Saturday, May 30, 2009

To-Do List Meme

Courtesy of the RevGals.

1) What home fix-it project is on your Big To-Do? Does enduring the process of building a home count? I think it should. So I guess it's more of a build-it project than a fix-it project. And we won't actually be doing the building ourselves, but we'll finalize blueprints and I think Coffeewife is planning to take the builders cookies and whatever. Otherwise, I've been meaning to tighten the screws on the some of the doorknobs.

2) What event (fun or work) is on your Big To-Do? I'll be attending the UCC's General Synod at the end of next month. This'll include stopping up to see relatives the day before and worshipping at a friend's church during. So it's very much mixing business with pleasure.

3) What trip is on your Big To-Do? Funny you should ask. I'm in Ormond Beach, Florida right now. But I've got a second big trip coming in August to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. So it's gonna be a great to do that way.

4) What do you wish was on someone ELSE's (partner, family member, celebrity, etc...) Big To-Do? I have four weddings in a row this summer, including one on July 4th. If another pastor feels moved by the Spirit to step in and take them on, I would not complain.

5) Getting inspired? What may end this summer having moved from the Big To-Do to the Big Ta-da? Honestly, there's a lot more ta-da scheduled in my summer than To-Do as it is. The only possibly harrying thing is the house, but even that will largely be out of our hands. I think I will enjoy a good ta-da when I get through that fourth wedding. I'll probably enjoy a few, actually.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Pop Culture Roundup

I read part of Unholy Ghost, a series of essays on depression. It was sitting on my bookshelf for a couple years, and I finally figured I'd read it. The book was not exactly what I expected, both good and bad. First, I picked it up assuming that this would be a series of firsthand accounts of battling depression...it mostly is that, but the writers take a different approach to it than I'd expected. I've quickly gathered that these are professional writers who have been assembled for this...the editor did not seek out amateurs for this exercise. To this effect, I've actually found myself rolling my eyes at how overdone and pretentious some of the essays seem...flourishing, rambling poetry where something raw might have been more effective. And many of the essayists seem more preoccupied with exploring themselves as Tortured Artists rather than people battling mental illness. Not every essay is like this by any means, but I tended to skip over the essays that were until I just got fed up. There are some wonderful accounts that explore the experience of dealing with this illness, and more often than not they acknowledge that it's near impossible to whittle the cause down to any single issue. I experienced it as a mixed bag at best, but eventually I tired of it and stuck it back on the shelf.

We watched Kung Fu Panda this week, which is a fun Dreamworks movie starring the voice of Jack Black as Po, a panda who dreams of learning kung fu and is eventually tapped to be the Dragon Warrior, a legend in his village who will rise up to be the greatest fighter of all. We also get voices from Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, David Cross, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, and Ian McShane. It's a fun, goofy movie that touches on the theme of believing in oneself.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about "Funny the Way It Is," the first song released off of Dave Matthews Band's new album, Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King. I was wary of the album based on the first listen, as it seemed to recall their work from Everyday...a little more canned, and more of an electric sound. Well, the entire album is now available for listening at Pandora, and my worries are abated. They seem more free again, and with a fuller sound that for me recalls Busted Stuff. The album drops this coming Tuesday. Fanboy that I am, I pre-ordered the deluxe version with the extra tracks.

From around the web, here's a guy playing the Simpsons theme on two guitars at the same time:

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Congregational Subtext

I don't know how familiar CoffeeNation is with a TV show called Coupling. It was a British sitcom somewhat remeniscient of Friends that had a short-lived American equivalent. The American version sucked, the British one is much better paced and had better actors.

Anyway, there's one episode of Coupling where one of the characters, Jeff, talks about a made-up character named Captain Subtext. Essentially, Captain Subtext can detect what someone really means whenever they talk. This eventually leads to a hilarious scene where we're able to see and hear the world through Captain Subtext's subtext-detecting helmet.

