Monthly Archives: May 2007

Up for a Little Air

I feel like Uma Thurman, buried alive in “Kill Bill, Vol 2,” busting out of her wooden coffin and straining to the surface. Hello, I’m still alive. Haven’t been posting anything for a while. But my existance continues.

For the past six weeks, i’ve been totally immersed in responsibilities related to our denomination’s bienniel conference. We’ve got 920 people coming, far more than expected, totally over-running our facility and spreading out over six other hotels. This is the first time we’ve done a convention this way…and it seems to be a wee bit popular.

So anyway, I’ve had plenty of things to write about, but time only to think about them, not actually write them. My life for the past six weeks has consisted of designing all manner of promotional materials–brochures, reports, nametags, handouts, Powerpoint slides, mounted posters, DVD labels, and anything else that needs a graphic designer’s touch. Plus, I’ve written lots of stuff, and edited everybody’s reports.

Poor, poor me. At least I’m getting paid for this. Lots of other people are working tirelessly as volunteers, in addition to their day jobs. We’ve got some really good people. I look forward to getting better acquainted.

But for now, I need to burrow back into the earth. But I’ll emerge for good in a few days, and I’m sure I’ll have some incredibly profound–not!–things to waste bytes on.

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Just Quit It

I came across some intriguing quotes from Seth Godin’s new book, The Dip.

  • “Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time.”
  • “We fail when we get distracted by tasks we don’t have the guts to quit.”
  • “Strategic quitting is the secret of successful organizations.”

A lot of churches need to quit certain things in order to move ahead. Quit traditions and outdated methods. Quit mindsets (easier said that quitted). Quit funding certain budget categories. Quit employing certain professional roadblocks.

Find a new system for following up visitors. Adopt a different order of service (or none at all–surprise people every week). If your church isn’t moving forward, you probably not only need to do something new, but you need to quit something.

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Two Brothers and a Scamp

Sometimes, reality is just too weird.

Richard and Raymon are identical twins who had sex with the same woman on the same day (she was with Richard early in the day, and that night went to Raymon’s place). The woman named Raymon as the father. Which means he has to pay child support. That child is now a three-year-old girl. The brothers have been fighting over paternity for three years. Neither wants to be the father.

A DNA test showed that both brothers have a 99.9% chance of being the father.

So one of them is the father, and one is the uncle. But which is which? The only thing for certain is that their mother is the grandmother. The judge ruled that since the woman put Raymon’s name down as the father, then he’s the father until another court rules otherwise.

I’m sure that if I watched Jerry Springer, I would already know about this.

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Terror in the Courtroom

A couple weeks ago, I spent part of a morning in a Fort Wayne courtroom. Went with a friend, actually, who had a court appearance. Everything went fine for him. But the judge was having a Slaughter the Infidels day.

The judge was a woman, whom I shall refer to in various ways, starting with Bride of Godzilla. I understand that a judge must keep control of the courtroom, and that it may even be necessary to strike some fear into your hapless subjects. But this Vampiress in Black proved herself to be not only unprofessional in how she treated people, but terribly childish. Like a spoiled kid around whom the universe absolutely must revolve.

For instance, Ms. Mordor despised the public defenders, all of whom (from what I could tell) were young women. She publicly mocked them over and over. I found it utterly embarrassing. If she didn’t see the proper paperwork in front of her, she might throw her head back, mouth open, like a 12-year-old who can’t believe you could actually be so stupid. She would get upset with a public defender and talk to her like she was a little kid, saying her words very slowly and clearly. “Can. You. Comprehend. Why. You. Are. Such. An. Imbecile?” If I said she was condescending, it would be an understatement akin to saying, “Donald Trump has mixed emotions about Rosie O’Donnell.”

Fifteen minutes into the proceedings, the Himmler Headcase threw a hissy fit. Let me pause to ask, is “hissy fit” a sexist term? I don’t know, and I certainly don’t want to pull an Imus. But the term aptly describes what Madam Mao regularly threw with reckless and well-practiced abandon. She declared a 15-minute recess until those incompetent public defenders could get their act together. Then she stormed out of the courtroom, probably wanting to see the second 15 minutes of Regis and Kelly while snacking on toasted lizard tongues.

It was, after all, All About Her. She felt inconvenienced, and wanted to stick-it to the public defenders–those legal peons whom she regarded with contempt. And so, she left.

Meanwhile, there were well over a hundred people all crammed into uncomfortable wood pews. I mean, crammed, hip to hip. And we just had to wait there until the hissy fit expired and Judge Jurassic once again deemed us worthy of her esteemed presence. Which, right on schedule, occurred 15 minutes later.

