Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Week 2, Day 2

Luke 1:5-25, 57-66 & Luke 3:1-20

Zechariah, Elizabeth, and John the Baptist. I suppose I never took the time to notice that so much of the beginning of Luke's gospel bounces back and forth between Mary/Joseph/Jesus and Elizabeth/Zechariah/John. Clearly, the sees the stories as being related. The devotional guide for today asks: What stories in the Hebrew Bible should Zechariah have remembered when the angel told him he would become a father in his old age? Here are my answers:
  • Abraham and Sarah...especially the part where Sarah laughs at the angels of the Lord.
  • Jacob and Rachel
  • Hannah and Samuel-I still hear Jim Forbes calling out, "And Hannah rose!" in that great preacher voice of his.
I find it sad that all of these women felt shameful about their inability to have children...that somehow society looked down on them because they weren't mothers. I know that was a cultural thing, but I think there are similar societal pressures today, and not just for women. Thankfully, I'm not in a church that puts the pressure on me to be married, and my family certainly doesn't. Sure, there are a few of the Moms at church who think that the solution to any situation in my life would be to find a wife (or for them to find one for me), but for the most part, I'm treated a fully formed person even though I'm not married. That's not always the case, though. It's not as if people come right out and say it, but they'll imply that somehow one's life isn't complete unless one is married. I went to some worship services with my friend Mark that were geared to young adults. There was a clear emphasis on finding a mate. Being married with children was held up as the ideal situation for all people: "When you find that special somebody" not if. Somehow, unless you get married, your life is incomplete, or you aren't OK simply being you. Last year, at the Montreat Collegiate Conference, Tony Campolo explicitly challenged all that nonsense and told an auditorium full of college students that the church has had it backwards all these years...that getting married and settling down isn't necessarily the ideal for people of faith...that Paul is pretty clear that remaining single allows you to be faithful to God in ways that the settled down set have difficulty doing. Anyway, while this "injustice" may not be the same as some others in the world, I hope that the church can be a place where we don't hold up any one model of life circumstance as normative.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Week Two, Day 1

Week Two: Expecting the Hope of the Earth

Hymn for the Week: Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

Come, thou long-expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.

Israel's strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art:
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver,
born a child, and yet a king,
born to reign in us for ever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.

By thine own eternal Spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all-sufficient merit
raise us to thy glorious throne.

Psalm for the Week: Psalm 85

Day 1: Isaiah 35:10-10 & Isaiah 40:1-11
Both of these passages contain visions of creation being transformed by God, whether it be streams bursting forth in the desert or the blind seeing or rough places being made smooth. I was struck by the vision of the high places being brought low and the low places being lifted up. I'll admit that I'm not so sure I want to see that come to pass. Now, I'm a mid-western boy, so there's something comforting and heart-warming about being able to see the horizon in every direction. I love the look of rolling fields with silos, houses, churches, and various other buildings dotting the landscape. There's a stretch of road in southern part of Illinois on I-57 that takes me to a place of awe everytime I drive through it. But, I'm also a fan of the mountains. There are stretches of I-40 on the way to Montreat, NC from Nashville when one is completely surrounded by mountains, and I feel somehow safe in those places. I'm often reminded of Psalm 139:5: You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. I somehow feel hemmed in by God in those places. I'm not so sure I want everything leveled out into a smooth plain.

With a little nudging from the devotional guide, I was also drawn to the images of fresh water being poured out on parched lands (and people). I have certainly had my dry spells in life, and it seems like each time, God finds different ways to bring water and life into my dry wilderness. Sometimes it's a song that randomly shuffles onto my ipod at just the right moment. Sometimes it's friends who simply sit in the dust with me, and slowly let me sip from their living wells. Sometimes it's the people in the congregation who I'm supposed to be pastoring who end up giving me pastoral care...whether it be a sandwich and a pickle, or cauliflower and bean salad and tea sweetened with sugar and a lemon, or a round of golf, these people have been living water for me.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Week 1, Day 4

Week 1, Day 4
2 Corinthians 5:16-21 & Philippians 1:3-11

There are many Sundays when I use some form of these words from 2 Corinthians in the Assurance of Pardon, and I often wonder if they hold meaning for folks. Do we really think of ourselves as new creations in that moment each week? What about each and every day?

