Sunday, December 30, 2007

This just in, I know the Bible...

My friend Jim posted this quiz on his blog - I thought I'd see how I'd do. Pretty well, actually, though (a) some of the questions were softballs, and (b) there were some questions that were asked kinda poorly.

You know the Bible 100%!

Wow! You are awesome! You are a true Biblical scholar, not just a hearer but a personal reader! The books, the characters, the events, the verses - you know it all! You are fantastic!

Ultimate Bible Quiz
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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

(Secular) Christmas Morning

Well, today is Christmas Day. It's a good day with family and, after the last few weeks of hectic religious activity now behind me, it was nice to actually relax. In reality, I'd love it if Baptists typically would have a liturgy of communion on Christmas Day - but it's not in-grained into people to do that. So, I threw the liturgy (sans communion which makes no sense, but even I know when it's a good idea not to cause people's heads to explode - I'll do that next year) on Christmas Even and let Christmas Day just be a "secular" Christmas - meaning, other than typical prayers we just enjoyed the American Rituals we call Christmas, but actually aren't.

I'm not sure how I feel about that - but I'm also pretty dang sure I needed a sabbath so I'm not losing any sleep over it either. Oh well, I'm also a liturgically minded pastor called to a Baptist Church where liturgy and frequent Communion is what "Catholics do, " I don't expect to make sense.

Anyway, this year was the year of the video game in our little secular ritual. The wii really is a remarkable console in that so many of the games are just no fun without another person playing along. It's the best feature of the system, and well-done. Once I get a chance to play a bit more, I'll have to do a full review, but I have to say that Super Mario Galaxy just plain rocks, and Star Wars Lego: Complete Saga is insanely fun (couldn't get my son to play with me however, he was too busy enjoying his pokemon figures, and then he spent a couple of hours playing legos - my daughter then build a lego house out of the same set - I love how my kids actually have an imagination). At this point, I've not even Played Twilight Princess yet, it's a bit more "mature" than the other games we got - and with so many people aroun dwho wants to play a single-player game when you can play a multiplayer version of ping-pong?

While the Wii kept us busy, I have to say that best gift given to our family was a calendar created by my mother-in-law. She took a bunch of photos that were appropriate for each month, and mounted them in a calendar with a gift-card in each month for a place our family likes to eat. The thought that went into it had to be nuts, and the time even more so. Sometimes the best gifts are the ones with not much "flash," but a ton of creativity and love.

Anyway, my secular Christmas ritual is over - not that I ever laid it aside, but it's time for me and mines to realign our focus on the awesomeness of the Incarnation - which is what this season celebrates.

So, thanks fore the gifts folks, I hope the bring our family together some more so we can build up the trust to give of ourselves away in Christ.

Merry Christmas.

BTW: I'm not using "secular" in the bogey-man sense, I'm just pointing out that the rituals we do on Christmas morning have no Christian depth to them at

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The wii has landed...

Well, it was purchased back in August and sat in it's box until the week of Thanksgiving when my awesome wife let me take it out and get it set up while I was on vacation. We've been playing around with it here and there when the kids went to bed - but now it's all out in the open.

A man in Central who is getting married next month is part of a local fire department - every year he dresses as Santa and goes around delivering presents to kids - and this year he wanted us to be on the list. We wondered what present we wanted to be opened a bit early and thought, "Why not the wii? It'll save us the trouble of making sure it gets opened first on Christmas morning." So we gave this guy our empty wii box, set up the wii on the TV, and hung out with the TV "closed" this evening - until "Santa" came (neither of my kids "believe" in Santa, my daughter asked me point-blank about the whole Santa thing when she was in kindergarten and my son knows we're the one's who get presents - but it's fun). When the fire truck rolled up - the household went awesomely nuts. Watch the video to see how much.

One a side note, my daughter then made sure we read a book called The Quiltmaker for bedtime - it's abotu giving rather than receiving, and was a great way to say, "Yes, this is fun - but our lives have to be different, we need to bless others." Anyway, enjoy the madness:



Thursday, December 20, 2007

How Out of Touch is My National Denomination?

OK, I really want to be part of the Body of Christ - I really do. It's bad enough that I don't get why Baptists think things like "soul liberty" are good ideas, but when I get an e-mail from the head of our denomination that says the following I just want to bang my head on the desk and weep:
Forget about fancy electronics that only M.I.T. graduates can operate. Don’t worry about batteries failing at crucial moments. Stop lugging book-sized planners.

Instead, carry the pocket-sized, lightweight 2008 American Baptist Churches USA planning calendar. It’s been tailored so that key Christian holidays, U.S. holidays and American Baptist-designated Sundays are listed. All you need to make it work is a pen or pencil.
Look, I understand that ABC-USA has a clergy population that is getting grayer and grayer and so you're trying to market to your base - but as a person who grew up around "fancy electronics" I read that quote above and was actually embarrassed to be associated with these people. I understand the prejudice of youth, but to me anyone who thinks a PDA or smart phone is too complex for anyone but a graduate of MIT shouldn't be allowed to send e-mail to people. Sorry, but that's kinda where I am. Also, what moron doesn't keep their phone charged? Sorry, but - what??

I know it's the geek in me that's so put-off by this - but I gotta tell you that folks who are my age (and younger), who are already tired of people complaining that they can't understand why we use technology so much, are basically told by e-mails like the one I got, "Hey, we're so hopefully out of date that there's no real reason to hang out with us - why not look elsewhere?"

