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Showing posts from 2008

Sermon for First Sunday after Christmas

(Sermon 12/28/08 - Luke 2:22-40) Sing We Now of Christmas: Joy to the World “Joy to the World” was written by Isaac Watts in 1719. Watts was a pastor and theologian, and a prolific writer of hymns. Several of his hymns are still found in our United Methodist Hymnal today, including “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” and “O God, Our Help in Ages Past.” Watts often borrowed from the scriptures for his hymns, and “Joy to the World” is no exception. If you read Psalm 98:4-9, you will notice that Watts adapts these verses for this, one of the most familiar hymns. “Joy to the World” is, appropriately, one of the most joyous hymns of the Christmas season, but you’ll notice that this carol does not mention shepherds, angelic choruses, or wise men. (1) It emphasizes instead the reverent but ecstatic joy that Christ’s birth has brought to all humanity. For centuries, hearts had yearned for God to come closer, to come in person. And at last it happened – the Messiah proclaimed by t

A little late: My Christmas Eve Sermon

I don't normally post my sermons on my bl0g, since I have a separate website where I keep my archives. But I've been thinking about starting to post them here, and tag them to be easily searchable.'s my Christmas Eve sermon: Sing We Now of Christmas: What Child is This? (Luke 2:1-20, 12/24/08) What Child is This? It’s my very favorite Christmas carol, and has been since I was a child. There’s something about the melody that’s so moving. The melody is much older than they lyrics, actually – it’s a traditional English melody called Greensleeves. But the text and the melody together make the complete package for me. The text was written in 1865 by William Dix. Dix was an insurance agent living and working in Glasgow , Scotland . When he was in his late twenties, he fell extremely ill and struggled with depression because he was bedridden for months. But he was a man of faith, and it is believed that he wrote many hymns during this time, includ

Rick Warren and Barack Obama's Inauguration

Like many in the blogosphere, I've been mulling over President-elect Obama's choice of Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration in January. I've read lots of posts about it, with a wide range of views, with the main point of contention being Warren's views on gay and lesbian relationships. Some don't disagree with Warren's views and have no problem with him speaking. Some don't agree with his positions, but don't mind him praying at the inauguration. Some don't like him, and don't want him participating. And so on and so forth. My first reaction was to think that Obama's choice wasn't really a big deal. Where was all this controversy when Obama and McCain were hosted by Warren during the campaign season? Yes, I know that's not the inauguration, but I don't remember everyone being up in arms. Obama and McCain both clearly established some sort of relationship with Warren then, so it doesn't seem surprising for

Review: Stephenie Meyer, The Twilight series, the movie, and The Host

I'm not ashamed to admit that I recently read (and, ok, reread right away) the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer, a set of four books about Bella, a young girl who moves into a new town and falls in love with Edward, who happens to be a vampire. Some of my CCYMers had been reading the books and buzzing about them, and I was looking for something light. I picked up the first book, Twilight , and was hooked. And then I found out that a lot of people my ages (especially mothers of teenage girls) had read the books too, and loved them. And then I made my brother read them, so that I could make him go to the movie with me. And even my brother really liked them, although I think he and I appreciated the books in different ways! The books have been criticized by some as being anti-feminist, like this article which seems most ridiculous, where the author actually calls Edward a proto-rapist. (Was she reading a different book than I was?) I can understand where the critique is coming fro

Google's Friend Connect

I read Jeremy's post today about Google FriendConnect and am trying it out here. Note the new boxes in the sidebar. I have no idea if this will prove to be interesting or not, but I don't mind trying it for a while!

Children and Communion

Yesterday we celebrated communion for the First Sunday of Advent. Some parents of young children bring their children forward for a blessing, but don't feel their children are ready to take communion yet. One such father came forward with his little boy on Sunday, and I was ready to give him a blessing as he usually asks for. But this Sunday, he said of his son, "I think he's ready." And his son said, "Yes!" and excitedly took his bread and dipped it into the cup. And that was definitely the high-point of communion for me - the little boy's joy and eagerness to be part of the holy meal he's seen happen so many times. Maybe he can't articulate perfect Eucharistic theology. (Who can?) But he gets something important: It's a meal of joy that you want to take part in.

facebook ads

So, I was on facebook today when I noticed this ad in the sidebar: "Get Fit to Preach - Even with the busy schedule of a pastor, you can get in great shape without the gym or lifting weights. I'll show you how I did it." Fabulous.