Pastor and author M. Craig Barnes makes a similar point in his book The Pastor as Minor Poet, noting that congregants typically mean something other than what they say, and the pastor's call is to help them identify the issues below the surface. He gives an example of a couple who visits his office to complain about their new choir director, and he helps identify that they're really less angry at the new director and more grieved over the retirement of the former one. But it takes the active listening of the pastor to bring that subtext to light.

I can point to easy examples from my own ministry. For instance, "A lot of people don't like the guitar in worship" may really mean "My wife and I and one other couple don't like the guitar in worship." "You don't visit people enough" really means "I wish you'd visit me." "We need more activities for the senior high youth" really means "I wish my grandkids were more active in the church." These types of comments attempt to sound universal, but they're really issues that individuals are dealing with. And again, it's helpful for the pastor to listen for these subtexts and name them.

Any of the first set of statements could easily degenerate into an argument...it'd certainly take a lot for me to resist going on the defensive. And I think there's something to be said for simply helping a church member to understand why the guitar is included, or that one does in fact visit people regularly, or that you've been planning senior high activities for some three years now. And I've done that as well, most likely with some degree of defensiveness. But that's probably still not the real issue for the person making the statement, so it shouldn't be left there.

Addressing the subtext can be helpful for a couple reasons:

1. It gets to the real issue, to restate the obvious. The temptation is always to stay at the surface, to go on the defensive, to address the pragmatic and immediate. But there is likely more going on...more that is happening within the person raising the issue. And addressing that issue will be ultimately more helpful, as it will help him or her become aware of that issue.

2. It creates potential for deeper conversation and relationships. If the person is open to hearing about that subtext, he or she will be able to journey through a time of deeper self-awareness and deeper trust between pastor and parishioner. That sort of thing is what the church is meant to be about, beyond the sorts of mundane institutional matters that it may otherwise get hung up on.

3. It also helps the pastor identify his or her own subtext as he or she helps another identify theirs. A pastor needs be aware of one's own reactions and internal issues, as they may create temptation to be defensive as well, to simply "play the game" begun by the surface issue, and to be more potentially destructive than pastoral.

Identifying the subtext can be good for the overall church culture as well. If issues are brought to light within individuals or within the entire congregation, the church as a whole can be affected in positive and life-giving ways. If both sides are willing to do the work, addressing subtext can encourage faithfulness in ways that neither may have expected.

Monday, May 25, 2009

"A Day of Prayer for Permanent Peace:" Obama's Memorial Day Proclamation

I never knew this about Memorial Day. The president makes an annual pronouncement that today be a day of prayer for permanent peace. Here's this year's pronouncement from political.news:
For over two centuries, Americans have defended our Nation's security and protected our founding principles of democracy and equal justice under law. On Memorial Day, we honor those who have paid the ultimate price in defense of these freedoms.

Members of the United States Armed Forces have placed our Nation's safety before their own for generations. From the first shots fired at Lexington and Concord to the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, these brave patriots have taken on great risks to keep us safe, and they have served with honor and distinction. All Americans who have enjoyed the blessings of peace and liberty remain in their debt.

As we remember the selfless service of our fallen heroes, we pray for God's grace upon them. We also pray for all of our military personnel and veterans, their families, and all those who have lost loved ones in the defense of our freedom and safety.

Today, as we commend their deeds, we also bear a heavy burden of responsibility to ensure that their sacrifices will not have been in vain. This means that, as we uphold the ideals for which many have given their last full measure of devotion, the United States must never waver in its determination to defend itself, to be faithful in protecting liberty at home and abroad, and to pursue peace in the world.

In respect for their dedication and service to America, the Congress, by a joint resolution approved on May 11, 1950, as amended (36 U.S.C. 116), has requested the President to issue a proclamation calling on the people of the United States to observe each Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace and designating a period on that day when the people of the United States might unite in prayer. The Congress, by Public Law 106-579, has also designated 3:00 p.m. local time on that day as a time for all Americans to observe, in their own way, the National Moment of Remembrance.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Memorial Day, May 25, 2009, as a day of prayer for permanent peace, and I designate the hour beginning in each locality at 11:00 a.m. of that day as a time to unite in prayer. I also ask all

