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Showing posts from 2005

Best of...My Favorite 2005 Posts

Last week Gavin asked bloggers about their favorite 5 posts of 2005, where he will nicely compile them for us here.

I spent a lot (read: way too much) of time reading through my blog posts today to finally get to this project. I've liked my posts more of late than when I first started blogging - feel like I'm getting into a rhythm, and have a better sense of reading. I'm glad Gavin suggested the project - I think it is always good to reflect on where we've come from. I've been keeping journals since I was in fifth grade, and looking back on them assures me that I do change over the years, and grow in maturity. Back when we were warring in Iraq the first time around, and I was in elementary school, I mentioned Hussein in one sentence and soccer practice in the next, and my latest crush in the next. Perspective...

So, best of 2005?

In chronological order -
* My survey on pastoral calling and the post with a summary of responses received.
* My thoughts on serving communion

Christmas: Reporting In

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. I certainly did. Today we had our extended family gathering at my mother's house, and for the first time in a long time, managed to get most of the crew - aunts and uncles and cousins and grandmothers - there at the same time. I think we had 25 people at my mom's house. It was crazy, and tiring, but fun. Everyone stayed late. I'm lucky to have my extended family all living in New York State, and I feel blessed that our family, for the most part, is pretty close.

I'm pleased to report that we had a fairly decent crowd in church on Sunday morning. Not record-breaking, but about what we get on a holiday weekend like Labor Day. It was actually a nice, relaxing, but spirit-filled worship experience, at least from my perspective.

On Christmas Eve, we had two worship services. At our early service, the highlight was the lighting of the Christ Candle. A young couple was doing the reading, and their two-year-old wandered up from the back …

What to do with Santa

Today I ran across this article on cnn.com about the TV show Everybody Hates Chris, the show about Chris Rock's childhood. Apparently, some folks are upset because on a recent episode, the Mom reveals to her daughter that Santa Claus is not real. "Come here," the mom says, "let me show you something. I'm taking you to the toys ... Santa doesn't come down the chimney. We don't even have a chimney. We have radiators."

The complaints - well - if you know anything about Chris Rock's style, then I'm not sure why you would let your child watch his show. But aside from that, I've been thinking -

What do you do with Santa as people of faith? Mythreebrothers and I were raised on Santa, though I found out the truth from an older cousin when I was five. But my mom has said in recent years that if she had to do it again, she wouldn't teach us to 'believe in' Santa Claus. Her reasoning? Parents spend so much time trying to get their kids to…

Person of the Year

Time magazine announced its Person of the Year (people, actually) the other day, honoring Bono and Bill and Melinda Gates. Interesting combination, isn't it? (Ps - you have to watch an ad to read the whole article for free.) I guess I appreciate that the people making the cover at least are making it for trying to help others.

What do you think of the selection? Who would you have named as Person of the Year if you were in charge? Who is your favorite well-known person of the year? Who is your personal person of the year?

Ringing the Bell

Today I spent some time with other church folks ringing the bell for Salvation Army at Wal-Mart. It was about 15 degrees out today in Central New York, and I ended up with a chill that was hard to get rid of for the rest of the day, and a sneaking suspicion that my throat is a bit sore, despite my attempt to bundle up today. (I'm usually not the coat-wearing type.)

Aside from the cold, I had a good time ringing the bell. The Salvation Army has a theology more conservative than my own, but I really admire the hands-on work they do. The other day I ran across the quote, ascribed both to Charles Dickens and Mahatma Gandhi - not sure which is correct - "There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread."

At least in my community, the Salvation Army is the group of people of faith who runs the soup kitchen, has a food pantry, provides emergency shelter, helps people connect with the right social service agencies, hands out than…

Convenience and Myself

Last week, I wrote about convenience and the church. Should the church try to be convenient for people in order to bring them the gospel?

Convenience. Convenience makes the world go round. Every week it seems you can find some new advertisement for a product that you should buy because you will have the ability to throw it away sooner than usual. Mops? Disposable. Digital cameras? Disposable. Cell phones? Disposable. Why buy one when you can buy them over and over again and create some garbage in the process?

