Archive for November, 2006

The Divine Hours

One of the real struggles I have in ministry is trying to maintain personal spiritual discipline. I enjoy reading and studying, which can certainly be spiritually formative. However, my prayer life is often dismal at best. A tool I’ve found that inspires and calls me to prayer is The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle. You will see that I’ve added a link to a website that has the fixed order prayers for the day. You simply enter your time zone and the appropriate prayer is listed. I’m committed to following this through Advent in hopes of developing a foothold on this discipline in my spiritual life.

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November 30, 2006 at 2:25 pm 2 comments

Boomer Sooner

Whew, I can’t believe the Sooners pulled it off against our in-state rival last weekend. I was going to blog about this then, but had a lot come up. Against all odds, we are in the Big XII championship game, with the potential to go to a BCS bowl. Strange indeed. I’m looking forward to the big OU-Nebraska game on Saturday; it’s really the reason the Big XII was founded. The organizers hoped to have this kind of big name match-up at the end of every year. Now it’s been several years since the inception and the scenario isn’t what it used to be, but we finally have OU-Nebraska for the title. I can’t wait.

November 30, 2006 at 2:20 pm Leave a comment

Board of Ministry and the Connection

I am very happy that I passed the second round of Board interviews. In our conference, we break the ordination process into three modules, and we meet once a year for a retreat at one of the United Methodist camps for interviews. I passed Module B this year, and I only have one more round to go before full ordination as an elder.

Most of us wouldn’t necessarily say we love the process. Most of us really love griping and complaining about the process. However, I truly enjoy the time I spend at these interviews for one main reason: the connection with other pastors. As United Methodists we are blessed (and this blessing brings its fair share of curses as well) to be so visibly connected with one another. As a result of these meetings, I know far more people in the conference than I would otherwise. I know women and men who are going through the same things I am. It is a great privilege to be around others who are plodding along through the long haul of ordination either as a deacon or an elder.

The connections we form at these retreats are invaluable. I can’t imagine ministry without my colleagues and friends in ministry. The connection is the Church.

November 30, 2006 at 2:16 pm Leave a comment

Off I Go…

Today I’m leaving for our annual Board of Ordained Ministry retreat.  No, I’m not on the board.   This is the time when we probationary members have our annual interviews.  We get together at one of the Methodist camps for fellowship and interviews about this time every year.  This is my second year, so hopefully this will be my next-to-last time to be there as an interviewee.

This is such a long and complicated process, and it is one that I have mixed feelings about.  On one hand, I appreciate the selectivity we have for UM pastors.  On the other hand, if we really have a clergy shortage, I don’t think drawing the process out a decade does much to remedy that.  Anyway, I don’t have any better ideas right now, and until I do, I’m not going to complain much.

November 27, 2006 at 11:45 am Leave a comment

Black Friday

Black FridayI may be totally out of the loop, but this is the first year that I have heard the Friday after Thanksgiving so consistently referred to as Black Friday. Fortunately, it seems to be one of those miracles of the lectionary that Black Friday comes right before Christ the King Sunday.This Sunday was introduced into the Christian year in an encyclical by Pope Pius XI in 1925 as he entreated the world to live in such a way that we acknowledge Christ’s reign in all the earth. Scripture seems to suggest that idolatry is one of the root sins humanity struggles with, and I think that it is easy to allow other things to ‘reign’ in our lives. Black Friday is a reminder that consumerism has a pretty powerful and compelling reign in many of our lives. Perhaps Christ the King Sunday can be a reminder that Christ’s reign places consumerism and greed in their place and exposes them as fakes and frauds.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go wait in line for 32 hours to see if they have any more Playstation 3s.

November 24, 2006 at 5:40 pm Leave a comment

That Old Time Feelin’

Guy Clark is one of my favorite artists. He has a wonderful song that really captures a feeling that I get every now and then. It’s called That Old Time Feelin’, and here are the words:

And that old time feelin’ goes sneakin’ down the hall,
Like an old gray cat in winter, keepin’ close to the wall.
And that old time feelin’ comes stumblin’ up the street,
Like an old salesman kickin’ the papers from his feet.

And that old time feelin’ draws circles around the block,
Like old women with no children, holdin’ hands with the clock.
And that old time feelin’ fall on it’s face in the park,
Like and old wino prayin’ he can make it ’till it’s dark.

And that old time feelin’ comes and goes in the rain,
Like an old man with his checkers, dyin’ to find a game.
And that old time feelin’ plays for beer in bars,
Like and old blues-time picker who don’t recall who you are.

And that old time feelin’ limps through the night on a crutch,
Like an old soldier wonderin’ if he’s paid too much.
And that old time feelin’ rocks and spits and cries,
Like and old lover rememberin’ the girl with the clear blue eyes.

I don’t know that these words specifically refer to the way I’m feeling, but the song itself is definitely evocative of the general way I feel on days like today. It is sort of a homesickness. I read The Narnian a few weeks back, and it is the feeling I think C.S. Lewis referred to as Joy. Alan Jacobs describes joy in Lewis’ thought as follows,

“One cannot say it is exactly pleasurable – there is a kind of ache in the sense of unattainability that always accompanies the longing – and yet, as Lewis puts it, the quality of the experience ‘is that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction.’ This is why he calls it Joy: because the word longing fails to convey the desirability of the feeling itself.”

So, for what it’s worth, that’s how I’m feeling this morning. I’m not sure if it’s as desirable as Lewis describes, but it is certainly different than an ordinary day.

November 22, 2006 at 3:13 pm Leave a comment

Science and Theology: Rumble in LaJolla

“The world needs to wake up from its long nightmare of religious belief…” So says Steven Weinberg in a very interesting article on Science and Religion in today’s New York Times. In a meeting in LaJolla, CA a group of scientists met for discussion under the banner: “Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Reason and Survival.” Richard Dawkins was probably the most famous attendee and spent time promoting his newest book, “The God Delusion.” Yet when he described religious education as “child-abuse” and “brainwashing,” he was somewhat chastised by fellow skeptic Melvin J. Konner as simplistic and uninformed. Dr. Weinberg went so far as to comment, ““Anything that we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done and may in the end be our greatest contribution to civilization.” Dr. Konner, an anthropologist, commented against the extremist remarks when he warned speakers such as Hawkins, ““I think that you [Sam Harris, a doctoral student and author of “The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason”] and Richard are remarkably apt mirror images of the extremists on the other side…you generate more fear and hatred of science.”

Before entering full-time Christian ministry, I was a doctoral student in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, earning a master’s degree before leaving the program. As a result, these conversations are of great interest to me. Some studies have shown that the percentage of scientists in the United States who are believers is roughly equal to that of the general population. I believe much of what took place at this conference is motivated by far more than devotion to pure science, because it seems that scientific inquiry is thrown out the window when sweeping statements are made that embrace radical materialism. There are several scientists cum theologians who offer very interesting views that seek to reconcile these two disciplines, and I believe they should at least have a voice in these debates. To be fair, geneticist Francis Collins was invited to this event. However, the voices of folks like John Polkinghorne were nowhere to be found.

This is an area where we need to invest a great deal of work and conversation. Neither blind faith without accounting for scientific data nor scientific materialism without counting for human faith will be a intellectually responsible path. As a person with roots in both camps, I hope I can have a positive impact on these conversations in the communities I serve.

November 21, 2006 at 4:23 pm Leave a comment

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