Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Birthday Boy

We must be getting close to Christmas because my in-box has been flooded with inspirational thoughts and stories concerning the day. Most of these forwards are reminders that it’s Jesus’ birthday, not ours. They are full of statements like, “How would you feel if on your birthday everyone got a present except for you?” and “I want to be invited to your party.” My in-box is flooded with warnings that if I do not remember it’s Jesus’ birthday I will hurt Jesus’ feelings.

This doesn’t sit well with me. For one thing, I think it makes Jesus sound like a spoiled child who doesn’t want to let go of his birthday. I mean, most of us get 70, 80, 90 years of birthdays to celebrate. Shouldn’t Jesus be happy that he’s had 2000 celebrations thus far? This whole birthday thing does not sit well with me.

I’m all for remembering Jesus birth, please don’t mishear me. But I want something more. I am not content remembering Christmas simply as the day Jesus was born. Christmas marks the coming down of God Incarnate. Christmas reminds us that God was fully in the man Jesus. Christmas is not about celebrating a birthday, it’s about celebrating the incarnation.

By simply calling Christmas Jesus’ birthday we are selling the day short. To simply remember Christmas as Jesus’ birthday is no different than celebrating the birth of any other great person. On Christmas Day we remember Jesus not simply as the birthday boy, but as God Incarnate. That’s the really meaning of Christmas.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

My 911 Power Trip

I went from 25 years of never dialing those three important numbers, to calling 9-1-1 twice in one week.

This was originally prompted by my decision to "not pass the buck" on the road. After seeing a large box in the middle a busy intersection, my initial reaction of, "Oh, that's dangerous, someone should do something about that," gave way to, "Oh, that's dangerous, I should call 9-1-1 and tell them."

So I did. I remained calm on the line and gave them the name of the intersection. And I must confess, I got a little bit of a power trip to see police cruisers racing towards the intersection. I watched the cruisers with their sirens blazing and thought, "Yeah, I did that."

A few days later I got another opportunity to call my operating friend at 9-1-1 and report that the stop lights at a Philly intersection were out and that cars were just barely missing each other. While I didn't get to stick around for the action, I was somewhat excited to get passed on the highway by a police cruiser heading towards the dangerous intersection. Again the smug thought, "Yeah, I did that."

The next time you feel the urge for a power trip, rather than taking it out on your spouse/child/coworkers/pet/etc. just take a drive and see what you can find.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

My New Favorite Airport Game

My flights normally get canceled. I consider a delay a blessing. In light of this, I've developed a delightful little game that works especially well in the airport. I call it "Spot the Youth Pastor." I'm good. I'm really good. I'm 3/3 so far.

Three flights ago there was a man sitting a row ahead of me. I had been watching him. Blond tipped hair. Black rimmed glasses. Video ipod. So I leaned over and said, "Excuse me, Sir, are you a youth pastor?"

He blinked and said, "Uh, yeah. How did you know?"

"Your Chuck Taylors."

"Oh."

It's a fun game. John plays it now, too. If you want to join in on the fun, here are a few things to look for:

Blond tipped hair
Black rimmed glasses
Ipod
Razr
Smiley
Chuck Taylors OR nondescript brown leather shoes
Jeans with the front part of the shirt tucked in and the sides and back hanging out
Brown leather belt that you can only see from the front
Double layered t-shirt with a button down shirt on top of it all

In other words, youth pastors look like they are from California.

What am I missing?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

My T-Mobile Therapist

My phone died. This is the second time in four months I've had to call T-Mobile and request a new phone. I understand these things happen. I wasn't even annoyed. I like T-Mobile. I knew they would take care of me.

