Thursday, November 30, 2006

Old Man Winter and Me

Today had an ominous feeling to it, as though winter were hiding around a corner like one of the Spy vs. Spy characters. The Dark Spy actually.

For the last week it has been unseasonably warm in Owensboro, and everyone has been talking about it as if we are operating on borrowed time - as though we were all children and our parents had dropped us off at the mall with $20 but told us they would be back to get us in five minutes. Temporarily we are turned loose to enjoy all, but our joy quickly sours when we realize time is not on our side.

I guess there is this unspoken assumption in the Midwest that all good things must come to an end eventually, which partly explains everyone’s mixed emotions about the good weather. Everyone was happy to talk about it, but there was this unspoken fear permeating the conversation. People know what lies on the other side of seventy-degree days in November. There is a cost to be paid for such blessings – specifically freezing rain and grey in fifty tones come late December.

Winter is a reality Anna and I are becoming accustomed to again, and truthfully it makes me nervous. I got into a conversation with someone the other day about the dreariness of February in particular, the long, empty days of winter when the sun seems more of a myth than a reality. She said that it’s all she can do to make it through the month. Another person said they just plan on doing some major project around the house during February, turn on all the lights and play inspiring music – good for the soul, terrible for the electric bill. But, I totally understood. I’m already trying to plan for how I will get through this winter, as though I need to prepare for a nuclear winter rather than just a normal season.

But winter isn’t just another season. That’s my point. As far as seasons go winter is the only one I can remember that is personified, and for good reason. You don’t hear people talking about Young Lady Spring or Wise Father Fall (which would good fun now that I think of it), but Old Man Winter is a different. Old Man Winter – what with his icy-blue, buffed up cheeks and hair like icicles – is a first cousin of the Grim Reaper. He seems to stalk more than walk. And if Old Man Winter does walk he inevitably just stirs up big drafts of cold air and perhaps a few snowdrifts with his long, white robe.

When Old Man Winter first comes around, people don’t really care much. They’re too caught up in another old man – the jolly fat-guy full of warmth: Santa. But as soon as Santa high-tails it up to the North Pole, there isn’t any more warmth to carry us through.

Perhaps I am treating Old Man Winter too harshly though. Maybe I’m giving Santa all the perks and Old Man Winter the short end of the stick. Russians, after all, believe that Old Man Winter, known as Morozko, is the very same Santa. But, then again, many Russians live in places like Siberia, and if you don’t make friends with winter, there really isn’t much to live for.

I, on the other hand, haven’t weathered twenty-degree weather for more than twenty-four hours the last four years. The only time I saw snow last winter was when I drove into and out of the Rockies. We slept in a warm hotel room, had breakfast with Drew, Anna’s brother, snapped a few pics for memories outside in the parking lot, and that was it.

This year, though, there won’t be any escaping it. There will be icy puddles, and salt on sidewalks. There will be scrappers for windshields, layers for warmth, and slush on streets.

Yeah, like I said, winter seems to be hiding around the corner tonight as the rain becomes heavy and the air becomes stiff - just like the Dark Spy, ready to unload a lethal trick upon my unprepared self. Go easy on me this year Old Man Winter. I can’t take much. I’m still use to palm trees and endless sunshine in January. And, if you get a chance, you might want to say hello to Friendly Brother Summer. I know you two haven’t ever hit it off, but I’m telling you, people tend to enjoy him all year round. I can’t say the same for you.


Wyatt Loves Avocados ...

... although here he is eating prunes, which he also enjoys.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Wanted: Boxed or Unwrapped!

For the first time I am issuing a bounty! Let it be known from this day forth that there is a bounty for the following three dvd sets: The Simpsons: season 4, Star Wars: episodes 4,5, & 6, Indiana Jones: 4 disc set. I have no freakin' idea where these three dvd sets disappeared to, but it all dates back to our move from Pasadena to Owensboro. So, either (a) the moving men knew precisely where my weakspot was and how to send me into frantics or (b) I threw them away amongst heaps of moving paper and cardboard boxes. But, let me just say that I don't think I threw them away.

So, if anyone knows their whereabouts, please contact me. I will honor the bounty: $15!


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Ailments Avoided, Colds Caught

It's been a good while since the last update. We really haven't been busy. Truthfully, I don't know what has happened to the last few weeks. Lots of settling still going on for us, and lots of days where we still wind up exhausted.

