Thursday, May 29, 2008

Rainy Beach Vacation Day

So, what to do when your vacation plans are rained out? Hmm...

Sleep in and read the newspaper? Doing that I learned that Weezer's "Pork & Beans" music video is a huge hit. The song is reflective of a hyper individualism. "I'm a do the things I want to do/ I ain't got a thing to prove to you." So, naturally, they include the great heroes of YouTube as part of the video. This means since the video has been on YouTube last Friday they have over 4 million hits, including a half million in 6 hours.

Check out this cultural phenomena and then add your voice. Maybe you'll recognize the S.C. beauty queen, the mentos scientists, Afro Ninja or others.


Technorati Profile

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Keen Eyes & Sharks Teeth

I'd read the internet chatter about Myrtle Beach. Many online whined there where no teeth to be found, and a few bragged about their finds. My teenage son claimed to have seen a fin early in our beach visit, so I had hope. There's little else like finding a treasure in a handful of broken shells.

Let the average Joe or Sally hit all the tourist hot spots. As for me and my time, I love the hunt for shark's teeth!

I'm still not very good at finding the things. The hunt requires some characteristics which I tend to lack:
  • a keen eye- it's tough for me to pick the shapes out of all the other material
  • looking in the right places- it seems like small items attract other small items
  • persistence- you can't give up

My teen & I did all right today, and found a half dozen teeth while the others played in the surf. We've got some other commitments tomorrow though I hope they don't interfere too badly with the hunt. I'll add the pictures later. But don't ask me any specifics. All I can tell you is Myrtle Beach does still yield a generous number of shark's teeth if you work at it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Goofing Off!!

Ahhhh, vacation.

It's amazing how difficult it is to actually sneak away and plan to do nothing. No work, no meetings, nothing but goofing at a beach and enjoying no agenda. Lots of time with family.

Hmmm, maybe that's the problem! :) My children include a high schooler, middle schooler, and preschooler!! Now that you've quit laughing imagine a few hours in a van with that crowd. :)

Funny how easy it is for clergy to dish out advice, but how lousy we are at following such good common sense. You know- making time for family, taking care of ourselves, eating right, getting enough rest, being physically active, caring for our soul, and having some fun.

So for the next few days I'm all about... NOTHING.

Or maybe it's more true to say I'm all about the most important things.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Reflections on Seminary & Real Church Life

In addition to classes you'd expect a pastor to have in preparation for ministry like Bible, theology & doctrine, prayer, hospital visitation, sermon preparation and delivery, how to conduct various worship services, how to conduct a meeting, evangelism, knowledge about one's denomination, etc. there are many "on the job" skills which must be developed. Whether seminary (which is usually a 3 year graduate degree) or local pastor training such education is ongoing.

Here are some classes I'd like to see offered for clergy training at both introductory and continuing education levels:

  • basic medical terminology so we'll be more helpful in medical settings with patients & families
  • best uses of electronic media including computer, TV, and essential practices for communication
  • carpentry, how to roof, plumb, or install electricity to a house, or some other practical skills. This could also be things like sewing, cooking, etc.
  • skill sets from the nonprofit world like how to be part of a management team & how to motivate and work volunteers
  • integrate Red Cross training to include CPR, early emergency response, and perhaps mental health certification for disaster relief

What are your great ideas? How could church workers be more effective through certain specialized training?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Roof Wrens

There have been an amazing number of storms and tornadoes this season. But with the storm comes an opportunity to help those around us. We find that a neighborhood or community struck by a natural tragedy need friends outside the affected area to come in and offer assistance. Our church has had teams doing disaster response for over a decade. Our specialties are the long term reconstruction and we usually do what other volunteers don't want to get into-- roofing and sheetrock. Many years our work relates to hurricane damage relief. That's what first took us to Tick Bite, NC back in the 90's. Since then we've been active in GA, FL, AL, MS, & LA. We've even had a team in Grand Forks, ND after flooding did widespread damage there. Recently we've been working in Wrens, GA helping the elderly, poor, and uninsured get a roof on their home so they can protect their family and possessions. Our church FROGS (that's another story for later) are seen above. It's a great way to help people in need, pick up new skills, and meet some of the best people in the world!

