Monday, September 22, 2008

Dogs in Heaven

Here is a funny collection of pictures bantering the questions, "Do dogs go to heaven?" My brother sent this to me in an email and I just had to share. You can click the pictures to see a larger version, if you need to.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Remaining Intellectually Curious

One of my chief pursuits in life is to remain both spiritually and intellectually curious. This way, I find myself always learning something new. I decided this is something I wanted to do several years ago after visiting high school friends who, upon a few conversations, I discovered hadn't changed their opinions or minds on anything since they graduated from high school. The thought shocked and scared me.

There is something innocent about the pursuit of knowledge. In one way, it reminds us that we still have much to learn about life. We don't think we have all the answers and ultimately leave ourselves open to discovering them. Have you ever met someone who "knew all the answers" and remained clueless at the same time? These are people with old prejudices, various forms of "isms" attached to their opinions, and generally are cantankerous at the same time. What good does that kind of attitude do? It does no good whatsoever.

There is an old saying that says, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." Actually this isn't true. You can teach any dog anything...if it actually want to learn anything. People are like dogs (sometimes).

One way you can discover your intellectual curiosity may be to enroll in school somewhere. Take a class on something. Or, you can enroll online at a host of colleges that provide online learning. Many of these courses are free but they offer no credit. If you're up to the challenge, go over to LifeHacker's post on Technophilia. The post will direct you to universities offering free online courses. There is a huge variety to choose from.

Another way can be participating in a few of our church activities. Soon, we will be offering a few Adult Education book studies over the course of this church year. We are looking at having a book study on the phenom book The Shack, by William P. Young.

Whatever you're interested in, let me encourage you to find new ways of learning old things or entirely new things altogether. Your mind, your attitude, and your well-being will thank you.

Monday, September 08, 2008

West Point Football

This past weekend, Jay and I were invited by the Bob and Elaine Hargrove to attend our first ever, West Point Army football game. Although it rained practically the whole time, Jay and I had a wonderful time! Unfortunately Army got whupped by the University of New Hampshire.

Speaking of getting whupped, I remember my high school football team back at Northwest Classen High School in Oklahoma City, OK. We weren't a very good football team. My entire 4-years I spent there our football team went defeated. By that I mean, we didn't win a single game in four years. So I am used to defeat. Army played okay and they would surely have beaten my high school football team. But'd think a team of future Army soldiers would play like a video game of Quake or Doom and obliderate the opponent.

Alas, Army didn't play like that. But they did play a decent game. What I enjoyed most was the game itself, the band, the music, the me, it was all a wonderful treat. Having spent 12 years in the USAF, I missed the atmosphere of the military and last Saturday, I sure got a dose of what I'd been missing.

I am definately going back although next time, I'll go when it isn't raining. I hear the events prior to the game are as much fun as the game. They have booths open with food, games, and activities for the entire family.

Doomsday: Large Hadron Collider

Okay, so it probably won't happen...doomsday I mean. Truthfully, people have been predicting the end of the world for ages now. You might say, "Yeah, but that's different...this really could happen!" For those not in the know, the Large Hadron Collider begins operation this Wednesday as it will collide its first particles. Nervous folks have speculated that this Collider has the capacity to create a black hole. Some of those nervous folks are famed scientists themselves. Actually the debate has taken on quite a flair. To me, I'd think if there was even the slightest possibility of doomsday, you know, ending all creation itself, we wouldn't even consider it. In some ways, it's like betting against the odds. What are the odds of say, getting struck by lightning or winning the lottery? The answer is that some people do get struck by lightning and someone almost always wins the lottery, right?


I supposed that I'm not really too nervous--I just don't understand particle accelerators as much as I would like. I guess that's the real issue. It's like flying in a plane. If I knew how to fly, I'd want to fly instead of sitting in a seat trusting people I don't know to take me where I need to go safely. Putting one's trust in someone else's hands is challenging for sure. One thing for sure, I always pray before I fly and come Wednesday, or Tuesday night depending on the time changes, I'll be offering yet another, "Let us all land safely prayer" directed towards those operating the LHC.

h/t to Confessions of a Small Church Pastor

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Doing Liturgy Anew

This coming Sunday, you, the worshiper will see a few things different when you walk into the church sanctuary. This being the close of our summer worship, I still have a couple of Sundays before Gathering Sunday on September 21 to try some experimentation.