I was particularly struck by 2 Corinthians 5:18 today: All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. The ministry of reconciliation. The passage goes on to call us ambassadors for Christ. It always makes me sad to hear about studies where the top three things non-Christians say about Christians is that we're judgmental, anti-gay, and hypocritical. I'd say we're not doing the best job as ambassadors if that's the case. I continue to be a firm believer in making every effort to be a reconciler.

Today, as I was at Harpeth, helping with the hanging of the greens, that annual tradition of pulling out the wreaths and various decorations in order to spruce up the church for Advent. I was standing at the front of the church, looking out on the pews, and somebody on the stage right side asked me a question. As my eyes were pulled that way, I noticed that a beam of light was shining right on Mary Smith's old seat. The rest of the pew wasn't lit. None of the other seats in that area were lit. Just Mary Smith's spot. We had just been talking about reserving a couple of rows. For that brief moment, I felt Mary's presence there, watching over us as we decorated the sanctuary. I took a few moments to simply thank God for Mary's presence in my life. I miss that sweet woman. She ministered to me in so many beautiful ways. I hope to be more like Mary when I grow up.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Week 1, Day 3

Day 3
Romans 6:1-11 & Romans 13:11-14

I've been reading the New Living Translation the last few days, mostly because it was the first translation I came across on the shelf at home, but also because I enjoy it's straightforward language from time to time. It translates Paul's me genoita in Greek as "Of course not!" I like that. Of course we don't go on sinning so that grace may abound. That would be ridiculous.

Dying to sin: Do we really? I mean, do we really kill off that part of us that's "prone to wander" as the great hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing puts it? When we consider baptism, we seldom focus on "dying to sin" or "dying with Christ." These are the texts of the Bible that make we wonder if we're missing something by practicing infant baptism. Sure, sure, I know that the sacrament isn't about us, but rather about God. But, I wonder just when it is that we encourage folks in our churches to die with Christ and be "reborn" for new lives. In our focus on continual conversion, do we miss out on an opportunity to pass out the new clothes that Paul talks about in Romans 13:12?

"Clothe yourselves with the armor of right living, as those who live in the light."

As for the question in the book: How can we put on the Lord Jesus Christ in our lives? I do think that's a question that needs to be asked everyday. How can we embody Jesus and wear him on our sleeve in such a way that nobody would ever doubt whose team we're on? Here are a few quick possibilities, many of them taken from the minds/mouths of other folks:

  • Seek first understand and then to be understood
  • Spend enough time with Scripture so that its stories become our framing stories/defining narratives
  • Be peacemakers
  • Judge not, lest ye be judged
  • Live simply so others may simply live
Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Day 2...and a half

Wow. I start a discipline for one day and then blow it. In my defense, my parents are in town, and it keeps me busy keeping them busy. Here are my reflections for day 2 and kind of a half. At some point on Friday or Saturday, I'll make up two days' worth.

Day 2
Scripture: Isaiah 64:1-9
The devotional guide draws a parallel between these strong words from Isaiah and the Pentecost story...both texts of God bursting onto the earthly scene in a radical way. I think I'm with Annie Dillard on this one. I don't think most of us show up to church actually expecting or even hoping for God to show up in a radical way similar to fire that makes wood burn and water boil.

I also wonder how often most of us church-going folks take the time to truly face our sinfulness. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we all say the prayer of confession and know in our brains that we're sinful, but do we echo Isaiah who says, "We are all infected and impure with sin. When we proudly display our righteous deeds, we find they are but filthy rags"? Ouch. I'm quite proud of my righteous deeds, thank you very much.

Reflection question: What does Isaiah's image of God as potter say to us about God's continuing work of forming and changing us?
Great question. I love the potter imagery. I like Hands of the Potter by Caedmon's Call, as it explores clay in many forms. In fact, here are the lyrics to serve as the rest of my reflection for day 2:

Lord if i'm the clay
Then i've been left out in the sun
Cracked and dry, like the mud from the sty
Still clinging to the prodigal son

But I'm on my way back home
Yes I'm on my way back home

Into the hands (into the hands)
That made wine (wine) from the water
Into the hands (into the hands)
The hands of the potter

Lord if i'm the clay then
Let your living water flow
Soften up my edges, lord,
So everyone will know

But i'm on my way back home
Yes i'm on my way back home

And Lord, when you listen for the song of my life
Let it be, let it be, a song so sweet
Let it be, let it be, a song so sweet
Let it be...