Friday, May 23, 2008

If My Teenage Son Blogged

Thursday, May 22- Last day of school means a couple of hours in a chemistry exam then I'm home free. Nothing but staying up late, playing X-box, enjoying lots of computer time, and my only work being playing my bass with the band!

Lunch, computer time, and then a phone call. !#@!*! I've got to help Pa seat a toilet. He says he needs someone skinny. I don't like the sound of this.

Day 1 of the summer is a disaster!

Friday, May 23- Dad wakes me up at 8:30. Says something like "welcome to the adult world." I help paint the exterior of the house with a roller. I have a blister. I never get blisters.

This isn't the summer break I dreamed of. More to come later. Dad says I'm going to learn other valuable skills which will help me in life including roofing a house.

This is messed up.

I enjoyed the new Indiana Jones movie last night. Couldn't go to sleep so goofed til 1 or 2.

Dad wakes me up at 8:30 again. More painting.
Me- "how much do I need to do?"
Dad - "until the house is done."
Me- "this is ruining my summer"

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Healing Landscape Project

Check out the work of someone I knew in seminary 20 years ago who is now in Boston. Dr. Lance Laird and his colleague's project deals with the intersection of medicine, healing, and religion. I've suggested Lance consider coming to Augusta sometime and share in the church, at MCG, and at ASU. What do you think?

Boston Healing Landscape Project

Monday, May 19, 2008

Clean Like New

Remember that door project. Yeh, that's it, the old throw away door I'm turning into a table.

This weekend while the family was gone I turned the kitchen into a laboratory. I realized that the painted over door hardware wasn't steel but brass. I tried the magnet and it didn't stick so I knew it was something worth trying to reclaim. What could be underneath the ugly?!

A little research and I found that white vinegar brought to a boil and then allowed to simmer would remove the paint. Then a little elbow grease with steel wool would bring about a transformation. Unfortunately I needed a pan (not aluminum-- hmm, wonder what that would do?) and pair of tongs that could never be used in the kitchen again.

It's a hard thing to explain to your wife why you need to confiscate kitchen goods. Even harder to explain to the family why the house, not to mention the neighborhood, smells like boiling vinegar. My teenager and two friends showed up unexpectedly in the middle of my chemistry. I'm not sure they'll ever come back.

Yet it's all for the good of reclaiming old thrown away items and turning them into something practical and beautiful. The picture shows one item that is still a little blotchy though not the ugly brown painted piece I started with. The others show the power of the chemical reaction and the transformation.

All it takes is an eye for the hidden, the right catalyst, and a little bit of elbow grease.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Suburban Graduation Party Shenanigans

End of the school year parties are all around this week. High school and college graduates are celebrating their accomplishments. And anyone within earshot can hear the noise.

Well, that's what I thought of all the Saturday afternoon and evening noise behind the house. So, I tried to allow for the party which seemed to get progressively louder each hour after 4:00 PM. I tried not to get aggravated with the those youthful voices.

I mentioned earlier that we have been keeping our windows open day and night as the mild spring has been very enjoyable. With a medical mission team leaving town at 6 AM Sunday morning, I wanted to get a decent night of rest so I could get up a little earlier and see them off. With the cool night air, the ceiling fan on, and dreams of turning doors into tables, I went to sleep with graduate party noises in the background.

All was well until around midnight.

At 11:45 I jumped out of bed to a woman screaming!

The neighbor in the yard directly behind our house was yelling "What are you doing? Get out my yard."

She was so loud it sounded like she was in the room with me. You know that feeling of being instantly awake, not groggy at all, but not sure what is going on? I ran to the window to see what was happening. And heard her scream the same phrases again. Then I heard the noises of someone coming over our 6 foot fence, and our dog and the next door neighbors dogs going crazy. While our back yard light was off, the yelling neighbor behind us had turned hers on. I could see movement in the back corner of MY yard. Sirens coming closer added to the Saturday night noises.

Racing out the back door, I flipped on the light, and ran off the deck. I was just in time to catch an older teenage boy in the middle of my yard. He was blocked going out the yard gate since our dog was in that path (he barked a little and then hid but that's another story as we might need a "back up" dog who will bark and possibly bite). The side neighbors have two massive dogs whose barks alone keep everything out of that yard. I was yelling "what do you think you're doing?" and for my wife to call the police.

