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Showing posts from 2007

My Five Favorite Posts of 2007

Sorry for the lack of blogging this week. I've been enjoying time in Central New York with my family, and also have managed to get sick, which I imagine is a common happening for pastors post-Christmas and post-Easter. Nothing serious, but I'm feeling pretty overtired and uninspired when it comes to being productive and reflective! Onward... Every year, methobloggers are asked (first by Gavin , now for the methoblog itself) to come up with a Top 5 posts list for the previous year. I have to admit, after looking over a year of my posts, I was pretty unimpressed with my entries for the year! But here's what I have (in chronological order): 1) The Family Tree - Last year, Jay at Only Wonder wrote about a new site for 'social networking' genealogy: . I checked out the site and rekindled my interest in genealogy, a passion shared by my cousins, my late aunt, and my late grandmother. I've since re-fallen in love with genealogy, and have made lots of cool d

Blue Christmas

For the past several years, I've been leading Blue Christmas services in my congregation, and this year, it's a first for Franklin Lakes UMC . A Blue Christmas or Longest Night service is a service to give a space for those who are grieving or mourning at Christmas, or for people who are just feeling overwhelmed and uncelebratory in general. There can be many reasons why we don't feel all the joy of the season we want to feel or think we should feel, and sometimes we need a place to come and put those feelings out in the open, at least a little bit. It's easy to feel a little blue at Christmas, and this is particularly challenging if you are a church leader. (Or, as my friend's brother (a youth pastor) recently called it, "The Holiday Provider.") One of my pastor-friends writes about just wishing Christmas was over, and knowing she has to act differently. For me, the hardest part my family celebration is dealing with changing traditions. I remind myself

Review: Reinventing Sunday by Brad Berglund

I recently finished reading Reinventing Sunday: Breakthrough Ideas for Transforming Worship , a short book by Brad Berglund. I picked it up while I was still in Oneida, particularly with our then-running second evening service, looking for different ideas/directions for worship. Berglaund's book has a simple structure - he goes section by section through a standard order of worship, spends a few pages reflecting theologically on the meaning/nature of that part of the service, and then gives several practical suggestions for this part of the worship service. I didn't find this book very compelling, although it is a brief read with some good ideas and might work better simply as a resource book than a book you'd read cover to cover. Some highlights: St. Francis of Assisi's lesser known prayer, "Lord, who are you and who am I?" "Jesus is simply turning the Sabbath from law into gift . . . The message of [ancient Israel] is clear - stop working or die. It is

from Quick Hits: Cake or Death?

My brother Tim, a very sporadic blogger, has a nice new post up , in which he asks: "How do I get myself to recognize the difference between being socially introverted and shy, and too timid to do the good in this world that I'm capable of doing?" He articulates here something I struggle with frequently. I really believe that being a disciple involves being in relationship with others (that whole "love thy neighbor" thing). But I am, as Tim describes, extremely "introverted and shy." I find it a real struggle to reach out to others and take the initiative, and it takes me a long time to become really close to someone. But I often worry that my shyness gets in the way of me doing what I need to be doing. What do you think?

Nephew Cuteness Update

The latest cuteness from my 6-month old nephew, Sam: What a doll he is! Sam makes everyone feel like a million bucks, because he's such a happy baby, and his face lights up for any new visitor, which is a great mood-booster. He always acts like he's just been waiting to see you! (Which, in my case of course, he has - who isn't waiting for a visit from Aunt Beth?)

Things I Keep Meaning to Do

Franklin Lakes, the community where I serve, is a small and affluent city in Northern New Jersey. In 2005, the average income in Franklin Lakes was just above $144,000, and houses on average valued at $1.1 million. About 7 miles from Franklin Lakes is the city of Paterson. Average income: under $35,000. Percentage of residents living in poverty: 24.1 Over half of Franklin Lakes residents have at least a Bachelor's Degree. 8% of Paterson residents have one. 90% of FL residents are white. 50% of Paterson residents are Latino, followed by 30% black. Today, I traveled to Paterson for the first time to visit CUMAC-ECHO (Center of United Methodist Aid to the Community Ecumenically Concerned Helping Others). FLUMC is a frequent supporter of this social justice agency in Paterson. As a congregation, we collect food year-round for CUMAC's food pantry, and particularly we do so at Thanksgiving. We put together backpacks for school children over the summer for CUMAC. We just finished our

