My New Blog

In spite of the accumulated wisdom and advice of those in the know across the blogosphere (eg. Andrew Conard!), I’ve decided to change the location of my blog. I’ll now be blogging at Fortunately, my name is uncommon enough that it’s still available! If you’re an RSS subscriber, here is the new feed.

I’ve been considering this change for a long time, and I’ve finally decided it’s time to make the switch. When I began blogging, I had the illusion that it would be semi-anonymous, and that’s part of the reason I picked an obscure name like Catching Meddlers. Even though I like “Catching Meddlers,” it just isn’t something I’ll want to stick with long term. I never really thought I’d be blogging this long, and I’m still surprised that this site has had over 15,000 hits!

With my new site, I’ll be able to stay in one place for as long as I keep blogging (We don’t assume the blogging phenomenon will last forever, do we?).

Thanks to my faithful readers (all three of you) – I look forward to hearing from you at the new site!

April 8, 2008 at 6:49 pm 3 comments

The Road to Ordination

Boston Avenue UMC, TulsaMaybe it’s an ironic coincidence, but my letter about the procedures for ordination at Annual conference is dated April 1st, 2008! I also found that my ordination will take place the same day as my wedding anniversary, so that’s really a convenient way of remembering when it happened. I’m terrible with dates, so that’s a great thing to me.

I’m excited about my ordination, but it seems like it’s been forever since I walked into my district superintendent’s office in Oklahoma City and told him I was trying to discern whether or not I had a call to pastoral ministry. It felt like a secret mission, because I went while on lunch break from the research lab where I was a student at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

Later, when I told the professor who ran my lab about my decision to leave the PhD program I was in to pursue a call to ministry, he gave me a couple weeks to rest and think about it. After I came back still determined, he was adamant that I talk to the chair of our department to share this news. After talking to her, she looked at me like I had just told her I wanted to swim with the dolphins and said, “Are you sure you don’t want to just be a social worker or something?”

Ninety-six hours of seminary education (currently at $444 per credit hour), four interviews with the Board of Ordained Ministry, and nearly three years of pastoring two congregations later, and I’ve received the letter telling I’ll be ordained at Annual Conference (pending the vote at the clergy session on Monday, of course). To be honest, I feel more relief than anything, even though I am looking forward to ordination. I haven’t worn a stole during my probationary period, so there will at least be a visible difference when I come back home to the congregations I serve the following week. Other than that, I wonder if I’ll feel different.

It’s been a long process (have I emphasized that enough yet?), but it’s been a process where I’ve met an incredible number of great people. It’s a dirty shame I only get to have two full members of the conference stand with me during my ordination. To really acknowledge everyone who had a part in my pursuit of the call to ministry, I’d need far more.  Come to think of it, I’d need a bunch of spots for lay-people too!

I can’t think of a graceful way to end this, and that’s probably because it isn’t over yet.  It probably never will be. So, I’ll just say this: to be continued…

April 3, 2008 at 7:21 pm 6 comments

New Link

I’ve recently found out that another colleague in the Oklahoma Conference is blogging. Michael Bartley is the director of the Oklahoma State University Wesley, and is also doing some creative things with a house Church. He was my lead interviewer for my last round of interviews leading up to ordination, and he was gracious and engaging during that process. Of course, if I had failed that interview, he probably wouldn’t be getting a link!

He has a lot of sharp insights and interesting stories. Hop over for a visit and read his recent post on the appointment process and…umm…err…measurement. 😉

April 1, 2008 at 7:34 am Leave a comment

Vader Speaks

Only one of you will get this. I just bought two new books the other day: The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Tim Keller, and The Living God and Our Living Psyche: What Christians Can Learn from Carl Jung by Ann Beldford Ulanov and Alvin Dueck. After a trip to the Cherokee while at our Bishop’s Retreat (which is not a retreat by the way, more like a conference) and some incredibly strange and wide-ranging conversations, which included a classic line from Darth Vader, I opened Keller’s book to find this quote on the first page,

I find your lack of faith…disturbing.

Ha! I love those weird coincidences. If I hadn’t had the conversation, it wouldn’t have meant anything. If I hadn’t bought that book, I’d have never thought of it again! Anyway, some Monday morning strangeness for you.

March 31, 2008 at 6:40 am 3 comments

Moments in Parsonage Life

Not our actual stove...This morning I woke up to go work out and found that the alarm on our stove was going off…yet again. Our stove is fairly old and does this from time to time. So, I wiggled the alarm as usual and got it to turn off. I went to work out, and came back home about an hour later to the alarm going off again. At this point, I’m about to lose it.

I wiggled the thing again, and got it to go off for a few seconds. Thirty minutes later, I’m still wrestling with the thing as it laughs its little mechanical buzzer laugh. So, being the complete non-mechanic that I am, I pulled the stove out, saw the offending buzzer, and mangled the heck out of it with my pliers. Problem solved. Take that non-functioning annoying buzzer!

By the way, we’re starting a new parsonage project in the next few weeks. I am pretty sure this stove will not make the trip once the new parsonage is completed.

