Friday, October 31, 2008



(pumpkin by Dave)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Trick or Treat Wednesday - #5

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?

Words of affirmation...

Words of hope...

He uses his charms to attract another believer, who will sit in the pumpkin patch with him this year.

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...

He sees first a shadow in the pale moonlight, then the full image appears!

It's him!
It's the Great Pumpkin himself!

Oh, wait. It's only Coach Fulmer... sigh.

Will Linus be disappointed yet again? Stay tuned on Saturday as the Tennessee Vols go up against South Carolina in a game that could prove to be the final chapter for the Great Pumpkin!

(with apologies to Charles Shulz.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Something has been nagging in the back of my brain for several years now. I suppose the current economic crisis and the presidential campaigns have irritated it more.

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!

That's Bullshit!

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

Parsonage Living

I want to wade into the ongoing conversation about parsonages just briefly. It is a hot topic in the Memphis Conference.

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

Stepping Out in Faith

I’m in a quandary.

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

Trick or Treat Wednesday - #4

You know you want it...

First, the girl in costume...

Now, the squirrel in costume!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Fall Carnival

The church’s Fall Carnival was held last night. Now in it’s 29th year, the Carnival draws hundreds of children to the church for a safe and fun evening of carnival-style games and candy treats.

Being so early in the fall – two weeks before Hallowe’en – it’s the first real challenge of creativity for both children and the adults who come to help: what to wear.

Now, we used to keep a trunk full of costumes – a hold-over from my childhood. Like those weeks when inspiration does not come and one is forced to go back to “the barrel” for an old sermon, the costume trunk provided quick and easy choices at times like these.

Unfortunately, when we moved two years ago, we purged the trunk, giving or throwing away almost everything in it. I even gave away “S-s-s-s-sally the s-s-s-s-snake”, a giant boa constrictor I made out of fabric and a flexible dryer vent duct; that year I wore a safari costume and wrapped the snake around my body.

Anyway, this year my inspiration for a costume came from a church member. When we moved here, I was intrigued to meet a man named “Dobie Gillis”. Dobie is not his real name, but a nickname that has stuck since his high school days.

You may remember “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis”, a television classic that ran on CBS from 1959-1963. It was the first show featuring teenage characters. Dobie (“that’s Dobie with a B”), played by Dwayne Hickman, was a teenager almost solely devoted to looking for a girlfriend:

"My name is Dobie Gillis and I like girls. What am I saying? I love girls! Love 'em! Beautiful, gorgeous, soft, round, creamy girls. Now, I'm not a wolf, mind you. No, you see a wolf wants lots of girls, but me? Well, I just want one. One beautiful, gorgeous, soft, round, creamy girl for my very own. That's all I want! One lousy girl!"

His best friend was Maynard G. Krebs (“the G is for Walter”), played by Bob Denver. He was a beatnik… although to look at him today, one might think he stepped out of an American Eagle catalog. For Maynard, life was to be enjoyed. He was an expert at avoiding work, and acted as a foil for the uptight rich kids (including Milton Armitage, played briefly by Warren Beatty and Thalia Manninger, played briefly by Tuesday Weld).

Some say Maynard was the inspiration for “Scraggy” in the “Scooby-Doo” cartoons.

What better costume for me – also one who thinks life should be enjoyed, who avoids work and hates spoiled rich kids?

Now, I would like to report that the panel of costume judges was overwhelmed by my creativity, even though two of the judges were born after 1963. I would like to report that I looked just like the young Maynard G. Krebs; I even shaved my moustache to achieve the beatnik goatee.

Maybe I should have listened to Clyde & Keith – Mr. Gray Beard loses again!

But I lost to a very good rendition of the bad guy from SAW II.

I suspect the judges thought he was just a cute clown!

All in good fun though!

I’m thinking about keeping the Maynard look…

...and maybe invest in some “Just for Men”!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Happy First Blog-a-versary!

It was a year ago that a friend turned me on to

Time flies when you’re having fun!