One of those experiments will look familiar. After we installed our new carpet, we moved the pews back to their original places. As of yesterday, the pews have been spaced further apart, turned inwards, and allowed for well, more space in the sanctuary.

Another change will be the projector screen you'll see as you walk in. We will be using a PowerPoint presentation during the service to help folks "look up" during the service rather than keeping one's head buried in our lengthy liturgical Order of Worship. That same Order of Worship will be shown on the projector screen.

We will make use of the projector with two additional elements not present before in the Service: a countdown to the start of worship (to help us begin our worship "on time") and we'll have a brief movie (2 minutes) during the sermon to help illustrate it.

Finally, this being communion Sunday, we will include a new function: prayer. Once you receive the communion elements, I will be offering you an opportunity to pray, led by either Jack Rickly or myself. This will be a short prayer or blessing. If you have a need you'd like prayed for, this is a time for that to happen. We will still have our Prayers of the People following our Pastoral Prayer later in the service.

You may ask: Why the change? Why the additions? It is my belief that one challenge we all face is learning to keep our faith and practice "fresh". This isn't to say that the old ways of doing things are necessarily bad but new ways of doing familiar things can remind us of what we're doing. It is also a chance to keep us from being stale or boring, doing liturgy without thinking about what it means, or drifting in worship whereby our thoughts move and leave the worship experience. Being fresh means we try new things to enliven our faith traditions and perhaps even start new traditions...or not. Being fresh means we try new things and keep what we like and discard what we don't.

The challenge to being fresh is a challenge that affects our sensibilities. Should we embrace technology? Should we be simpler? Do we only practice the basics of our tradition or ought we do delve into our tradition more deeply? These are questions the Church has been asking for two thousand years.

J.R.R. Tolkien offers an interesting thought on how the Church is to function.

The 'Protestant' search backwards for 'simplicity' and directness - which, of course, though it contains some good or at least intelligible motives, is mistaken and indeed vain. Because 'primitive Christianity' is now and in spite of all 'research' will ever remain largely unknown; because 'primitiveness' is no guarantee of value, and is, and was in great a reflection of ignorance. Grave abuses were as much an element in Christian liturgical behavior from the beginning as now. (St Paul's strictures on Eucharistic behavior are sufficient to show this!) Still more because 'my church' was not intended by Our Lord to be static or remain in perpetual childhood; but to be a living organism (likened to a plant), which develops and changes in externals by the interaction of its bequeathed divine life and history - the particular circumstances of the world into which it is set. There is no resemblance between the 'mustard-seed' and the full-grown tree. For those living in the days of its branching growth, the Tree is the thing, for the history of a living thing is part of its life, and the history of a divine thing is sacred. The wise may know that it began with a seed, but it is vain to try and dig it up, for it no longer exists, and the virtue and powers that it had now reside in the Tree. Very good: but in husbandry the authorities, the keepers of the Tree, must look after it, according to such wisdom as they possess, prune it, remove cankers, rid it of parasites and so forth. (With trepidation, knowing how little their knowledge of growth is!) But they will certainly do harm if they are obsessed with the desire of going back to the seed or even to the first youth when it was (as they imagine) pretty and unafflicted by evils. The other motive (now so confused with the primitivist one, even in the mind with any one of the reformers): aggiornamento: bringing up to date: that has its own grave dangers, as has been apparent throughout history. With this, 'ecumenicalness' has also become confused. (The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien, no. 306.)

How we go about embracing our future or integrating it into the life of our traditions is one function of worship. And, being your pastor, it is one of my responsibilities to you: making worship a practical and spiritual blessing for you and our God.

Join me this coming Sunday for a new experience. I am confident you'll be glad you did. See you Sunday!

h/t to Everyday Liturgy