Americans to observe the National Moment of Remembrance beginning at 3:00 p.m. local time on Memorial Day. I urge the press, radio, television, websites, and all other media to participate in these observances. I also request the Governors of the United States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the appropriate officials of all units of government, to direct that the flag be flown at half-staff until noon on this Memorial Day on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels throughout the United States, and in all areas under its jurisdiction and control. I also request the people of the United States to display the flag at half-staff from their homes for the customary forenoon period.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-second day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Square One

When I was a kid, I loved the TV show Square One. This was a half-hour long educational show put out by the Children's Television Workshop that taught math concepts in a series of short skits. They'd play music videos that loosely parodied real artists (and guest-starred a few such as Weird Al and The Fat Boys), they had Mathman, a take-off on Pac-Man who would have to solve math problems while avoiding Mr. Glitch. And the last ten minutes or so of every show featured a minisode of Mathnet, a take-off of Dragnet where Detectives Kate Monday and George Frankly would solve crimes using math.

Well, for one reason or another I was thinking back to how much I liked this show, and just for fun I looked it up on Wikipedia. While reading, I learned something about the show that I never picked up on when I was younger.

Look at Mathman's helmet. Does it look familiar to you at all?

Yeah. The writers of Square One were huge Michigan fans.

Other fun facts about the show to this effect from the Wikipedia page:
~The show would occasionally feature a segment about estimation in which a Michigan cheerleader would place a small object (e.g., a hamburger, a playing card, or a ping pong ball) in the corner of the playing field of Michigan Stadium. The viewer was then asked to estimate how many of the same object it would take to fill (or cover the playing field of) the stadium.

~In one Dirk Niblick segment, his mother posed a riddle about probability which mentioned a drawer full of maize and blue socks (Michigan's team colors are maize and blue).

~Another Dirk Niblick episode called "Do Not Fold, Spindle or Tape" had Roy "Wrong Way" Tiredamage (Dirk's old college friend from Where Was University) wearing a GO BLUE! shirt backwards. "GO BLUE!" is a phrase frequently used by Michigan athletics.

~In a number of Dirk Niblick mini-segments where he conversed with his mother on the phone, her "speech" was the University of Michigan's fight song.

~Among other sightings of the Michigan logo, a member of a ship's crew during an episode of Mathnet set in Monterey, California, wore a cap commemorating Michigan's 1989 Final Four appearance in NCAA men's basketball.

~There were also a number of joking references to Michigan's longstanding cross-state rivalry with Michigan State University. Two examples, both from Mathnet, included a villain saying that he had flunked out of the University of Michigan and "had to finish at Michigan State," and another villain having attended "Michigan Agricultural College" (MSU's original name) in "West Lansing."

~Another episode of Mathnet involved the kidnapping of a rockstar for a ransom to rent the University of Michigan Marching Band to play a march written by the kidnappers.

~In another episode of Mathnet, a reference was made reflecting the rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State University. While examining a list of bank accounts that had been robbed, the Ohio State Alumni fund was noted as having lost $136. When Pat Tuesday states, "At least they didn't get much," George Frankly replies, "What do you mean? They cleaned the whole thing out!"

~In one episode, George Frankly, in reaction to the name of a fugitive they were currently searching for, said, "Sounds like a linebacker from Penn State!" Penn State is a rival of the Michigan Wolverines.
Now I have to track down copies of episodes.

Friday, May 22, 2009

I am SO reading this book

While Coffeewife was making her nightly trek through the blogosphere looking for updates on the New Moon movie, one of her sites willingly offered up news about a parody of Twilight. A sample:
I continued to scan the Sullens’ table for another available stud and quickly found one who was nearly as hot as Casper. Again I queried Maria, this time about the youngest Sullen boy, trying to hide my newly-formed schoolgirl crush on him.

“The boy over there, with the perfect face, nose, eyes, and lips…and chiseled chin, broad shoulders, strapping chest and tree trunk arms…and that V-shaped torso, thin waist and muscular legs like that of an Olympic cyclist. And perfectly manicured finger and toenails. Who is he, and what’s his story?”