I listen to books on tape all the time when I drive. I travel a lot, and books on tape help the time go by much faster. I typically listen to 'lighter' fare than I would read in printed form - John Grisham, Maeve Binchy, Mary Higgins Clark, Janet Evanovich. Most classics, most 'heavier' literature isn't quick-paced enough for keeping my attention while driving - with notable exceptions like the good-in-any-medium Barbara Kingsolver. My local library only has a l…

Review: The Chronicles of Narnia - The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Yesterday I went to seeThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe with my brother and sister-in-law. (You can read my brother's shorter, less flattering review here.)

I love the Chronicles of Narnia. I reread them every year or so - I always enjoy them. I know that they are children's books - more so than Harry Potter - these books are short, quick reads, and meant for children - younger children. But I find them fascinating to read as an adult - I love the way C.S. Lewis likes fiction. Lewis' theology isn't exactly my cup of tea all the time, but sometimes I think in his fiction he lets his theology run a little wilder, a little more free. So I love the imagination in the Chronicles.

The movie is - OK. I thought, as I was watching, that if you were an adult seeing the movie, you wouldn't like it unless a) you had kids with you or b) you were a big fan of the books. (Side note - so glad they appear to be doing the movies in the original publishi…

Convenience and the Church

I've been thinking a lot about convenience lately. And I've been thinking about Church on Christmas Sunday this year. A lot of people have been posting about it - Ben Witherington and BroGreg are just two. Apparently, the idea of churches closing on Christmas of all days is such good news that it has made CNN.com's front page - story here. (thanks for the heads up Mom.)

The conversations about churches being open for services or not ask questions about convenience. Should the church try to be convenient for people? Or should the church push to be counter-cultural and sometimes, then, non-accommodating? Or something in the middle?

These questions don't just apply to Christmas services, but to the life of the Church as a whole. This Christmas, we've moved our Christmas Eve late-night service an hour earlier, and our Sunday morning service an hour later, in an effort to both give people some family time and get them to church on Sunday morning. But I admit, I'm high…

Words from Jim Winkler

GBCS has recently started a weekly "Faith in Action" e-mail update, which you can sign up for here. In this week's edition, Jim Winkler makes a statement in response to concerns about whether the views he expresses are meant to speak for the whole church, and about the tone of his response and opinions. I found it thoughtful. You might want to check it out.

The Nutcracker

Every year for as long as I can remember, I make a trip near Christmas time to see a production of The Nutcracker, the ballet by Peter Ilich Tschaikovsky. These days, I actually usually make three trips to the show - once to see all the girls and boys from my church, once to go to the production I've always gone to, and once to another company's performance for good measure.

Today I saw the production that all my church members are in. Because of my schedule this weekend, I had to go see one of the "school performances" during the day, where children from the area come to see the ballet as a field trip. I've done this before, and it is risky - hundreds of elementary school kids on a field trip aren't always in the mood to see a ballet.

But, happily, I had a great experience. The kids were so well-behaved, and it was fascinating to sort-of watch the ballet through their eyes. I was thinking of the part in Finding Neverland where J. M. Barrie invites the children…

from Soup Questions - Questions from Inside the Actor's Studio

I've been meaning to comment on this post from Jason's Soup Questions for a while. He asks us to answer the questions that James Lipton asks each actor on Inside the Actor's Studio. So here's my responses:

What is your favorite word? Love.

What is your least favorite word? Any words that demean others.

What is your favorite sound? Really good a capella choir music.

What is your least favorite sound? Fingernails on chalk-boards.

What is your favorite curse word? I plead the fifth. When I'm driving and I'm by myself, I can get a little road-rage going. It's not pretty.

What turns you on? Social-justice activism.

What turns you off? Meanness.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Something in theatre. Make-up design maybe.

What profession would you not like to participate in? Anything medical. I have a great fear of being responsible for the physical well-being of others.

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you reach the P…

whatcha doin for christmas?

What are your plans for Christmas/Christmas Eve services at your place of worship?

I like to do something dramatic - a monologue or something - but I always have a tough time finding something that's - well, not cheezy. And I rarely feel competent and inspired enough to write something of my own.