Lord, if i'm the clay then lay me down
On your spinning wheel
Shape me into something you can fill
With something real

And I'll be on my way back home
Yes i'm on my way back home

Monday, November 23, 2009

Expecting the Unexpected for Advent

In an effort to set aside the Advent season as a time for reflection and preparation for the arrival of "little 8 pound, 6 ounce baby Jesus" I'm committing to blogging every day from now until December 25th. My posts will be focused on an Advent Devotional Guide one of our adult Sunday school classes is studying called Expecting the Unexpected by Blair Gilmer Meeks (For all you church professional types, Blair Meeks has some great resources for Advent, Lent, and general liturgical use).

There's a hymn assigned for each week, which I'll be posting on Mondays, including a link to the Cyber Hymnal, which will play a scaled down midi version of the hymn for you. There's a focus Psalm for each week as well. Then, there are daily Bible readings and reflections. I'll strive to throw out a few of the reflection questions and share my thoughts. As always, I welcome comments, but please leave a name if you aren't already a blogger user.

So, without further explanation, here goes.

Week 1 Expecting Christ's New Creation
Psalm 25:1-10
Hymn: Lo, He Comes With Clouds Descending

Lo! He comes with clouds descending,
Once for favored sinners slain;
Thousand thousand saints attending,
Swell the triumph of His train:
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
God appears on earth to reign.

Every eye shall now behold Him
Robed in dreadful majesty;
Those who set at naught and sold Him,
Pierced and nailed Him to the tree,
Deeply wailing, deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
Shall the true Messiah see.

The dear tokens of His passion
Still His dazzling body bears;
Cause of endless exultation
To His ransomed worshippers;
With what rapture, with what rapture, with what rapture
Gaze we on those glorious scars!

Yea, Amen! let all adore Thee,
High on Thine eternal throne;
Savior, take the power and glory,
Claim the kingdom for Thine own;
O come quickly! O come quickly! O come quickly!
Everlasting God, come down!

Day 1 Bible readings: Isaiah 2:1-5 & Isaiah 11:1-10

List the images of peace that caught your attention in the two readings from Isaiah:
As for Isaiah 2, I was struck by the emphasis on learning. People flock from all around to learn God's ways that they may walk in God's paths. And this isn't some heady, intellectual, ethereal lesson. This is one of those classes where you get your hands dirty. This is the art room in workshop rotation, or maybe the "real life application" room (Ruth's Real World at Harpeth). But instead of toilet paper tubes, cereal boxes, and old scraps of fabric, the call goes out for these folks to bring spears, swords, and other weapons of war. Instead of creating Christmas tree ornaments with popsicle sticks, God, the ultimate teacher, will teach the peoples of the world to make plowshares out of those swords and pruning hooks out of those spears. Weapons of war will be used to create the tools of planting and harvest. Learning the ways of the Lord does NOT include war. "Neither shall they learn war any more." Not only will there be peace, but people will quit learning how to do the war thing "just in case."

I want to go to that Sunday school class, but I wonder what I would bring for the art project. I don't have any swords, spears, guns, knives (well, besides the ones I use to eat). What do I own that contributes to war? What do I have that needs to be transformed for planting and harvest? What do I own that contributes to the destruction of God's beautiful creation? What would you bring to that Sunday school class?

Isaiah 11: That is a big bunch of animals all living together on that mountain, and, just as in Where the Wild Things Are, a little child shall lead them. Even the animals have learned the ways of the Lord, the ways of living peaceably with all. And in the midst of all these animals is the one with a spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and fear of the Lord. People look at that mountain and wonder just what the heck is going on. Do our churches look like that holy mountain? Do people look at us and wonder just what the heck is going on? For the most part, I kind of doubt it.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Preaching to the homeless

On Wednesday, I was scheduled to lead the chapel service that takes place for homeless folks before they eat lunch at Downtown Presbyterian Church in Nashville, TN. Initially, I was going to talk about the call of Jeremiah found in Jeremiah 1:4-10. We're using that on Sunday for a "connect with youth" Sunday, and thought I would try out some of my stuff. Then, about an hour before the service was to begin, I received an e-mail telling me that one of the regular attendees of the chapel service and the free lunch on Wednesdays had been murdered while he slept the night before. Shot in the back of the head.