Both times I've called, however, I receieved some rather unexpected treatment. Here's a sampling of the dialogue I had both times I called:

Cindy: Hi you've reached Cindy from T-Mobile's Service Center, my employee number is XXXXXXXXX. How can I be of service today?
Mandy: Hi Cindy, my name is Mandy and I'm having trouble with my phone--
Cindy: Oh! I'm so sorry! That must be so frustrating for you. What seems to be the problem.
Mandy: Well, for the past week my phone has been turning off about 10 times a day, often during phone calls.
Cindy: I can only imagine how annoying that must be for you. And a whole week! You've been struggling with this for some time now, haven't you?
Mandy: Uh, I guess.
Cindy: Would you mind if I repeated back to you what I heard while I type it into the computer so that we can be sure to address the problems with your phone? I want to be sure that I am hearing you accurately.
Mandy: Sure.
Cindy: I'm hearing you say that your phone turns off about 10 times a day often in the middle of a conversation. Is that correct?
Mandy: Yes.
Cindy: I'm so glad that you called, we certainly want to take care of this problem. Right now I'm waiting for my computer to process this complaint....So how is the weather in Pennsylvania?
Mandy: It's okay. It's a little rainy.
Cindy: Oh I'm so sorry to hear that. I wish you could be enjoying nicer weather today.

And so it went...my T-Mobile therapist.

It was as if the death of my phone equaled the death of a close friend. The concern and care I recieved was better than any bedside manner I've receieved from a doctor. Three cheers for T-Mobile and their active listening skills!

(I should add, T-Mobile was not all talk. They delivered me a very nice new phone in a prompt manner, along with a box of chocolates and a note of apology...okay not really.)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

This must be how Paris Hilton feels

Friday night found me squashed between two people on a flight from Indy to Philly.

I don't really know how to set the stage for the encounter that took place on this plane, so I'll just tell it to you bluntly...The woman next to me read my journal. She read my journal. I was processing some events in my life and was reflecting on a certain experience when she interrupted me to ask a question about the sentence I was in the middle of writing. She read my journal. She unapologetically read my journal.

What would you have done if you were in my situation?

A) Politely answer her question, finish the sentence, and close the journal.
B) Briskly tell her it's none of her business.
C) Answer her question and rummage through her purse when she's in the bathroom.
D) Nothing. You deserved her nosiness. You shouldn't be writing in a private journal in a public area.

Do you have an option E to offer? I took the very bold and courageous option A.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

It's not what but who

Perhaps I'm a bit slower than the average youth pastor. I'm just beginning to realize that fun is not what, it's who. Students don't come because of the fun, crazy activity I've planned. They come because so-and-so is coming.

Earlier this month I showed a late night, outdoor movie at the church. Halfway through the movie a girl arrived and stood at the edge of the lawn searching the small crowd. I went over to greet her.

Without giving her scanning eyes a break, she said, "I'm just looking to see if anyone is here."

I was momentarily speechless. I, too, began scanning the crowd just in case the students I thought I saw were in fact a hallucination. Finally I asked, "What do you mean?"

She jerked out of her trance and looked at me dumbfounded. "You know," she said, "I'm trying to see if I know anyone." She didn't and decided to leave.

It's not what, it's who.

I currently have in my e-mail in-box a number of e-mails from students asking who has signed up for an upcoming music festival. They are not convinced they want to sign up until they know who else is going.

It's not what, it's who. While I found this initially frustrating, I'm beginning to see the benefits. Instead of spending my time planning big events, I can focus in on relationships. Then again I suppose I could become lazy. It seems like all I have to do is to ensure that a certain three students show up at church at 8 pm on a Friday and simply provide an onion and a dirty sock for them to play with and they'll come out in droves.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Adventures with Lord B.

At this time last week I was in Niagara Falls, NY with my middle schoolers for a missions trip. The majority of people who heard I was going to Niagara Falls for a missions trip offered similar sarcastic responses: "Really roughing it for the Lord!" "Gonna witness to tourists?" etc. However, anyone who has spent any time on the New York side of the falls know there is mission field here.

Prior to our trip I was told that the New York side of Niagara Falls was poverty stricken. I was given the statistics that between 70-80 % of all buildings in this area were abandoned. Quite honestly, I assumed this statistic was an exaggeration...it wasn't. I've been in a lot of big cities. I've come to expect the run down neighborhoods, the crime infested sections of the city, etc. What made Niagara Falls so different was that the entire city was run down. There were no nice areas. No thriving areas. Just deserted building after deserted building.

