Monday, April 30, 2012

Flash Back

General Conference 2012 will be over on Friday.

And not a moment too soon.

From what I can tell, this was the conference that was going to dramatically change the denomination - perhaps be our salvation! - but so far, nothing's happened. All the "bold initiatives" have failed.

Perhaps just as well.

Anyway, last night I was looking back through my old blog posts, trying to remind myself what was going on the last time General Conference met. That's when I ran across this post from April 10, 2008:

For those of you too lazy to follow the link and actually read the post, I was at a low point in my ministry. On my face I wore a perpetual frown... not at all what I wanted.

As I read through the post, I realized I was back there again.

I should have realized I was in trouble a couple weeks ago when someone asked me, "What do you do in your free time?"

"What free time?"

The past year has been difficult. What was supposed to be a dream appointment turned out to be something very different. I started the conference year off with an immediate onslaught of funerals wrapped around several staff resignations and the reluctant election of new lay leadership. Then came Advent/Christmas, followed quickly by Lent/Easter, more staff resignations, and some unfortunate church dynamics that have made it difficult to get traction.

If I had bothered to look in the mirror, I'm sure I would have seen another frown.

This time I sought wise counsel from a trusted colleague, who reminded me that while I was appointed to preach at this particular church, it is their church. Leadership challenges are their responsibility, not mine. If they fail, it is their failure.

And so, I renew my vow to proclaim the Gospel in this community, and to provide appropriate pastoral care to the best of my ability.

As for the rest - the headaches... I refer back to my resolutions of 2008:

     1) Relax!
     2) Worry only about those things I can actually control (which is very little), and then only worry when absolutely necessary (which is never).
     3) Relax!
     4) Live out the joy of the Gospel.
     5) Relax!
     6) Listen to and celebrate the hopes and dreams of others.
     7) Relax!
     8) Share the ministry.
     9) Relax!

To my colleague who took the time to set my flip flops back on the right path, I say, "Thank You!" Your time was appreciated more than you will ever know.

And, for what it's worth, the blog you quoted to me this afternoon was, in fact, my own post, not Dan Dick's. (See The Itinerant Minister.)

But I am honored by the mistake.

Monday, April 23, 2012



1. ineffective; incompetent; futile: feckless attempts to repair the plumbing.
2. having no sense of responsibility; indifferent; lazy.

This is apparently an old story that has only recently made the news... possibly because the medical experts in New Zealand are feckless.

According to the media, Natasha Harris, a 30-year-old stay-at-home Mom, died in February 2010. "Experts" say that Coca-Cola "may have contributed" to her death.

According to Harris' live-in boyfriend, Harris drank 8 to 10 liters of Coca-Cola each day.

Yes, that's about 2 1/2 gallons of the classic cola... each day!

What... was she trying to get her picture on the can?

The medical "experts" in New Zealand signed off on the official cause of death as "hypokalemia". 

That's a fancy word for "low potassium".

Did I mention that she drank 2 1/2 GALLONS of Coca-Cola EACH DAY!?!

The autopsy also showed "toxic levels" of caffeine in her system.

"But we're pretty sure it was her potassium levels..."

Oh, and the boyfriend says she also smoked 30 cigarettes per day...

...And she didn't each much food.

But the "experts" say she died of hypokalemia.

One pathologist noted, "It is certainly well demonstrated that excessive long or short term cola ingestion can be dramatically symptomatic, and there are strong hypothetical grounds for this becoming fatal in individual cases."

"Symptomatic"? "Hypothetical"?

Coca-Cola insists that their product is safe, pointing out that even water, when consumed in mass quantities, can be fatal.

That's a lesson we learned a few years back during the great dihydrogen monoxide scare.

Dihydrogen monoxide (DHMO):
     -is called "hydroxyl acid", the substance is the major component of acid rain.
     -contributes to the "greenhouse effect".
     -may cause severe burns.
     -is fatal if inhaled.
    -contributes to the erosion of our natural landscape.
     -accelerates corrosion and rusting of many metals.
     -may cause electrical failures and decreased effectiveness of automobile brakes.
     -has been found in excised tumors of terminal cancer patients.

Despite the danger, dihydrogen monoxide is often used:
     -as an industrial solvent and coolant.
     -in nuclear power plants.
     -in the production of Styrofoam.
     -as a fire retardant.
     -in many forms of cruel animal research.
     -in the distribution of pesticides. Even after washing, produce remains contaminated by this chemical.
     -as an additive in certain "junk-foods" and other food products.

(Captain's Note: For those who don't know, DHMO is also known as H20... or water.)

But I digress.

Why couldn't the medical community in New Zealand simply come out and state the obvious: "She drank herself to death!"

Were they, in fact, feckless? Or were they afraid of the Coca-Cola corporation?

As for me, I'm taking this as a moral tale. And starting today, I'm cutting back to just one Coke per day...

That should just about do it!