March 19, 2008 at 6:33 am 2 comments

New GBGM General Secretary

I just saw this at the UM Portal: Seattle Bishop to Head UM Missions Agency. Bishop Edward W. Paup will apparently be offering his resignation to the Council of Bishops as he assumes his new post as the General Secretary of the GBGM.

As the article over at the UM Portal states, it is unprecdented for a bishop move to head up a general agency. I wonder what this might tell us about the episcopacy.

March 13, 2008 at 2:11 pm 1 comment

From “If Only,” to “Only Jesus.”

On Thursday, Nanci and the kids went to the high school state basketball tournament in Oklahoma City. Basketball players from across the state were there trying to win a state championship and reach their ultimate goal. To get to state, you have to make it through three levels of tournaments, working through district, regional, and then area tournaments. It takes years of hard work and endless hours of practice to reach this level. High school players dream about winning state, and yet only one boy’s team and one girls’ team from each class can say they attained that dream. Every other team in the state falls short of that goal, and has to learn about disappointment. That’s where my high school basketball experience comes into the story. Even after those same years of hard work and endless hours of practice, my high school team finally made it to the Area tournament my senior year…only to lose out. But don’t worry; I’m over it. There’s no bitterness about being beaten by even though I can remember Turner beating us in the gym at EOSC….thirteen years ago!

We learn about disappointment from situations like these, but as we get older far too often our disappointments go with us. It seems that no one is immune from disappointments, and some of the most famous leaders and artists from history lived and died with disappointment: Alexander the Great was one of the most successful military commanders in history, and undefeated in battle. Yet, after Alexander conquered Persia he broke down and wept because his troops were too exhausted to push on to India. The most powerful man in the world was broken by disappointment. Robert Louis Stevenson, the famous author, only had these words for his own epitaph, “”Here lies one who meant well, who tried a little, and failed much.” John Quincy Adams was the sixth president of the United States, but in his diary he recorded these words, “My life has been spent in vain and idle aspirations, and in ceaseless rejected prayers that something beneficial would result from my existence.”[1] All of this goes to show us that disappointment is no respecter of persons. Even the most powerful, popular, and prosperous people in the world are subject to the same experience of disappointment as anyone else.

In today’s Scripture passage, we see the incredible miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead – an unbelievably amazing event. However…I want to draw your attention to how this miracle came about. This incredible miracle wasn’t born out of the soil of fulfilled expectations and joy; it was forged in the heart of disappointment. Let me show you what I’m talking about.

Jesus and his disciples had just left Bethany when they received word that Lazarus was deathly ill. Lazarus, Mary, and Martha were three of Jesus’ best friends, and this was terrible news. Of course, they sent for Jesus because they believed he could heal him. For the disciples, this wasn’t good news for more reasons than Lazarus’ health. In fact, it put them in quite a bind because just a few days earlier, the people in that area tried to kill Jesus!! The sisters wanted Jesus to come back immediately to heal their brother Lazarus, and the disciples were worried that if Jesus returned he would be attacked and killed.

I think Jesus’ response to this situation teaches us something very, very interesting. Somehow, Jesus’ managed to disappoint both groups! The Scripture tells us that after hearing about Lazarus’ illness, he stayed where he was for two days, which of course disappointed the sisters. And then, after waiting two days, he got ready to go back, even though there was a serious threat of danger, thus disappointing the disciples!! In a situation where he could have chosen a way just to disappoint one of the two groups, he ended up disappointing them both!! The disappointment of Mary and Martha and the disappointment of the disciples really teaches us what disappointment is all about.

Disappointment is the feeling of dissatisfaction that comes when our expectations are not met. The sisters expected Jesus to come back and heal Lazarus immediately, and they were disappointed when he waited two days. The disciples expected Jesus to stay out of danger, and they were disappointed when he decided to return after two days even though Lazarus had already died from his illness.

In a way it’s easy for us to relate. We offer similar requests to God. Many times we pray for people to be healed, only to be disappointed when our expectations aren’t met. Sometimes we pray to be kept from danger and difficulty, only to be disappointed when we end up going through the very thing we hoped to avoid. When Jesus got to Bethany, he was met by Mary and Martha. Martha came first and said, “”Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Mary came later and said the exact same thing, “”Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” The words if only are the two essential words in the language of disappointment. If only I had done things differently. If only I had worked harder, prayed harder, tried harder, and on and on.

But God’s ways are not our ways, and God’s thoughts are not ours. In the middle of disappointments and doubts, even in the very face of death, Jesus words ring loud and true, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” Only Jesus has the power to overcome disappointment. Only Jesus has the power to transform any situation. In these words, Jesus shows us that the power of death can only be defeated by Jesus. So standing in front of the tomb of one of his closest friends, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus come out!” And then we see the most amazing thing: Lazarus, dead for four days, comes walking out of the tomb.

Even though the disciples and the sisters were all disappointed, by trusting in Jesus and staying by his side, they ended up seeing something incredible. Only Jesus can overcome and transform the “if onlys” of our lives. We all have disappointments, regrets, and unmet expectations, and “only Jesus” can overcome them all. We all have “if onlys” in our lives. “Only Jesus” can transform them into something far better. Even though Lazarus was dead, his death became an opportunity to see the amazing power and ministry of Jesus. Instead of being a tragedy, Lazarus being raised foreshadowed the ultimate resurrection of Jesus himself.