We've also done lessons and carols, without a specific message, but sometimes this seems to work better than others.

Thoughts? Insights?

movie reviews: Rent and Walk the Line

I went to see two movies this weekend, Rent and Walk the Line. This time of year, when many Oscar-hopeful movies come out all it once, drives me crazy, because there are so many good movies out at once that I want to see.

First up, Rent. Rent debuted as a musical on Broadway when I was in high-school, and I remember the craze it was among my friends, the theatre-kids. I never saw the stage version, but I eventually came to know the music pretty well from listening to the soundtrack.

I'd read some reviews in advance of seeing the show which suggested that Rent, the movie, would have been better if it had come out ten years ago like the musical. The original Broadway cast is mostly intact for the movie, only now, all the twenty-somethings of the stage show are thirty-somethings. Also, one of the major themes of the play - people living with AIDs - has taken a different place in our culture than in the early nineties. I don't mean that AIDs is any less important or critical of an i…

from CNN.com - One man's trash is another's dinner - Nov 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!
My mom sent me this link from cnn.com, about "freegans," a story about people who find a different way to feast for Thanksgiving:

"They call themselves 'freegans,' a play on the words 'vegan'-- vegetarians who avoid all animal products -- and 'free.' In an ideological rejection of consumer waste, they only eat food that's been discarded. And in New York City, at least, they never go hungry.
'We find more food than we could ever possibly eat,' said Adam Weissman. Just 24 hours before the dinner party, he found a hefty stash outside a gourmet supermarket in Manhattan: bags of salad nearing the sell-by date, dozens of sandwiches, boxes of Ritz crackers, some nice looking squash and loaves of still-crisp baguettes.
Although not all freegans are vegan, they all eat for free. Weissman said that with few exceptions he has not eaten store-bought food, either at home, in a restaurant or as guest of a friend, in more than a…

changing relationships

This weekend, I attended the wedding of a seminary friend in Virginia. A beautiful ceremony - the message, focusing on making sacred space, was extremely moving. (My apologies if I haven't responded to emails and comments you've left this past week - I'm getting there, eventually)

The wedding, along with a few other gatherings I've been part of recently, has me thinking about relationships and change in relationships. In Chicago this week, I had the change to gather with several friends from Ohio Wesleyan, and last month I also saw seminary friends at Drew.

I think that change in relationships is one of the hardest, most emotional things to go through. I suppose this is true, in a way, whether the change is ultimately viewed as a positive, desired change or not. I think back on my life about friendships or even acquaintances that I've had in my life, and I can't help but want to at least know what has happened to some of the people that just aren't a part of …

city life

I'm on vacation this week, so posting and/or responding to comments will probably be slow, and topics will be nice and non-theological, like this one!

Right now, I'm in Chicago visiting college friends. I've been thinking about cities. I've been to Chicago three times now, and I really like it. I feel like I'm getting to know my way around a bit. I feel like it is an "easy-going" sort of city. I grew up in a small city (think 30,000 people) and I now live in an even smaller city (think 10,000). When I was looking at colleges, even schools in mid-sized cities like Syracuse University seemed intimidating to me. When I went to seminary, I chose Drew over Bostonin part to location. Drew would give me access to NYC without having to live right in a big city.

During seminary, I interned at the General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns (say that five times fast), and got to do the whole commute-into-Manhattan-thing. I hated it (the commute,…

Everytime I Feel the Spirit

I've recently been emailing with Keith Taylor, an insightful and thoughtful commenter on this and other blogs, about the church, the Holy Spirit, and what we do now in light of everything that's been going on with judicial council decisions and the division in the church those decision represent.

Keith wrote to me, "When I read the journal of John Wesley, I see the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, the gifts of the Spirit, the Power of God that appears to be missing in the modern UMC. As a UM pastor, why do you think that is so? . . . I wonder where is the Power of the Holy Spirit in the Methodist Renewal Movement of 200+ years ago?"

Good questions. I responded, in part (slightly edited), like this:

"I guess I think we don't see things because we don't (in general) expect to see them, if that makes sense. Sometimes people in my Bible study ask why we don't experience God in such ways as in a "burning bush" like they did in the scriptures. I say th…

two things

two things borrowed from Dylan's blog -

1) follow this link to put your pin on my google map, which lets me see where everyone is from who reads my blog or visits my site.

