Saturday, September 30, 2006


Vols - 41
Tigers -7

"Thank you, sir, may I have another."*

*"Animal House" reference - but not the ones I really feel like using right now.

Friday, September 29, 2006

"Oh Billy, Billy Billy......."*

*Caddyshack reference

Oh yes, I was there.

And "magic" doesn't capture it. Maybe "transcendent" does.

We beat the NFL's MVP.

"So we have that going for us, which is nice..."*

And for a moment, albeit a brief one - there was numbed silence from the legion in Orange, where once there was obnoxious stupidity.

Once upon a time, as a young teen, before I ever moved to Memphis, I was a fan of UT.

Well, I don't know, maybe more an acquaintance than a fan, but I did own some orange attire.

Back when we lived at Malesus, a church member would take a couple of the guys in the youth group to Knoxville to watch a game. I was among them a couple of times.

But as the Apostle Paul so eloquently states, "when I was a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child...when I became a man, I gave up childish ways."

The story of my conversion to Tiger Blue is found here.

C'mon - Tigers - nobody thinks you can do it again.

But I do - just "Be the ball."*

Hope springs eternal. Bring it, boys!

"Just a Cinderella boy, Augusta Georgia, I think he has a nine iron..."*

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Moral Issue of Our Time

Per usual, the comfortable, wealthy church is late to the party when it comes to profound moral issues.

This one is not about politics - it's about humanity, and the basic nature of any and all world religions to tend to the least of these.

What will it take? How many more will be killed?

Blame Bill, Everybody Else Does (REVISED 10/3 with KO Commentary)

I have found the answer, my friends. Thanks to Fox "News," I have that for which I sought all my life - the ultimate excuse.

That ubiquitous entity responsible for all things that are wrong -
  • in my life,
  • my relationships
  • my church
  • local, state and federal governments
  • the world
  • for the rover crashing on Mars a few years ago (apparently, there was a math problem)
  • for "Mission:Impossible III" underperforming at the box office (cause heaven knows it wasn't that freak show of a lead actor that had anything to do with it)
  • for Memphis losing to UCLA in the Great Eight last spring
  • for 9/11
  • for Jay Leno getting David Letterman's job
  • for gas prices being so high (but strangely falling like a rock just weeks before election day...hmmm)
  • For "Law and Order" moving to Friday night instead of staying on Wednesday where it belongs
  • for Katie Couric going to CBS (which is really just fine by me)
  • for the war in Iraq
  • for Kathie Lee Gifford, nuf said.
  • for World War II
  • for why people watch such idiotic shows as "American Idol" and "Survior"
  • for the Civil War
  • for why I'm overweight and hypertensive
  • for why people don't take their clothes to dry cleaners anymore (o.k., this one may be true)
  • for Watergate
For every problem I have had or the world will ever have has one commonality at root, and I'm so glad I can have someone else to blame for everything under the sun than to take any responsibility for myself, thereby perpetuating the illusion that I'm above it all.

That's right, folks - It's Bill Clinton's fault.

That SOB, I knew it.

Here's KO's take -

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Hard Thing

Psalm 42.1-6
As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and behold
the face of God?
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while people say to me continually,
‘Where is your God?’

These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I went with the throng,
and led them in procession to the house of God,
with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving,
a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my help and my God.

There are days in ministry when too much time is spent doing "church work."

There's probably too many of those days.

Sequestered in an office, albeit a cool one (since I've moved down the hall, at last) where it's quiet, more of a study than an office, really - there I am, doing work, to be sure, but not always work that in the end matters worth a darn.

Then there are other days when I'm hardly in my office, because the role of ministry has me intersecting the real life issues of those I'm called to shepherd.

Today has been one of those days.

There is a couple in my congregation who is doing what I can only call "the hard thing" today. The reality that the addition to their family - that addition for which prayers have been offered, and thanksgivings shared, is not going to reach its potential lies before them.




All those emotions are at play.

And I'm just talking about mine.

They are showing remarkable courage today, and in the moments of extremity in the lives of others, suddenly the pettiness of those pestering things in my own life are rightly judged.

I have personal experience with life's potential not realized. That, together with previous pastoral encounters over the years, informs me of what cannot be avoided. And so, when it was clear what was going to happen and how, I shared the only words I knew to offer,
I wished there was some way to tell you that today was going to be easier than it's going to be, but I can't. It is by its very nature intolerable and unbelievable and yet unavoidable. Today will be one of the hardest days you'll ever experience, and although I can't tell you the whys of how things are as they are, there is one thing I cling to and offer you through this, God is crying with you today. Of that, I have no doubt.
The role of the church and of those of us authorized to lead it is too often occupied, if not held captive by the "busy-ness" of the work. And as often as I complain about that, I am aware that it may be that there are days we need to immerse ourselves in such affairs. Maybe such days serve as buffers between the "hard things" that are unavoidable.