Like a scared rabbit, all he could do was find a dark, quiet hole and hope for the best. I heard the noise of him attempting to get over another 6 foot fence facing the road in front of our house. I ran through my house, and coming out the front door, found the police in front of the next house (with the large dogs) talking to another neighbor. I was still yelling, and the cop asked if I'd seen anyone. When I went around the corner the boy was hiding behind my air conditioner unit. Hiding in the dark, almost like a child playing drunken hide and seek, hoping to avoid capture. Caught, his confession was quick, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry." He walked out on his own, and I left him to his captors.

I went to survey the damage and see if anyone else was in my backyard as the police handcuffed the suburban party boy.

It was hard to settle back down even though the morning's work was soon to come. Adrenaline was flowing fast. Aggravation was close behind. Uncertainty about the people around us wasn't far behind.

The damage included some plants he'd stepped on as he climbed my fences and then attempted to hide. My tomato, cucumber, and squash plants I'd started from seed and cared for since February were the casualties. I'm not sure about our peace of mind, though quickly after the regular quiet night returned I could hear our local owls talking to each other. I wonder how the rest of his night turned out?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Indigenous World View: Living in Two Worlds

Check out some of the wisdom and the challenges of first world people. Wonder how we might learn some lessons that could transform our ways of doing and being?!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Close to Home

We moved into a new job and new town last summer. Moving back to the Augusta area, and with family nearby, this has been the easiest move we have ever experienced. It’s especially been easy as we haven’t had to learn new roads, new stores, and all the stuff that tends to cause lots of trouble with daily life.

We do have a neighbor though who gets lost all the time. We first met Mr. A on a beautiful Saturday I was working in the front yard. Our road is a dead end, though it connects to a main highway, and also offers a side road that then connects to a larger subdivision.

Imagine your grandfather (or if you are younger perhaps your great grandfather) and you get the idea. He is very kind looking man with a ready smile on his 80+ year old face. When we’ve talked he carries on those most wonderful conversations full of stories of the past.

I’ve heard about his time in World War 2, & about carrying dispatches as a courier. I’ve heard of his wonderful vacations in Europe and the fun and he and his wife had at Oktoberfest. I’ve also heard about his last house and his job he retired from 20 years ago.

I learned all this while talking to him at his car.

You see Mr. A could recall all those vivid details about his past, and hasn’t a clue about his new address or his current phone number. Ask him and he’ll give you different answers each time. Every time I spoke with him he was lost and couldn’t find his way home.

That first Saturday I noticed as he came by the house numerous times. At first I thought he was looking at real estate as several homes are for sale. Then he started driving faster and more erratic.

This was the routine. Mr. A. turned around at the road entering into his subdivision directly in front of my house. He would drive into that road, hit the brakes, hit reverse rather quickly and head back the way he’d just come. Mr. A. drove the block out to the main highway, where he’d turn around taking a left into oncoming one way traffic, then came back to the subdivision entrance where he pulled in and backed out into the road to complete the circuit. He did this 5 times, then 10, then 20, then more. First we flagged him down and talked as we tried to figure out what was going on. We wanted to give the kindly old man the benefit of the doubt. Mr. A. couldn’t remember his new home address, and couldn’t find the right road though he knew he was close. He always talked some, in a friendly way never in too much of a hurry, but was eager to be on his way. He’d then continue the loop that went nowhere. Never getting closer to home, never being able to remember the address, but knowing he was close to where he needed to be.

A neighbor called the police the first time when Mr. A. almost hit him.

The second time we called after I lost count around 12 trips, and then he got close to 30 rotations before the deputy arrived.

The police have been called by other people over the last couple of months. The doctor still allows Mr. A. to drive, therefore the rest of us just try to help life in the neighborhood be as smooth as possible. We now know where Mr. A. lives and he seems to be doing better with his directions. Now we keep the map near the door and our eyes open to who's on the road just in case Mr. A. needs a little help.

After all, it's a sad thing to be so close to home, yet only going in circles.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A New Variation of Science vs. Religion

I've been helping a team from the church re-roof a house damaged by tornado/storm in March. We've been in Wrens, and while yesterday was pleasant we were a little slower today feeling the pain of the work yesterday and baking under a hotter sun.