Our whole household officially has a cold now. Anna was the last line of defense, but she caved today. Likely, I gave it to Wyatt and Wyatt to Anna. But, we're fighting it the best we can with herbal teas, Vic's Vaporizers and lots of cold-eezes.

I can't seem to stay warm. My extremities are continually cold. I don't know how we are going to make it through the winter. In fact, we just got a heating bill for $150. This was astounding! Our biggest heating bill in Pasadena was something like $35. Anyhow, we've dropped the temperature in our house to keep us out of the red, but this is only going to keep my in slippers and scarfs all winter.

We do have something to be thankful for: Wyatt, who happened to swallow one of Anna's ear-rings, managed to avoid any serious harm by passing the ear-ring through his entire digestive system. Anna found it after one of his explosive poos, ending a mystery of where her ear-ring disappeared to. This single event was strangely funning and strangely distressing. How close we came to surgery we will never know!?


Monday, November 06, 2006

Preaching Well, Living Poorly

Ted Haggard stepped down as both pastor of his Colorado Springs congregation and as the president of the National Association of Evangelicals. He did so amidst allegations of drug use and a sexual relationship with another man. The tremendous irony and hypocrisy of the president of the NAE engaging in homosexual acts – the same man who served as a spokesman for “biblical marriage” and against homosexuality – was guaranteed to garner national media attention, so you’ve probably seen or read the news. It caught my eye for those reasons as well.

Two other events in my own life this past weekend also helped keep Ted Haggard at the front of my thoughts. For one, vacation is providing me opportunity to reflect on what it means to be a pastor – seeing as I am one now. While I have done church work before, this is the first time I have done so with my name on the outside of a church and with the title Reverend. And while I would consider myself to be of a different mold than Ted Haggard, we are both pastors and both susceptible to similar stresses. Even more, like Ted Haggard I too claim a Christian evangelical faith, and if you were to check out the statement of belief for the National Association of Evangelicals (, it wouldn’t look too different than the statement of belief of Fuller Theological Seminary where I received my education for ministry. The similarities are too similar to ignore. It would be foolish of me to assume Ted Haggard’s story is far beyond the trajectory of my own journey.

The second event that kept me thinking about Ted Haggard this weekend was church. Normally, where I go to church is a no brainer: where I serve as pastor. Vacation, though, presents the opportunity to attend different houses of worship, and this past Sunday, Anna and I went to a non-denominational, evangelical mega-church – not too unlike the church where Ted Haggard was pastoring and preaching. There were several things of note at this church: large multi-media screens, praise music to welcome and begin worship (interestingly, only the large cast of lead singers at the front of the sanctuary stood while singing), and an American flag next to the Christian flag and just beneath the stained glass window.

All of these things are a far cry from the traditional, liturgical style of worship I lead and participate in weekly. That is not to say that the service we attended this past Sunday was wrong or unappreciated. There were several things that were attractive and valuable in the service – enough to keep Anna and I discussing over lunch yesterday. But, what particularly stuck with me was how long the sermon was and how much emphasis was placed on the preacher’s ability to decipher and speak for Scripture. The sermon was at least forty minutes long, and following the sermon there was also time for the pastor to answer questions members of the congregation had written on the back of prayer cards.

Thankfully, this minister was very faithful to the text – even though his text was the whole book of Leviticus and several other selections from the New Testament. Still, I am unsettled that so much of a worship service is given over to the preacher. I know I don’t have much room to speak here, because I claim to be a child of the Reformation. And one of the critical pieces of Reformation theology is the place of preaching in the worship service. The Reformation began a steady ascension of the spoken word that took off on American soil with the help of revivals and big tents. Today, it is impossible to conceive of American Christianity without a resolute, determined preacher somewhere at the head. But this is precisely what I’m trying to get to: pastors in America are too frequently appreciated (or disregarded) because of their ability to preach. To be a good pastor today is to be a good preacher. And people yearn to be members of churches where the preaching is solid, relevant, biblical, hopeful, transforming, or any number of other qualities that gets thrown around social conversations. Think about it. When word gets out a new pastor is coming into town, do you expect to first hear about the pastor’s new ministry amongst illegal aliens or battered women, or do you expect to hear about how good of a preacher the pastor is (or is not, which spells certain doom for his or her ministry)?