“Oh, that’s Edweird,” she said, rolling her eyes as if they were the seven and ten pins teetering and deciding whether to fall down or not. “He’s dreamy. But he doesn’t date. Apparently, even the best looking girls in the school are not good enough for him. Rumor has it that he’s only interested in five foot four, average looking dark haired girls who only recently moved to Sporks from a hot climate state beginning with the letter “A.” Go find someone who fits that description!” Maria dejectedly shook her head, the contents of her shot glass riding up and spilling over the sides. She leaned down close to the table, shot out her pink tongue and lapped up the droplets.

I now turned my full attention to Edweird. Edweird looked as though he was transplanted to Sporks from the pages of Greek mythology. He was tall, with long, lean muscles, perfect angular features, and boyish good looks — remarkably like the boy who played Cedric Diggory in the Harry Potter movies, but with spiky hair. That’s all I’m going to tell you about Edweird now, but don’t you worry: I’ll be describing his perfection from this point on every chance I get in four — count ‘em, four — amazingly long (and expensive) books.
Not surprisingly, not many people on that site are able to laugh along with the author. I, on the other hand, was rolling on the floor.

The book is available on Amazon. The homepage for the book is here.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Community and Human Nature

I found this Peter Rollins interview via Kingdom Grace, who quotes a few paragraphs dealing with working against the notion of a faith community with a pastor who does things for everyone else:
For if there is no ‘group’ who cares about the person sitting beside me then there is more need for me to care about that person. If there is no pastoral support team in place then I need to be the pastoral support. The refusal to offer pastoral support thus generates a potential place where pastoral care is distributed among everyone.

It is a common feature of religious life that we often seek a leader to tell us what to do. In these situations I would argue that it is good to have a leader who refuses to take on that role. Who, by doing so, forces the other to take responsibility for themselves.

The truth is that many of us seek a particular kind of leader, namely one we can lead. What this means is that we want someone to tell us what we want to hear, but that we want them to take on the responsibility for our actions rather than embrace that responsibility ourselves. The leader who refuses to lead short-circuits this manipulative game and invites people into taking on the responsibility for their own decisions.
So the basic gist here is that, if a community doesn't call itself a community, then no pastoral leadership or hierarchy is established and we're all forced to take our own initiative to care for one another. I get it. I love it. But there's a glitch...differing personalities will most likely lead to the natural emergence of such leadership. Think of the caretaking personalities that you know, the Type As, the overorganizers. It'll take a lot for those types of personalities to keep from always stepping in to care for others and, consequently, become the community's caregivers through a natural process.

Of course, Rollins' point is that those people need to refuse sometimes, need to resist the urge to always step in in order for others to realize their own responsibility.

The flip side are the personalities that like to hang back, feel things out, keep options open and stay uncommitted. This "community that isn't a community" is the perfect place for those personalities to abdicate responsibility whenever they can. And the way Rollins is figuring it, they're the ones who need to learn how to take responsibility.

It's a double-edged sword. And I don't think that playing the semantic game with the word "community" is the answer. To me, "community" actually implies that we have responsibility for each other more than "non-community." If you willingly and voluntarily join a community, then you are taking on its needs and cares. Non-institutional communities can work this just fine. It's when it starts organizing itself that pastoral leadership emerges and hierarchy forms. But based on personalities within the community, that may eventually happen anyway. The helpful thing about Rollins' quote, to me, is those personalities checking themselves in order to encourage everyone to do their part.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Homebuilding

This past week, we signed the papers to build a house in the area. The projection is that, after all the finalizing of floor plans and whatnot, it'll be finished sometime late September or early October. So our first home-purchase experience is a house that has yet to exist.

This feels strange to me for a couple reasons. First, of course, it's my first home purchase. I would think that such a huge fiscal step would feel strange, exhilarating, anxious, regardless. In fact, I'm still not sure that it's hit me yet.

Second, the bulk of my home-dwelling experience is a combination of parsonages and places maintained by institutions of higher education. A continually-running toilet or a broken air conditioner has just always been taken care of. It won't be that easy any more. I know my way around a toolbox well enough, but there's only so much that I can do when something like that breaks down.