Deaths always seem to come in clusters. When I started at my first appointment in Oneida, I had several funerals right away, which were the first for the congregation in a while. At my appointment in Franklin Lakes, I've had fewer, thankfully. And in my time since leaving Oneida, to my knowledge, no member of the congregation has died, except family of members, folks less directly connected to the congregation. That is, until this week, when one of my dear former parishioners passed away after a long struggle with cancer. Her funeral will be next week, and the new pastor in Oneida has graciously extended an invitation for me to be involved in some way, which I greatly appreciate. Nina was one of a handful of folks at St. Paul's who I knew before arriving. She was active in district and conference UMW activities, and I'd met her through some of the UMW women at my home church in Rome. When I was appointed to Oneida, these Rome friends asked Nina to look out for me, and she c

District Resource Day: Lovett Weems

Last week, I attended another district resource day, this time with Lovett Weems as the guest speaker. You've probably heard of Weems around the connection because of his work with the Council of Bishops on the State of the Church Report and his work on Young Clergy in the UMC . I really enjoyed his presentation, which focused on "Congregational Leadership in the Wesleyan Spirit." Weems lectures in a warm and conversational style, and doesn't seem to take himself too seriously! My notes: He started by talking about how a concern or issue is raised in the church, which is addressed by a certain response - a 'form' that encompasses the concern. Over time, the concern changes, but the church holds onto the form that no longer fits. We don't need the right answers, but the right questions: 1) Who are we? Churches can be renewed out of their own history - not by clinging to history, but by remembering what made church thrive, live, grow, risk, etc. It is impo

from - "Global Food System Near Collapse?"

Check out this article from Excerpt: "Some mothers choose what their children will eat. Others choose which children will eat and which will die. Those mothers forced to make the grim life-or-death choices are the impoverished women Patricia Wolff, executive director of Meds & Food for Kids, encounters during her frequent trips to Haiti. Wolff says Haitians are so desperate for food that many mothers wait to name their newborns because so many infants die of malnourishment. Other Haitian mothers keep their children alive by parceling out food to them, but some make an excruciating choice when their food rationing fails, she says. "It's horrible. They have to choose among their children," says Wolff, whose nonprofit group was formed to fight childhood malnutrition. "They try to keep them alive by feeding them, but sometimes they make the decision that this one has to go." The Rev. Martin Luther King


Another meme. (I'll try to write a real post sometime this week.) Borrowed from David . What song makes you instantly think of junior high? Mr. Big, "To Be With You" What song takes you immediately back to high school? Songs from Rent , which was hugely popular when I was in high-school What song reminds you of your first girlfriend/boyfriend? Proclaimers, "500 Miles" What song reminds you of your first heartbreak? Bon Jovi, "Bed of Roses" What song reminds of being young and reckless? Haha. I was young once, but never reckless! What song is still your favorite after all these years? None are still my favorite, but Indigo Girls' "Blood and Fire" is still up there. What song reminds you of summer? Gloria Estefan's "Live for Loving You." What song reminds you of vacation? Rod Stewart, "Rhythm of My Heart," and Extreme, "More Than Words," - camp more than vacation What's the first album/cassette/cd you p

Seven Random Rules

I was tagged by Melissa to do this meme, and since I haven't been blogging about anything else.... Seven Random Rules Here are the rules: Post the rules on your blog. Write 7 random things about yourself. Tag 7 people at the end of your post. Pass on the tag. — 7 things: 1. When I was in eighth grade, I accidentally ran over my own ankle with a mini-van. It takes a special kind of skill to do that. I didn't break any bones. I remember feeling mostly embarrassed, because this took place near my junior-high school and I didn't want my classmates to see me. 2. I hate, hate, hate flying. When I have nightmares, they are usually about flying. Not about anything bad happening on the flight - just being on a plane in my dream is enough to constitute calling it a nightmare. 3. I love Irish things, and Irish names. I'm a little bit Irish (I'm a little bit of most every European background except Italian, which is ironic when you grow up in Rome, NY) but probably not enough

