Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Here is another suggestion for this year's Halloween Costume: why not go as "The Great Pumpkin"!?!
Hey, I know you think that's lame idea, but Halloween is in two days and you don't have a costume yet... what do you expect?
But stay with me here... I think you'll see where I'm going with this.
Today's blog was inspired by last night's showing of "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown". It's a season classic, running on network television every year since 1966.
I was three.
It's a story about a boy who wants to believe in something greater than himself. He chooses to believe in "the Great Pumpkin".
He writes his annual letter to the Great Pumkin, lamenting the unbelief of others...
There is a touch of humor in his words... (Thanks, Avis!)
But what does one say in a letter to the Almighty?
Then, defying the crowd, who -- with the usual mob mentality -- ridicule him and choose to dress in costumes and go door-to-door begging for candy, he goes out to the pumpkin patch -- a most sincere pumpkin patch -- to wait for the arrival of the Great Pumpkin.
His disciple joins him, and as the night comes on, they hear a rustling.
Could it be that finally, that which he has waited for his entire short life is finally becoming a reality?
Yes, his faithfulness has paid off...
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Whatever happened to SACRIFICE?
No, I'm not talking about throwing virgins into a volocano.
I vividly remember from history classes and from living through the Vietnam era that when times were hard or the nation was at war, the American people were asked to make certain sacrifices for their country and for the war effort.
During WWII, men were conscripted for military service, women went to work to replace the male workforce in factories, and those who remained at home were asked to forego certain commodities “for the war effort”. Women reportedly even drew lines up the back of their legs to mimic the look of silk stockings -- which were sacrificed to make parachutes.
That generation, by the way, made other sacrifices too. They worked hard to build our cities, our neighborhoods, our churches, our families. They wanted to create a better world, even if it meant they had to give a little more.
During the Vietnam war, citizens were still being drafted – although many with resources and connections found ways to avoid it – and those back home bought “war bonds”.
Registration for potential military service was reinstated about the time I turned 18 (thank you, President Reagan), but no president since has had the courage to call for a draft.
“Political Suicide” I think is what they call it.
Yet, after the terrorist attacks on 9-11-2001, despite the outcry for revenge by American citizens, military recruiters still had trouble meeting their quotas. Angry as we were, no one was willing to step up.
When “the war on terror” was declared and armies were mobilized, the President called on National Guardsmen – citizen soldiers who were promised “just one weekend a month” when they signed up – sending them overseas for two, sometimes three, extended tours of duty.
And instead of asking for our nation to sacrifice for something we supposedly believed in, the President outsourced the war, relying on private corporations like Halliburton and Blackwater to feed our troops and provide security – corporations that are fleecing our government to the tune of billions of dollars per year.
Still, we, the people, have not been asked to sacrifice. In fact, we’ve been told to go shopping! If it weren’t for the daily news reports, most of us would never know the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan are going on.
And the cost of the war is simply being added to the mushrooming federal deficit and forgotten.
No sacrifices for us.
What’s more, news reports today are saying that the recent federal “bailout” of the banks is being used to reward the CEOs who got us into this mess, to provide dividends for stockholders, and to acquire smaller banks – which is not at all the plan we were sold three weeks ago when this was “a world banking crisis”.
Alan Greenspan, former guru at the Federal Reserve, recently told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform: “Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders’ equity, myself included, are in a state of shocked disbelief.”
To translate that, what Greenspan is admitting is that he didn’t factor in the greed of bank directors when he recommended loosening federal oversight.
Who could have known they were just in it for the money?!?
So, instead of counseling the American people to tighten their belts and ride this thing out, we added another trillion dollars to our national debt, which now soars beyond $10 trillion!
And yet the presidential candidates are still talking about tax cuts!
I would vote for either one of them right now if they would just look square into the camera and tell the American people: “There aren’t going to be any more tax cuts. Freedom isn’t free, but we have been acting like it is. We have had a free ride for too long. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and make some sacrifices. It’s not about ‘what’s in it for me’; it’s not about which political party is right; it’s about protecting our country! And that will take sacrifice on the part of us all!”
It’s a pipe-dream, I know, but that, to me, is real patriotism.
Monday, October 27, 2008
I love the parsonage system, in part because I believe in the itinerancy. While I also believe long tenures for pastors are generally healthier for churches, I know from experience that we may be called upon to move at any time. The parsonage is a vital link in successfully moving pastors and their families from one church to another with the least amount of hassle. I don’t have to sell a house or buy a house when I move.
One pastor recently told me he wasn’t willing to move to a new church right now because he owns his home and the housing market is depressed.
Some say it is about money – equity. But the real fight over parsonages seems to boil down to one issue – perception. That is to say, this is how churches see their parsonage:
And this is how preachers see that same parsonage:
The reality, of course, is somewhere in between.
In my 20 years of ministry, we have been blessed with nice parsonages – including one with six bedrooms and three baths! But that is not to say they have all been “perfect”. In fact, a couple of them have needed some tender-loving-care, which we have happily provided.
I have heard horror stories… of parsonages literally falling apart… of bathrooms too small for human occupation… of wars between Parsonage Committees and Parsonage Families… of burns left in the carpet… of mushrooms growing in the bathrooms.
No. Really. Mushrooms!
At a previous parsonage, our first task upon moving in was to replace 22 light bulbs.