Ah, here's a small diversion. Check this NY Times op-ed by David Brooks then share your thoughts:

Kudzu Warning Sign

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Arguing With a Hymn

OK, usually I'm not such a contrarian nor nearly so argumentative over a word or two. But this has been brewing with me for a couple of months now.

I want to change one word in a hymn.

I know-- there are so many bigger issues in the day that ought to get my best time and attention. But this one small change might unleash the masses for a life of action as our theology and lives are revolutionized. This one small change would help us move from our private piety several steps closer toward a life of faith that has expression in the world today. This simple adjustment would help maximize the fact that we are all called to follow Christ, and that we all should have redemptive ministries. It would also minimize any artificial differentiation between the call of clergy or laity OR any excuses ANY of us might offer to God or the world. This proposed change better expresses the truth of Scripture and the practical needs of real life and real faith.

Do you know the old standard "Here I Am Lord?" It's one of those hymns used often at the end of a worship service.

"Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart."

What I want to do is a simple switch of a one syllable word for a better one syllable word. I don't know how to accomplish such a feat. Maybe you can help in this campaign. Does it take a petition to a hymnal publisher? Do we include it for vote somewhere at a church conference? Or do we merely scratch it out in the hymnal and have churches start replacing the word so that a grass roots movement takes place in worship? Personally, I sort of like that last subversive approach! And then, like kudzu in Georgia, maybe we overtake a denomination or two!

Here's my simple proposition that might change our individual Christian lives, and perhaps change our congregations. It's time to change the "if" to "when." "I will go Lord when you lead me." After all, this is the Saviour who said "Follow me." This is the community of faith, called Church, that is to be empowered by the Spirit to be witnesses locally, regionally, nationally, internationally, and even to the "ends of the earth. This is the body of believers where everyone is gifted for the sake of the witness in the world and the mission at hand.

This sort of theology or understanding has been around a long time. The question remains, will we all step up to the challenge of the call of God in our life. God's call is going to happen to us in some ways we can respond to. When that does happen will we be prepared to take up our responsibility in serving God. I will go Lord when you lead me has a sense of certainty about what God will do. Then it's up to us to live out a faithful obedience to what we know.

On this Pentecost Sunday I'm fairly certain we know what the answer should be. Christ leads us and empowers us to be partakers in the transformation of the world into that which God desires.

Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go Lord, when you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.

Friday, May 9, 2008

A Day "Off" & Doors as Art

Finally, a day I get to do other work! I'm at home and catching up on a few projects today. Ah, the beauty of needing to vacuum but finding other distractions to pursue!

Since last November I've had a thought bubbling around in my mind to make a dining room table out of a door. Not real sure how this percolated to the top of my wee brain, but it's there and continues to occasionally pester me. I've got an old door in hand now and have it ready for something. If you Google making a door into a dining room table you will find some nice useable options that are also unique and beautiful.

As I kick this thought around today, instead of washing dishes or clothes, I'm drawn to all the symbolism a door conveys. Before the day of mass produced generic doors humanity has perhaps been more aware of this than we are today. Waste a little time with me. Let your mind drift as you check out

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A New Political Perspective

Audio Adrenaline offers a helpful "rock" political perspective:

The king of rock some say he lives
The lizard king is surely dead
The king of France lost his head
The King of Kings bled

I'm not the king I just sing
I'm just a fraction of a thing
I am not anything,
without the King of Kings

If I were King I'd be unwise
For my brains are not King size
A King's someone to trust and love
Like Jesus whom I sing of

I'm not the king I just sing
I'm just a fraction of a thing
I am not anything, without the King of Kings

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Strange Songs for a New Day

Last night we slept with the windows to our home open. We don’t usually do that, but this is a wonderful spring when the days reach the 80’s and the nights are in the 50’s. It’s the season when it’s not too hot and not too cold. So, we enjoy the breath of fresh air that restores body and soul.

But sometimes you hear things that you don’t normally hear when the house is locked down tight, the windows are closed, and all the entertaining electronic devices are on. Recently we’ve enjoyed hearing owls in the evening and morning hours. We hear the sounds of nature as the world responds to the rhythms of the day. We awaken connected to the world and refreshed.