2) Try this fun meme - type your name into google and the word "needs," and blog the top ten hits that come up. According to google, this is what "Beth needs":

1- Beth needs a considerable raise in salary.
2- Beth needs it so it will be done.
3- Beth needs people.
4- Beth needs prayers.
5- Beth needs a job.
6- Beth needs a first-floor bedroom.
7- Beth need your vote
8- Beth needs to stop it already with the lies.
9- Beth needs to realize she has a problem.
10- Beth needs cash and agrees to go deep undercover.

What a great online life I'm leading...!

finance training, day 2

I continue at this clergy finance training event in Binghamton.

Thoughts from today:
The leaders (from the United Methodist Frontier Foundation) strongly suggest that pastors, to be in ministry, need to know what their church members are giving. If you are a pastor, do you know what your parishioners give? If you are a lay member, what do you think about pastors knowing who gives what? I know the benefits, and I also understand why some would be uncomfortable with this.

We also spent a lot of time talking about stewardship campaigns. I posted questions about stewardship campaigns last year, but that was before anyone really read my blog. So, let me try again. What kind of stewardship campaigns do you do in your congregation? Your own program? Prepackaged? Have you seen growth in giving and pledging? Do you talk about tithing in your congregation?

Another 'hot' topics we talked about:
1) Do pastors share how much they give with the congregation? If yes, how?
2) Do pastors somehow rec…

offertory prayer

I am spending a few days in Binghamton, NY at a clergy finance training, where we talk about fun things like personal finances, clergy tax law, stewardship programs, etc. Actually, it is very informative, and helpful to ask some questions that I had not yet found answers for, especially relating to wonderful clergy tax law.

Anyway, our first presenter today shared this quote from Hilbert Berger, an "offertory prayer" that we probably don't hear on Sundays: "O Lord, no matter what we say or what we do, here is what we think of you."

Know Your Bible?

Now, for something a little - different - take this 100 question Bible exam to see how well you know the Book.

(found via A Religious Liberal Blog)

My results:

ACTS AND PAULINE LETTERS 73%
GOSPELS 100%
HISTORICAL BOOKS 84%
PENTATEUCH 82%
PROPHETS 66%
PSALMS AND WISDOM LITERATURE 90%
REST OF NEW TESTAMENT 70%
TOTAL 81%

Ah, the propehts. I guess I know where I need to study up. That and that whole "rest of the new testament" category! I'm afraid I only did as well as I did on the prophet section though by some lucky guessing ;)!

What do we really want?

The recent judicial councildecisions in the United Methodist Church have sent the blogosphere into a state of - energetic, if not friendly, blogging that I haven't experienced in a while. The decision over whether or not a pastor has the right to deny membership to practicing gay and lesbian persons has been particularly troubling, with the Council of Bishops already issuing a statement that leans toward (by my reading) clear disagreement with the Judicial Council on this issue.

What does this mean for the church? The United Methodist community?

Over at WesleyBlog, Shane Raynor has recently written a post titled, "The Left Gets Ridiculous," where he concludes, "The far left is losing its stranglehold on our denomination, so they're beginning to say and do ridiculous things in an attempt to hang on to power. Meanwhile, the UMC continues to move in a more conservative and more evangelical direction."

As a self-defined member of the "far left," I'm …

mixed bag - judicial council, federal budget, ordination

I don't know quite what to blog about. I'm feeling a little overwhelmed and under-motivated.

-Beth Stroud was defrocked (again) because she is a practicing lesbian. The Judicial Council determined that because non-practicing gay and lesbians are not prohibited from ordained ministry that her defrocking was not based on her status as a lesbian woman. I disagree, of course, with the decision because I hope to see gay and lesbian people welcomed fully into the life of the church without condition. But I also disagree with the logic of the argument that a "non-practicing" gay or lesbian person can be a pastor but a "practicing" gay or lesbian person cannot. What does it mean to practice your sexual orientation? Clearly, the logic here limits our whole sexual identity to who we have sex with. I'd like to think our sexual identity is more than that. After all, as a single heterosexual woman, if I am not in a relationship and not having sex, am I "non-prac…

Relevant Magazine: Time for a New Revolution

I just finished reading another issue of Relevant Magazine.