After working in a soup kitchen, my students and I went for a prayer walk (something very new for them--this was the first time the majority of them ever prayed out loud). As we were walking through the streets in extremely high temperatures (the heat index was 105), some of the students decided that they wanted to pray that people would find transportation so they could drive to their jobs instead of having to walk. More specifically, they prayed that people could get cars with air conditioning to find relief from the intense heat.

Ten minutes into our walk, we met Lord B. That's really his name. Lord B. Lord B. was a skinny black kid with a feeding tube coming out of his stomach which he no longer needed but no one had bothered to remove. He claimed to be eleven, though he looked more like nine. He wanted to hang out with my kids. After all, he explained, "Lord B. doesn't pass up a chance to hang out with some chicks."

So, wanting to stay close to the "chicks," he decided to finish out the prayer walk with us. After listening to the students pray for the government and that people would find jobs, Lord B. announced that he wanted to pray.

With his eyes wide open he looked to the sky and shouted, "Dear Lord! Please get rid of all these cars. Get these cars off the street so we don't ruin the atmosphere. Get rid of cars so we can get rid of the pollution and save our ozone layer..." Lord B. went on and explained to God how pollution worked in a way that would have made Al Gore proud.

After he shouted his "Amen," we were strangely quiet. The students were a little rattled that this scrawny kid from a shack of a house and a useless feeding tube was praying about the environment.

I'm glad all of my prayers don't get answered. I'm glad that most of my prayers don't get answered. Because sometimes, I don't really know what I'm supposed to be praying for.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Out for a bit...

This blog will be a little slow these next few weeks. I'll be

In Indiana for John's ordination...
In Toronto for a high school missions trip from July 23-28...
In Niagara Falls for a middle school missions trip from July 30-August 4...

Yes, I am doing two back to back missions trips. I'd appreciate your prayers. :)

Feel free to check back for update in August. And in the meantime, if you get sick of seeing this post, check out John's...he's much better at putting up fresh posts anyway.

Monday, July 17, 2006

A Longer Lasting Baptism

Last month my senior pastor was talking with a young child about the significance of her upcoming baptism. He was trying to explain to her the importance of this powerful act and how this water will effect her whole life and serve as a reminder of her new life in Christ.

Her response?

"Why don't you use paint? It will last longer."

Thursday, July 06, 2006

My Dad has a Blog

After 30 years at Central Wesleyan Church, my father is taking a long overdue 6 month Sabattical. He's recording his findings and experience in a blog of his own. Those of you who know my father know this is quite a feat--this is the man who prints out e-mails and snail mails them to my mailbox.

My parents and younger siblings are leaving tonight for Europe (why couldn't he have done this when I was in high school?). Check it out for highlights from his travels as well as marital insights that he and my mom have come to learn (the first part of the Sabbatical was of a "marital check-up" nature).

Feel free to look over his itinerary and suggest hotels/cafes/etc. If nothing else, check out his blog and scroll down to the initial post where you can see a rather humorous video.

http://pastorpaulsjournal.blogspot.com/

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Mistakes and Regrets

The girls in my youth group were horrified when they learned of the dress code for our upcoming missions trip. No tank tops. No sleeveless shirts. No short shorts. Their horror grew when they learned they were not allowed to bring blow dryers or straighteners. After listening to about five minutes of, “But Pastor Amanda, I’m gonna die. Seriously I’m gonna die,” I finally spoke.

“Look, these are not our rules, they’re the company’s rules. We can’t change them. So you have a choice. You can either follow the rules and complain, or you can follow the rules and not complain. I’d prefer latter.”

I must confess, I was rather proud of my reasoning skills in that moment. And I was relieved when they got on board with my proposal.

Two days ago I made a mistake. In the middle of a serious crisis I said the wrong thing and alienated the very person I was supposed to be comforting. If I were to explain the situation to you, many of you would try to reassure me that my intentions were good and that the person on the receiving end of my thoughtless comment was simply too sensitive. Nevertheless, the fact remains that I messed up and may have relinquished my right to give counsel in this crisis situation.