Sabbath Answers

I'm in a hurry to get things done, Oh I rush and rush until life's no fun. All I really gotta do is live and die but I'm in a hurry and don't know why. --Alabama A couple years ago , I included that refrain from one of my favorite Alabama songs in a blog post. It's been on my mind lately. I've been thinking a lot about Sabbath because Sabbath has been the theme of our early service at FLUMC . Or maybe, because I've been thinking about Rest/Sabbath, I decided to make it the theme of our early service this fall. Something like that. Everybody everywhere is busy. But sometimes the pace here in Franklin Lakes, in North Jersey, in these communities near NYC, is really just over-the-top. It's go, go, go. I'll never forget the children's sermon where I was asking the kids about how their parents spent their time. "Work," came the exhausted, stressed, tired-sounding response, from little ones ages 4 and 5 and 6. As I was thinking about my early

Bishop's Convocation: David Lowes Watson

In mid-October, I attended the Bishop's Convocation in my home conference, North Central New York . Our speaker was David Lowes Watson , a retired clergy person, seminary professor, and a Wesley/Methodism scholar. I really enjoyed the event (I always enjoy time with my colleagues), and I particularly enjoyed Watson's presentation. He was funny (frequently using the words 'naughty' and 'twit' to describe people in his stories) and smart, and had all of us, I think, pondering the role of the pastor and how it has changed, and what it should be. Watson talked about the contemporary heresy: We try to isolate God in the instant present. (Think of a digital watch - it gives you only the instant time, with no sense of time before and time after.) We've "so personalized our discipleship that we've made God something that depends on us," he said. We're anthropocentric, and consumeristic. And church in a consumeristic culture is "almost lethal.&

Link Love

My apologies, again, for my continued lack of blogging-desire. In the meantime, some links to check out: from cnn: Obama's face on food stamps? - racism in the campaigns from jockeystreet: My brother reviews The Secret . from Dan Dick's GBOD blog: blasphemediocrity and a post about megachurches . from slaktivist: a really excellent post called "They Need Help" Happy reading!


So, I realize the template I'm using is now not showing up. The creator has a tutorial to fix the problem, but I'm having a hard time getting it to work. So bear with me for a bit! Update: I think I have it all fixed! Yay! Now if I could just get that hour back....

Sabbath Questions

How do you keep the/a Sabbath? How did you start your Sabbath practices? What were your Sabbath practices growing up? When/why did they change? If you had total control over your schedule and ample time, what would be your ideal way of spending Sabbath?

District Resource Day: Bill Easum

In the interest of me actually blogging something, since I just am totally uninspired to write lately, I'm posting my basically unedited notes from today's District Resource Day with Bill Easum . The topic was “Leading Turnaround on the Road to Mission.” I read a little of Easum at Drew , but haven't read much else. We had some interesting conversation - lots of questions asked. Some things I thought he was right about, some I just thought I'd heard too much before, and some I really disagreed with him on. I guess that's a pretty typical breakdown though, isn't it? (My apologies for the parts of the notes that won't make sense without the corresponding hand out. I'll try to blog better soon ;) ) *** Where is Jesus going? Way, Way, Beyond Emmaus Where is everyone going? * Away from spiritual centers * Away from religious professionals * Out into the world, away from the institution Faithfulness – not survival, hanging on, but doing whatever is ne

Review: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

This week I finished reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle . I've read all of Kingsolver's books, and I love her writing style. She's definitely a favorite. However, it took me a long time to get through this one. I'm not even quite sure why. I liked it, a lot. But maybe it just isn't the type of book to be read quickly from cover to cover. Kingsolver and her family set out to try to eat locally, raising most of their own food, and staying away from, as much as possible, processed food, meat from animals raised in poor conditions, food shipped from far away, eaten out of season, etc. I admire her for doing what I only think about doing, and even then, can hardly seriously see myself considering. But Kingsolver makes strong arguments for how screwed up our food system is, how much we're just short-changing ourselves, as individuals and as a human race, and how worth it it would be to start making at least some changes. She takes us through