Finally, due to the terms of President Obama's incentives for first-time homebuyers, we'll be living in this house for at least three years. I've never lived in one area for longer than 5 1/2 years. What's that feel like, I wonder? Well, now I guess I'll know.

And we'll be in a neighborhood, as opposed to the rural isolation we're experiencing now. We don't have neighbors, or sidewalks, no trick-or-treaters at Halloween, and the local road is a busy county road where cars zoom by at 50 miles an hour. I have a stake in this on behalf of Coffeeson. Where we are right now, he can't walk to friends' houses, he could easily get hurt if a ball rolls into the street, we'll have to truck him someplace else for Halloween...I don't want that for him. Neither does Coffeewife.

It took some convincing for me to agree to build. When we toured potential neighborhoods for lots, all I saw was a couple scattered houses that maybe were next to each other among a lot of dirt, straw, and weeds. I know that the idea was to envision what the place would look like in a few years, but in the short term it wouldn't be that much different than where we are now. And Coffeewife and I both were surprised at how incredibly angry I got about that...I think there's some subconscious thing happening there that even I don't understand. But the neighborhood that we'll be living in is already pretty well-developed already.

And get this: apparently a couple of LeBron James' friends live there and he swings through every so often. So how about that?

There are also certain implications for my church, and maybe I'll get into those some other time.

So we're looking forward to this transition. It'll be a fun experience the next few months to watch the house gradually emerge. And, of course, it'll be wonderful to move in and begin making our house a home as well.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Twittering the Gospel

I'm not a Twitter person. It took me a long time to convince myself to join Facebook, and I've become stupidly addicted to that. But as far as rushing to my computer to let people know that I'm going grocery shopping or that I just ate lunch, just doesn't seem like a productive use of my time. A church member recently forwarded me an article about using Twitter during worship, which I also don't get (if nothing else because the article only cited some examples, and then not very clearly).

But I've heard the question that sparked this entry more than once, including on Facebook. First, an explanation of Twitter as I understand it: you sign up for an account, then type out 140-character updates for anyone to read about how you're sitting around watching TV, or you just came back from the bathroom, or your baby just threw up on you, or whatever. But I've seen the question asked, "If you had to Twitter the gospel (read: express it in 140 characters), what would you type?"

Kingdom Grace shares Rob Bell's answer, which apparently has made the usual people huffy:
How would you present this gospel on Twitter?

I would say that history is headed somewhere. The thousands of little ways in which you are tempted to believe that hope might actually be a legitimate response to the insanity of the world actually can be trusted. And the Christian story is that a tomb is empty, and a movement has actually begun that has been present in a sense all along in creation. And all those times when your cynicism was at odds with an impulse within you that said that this little thing might be about something bigger— with those tiny little slivers may in fact be connected to something really, really big.
Grace notes that this is way longer than 140 characters. The heart of the quote might be his third sentence, which is probably still longer than 140 characters.

As for me? It'd probably go something like this: "God's kingdom is near; Its way is love; Christ invites us."

Now, the problem with this exercise is that people who read these end up making all sorts of assumptions about what you mean, much like people are doing with Bell. For example, in mine there's no explicit mention of sin. Some who perhaps share my leanings know, however, that sin is in there: God's kingdom opposes traditional kingdoms that value power and violence, and the way of love is vastly different than revenge. The pithy statements that this exercise invites, I think, is at best the beginning of a dialogue about deeper meaning. I certainly would never make the mistake of thinking that one's beliefs could be adequately expressed in 140 characters.

So that's what I would Twitter, or tweet, or whatever. What would you type?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Small Sips - Creative Pastor-Bloggers

I'm using this Small Sips to point you to a couple blogs by pastors who use their blog spaces for creativity. I mean, all bloggers strive for creative expression, but these are storytellers, cartoonists, and essayists. I've really enjoyed them, and I want to encourage you to check them out.

Ironically, I haven't felt very creative about my own blog lately. I think those Synod posts sapped my blogging energy or something. But I'll be back up to full strength soon.