When I first heard about the weblog phenomenon, I thought to myself, “Self,” I said, “why would I want to read other people’s personal thoughts on the internet? Why would I care?”

Why would I want to look at someone else’s baby pictures? someone else’s family pictures? someone else’s pets’ pictures?

And why would I want to post my own personal thoughts, my baby pictures, etc. on the internet where everyone with a modem could see?

Then I tried it.

Hey, it was free.

Despite my original misgivings, “Banana Winds” has become an exercise in creativity that goes beyond writing a sermon each week.

And I can say what I want without worrying about it affecting the offering plate!

I didn’t do anything to advertise my site; in fact, I didn’t really want anyone – especially my church members – to find it. If I was going to be completely honest in my postings, I didn’t want to worry about a church member finding it and being offended.

I did share “Banana Winds” with about six friends and family… people I thought would understand. I know my sister still keeps up… and my wife.

For a long time I thought I was flying under the radar. A Google search of my name only comes up with page after page of links to a world-famous violinist.

Then I discovered that if I added “Memphis” after my name, “OOPS, THERE IT IS!”

But I don’t really care. I am what I am.

About four months ago I added a counter; I was curious to see if anyone else was visiting my site. To my surprise, the count has grown, to where today I am seeing almost 30 hits per day! I know that’s modest by comparison, but way more than I ever expected!

Suddenly, performance anxiety set in; I had a hard time keeping my blog up.

And you’ve probably noticed that I’ve let some of this “fame” go to my head, opting for humorous pictures – a cheap laugh (mostly stolen from other blogspots, by the way) – rather than my own “deep thoughts”…

…which, I have discovered, I don’t have too many.

Is it too much Tequila, or not quite enough?!?

As I head into a New Year of living in the blogosphere – an imaginary cyber-place where it’s okay to make up new words – the challenge to myself is to remain true to who I am.

So, to all my “cyber-friends” and readers of “Banana Winds”, I lift a cold one and say a simply, “Thank you!”

I’d buy you one too, but I don’t know who you are!

So go ahead and mix your own!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Trick or Treat Wednesday - #3

Excuse us, please.

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!

And margaritas!

[Shut up, Jose’! You will get us fired!]

So, begging your pardon, we discussed this among ourselves and decided to give you both: girls...

...and squirrels... costumes!

Maybe the Boss won’t fire us!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Trick or Treat Wednesday - #2

Okay, I admit I smiled with amusement when, after winning the Olympic Gold medal in Beach Volleyball with Keri Walsh, Misty May-Treanor agreed to be a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars”. She has a competitive spirit, and it probably sounded like fun.

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

Contemporary Worship Challenge

Imagine the setting: a predominantly white church in a neighborhood that has transitioned to being over 85% black.

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

Trick or Treat: Retraction

The staff and management of "Banana Winds" would like to extend an apology to any and all who were offended by yesterday's blog. Some found it sexist and demeaning toward women.

In addition, we received numerous calls from real Pirate Wenches who insist the image used was but a poor stereotype of true Pirate Wenches. They demanded an apology or we would "be boarded".

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:

我们为这个差错道歉。 但我们喜欢我们的想法更好。谁想要无论如何看灰鼠在服装?

...then they were all fired.

A new Creative Team is in place and our new CFO assures us they speak... at least understand... English. So, without further ado, here is the blog that should have been posted yesterday -- with our apologies.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Trick or Treat - #1

It is October - finally!

Only 30 days left until Hallowe'en!

Time to start thinking about your Hallowe'en costume!

Don't know what costume you're going to wear this year? No problem. Each Wednesday throughout the month of October, I will post costume suggestions for you.

If you don't like the costume, maybe you'll just enjoy the girl!

My apologies to the women who read my blog... unless you also enjoy pictures of attractive women dressed in scanty costumes... then, you're welcome!

For this first week of October, why not try my favorite -- the Pirate Wench! Remember, girls who behave don't make history!