Despite the fact that I’ve apologized, I’ve been experiencing serious regret all weekend. I’ve been berating myself and relentlessly wishing that I could go back in time. I even baked a batch of cookies that I’m planning on giving away as a bribe to get back in this person’s good graces. I’m racked with guilt. I even dreamt about the situation last night.

But I’m trying to look at this situation from a different angle. The way I see it I have a choice. I can either know that I screwed up and beat myself up over it. Or I can know that I screwed up and accept God’s grace, believing that I’m forgiven. I’m trying to do the latter but it’s a struggle. I know I’m forgiven, but it just doesn’t feel like it. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

I've got a secret.

Not too long ago a seventh grader approached me after youth group. “Pastor Amanda,” she whispered nervously, “I really need to talk with you…privately.” As we walked down the hallway to my office I went through a mental list of what she could possibly have to share (eating disorders, divorce, suicide, etc.) We walked to my office and shut the door.

I braced myself for her news. She looked around nervously to make sure we were alone, and then she leaned her head in towards mine and whispered two words: “Prayer works.”

“What?”

“Prayer. It really works.”

I swallowed my surprise and asked her to explain. “I was having problems with someone, so I decided to pray about it every single day for a week. And we’re doing better now. Prayer works! It really works!”

I must confess, in the days that followed this exchange I had a patronizing spirit towards her. “Awww, sweet little mainline middle schooler just learned about the power of prayer."

And then I realized that I was having problems with a particular someone. I realized I hadn’t prayed about the situation. And so I prayed. I prayed for about a week—asking that God would help me to see things from his perspective.

At the end of the week I pulled the 7th grader aside. “Prayer works,” I whispered. She just smiled.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Yesterday's Mistake

So I was painting a 7-foot tall Disco Jesus for our upcoming 70's banquet when I noticed I had made a mistake. Right around the time when I was questioning whether or not what I was doing was blasphemous, I looked down and realized I had given Jesus six fingers. Sigh.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

And that's all I have to say about that

I apologize to all of you who have been faithfully checking my blog only to find a very stale site these past few weeks.

I had hoped that by changing the template of my blog, new and fresh ideas would overpower me to push me out of my bloggers-block.

It didn't.

Nevertheless, it's often said that the best way to overcome writer's blocks is to simply start writing. So that's what I'm doing. Unfortunately, I have very little to say. Little to say about my life, that is. So I thought I'd fill you in on what other people are doing...

One thing of great importance that has recently emerged in my life is the arrival of a new niece: Zoe Grace Ward. Her proud parents have posted some adorable pix at Dave's blog.

Thanks for stopping by. I know there's a post swimming in my brain about differences between mainline and evanglical youth groups. Hopefully it will emerge shortly.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Rearranging Lent—Palms and Crosses

There is a great deal of talk about those who attend church twice a year—Christmas and Easter. I’m noticing, however, that there are those who up attendance to three times. Palm Sunday seems to be itching its way towards the top of the list of most frequently attended Sunday services.

I’ve been thinking about the Palm/Easter visitors. While these people will attend both Sunday services, they tend to be absent at Maundy Thursday/Good Friday services. This means that they get the triumphal entry and the resurrection, but no cross.

Is this a problem? If it were up to you, would you keep with the traditional Lenten schedule, or would you adjust the reading to have a Sunday that focused solely on the death of Jesus?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Math Lessons


There are 168 hours in a week.

I see most of the kids in my youth group an average of 1.5 hours a week.

That means that out of their entire week, 1% is spent with me. One percent. When I did the math last night I felt conflicting emotions of frustration and relief.

I was frustrated by the thought that my 1% is up against the:

12% spent in front of the television
9% spent on the internet
and I don't even want to try to calculate the time spent texting.

