Wednesday, May 31, 2006


That's right, faithful readers, I no longer have senioritis!! I have been cured! What was the panacea, you ask? Simply put, I have finished school!! I have finished my seminary career and am done with classes for a very, very, very long time. I don't have to go back to classes next year. That feels amazing. And yes, it's true, the air actually does smell cleaner and fresher this side of being done. Graduation is Friday and I am outta here on Monday. Don't cry for me, Chicago!


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Monday, May 29, 2006

Seats at Wrigley 

Yesterday and today I was fortunate enough to score some tickets to the last two games of a 3 game series between the Braves and Cubs. Now, I have a few nice inside connections, so I usually get good seats, but today's seats were out of this world. We were seated in the second section directly behind homeplate by about 30 rows. It was amazing! As we sat down and became friendly with the people sitting around us I immediately noticed the majority of them were Braves fans too, so I said, "Nice to be in good company!" They all laughed. Well, over the course of the exciting, home run derby game we learned the names of these folks. Turns out the attractive woman sitting directly in front of us was Mrs. Ryan Langerhans (Braves left fielder), the family directly behind us, and who graciously watched our stuff at one point, was John Smoltz's sister and family, and the young ladies sitting next to us were the Braves' VP daughter and friends. Fine company indeed! Lucky for them, the three guys who were Cubs fans sititng in front of us and next to Mrs. Langerhans were very good sports and fun to go back and forth with during the game. Aside from the wild, edge of your seat through extra innnings excitement of the game, there was one funny moment. Pete Orr struck out and argued the call (which was pretty bogus, the 3rd bogus called third strike that day, two against us and one against the Cubs). Well, when he got back to the dugout and went in, the ump turned around and yelled something at the dugout and then tossed somebody, but we couldn't see who! I said, "Well, you know it wasn't Bobby, cause if he got tossed, he'd've come out and gotten his money's worth!" So, Mrs. Langerhans called a friend who was watching the game on TV and got back to us with the report. Turns out Terry Pendleton, our batting coach, got tossed for making remarks about the ump's bogus call. Now, I grew up watching TP play 3B for the Braves and remember when he was NL MVP in '91. But, as she begins to tell us the story, she says, "It was Terry Pendleton who got tossed. Now, he's our batting coach..." I said, laughing, "Yes, thank you, I know who TP is." I wanted to add I probably had been following the Braves long before she was, but refrained. She was, after all, just being nice.

All in all it was a great day, a great game, fun company, and neat people around whom we sat. I'll miss all this free baseball. Well, let me correct myself, free, good baseball. I think they're giving away seats at Tropicana for the Tampa Devil Rays...


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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Baghdad E.R. 

I watched tonight the HBO documentary "Baghdad E.R." with some trepidation. They were warning veterans who wished to view it to do so in groups, and some Veteran Hospitals set up special areas for people to watch it, with pastoral and counseling staff nearby. Many chose not to view it, but many did. It was hard to see. And I don't just mean all the carnage. It was difficult to watch soldiers receive news of their compatriots' deaths. It was difficult to see them phone their families from the hospital to tell them they'd been injured. It was difficult to see the doctors become so agitated and frustrated at the never ending stream of casualties. But, in the midst of that, I thought it was a well-done piece. To say I liked it or I enjoyed it would not be the right phrase, but it was well-done. I thought it especially significant and important that they featured the chaplains prominently, and it took me back to my CPE days. I never saw carnage like that (not sure I could deal with it), but I saw plenty of emotion like that. Some say this film was made to be a piece of anti-war propaganda. To say that, in my opinion, makes about as much sense as it does to say that the evening news is a piece of anti-war propaganda. While the government censors the images of coffins coming back, I feel it is important for citizens, in this case, me, to witness some of what goes on over there. Some of what is being done in my name. One of the E.R. docs said, "I have to believe that these people will be better off for us being here. I have to believe that. Because if I don't believe that, then this all just becomes senseless." As one of the chaplains featured prayed over a soldier who was K.I.A. he said,

"Heavenly Father, gracious God, we did everything we could to save his life, but in the end, we could not save him. Take him home now. Give your comfort to his family, friends, and squad mates as they learn of this. May his life and his death be used to further the cause of peace and bring an end to this senseless war. And may he be among the last for whom we pray. I pray this in the name of Christ. Amen."


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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Two Annoyances 

1. To whomever whoever stole my cooler while it was draining, I hope it leaked all over you and all your important documents.

2. The word "discipling" has somehow found its way into my diocese's newspaper. GET IT THROUGH YOUR SKULLS - THAT IS NOT A VERB! You can "make someone a disciple", you can even "be a disciple", but you CANNOT "disciple someone" or "be discipled". If anyone disagrees, I direct them to Mason Matthews.


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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Soul Patrol 

So, here is my American Idol prediction for tonight final performance competition.

I think Taylor Hicks will win.

Now, I've been a fan of both Taylor and Katharine pretty much all season, but I think Taylor will get the most votes tonight. Now, I also want Taylor to win. As beautiful as Katharine can sing (and is), I would rather buy an album by Taylor than her - it's more my style of music. Also, last week I got a weird vibe from Katharine that I hadn't had before. It came when she was talking about her family and her hometown and I'm not sure how to describe it, but it felt unpleasant to me and so, for all those reasons, plus I think his album will be so much more up my alley, I believe Taylor will win. We'll see.


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Interfaith Grilling 

As most of you know, I've done a fair amount of what we'll generically call "interfaith work". I been through some tough meetings, seen tempers and emotions flare, watched folks walk out, and almost walked out myself. But for all that, I think the toughest interfaith work I did was at my party last Saturday. Do you know how hard it is to grill for Jews and Hindus at the same time with only one grill?! And that's to say nothing of the vegetarians!


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Monday, May 22, 2006

Signs of Endings All Around Us 

No, this is not some apocalyptic prophecy blog entry, but rather a sober reflection on all the joyous celebrations and partes I've been to this week and will attend in the week and a half to come. It is hard to believe my time at seminary is coming to an end, but that is the truth. Much like all the other major stages in my life, I am leaving this one a different person from the one I was when I came in. Yesterday I had a big party at my apartment where I gathered as many of my friends as I could to say a fun-filled goodbye. It was amazing, so many people came and it was a blast to have one last big blowout! It was good to see people for different areas of my life mingling together and enjoying themselves. It meant a lot to me. At St. Luke's today we publicly introduced next year's field ed seminarian, and though I will be there for the next two weeks still, it was another moment of ritual ending. That church and all the people there have been so important to me in my development, and I will miss them all very dearly. Many expressed to me today that they wish I did not have to go, and that also meant a tremendous amount to me. In a way, I wish I could take them with me, moreso than just in my heart and my spirit. Chicago has taught me a lot. Seabury has taught me a lot. St. Luke's has taught me a lot. And my classmates have taught me a lot. I hope I go away from here having learned all that God intended me to learn. I think I have, and that feels good.


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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Celebrating Lag b'Omer 

Around 9pm tonight, I heard some loud noises from the alleyway and I thought, "Oh, no..." But the noises sounded festive, celebratory. I looked out and noticed two buildings down a large bonfire and many people dancing around it, playing drums, shakers, and singing. I thought, "Oh, good...hippies, must be some sort of solstice." An hour later it was still going on and I was beginning to be disturbed by the noise. I thought for sure there must be a noise ordinance. I put on a coat and stepped out onto the patio to try and see what was going on, to see if I could get a feel for who they were and what they were celebrating. After about five minutes of my standing out there, and a lot of drumming and singing, the police did indeed show up and said to them, very cordially, that they needed to keep quiet now. After the police left, one of them waved to me and said hello. I waved back and said hello. They asked if I would like to join them. Curious, I said, "What are you celebrating?" "It's a religious celebration," came the reply. "Oh," I inquired, "for which religion?" "Judaism." I walked down the stairs and towards their fire pit. I'm not overly familiar with all the Jewish holidays, but I think I know the big ones, and none of them are going on now. So, I was interested. I met several of them, and they invited me to join their party. I was offered and took a s'more. Turns out they were celebrating a specific part of Safirat Ha'Omer, The Counting of the Omer, called Lag b'Omer, The 33rd of the Omer (counting time). (Thirty-third being represented as "lag" comes from the letter lamed representing the number 30 and the letter gimel representing the number 3 - put the two together, "lamed-gimel", shorten it and you get "lag".)