I e-mailed a friend in my region and he summed it up beautifully:
The year is now 1929! We're in the depth of depression following the market crash!
Sigh.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Why, yes, I'll blog about this song..

OK, this is just dang funny:

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

ABCNJ Annual Session Baptism Video

On September 30, 2007 the churches of ABCNJ gathered for their Annual Session in Ocean City, NJ. The conclusion to the event was a procession to the beach, followed by a baptism. Here's the video!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Holiday Concert

You know, I really don't care that public schools call it "Winter Break" and the December concert a "Holiday Concert." I really don't. In fact I'm rather pleased that my kids have come home from school with a vague awareness of who Antiochus IV is because they've gone over the story of Hanukkah in school (though I kinda choke when I get told that Hanakkah isn't a religious holiday - as it's about the rededication of the Temple). It's important to understand that there are multiple holidays being celebrated at this time of year - even though the focus of our faith is preparing for the celebration of the Incarnation.

The content of the "Holiday Concert," however, left me a bit freaked out. Most of the songs were typical, "Awww aren't they cute" fare. It ranged from the slightly odd (like a hip-hopized version of "Frosty The Snow Man") to the slightly disturbing ("Hey kids, Santa's going to kidnap you and take you to a awesome dance wtith all the Reindeer"). One song, however, actually left me thinking, "This may actually be doing long-term psychological harm to these kids." What's worse is that the parents loved it. What was this offending song? "Shop 'Til You Drop."

If there ever was a hymn to consumerism, this song was it. I sat there, with my jaw dropped, as one first grade class proudly shouted lines like:

"I was born to shop, shop, shop."
"I'll max out all my credit cards."
"Deck that halls with all my money."

And what did the parents do? Did they cringe as their kids boldly declared that their highest calling in life was to consume, consume, consume? Nope - they cheered. I mean, cheered. Their kids were reciting the creed correctly (and with gusto), and it made them cheer. In fact, it was the topic of conversation as we waited for school to be dismissed.

Sigh. The world ends with applause.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Adams vs. Jefferson

One of the things I like to do when I travel down to Williamsburg on vacation is browse the book store. Given the fact that I (a) love books and (b) adore examining history - going to the book store in the Williamsburg Visitor center is like my version of some sort of mystical ecstasy experienced at the end of a pilgrimage. On a hot summer day, there's nothing better than spending hours surrounded by books all about one of your favorite subjects (especially when you've been told that you can spend money to take some of those books home with you).

On my last day at Williamsburg this past summer I came across the book shown on the left. Adams vs. Jefferson. It was on the clearance table for some paltry sum so I grabbed it - figuring I wouldn't be out anything if the book wasn't that good, that that the topic interested me. I brought it home and there it sat as I read all the other books I had purchased at the Williamsburg book store (oh how I love the book store). I kept putting it off, as I had other reading to do - but when my vacation came up last week I decided to put down my theological reading and dive into Adams vs. Jefferson instead. I just needed a break - and I'm sooooo glad took that breather from theological reading - this is a phenomenal book! Let me sum up some thoughts on Adams vs. Jefferson.
  • I've always felt weighed down by being forced into a position of prominence (a pastor) that I don't really feel equipped for. What's more - the consistent whispers that I'm somehow power-hungry or autocratic suck the joy out of even the few things I do feel I can actually do in this position that I don't really want to be in (it's a calling). Guess what? I'm not alone! Each of the first three presidents of the USA really hated being the president - the served because they felt compelled to, and didn't really enjoy it at all as their political opponents worked to make life miserable for them. I've always said that treating the Church like a political battleground was a really bad idea - now I have even more reason to say that.
  • The one person who really coveted in power in the early days of the Federal Republic was narrowly kept out of power (no thanks to George Washington, who never really saw this guy very clearly). Even with what I already knew about him Adams vs. Jefferson made me very glad that the election of 1800 pretty much ended Alexander Hamilton's political career. It would have been ironic if the Federal Republic would have slipped into Empire by the hands of the man who penned it's Constitution.
  • We are spoiled. We are so used to the idea that power changes hands between various players without bloodshed that we just don't get how insane the very idea is. Back in 1800, with an electoral tie and the thread of secession looming over the infant nation - there wasn't a war. One party left power, and another party came into power, and the electorate (even though the system was set up to keep the electorate away from selecting the president) felt that they were the one's who made a decision. Jefferson posited that the election of 1800 was the fulfillment of the American Revolution (a point which made Adams bristle) - I think he may be correct. It was something that hadn't be done before - and it worked. Amazing.
  • 200 years and politicians are still using the same arguments against their opponents. Folks were telling people to hide their Bibles if Jefferson was elected President!
  • I find it ironic that the fears of both the original political parties (Federalist and Republican) have come to pass. The Federalist would be appalled that we had become so "democratic" that "what people wanted" would take over the country (as opposed to "what people need"). The Republicans would be appalled that the country was in the grip of powerful (and rich) interests which could ignore the people entirely. So we have a supposedly "open" system where everyone feels like they have a the ability to have a say and get what they want ("If I really wanted to I could get involved any time...") yet is, in reality controlled by corporate interests. How sad. I guess it comes from being spoiled - we stopped being surprised by the fact that we don't implode every time the government changes that we're no longer surprised when it doesn't change.
Anyway, do yourself a treat and read this book - you won't be able to put it down. You can click on the link to Amazon and I'll get a percentage of the funds - but I'm not sure I'll ever see them because how they have the gall to ask me for some seriously sensitive information to prove who I am it beyond me (I am in amazon associates, essentially, for the privilege of displaying cover-images with no hassle).