These things are still going on in our lives and in our world today. In 1920, a young man went before an examining board for selecting missionaries. Oswald Smith had dreamed of being a missionary for years and years. He had prayed over and over, “Lord, I want to be a missionary for you. Please open a door of service for me. Now, at last, his prayer would be answered. Yet when the examination was over, the board turned Oswald Smith down. He didn’t meet their qualifications, and he failed the test. Oswald Smith had expected to be departing for the mission fields, but instead he was met with total disappointment. What was he going to do? Surely the “if onlys” flooded his mind. If only he’d done things differently, if only he’d been more prepared…but as Oswald Smith prayed, God planted another idea in his heart. If he couldn’t go as a missionary he would build a church which could send out missionaries. Only Jesus could transform disappointment into a new mission, a life-giving purpose. So that is what he did. Oswald smith pastored a large Church in Toronto, Canada which ended up sending out more missionaries than any other Church at that time. Just as Jesus transformed the tragedy of Lazarus into the miracle of new life, only Jesus could transform the disappointment of Oswald Smith into something far better. The life-giving Church that Oswald Smith helped begin sent far more people into mission than if he had been approved by the board.[2]

Do you have “if onlys” and disappointments in your life? Have you looked back and wondered how things might have been different? How does God want to use these for something far greater? How does God want to transform your disappointment for his greater purposes? Let Jesus enter your situation. Hear Jesus’ announcement that he is the resurrection and the life. Listen to him calling Lazarus out of the darkness of the tomb. Hear him calling you out of all the darkness, disappointment, and “if onlys” you’ve ever faced. Only Jesus can transform you. Only Jesus can bring new life out of disappointment. Only Jesus can give us the hope and life we all so desperately need.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

[1] Retrieved from, March 8th, 2008

[2] Retrieved from, March 8th, 2008

March 10, 2008 at 8:09 am Leave a comment

Powerful Reading

During seminary, I read Thomas Merton’s autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, and I really enjoyed it. Last week I checked out Sue Monk Kidd’s book, Firstlight: The Early Inspirational Writings, from the local library. Apparently Merton had a big influence on her life and writing, so it inspired me to buy more of Merton’s works. I had just sold a few books on, so I ordered two of his books with my earnings: New Seeds of Contemplation, and Spiritual Direction & Meditation.

Wow. New Seeds of Contemplation is a book I really needed to read during this time of my life. I wouldn’t have got much out of this book if I had read it any earlier, so I’m thanking God for this providential coincidence (how’s that for a paradoxical phrase). There are times while I’ve been reading it yesterday evening and this morning that I’ve found that Merton knows me far too well! I’ll just warn you, don’t read this if you don’t have time to stop and pray.

March 7, 2008 at 8:49 am 1 comment

Joel Osteen’s Typical Week

This is from an interview on where they asked Joel Osteen (who I still think looks like Orel Hershisher) what a typical week in his life is like (h/t MMI)

Mondays and Tuesdays I try to take off. Wednesdays I read and study and pray. I have a stack of notes for potential sermons. I get a theme, and once I feel good about a simple thought, I read and find stories on that. I get up real early and write my sermon on Thursdays. Fridays I finish writing it and take three hours to go over it. I really get it down in me. Saturday I study it for several hours and finish getting it down in me. I have a real good memory. I rest Saturday afternoon before the Saturday night service, and I also preach two Sunday morning services. Sunday afternoon I edit the sermon for the television broadcast. I’m just used to doing that. That’s how I started.

March 4, 2008 at 9:09 am 4 comments

A Few Thoughts on John 11:1-16

Lazarus is deathly ill. Mary and Martha expect Jesus to turn around and hotfoot it back to Bethany. The disciples, on the other hand, seem to be concerned about all the angry folks with rocks waiting back over the horizon. Amazingly, Jesus doesn’t meet either of their expectations. First he waits, upsetting Mary and Martha. Then he returns, upsetting the disciples.

In all of this, I love Thomas’ response. Even though he was just as scared as everyone else about what would happen back in Bethany, he has a classic line. “Well…let’s go. We might as well die with him.” If you follow Jesus, you really don’t know where it will lead. He has this strange way of failing to meet our expectations, only to transcend them in the very next moment. And the only way we can follow him is like Thomas, scratching our heads, shaking our heads, and then following him come what may.

Sure, there will be times when we get tired. Thomas eventually got frustrated enough that he said, “How in the world are we supposed to follow you if we don’t know where you’re going?! (v. 14:5)” But Thomas was the one who loved Jesus so much that he just had to know Jesus had really risen.

I suspect Thomas’ advice to disciples would be this: just follow him. Don’t lag too far behind. Don’t worry too much about your questions. Don’t hold too tightly to your expectations. Just follow him. That’s enough. You’ll see.

March 3, 2008 at 5:05 pm 4 comments

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