Sunday, February 24, 2008

Israel --- Jerusalem

I am in the greatest city in the world! BAR NONE!!!

It is good to be home! While I love the Galilee, nothing compares to Jerusalem. We got here late last night, and today we had a free day. After going to church at St. George Cathedral I met up with two other guys and then we traveled all over the Old City. I went to a ton of places that I had never been to before. Including a number of very old churches, one that claims to have a painting of Jesus and Mary by Luke and the "real" location for the last supper. We also just had a great time!

The group is a real mixed lot which makes it a lot of fun. From Southern Baptists, Seventh Day Adventists to Anglicans, Presbyterians and a couple of others. Everybody gets along and seem to really enjoy each other.

I don't have Internet access readily available which is a pain in the rear. I should be able to get on Friday Evening for me (late afternoon for you).

I hope everybody is doing well.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Israel --- Tel Aviv

I have arrived in Tel Aviv. I forgot how much I hate that flight (It was only 5 weeks ago I did this). I was able to sleep a little on the plane, and I am trying to stay up until 10pm (2 in the afternoon for you) so that I will be over the jet lag by tommorrow.

We are spending the night at the Tal Hotel (I don't recommend it).

Tommorrow we will begin by visiting ancient Joppa, then heading north up the coast to Ceasarea and Megiddo on our way to Tiberius. We spend a couple of nights there before we head to Jerusalem.

The weather is good. Although they say that it snowed in Jerusalem on Monday. It is supposed to be in the 50/60's by the time we get there at the end of the week.

Hope everyone at home is doing well. I will try to get pictures on line tomorrow (assuming I have internet access.)

Friday, February 15, 2008


OK, I am getting ready to leave for Israel and people keep asking me --- do you think that it is safe? Wait a minute, what about the good old US of A. What has happened to our country. We had another "terrorist" attack take place yesterday at my alma mater. I graduated from Northern Illinois University with a History degree, I lived in Lincoln Hall (which one of the TV stations was broadcasting in front of). I sat for boring science lectures in Cole Hall. I have often shared a story that took place in Cole Hall about the end of the world. And now, now the world has ended at Cole Hall.

But when are we going to take off our rose-colored glasses --- glasses that tell us that terrorism exists in Israel and Africa --- but not here. WE HAVE HOMELAND DEFENSE! We don't have terrorists. But much like the "terrorists" in Israel, ours are home grown. The person who killed six others and himself yesterday was from the suburbs of Chicago, not the suburbs of Bagdad.

It is time for us to stand up to the culture of violence that we have created and nurtured. It is time for us to stop allowing guns to be freely available. Or wait, will we get the same argument that told place following the Virginia Tech shootings: "if only someone had been armed they could have taken out the shooter."

I am a dreamer.
I want to believe that we can have a better world.
That is why I am a Christian.
I have chosen to follow the prince of peace — instead of carrying a piece!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Suicide Prevention

Munster has been hit hard this past 6 months by teenage suicide. This sounds like it might be worth going to.


The CHOICE Community Council will be sponsoring a presentation on teenage depression and suicide on Wednesday, March 12, 2008 at 7:00PM in the Munster High School Auditorium. This free presentation for parents will be provided by representatives from Tri-City Mental Health Center and will cover information on warning signs, statistics, proper courses of action, and available resources to aid parents. Parents are strongly encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity to receive this important information that could save someone’s life.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A little of this and that

Seems like I can't turn around right now without something that I should be doing staring me in the face. First and foremost is putting together a plan with the announcement that Jeff and Heather are moving back to Kansas on July 1. While at times it seems like an overwhelming task, there are some exciting possibilities --- especially if we will look outside the box. Read the Staff Parish Letter.

Tomorrow I meet with out District Superintendent and will begin exploring with her if there are any ministerial candidates available, or if we are better off heading in a different direction (I am leaning toward a non-associate pastor simply because we can get a lot more "bang for our buck". Jeff is an exception to the norm and the odds of us replacing him with another exceptional associate are pretty slim. But we have to work through the D.S. first before we can begin exploring plan B.

With all the windshield time I have had lately, I was able to listen to James Patterson's "Cross." Another book in the Alex Cross series. I have read (or listened) to a number of his books, and really enjoyed this one because it tied up a lot of loose ends from some of the other books.

Not sure when I will get to blog again. I will try over the next couple of weeks, but I am not sure how much access I will have to the internet. I leave Friday for Kalamazoo, Michigan for PETS (President Elect Training) for Rotary. I know, I have time to be president of Rotary, like I have time to . . . I will return home LATE Saturday night, in time, I hope to catch a few hours of sleep before I need to get up and preach (WHY MIRACLES?). Tuesday, I leave for Israel. It is going to be lots of fun, but most of the hotels do not appear to have internet access. I guess I will find out.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Stetson part 4

Well it is almost time to leave Stetson behind. Overall this has been an excellent conference. No, all the speakers weren't enlightening, or engaging. But I take away some wonderful ideas, but I think even more important I take away a rested body and spirit.

Amy Jill Levine is one of the brilliant New Testament scholars of this age. What makes Amy-Jill most interesting is the fact that she is Jewish. And when I say that I don't mean a secular Jew, she is a practicing Jew who teaches about Jesus and probably knows him better than most Christians. Her lectures were worth the price of admission.

Dr. Long is a dynamic speaker --- unfortunatly he did not have a lot to say --- but he was fun to listen to anyway.