On the other hand, I felt profound relief--that perhaps if they were only exposed to things of a spiritual nature for 1% of their week, than perhaps it was only logical to expect a 1% change per week in their spiritual formation. (I know, I know, it's the Holy Spirit that prompts change and could move at 50% a week if the Holy Spirit wanted to...but I'm interested in boring, stark numbers this week).

It's somewhat mind boggling to think that I can spend 40+ hours a week for a 1.5 hour slot of time. My 28% is all for that 1%.

I've been challenged to question the purpose behind every activity crammed into that 1%. I've been asking the question, "Is this a worthy way to use up my 1%?"

I've also been challenged to remind parents that while my job is to minister to their children, a youth pastor alone is not going to cut it. While the youth pastor has a powerful position to speak into the lives of students, it is a very limited position.

28% for the 1 %.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Biblical Balderdash

Below are the results of a recent youth group game. They had ten minutes to write up the definitions of the following words. Can you figure out the real definitions?

Eucharist--Modern-day Latin word for permanent disease "wrist cancer".
Eucharist--A politician who resides in Ukraine.
Eucharist--What you did while you were trying to comfort your puppy (you-carressed).
Eucharist--A sacrament and the central act of worship in many Christian churches.
Eucharist--A single cell autotrophic organism with a nucleus, organells, a cell wall, and membrane.
Eucharist--The collected debris found on the base of a card table after an intensely cruel card game of euchre.

Hermeneutics--Worship of the leader of the Munster Family.
Hermeneutics--The act of interpretation in particular relation to Scripture.
Hermeneutics--The spiritual rituals performed by Tibetan monks to cleanse the ailments of their people.
Hermeneutics--The scientific study of hermit crabs in their natural environment.

Glossolalia--An infection gained from bacteria if the cap is left off lip ointment for more than 24 hours.
Glossolalia--Ancient Latin word for "Glossary".
Glossolalia--Fabricated and non-meaningful speech.
Glossolalia--A psychological disease acquired during the state of shock after losing a game of dungeons and dragons to your Great-Aunt Tessie.

Mukluk--Famous battle that took place in Mukluk, Russia that was the first major confrontation between the Nazis and the Native Americans.
Mukluk--State of being where one is considered of themselves to have bad luck.
Mukluk--A stroke of good fortune while wallowing in the mud.
Mukluk--A soft boot made of reindeer skin or sealskin and worn by Eskimos.
Mukluk--The Half-Brother of a Mugblood who retires to a swamp and lurks after 2 pm.

Grunion--The study of grunting or other dispositioning movements of the face.
Grunion--An atom with an extra abnormally large extra electron.
Grunion--A small fish of coastal waters of California and Mexico.
Grunion--A genetically engineered root vegetable grown to combine a garlic clove and a vidalia onion.
Grunion--Another term for the antagonist in a story.


Okay, so those last two weren't Biblical words...

Any suggestions for future words? I can't wait to hear what they have to say about "Mariology".

Friday, March 03, 2006

Pastoral Care Hypochondria

Eric is an amazing adult leader in our youth group. He's one of those leaders that plans, organizes and runs a guy's dodge ball night at the church and tactfully informs me that I'm not invited (darn, I guess I'll have to take the night off).

When I heard Eric was scheduled for shoulder surgery to repair a muscle tear I decided to make a little pastoral call. So I prayed with him, told him to call if he needed anything, and advised him to enjoy the legal high while he could.

Halfway through our conversation Eric began describing the pain associated with his shoulder. He explained the movements that caused the pain, where he felt the pain, etc. It was here where I began to fail in my ability to give pastoral care. It was here where the light bulb went off in my head with the thought, "Hey wait a minute, I think I have that, too!" In a classic form of pastoral hypochondria my thoughts went from him to me. At Eric's advising I set up a doctor's appointment.

Fast forward three days.

...So I've just come back from an unassuring doctor's visit with a jittery doctor ("Your shoulder is popping? Your shoulder is popping! YOUR SHOULDER IS POPPING!!!"). I should know more about "the popping" next week. In the meantime I'm supposed to "exercise my shoulder without moving it," whatever that means.