A particular article stood out to me this month: "Time for Another Revolution," by John Fisher (pg. 66, Nov/Dec 2005 issue)

Fisher talks about his experience in the 60s going to Wheaten College, where he was in the "worst" class (so-dubbed by the school's president years later), a class of "rowdy, nonconforming troublemakers." Fisher says his class was full of questions, not wanting to accept "easy answers." Some, for sure, lost their faith in school. But Fisher writes, "I consider this an improvement on whatever faith they brought there that was unable to hold up to the scrutiny of deeper questioning and intellectual curiousity."

Fisher worries that in the last two decades, he finds "rote acceptance of whatever those in places of authority hand down" to be more the norm. "Faith equals blind acceptance," he argues. "For too long, good Christian studen…

the good and the bad

Ah, being a clergy person brings such an interesting mix of joys and struggles, doesn't it?

Last night, my lament was: One of the most frustrating things for me in my ministry is not when things fail, but when people just don't respond to things offered to begin with. I had an event going on at church - something new we're trying - that literally not a single person showed up for. I left church feeling pretty blue. It's better sometimes to try and fail then to have no one try with you at all!

Today, my joy is: A clergy colleague died earlier this week - his spouse is also a clergy person. I attended the funeral this morning, joining together in procession, song, and worship with a packed sanctuary which included 100 or 150 of my clergy colleagues. We certainly aren't all on the same theological page as clergy in the conference. But today, when it really mattered, I was proud that we were there for our friend and co-worker in the ministry. To me, that is our connectio…

Book Review: Bait and Switch by Barbara Ehrenreich

I just finished reading Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream by Barbara Ehrenreich, her follow up to the excellent Nickel and Dimed, which I reviewed earlier this year.

Bait and Switch is similar in style to Nickel and Dimed. This time Ehrenreich undertakes to infiltrate corporate America. She wants to find out about people who "do everything right" according to societal standards - have college educations, work in white-collar positions, make good grades, etc. - but still end up unemployed, underemployed, and dangerously close to sinking into the poverty that Ehrenreich explored in Nickel and Dimed. So she sets aside ten months and $5000 for expenses and set her goal: search for a job for 4-6 months, and spend 3 months as an employee in a white-collar field, with some mid-range income goal. She would go anywhere, take any job offered that met her requirements and was not morally objectionable to her.

Ehrenreich's quest for a job is hilarious and fru…

Ezekiel 34:16

Sometimes, I stumble across a Bible verse that has somehow gone unnoticed after so many years of studying, that is just so moving.

Today, I noticed Ezekiel 34:16, which comes in the lectionary on Reign of Christ/Christ the King Sunday on November 20th.

It reads, "I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice."

Wow.

Alumni Lectures: Final Reflections, 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

Thursday was the last day of the Tipple-Vosburgh lectures at Drew, and Rev. Dr. Traci West, my favorite professor, gave the sermon at the closing worship, focusing on 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8. This is a text that has a special place in my heart, since it was the text for my senior sermon there at Drew three years ago!

Dr. West focused in on the first verse, where Paul says, "we know our coming to you has not been in vain." She said she felt like Paul was trying, a little bit, to convince himself. She suspects, she said, that we all do that in our ministries - we wonder, we hope and pray that the work that we've done has not been in vain.

She also focused on Paul's proclamation: "For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery." She wondered why Paul would need to make this claim, unless others had been proclaiming to the Thessalonians with less than honest intentions.

Dr. West urged us to look for places in the world where the gospel is p…

Senator wins Powerball Lottery

Geez.