June of 2007 will conclude the 20th year since a bishop appointed me to a church to serve as pastor(for pension purposes, I have to wait until 2009 to count 20, but that's another post), and during that time, sprinkled across the years, there are hard things to be remembered. To that number I've added one today, and through them all, each horrific in their own way, I've discovered one enduring truth about the faith.

The measure of faith in God's presence is not the illusion that we are somehow immune or exempt from "the hard thing." The measure is the realization, once we've endured, of how, without God's presence operative in our lives and in that situation, that we wouldn't have endured at all.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

"God Is Biased" Pentecost 14

The following is my sermon from Sunday last. It is based upon the lectionary readings from Proverbs, James and Mark.

There was some signficant response from this sermon, so I bring to this forum for any who may find value in it.

It is tied to my post from Monday "Of Hearts and Treasures."

There are some audio problems that are related to my wireless mic, and are not issues in the recording or playback.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

KO's Special Comment on 9/11 - "This Hole in the Ground"

KO again.

Not to be missed.

You don't have to like him - I find his courage remarkable, and his skill to communicate something to admire and worthy of emulation.

My previous posts on KO reveal my appreciation for his skill. But on this day, it is his keen, clear insight that is so poignant.

As a linguist, I think he's masterful. I'm left wondering whether to shout "Amen, brother," or "O my God, I can't believe he said that," or, to hearken back to my Western Kentucky roots, "Holy Shit!"

Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11 - Five Years On

[Jesus said,] "Here's another old saying that deserves a second look: 'Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.' Is that going to get us anywhere? Here's what I propose: 'Don't hit back at all.' If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously. "You're familiar with the old written law, 'Love your friend,' and its unwritten companion, 'Hate your enemy.' I'm challenging that. I'm telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. "In a word, what I'm saying is, Grow up. You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you." Matthew 5.38-47 from THE MESSAGE

My American Flag waves outside my front door today. It reminds me of what is best about us. It's far too easy to remind us about the worst.

There are moments when my "lover's quarrel" with my government must stand down. Today is one such day.

And while I know there will be efforts to make political hay today by those whose agendas are less than noble, I will not abide.

Today is about something more.

On this day of solemn remembrance, as we recall extraordinary heroism and courage, let us not become what any ememy seeks to make us. Rather, let us be more than the instinctive response that revenge seeks to continually prod.

I don't need video replay of the day. My inner clock knows what today is, and that sick feeling in my stomach has returned. It is the reminder of injury to the soul of the place I call home. But what am I to do with that?

Could it be that the "path to victory," whatever that means, truly only lies in prayers to be offered for those who would do us harm? Is that not what Jesus is saying?

I'm not sure I like it, but those of us who claim Jesus as Lord can't ignore it either.

Or, maybe that's the problem, we continue to ignore it for the sake of holding on to our rage.

One last thought. I can't think of today without thinking now of those whose honor and duty have them serving and dying on a land far away and I keep looking at that picture of the World Trade Center burning and wondering to myself if our sons and daughters' sacrifice today has anything to do with that picture.

And I know the answer.

I think we all do, now, and probably always did.

And somehow, we can't get out of the mess without making it worse.

Is that the definition of tragedy?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Of Hearts and Treasures

But, in the present state of mankind, it [money] is an excellent gift of God, answering the noblest ends. In the hands of his children, it is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, raiment for the naked: It gives to the traveller and the stranger where to lay his head. By it we may supply the place of an husband to the widow, and of a father to the fatherless. We maybe a defence for the oppressed, a means of health to the sick, of ease to them that are in pain; it may be as eyes to the blind, as feet to the lame; yea, a lifter up from the gates of death! John Wesley "The Use of Money"

Today I preached about a biased God, and this is a passage from Wesley's sermon on the role of money in the lives of Christians.

A God whose preference for the poor is undisputed. 3000 verses deal with the poor. Even for the literalists among us, that's a number that can't be ignored.

Stack those up against the verses demanding obligations of following restrictive doctrines, or what Jesus says about being gay (not a damn thing). Stack what ever it is you use to put "moral" issues on the forefront of the agenda (especially in an election year), and bring them to the table.

Please, stack all those up and bring them to me and then lay them alongside God's concern for the widowed and orphaned.

Please. I dare you.