Which begs the question, “Who is responsible for the care of the parsonage?”
I see it as a joint project. Yes, it is the church’s property, but I have to live in it. Therefore, we have always struck an agreement with the Board of Trustees – give us money to work with and we will leave your parsonage in much better shape than when we found it. For example, at our present parsonage we have turned this dark and out-dated Den…
…into an attractive Sun Room.
We have also installed bamboo hardwood floors in the living room and dining room.
My current project is the upstairs bathroom. This is what it looked like when we moved in:
So far I have stripped the room down to the studs. The Parsonage Committee would shudder if they saw it right now!
But one day (hopefully soon!) it will be restored into a clean and more contemporary bathroom that will serve parsonage families for at least the next ten years... which will hopefully still be us!
And if you follow me and don’t like what we have done, you can take the initiative and change it… like I did!
Thursday, October 23, 2008
We just launched our annual pledge campaign.
It’s a necessary Evil.
This year I picked the “catchy” slogan, “Stepping Out in Faith”. The idea was that although the economy is unstable, income is down, and costs are rising, people of faith must “step out in faith” to keep the ministries of our church strong.
That’s a real challenge for us. Once nearly 1,000 members strong, this particular congregation has been in decline since 1988. That year the church allowed another congregation to merge with it. While the additional people – plus the financial resources they brought with them – looked promising, the merger effectively brought a large voting block of older adults into what was then a growing, young congregation. Progressive ideas were replaced with maintaining the status quo, and young families fled to greener pastures.
Other factors, like a changing demographic in the surrounding community, also contributed to the steady drop in membership.
With declining membership goes declining gifts in the offering plate. The shaky economy is not helping that. Church money put away as “investments” is drawing less interest, and we’re having to tap deeper into the capital to keep everything running smoothly.
We occasionally have to jettison a staff member, deemed necessary when the congregation was larger, but now considered expendable.
Although we have been increasing our apportionment payments to the conference, we have not been able to pay in full for ten years.
We spend thousands of dollars each year repairing the leaky flat roofs that some idiot who called himself an architect designed for us.
At the same time, we are making inroads into the neighborhood around us, now more than 85% African-American. We have a good name in the community, we have had great success with community-oriented events, and more people are stopping by on Sunday mornings to check us out.
We need to keep that momentum going.
But that’s going to take a new infusion of money.
So, last week we put the first piece of the pledge campaign in the mail. “Stepping Out in Faith”.
But here’s the quandary: the Finance Committee, which carefully monitors our money, is concerned about the declining income – so much so that they don’t want to draft even a “proposed” budget until the pledges have been returned.
So at the same time that we are asking the members of the congregation to “step out in faith”, as a church we are reluctant to do so.
Is that ironic?
Should the Finance Committee also be asked to “step out in faith”?
Or would it just be irresponsible to draft a budget with even a zero increase when all factors indicate our income will most likely continue to decline?
I suppose I am hoping our members will “step out in faith” so our Finance Committee will not have to.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
We, the Creative Team of “Banana Winds”, apologize in advance for the following blog.
The Boss has left town and we are unsure of his instructions for Wednesday’s blog.
Is it “Girls in Costumes” or “Squirrels in Costumes”?
We heard the previous Creative Team was fired for making a similar mistake.
We like our jobs!
[Shut up, Jose’! You will get us fired!]
So, begging your pardon, we discussed this among ourselves and decided to give you both: girls...
Maybe the Boss won’t fire us!
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Unfortunately, I wouldn’t watch that show even for Misty.
But I was saddened to hear yesterday that she ruptured her Achilles tendon while rehearsing; her dancing career is over; she’ll be off her feet for probably six months.
More time to work on that baby with hubby, Matt.
I like Misty. In case you missed it, here’s a photo of me with Misty this past summer at Long Beach.
Now, if you’re looking for a good Halloween costume, consider a teeny tiny bikini and call yourself a beach volleyball player.
...and pray for an unusually warm Halloween!
It would be especially effective if you brought a friend! That's Keri Walsh (Jennings), by the way... my favorite!
But if you are looking for something really scary, try dressing up as “Misty May-Treanor on ‘Dancing with the Stars’”!
The equally-scary companion costume would be Maksim “Maks” Chmerkovskiy.
The dude actually shaved his chest!!!
Monday, October 6, 2008
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to reach that community with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
If you are lucky enough to get them through the door, your first obvious change will need to be the worship style... especially the music.
But how do you do that with authenticity?
Somehow I fear it will come out looking like this:
God help us!
Thursday, October 2, 2008
As President and CEO of "Banana Winds", I take full responsibility for the content of this blog. Yet I assure you that yesterday's post was simply the result of an unfortunate misunderstanding.
Here's what happened: In light of the current financial crisis in the United States and in an effort to reduce overhead, the former CFO at "Banana Winds" outsourced our Creativity Department to an unnamed Third World Country... which also explains the recent poorly-researched commentaries on the U.S. political scene, the pervasive dangling participles, and the numerous references to the overconsumption of alcoholic beverages.
During the development of yesterday's blog, a problem arose in translation. Our carefully-devised schedule called for a humorous blog about "Squirrels in Costumes". Unfortunately, the Creative Team misunderstood the concept and instead posted a blog about "Girls in Costumes".
You can imagine our embarrassment.
The Creativity Department responded immediately with the following apology: