a shout out and help me understand.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Hope in the midst of it all

I'm so tired of tuning into NPR every single day and hearing how many people have died in roadside bombings or some other sort of violence in Iraq. I'm tired of hearing about United States troops acting inappropriately and even murdering Iraqis. How does that happen?!? How does that make us any different than the thugs who served (and still serve) Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden? I'm so tired of it. I have seriously been on the verge of tears a few times in the past week as I listen to the state of affairs in the Iraq and Israel and the Sudan and now, again, Indonesia. It is so hard for me to understand.

But then, as I look ahead to Pentecost Sunday, I read a text that says:

"For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do now know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit interecedes with sighs too deep for words."
Romans 8:24-26
In those moments when all the collective hate and violence of the world seems to press in on me, choking me, stifling the very hope that would well up inside of me, I listen for the sighs of the Spirit, and I am thankful...thankful that in our weakness, the spirit prays for us and intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. In the midst of all my sighs, I pray for hope and for peace and for understanding and for compassion and for God to cast a web of love over the hearts of those who would do violence to their fellow human beings.

Friday, May 26, 2006


Well, folks, after waiting so patiently, here are the After pictures of my place. I didn't get them taken before I moved in, so I had to wait until I had things in a relative state of order. Of course, those who know me, now that my place is never really what you would call "tidy," but at least there aren't too many piles of stuff on the floor. :) As you can see, the paint really lightens up the place and the new floors are wicked awesome. I look forward to hosting any of you want to come and hang out in Nashvegas for a few days.

View from back door

Living Room from corner

Living Room from front door

Guest Bedroom/Office

Dining Room

Master Bedroom

Friday, May 12, 2006

Random thoughts

These are just a few random things I've encountered in the past week or so:

  • There's a federal agency involved in this wiretapping/phone record searching thing with the initials B.F.F. No lie.
  • Pabst Blue Ribbon (yes, the beer) is now a corporate sponsor of National Public Radio. I'm not sure if it was the national version or the Nashville version, but I got a kick out of hearing PBR sponsoring public radio. The little ad talks about the beer winning the Blue Ribbon in whatever year. I'm kind of wondering if the NPR crowd is really the main demographic for PBR. I mean, I love it, but it makes you wonder.
  • The 7th graders at Brentwood Middle School get my respect for standing up to "the man" during lunch on Wednesday. In the face of threatened home room lunch and quiet lunch, they rallied and cheered and banged on their tables in defiance of a blustery coach yelling at them. Way to stand up to authority!
  • Related to that topic, what is it about middle school lunchroom supervisors? I mean, why is it so crucial that the students stay quiet and reserved? Don't they spend the rest of their day paying attention to adults? Why can't lunch be a time for them to let loose and enjoy one another's company? Is there anything inherently valuable about a "civilized" lunch? I say no. Adults can be so lame sometimes. :)

Friday, May 05, 2006


Here are some pictures of my new place before I painted and before new floors went in. The floors are being put in right now, so next week, I'll post some pictures of the finished product.

Guest Bedroom (more baby blue than it looks in the picture)

The Kitchen
Master Bathroom (yes, it's Pepto Bismol colored)

Master Bedroom

Dining Room and Back door to patio

Dining Room

Living Room

Thursday, April 27, 2006

All this oil business

Wow, the last couple of weeks flew by quickly. After hearing stories about oil prices on NPR everyday for the past week or so, I thought I'd weigh in:
  • First of all, can republicans and democrats (intentionally not capitalized since they're acting like children) quit pointing fingers and blaming one another for everything. Yeah, we have oil barons in the white house. I'm not sure they have the power to single handedly raise the price of crude oil all around the world. Yeah, the dems blocked legislation to drill in Alaska. We probably wouldn't have gained that much oil anyway. Quit trotting out 101 lame excuses about how it's the other guy's fault.
  • Second, as I see it, this crisis has little to do with all of those lame excuses mentioned above. It has a ton to do with the fact that we are bottomless pits of oil consumption. We all drive around in our cars BY OURSELVES and wonder why gas prices go up. In response to a question about how we can drive oil prices down, one expert simply said, "Drive less." Wow! What a concept. Now, I drive around Nashville by myself a lot, so I'm totally complicit in this, but I'm also not complaining that the oil companies keep gouging us. Does it suck? Yes. Is it all their fault? No. We keep paying the prices that continue to rise, because we just have to get to work in 15 minutes when it would take 30 minutes by bus or train.
  • Third, I wonder if our lawmakers could make some headway by actually introducing legislation designed to address the problem of so much individual consumption. What about subsidies for municipalities that are willing to bolster mass transit services? I can tell you that if there was a bus system of some sort that ran throughout Williamson County, I'd use it to get around. What about more bike paths when the department of transportation widens roads? What about anything besides pointing fingers and being upset while standing at the pump filling up our cars?
  • Finally, maybe some of us need to do some serious self reflection about this issue. What kind of vehicle do we drive? How often do we drive when we could walk? Could we conceivably carpool? Do we need to encourage our local towns and counties to think more seriously about mass transit options? If we're unwilling to make some of those sacrifices, I'm not sure we should be quite as upset with the oil companies for doing what they've been trained to do in a free market capitalist economy, which is get as much money as you can for the product you have to offer from those who want the product.
In the words of my former brass caption head Bill Watson, "That is all."

