23 January, 2009

Why I'm a Pastor

It's been slightly historic lately. Others have written/blogged/poem-ed/benedicted more eloquently and more thoughfully about the inauguration of President Obama and what it means historically, culturally, politically and even religiously.

On Inauguration Day, I was in Arkansas with a number of dear friends and was reminded of why it is I'm a pastor. (OK, ultimately, it comes down to feeling called. As Tex Sample says, being called by God is a lot like throwing up - sometimes you can put it off for a while, but eventually you're gonna have to do it.)

Watching said Historical Presidential Inauguration, I noticed the people in the room with me. Many of them are pastors. Many of them are the people who have taught me how to live the roles of pastor and priest. They are people who challenge me to be a prophet.

My friend Bill (who is a badass) has been working for civil rights since before I was born. He shared a story about the one time he saw MLK speak in person at an antiwar protest in Arlington National Cemetery.

My friend Milton (who did not speak Cajun over the weekend - major disappointment) reflected on the time that he helped to lead the first integrated campus ministry meeting in Louisiana. The governor declared that such an abomination would never take place on a state school campus. When the group decided to meet off campus, at a Methodist retreat center, the governor sent state troopers to block the road. An hour-long standoff ended when federal marshals showed up and cleared the way.

My friend Morris (well, he's more of a hugging aquaintance than a friend) listened quietly to our stories and conversations. Someone prompted him to share his connection to the history of the civil rights movement. Morris, it turns out, served in the National Guard. The Arkansas National Guard. In 1957. Barely 18 years old, he was part of the drama at Central High School - one day serving the governor's orders to keep black children out of the school; the next, serving the President's orders to do just the opposite. Morris and his fellow guardsmen donned riot gear, formed wedges and walked 9 kids into school through a mob of angry protestors.

I was born after the integration of schools, after the Civil Rights Movement, after the Voting Rights Act.

Last Tuesday, I sat and watched the inauguration of Barack Obama with people who, in some small and not-so-small ways, were part of making the day possible. People of faith, struggling and striving towards God's Kingdom and seeking God's justice. People who are part of my story also.

In terms of time, it is not such a long way from Central High School in 1957 to last Tuesday. In terms of righteousness, it is a massive span.

Some folks, looking back on that tremendous journey, have suggested that, after Tuesday, anyone can imagine themselves as President. It is true that we have taken a major step forward, but we have a long way yet to go. The journey is not yet finished.

A number of my sisters in ministry will tell you that there are plenty of people who cannot imagine a woman as a pastor, much less President. But we shall overcome.

How many of our gay brothers and sisters are still longing for the day when they can simply live without fear, let alone openly serve as pastors, parents or Presidents? But we shall overcome.

It is humbling to stand with God's servants and to proclaim the Good News of freedom and forgiveness, to bear prophetic witness to God's Kingdom and to receive and share a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. It's easy to get caught up in the mundane frustration of life in the church: budgets and meetings, holes in the roof and arguments about choir robes. But there are moments when I am reminded that the Church is more than "the church." Moments, surrounded by colleague I am privileged to call friends, when I am reminded that I am called, along with so many others - lay and clergy - to be God's Kingdom. I am reminded that God's Goodness shall overcome evil, light shall overcome dark, and love shall overcome hate. And that is Good Stuff Indeed. Amen and Alleluia.

much peace, much love, etc.

16 January, 2009

Back in the Virtual Saddle

UP FRONT WARNING/TITILLATION - This post is rated PG-13ish (at least) for sexual content and definitely Not Safe for Grandmas. (So, Dad, please don't show this one to my sainted grandmother. She's probably not yet recovered from reading the word "badass" here a few months ago...)

It's been a while since I've sat down to put virtual pen to virtual paper - virtually a fortnight. I'll never make it to being a Blog of Note* at this rate. But I don't post pretty pictures very often, either, so I'm probably fighting that battle uphill**.

The reality is, I haven't had too much that seemed worth committing to cyber-paper. But that hardly seems a hindrance for teh blogosphere. So no excuse there.

Most of my favorite sportswriters (well, at least one, Blackie Sherrod of the very defunct Dallas Times Herald) would do a scattershooting column weekly or so, writing snippets of stories that weren't enough to fill a whole column on their own. I always liked reading those columns and thought I might try my cyber-hand at it. Forthwith, my theological/churchological cyber-scattershooting.

First up - SEX!

There is, I was surprised to find out, a sort of evangelical-Christian/pro-sex world out there. ("Pro" as in "for," rather than "pro" as in "professional," although I wouldn't be terribly surprised...) A high school friend posted a Facebook link to a Christian sex toy website. (It's weird to even write this phrase.) This being an opportunity one could scarcely forgo, I clicked the link. Looking around the site for "Book 22" (from the Song of Solomon, the 22nd book of the Bible and a dead sexy read...) I found links to several sites of a similar ilk.