Review: Contemplative Youth Ministry by Mark Yaconelli

It seems I'm often a bit late in reading books in a topic/area that everyone else has already read. Oh well. I finally read Contemplative Youth Ministry: Practicing the Presence of Jesus by Mark Yaconelli. And I'm so glad that I did - I can say, right off, that this is an excellent book, that anyone working with young people should read this book, and that really, it applies in so many ways to ministry as a whole that anyone in ministry in the church should really read this. I think it's that important and that well written and touches so correctly on the culture we have built up in the church. The basic premise is that we tend to face youth ministry with a sense of fear, because: " We don't know how to be with our kids. We don't know how to be with ourselves. We don't know how to be with God." (19) I still vividly remember maybe my second Sunday in my first appointment, when I was thrown into a room full of high-school students who had just learned

Confirmation Class

This fall, I'll be teaching confirmation at FLUMC. In the past, I've used both the denominational Claim the Name materials and Bishop Willimon's Making Disciples . Each has strengths and weaknesses. Making Disciples isn't specifically UMC, so it has to be supplemented. Claim the Name - well, I just didn't find it very interesting for young people.  What confirmation materials have you used? What works? What doesn't? What other things have you done with confirmation classes to make the journey special and meaningful? 

One Year Later

One year ago, (on August 29th, to be exact) I moved to Franklin Lakes, NJ, to begin my second appointment. Today is the one year anniversary of the official beginning of my appointment here. In some ways, I can't believe I've already been here a year - the months have gone by so quickly. In other ways, I feel like this has been a long year - the first year in a new appointment is full of so much learning, meeting people, familiarizing, transitioning - this year has been so full that it seems like I must have been here longer than a year already. This is only my second appointment - my first year here has been much different than my first year in Oneida. The learning curve in a first appointment is huge. Here, I come with knowledge and experience, even if it isn't decades of ministry yet. But I'm also in a much different place and, in some ways, a much different congregation. I'm serving outside of my annual conference of membership, North Central New York , the area

new look

After almost 4 1/2 years of the same design on my blog, I decided to try a new template. I still have to replace some of my widgets, probably tomorrow. But for now, let me know what you think of the new look! (I totally am not into designing my own template, so check the link at the bottom for a link to the designer, who has several templates.)

from Fortune Magazine: "The Next Credit Crunch"

I read this interesting article from CNN's Fortune Magazine called, "The Next Credit Crunch." (by Geoff Colvin) The subtitle reads, "Our easy access to plastic is about to dry up - and with it our ability to fake living the good life." Excerpt: "For the past several years, the average inflation-adjusted total pay of American workers hasn't been increasing. That means we haven't been building a foundation for increases in our living standard. You might be tempted to say that by definition our living standard couldn't have increased, but that's not quite right. Even with stagnant real incomes, we can always live a little better every year through borrowing and pretending that our living standard is still rising, just as it was for decades" The article goes on to talk about the current economy and how now, at last, things are in a position where people won't be able to pretend. Easy mortgages won't be available, banks won't be

Review: Sex God by Rob Bell

I recently finished reading Rob Bell's short book, Sex God: Exploring the endless connections between sexuality and spirituality . This is a fairly short, very simple as in easy-to-read book. I guess (even my sentence is ambivalent) I didn't feel particularly strongly about the book either way. There were some chapters I really liked, some arguments and points of views I disagreed with, but a lot in the middle that didn't strike me as particularly inspiring or enlightening one way or another. Bell starts with the premise that "this is always about that," where something is always pointing to something else, something deeper. "This" is sexuality, and "that" is God. He says, "Where the one is, you will always find the other." (15) He begins by focusing on being created in the image of God, and what it means to love God and neighbor. "When Jesus speaks of loving our neighbor, it isn't just for our neighbor's sake. If we don

