Wednesday, February 01, 2012

This is what I ended up turning in for my
Bible study as a part of my candidacy process
in the Methodist Church.

A big thanks to Laurie Strebeck for designing the cover!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011


Over the last few weeks, Methodists have gathered for what we call Annual Conference. Our churches are organized geographically by Conferences, so every year we (laypersons and clergy) convene with the bishop and our episcopal leadership for worship, ordination, polity matters, and the like. Good things happen at Annual Conference.

But today I'm thinking of the early Methodists and how conference was first a verb, then a noun. Christian Conferencing, as they called it, was a means of grace - a channel we could count on for experiencing God and growing in the faith.
Conference now brings to mind an event where we gather to purchase goods (information, etc) from professionals (leadership gurus, pastors) in order to better do our work. And, who wakes up in the morning excited about spending the day in a conference room?

What might it look like to recover conferencing as a verb, as a way of life? Actually, it probably doesn't need recovering at all, as I suspect it is alive and well - tucked away in unlikely places all over the world. Bankers and lumber yard workers, mothers and roofers, CPA's and persons with mental disabilities no doubt gather quietly to listen for the sometimes-not-so-quiet voice of the Holy Spirit in the lives of one another.

When and how will Christian leaders recover conferencing as a stable and predictable means of grace? When and how will doctrine live and breathe in our dialogue and doxology? When and how will we depend on holy conversation like we depend on prayer?

Surely the prototype of all Christian Conferencing is here. And this gives me hope as we strive to gather "all in one place" - pleasantly haunted by the memory of fire laden tongues.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Attempt at a Sober Response to the Death of bin Laden

<Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1563>

On the second Sunday of Easter, we learned Osama bin Laden had been killed by United States Special Forces in Pakistan. Hearing the news, I was at first dismissive - an attitude lacking sobriety and not hard to find in the various print, social media, and comedic responses to this event. The temptation to casually respond preys on our tendency to become isolated from the rest of the world – with which we do not have to deal directly. This is natural, of course, for our plates are full of work and play and bills and so forth. But the possibility and reality of death does not escape us. Navy Seals courageously risked their lives to follow a direct order – one that took the life of the world’s most wanted fugitive. U.S. Armed Forces men and women risk their lives every day to carry out direct orders pertaining to the protection of life and various societies. And civilians lose their lives.

A more sober look at the weekend’s news takes me to the Tower of Babel – where the marvel of human potential was on full display. After all, we have been created “a little lower than the angels” and are capable of great things – still wanting to make a name for ourselves. We see and experience this both in unimaginable evil and remarkable virtue. So we look with humility at judgment and justice, both our own and that of the world’s most powerful. And we grieve, and we pray, and we make room for life.

As Christ’s followers, we stand in the hope of Pentecost. For in that place we remember that the Spirit of God is at work creating the antithesis of Babel – a reality called the Church. Here the gospel of Jesus reconciles us to God and one another across language and culture. Death is overcome by Christ's life, death, and resurrection. And as we turn our attention to this mystery, confusion and “making a name for ourselves” are displaced by worship.

And this is the hope of the world.

Monday, July 26, 2010


It's no secret that one of the hardest things about writing and preaching and teaching is the work of narrowing - bringing one thing into focus. Read one Faulkner sentence or listen to one of Bernard's homilies and witness this work at its best.

Plowing through this week's passage or creating a new world via a short story, the author makes decisions about what stays and what goes. The sharpening process tends to be painful, for it usually means rejecting various good ideas/themes in order to focus on one matter. Hence, a shovel is no good for digging a post-hole. To achieve proper depth without disturbing a large area of soil/rock around the post, post-hole diggers fit the bill (or tractor borne augers if you're lucky).

I hope to preach the gospel clearly and well, which requires sound and thorough learning - a willingness to contently dig in one place for a while. I have to remember that there's always next week or next time, so it's ok and even necessary to reject a handful of good things as I prepare. After all, when it comes to writing and teaching through scripture, in the words of Robert Earl Keen, "the road goes on forever and the party never ends."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Last of The Late Nights

So, the kids remain quiet in their room. Amberly made it safely to New Mexico. And now I must continue hashing out tomorrow's sermon. Of course, this won't be the last late night of sermon work. All you seasoned pastors out there can attest to that! However, it will most likely be the last time I stay up late for the sake of a seminary assignment.

I'm a little nostalgic, yes, though the thought of losing sleep and conversation and a million other things for school assignments keeps that to a minimum. Some of these nights have been downright painful. Others have just been annoying. Some the result of procrastination, some the result of unforeseen roadblocks. Many of them though, have been significant experiences in this formational education journey.

Here's to the coffee, lamplight, and patient family. I'm off to try and finish the last one strong. And since only Chad would be able to make sense of my outline tomorrow, a good bit of work remains before this thing takes audible shape.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Morgan Press - November Morning

Thomas van Zandt sings,
"If I had a dollar bill, yes I believe I surely will,
Go to town and drink my fill - early in the morning."

I'm wondering what all of you do early in the morning.

This particular day when i got out of the shower, Morgan had a pile of blocks out in the living room floor. "Hey Dad, do you know why I'm sorting blocks? Because sorting is my favorite thing to do when I wake up in the morning!"

All of you organized people should be proud, as Amberly certainly was today.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Work and Play

(Grandaddy & Athan)

Our time in New Mexico/Texas afforded us opportunities to see family on all sides as well as good friends we count on seeing bi-annually. Everyone was delighted to see Athan, some for the first time, and Morgan had so much fun I think she’s still unwinding.

(Brothers & Papa)
In between 12 & 14 hour workdays I carved out some time for a few special trips. I'm reminded of Lonesome Dove, where work and fun are exemplified in the saga's two main characters: Augustus McCrae and Woodrow F. Call. Call takes jabs at his long time friend Gus for not wanting to work, staying up too late, and for too much 'philosophy.' In turn, Gus accuses Call of disliking fun altogether. At one point in defense of his funward excursions, Captain Gus remarks to Call that he is obligated to keep things balanced. Because of too much hard work on one side, he sees it his duty to have more than his share of fun. It's good for me that among spouse, brothers, and friends this kind of banter goes on! It's humerous, but I really am grateful for those that encourage retreat, rest, and sabbath in all forms. Stealing away to California in honor of Layne's graduation (he's the youngest) was sure a nice retreat. We had a great time catching up and getting punished by the ocean. I also traveled up into the pecos wilderness (near Santa Fe) with my good friend Bailey. We had a great time unplugging for a few days and quieting our souls.

Of course, work and play can't be so simply bifurcated, but it seems good to be mindful of each one's necessity and appropriate portion. Work regularly crosses the play line, and (especially with Strebeck vacations) play often opens the work gate. Rythyms of life I guess...

(New Mexico mountains)
A most significant update from the trip bespeaks our wedding anniversary. Amberly and I have now been at this seven years - wow. It would take a series of blogs - no, books - to express my gratitude for this opportunity. She has loved me well and fleshed out her wedding vows many times over. This is not to mention the mother she has been to our two children...she's the best. With no shortage of babysitters, we celebrated this milestone over supper and coffee a few times. I thought the formal celebration was over, but returned home to a gift that ranks up there in the top one or two. You can see my new coffee grinder below. It's not only groovy and old fashioned but also super functional. I've used it every day since I got it. With coffee from Rob's Roast Inc. and sister Brittany I'm all set for the start of the semester.

I guess that's all for now. I just spent a day with the guys at Abbey of Gethsemane, so I'll try to post about that sometime; a nice day of peace and prayer before the semester gets rolling.

(the grinder - can you say "German steel?")