Oh, that quirky church: I only started reading Questing Parson this year. He posts new stories almost daily about his character, the parson, and his encounters in and around his faith community. As best I can tell, these are fiction, but they usually have a message. Here's one from very recently that I enjoyed:
The cross that had hung on the church wall just above the arch at the rear of the chancel was taken down on a Monday evening. The Church Council had voted for its removal in order for a screen that was part of the coming multi-media worship to be installed.

The cross had been given by an old family of the church. Only one member of the family still attended. She was in her eighties and when the parson approached her, thinking this would be a delicate matter to bring up, she quickly volunteered that it was about time the church caught up with the times.

The cross had been built by her brother. It was a wooden construction with lights inside to illuminate the frosted glass front. The Church Council had voted to have the cross weather proofed and asked Ms. Parson if she would replace the frosted glass with stained glass. She had quickly agreed. Then, the council had decided, the cross would be affixed to the outside wall of the church just above the front porch entry. A light sensor would be installed so the stained glass would be illuminated at night.
On Tuesday the parson carried the cross to one of the members to weather proof and make alterations to receive the stained glass. On Wednesday the electrician met with the parson to plan for the installation of the power source and the light sensor. On Thursday the parson met with a member who was a contractor to discuss the actual placement of the cross on the outside wall.

On Friday the parson went hiking in the National Forest.

On Saturday the parson cut the grass.

On Sunday, following the morning worship. Jeffery Gordon, the member who had been recruited to weather proof the cross, called to the parson as he stood in the parking lot in front of the church.

Pointing to the wall above the point of the porch, he said, “That’s where you’re going to put the cross?”

“Yes, right up there. We’ve got everything arranged. There’s going to be a light sensor so ....”

“You can’t put it there.”

“I beg your pardon.”

“You can’t put it there.”

“What are you talking about? All this has been approved by the council, Jeff.”

“I don’t care who approved it. If you put it there it’s going to cover up that rock in the center.”

The parson turned and looked at the wall. “What rock?”

“That one there in the center just above the point of the porch roof.”

“Well, I sure can’t argue with that, Jeff. It’s going to cover up that rock.”

“That rock was personally picked out by Uncle Robert Rawlings, one of the charter members of the church. He selected that one because it looks like an open Bible.”

The parson looked back at the wall. “It looks like a rock, Jeff.”

“It looks like an open Bible, Parson. Uncle Robert picked it out. We cannot cover up that rock. It would hurt his family’s feelings.”

“His family?”

“Yes, his family.”

“How many of Robert Rawling’s descendants attend this church now, Jeff.”

“That’s not the point, Parson.”

“What’s the point?”

“The point is people are going to be mad.”

“Do these people have names?”

“I’m one of them, Parson.”

“Okay.”

“Okay, what?”

“Okay, you’re mad.”

“You don’t care that I’m mad?”

“Jeff,” said the parson as he placed his hand on Jeff’s shoulder, “I care a lot that you’re mad. But you usually get mad when we try to change things. I’m deeply concerned that you’re mad. And I’m going to pray you’ll get over it.”

“But you’re going to have that cross put there on top of Uncle Robert’s rock anyway.”

“That’s a promise, Jeff.”
Sometimes, yeah, it feels like that: If you've never visited Naked Pastor before, you really should. He writes occasionally, but perhaps what he's best known for are his cartoons. Here's his most recent:

Friday, May 08, 2009

Pop Culture Roundup

I've been reading Frankenstein. I've never read it. And more people should, because now I'm wondering where all these popular renderings of the story come from: Igor the assistant, stealing a murderer's brain, the lightning storm, screaming "It's alive!" Yeah, none of it's in there. Instead, when we get to the part where Frankenstein talks about bringing the monster to life, he just says, "And I can't tell you how I did it, because then you may attempt it as well and ruin your own life as I've ruined mine." Subtle, and communicates his sorrow and regret. Nice.  And the monster is intelligent and articulate, too.

