I've found that if you schedule meetings, people will come up with stuff to do, often to justify the time spent meeting and not because the stuff is necessary.Read More
If we drop the subtle guilt-trip and the religious jargon, which includes phrases like being a good steward, giving out of your abundance, and fulfilling your tithe, we should admit that I'm effectively asking you to give me money.Read More
The sermon yesterday referencing Matthew 25:31-46 included a strident defense of goats. Their utility as a domesticated animal is extraordinary. I won't recount all the tricky things goats can do here; listen to the sermon if you're curious. Unfortunately, the text didn't care that an objective analysis of goats should conclude that they might be worth keeping around. In Matthew, the goats get sent into "the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels."
We managed to work out the obvious tension, I think. Still, my sympathy goes out to the goats and only increased after Chris Cobbs sent me this video yesterday afternoon.
My three-year-old daughter, Shepherd, has dismissed the possibility of following in her father’s unsteady footsteps to become a preacher. But this story isn’t about a rebellious preacher’s kid. It’s about a three-year-old with erroneous perceptions about gender roles. I told this story to a few friends and they dismissed my worry with an unhelpful and speculative assertion that “she’ll grow out of it.” Kids grow out of shoes, they don’t involuntarily grow out of distorted world-views. Now, I’m scared of what other messed up junk is swimming around her tiny little head and I’m looking for the Philistine that told her the specific lie that only boys can be preachers. Shepherd surprised us with this revelation early one morning as our entire family shared in the daily ritual of laying in bed together for the first ten minutes of the day, playing silly games and reconstructing fake dreams that progressively get more absurd. At some point, one of the kids reports that in their dream they ate the school, which means it’s closed today.
Before I share the story, here is some background. Shepherd just turned three which did not stop her mother from introducing her to skinny jeans. She has three pairs she wears with as much dignity as a two foot human can. She also has a nuanced understanding of the color wheel. Her clothes match without any help from us. She knows when the length of her skirt demands bloomers.
Somehow, Shepherd also possesses an above average comprehension of the gender expectations culture implicitly assigns to boys and girls (boys and girls encompass all males and females in Shepherd’s limited vocabulary).
If my daughter was 28, I’d accept her decision to not be a preacher. But Shepherd’s not 28, she’s three and should be more worried about the lack of gummy bears in the pantry than her vocational identity. As a preacher, I’d counsel all three year olds to exhaust all other interests, passions, and talents before concluding that working in the church is a good idea. At a minimum, you shouldn’t rule anything out until after you learn how to write your name with a pencil - crayons don’t count in the real world.
Below is a transcript of the conversation that compelled this blog post. I’ll follow up with part II of my reflection in the next couple of days. For now, allow yourself to be shocked and offer any parenting suggestions in the comments below.
Abraham: Shepherd, can you scoot over, my heads falling off the pillow?
Shepherd: Of course. Is that better?
Amos: Shepherd, you are so helpful and considerate. I bet you will have a job helping people when you are older. Maybe you will be a doctor or nurse.
Abraham: Or maybe you will be a preacher.
Amos and Sarah: Ha Ha Ha Ha.
Shepherd: No Abraham. I can’t be a preacher, I’m not a boy.
Part two is coming up, stay tuned…
Do you remember the girls of Nigeria? The 200+ schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram, a militant group, in Chibok, a village that is now under siege by the kidnappers. The kidnapping happened three months ago and was an major international news story. Videos of the girls were released and Boko Haram threatened to sell the girls into slavery or as child brides. The impotent Nigerian government was unable to do more than make promises that the girls would be rescued and the group brought to justice. Imagine if 219 girls were kidnapped from your neighborhood high-school? It is difficult to even consider the possibility as a hypothetical until one considers that Chibok is our Newtown. Somehow, I almost forgot about the unbelievable audacity of Boko Haram and the hopeless circumstances of the girls. Time erases the harsh, immediate impact of tragedy from our collective memory. And when we are separated from tragedy by distance, culture, and the filter of television, it's easy to move on to the next awful thing as if we are only capable of grieving one international tragedy at a time.
Yesterday, though, I read this article and learned that the story of the Nigerian schoolgirls was still being written. When some of the missing girls return home they will return to smaller families. 11 parents, siblings, or other extended family members have died in the last three months. The deaths are reported to be the result of health issues multiplied by grief. Better said, so far, 11 people have died from a broken heart.
"One father of two of the girls kidnapped just went into a kind of coma and kept repeating the names of his daughters, until life left him,"
What was tragic gave birth to more tragedy. How? Why? Where is God in this?
Yesterday during the sermon I ran through a list of genetically engineered plants. My favorite was the edible cotton that scientists at Texas A&M concocted. I didn’t know there was enough cotton being produced for t-shirts and dinner.
My source for the list was the Discovery Channel’s website. The complete Top Ten List of Genetically Engineered Crops as judged by the Discovery Channel can be found here.
There’s an essay to be written about the phenomenon of genetically engineered plants and the Garden of Eden. The thesis isn’t clear yet, but there is something there.
It was more than I expected. The subtlety, double-meaning, and ambiguity of that introduction should not be ignored. Kelley and I led four sessions each day and topped off the workshopping by planning and leading evening vespers each night around 9:00 p.m. All of it was done in service of the Presbyterian Association of Musicians annual Worship and Music Conference at Montreat, NC.
We were marked early on as the odd-balls. We stood out for our inability to read music, for serving a church that wasn't anxious about it's future, and for not caring about the distinctions between contemporary and traditional worship.
When you live it everyday, DOWNTOWN CHURCH is just another church. But every session in which we shared a our story revealed how out of touch with the established church we are. Below is a brief list of stuff that was received with a gasp, gaping mouth, or follow up question:
- We don't have committees.
- No evening meetings.
- No vacation policy for staff - take off all the time you need.
- Our ages - Kelley is 25, I am 34.
- Amos is not white.
- Coffee and cookies taste good.
- We don't have a projector.
- We don't do annual reviews - everyone is reviewed daily since our work is transparent.
- We don't pass an offering plate.
I wasn't looking forward to it. The days preceding the Christmas Eve service were full of surprises that left me with an impression that the special service might be special for unintended reasons.Read More