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Church sign

"Christ desires fellowship with us. That's what the cross is all about."

These words are on a church sign that I drive by everyday. Each time I see it, I think, "Um, that's not really it." I really thought the incarnation was all about Christ desiring fellowship with humankind. If they substituted "reconciliation" for "fellowship," I could get down with it, but as it is, I just don't think it captures the heart of things. Any thoughts on this? Am I ridiculous to be bothered by this?

Saturday, April 08, 2006

So much to blog about...

There have been so many times in the past two weeks that I’ve been somewhere or seen something and thought, “I really need to blog about that.” Unfortunately, it usually slips my mind while I have internet access and returns only when I’m back in the car or at home, where I have “limited or no connectivity.” So, here’s my best shot at summarizing my recent blog thoughts/experiences:

Last weekend, I attended a multidimensional learning conference in Chicago. It was kind of a primer on workshop rotation and other innovative Sunday school models that take multiple intelligences into consideration. Good conference, although, for a multidimensional learning conference, we did a lot of sitting in a room listening to a presenter talk at us.

While at the O’Hare airport in Chicago on my way home, I walked out of a newsstand/gift shop and saw the Mike Tyson, former heavyweight champion of the world, walking around talking on his cell phone. He walked right by me. He’s actually kind of short.

On Monday, April 3rd, I became a homeowner. That’s right, I sat in a room for two hours signing a bunch of papers that basically made sense when the woman explained them, but will probably look like gibberish when I look at them by myself. My new home is a two bedroom condo in Franklin, TN. I’ve spent some time this week taking down wallpaper. Man, is that a pain in the ass. I’m hoping to move in by the end of April as long as all of my interior decorating goes as planned.

I want to give a big shout out to my friends Bettie Parsons Barger, Jake Wilson, and Katie Wilson, for celebrating with me on Monday. I wasn’t planning to do anything, but they insisted that we go out and have a nice dinner and celebrate my grown up-ness. Sometimes I’m reticent to suggest celebrations for myself, which I’d imagine most of us are, so I was really thankful for the celebration.

OK, this post is now eternally long, so I’ll wrap it up. I hope that everyone is getting psyched about Easter.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Ordination of Men

I'm reposting this from The Shiverian:

Top Ten Reasons Why Men Should Not Be Ordained

10. A man's place is in the army.
9. For men who have children, their duties might distract them from the responsibilities of being a parent.
8. Their physical build indicates that men are more suited to tasks such as chopping down trees and wrestling mountain lions. It would be "unnatural" for them to do other forms of work.
7. Man was created before woman. It is therefore obvious that man was a prototype. Thus, they represent an experiment, rather than the crowning achievement of creation.
6. Men are too emotional to be priests or pastors. This is easily demonstrated by their conduct at football games and watching basketball tournaments.
5. Some men are handsome; they will distract women worshipers.
4. To be ordained pastor is to nurture the congregation. But this is not a traditional male role. Rather, throughout history, women have been considered to be not only more skilled than men at nurturing, but also more frequently attracted to it. This makes them the obvious choice for ordination.
3. Men are overly prone to violence. No really manly man wants to settle disputes by any means other than by fighting about it. Thus, they would be poor role models, as well as being dangerously unstable in positions of leadership.
2. Men can still be involved in church activities, even without being ordained. They can sweep paths, repair the church roof, and maybe even lead the singing on Father's Day. By confining themselves to such traditional male roles, they can still be vitally important in the life of the Church.
1. In the New Testament account, the person who betrayed Jesus was a man. Thus, his lack of faith and ensuing punishment stands as a symbol of the subordinated position that all men should take.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Soul Man

As I was headed home for lunch today, the song "Soul Man" came on the radio, and for some reason, I was transported back to Rock Bridge High School circa 1995. My Dad was the host of the annual talent show, which has a clever name that I can't remember right now. Anyway, my Dad was co-hosting with another teacher named David Graham. In between acts, they would play off the fact that Dad was older and David was younger. At one point, the two of them came out dressed like the Blues Brothers and danced to Soul Man. I seem to recall somebody cracking a joke about Dad being the Old Man. It was one of those moments when a child is awfully proud of his Dad. There he was, respectable Mr. Bancroft, the English teacher, acting totally goofy on stage. There ought to be more teachers out there like Mr. Bancroft who are willing to be real people. Anyway, that was a fond memory, and I thought I'd share it with you folks.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Up early on a Saturday

  • So, it's 7:15 on a Saturday morning and I'm actually up and dressed. What's wrong with this picture? I'm house/dog sitting for the Joneses and I could tell the natives were getting restless, so I got up to let everybody out. In a little while, I'm headed out to have breakfast with Biff and Mary. I really look forward to my Saturday mornings with them. They're great people.

  • This week, as I was cruising toward downtown Nashville, I got behind a car that had a sticker in the rear window that read Truman State University-Excellence is no Accident. I pumped a fist and cheered right there in the car. When I pulled up next to the car, I didn't know the person, but it's good to know that there are a few other Truman Staters hangin' out here in Nashville.
  • I close on a condo in just over a week...April 3rd to be exact. I feel like I'm making a grown up commitment here, and it's a little bit scary. Melissa Britt, my realtor, and friend, has been wonderful about explaining everything and walking me through all of the various steps. I totally understand why some people are never able to buy a home. There are so many upfront costs...appraisal, inspection, earnest money, etc. Anyway, on April 3rd, I'll be a homeowner.
  • I'm preaching tomorrow on John 3:15-17. I'm also using the Old Testament text from Numbers where Moses puts a bronze serpent on a pole so people can look at it and survive snake bites. Check it out at Numbers 21:4-9. I'm going a little bit dark...playing with fears a bit. We'll see how it goes, I guess.
  • OK, off to breakfast. I hope everyone has had a wonderful March.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Burglar update

This morning, I decided to walk to Notables, a coffee shop/eatery that's become one of my favorite haunts. It's on the route I ran the other night when I lost my key. When I came to the corner and prepared to cross the street, I looked down, and lo and behold, there was my key on its blue Lakeside 2000 keychain. I swear I spent five minutes searching in that very spot the other night. Anyway, I thought some of you might like the update. :)

Monday, March 06, 2006

Burglar Bancroft

So, this evening, when I got home, I decided to go for a "joggy jog" as Kevin Day would say. I put my spare key, my stocking cap, and the Rio Nitrus (mp3 player) in my pocket and set off to run as I listened to Angels and Demons which I recently downloaded from the Nashville Public Library. Awesome idea, huh? Download books and you get a three week license to listen to them. Brilliant. Anyway, I went for my run, and surprisingly ran for 35 minutes before slowing down to walk the last quarter mile to my apartment. As I was climbing the stairs to my apartment, I reached in my pocket for that spare key. Alas, it wasn't in either pocket. Now, did I put it in my back pocket that zips? Hell no. I put it in one of my front pockets, which apparently doesn't hold keys very well. So, I decided to retrace my steps a bit and look around at the couple of places where I stopped and pulled out the Rio Nitrus. Did I find the key? No way! After traipsing around for 45 minutes, I was back in front of my apartment door with no way of entering my apartment. The front office to my complex was already closed, by the way. So, what's my only viable option? That's right, Renderings fans, I had to break into my own apartment. I climbed on top of the fence around the patio that sits below my little deck and then pulled myself up onto the deck. Thank goodness for Lat Pulldowns at the gym. Keep in mind that I'm wearing a black long sleeve running shirt and a stocking cap at this point. Thankfully, I had left the bedroom window that opens onto the deck unlocked. I slid off the screen, slid the storm window up, and then opened the window, and climbed through the mini-blinds that were all the way down. At that moment, I was so thankful that I had decided against putting one of my bookshelves directly in front of the window. Upon entering my apartment, I turned on the lights, and ate a dinner of a peach, a sweet potato, and Spicy Thai Tempe from Wild Oats Grocery Store...All part of a balanced nutritious burglar's diet. Oy.

Gems from Newbigin

Here are a couple of quotes from Lesslie Newbigins The Gospel in a Pluarlist Society. They both come from a chapter entitled "The Congregation as Hermeneutic of the Gospel. This book is truly amazing:

Jesus, as I said earlier, did not write a book but formed a community. This community has at its heart the remembering and rehearsing of his words and deeds, and the sacraments given by him through which it is enabled both to engraft new members into its life and to renew this life again and again through sharing in his risen life through the body broken and the lifeblood poured out. It exists in him and for him. He is the center of its life. Its character is given to it, when it is true to its nature, not by the characters of its members but by his character. Insofar as it is true to its calling, it becomes the place where men and women and children find that the gospel gives them the framework of understanding, the "lenses" through which they are able to understand and cope with the world.

I love those words in the middle that say It exists in him and for him. He is the center of its life. I, personally, need to be reminded of that from time to time. I get so caught up in the daily tasks of preparing lessons, visiting people, planning lock-ins, preparing meals, etc. that I forget that the busy-ness of the church is not what it's all about. The church exists for Christ and Christ is the center of its life. I'm not the center, youth group isn't the center, the building campaign isn't the center, what we sing at what time isn't the center...Only Christ is the center. I also love the opening words about Jesus forming a community. Again and again, we must remind ourselves that Christ calls us into community.

Almost everything in the "plausibility structure" which is the habitation of our society seems to contradict this Christian hope. Everything suggests that it is absurd to believe that the true authority over all things is represented in a crucified man. No amount of brilliant argument can make it sound reasonable to the inhabitants of the reigning plausibility structure. That is why I am suggesting that the only possible hermeneutic of the gospel is a congregation which believes it.

If I had to summarize my time at the emergent convention last May, I think I would use this snippet from Newbigin. I am more and more convinced that tight theological treatises and "brilliant arguments" are not the way we will convince people that the God we worship is one of love and grace and One worthy of worship. The community of believers must live the gospel in such a way that others look and say, "Wow, I want to worship that God and know that Lord and Savior."

Great stuff from a great mind.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Kosher Trio

So, this is a picture of a new band called The Kosher Trio. From left to right, the members are Peter Awad, Jake Finch, and Alan Bancroft. We had our first gig Sunday night at the Harpeth Presbyterian Talent Show. We played Dare You to Move by Switchfoot. It was pretty fun rockin' out with these guys. They both have more talent in their respective pinky fingers than I do in my entire body. Basically, we rocked the house. :)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Rural America

As I was cruising along Highway 96 in middle Tennessee this morning, I was reminded of how similar America looks when you're on the back roads. No matter where I am, it seems like rural America looks pretty similar...barns, fields of crops, diners in shacks, old businesses that went under a few years back, farm homes, barbed wire fences, and a variety of other tell-tale signs of being in the country. Do all the folks who grow up in rural America share fairly similar backgrounds, or does it vary as much as it probably does from one city to another? Random thoughts on a rainy day in middle Tennessee.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Remembering Ryan Kenneth Brown

It's a cold, snowy, lazy day here in Nashville, and as I sit in my recliner, listening to the A River Runs Through It soundtrack, putting the final touches on my sermon for tomorrow, my mind drifts to memories of my roommate from freshman year at, then, Northeast Missouri State University. His name was Ryan Kenneth Brown, or "Hottie Brown" as the ladies liked to call him. He had long, wavy, brown hair to match my long, wavy, blonde hair. Ryan was one of those people who lit up a room as soon as he walked in. He had a great love for nature and was more at home riding his bike or swimming at the state park outside of Kirksville than he was in a dorm room or classroom. When he would read something fascinating about ants or wolves, or whatever, he would interrupt me and excitedly tell me about it. He wasn't so sure that the advances of modernity were all that great, even medicine. He wondered aloud whether any of it really made our lives better. Anyway, there were many days that first year at Northeast, soon to be Truman, when we would sit in our room, watching the snow fall, and listen to the soundtracks from A River Runs Through It, Glory, and other CDs of soothing music. Those are still my default study CDs. For a brief moment there, on this cold, snowy, lazy day, I was taken back to 305 Centennial Hall with Ryan Brown. Good memories of a good friend.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Danish cartoons