CNN.com - Sen. Gregg wins $853,000 in Powerball - Oct 20, 2005:

"WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. Judd Gregg won $853,492 from the Powerball lottery after matching five of six numbers in Wednesday's drawing, adding to his already sizable wealth.
'Even senators can be lucky,' he told reporters outside the D.C. Lottery claims center, where he picked up his check.
The Republican from New Hampshire -- who chairs the Budget Committee and who has a reputation as a strict fiscal conservative -- said his wife is currently remodeling their home and already has plans for the new money.
'She's already told me, 'Don't spend it. I've already got plans.''
He said he bought about $20 of tickets on Monday at a D.C. Citgo gas station as he headed from Baltimore to Washington for a Senate vote.

"I don't plan to quit my job," he said with a smile.

He will owe 25 percent in federal taxes on the $853,492. New Hampshire doesn't have state incom…

Tipple-Vosburgh Lectures - Reflections, part 1

I continue here in NJ at the Tipple-Vosburgh lectures at Drew.

This morning I attended a workshop with Dr. Virginia Burrus, professor of early church history. I took church history with Dr. Burrus when I was in the MDiv program here, and I found her to be an excellent professor, extremely intelligent. I've never been a big history buff, but she made the class compelling and enjoyable.

Today Dr. Burrus presented a workshop titled "Shame as a Source for Transformation: Early Christian Teachings" - all about shame and how it can be a tool for change. Some quotes from her lecture:

"George W. Bush is strikingly impervious to shame." Dr. Burrus noted that this shamelessness is both comforting to conservatives who are reassured by it and alarming to progressives who wish Bush would feel shame for his actions and positions.

Dr. Burrus also talked about vulnerability and shame - shame as a warning sign that we are "in a zone of possibility of intimacy."

Dr. Burrus …

Home-coming

As I mentioned yesterday, I am now in NJ at my seminary's annual alumni lectures.

This year, Seminary Hall is open with a new addition to the building that was at the center of my life for three years. The building is now accessible, has great new preaching labs, restrooms on all floors (formerly a BIG problem!) and generally looks sparkling and fresh while remaining the integrity and history of the original structure. I'm so glad for the school and the future of the seminary and what this building means for room for growth.

At the same time, I experienced walking through the building with a surreal sense of realization of how long, literally and more symbolically, it has been since this place was my home, my community. Each time I return for a visit, it is less and less the place that I went to seminary.

I'm reminded of the gospel accounts of Jesus saying that a prophet is not welcomed in his/her hometown. I experience not a feeling of unwelcome, but the sometimes surprising…

GBCS board meeting: wrap-up

Just a quick wrap-up note about GBCS before I moved to where I am this week: Drew Tipple-Vosburgh Lectures.

On Saturday, we had a special dinner to honor Dr. Dorothy Height with a "Faith in Action" award. Dr. Height was president of the National Council of Negro Women for more than 40 years, and a longtime participant and leader in the civil rights movement. One of her special achievements: She established the Bethune Museum and Archives for Black Women, which is the first institution devoted to black women's history.

Dr. Height is 93 now, and still witty and clever, and quite a stylish dresser! We got to hear her speak at her dinner, and I found her quite inspiring. During my time in seminary, I got to take a couple of classes that centered on African-American History, and I became aware of just how much I don't know. My knowledge of the civil rights movement had previously been limited to MLK and some knowledge about Malcomn X, and that was it. What a rich history we…

GBCS board meeting reflections: Friday

Today was another full day at our fall board meeting for the General Board of Church and Society.

Today, we spent time visiting our representatives on Capitol Hill. My work on the board is especially on the work area of Environmental and Economic Justice. One of our major priorities has been in addressing federal budget issues, and communicating our understanding of the budget as a moral document.

We had time as a small group to meet with Neil Bradley, policy director for Majority Whip Roy Blunt. This was my first meeting of this kind, and I was a bit nervous, but once the conversation started, I remembered the beliefs that ground me and found my voice.

I found Mr. Bradley to be, frankly, patronizing, and I felt like we were getting a lot of smooth talk around real issues. At one point, Mr. Bradley informed us, when we asked him about US borrowing money to meet our spending, that many are misinformed and think that we can just print more money at the treasury. And whenever he referred to…

GBCS board meeting reflections: Thursday

I didn't get to posting thoughts from yesterday here at the Fall Board Meeting for the General Board of Church and Society, so here's some catch up.