Needless to say, I didn't talk about Jeremiah. I decided to use Psalm 10, a lament Psalm, that names the pain and suffering of the "have nots" who are oppressed by those who always get/have what they want. I expressed my sorrow at the loss of life, and let the folks at chapel know that I believe in a God who hears our lament, and a God who expects us to be real with our pain, sorrow, doubt, frustration, and even hope. I asked folks to offer up some laments, and then we all responded with the response of "God, You are a revolution!" These are words from a David Crowder Band song called Revolutionary Love.

I'm scheduled to preach at chapel again next week. God only knows what the message will be. I do know that preaching in that context feels completely different than Harpeth. Sure, people are people, but it feels somewhat strange to stand before those folks and speak of matters of faith. Allowing Psalm 10 to do the preaching was the way to go this week. I wonder how the regular preacher does it week after week. Surely he doesn't use the same sermon he preaches on Sunday morning. Or, does he? Anyway, I'm schedule to preach at chapel again next week. God only knows what the message will be.

Monday, October 26, 2009

An Altar in the World: Reverence

I've just begun reading Barbara Brown Taylor's An Altar in the World, a book about various incarnational spiritual practices. This morning I read a chapter about Reverence, in which she describes lying on her back on the deck at her childhood home and watching falling stars. For a few moments, as I sat there sipping my coffee at The Good Cup, I was transported to the lake at Westminster Woods Camp in rural Kansas. I worked there one summer as a camp counselor, and on the few evenings when there were no campers at the camp (and actually a few times when there were), the camp staff would gather late at night by the lake to lie on our backs and watch for shooting stars. The camp was so remote that there was no ambient light to interfere with star gazing. I've never been anywhere since then where so many stars were visible.

BBT writes, "Reverence stands in awe of something--something that dwarfs the self, that allows human beings to sense the full extent of our limits--so that we can begin to see one another more reverently as well." Lying by that lake in rural Kansas gave me the opportunity to experience reverence...reverence for a cosmos that is beyond comprehension, reverence for a God who set the stars in the heavens, reverence for those beautiful souls who joined me by that lake...

I'm not sure I spent much time experience reverence these days. Later in the chapter, BBT points out that we don't really have time (or make time) for such experiences. I find that to be true in my life. I'm hoping to take some time for reverence in the coming weeks as leaves change and temperatures drop.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

If I won the lottery...

Last Sunday, the always inquisitive Lucy King (3rd grader at my church) asked me what I would do of if I won the lottery. I told her I would pay off all of my debts, move to a cool neighborhood in Nashville, endow some scholarships, give a lot of money to charities, and definitely quit my job and explore mission opportunities in some random part of the world. She was very upset that I would ever consider leaving Harpeth, but that's not the point of this story.

Lucy went on to say that she would probably buy a PSP, a lot of games, maybe some new clothes and then she would give, "oh, about $500 to the church." I then asked her if she would give any money to other worthy causes, to which she replied, "You know, I think I'd buy toys for homeless children" and then proceeded to walk off with a thoughtful look on her face.

Today, as I was driving to work, I decided to amend my answer. Now it would include an endowment for my local NPR station so that as long as I'm alive, I never have to listen to another 10 days of pledge campaigns. Seriously, I would make it so I never have to hear any more encouragements to donate money on NPR. I often wonder how much local news I'm missing while they tell me how great NPR is for giving me the news and "unique programming."

So, what would you do if you won the lottery?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Recycling and the new NIV

First random question of the day: Why do people throw recyclables in the trash can when there's a recycling bin right next to it?

I'm sitting at Bongo Java, one of the cool locally owned coffee shops in Nashville, and I've watched people do it over and over again. I've walked by the trash can and seen plastic cups in there. I mean, seriously. Why is it so hard? I just don't understand.

Second random question of the day: Why do some evangelicals have such a problem with inclusive language?

The top headline in the Tennessean today was about a new version of the New International Version of the Bible that's scheduled to come out in 2011. The article included interviews with evangelical leaders who were highly offended by Today's New International Version that attempted to be more gender inclusive. Um, why is it OK to blatantly ignore Greek and Hebrew for the sake of easier reading, but not OK to change brothers to brothers and sisters, or mankind to humankind? I don't get that.

So, anyone with good answers to my questions, speak up and let your voice be heard.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Going Green...or yellow

I've been reading a book entitled The Green Book lately. It gives helpful hints for "going green" in various areas of life. Amongst all of the ways I'm trying to be environmentally conscious is the practice of "If it's yellow, let it mellow..." Yes, I'm making an attempt to only flush every other time I "yellow." It sounds like it should be easy, but man, am I like Pavlov's dog. I'll be standing there thinking, "OK, I'm not gonna flush this time" as my hand reaches out and flushes. Who knew going green would be so difficult.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Why I like The Good Cup

Reasons why The Good Cup is my favorite local coffee shop:

Local artists are featured on the walls
There are shelves of books to read and even take home if you'd like
The baristas are involved in The New Monasticism movement
The baristas know I like white chocolate mochas
The music is generally great and just the right volume (this porridge is juuust right)

-- Post From My iPhone

Friday, July 10, 2009

Too long in between posts

As often happens to me in the summer, I become busy with VBS, mission trips, youth conferences, and various other summer activities. I didn't realize I hadn't blogged in two months. Surely I've had good thoughts since then. For now, I simply have a reflection on driving somebody else's car.

This past week, I went on vacation to Myrtle Beach. I spent the week with some wonderful people who showed me wonderful hospitality. On Sunday, I met my travel companion and left my car to sit for the week while we took her car on to the beach. It wasn't until I was back behind the wheel of my Fusion colored Pontiac Vibe that I realized how much I was missing the feel of my own car. I was reminded how much I enjoy driving my car. The white Camry that got us to Myrtle Beach and back was fine, but there's something about sitting behind the wheel of one's own car that's oddly satisfying.

Yup, that's all I've got today. :)

Saturday, May 09, 2009

A holiday time

When I was in elementary school at Ridgeway Elementary School in Columbia, MO, I had a music teacher named Celestine Hayes. At the time, I thought Mrs. Hayes was a nut. She would dance around the room and teach us silly songs for every holiday of the year. She had pictures of composers on the wall and made us learn their names. Looking back, I do think she was a nut, but in a good way. She clearly loved music and had a desire to incorporate classical music as well as various ethnic music styles into an elementary school music program that was relegated to the basement across the hall from the gym/cafeteria.

Anyway, one of the songs she taught us was about Cinco de Mayo. The lyrics are as such (look for a video of this song in the near future):
Cinco de Mayo is a holiday time, a holiday time in Mexico
Cinco de Mayo is a holiday time. To the fiesta we'll go, go, go. la la la la la.
Go, go, go. La la la la la.
Go, go go...

As we celebrate the independence of the people of Mexico
We'll be dancing through the streets
While the mariachi trumpets blow

And then you repeat the chorus. Nevermind the fact that Cinco de May isn't really about Mexican Independence (this is actually September 16th). It's a way fun song to sing. For the past few years I've called my sister and left the song on her voicemail on Cinco de Mayo.

This past week, I was at Montreat for the Annual Recreation Workshop. On Cinco de Mayo, I taught the song to many of my friends who were there. Some of them already knew it from having hung out with me on Cinco de Mayo in the past. That evening, we went in search of margaritas, but found out that Black Mountain restaurants don't serve liquor, so we headed to the nearby town of Swannanoa. The first Mexican restaurant we saw looked almost empty, but open, so we went in. We asked if they served maragaritas.

"No, friend. You have to go to La Cocula in Swannanona. Ask for Oscar. He'll take care of you." says the owner, who only has one eye.

"Yup, it's a few miles up the road near the Bojangles," says the older guys with crazy hair who then points us in the right direction with his middle finger...the only finger on that hand.

So, with the directions of the one eyed owner and the one-fingered pirate looking guy, we headed to La Cocula. Upon arrival, we asked for Oscar. We ordered some queso dip and some beer and margaritas. After a little while, we decided we would sing our Cinco de Mayo song. The table of 15 college students next to us loved it so they sang it with us. Before long, the entire restaurant was singing the Cinco de Mayo song.

On the way back to Montreat, we called many people and sang the song for them, either in person or on voicemail. I wish we had taken a video of us singing it to share on the blog, but you might just have to settle for me singing it.

So, all of that is to say, "Thank you Celestine Hayes for inspiring a wonderful evening with good friends (who will remain nameless, because they don't like being mentioned on my blog, but you know who you are :))."

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

iPods that think

I've read some articles about the phenomenon of thinking that iPods somehow know just what you want to listen to and cue it up from time to time. I had one of those moments today. I recently added an upbeat running mix to the iPod shuffle, and I was coming up on the time in my run when I wanted to listen to it. As Two Step by Dave Matthews Band was wrapping up, I thought, "It's time to shuffle through and find one of the songs on that playlist." The very next song that popped up was the first song on the playlist. Strange.

Also, I'm still pretty convinced that, pound for pound, the 1992 Cavaliers show is one of the most entertaining in DCI history. I just don't get tired of listening to/watching those guys.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mondays with Aunt Jane and Uncle Bob

This afternoon, as I was returning from running at the gym (the skies opened up as I tried to run out the front door), I saw a high school student jump in a car that was waiting to pick him up just across the street and down the block from the high school near where I live. I immediately jumped back to Mondays in junior high, when my Mom would wait across the street and down the block to pick me up so that we could go to my Aunt Jane and Uncle Bob's house. We would swing by, pick up my sister, and then head to their house for an afternoon of lemonade, popcorn, chocolate chips, solitaire, Authors (a card game like Go Fish), and endless conversation, often surrounding current events. My Uncle Bob was a bit of a codger and loved to call all elected officials "turkey." As I got older, I think he enjoyed baiting me with outlandish statements, just to hear how I would respond.

When I was in high school, my friends and I would occasionally go ride our bikes or walk on an old train trail that had been converted to a multi-use trail throughout Columbia, MO. Aunt Jane and Uncle Bob's house wasn't far from the trail, so we would hike through the woods and show up on their back deck for a glass of lemonade.

That house and that back deck hold a million wonderful memories for me. This past fall I mourned the death of my Uncle Bob. He was good about sending me an e-mail every once in awhile just to make sure i was doing OK. I will be forever grateful to my friend who was standing there when I got the phone call that he had died and simply hugged me until I said, "OK."

I was able to see Aunt Jane again at Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's been a joy to see her flourish in a retirement community. She was such an integral part of my childhood and shaped the way I understand hospitality.

Anyway, I saw a kid get in a car today, and I was transported back to Mondays in junior high.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Holy moments

Sometimes, in the midst of a moment in life, I'm able to practice that third person perspective taking and see myself in a holy moment. Here are a few I've experienced in the past week or so:

Lunch with Mary Bowles: Mary is a member of my congregation who embodies love and nurture. From day one at Harpeth, she has been so supportive of me. At one point during lunch, we were both sharing stories of hurt and frustration with the way life goes sometimes. I appreciate people like Mary for whom life doesn't always have to be OK, and who doesn't always have to have an answer for why things happen.

Playing music by the campfire Friday night: I can look back on my life and think of a number of times when I was making music and I felt completely and totally alive. Friday night was one of those times. I had sat down with a youth to teach him a few youth group songs on know, the ones that use G, C, D, and A. As we sat there working through Lord, I Lift Your Name on High, Every Move I Make (same chord structure), Light the Fire, and Prince of Peace, two of our congregation's more brilliant guitar players/singers sat down with their guitars and began playing. At one point while all four of us were playing Prince of Peace, and folks around us were joining in the singing, I seemed to lose track of where I was. Truly making music with Pat, Bob, John David, Hannah, and Cayla was powerful stuff.

Looking out the window with Sophie: I've blogged about Sophie before. She rocks. Today we had some free time at our church family retreat, and Sophie wanted to show me "this really cool room." It was a pretty cool room. There were bunk beds and even a bed up in a little nook near the ceiling. The two of us sat down on a rather large window sill (kind of like a bay window, but 20 feet long) and looked out the window at the trees that are trying so hard to bloom here in middle Tennessee. We talked about where she might stay at the next family retreat and how much she liked the purple leaves of the dogwood trees. At one point, I looked over at her and she looked back at me and simply smiled and then giggled. We should all probably have more smiling and giggling moments on big window sills.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A good run

On Tuesday, it was a beautiful, sunny, 70+ degree day, so I decided to go for a long run...well, it was also on the schedule for training, but the beautiful weather made it much easier to actually get out there. Anyway, as I was running, I had three "moments of zen" if you will.
  1. Mile 2: I heard a car honk and looked up to see Streater Spencer, and whoever else was with her, in her red jeep with the Ole Miss license plate waving at me. I felt the Harpeth love.
  2. Mile 7: I looked up to see Jadyn Stevens, a fellow Harpeth runner (actually the premiere Harpeth runner...dude qualified for Boston with a 3:01 marathon...sick) and friend driving toward me. We seemed to see one another at the same time. He pumped his fist and honked his horn for a good block after he had passed me. I gave him a responsive fist pump and felt a spring in my step.
  3. Mile 7.5: Shortly after I saw Jadyn, the song I See Love by Third Day came up on the ipod shuffle. It's a wonderful song about seeing love in all that Jesus was and did. Something about the chorus and bridge really lifted my spirits as I was finishing up my run. For a few moments there, I was joyfully aware of the love that God has for me.
So, yeah, it was a good 8 mile run on a beautiful day. Thanks to Streater, Jadyn, Third Day, and God the creator, redeemer, and sustainer for making it one full of love.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Domestics vs Imports

So, last night I went to hear some of my church members perform at a local bar/performance venue. They were awesome, as usual. Their daughter even premiered a song she had written. Only in Nashville, right? Anyway, as I looked at the beer menu I was frustrated, as I often am, to see that under the list of "Import" beers, there were plenty of beers that are brewed, bottled, and distributed all in the United States. For example, on this particular list, there was:
  • Shiner Bock-Texas
  • Sam Adams-Boston (I think)
  • Fat Tire-Colorado
  • Yazoo-Hello, this is made in a mile from the bar!
It probably shouldn't bother me as much as it does, but I think there ought to be a law or something against such false advertising. Here's what I propose for labeling such menus:
  • Beers we charge less for
  • Beers we charge more for
  • Not so fancy beers
  • Fancy beers
Any additional suggestions would be most welcome. :)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Bad Technology Week

So, on Sunday, I installed a new programmable thermostat at the estate (which may soon be officially called Bancroft Down, as I'm loving Watership Down), and I was feeling pretty handy. Well, come Monday, apparently all of my technology chops completely disappeared. Here's what's happened this far:
  • Monday evening: I finally found some DVD ripping/converting to ipod format software I liked. I spent some time converting some Cavaliers DVDs so I could put them on my 80 gb ipod classic. As I was fiddling with the Movies settings for the ipod, I clicked the "Sync Movies" button, and promptly ignored the popup screen warning me that all media on my ipod would be erased if I followed through with that. Yeah, I ignored it, assuming it only applied to other movies I had on it, which were none. Nope, it wiped all 20 gb of music as well. The 20 gb of music that I don't keep on my hard drive. This was right before bedtime, and I really thought I might just throw the ipod through the window. Thankfully, I backed up my entire CD collection as I loaded it onto the ipod over a year ago. With some transferring of files and ripping of maybe only a dozen CDs, I'm back in operation. But, that moment of realizing everything is gone is not a good one.
  • Tuesday afternoon: Ran with my ipod shuffle. Listened to a chapter or two of Twilight as I ran.
  • Wednesday morning: Plugged in my ipod shuffle only to see that the remaining three discs of Twilight that I had loaded on it just this past weekend are now gone, along with a number of other songs I know I had on it at some point. Where did all of those tracks go? I have no earthly idea. Did I keep the Twilight tracks (that I ripped from a Nashville Public Library CD) on my hard drive? Of course not. When did I return the Twilight CDs to the library? Tuesday afternoon. I seriously have no earthly idea what happened there. I kind of wonder if I didn't do something in my sleep. Maybe the shuffle realizes when something has been removed from the hard drive.
  • Wednesday evening: Remember how I said I installed a thermostat? Well, I had shut down all the power in the house so I didn't electrocute myself. When I walked in the door tonight at 8:40 pm, I noticed that the VCR was not, in fact, recording Lost so I could sit down with a cup of hot tea, a brownie, and enjoy the next chapter in the Lost universe. Nope, I never did reset my VCR. Brilliant, no?
So, there it bad technology week.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Adjusting to flip-flops