Maybe I should pay a post-surgerical pastoral visit to Eric and ask him how his physical therapy is going.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Monday, February 20, 2006

Who are you in bed with?

You may have heard talk in years past of the proposed gambling acts in Alabama. In an effort to stop these proposals from being passed, Ralph Reed (involved with the Christian Coalition and current candidate for Lt. Governor of Georgia) enlisted the help of James Dobson to record radio ads against a particular Alabama gambling proposal. Reed has been adamantly opposed to gambling, calling it “a cancer on the American body politic.”

So far so good, right?

What Ralph Reed did not tell James Dobson, however, was that he was being funded by the Choctaw tribe who owns two casinos in Mississippi. This tribe has been actively opposing gaming in Alabama out of fear of having to compete with new casinos. Reed’s connection with the Choctaw tribe came through Jack Abramoff, a Washington Lobbyist.

(By the way, Reed is currently finding himself in hot water; Reed has been denying knowledge of the Choctaw’s involvement. A U.S. Senate committee recently released a swarm of e-mails showing the opposite—that in fact, Reed has known who his backers were since 1999. This doesn’t look good for a candidate of the Lt. Gov. who has been defining his campaign by referring to his personal values.)

It has been established that Focus on the Family had absolutely no knowledge of the tribal connection. Dobson has publicly stated that he would not have lent his name to the effort had he known the source of the funding.

I fear there are many Christians (myself included) who are so quick to jump on the bandwagon against immorality that we are not stopping to see with whom we are hopping into bed. And in the process we compromise our integrity. I’m feeling a little used, but I have no one to blame but myself.

Anyway, Ralph Reed certainly seems to have the “shrewd as serpents” part down.

Friday, February 10, 2006

These are a few of my favorite things...

I'm a little tired this week. I don't feel like putting out the energy to write a thoughtful post. Instead, I'm going to tell you about some of my favorite things.

Things I like:


Magic Eraser--This is my current all-time favorite thing. I have my sister Abby to thank for this one. I have absolutely no idea how they work...I really think they are magic. I don't care what kind of stain you have on your wall/hard floor/counter/etc. this little eraser will take care of it. I recently removed red permanent marker off my countertop. If that's not impressive I don't know what is.

Susan Howatch's Novels--I am particularly addicted to the Glittering Images series. I finished this 7 book series last spring and liked it so much that I've begun again. This series could be described as Karl Barth meets Danielle Steel (Rob Bell refers to her books in Velvet Elvis). Just read the first 20 pages. If you are not instantly hooked, just put the book down and walk away...no hard feelings. Plus you can get it on Amazon for a penny. A stinkin' penny.

Disposable Make-up Remover Wipes--I always hated getting ready for bed...taking out contacts, washing my face, brushing my teeth--it all drove me crazy--especially since John could simply hop into bed. Disposable Make-Up Remover Wipes cost a bit more than regular soap, but I'm willing to buy this extra little slice of happiness.

Settlers of Catan--The best game ever. I love it. We don't own it and are at the mercy of the Edwards or the Hinlicky-Wilsons to invite us over to play. (Hint, hint, this would be a massively appreciated Christmas gift).

Yoohoo--It's not chocolate milk. It's a chocolate drink.

Old English movies that come in long series: BBC's Pride and Prejudice, Middlemarch, The Forsgyte Saga...I love 'em.

Staple guns--They can fix anything and are oh so easy to use. I just reupholstered a chair.

PIM's cookies--I like the chocolate and raspberry kind. I feel European when I eat them.

Saline Spray--Just as Sam was flabbergasted that he didn't know about the "Search Inside This Book" offer at Amazon, I too am flabbergasted that I could have lived through a quarter of a century without anyone ever telling me how useful Saline Spray could be. Like wise, a cool mist humidifier.

"Alias"--I don't know where I've been the past five years, but I've only recently caught on. I've Netflixed the first 4 seasons and am just waiting for season 5 to come out (do not, I repeat, DO NOT tell me ANYTHING about season 5...don't even joke about it...If I even see the words "Sydney," "Alias," or "Michael" on your comment I will immediately close my eyes and ask one of my students to delete it.) I'm not even linking this paragraph to the Alias website for fear of spoilers.