Living with an Actor

I've mentioned before that my youngest brother, Todd , is an actor . Living with him can be - trying. I tease him all the time that his career is "pretending" for a living. Right now he has set up a mini-photo studio in the basement to work on his headshots. I constantly have to run lines with him for his auditions, and he's currently doing very loud vocal warm-ups for today's audition. We just had a conversation that went like this: Me: "Actors. Can't live with 'em...." Todd: "And they won't move out of your house." Exactly.

Review: The Ethics of What We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter by Peter Singer and Jim Mason

I just finished reading The Ethics of What We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter , a new (2006) book by Peter Singer and Jim Mason (published also as The Way We Eat ), which I picked up after my brother recommended it last year. The Ethics of What We Eat follows three couples as they make choices about what to eat: Jake and Lee, who eat "the standard American diet," Jim and Mary Ann, who are what the authors describe as "conscientious omnivores," and JoAnn and Joe, vegans. The authors visit the homes of these three families, go food shopping with them, ask them about the food choices they have made, and the reasoning behind the food choices, and then try to track down the 'story' of the food purchased - where did it come from? How was it made? The book is really excellent on many levels. First of all, the style of the book, following the three families, makes for a very personal, readable, 'real' book. The book is about 300 pages long, but I read it m


Advent is here. In Northern New Jersey, Advent came in with some cold and yucky weather. I was impressed that we had a good number of people in worship despite the weather. I suspected attendance to be a bit more sparse! We had an eventful day - the boiler basically stopped working leaving one section of the building (including sanctuary) cold - but it lasted long enough to get the room warmed up first. Our music director was out of town, and we have a midi with our organ, so he usually records the music in advance, but the midi wasn't working, so all the music was pre-recorded onto our keyboard. Still sounded pretty good though! We're focusing on a theme this year of "Come, Prince of Peace," using the song from The Faith We Sing, "Come Now O Prince of Peace," (#2232) each week with our Advent lighting. The sub-themes are: Advent 1 - Calm and Chaos, Advent 2 - Comfort and Challenge, Advent 3 - Garden and Desert, Advent 4, Now and Not Yet, Christmas Eve - Chi

Review: Reclaiming the Church by John B. Cobb, Jr.

I recently finished reading John Cobb's Reclaiming the Church: Where the Mainline Church Went Wrong and What to Do about It. John Cobb is my favorite theologian - I was introduced to his work in Systematic Theology in seminary , and I felt like I'd finally found something who was writing about the theological thoughts of my own mind. (My personal favorite is his Grace and Responsibility ), a process-oriented look at the theology of John Wesley, perfect for this United Methodist-nerd.) Reclaiming the Church is a short little book - it took me forever to read though since I kept getting distracted from it. Cobb starts out in his introduction by talking about the state of the mainline/oldline church: it has become lukewarm. He says, "As a group and on the whole we are lukewarm. We do good things. We serve the needs of real people. But we inspire no passion. We no longer even call for primary commitment to the gospel that we purport to serve. We are quite content if, among th

My Work Week

I've written a bit about pastors and work-week schedules before , though not in much detail. But I just finished reading Coffeepastor's post about his schedule, and like Cheesehead , who responded with her own post, I thought I'd do the same. (By the way, Cheesehead mentions 'sleeping in' until 7:30 in her post, and I feel I need to have a serious talk with her about the meaning of sleeping in.) My schedule has changed a bit since moving to a new appointment in New Jersey, although not drastically. And my schedule has never been very particularly structured. But here it is: 1) Days off: This is something I struggle with a lot. I try very hard to take Fridays off, and if Friday doesn't work, I take Wednesday off. The truth is, I almost never take an entire day off. Inevitably, I find myself doing some ministry-related work, reading, emailing, sermon preparation, etc. I think this is in part because as a single pastor, I have a great deal of control over my time.