This morning everything sounded different. An unusual songbird awoke me from my sleep. It sang an odd tune that I did not recognize. It sang long before the dawn, in those dark hours when I usually enjoy a deep, peaceful sleep. But no sleep was to be enjoyed this morning.

That strange bird disturbed my peaceful rest. Just outside my window it screamed its odd verse, and then quickly changed to another strange tune, and then another. The sounds were like suddenly waking up unexpectedly in a distant country. My head was spinning as the awkward music struggled forward. I was ready to scream at the new day for the bird to shut up! That feathered squawk box was waking up the world with its unusual tunes. I had never heard those mixed up songs before, and could not identify the bird or follow its verse. All I could do was listen, even though all I wanted to do was sleep.

Though I was in my most familiar place the voice of one crying in the dark grabbed my attention and moved me out of slumber. What will this strange day bring? Will there be other mysteries and new songs that break through the routine?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Clutter and Cash to Change the World

Enjoy this outreach story from an active member of Trinity on the Hill UMC:

In the last couple of years, my husband and I have been gradually trying to get rid of stuff that we don’t use but that someone else could. Sending clothes to Togo helped us to get rid of a lot of clothes that we no longer wore but we knew would really mean something to some much less fortunate. I was raised in a household in which everything was reused or kept just in case we may need it someday so it has been kind of hard for me. Dan Brown’s sermon a couple of weeks ago on clutter kind of hit me hard and spurred me to renew my efforts. I’ve been cleaning closets and boxing things up for the May Church white elephant sale and for a neighborhood yard sale we will have in April. All the money we will get from our yard sale will go towards our faith commitment for missions and I know that’s what the white elephant sale will do, also.

I went through my jewelry box and pulled out all the jewelry I no longer wear, separated into junk jewelry and kind of nice/gold stuff. The junk will go to the white elephant but I took the other to Windsor jewelers and they bought it for $270. That money went to our faith commitment.

The other things that I have been holding onto for years-kept them in an old cigar box-was about 15 old master’s tickets some of which were my Dad’s. I finally contacted a Master’s memorabilia salesman and took them to him on Saturday. He offered and I accepted $580 for them (can you believe I got more for old pieces of paper than for gold jewelry?). As he was writing out the check, another dealer asked what I was going to do with all this money (he wanted me to buy some of his stuff) and I replied “I’m giving it to my church.” “All of it?” our salesman asked. “Yes, all of it” I said.

With that, he took out his wallet and handed me a $20 bill and said “Add this to it to make and even $600”!

How’s that for raising money for missions with some clutter sitting around the house?

Friday, May 2, 2008

Serving the Poor and Needy

See an incredible story of service and the awful price paid by a young woman committed to the poor of the Philippines.

"I gathered that she was teaching the children and young persons, and I think the military had an operation in that area, and she was caught in that encounter,"

Out of the Kudzu

It's May in middle Georgia. That means the pollen is thick, the fish are biting, and the kudzu is taking over the world!

And as all that happens, ordinary people go about their daily lives in the midst of the kudzu jungle and the action all around. Having grown up in a small south Georgia county I've always been intrigued by the local characters and the stories that develop from their lives. In my work as a missions pastor and campus minister I am allowed the holy honor of hearing so many stories and being a part of the continually unfolding drama. Often that's a funny thing. Sometimes it is sad. Usually all one can do is tell the story or share the picture.

So we'll swap some stories, enjoy a good laugh or a cry, and perhaps even grow stronger and refreshed from the sharing. There won't likely be a rhyme or reason to this. More likely it's as random as the happenings in any of our days. Occasionally a story may be fit for telling inside the church walls, but as is often true with so many stories some may best be told in the barbershop or the locker room!

This journey will span from the nieghborhoods of inner city Augusta to the bush of Togo west Africa. We'll travel from Tick Bite, North Carolina to Grand Forks, North Dakota. We'll share stories over tortillas in Mexico and in Honduras. We'll sing with college students at Augusta State University and with small children in India. And the mystery and adventure will even take us to many more exotic locations full of characters!

With any little bit of luck we may even find one another along the way and find a better way through this kudzu life.