Starbuck's Rice Crispy Treats
--at $1.65 they are one of the cheapest items Starbucks offers. Plus they're tasty and quite filling. I now eat them with a knife and fork--mostly because my jaw hurts if I try to put the whole thing in my mouth.

Chloraseptic Dissolvable Strips--Istead of using that disgusting spray to numb my sore throats, now I can simply let a disgusting strip dissolve in my mouth...the strips allow for better control of placement.

Clarke Shoes--They are really comfortable and last a long time...I've been wearing the same pair for the past seven years. Although I have to do quite a bit of hunting around until I can find an un-grandma-ish pair.

Gap Tall--Gap just introduced a new line of tall clothing. (Here again the imagination could be sparked for much appreciated Christmas gifts...if you're wondering what size I am, scroll down to my July postings and you can read about the time I led my first parent's meeing at church with the tag to my new pants still attached...not one of my favorite things).

Houlihan's 'Shrooms

My brother's Xanga--
what can I say? He's a funny guy. I read his post when I want to smile. If you check it out soon, you may be able to weigh in on the discussion of whether he should go by "Paul" or "Paul Matthew." I made some alternative nickname suggestions.

Pilot G-2 Gel Ink Pens--
My secretary caught me swiping one from her desk so she gave me two whole boxes. I've learned a good lesson--if I like something, take it.

So there you have it. Things I like. Thanks for reading this titilating post. You don't have to leave a comment. There's really not much to say. Unless, of course, you'd like to share something that you are fond of. I'm always looking for things to add to my list of favorites.


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

My New Favorite Dentist

Two weeks ago I woke up with a toothache. My gum was extremely swollen and I could not chew without shooting pain. Hoping it would go away on it's own, I ignored the throbbing all weekend while I oversaw a Lock-in, preached three Sunday morning sermons, and led youth group Sunday evening. In between these events I spent much time in front the mirror brushing and flossing. John gently encouraged/chided me to take better care of my teeth in the future.

I had not been to the dentist in over a year and a half and was dreading the inevitable visit. The one cavity I experienced in my lifetime turned into my one root canal.

I set up an emergency dental appointment the following Monday. After x-raying the troublesome tooth, the dentist made the following declaration:

"Stop flossing."

"What?" I asked, utterly perplexed.

He continued, "I don't normally tell my patients this, but don't floss for a few days. Your teeth are absolutely fine, you've just managed to really irritate the gum."

I went home and smugly reported the findings to John. I also quoted my new favorite dentist who said I had very nice teeth...his exact phrase was that I had "virgin teeth."

This story has been ruminating in my brain for the past few weeks. I'm certain it has all the makings of a good sermon illustration...I just don't know how.

So five points to the person who comes up with the best sermon illustration for this story. I'll take the winning illustration, scour scripture to find a text that is remotely connected and preach away! jk

Monday, January 23, 2006

My Very Own Personal Tower of Babel

Last week I had my very own personal Tower of Babel experience. I was deep into a Nicot commentary and was actively trying to decipher the abbreviations that emerge in such a read: H p, Polyc Phi, Syrh, AusBr, Fay, EncJud...

Halfway through deciphering 4Q495, frag.2.18, my Instant Messenger lit up with a message from a student and I was suddenly accosted with another language just as foreign: BRB, CUL8R, AFAIK, CID...

My brain stopped working. Seriously, it just stopped. I became so overwhelmed by all of the random, floating letters that my brain absolutely, positively crashed within my skull.