Rev Gals Friday Five: Post Thanksgiving Day

Since I'm not doing anything particularly productive on my vacation (I guess that's how vacation is supposed to be, but I feel like I should be doing work), I may as well play the Rev Gals Friday Five instead of striving for a more theologically-trying post. ( I replaced the RevGals pic with a Tofurky pic to better represent my Thanksgiving experience) So here it is: 1. Did you go elsewhere for the day, or did you have visitors at your place instead? How was it? This year we went to my aunt's house. For the past four years, we had Thanksgiving dinner at my parsonage, but now that I live in New Jersey, I couldn't get everyone to come to my new parsonage! We had 18 people altogether, including four generations of the extended Mudge Family. We had a good time. Now that my cousins are mostly grown (the youngest is 13, most of us are in our 20s and 30s), we seem to have rekindled our interest in getting together and keeping in touch/keeping close. We've always had a cl

General Conference: Delegation Meeting Reflections

Last weekend I headed up to NCNY for a General Conference Delegation meeting. We had the pleasure of having a conference call with retired Bishop Joseph Yeakel, who served as bishop of the New York West Area before I knew what a bishop was. Bishop Yeakel is known around the connection for his exceptional knowledge of UMC polity and order. If you've been to General Conference, you've likely seen him sitting behind the presiding bishop, acting as the fount of knowledge he is when it comes to questions of decoding the Robert's Rules , etc. Bishop Yeakel spoke to us, and especially to first time delegates, about what to expect and how to prepare for General Conference. He also answered our questions about what big issues to expect (besides the usual suspects), etc. I really enjoyed his conversation and insight. Some notes I made on the conversation: Bishop Yeakel reminded us that there's a difference between being a member and a delegate. We are members of Annual Conferen

The Methoblog, NCNY Bloggers

The Methoblog has been having some stressful times . If you joined the blogroll in the last few months, make sure to resubmit your site for inclusion. I think I will soon be making a small blogroll with the growing number of NCNY bloggers. We've got: -Aaron Bouwens, one of my fellow ordinands, blogging at Lord If I Know . -Andrew Glos, another pastor from NCNY serving here in GNJ. I think he's still officially in NCNY, so I'll claim him for the bloggers - he blogs at Cadences of God . -Kurt Karandy, a CCYM alum , freshman at American University, future pastor, blogging at Curt Comments from Kurt . -My pastor friend Richelle, who is actually a pastor younger than me (by 9 days), newly blogging at Work in Progress . -Wes Sanders, a student at Binghamton University, who attended Exploration with me in November, blogging at Imparted Righteousness . -**My friend Richelle just let me know that Alan Howe, another elder in NCNY, is blogging at Nexus Notes . -**Also just found BJ

from jockeystreet: inch by inch

My brother , as I mentioned, has started blogging again, and I really like his most recent post, here . He lifts a quote from a book (that I got him, by the way...) that says: "Tiny, hesitant improvements are a terrific way of perpetuating a broken system . . ." In the book Jim references, the excerpt refers mostly to ecological/sustainability issues, but it struck me as an apt metaphor for a life of discipleship in general. How often do we try to do the very least we think God might be asking of us, to avoid the real call from Jesus - "Take up your cross and follow me." I think we're hoping that doing a million little things somehow equals the commitment Jesus asks for in taking up the cross. My brother goes on to talk about Destiny , the new massive mall/complex eventually opening in Syracuse, NY. Jim writes, "A green mall is more of the same. A perpetuation of the real problems, covered up with green technology. Instead of driving toward that 1000 foot

Review: American Gangster

Last weekend my mother and I went to see American Gangster , starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe . We made the mistake of going to see it at the theatres at Garden State Plaza , which is a HUGE mall in Northern New Jersey. I've been there before, during the day on a weekday and late at night for an after-store hours movie, but I've never gone on a Saturday at what was apparently the start of the shopping season. It was a zoo, an absolute zoo. But, nevertheless, we made it to the movie, a packed early afternoon showing. The film is really excellent. I try never to give away major plot points in my reviews, but if you don't want any details, it's probably best to stop reading now. Washington and Crowe are both excellent actors. They're such personalities that they never seem to completely disappear into their parts, but maybe that's something that can't be helped giving their celebrity status. But Washington in particular has such a charisma about hi