Oddly enough, as they explained the holiday, I noted with great curiosity that the Omer corresponds to the Great Fifty Days of Easter. In Christianity, there are fifty days from Easter (which took place at Passover - "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us...) to Pentecost (when the early followers of the Way were gathered to celebrate their traditional holiday, Shavu'ot).

In Judaism, there are fifty days from Pesach (Passover) to Shavu'ot (the celebration of the giving of the Torah). The similarities are stunning.

Giving of the Torah. Giving of the Holy Spirit.

This holiday, for them, has mystic implications as well, and is wrapped up somewhat in the tradition of Kabbalah. Some say Rabbi Akiba, traditionally thought of as the author of the Zohar, the book of Kabbalah so to speak, died on this day. Turns out I was halfway right with my first guess of hippies. Just that they are Jewish hippies. I learned a lot about free artistic expression, some pilgrimage a bunch of them go on called Burning Man to the desert of Nevada, and the importance of community and community living. We chatted about Israel (the woman whose apartment it is, my actual neighbor, lived there for 13 years in a socialistic community), about this holiday, about who they are in relation to other Jews (as in they gather on their own to worship and experience liturgy and ritual, rather than participate in a traditional synagogue), and all manner of other things. My conversational Hebrew was embarrassing, but they were amused by my attempts. It was kinda neat; it was a blessing to me to participate in this little bit of their celebration. I quickly went from being disturbed to feeling blessed and was glad I didn't get angry with them for making too much noise. And it was a darn good s'more.


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Sunday, May 14, 2006

A Fare-well Party 

I went to a fare-well party tonight for a member of St. Luke's who suddenly had an unbelievable job offer out west and had to jump on it. It was a good party, and fun to gather with a lot of the congregation/choir members (the guy leaving is a chorister) outside the context of a Sunday morning. But, it reminded me that in a few short weeks, I will be doing the same and that is something I do not want to think about. I am excited, yes. I am anxious and ready to get ordained and begin my first job, yes. But, I am also nervous about it, and sad to leave behind all the fantastic people I have become friends with here in Chicago. Case-in-point: a friend of mine's little four year old girl, of whom I am quite fond, said to me tonight, "Are you really leaving? When are you coming home?" That kind of pressure is almost enough to make one cancel the whole trip. Her sweet, four year old mind doesn't understand that I am going home...to my home state that is, but it doesn't make leaving her, and all my friends, any easier. I asked her if she would visit me in Florida and she said politley, "Yes, if my parents let me!" She quickly added, "I've never been to Florida, is it as far as Malaysia?" (Her mother is from Malaysia and she recently went there.) I'm having a big party next weekend so I can make sure to see most of my friends one more time before I take off, and I'm really looking forward to that in a way, and in a way I am not. It's one of those ritual moments for me. The fare-well BBQ. It means there is an end. But it also means there is a beginning. It's just that the end is so much easier to see right now.

I am also very surprised at the reaction I am getting from my previous post about the Bible reading plan. Little did I know a favor I did for a friend would be so popular. But, I guess that's the way God works sometimes, as a recent commentor said. I am happy to email copies of the plan to folks if you just let me know. If folks beyond for whom it was intended are finding this useful for themselves spiritually, God be praised! If it is getting people to not be so afraid to approach the Bible, God be praised!

Tomorrow I am leading the forum discussion after church on "Praying the Daily Office". I've put together what I think is a good program and I look forward to the discussion. The first half I will cover the history of the Daily Office, from the Breviary to 1979, and in the second half I will speak about how to go about praying the Office, prvately or corporately.

Can you tell programming is gonna be one of my favorite things about my new job?


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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Bible Reading Plan 

A couple of months ago, an unchurched friend of mine (were you to ask her at a party, she'd probably identify as agnostic, but if you were to ask her over the course of a longer, more detailed conversation, you might get something more) told me she wanted to read the Bible, but didn't know how to go about doing that in a way that would not defeat her. She had bought for herself an Oxford Annotated edition, a fine purchase, but was now daunted by the task at hand. I told her I'd work on something for her, and gave her for a birthday present an introductory book on the Bible aimed at lay people.