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Power of Symbols

Local news media reported last week that a Confederate Park is being built on private land nearby by the Sons of the Confederacy. The first stage has been completed – a flag pole, upon which will fly a large Confederate Battle Flag.
Many in the community have responded as one might expect - horrified that this symbol of so dark a chapter in American history will be flown at the edge of our community, AND so close to the interstate highway, where all passersby will see.
What will people think of us?
I was confronted with this issue once before, when I was in college. A particular fraternity on campus – one with an “Old South” theme – painted the garage door on its house with the Confederate Battle Flag.
For the sake of accuracy, the flag at issue is one of the many flags used by the Confederacy during the Civil War. Each state and each battle group had their own flags. In fact, a former church member has published an entire book on the Confederate Battle Flags of Mississippi alone. The popular battle flag which most people identify – which has been wrongly referred to as the “Stars and Bars” – was actually the second Confederate Navy Flag, and the official battle flag of the Army of Tennessee. 
As with the SOTC today, the fraternity claimed that painting the flag on the garage door was about honoring their heritage – Robert E. Lee, women wearing hoop skirts, and southern gentlemen named Beauregard sitting out on the veranda sipping mint juleps in the southern heat.

The African-American students on campus were offended by the display. To them, the flag was a symbol of hatred and oppression, a cruel reminder of how the African people – perhaps even their ancestors – were stolen from their native lands, shipped to America, and forced to live under harsh conditions and work the fields of the white landowners in the southern states.
The fraternity might have garnered more sympathy if they had had even one black member.
A truce was finally brokered and Campus Ministry paid for the paint to cover the Confederate Flag with the fraternity’s official flag.
Today, the Sons of the Confederacy (SOTC) insist the park they are creating and the flag they plan to fly is about honoring their heritage.
Opponents say the concept is a reminder of an ugly period in history when our nation was divided over the issue of slavery.
The SOTC insist the war was about economics.
Opponents counter that the southern economy was propped up by slavery.
More recently, the SOTC have picked up on a Tea Party theme and insist the war was fought about States’ Rights.
Opponents insist that the States’ Rights issue in question was whether it was appropriate to hold slaves or not.
It’s hard to separate one from the other. 
            That’s the problem with symbols – they can mean different things to different people.
            Take, for instance, the swastika, a symbol that today easily arouses anger and/or fear when displayed in public. The swastika has been used in many different cultures for thousands of years. The word itself comes from Hindu Sanskrit and translates to “well-being”.

            But in 1920, the Nazi Party in Germany adopted the symbol, using it to represent their belief in the supremacy of the Aryan Race – people with white skin, blond hair, and blue eyes. Adolf Hitler, a very superstitious man and keen on the power of symbols, incorporated the swastika into the state flag of Germany in 1935. 

During his reign of terror, Hitler sought to create a supreme Aryan nation in Germany by selective breeding and genetic manipulation, and by wiping out the Jewish people.
So today, in the minds of most, the swastika is a reminder of the cruelty of Hitler’s Nazi regime. In fact, after the defeat of Hitler in 1945, Germany and Austria both outlawed the display of the emblem.
Regrettably, today you will find the symbol still being utilized by “Skin Heads”, white supremacists, rebellious youth, and other anti-government fringe groups in America.

Here’s another example: A more familiar and beloved symbol – the cross – was once a tool of pain and torture, on which the ancient Roman government crucified many criminals and insurgents. 

But after Jesus was crucified – and resurrected! – the cross became a symbol of victory and power over death.
Regrettably, today it has become a fashion accessory – worn by rock stars and celebrities, as well as priests – and it has lost much of its power.

            So is the Confederate Battle Flag simply a relic of our nation’s history that gives us a lump in the throat and makes our eyes misty when we gaze upon it? Or is it intentionally being used to represent less honorable ideals?
            In the South today, one can still find the flag flying in public venues – at court houses and over capitol buildings.
            But Kentucky was a border state, officially remaining neutral during the Civil War. Battles were fought around here, but the Union Armies quickly took control of this end of the state in order to control the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.
            On the selected piece of land, the SOTC will have a difficult time proving anything even vaguely interesting occurred here.
In the South today, one can find the Confederate Battle Flag emblazoned on everything from belt buckles to bumper stickers to bikinis. It has become a symbol of the “rebel” – the hard-drinkin’, pick-up truck drivin’, gun-totin’ Red Neck.
            And there’s nothing wrong with that.
I fly the “Jolly Roger” for pretty much the same reason!

“Yes, I am a pyrat – 200 years too late!”

            What is bothersome, however, is that we can't control how others today use symbols that are beloved to us. The Confederate Battle Flag, for example, is also used by the Klu Klux Klan and other hate-groups across our nation.
            So which symbol will people see when they pass by? Heritage or hate?
            I can’t tell the Sons of the Confederacy what to do on their private property. They are within their rights to display whichever symbol they choose.
            But living in a community that is already 98.2% white, I wish they would choose a different symbol, possibly one that is not so negatively charged.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Good Friday

This is the video we saw at the Good Friday Service at Reidland United Methodist Church.