But nothing changed. She continued berating the public defenders and terrifying everyone present. Except me. I was just an observer with nothing to lose. I found her behavior, coming from a 50-something woman with a doctorate, extraordinarily amusing. And pathetic. A case study in upper class creeping dementia.

At one point, my friend’s public defender came and asked, “Would you mind if we put off your case for a week? The judge is really going nuts today.” She whispered it, but since we were packed together like a death train to Treblinka, plenty of people could hear. He said that would be okay. But the public defender, despite having been thrown in and out of the fiery furnace by the Traffic Court Terror, navigated his case through this judicial Bermuda Triangle without the Dragonlady severing too many heads. How’s that for a collection of metaphors?

I am sure that if you asked Judge Beltshazzar’s neighbors about her, they would say she’s kind and considerate, a wonderful mother, a neighbor who will do anything for you. You know, the same comments news reporters solicit from the neighbors of such upstanding citizens as John Wayne Gacy and the BTK killer, neither of whom, as far as I know, wore a black robe during their reign of terror.

So anyway, it was an interesting experience for me. I thought, sitting in the gallery, that I would be among the low-lifes of society. Turns out that the biggest emotional low-life in that courtroom was in charge of the asylum.

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Intrusion Into The Dream

Our big denominational convention is fast approaching, and I’ve been in a state of heightened alert for about two months now. Just a ton of things to do before 850 people descend on our meeting place. I’ve been designing brochures, posters, slides, nametags, info sheets, logos, and sundry other things. Wrote a video script, edited and layed-out all of the business reports. Wrote a database to hold all the registrant info.

Anyway, it’s been hectic for a long time. And when that happens, when I begin feeling like I’m behind and won’t be able to catch up, then I start having The Dream. I’m back in college, and I keep forgetting about classes I need to attend. Weeks go by. I’m missing classes, missing assignments, missing tests.

So I’ve been waiting for The Dream to surface. And on Friday night, it did. Except that during this dream, I realized it was only The Dream. So when a teacher gave me an assignment, I said, “I don’t owe anybody anything. Not with 200 million dollars in the bank.” Then I woke up.

Uh…say again? Two hundred million dollars? That was definitely a new wrinkle to The Dream. The only thing I can figure is that the last thing I did before going to bed was to google about the Donald Trump-Mark Cuban feud, this spat between billionaires, one of whom is a childish wuss, and one of whom owns a really good basketball team that choked royally this year.

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Lord of the Propane Tank

For several weeks, I’ve been forgetting to refill my spare propane tank. Don’t want to run out of gas with steaks half-way grilled. I finally got it filled on Saturday. And wouldn’t you know it…as I grilled two Mother’s Day steaks yesterday after church, I heard the distinctive “whoosh” of the gas quitting. Fortunately, I had me a freshly filled tank.

I guess I should say something about God’s timing, and how this was a God-thing, that God knew I would be needing that tank filled, and he arranged it so I would have it just in the nick of time. Maybe I should mention it as a moving testimony during the Sunday morning praise time.

But I think we can safely put the episode under the general categories of “free-will” and “that’s just the way things worked out.” While God is sovereign over all things, including propane tanks, I doubt that he saw this as a situation requiring divine intervention.

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Mother’s Day Parody of “I am Free”

The worship team was going to do “I Am Free” for the prelude, but Marsha and Terry weren’t going to be there, leaving us with only one vocalist. Hence, nobody to do the echo part on the chorus. So during our Thursday night practice, we got to playing around with the whole song. It would be Mother’s Day. How about rewrite the chorus with a motherly theme, and let the congregation do the echo?

Well, Tim Bauman took the idea, thought about it all day long as he worked at Kroger, and wrote some great lyrics. We did this in both services today, and it was big hit both times. Lots of smiles out in the congregation. And we even got applause each time. That’s always a big jolt of affirmation.

Anyway, here are the lyrics, FYI. If you’re familiar with the song “I Am Free,” you shouldn’t have any trouble fitting these words to that tune. Tim’s working on a Father’s Day version.

“It’s Your Day”

Verse 1
Today is mothers day
That’s why this song we sing
Put the remote away
We’ll even cook and clean
We’ll do this all for you
Because we love you
It’s your day

Chorus
We are free to cook
(You are free to cook)
We are free to clean
(You are free to clean)
We will do this all for you
’cause our love for you is true
And it’s your day
It’s your day

Verse 2
We’ll take you out to lunch
And flowers we will bring
Give you a Hallmark card
You know the kind that sings
We’ll do this all for you
Because we love you
It’s your day
It’s your day

Chorus
We are free to cook
(You are free to cook)
We are free to clean
(You are free to clean)
We will do this all for you
’cause our love for you is true
And it’s your day It’s your day

Ending Chorus
We are free to cook
(You are free to cook)
We are free to clean
(You are free to clean)
Soon you’ll have to sing this tune
Fathers day it comes in June
But it’s your day
Yes it’s your day

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Power in Bad Christian Movies

Dean Batala, who spent six years as executive producer of That 70s Show, is a Christian, and he’s mad at God. “I’m angry that he has blessed bad art‚Äîeven certain Christian films that have been seen by a lot of people. It makes me angry as an artist, because they’re bad. Just because people go see it, that doesn’t make it good.”