The weather in middle Tennessee has been exquisite the past few exquisite that on Saturday night, after going for a 12 mile run, when I headed to Kroger to find some dinner, I broke out the flip-flops for the first time this year. I'm not gonna lie-I almost fell down two or three times. Do you ever find that it takes a little while to re-adjust to wearing flip-flops? I feel like it usually takes me about a week of wearing them to get the kinks out. I mean, I'm not complaining about wearing flip-flops in February. I'm just saying my feet were a little weirded out.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Reading at Puckett's

I hadn't been to my favorite breakfast spot for a few weeks, so this morning I decided to head to Puckett's. It made me happy inside that as soon as I walked in, I was greeted by the waitresses and Pam, the one assigned to my table, after bringing me a coffee and a water said, "Leiper's Fork, 12 Grain, scrambled, with bacon?" She knew exactly what I wanted, because that's what I often order. It's good to be known.

While at Puckett's, I read my way through The Week, a weekly news magazine that doesn't mess around with long articles. It summarizes news coverage of major events in the US and around the world, including editorials. Anyway, there was a half page on the Talking Points page with the heading "Bush: Did he keep us safe?" It began by quoting a former member of the Bush team who claims that we'll probably be attacked again soon because Barack Obama is putting an end to torture and violent interrogation techniques. The half page went on to summarize various viewpoints on the issue of torture and staying safe from terrorism.

I suppose my response to this is affected by my recent reading of Walking with the Wind by John Lewis of the civil rights movement. Over and over, Lewis talks about the need for the means of accomplishing ones goals must match the ends one is seeking to achieve. In his case, he had the ideal of a Beloved Community in which race and gender do not dictate one's position in society...a Beloved Community of peace and non-violence. As I read about and hear debates about torture, interrogation techniques like waterboarding, and suspension of Habeus Corpus, I am often concerned that this "safety" we are trying to achieve/sustain will be false, in that we have compromised the safety of "the bad guys" so we can feel secure. Why do we deserve to be safe if we have compromised our values of human dignity and respect? Who should we expect people in other parts of the world to engage us in peaceful ways when we invade their countries or at the very least supply their enemies with tanks and weaponry? I suppose I often come back to the question of why safety/security is held as such a high value. Why is that the trump card? Why are we willing to sacrifice so many other values in the pursuit of this amorphous conept of safety and security?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Faith in 3D

I just spent the past few days at the Faith in 3D youth conference in Orlando, FL. It was a collaborative effort between the Presbyterian Church USA, The Episcopal Church, and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Yeah, there's a joke in there somewhere. It was a good conference, and I was able to explore Disney World a bit. Here are some the thoughts I'm having now that I'm home:

  • I'm really thankful for friends I see every few years, but who seem to know me just a well (or maybe even better) than the people I see all the time.
  • I used to really hate the last day of a conference because of all the goodbyes. I was worried I wouldn't ever get to see my favorite people again. Now, it's not as if I love the goodbyes, but I've come to realize that it isn't really goodbye so much as it's see you later. I hadn't seen my good friend and mentor Keith Harris for a couple of years, but our goodbye didn't need to be teary or emotional or any of that. It could simply be an acknowledgment of mutual affection and a knowing look of "hope to see you sooner than later."
  • This was the second time this month I heard Tony Campolo speak. He makes a strong case for living a life of discipleship that's based in action. I've spent the past month wondering how it is I'm supposed to be taking a stand and affecting change in the world. Hearing him again this weekend reminded me that I need to get off my duff. I have now given myself the arbitrary deadline of February 1st to choose a cause or organization to give more time to.
  • I'm totally psyched about tomorrow, when Barack Obama will be inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States. I'm excited about the message of hope and service to one's fellow human beings that he represents. I'll be watching all the festivities with eager anticipation.