I also watched Forgetting Sarah Marshall this past week, wherein a guy feeling absolutely horrible after his actress girlfriend (in a CSI-type show that they brilliantly spoof) takes a trip to Hawaii to try to clear his head. One problem: his ex shows up with her new boyfriend, a caricature of Bono. Although he doesn't direct it, Judd Apatow has his hand in this as evidenced by some of his usual go-to actors showing up. There's a lot of weaving in and out of different relationships and conversations about relationships, and at times it feels more like an ensemble movie the way different characters interact and bounce off each other. It's at times raunchy, at times cute, and often funny...perhaps a more understated Apatow-related movie, which can be a good thing.

This past week, the final episode of Scrubs aired. It was a full one-hour finale about J.D.'s last day at Sacred Heart before taking a new position at the hospital where the mother of his child works. He frets about making the day extra special, but seems to be let down more often than not. We do end up learning The Janitor's real name, a lot of recurring characters and past guest stars make cameos, and the episode is wrapped up very well. There's some talk that they'll still attempt another season without Zach Braff, but I see no possible way to continue without the main character who narrated the series. That'd be entering shark-jumping territory in a major way.

I've listened to a couple new albums this week:

The National, Boxer - I picked this up out of curiosity, having never heard of The National before. Their lead track hooked me with a strings line that really added depth to the song, but they lost me more and more over the course of the album. It's a nice laid-back sort of sound, with horns to accent much of it, but it just didn't do it for me.

Feist, The Reminder - I had my first taste of Beth Orton's music a few weeks ago and liked it, and lo and behold, I like Feist. Even if you've never heard of her, you've probably heard her music...there was a commercial for an iPhone or something like a year ago that used her song, "1234." In some ways, it's the weakest song on the album...I liked the rest a lot better.

The Derek Trucks Band, Already Free - I'm actually surprised that this was my first taste of Derek Trucks Band. As a jamband kinda guy in general and an appreciator in particular of the Allman Brothers Band and Gov't Mule, I can't believe it took me this long to experience Trucks' work. DTB's sound is very Allman-ish...driving, bluesy southern rock. Trucks is an awesome guitarist besides.

Beastie Boys, The Mix-Up - This is a purely instrumental album, mixing a wide range of styles into a hip-hop feel. It made for a good cruising sort of album while I made pastoral visits this week.

From around the web and in honor of the hopefully final episode of Scrubs, here's a pieced-together Dr. Cox rant:

Friday, May 01, 2009

Ritualistic Meme

Courtesy of the RevGals.

1. Are ritual markings of birth marriage and death important to you? I'm big on marking special days and anniversaries. I don't think one needs to overdo it *coughweddingscough* but a special marking of the moment can create a good beginning or ending; a formal recognition that this time is sacred; is important for the individual or couple and for gathered family and friends in support.

2. Share a favourite liturgy/practice. During baptisms, I walk the child down the aisle while talking about his/her church family and the promises they've made. I see it as a moment of connection between the congregation and the newly baptized; a recognition that we're all in this together and not just watching a moment of cuteness up in the chancel. And as I walk and talk, watching the little one's face and praying for his/her future, I usually get misty.

3. If you could invent (or have invented) a ritual what is it for? I'd like to develop a Christian version of kaddish, the Jewish ritual of mourning that takes place the whole year after a loved one's death. We Christians don't have a lot in place to grieve well, aside from the funeral, All Saints, and perhaps some one-on-one time with a pastor/friend/Stephen Minister/whatever. We could do a lot for ourselves by adhering to something like this.

4. What do you think of making connections with neo-pagan/ancient festivals? Have you done this and how? A healing circle that I was a part of in seminary would always begin with a pagan "clearing of the room." I found it a good moment of centering and preparation for the evening's activities.

5. Celebrating is important, what and where would your ideal celebration be? It would look very similar to the scene after Coffeeson's baptism: friends and family sitting, laughing and talking in the shade on a nice summer day, brats on the grill, cornhole game in the yard (I'm such a midwesterner). That was a great day. That's all I really need. For me, it's the energy that drives any ceremony or celebration rather than the planning and rubrics. So give me a sunny day and a grill and the day will take care of itself.