jockeystreet posts

My brother just wrote three very good posts on the same day. Nuts and Bolts is a post about pacifism - how nice it is as an ideal, but how difficult it would be to practice completely. (For Jim at least...!) And Everywhere Marked with Crosses is a post about good people and suffering and how they usually go together. And my favorite, because I lived through it as a 12 year-old watching her brother go through a lot of changes very quickly, is The Lost Religion of Jesus . It turns out at the end to actually be a bit of a book review, but is more entirely about how my brother went from a conservative Christian to a then, at least, pretty angry atheist during his freshman year of college. Makes you wonder about the power of our choices and decisions and how sometimes such small events can impact our lives in huge ways. I always wonder what would have happened if different choices in life had been made. Characters in The Chronicles of Narnia often wonder this too, but Aslan always remind

First Female United Methodist Bishop in Africa Elected

Did you all notice the news that Rev. Joaquina Filipe Nhanala was elected this July as the first female United Methodist bishop in Africa? I think that's pretty exciting, although I haven't seen much about it in the blogosphere except over at Luke Wetzel's blog . An excerpt from the news story: Besides serving a large church in Matola, a suburb of Maputo, Nhanala has coordinated women's projects for the Mozambique church and led a World Relief HIV/AIDS program designed to mobilize churches for education and advocacy in Mozambique's three southern provinces. Nhanala and the program were featured in the 2004 Bread for the World video, "Keep the Promise on Hunger and Health." Among those celebrating her election were members of the denomination's Missouri Annual (regional) Conference and its Mozambique Initiative ministry, which connects churches, groups and individuals in Missouri with partner United Methodist congregations and districts in Mozambique

Review: Quaker Summer by Lisa Samson

I finally got a chance to finish Quaker Summer by Lisa Samson while I was at jurisdictional conference last week. I had been reading Lisa's blog for a while (not even sure how I ever stumbled on it in the first place actually) and so asked for the book for Christmas. I got the book, but then it sat sadly with many other unread books for the longest time. I just wasn't in the mood to read it - I picked it up a couple of time and read the first page, and then put it down for months. Finally, something sparked, and I read and read. I really enjoyed this book. I don't usually read fiction that I would call "Christian Fiction," but this book seems more a book about life, identity, and call, from a Christian point of view than a "Christian Fiction" book. (Maybe I just haven't read any good "Christian Fiction.") The main character is Heather, a married woman with a wealthy physician husband and a picked-on teenage son. Heather is a spender. She b

Reflections: Jurisdictional Conference

Friday I returned home from a week at Jurisdictional Conference and the preceding NEJCYM (jurisdictional youth) event, the Nor'Easter. I've been seriously bad at blogging - seem to have lost my rhythm! But I'm hoping to be more consistent for the rest of the summer. Some highlights: Nominations - Nominations to General Boards and Agencies and to Jurisdictional teams (Tables in the NEJ) happen at Jurisdictional Conference. I had the honor of being one of four nominating committee members from my episcopal area, a task I had also done as a lay delegate in 2000. The process can be extremely confusing, sometimes very fast, sometimes very slow. It operates almost like a sports draft. We draw numbers to determine picking order, and then take turns assigning people to agencies with available slots. Some agencies have bigger boards than others, and some spots (like Connectional Table) are highly coveted. When we get through everything, we have to look at our work and see if we wer

Life Sometimes

Earlier this month, my Great Uncle Bob fell and broke his hip. He'd been in a nursing home in Central New York for a few years, struggling with debilitating Parkinson's disease. He wasn't expected to survive surgery to repair the hip, but he did. Then, just earlier this week, his wife, who had been living in Texas with her daughter who was caring for her, my Great Aunt Betty, fell and broke her hip. Yesterday, somewhat unexpectedly, she died from complications from the fall. Then today, my Uncle Bob died. They had been, due to circumstances, living halfway across the country from each other for the last few years. But somehow, they were quite bound together, it seems, in the strange way that life presents for us sometimes. Two broken hips, one day apart. I wasn't as close to Aunt Betty and Uncle Bob as I was when I was younger, but they certainly were important people in my life. My Uncle Bob was a United Methodist licensed local pastor. He baptized me in September 1979