Wow. This whole situation surrounding cartoons of the prophet Mohammed boggles my mind. I just read in the online version of the New York Times that it was a major topic of conversation at a meeting of Islamic leaders in Mecca this past week. What?? Seriously? I kind of wonder if there are some folks who are using this as a way to poor gasoline in a flame that's already burning hot enough. I mean, I see cartoons depicting God and Jesus in funny, even derogatory ways, fairly often, but I'm not about to call up the President of the United States and try to file a complaint. I, clearly, do not understand why people of the Islamic faith are so upset about this. Maybe somebody can help me understand. Seriously.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

What I've been reading

This book is absolutely wonderful. It's a fictional account of the life of Jesus from age 12 to his crucifixion at age 33. It's told from the perspective of Christ's childhood friend, Biff, who's kind of an Eddie Haskell type character. The author, Christopher Moore, has clearly done some research into that period of history and some basic tenets of world religions. I love the way he interprets some of the more familiar gospel accounts, as well as shedding light on where Jesus got some of his stuff. If you're looking for an entertaining (and purely fictional) look at the life of Jesus, check this out. But, you don't have to take my word for it...OK, I don't have a cutaway to a child telling you how much he/she enjoyed the book, but I did love it when Lavar Burton used to say that on Reading Rainbow.

I've been working on this book since, oh, August, I think. It's a book that both Mark Shivers and Tom Katona told me I needed to read. It is truly an amazing book. The reason for the long read is that I need time to digest each chapter, plus, it's not exactly a book I can read before bedtime. I'm sure people who write more eloquently than I have given synopses of this book, so you might want to find one of those online. Basically, as the title suggests, Newbigin addresses issues of truth and the gospel as they relate to the pluralist society in which we live. He provides wonderful definitions of relativism, pluralism, and bunch of other isms. His chapters on mission, and how we are to conduct ourselves as we dialogue with one another are priceless. I think my favorite $10 phrase is "Plausibility Structure," which is his title for the way that a culture makes sense of the world around them. I'm hoping to post some quotes from this book, but forgot to bring it with me to the coffee shop this morning. It's a great book. Pick it up and plow through it.

Beard progress

Here's the progress on the beard so far. It's been a week and a half since I shaved. Good times.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

  • So, I saw this sign at the Mapco gas station the other day. Apparently, in order to capture a new you in 2006, you should eat more, not hot dogs, but hot dog items. I mean, what exactly does that mean? I hope it just means chili dogs and corn dogs. I'd hate to think that they have a product that isn't a real hot dog, but only a hot dog item, kind of like YooHoo isn't chocolate milk, but rather a chocolate flavored drink. Anyway, I found it humorous that hot dogs are the first step toward a new you.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Growing a beard

  • So, it's January, and it's been fairly cold around here, so I decided it would be a good time to grow a beard. As my good friend, John Weicher, was fond of pointing out, once I clean up the scruff on my neck and leave the rest, I'm definitely growing a beard. Anyway, I continue to be, what's the word?, not surprised, because it happens every time, but maybe flummoxed or bothered or annoyed or amused, yeah, that's it, amused by the reaction I get when I grow a beard. Some folks are nice and compliment the beard and tell me it looks good. But, there are those who seem so concerned by my change of concerned that they need to ask me if I lost my razor or if I was feeling lazy, or, or, or, WHY IN THE HECK WOULD YOU GROW A BEARD? IT LOOKS AWFUL!!! OK, I'm exaggerating. Nobody comes right out and says that, but sometimes it feels like that's what's behind the joking and kidding. I'm not sure why people are so concerned about it, but it does leave me amused.
  • I had a call from Acquire the Fire today. It's a youth rally designed to wage battle for the souls and minds of today's youth. I was given some statistics about how many adults are currently Evangelical Christians (34%) as opposed to the small number of youth who are Christians today (4%). It's a battle, I was told. 90% of Christians come to Christ before the age of 20, I was told. We have to prepare our young people to wage battle with society and culture, I was told. I'm actually intrigued by the event, but not in a "take my youth so they can be warriors for Christ" kind of way. I'm more interested to see how they go about things. I'm curious as to whether their methods for conveying their message could be adapted to fit a different theology. i wonder about stuff like that. Would we do better at Presbytery retreats to scare the bejeezus out of the youth and send them back home? I don't think so, but it sounds like this event might have some elements of fear attached. I'm still pretty convinced that those who come to faith out of fear will end up like the seeds sown on the path (Matthew 13:1-23), in that when something that promises more security or that preys on a more deep seeded fear comes along, the faith will disappear.
  • All in all, I'm just not fond of the way that "Spiritual warfare" is used by some folks. When I read Ephesians 6:10-17 I see the words truth, righteousness, faith, and salvation. We are called to proclaim a gospel of peace, and the sword in this passage isn't a real sword, but rather the word of God. So, my question is, "How do we wield that sword peacefully?" If we're going to be "warriors," should we look to Jesus as one who redefines what a warrior is? Isn't he a warrior who lays down his weapons and places himself at the mercy of those who would destroy him? Yeah, I don't like using war imagery as a way to bring people to God.