Ted Haggard is a good preacher. At least I assume so. There are over 10,000 people that are a part of his church, so there must be something about his preaching which is infectious. But, it is also clear that the ability to speak the good news does not lead to the ability to lead a Christ-like life. The two – speaking about Christ and living like Christ – do not always lead down the same path.

I don’t have much to offer in regards to a solution. Any solution I would offer would be narrow-minded or simplistic. But as I reflect and pray over this matter today, my sense is that part of the problem comes when Christians are reduced to spokesmen or voices for the faith.

So many ministers want to be as influential as Paul the spokesmen without being Paul the pastor. And, as I have found in the early season of ministry, it is much easier to be good at preaching (and much more appreciated) than it is to be good at serving others. Most people are not all that concerned about what pastors do with their life outside of Sunday morning (unless of course they see you doing something profane or scandalous). Many assume pastors only work one day a week, and even that is only a half-day of work. And many ministers are eager to make their sermons so impressive that people will at least give them lots of credit for their half-day of work.

My assumption is that many a pastor begins ministry hoping to serve and to do good things for the Lord – while also maintaining personal balance and health. Over time, though, it becomes clear that true service to the Lord and the Church will require a great deal of time, energy and very little notoriety. Meanwhile, being a voice for many is something others are frequently all too willing to bestow upon pastors – especially when it comes to matters of morality. So, instead of living out the Gospel with their lives – or letting the Gospel stand by itself – many pastors feel anxious and obligated to let their ministry be about what they say rather than how they behave on a day to day basis.

I’ve been looking for pastors who will teach me a different way to live and do ministry. They are out there. Eugene Peterson is one. Richard Foster is one. There are others. They are not easy to find, but even the few that I have found have been a tremendous oasis for me as a pastor and as a person.


Friday, November 03, 2006


Today begins my first week-long vacation since accepting the call to First Presbyterian Church of Owensboro. The day is full of bright sunshine, crisp air and the gentle display of autumn leaves cascading down upon our backyard - a great day to begin a vacation.

Wyatt continues to get better. Although, I did just wipe his nose and this never ending snot-trail kept on coming out of his nostril. It was like one of those magic tricks ("Illusions, Michael, they're illusions!") where one handkerchief becomes a string of sixty flowing out of a sleeve. But beyond those minor unpleasantries, Wyatt is breathing - and sleeping! - much better.

We are headed up to northern Indiana this afternoon. Anna has a friend from college who is getting married, so we will have a chance to be reminded of our own vows as we watch new ones expressed.

Hopefully, we'll also be able to take with us season 1, disc 2 of Twin Peaks. We are getting into the mystery that is the death of Laura Palmer. We watched the first two episodes and found ourselves both giggling and squirming - very bizarre, but also very good television. It is also clear Twin Peaks broke a lot of new ground and continues to shape a lot of shows and movies. A lot of the serial "crime-scene" shows today seem to rely heavily on Twin Peaks, and you can't watch the first five minutes of a Twin Peaks episode without thinking about Lost.

Good times,


Wednesday, November 01, 2006


We have just returned home from the hospital, where Wyatt spent his first All Hallow's Eve and started his All Saints Day. This, of course, was more than enough scare for Anna and I this year.

We took Wyatt to the pedetrician on Tuesday morning after suffering through two nights of negligible sleep. By early Tuesday morning Wyatt's breathing had definitely become very shallow and very labored. Anyhow, the short of the long is that the pedetrician recommended placing Wyatt in supervised care at the hospital for at least 24 hours. He also wanted to make sure Wyatt did not have pneumonia. Thanks be to God, he didn't.

Wyatt has progressed wonderfully the last 24 hours, and he is currently sleeping in his room. Of course, antibactorial medication and some steriods surely didn't hurt him at all. Anna and I were tremendously cautious about using such strong stuff on the little guy, but there really wasn't much we could do. And, honestly, I think we kinda lost our wits when the pedetrician first said, "I would suggest you put him in the hospital for at least the night." Boy, that's a sentence that has all sorts of gravity to it!

Anyhow, the official diagnosis was some sort of viral infection that moved rapidly from his head to his chest - perhaps a touch of bronchitis. We also talked with a nurse about the bad atmosphere of the Owensboro area - something about the humidity, tons and tons of pollutants being dumped into the Ohio River, and the presence of mold spores throughout. Makes me want to go outside for a quick jog, eh?

Please do keep our little guy in your prayers. Let's also pray that he isn't called before Congress anytime soon for his implications in the whole steriod scandal.