Their premise is that sex between a husband and wife ought to be passionate and that toys and other such things can add to the passion. Okie dokie by me: whatever floats your latex ducky. But it is awfully weird to find a site with links called "What to Do with a Vibrator" and "The Roman Road - God's Path to Salvation." And some of the other sites were even more reality-shifting. One had a "techniques" section that made me blush, and that's going a ways.

To be honest, I'm sort of glad about this on a couple of fronts: 1) I'm glad that some of my conservative, evangelical brothers and sisters are recognizing that the Song of Solomon is more than a metaphorical poem of the love between Christ and the Church. (If it is just a metaphor for Christ and the Church, I've always been curious about the symbolism of the Church's breasts.) 2) I'm glad that some of my conservative, evangelical brothers and sisters are getting their freak on - sexuality is a good and beautiful gift from God. But honestly, the mental image of a young, earnestly conservative Christian newlywed couple sitting down to shop for sex toys together online is just kind of funny. My amusement aside, bully for them. (Now if we can just convince them that our gay brothers and sisters aren't out to destroy the nation...)


Jen and I have seen two movies the last two nights - Australia and Gran Torino.

Australia is, as Jen and our amigo Peter both pointed out, like a musical without the music. Over-the-top drama and lots of pretty people posing in front of pretty scenery. But some folks seem to really like it. Bully for them. It might be worth seeing, if only for the scene of Hugh Jackman posing all Grecian-statue-like as he pours water over his half-naked body. Either you'll LOL at the cheesiness or you'll get all twitterpated over his hunkiness.

Gran Torino is a better film and, according to Mister Eastwood, his last as an actor. For a man whose screen persona is so deeply rooted in cheaply violent characters, Torino seems to be a reflection on and, perhaps, a condemnation of the myth of redemptive violence. I don't want to give too much away; you ought to go see it.

And whilst we're talking about movies, even though it's after Christmas, you should see Children of Men. It's the best movie I've seen for capturing the subversive themes of the Advent and Christmas stories in the Gospels. We showed it at my church on Boxing Day and folks seemed to enjoy it. (It's rated R, so your kiddos should stick to A Charlie Brown Christmas.)

We depart to Arkansas on Sunday for to reconnect with some beloved friends/family. The New Gospel Gurus are pondering making an appearance, I'm aiming to get my friend Milton to speak Cajun and I plan on feasting like a Viking. All in all, it should be a good time.

My VBFFITWWW Johnny Flemmons has a blog, but hasn't posted lately. Everyone should inundate him with emails asking for more blogging.

I just created a new shared blog about Christian spiritual practices for young adults (18-30ish). It's just starting, but if you're interested in reading and/or contributing, please check it out: Haunted by God.

The Sububanator (our vehicle referenced in the title description above) started doing weird things on the way to and from Bend for a retreat last weekend. Yours Truly diagnosed the issue (a goofy thermostat) and thence proceeded to repair it on his very own. By Monday evening, the Suburbanator was purring as prettily as every he did and keeping his cool. I felt quite masculine and spent most of Monday evening grunting softly in celebration. Unfortunatley, the celebration only lasted until Thursday, when he started overheating again. Befuddled, I turned the situation over to more capable hands. Professional diagnosis: a leaky water pump, which is being repaired today, professionally. It was nice being manly while it lasted. Back to theologizing, wine collecting and fancy cooking for me.

Finally, a shout out to all the fine folks in ICU at El Hospital de Kerrville who, apparently, are regular readers thanks to my little sister. What up, Nurses!

Well, that's probably enough for now. Hope your weekends are blessed, full of fun and maybe a wee bit o' Jesus.

much peace, much love, etc.

*"Blogs of Note" is a Blogspot promo thing, which I don't actually aspire to. But I do think that the phrase "Blog of Note" should always be read in that echo-y, impending doom, 50's movie voice...


02 January, 2009

No Deeper Meaning

I've been mulling lately - a new year will do that to a fellow - and thinking about new blog posts. (I hate thinking of poor Eilidh looking forlornly at her computer screen, desperate for a new post, only to find the same week-old page, and then: a single tear rolling down her cheek.... It's hard being someone's hero. Lots of pressure.)

Thinks I to myself, "Self, perhaps we could blog about new year's resolutions, or Epiphany, or something likewise appropriate to our station in life." I had a blockbuster post sketched out, but then, whilst roaming across the inter-plains, I came across such a vision that I was compelled to share it with those I love. And Eilidh could see it as well....

So, without any mas ado, here it is: This made me LOLAWRL. It's slightly NSFSS - Not Safe for Sensitive Souls - cause there's bad words on the page, but not super-bad words, only kinda-bad words.

There is no deeper meaning here; it's not a parable or something to think about. Thou shalt not treasure this up in thine heart nor ponder it. I just think it's funny. Happy New Year.

much peace, much love, etc.

PS - In "News Completely Unrelated to Anything Else," I get to go to Arkansas in a fortnight, when I shall get to visit with many of my North Texas BFFs. And that shall be swell.