Saturday, January 28, 2006


  • So, apparently, some democrats in Georgia and Alabama have introduced legislation that supports public schools teaching a "Bible as literature" course, and the intended text book is entitled The Bible and its Influence. My initial reaction is a good one. I'm not sure its revolutionary, a I know some schools that have been doing that for years. One person, in the New York Times article that I read, objected to it because, "It should also be noted that the so-called Bible bill doesn't use the Bible as the textbook, and would allow teachers with no belief at all in the Bible to teach the course." Um, yeah, so why is that a problem? This notion that the Bible is a textbook in and of itself seems kind of silly to me. If it's going to be taught as literature, there's so much that students would need to know. Anyway, I'm interested to hear how folks feel about that.
  • This Palestinian election has me thinking a lot about the democracy we're supposedly commited to spreading around the world. I know there have been reports of violence on election day, and I'm sure fear played some role in these elections, but it looks like the Palestinian people have made a choice for a party that openly supports violence to attain its goals in the world. I find it interesting that our government is posturing as if to deny the legitimacy of Hamas unless they renounce violence. Are we all about that power of the people to elect who they want to elect as long as they elect governments that see things the way we do? How can we really call for Hamas to cease violence, when we're in the midst of a campaign of violence in Iraq? Are we really commited to democracy? It's such a messed up situation over there, and these recent developments don't seem to shine much hope on things. Help me think about this.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Lyric of the Week

This week's lyrics come from the musical Tick Tick Boom. I first encountered this song last summer at Montreat. I usually only include parts of songs, but this one's so good, I decided to include the whole thing. Enjoy.

Louder than Words

From the musical Tick Tick Boom by Jonathan Larson

Why do we play with fire?
Why do we run our finger through the flame?
Why do we leave our hand on the stove-
Although we know we're in for some pain?

Oh, why do we refuse to hang a light
When the streets are dangerous?
Why does it take an accident
Before the truth gets through to us?

Cages or wings?
Which do you prefer?
Ask the birds.

Fear or love, baby?
Don't say the answer
Actions speak louder than words.

Why should we try to be our best
When we can just get by and still gain?
Why do we nod our heads

Although we know The boss is wrong as rain?

Why should we blaze a trail
When the well worn path seems safe and
Jonathan and Susan:
So inviting?

How-as we travel, can we see the dismay-
And keep from fighting?


What does it take
To wake up a generation?
How can you make someone
Take off and fly?

If we don't wake up
And shake up the nation
We'll eat the dust of the world
Wondering why

Why do we stay with lovers
Who we know, down deep
Just aren't right?

Why would we rather
Put ourselves through hell
Than sleep alone at night?

Why do we follow leaders who never lead?

Why does it take catastrophe to start a revolution?

If we're so free, tell me why?

Someone tell me why
So many people bleed?


Not much to report

  • There really isn't much to report this week. It's been a stressful week, but nothing overwhelming. I'm in the process of trying to lock down the summer schedule for the youth and children of Harpeth Presbyterian Church. It's been a bit shifty so far. I'm hoping to resolve it by the end of the week.
  • I preached on Sunday, and it went over fairly well. There were parts I felt great about, and parts that felt rough. this was one of those times when I pray that God will use my imperfect offering to convey God's message to those who need to hear it. Thanks to those who posted comments. They were helpful as I wrestled with the text.
  • Seriously, not much to report.