All Saints Sunday

*Today, as in many churches, we celebrated All Saints Sunday at Franklin Lakes. I appreciated Michelle's post at 33 Names of Grace about celebrating All Saints for the first time in a new appointment. Michelle talks about how you are thinking about those you lost in your previous appointment while not yet knowing the saints who are being grieved in your new appointment. Today at FLUMC, we in particular remembered two saints who passed away since last All Saints - and for good and for bad, both of these women died after my arrival here in September. Of course, I didn't have long to get to know these two women. But I got to have a small part in their lives. We also took a moment to remember other saints - people had time to come forward and light a tea light candle in memory of other loved ones, and write their name on a record of sorts of the day. I would estimate that about half of the congregation came forward to light a candle for someone, and it is a time I always find very

Who are voting for? Who should you be voting for?

I was doing some reading on the web the other day, trying to figure out what kind of impact Stephen Colbert is having on the polls so far, which is an interesting topic in itself. But in my searching, I came across this tool from Select Smart , which allows you to respond to your views on many topics, and rate the importance of those topics, and then it will tell you who you should be voting for. I found this intriguing because I'm not always sure we're committed to voting for the person who actually supports what we want to see. There's a lot of reasons that might be the case, some more and less sensible! I can tell you that I wasn't surprised by who this quiz said I most agreed with, but that I'll most likely be voting for the candidate who showed up 5th on my list. Why? Electability. The candidate with whom I'm most in sync I doubt could get elected. How about you? Do your results match your actual voting intentions?

My brother...

My brother, jockeystreet , appears to be blogging again. Check out the cute video of my nephew, too, from a few months back. Also exciting? Looks like Sam is going to be a lefty like his Aunt Beth. Left-handedness is, of course, a superior trait, a sign of genius. I'm not surprised.

Clergy in Film and Television

I don't know if any of you are ER fans, but I've been watching it on and off since it first came on air. This week, they introduced a new character - a hospital chaplain (female, as it happens) who will become the romantic interest for one of the series regulars. I'm curious to see where they will take this story. In her first episode, she talks about having a spiritual life and being concerned with spiritual issues, but also being a 'regular person' or something like that. I'm curious to see where they take this character. I'm often frustrated with the way clergy are portrayed in film and television. So often the clergy person in question is just a caricature, someone who is completely out of touch with the real concerns and needs of people. Maybe that's just a harsh but telling judgment on the role of clergy/church in the world today. But most pastors I know have a lot more to offer than empty words! To see a clergy person portrayed as rounded and fle

Sam Davidson's Big Idea

Check out this post from Sam Davidson's Remarkablog . As I first started to read, I was expecting some critique of women's dating habits or something, but the post took an interesting, compelling direction: "While this my be a shocker to approximately 0% of the population familiar with The Bachelor, since I don't follow the show closely, it just hit me. What the women really want (or, the men, in the case of The Bachelorette ) is to win. The falling in love and finding a soulmate part doesn't even matter. They like the idea of falling in love. What they really want is to win. So, they disguise their want in the camouflage of an idea . By doing so, they think they can hold out hope that what they are really going after is in fact the thing they want . They hope that by winning they'll also fall in love and find their happy ever after... ...In a similar fashion, We like the idea of writing a book, but what we really want to do is create something. So

Laity Sunday

This past Sunday, like in many UMCs, we celebrated Laity Sunday . We had a great service here, and I was really proud of how everyone contributed to the service. Our lay leader coordinated the service, and gave part of the message about what Franklin Lakes UMC means to him. He gave a very personal and moving message. We had great music from youth and adults, a special children's time, a guest lay leader, etc. The second part of the message was given by Justin Peligri, a 14 year-old member at FLUMC. Justin did a fabulous job, and he said it would be ok for me to post his sermon on my blog. So I'm posting an excerpt here, with a link to the full text for you to enjoy. "I am very fortunate to be a member of the Franklin Lakes United Methodist Church, because through the church and all of its members, I have found stability. Here, I am embraced week after week with open arms and friendly smiles. It is a place where I have grown in, joy, fellowship, and faith tremendously. Ch