As I began to think about this, I realized that I didn't know how to go about reading the Bible (lectionary aside) in a way that would get you to the end without getting bored, frustrated, or too confused. So, I thought about it some more. The approach that came to mind is a narrative one, one that has in view the meta-narrative arch of the biblical books. It really is one story, from Genesis to Revelation, and I wanted to develop a plan for her, a first time Bible reader, that would capture that story and trace it through every book of the Bible. The idea being, after she had finished that, she could go back to parts that interested her and read further, delve deeper, and find some of the nit-picky stuff that would bog down and disappoint a first time reader. What I did not have in mind was another plan that would tell you you could read every word of the Bible in a year, like all those "special" Bibles you can buy at your local Christian retailer. I have yet to meet a person who made it past Numbers doing that.

As I began to work on it, I realized I had a larger project on my hands than I anticipated, as I wanted to do a good job on it. Well, finally, early this week I finished and sent it off to her. It includes every book of the Old and New Testaments, and, I believe, succeeds in tracing the meta-narrative of the Bible for a first time reader, so they get a feel for the overall arch of the Biblical story. I'm rather proud of it actually! I anticipate her feedback, though as she is a doctoral student, I may get it sometime around 2033. I also think I could develop this into a feasible plan to run in a parish. Which is getting closer and closer to a reality rather than some distant hope...I can't wait!


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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Decoding Da Vinci: A Link 

N.T. Wright, a bishop and scholar in the Anglican Church, has written this response to the newest wave of questions surrounding the movie version of Dan Brown's book, The Da Vinci Code. Wright is an excellent scholar, a reasonsed, in lengthy writer, and someone you can trust on this issue.


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Anything he didn't win? 

It seems my brother Trevor has successfully graduated college. Well, a bit more than successfully I must say. Almost from the time he arrived at Stetson University, our parents' Alma Mater as well, he started winning awards and running things. Rising quickly through the ranks of that other fraternity (a point where he did not follow family tradition) he became President and eventually landed one of the coveted student seats on their national council earning him a trip to Las Vegas and an all expenses paid dinner on the top floor of an expensive casino/hotel. In addition, he was his fraternity's rep to the national Panhellenic Convention (now there's an job!). As far as community life was concerned, Trevor distinguished himself as a member of the Honor Council. In his scholastic program he became quickly known as the student to beat in the business school, garnering an important internship with the Root family business (designers of the Coca-Cola bottle) and is now the first student in the nation to graduate with a degree in Family Business. So, it was no surprise when they called his name on the Summa Cum Laude roll, but what was a surprise was when the President announced Trevor was the recipient of the Most Outstanding Graduating Senior Award. So, we are all quite proud of him and can't wait to see what he'll do next. Apparently, we'll know tomorrow which offer he'll accept.


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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A Foot and a Mile 

I just watched a wonderful movie with some friends. The Holy Land was the very well written and terribly emotionally evocative tale of an odd collection of outcasts who all end up congregating at a bar in Jerusalem. Each character is outcast from a different culture for a different reason, but they all share in common the search for identity and the struggle to stay alive in a hostile world. It's a love story, a story of conflict, a story of conflicted emotions, and a story of denial. Mendy, a young, Orthodox Jewish boy is sent to Tel Aviv to sow his oats so that he can better concentrate on his Torah studies, but the plan backfires (surprise!) when he meets and unexpectedly falls in love with a Ukranian prostitute named Sasha. He gets mixed up with a guy named Mike, an ex-patriated Canadian war photographer who runs a bar and frequents the brothel where Mendy met Sasha. Together they all get mixed up in things well beyond their control and the scope of their emotions. The bar is a meeting place for Jews, Arabs, Americans, and all manner of social outcasts, but it is also a breeding ground for lies, most prominently lies you tell yourself. I really recommend this movie to anyone interested in Jewish/Arab cultures and their interactions in the Holy Land, or anyone interested in a story of forbidden love, forbidden by others and forbidden by yourself.


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Monday, May 08, 2006


Barry Bonds hit number 713 today.

I've not talked about him on here before because I didn't want to give him any more press time than he is already getting but I feel like I have to say this one thing.