Yesterday Jim Winkler gave his report. For me, this is always one of the highlights of our time together. Jim is a prophetic and bold voice in the church and to our board, and I appreciate his words. Jim talked about claims that his work or the work of the board is partisan in nature. His response? He's not partisan, but he is biased. We are biased. The Board is biased, because we proclaim Jesus' bias for the poor and marginalized. I liked his way of putting this. Sometimes our work on the board through our bias brings us shoulder to shoulder with one group or another. Not becuase it is partisan work, but because we happen to share common goals and purposes on common issues.

To this end, Jim also said that he suspected we might still be at war even if Kerry or Gore or someone other than Bush was in office right now, and that…

agathokakological

Currently, I am in Washington, DC for a meeting of the General Boad of Church and Society. Today, we had a day of training on how to teach our United Methodist Social Principles, led by Neal Christie and Clayton Childers.

Clayton led us in a time of worship this morning, focused on James 3, concluding with verse 10, "from the same mouth come blessing and cursing." He talked about reading an articlue in the Arkansas Annual Conference's newspaper by Bishop Charles Crutchfield. In it, Crutchfield talks about a favorite word of his: agathokakological, a word with Greek origins which means "composed of both good and evil." Clayton suggested that this can be a great word to describe the human condition - are we not composed of or torn between both our good and evil selves/urgings?

From there, Clayton talked about Jurgen Moltmann, Moltmann's personal experiences in Germany in World War II, his guilt-feelings from his experiences in the war, and his embracing of what…

Topical Preaching

After reading Adam Hamilton's book Leading Beyond the Walls, another thing I've been thinking about is lectionary preaching and topical preaching. I mentioned in my review that I disagree with Hamilton's take on lectionary preaching.

I remember at General Conference 2000, I had my first experience of the using of the phrases "high view" and "low view of scripture" by the late Rev. Bill Hinson in my small group on the Faith and Order legislative committee. Rev. Hinson and other conservatives talked about having a "high view" of scripture, meaning a more literal interpretation of scripture and perhaps a (conceived) more central place given to scripture in theology. I had never thought of myself as having a "low view" of scripture, though this seem to be implied as a natural correlative of a liberal outlook.

What does this have to do with lectionary and topical preaching? What I find interesting is this: from my experience (no formal surv…

Movie Review: In Her Shoes

I went to see In Her Shoestonight, and was happily surprised. I expected a fluffy feel-good movie. I like fluffy feel-good movies sometimes. But this movie had a lot more depth to it, and was much more than a romantic comedy or romantic drama.

The movie was certainly about relationships, between siblings, in-laws, parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren. But I think that it was especially about how we view and value ourselves. The two main characters, played by two different and talented actresses, Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette, are very opposite - one extrovert, one introvert, one seemingly boundless in confidence, the other self-doubting. But both seem to struggle with their own self-value, to doubt their worth as a person.

I guess it is that aspect of the human condition - how unconvinced we are of our own worth and value - that spoke to me the most. I look at people in my own life who are so gifted and talented and who I admire and wish I was more like - I look at them…

CROPwalking again

I am walking in the CROPwalk again this year in our community, a program of Church World Service. With all of the natural disasters that have struck the globe this year, I know people are overextended financially. I'm certainly having a harder time raising funds this year than last. But if you have $10 to spare, please consider donating to this great ministry...

Click to donate:

If you were a peanut...

Ok, since everyone else is doing it, here's my results:


You are Charlie Brown!


Which Peanuts Character are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Thanks to Gavin.

Calendar Girls: UMC Clergywomen?

Thanks to John for highlighting this great article. Apparently, UMC clergy women in the Rocky Mountain Conference have gotten together to pose for a calendar, in some serious and some more humorous poses. Perhaps this is an idea to pitch at my next finance committee meeting. Follow the link to order your own calendar for $15.

Pastors and Leadership

My recent post on Adam Hamilton's Leading Beyond the Walls has garnered the most comments on any post I've done, replacing only my post on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Princein number of comments. This is thanks in large part to a conversation between RevWilly and David Allen Grady, and I feel almost as cool as Shane at WesleyBlog and Dean at Untied Methodist, who always have long comment threads on their posts.