He continued, “This is my frustration: The gospel written on toilet paper still saves lives. There’s power in the gospel.”

Interesting. I remember watching a children’s worker stumble badly through presenting the plan of salvation to a group of children. It was horrible. The guy was clearly nervous and lacking in confidence. And yet, someone important to me responded and became a Christian.

That just shouldn’t happen. If we can’t do something well, God shouldn’t bless it…right?

But God does bless what sometimes seems unworthy. Ministers carrying on secret affairs are still instrumental in changing lives. Missionaries of earlier years have gone overseas with attitudes we would now consider highly unenlightened–colonial, the West-is-Best approach–and still end up transforming thousands of lives. Even I, a scumbag, occasionally influence someone in a positive way.

Large churches look at small churches, with their seeker-insensitivity, lesser programs, uninspiring worship, etc., and wonder how God can bless them. And small churches look at large churches, with what they view as big-show, materialistic, consumer-driven, pop-culture approaches, and wonder how God can bless them.

We all know that God uses imperfect vessels. But is there, as Batali said, “power in the gospel”? The Bible says God’s Word won’t return void, and we’ve applied that in a certain way. Does the same thing hold true for proclaiming the Gospel? Is there truly power, some spiritual magic, in simply declaring the plan of salvation, whether the source is a bad movie, a lousy sermon, or a deficient church?

(The quote I started with comes from a fascinating online article called “Christians as a Niche Market,” which talks about the movie industry and the recent spate of Christian-themed movies.)

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The Place with the Weekly Seminars

I read this statement in the comments section of a blog: “A one-hour Sunday morning service is NOT church, not if you don’t have a community you go into the world with during the week.”

I found that quite interesting. It’s a matter of going to church vs. being the church. At my church we don’t, in any organized way, go into our community together. But I think I pretty much know the people who are being the church beyond Sunday morning–who are seeking to shine their light and influence others.

But if a church merely consists of people who come together on Sunday morning for an hour or two, no matter how inspirational that may be, and then revert to their default behaviors the rest of the week…can you really call that a church?

Too many churches aren’t really churches, I’m afraid. They are just organizations that offer an hour-long religious seminar every week.

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Grandma’s Homegoing, Our Homecoming

I’ve always bragged that my grandma had four brothers who became Nazarene ministers. At Grandma’s funeral yesterday, I discovered that I’ve been wrong. Actually, she had six brothers who became Nazarene ministers. Six out of six.

The last living brother is Doyle, now age 86 and still preaching. He spoke for probably ten minutes at the funeral, just sharing memories of Grandma. I learned a lot. Plus, I had never met Doyle. What a guy! Articulate, very funny, full of energy. He says he’s got his passport to heaven all ready, but he doesn’t plan to board the bus yet. He’s got a lot of living to do.

I always knew Grandma loved reading her Bible. We were told that she has read through the entire Bible 29 times. At least.

I realized that I’ve truly got an enviable heritage. So do all of my cousins who were there. It was sure great seeing them again. Jamie was out from Arizona; her husband, Drake, is in Baghdad training Iraqi troops. He’s been in the military for about 20 years now. Wendy was out from Colorado, with her parents. What a delightful person she is! Brad, a doctor in Oklahoma, just a little bit younger than me, drove out with his family.

My cousin Mike, my best-ever friend, was there. In fact, he lives across the street from where Grandpa and Grandma lived. I always enjoy seeing Mike. We got into way too much mischief to recount here. His son Logan, a marine sniper, served a couple tours in Iraq and experienced lots of stuff he doesn’t care to talk about. He’s out of the military now, and married. Nice kid. Randy’s son-in-law, a West Point grad, just learned that he is being deployed to Iraq for 16 months.

We all lingered in the cemetery for quite a while. Some of us mused, “When will we all get together again?” Grandpa and Grandma were a glue of sorts. We grew up gathering regularly at Grandpa and Grandma’s farmstead. Now they are both gone, and the house is being rented out. The world moves on, and so do we.

We cherish our relationships, but the years pass quickly and we’ve all got our own worlds. But yesterday, at least, we had a few hours to touch base. It was a home-going for Grandma, but a homecoming for her kids and grandkids, and great-grandkids, and great-great grandkids. I loved every minute of it.

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