Dr. Balentine was a lousy speaker, and he didn't have too much of value to say. He did give me an idea for a sermon so that was good.

Dr Martin Marty is finishing up his lecture right now. Kind of stream of conciousness talk --- not sure what I am supposed to be getting from it. I think it is supposed to be about why we need to change. Good from somebody around 80!

We will have to miss the last 1/2 of Amy-Jill Levine's final lecture because we have to drop "little Doug" off at the Daytona Beach airport and then we will head back down to Orlando to catch our 4pm flights.

The Bible

Bishop Spong writes a weekly Q & A e-mail that is a teaser to get you to buy his weekly essay. This week had a question asking about the Bible and how one can use it bettter. This is Spong's answer.

The Bible is a developing narrative, portraying the developing God-consciousness in human life. It moves beyond the tribal deity of some of its earlier parts to a universalism that defines God as both Love and Justice, and even calls us to love our enemies. The essential truths of the Bible, useful on all of our spiritual journeys, is that in creation God proclaims that all life is holy, in the Jesus story, the Bible asserts that all life is loved and that through the Holy Spirit, who is said to be "the Lord and giver of life," the Bible issues a call to each of us to be all that we can be.

I think that is a pretty good answer.
It is time for us to move beyond a God who sits up on a throne wanting to give some people good stuff and others he wants to kick in the a** (hind quarters).

How do you understand who God is.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Stetson part 3

Finally the weather turned, I am sure that will make some of you happy. We started the day in the 80's but by the afternoon it was in the high 60's and rainy.

We stayed up rather late celebrating the Duke victory over UNC. We sat on the beach telling stories and having a generally great time. It was without a doubt the best evening of the trip.

This afternoon (classes end right after lunch) we headed to New Smyrna Beach so that we could watch the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis. It was amazing. Right up until launch time we did not know if it was going to go, because the weather was ifffy --- but at 2:45 pm we watched the biggest sky rocket go up in the sky. Even Mark who is Mr. 4th of July thought it was unbelievable.

Tomorrow we head back home. Wiser, more relaxed and ready for the snow.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Stetson part 2

Well, another day in paradise, but somebody has to do it.

This is day two of the Stetson Winter Pastor’s School. We have about a 45 minute drive from where we stay (on the beach in Daytona), to Stetson University. This morning we began at 9:00 so we had to get up and get going early.

The first lecture this morning was by Thomas Long. I mentioned him yesterday, he is a professor of homiletics (preaching) at Chandler School of Theology (Emory University), in Atlanta. It was an interesting lecture. He is one of the most engaging speakers that I have heard in a long time. He truly knows his art.

The only problem is, he decided to leave behind the "art" of preaching and go off into theological issues. He began by ripping into Rick Warren author of the Purpose Driven Life and it’s church campaign 40 Days of Purpose. He had three comments on it. 1) It is bad theology. (Absolutely) 2) It is bad use of the Biblical text — Rick Warren has a theory and then finds a passage and a translation of the Bible to justify his theory (he uses 20+ translations in the book). 3) Long called it a religious etiquette book.

Long then went in to rip progressive theologians calling them "neo-gnostic." Unfortunately, he did not give very good reasons whey he dislikes them so much. He made some statements that just were not true. "All of these people had bad religious experiences as children." I am pretty sure that Marcus Borg would take issue with that statement.

It is nice to know what I am theologically. Neo-gnostic he defined as people who believe in salvation by knowledge. Not sure I would totally agree with that, but it is an interesting place to start.

The sad part is, Long never articulated his theology.

I am know listening to Sam Balentine, he is a little better today. He has based his lecture around Susan Sontag’s book: Regarding the Pain of Others. It is a book that I need to pick up and read. I have added it to my Amazon wish list.

Don’t forget — it you order stuff on the web, be sure to go through the Ridge Church web site so that we can get a commission on the sale. There is no change to your price.

Tonight is the BIG GAME DUKE at NORTH CAROLINA. Should be intense as usual. Hope I can brag tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Stetson part 1

Greetings from Stetson,

It is real tough being here 80 degrees and I am stuck inside. The first lecture by Sam Balentine was uggh! (if that is a word). He was a last minute fill-in and it seems like it.

Dr. Thomas Long is lecturing now and he is wonderful! He is lecturing on the narrative style of preaching and why it is under attack today. Very interesting. He is suggesting that we are moving to a "wisdom style" of sermon.

Last night as we were sitting on the beach at Daytona Beach, looking at ocean, one of my colleagues (who's name I will not mention, but he is the pastor at Crown Point) asked "what direction are we facing. Right now that is the quote of the week. I am sure that it will be replaced before too long.

Sorry to hear that you all are getting snow. I will do my best to suffer in the air conditioned lecture room. Trust me, when Balentine starts back up, I will be.

Friday, February 01, 2008



Well sort of. I had planned on traveling to Indianapolis this morning to make a hospital call, but the weather had something to say about that! I will try again tomorrow!

I came across this quote from Dallas Willard. I have not read the book it comes from, The Spirit of the Disciplines, but I found it interesting.

Contemporary American churches in particular do not require following Christ in his example, spirit, and teachings as a condition of membership — either of entering into or continuing in fellowship of a denomination or a local church. . . . Most problems in contemporary churches can be explained by the fact that members have not yet decided to follow Christ.

I probably really need to read his book, (but I am not sure I could stomach it) to get this into context, but is he really saying that people who are involved in "contemporary churches" are not really Christians.

Is anyone familiar with this book and can speak to it?