Anyway, RevWilly and David started a conversation about what it means to be a leader, and what kind of leaders we are called to be as pastors. Forgive my short summary of their comments, but it started with David asking: do pastors enter ordained ministry because they want to be leaders? Is being a leader the focus of pastoral ministry? Revwilly responds to say that shepherding a flock requires great leadership, and that pastors with thriving churches have great leaders.

I think both have raised some interesting questions. What kind of leaders are pastors meant to be?…

An American Daughter

Tonight I had the privilege of seeing my little brother act in a production of An American Daughter, by Wendy Wasserstein. (Todd is a senior theatre major at SUNY Geneseo)

I was unfamiliar with this play prior to Todd's being cast in it, though as I was reading information about the play tonight, I discovered that it had once been made into a Lifetime movie.

Basic plot: A conservative Senator's liberal daughter is nominated for surgeon general. All goes well until the news is spilled by a well-meaning friend that the daughter once overlooked a jury summons, and by the media spin on some comments the daughter makes about her mother as a homemaker. Her popularity rapidly sinks, and she's under great pressure to withdraw from the nomination. Not a far stretch from reality for a storyline, eh? An American Daughter particularly deals with women's issues - feminist issues, women's power. I really enjoyed it.

One character, an African-American Jewish woman, gives a great mon…

Book Review: Leading Beyond the Walls by Adam Hamilton

Well, I finally took the plunge and read a type of book I do not normally read by an author I have not yet read - Leading Beyond the Walls by Adam Hamilton. When I'm reading non-fiction, I tend toward the social justice/ethics oriented books that are my passion. But I also have been wanting to find some books that would address other concerns of ministry in my current setting - things like stewardship and pastoral care.

I've found most 'leadership' books I've read (we had a lot of them to read in some of my less-than-favorite classes in seminary) wanting in quality and content, offering a lot of fluff and not a lot of depth. I've also particularly not picked up any of the many Adam Hamilton books, because, frankly, they are so over-advertised by Cokesbury. Maybe that sounds like a silly reason, but there it is - I resist marketing strategies sometimes.

So, finally, I read Leading Beyond the Walls. Revwilly should be pleased, since he told me I should add "le…

Book Review: 1984

So, a while back I asked for your suggestions on what I should read. I'm starting to make my way through the list. First up: George Orwell's 1984. Nope, never read it in school. We did read Animal Farm in junior high. I liked 1984 a lot better. Thanks to Turbulent Cleric for the recommendation - he said he's not sure it counts as fiction anymore, and I see where he's coming from!

I thought the book was excellent in a depressing sort of way. Like Winston, always hoping somehow that the human spirit will win out against Big Brother, I was hoping Winston could hold out against O'Brien and the rest.

But I don't want to spend a lot of time on the details of a book (most) everyone has read. So here's what struck me most about it -

I was thinking about capitalism and socialism and economic systems. And I think what it all comes down to is: coveting. Has socialism worked well? Is capitalism, even if imperfect, always better? I think from our perspective, maybe, but ca…

Getting to Know Me - A Blog Challenge

I got this 'blog challenge' of sorts from Lorna at see-through faith. Here goes!

Getting to Know Me...

5 things I plan to do before I die:
1. be ordained an elder in the UMC (hopefully a lot sooner than later)
2. pay of my student loans (probably a lot later than sooner)
3. get a ThD in Environmental Ethics
4. go on a date (Ok, I've done this already. But I mean another date. To that end, John at Locusts and Honey is trying to help me out. :) )
5. visit Australia


5 things I can do:
1. preach!
2. tap dance (not very well, but hey)
3. make vegan desserts
4. sing
5. worry

5 things I cannot do:
1. embrace confrontations and conflicts
2. give up Diet Coke for more than three days or so before I break down
3. play guitar, or play piano with enough skill to accompany, talents I covet
4. drive standard
5. beat Snood Puzzle in one run

5 things that attract me to members of the opposite sex
1. activism/social-justice orientation
2. sense of humor
3. artistic/musical in some way
4. listener
5. intelligent

5 …