I'm finally starting to get a handle on the IM lingo--enough to vaguely follow the conversation. On more than one occassion I've had to ask, "Um, what does 'pos' mean?" (For your info it stands for "parent over shoulder".) Most are now familer with LOL (lots of laughs), lesser known is ROTFL (Rolling on the floor laughing)

I've decided that I'm going to begin my own line of abbreviations. Here are a few I've come up with...feel free to add your own:

WOS (working on sermon)
HCIPFY? (How can I pray for you)
SHDU(sorry he dumped you)
SFIMDOAIWBIMOBYCCIIAE (sorry, friday is my day off and I won't be in my office but you can call if it's an emergency)

And my new favorite: PPYPO (please put your pants on) And yes, that is a real life phrase I had to use two weeks ago...but that's a story for another time.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

My New Best Friend Part 3

I just got a new neighbor. His last name is "Stocker." It really is. I think we're going to get along just fine.

Monday, January 09, 2006

A question that plagues me...

I've been struggling with a question for years and I still don't have a satisfying answer. I ask it of every preacher I run into...

"Do you use your kids in sermon illustrations? If so, do you have any rules or guidelines?" The responses I have received vary...

Response #1 : "I never speak about my children from the pulpit" (this was very popular among some of my preaching profs at Princeton)

Response #2: "I only speak about my son if I make him the hero of the story" (by far the most popular response)

Response #3: "I only talk about my kids if I have their permission" (also a popular response)

Response #4: "Every time I talk about my kids I pay them" (I just heard this one the other
day)

Response #5: "Yes, I talk about my kids, but not when they're around. I normally ask the congregation not to say anything to them."

Response #6: "Huh?" (This was uttered by a famous preacher who regularly uses his kids as illustrations...I explained the question to him again. He responded, "I don't get it. It's not a big deal." And no, I'm not going to tell you who said it.)

I used to favor the "I-only-use-my-kid-if-they're-the-hero-of-the-story" argument, but I'm not so sure anymore. I don't know that I like the potential dynamics that can arise between the kid and all of his buddies who attend the church...Doesn't this just feed into the "pastor's kids are perfect" myth?

And I imagine a child who is continually hearing hero stories told about herself would get a big head. "Ah yes, I am the hero of all stories!"

Maybe it is better to avoid personal stories about one's children...But then again, they can be just so good! I still remember the classic story of my sister Christy who has a five-year-old had the following argument with my dad. Christy was absolutely refusing to do whatever it was my dad was asking of her, and so, through clenched teeth my father said: "Christy, I want you to obey!" To which she responded through clenched teeth, "I don't want to obey, I want to be happy."

In the circles I run in, there was a time when talking about one's kids was going out of vogue. People were reading more psychology and paying attention to family systems, etc. However, with the emergence of the emerging church, I'm seeing an influx of "my son" stories in an effort to be authentic and genuine. And they're not just showing up in a sermon or two, but in actual videos! I can't help but wonder how the kid on Nooma:Lump is going to feel as a teenager.

I don't know. I'd love some feedback on this issue. I'm a bit muddled. What I do know for sure is that I do not want to share stories about my children without their permission. And I actually really like the idea of paying my kid for every story I tell about her (though I imagine if I was actually handing out money, my broke child would be constantly uttering the phrase, "You know Mom, that's a lot like God").

What do you think?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

"As was his custom"

"And he went to the synagogue, as was his custom, on the Sabbath day." Luke 4:16

Those four little words, "as was his custom," show up one other time in the book of Luke. Near the end of his life, we read that Jesus "went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives" (22:39).

Jesus worshipped regularly with his community "as was his custom", and Jesus spent time in private prayer "as was his custom."

Nazareth was an ordinary town with ordinary people. I imagine it was "average" worship--nothing too flashy or inspiring--but it was Jesus custom to attend.

There is growing talk of people worshipping outside of church. Some forego church as we know it in favor of walks through the woods, home worship, or podcasting.

It was in the Son of God's custom to go to the synagogue. If anyone could make a case for not needing to worship at the synagogue surely it was Jesus. But he doesn't. Jesus doesn't argue that he can better connect with the Father elsewhere. He attends the synagogue in Nazareth...as was his custom.

(I'm preaching from this text next week, and although I'm using a different approach to this passage, I'd certainly welcome any thoughts or insights that might come to mind.)