If he has any integrity at all, he'll announcement his retirement tomorrow, thereby ending his career one HR behind the Babe, who hit all his homeruns "on hot dogs and beer" as the Philly fans said on a sign in today's game.

If he has slightly less integrity, he'll announce his retirement after hitting 714, but I'd prefer before.


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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Everyone's Doing It 

Consider this your invitation.


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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

New Sermon Audio 

For those with absolutely nothing else to do, the audio from my latest sermon at St. Luke's is available for download by clicking here. Dont worry, it takes a little while to download. Also, the opening line that gets partially cut off is, "See communion in everything."


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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Revisiting Faulkner 

You might remember me saying a few weeks ago that I was revisiting Faulkner, an author who plagued me in high school with the intensely confusing The Sound and the Fury. This time, I attempted Light in August, and loved it. The character of Joe Christmas is one who will really stick with me for a long time to come. His character dilemmas intrigued me and I found myself at times feeling sorry for him and at other times despising him. His wanton violence stands in stark relief to the way he persists in trying to discover himself and make for himself a better life. He does not want to commit violence, but seems unable to do anything else when backed into a corner; he knows no other way out. The Rev. Hightower irritated me - his arrogance and then self loathing did nothing to endear him to me and he seemed to me to be an utter failure and poor example of a minister of God. Even if he was defrocked, he did not try to do anything about it. He had some interesting quotes about seminary life though - but I can't seem to find them right now. Lena Grove impressed me and the portrayal of post-Reconstruction South was very moving.

Now, I am reading Gods and Generals by Jeff Shaara, the first in the Civil War trilogy begun by Jeff's father, Michael in 1974 with The Killer Angels.


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Monday, May 01, 2006

The game is better than the movie...but... 

So, last night I saw Silent Hill with a few friends and it actually lived up to my expectations. The art direction mirrored the game true, and story line was actually pretty close. I still like the original gmae better, for a couple of reasons. First, when it came out, there was never anything like it on the market. Resident Evil was about as close as you could get, but even it had more of a focus on shooting the zombies with an increasing amount of firepower. The sheer weirdness of the Silent Hill game was unparalleled, and for that reason, not a whole lot of folks played it. In the beginning of the game, they give you hints and shadows of what is out there, what is going on. This is one of the places where the film fell down; they showed, through some amazing CG, the things that were around. When you show a film audience the source of fear, it takes away a great deal of the fear, and for an audience primarily composed of folks who hadn't played the game, can probably look downright silly. You've got to build that sense of fear and then towards the end, only show a split second of what it is, just long enough for both the fear to remain and for the viewer to say, "What the hell was that?!" The real beauty of the Silent Hill game was its alienness, both in what was going on and the fact that it was a new idea to gamers. Some of the terror (not a lot, but some) was gone by the time the sequel game came out, because to a certain extent, you already knew the script and knew what to expect. (Not that anyone expected Pyramid Head, but when we saw him, we appreciated his alienness without being blown out of the water because we knew the creators of Silent Hill would do something like that.)

The movie also did not make enough use of the sounds of Silent Hill, though a chill went down my spine when the opening music played. The scraping of the huge cleaver could have been used more effectively as well as a host of sounds off in the distance for which there is no clear discernable source, even as they come closer and then move away. The sense of desparatenees of the game was somewhat eliminated by the fact that the main character's husband was often shown in the outside world, giving viewers a connection to "reality" that the game totally abandons. There were also too many people. I think in the first game there were 4 other people with whom the main character interacted in the town of Silent Hill. That also adds to the desparateness and was lacking in the film. The film concentrated too much on the gore level of fear and not on the psychological level. But, it was some great, horrific, truly terrifying, gut-wrenching gore. And, here is where I really hand it to them, they did the gore stuff in the alien style of the game just right. And the nurses were spot on!

All that said, I enjoyed the movie, was scared at a few points, but overall was not terrified as I had expected to be. The acting was lame and some of the dialogue was cheesy, but you had to expect that. I think with just a few tweaks, they could have turned this from a decent horror flick into one of the greatest all time; the hard work was done for them by the game's creators, they just needed to translate that a bit better onto the screen.


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