And what you'll find is a real moral issue -

A God, who, through the prophets, reminds us again and again that the measure of how faithful the people of God are can be tested against how it treats the least among us.

A God, who through Jesus, made it clear that the least and the last hold the place of honor in the Realm of God.

The temptation for any of us is to think that if God is biased toward the poor, and I'm not poor (and most of us in this country are remarkably rich by world standards), does that mean that somehow God does not love me in the same way?

Today I commented that I believe it to be true that God accepts us just as we are. But once accepted, God expects us to take upon ourselves the things that matters most to the Divine.

The reading from James for this day talks about faith being dead without works. It also talks about the distinctions we make on our sisters and brothers relative to their perceived wealth.

Too often we water all this down to "poor in spirit." I think that's a cop out. Is there poverty of spirit? Sure.

But what Scriptures indicate the issue is focuses upon the abuses of power we exert over the other with the common resources of creation. That power base is directly related to our accumulation of those resources. We make commodities to be traded and hoarded of those resources we all need in order to live well, and our financial capacity to by in and "own" trumps our Divine obligation to share what is, by all accounts, not really ours in the first place.

Maybe that's why we spend far too much time on a false morality because if left to follow the one that God has laid out for us, it may exact more of what we think is "ours" than we'd like to admit.

So, if God is biased, should not that bias become our own?

Friday, September 08, 2006

KO - One More Time

I'm not going to make a habit of this, but Keith Olbermann is simply on a roll right now. And he brings into high relief the very issue that faces us. On one hand, you have fear, both that which is legitimate and engineered, at an "enemy" that would do us harm.

There is no question about the existence of the enemy.

On the other, you have the response to the fear - both the legitimate and engineered. And herein lies the rub. When such fear is manipulated for political advantage and not for the good of the whole, I dare say it lies darn close to treason.

So, by all means, let's forsake what defines us and become what we most despise, shall we? That's the tack of the current administration. Who needs the enemy to take our quality of life and freedom away when we can do that to ourselves?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

You Say "To-may-to," I Say "To-mah-to," You Say "Alternative Questioning Methods", I Say "Torture," Let's Call the Whole Thing Off!

When I was a kid, my friend, Mark, would drive me crazy.

See, he never lost at any game we'd play. Ever.

You might say, "he didn't like to lose." Who does?

You might say, "he's just that good at whatever we played."

In which case, I'm a sore loser, and should just get over it.

I say, "he changed the rules as he played so that he was always right."

Oh yes he did.

So, after a while, I just didn't want to play anymore.

Why bother?

The game no longer mattered if Mark's victory was insured based not upon our common understanding of the game being played, but the contrived rules created "on the fly" to serve his advantage.

Yesterday, the President gave a "declassification" speech, in which he admitted to that which has been reported for months but never acknowledged. That being, the CIA has been holding terror suspects in secret prisons. He never uttered the word "torture," but he did give that "wanted: dead or alive" attitude when he used the words "alternative questioning methods."

And then, he had the audacity to push Congress into the passing laws making what this Administration has been doing legal, which makes the point, doesn't it? It hasn't been!


The inevitable counter is that people like me are stuck in "pre-9/11" thinking.

And they're right. Yeah, I'm stuck in that 1791 Bill of Rights thinking.

And this is whole point.

The courageous thing is to live up to the ideas that define us, rather than let those who would do us harm redefine our realities.

Why, in God's name, do we become what we most despise?

From the standpoint of the Christian faith, the same holds. How is it that we can so easily relegate our faith to what happens on Sunday and not understand it's mettle is tested by what we live with throughout the rest of the week?

As an American, as a Christian, when is torture o.k.? How does that make sense. Ever.

What, in my Christian faith, makes that o.k.?

Is it expedient? Sure.

Is it beneath us? Absolutely.

He is credited as being a "man of principle," I'm wondering which principle he's keeping.

“It is often easier to fight for principles than to live up to them.” Adlia Stevenson

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Kill Me Now

Rebels 28
Tigers 25

So, Ole Miss has to rely on "fumbleruskey" to pull one out. Nice.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Weblog Re-Fit

The few of you who read me regularly will notice changes in my blog format. The new version of Blogger affords some customizing options that I'm taking advantage of to pursue color schemes and the layout that is more to my liking.

And yes, that's a Tiger thing.

You will also notice, more and more, a continual use of embedded video and audio in postings.

I will only do so when what's being implemented is making a point.

I take as given that most of us have either DSL or Broadband. For those with dialup, sorry. Be patient.

I welcome comments, critiques, and things you'd like to see on the blog either of my work or more of who I am (although it is hard to imagine I've not done plenty to let you know that).