Reflections: Tipple-Vosburgh Lectures - God and Mammon, Part 3

Here's my last set of reflections/notes from the Drew Tipple-Vosburgh Lectures: Dr. Jouette Bassler was on again, this time as Bible Study leader, and she focused on Luke's Parable of the Shrewd Manager. I really wished I had attended this talk before preaching on this tough text a few weeks ago!! Introduction: - what are presuppositions we bring to text? Ie, we bring "different Jesuses" to the text - Jesus’ intent when he spoke. – may have modified this in multiple tellings, probably not only time he spoke this parable. ( My thoughts: This had never occurred to me before - how likely it is that Jesus shared parables more than once, in different places. Don't we do this with our stories and tales and illustrations and arguments? We focus what we say over time and tellings. Never even crossed my mind, but it makes sense, doesn't it? ) - Luke’s intent in writing it/including it. C.H. Dodd – “At its simplest the parable is a metaphor or simile drawn from native

Reflections: Tipple-Vosburgh Lectures - God and Mammon, Part 2

Day Two at the Tipple-Vosburgh lectures opened with Worship – Rev. Tanya Linn Bennett, Associate Chaplain, preaching: " Signing In ." Tanya talked about the first class of students who signed in at Drew, and invited students who hadn't signed the matriculation book to do so (the book was lost for a number of years until the 1970s.) It was fun to watch the older alumni sign the book and be part of a Drew tradition. For my morning workshop I went to Dr. Traci West's “Christian Ethical Policy for Rich and Poor: The Magnificat and Welfare Reform.” I've mentioned before that Dr. West was one of my favorite professors at Drew, so it is always nice to get a chance to learn a bit more from her. Notes on her workshop: How to keep someone from doing critical thinking: 1) Shaming us. About what we look like, who we are. Makes feel inadequate, go inward. 2) Help us think of selves as superior. Scripture is our theory as Christians. God looks with favor on Mary’s lowliness

Reflections: Tipple-Vosburgh Lectures - God and Mammon

I just spent the last three days at Drew Theological School's annual Tipple-Vosburgh lectures . This year the theme was God and Mammon , which sounded particularly interesting to me. I was also eager to attend this year and reconnect with friends and faculty now that I am back in the New Jersey area. These first two months in my new appointment have been so chaotic I haven't really taken the time to get in touch with my friends in the area yet. Here are my (mostly unedited) notes from day one of the lectures: John McCullough, Executive Director and CEO of Church World Service Theology of Mission : International Development in an Increasingly Complex World Myanmar/Burma – rejection of 1990 elections, placing of leader under house arrest, 1989-present. 100,000 refugees in Thailand , although Thailand doesn’t recognize their status. Only can enter to flee active fighting. Camps close to border. Restricting role of UN on refugees. Etc. 450,000 internally displaced persons. One of

Movie Review: Eastern Promises

This past weekend I went to see David Cronenberg 's new film, Eastern Promises . I knew this film was supposed to be very graphic and violent, but I'm a fan of Viggo Mortensen and really wanted to see the film. I really liked A History of Violence , and figured another Cronenberg/Mortensen combination would be a good match, and the film has already been getting a lot of Oscar buzz (which sometimes means something...) The film centers around Anna, a mid-wife, played by Naomi Watts . She delivers the baby of a Russian girl, 14, who dies in childbirth. Anna, for reasons made clear in the film, can't let go until she finds the girl's (and baby's) family. She has the girl's diary, and seeks to follow the clues in it. Her quest leads her right into the Russian mafia, including twinkling-eyed Semyon Armin Mueller-Stahl , his son Kirill (Vincent Cassel ), and Kirill's friend/'driver', Nikolai, played by Mortensen. The film is certainly graphic and violent