Thursday, August 31, 2006

Man Leaves $10,000 Tip for $26 Meal

The Associated Press reports that a man left a $10,000 tip for a meal at an Applebee's Restaurant in Hutchinson, Kansas. I've eaten at this location before. It's only 40 minutes from my house. From the article:

"Two weeks ago, one of Cindy Kienow's regular customers left her a $100 tip on a tab that wasn't even half that.

This week, he added a couple of zeros.

Kienow, a bartender at Applebee's, got a $10,000 tip from the man -- for a $26 meal -- on Sunday."

I just want everyone to wasn't me.

UPDATE 1: The Hutchinson News, the local newspaper, has two stories on Kienow: "Patron Serves Bartender $10,000" and "The Tip Heard Round the World"

UPDATE 2: On September 7 I heard on the radio that the mysterious customer's Visa charge did go through and Ms. Kienow got her money, after Applebees withheld the necessary taxes. Her take? Around $6,700. My guess is the Fed and State officials will use that $2,300 for steaks, beer... and big tips.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Rush Limbaugh and Religious Conservatives--Not As Close As You Think

Yesterday I admitted listening to Rush Limbaugh and commented on the observation he made about God, faith, and conversion (see post below). Permit a brief, general observation about Limbaugh's musings on Christianity and his relationship to religious conservatives.

There's no doubt that much of what Rush says appeals to religious conservatives. Both favor Republicans, limited government, abortion limits, a strong military, and religious freedom in the public square.

But beyond sharing a common political philosophy (religious liberals would say that is plenty enough!), I'm not sure what else Rush and religious conservatives have in common--especially when it comes to religious convictions.

Talk show and TV host Sean Hannity freely identifies himself as Catholic, but to my knowledge Rush has never said outright that he is a Christian or a follower of Jesus Christ. While Rush consistently defends the rights and beliefs of religious conservatives (leading many to think he must be a Christian), if you listen carefully you'll find that Rush keeps his personal beliefs about God very close to the vest.

After all I've heard him say, I would describe Rush as a God-fearing man. No more. No less.

Hannity has talked many times to Focus on the Family's James Dobson, but I've never read or heard Rush interview popular religious conservatives like Dobson or other people--like Southern Baptists Albert Mohler and Jerry Falwell--that the media typically looks to for a controversial quote. I've never seen pictures of Rush with any of these types either. The reason is Rush doesn't attend their events.

Limbaugh proudly smokes cigars, boasts a little too much about himself, and relishes his wads of cash--something religious conservatives wouldn't like their flock doing.

On Sundays, I get the impression that Rush enjoys his recluse life at home in Florida, watches lots of the TV (especially during the NFL season), or is out playing golf with friends. Again, religious conservatives would rather see their flock at church on Sundays.

Limbaugh and religious conservatives are political allies, but beyond that, I don't see anyplace else where their worlds intersect.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Rush Limbaugh on Conversion and Islamic Fascists

OK, I'm going to admit something.

I listen to Rush Limbaugh...a lot.

He's always entertaining and thought provoking. Whether you like him or not, you have to at least grant that fact.

Limbaugh's comments yesterday about the release of Fox News journalists Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig were especially interesting at it relates to faith and the aims of Muslim extremists.

Since Rush's comments won't be up on his site after today, what follows is copied:

"I have to tell you there are a couple of things about this that I want to comment on. One is, we learned something. I don't know how many of us did, but did you know what these two guys had to do in order to gain their release? They told of being forced to convert to Islam, at gunpoint. Now, you might say, "Well, of course they did that so that gets them out of there," and so forth. But no, no, no, that's not enough, folks. There is a picture here, there is a message here. This is a glimpse into our future. This is their stated goal.

"You don't convert, you die. You don't convert, you remain an infidel, you're going to be a target. If you are Islamic and decide to renounce the faith, you are just as big a target...The New York Times runs this story, stating that Centanni and Wiig were released 'unharmed.' They were not 'unharmed.' That is my entire point! They were not unharmed! When you are forced to renounce your faith at gunpoint in order to live, do you know how many people have died refusing to do this? Your faith? It's one of the most personal, one of the deepest attachments people have is to their faith and to have a gun aimed at you and told to recant and to convert, and then to say you were released unharmed, maybe physically unharmed but this misses the point entirely. Of course it illustrates the people who think this, at the New York Times and write this, illustrates to them just how unimportant personal faith is to them, how meaningless it really is, and that's a big divide in this country."

Rush makes a sobering point about conversion. What these kidnappers did to Centanni and Wiig is a picture of what they seek to do to us--those who are not Muslims, those who profess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and those with no stated religion. You are free to convert to Islam, but if you choose not to, then you will be forcibly converted or killed. And as Rush observed, many believers in similar tough circumstances have refused to recant.

Rush said Centanni and Wiig "renounced their faith," but that may assume a bit too much. Does anyone know the faith of Centanni and Wiig before they "converted"? I don't think the public knows. But this point may be mute. From this point forward, if either one of the journalists should publicly "recant" their "faith," they will be apostates of Islam and subject to execution.

On YouTube, you can watch the five minute video of Centanni and Wiig's testimony. Near the beginning (I assume this is the raw tape from the kidnappers and not the edited work of the video's submitter) is this statement, with spelling and grammatical errors all:

"This decleration was aproved by them , and they accept the faith without any pressure"

You and I clearly see the irony of the situation. Why don't the Islamic kidnappers?

What happened to Centanni and Wiig was a terrible tragedy. It harmed them and all of us who treasure religious freedom and uncoerced conversion.

UPDATE 1: Story by David Aikman on this episode.

UPDATE 2: Christianity's Today "Weblog," written and compiled by Ted Olsen, makes the point that compulsion in religion deserves more than just op-ed coverage in the media.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Carson Palmer Returns

While I've never written about sports on this blog, I am a big fan of my boyhood teams--the Cincinnati Reds and the Cincinnati Bengals. And I visit ESPN daily.

Seven months after getting his knee blown out in January, Carson Palmer capped off his amazing return to action with a great performance tonight against the Green Bay Packers. 9/14, 140 yds, 3 TDs, and even an 11 yard run. Carson looked good, which means the Bengals' hope for a Super Bowl season looks good.

Pundits and fans have talked endlessly about Carson's return to the field--how his knee would hold up and Carson's psyche under pressure in the pocket. Blah. Blah. Blah. But when Palmer finally stepped on the field for that first time since his injury, ESPN's Monday Night crew completely missed the moment!

After the Bengal's Madieu Williams intercepted a tipped Brett Favre pass, the change of possesion happened quickly and without a TV timeout. So after all the hype about Carson getting back on the field, what we saw instead was a confusing shot of a Bengal sideline camera moving to a new position. The producer in the truck messed up and ESPN missed a climatic scene. When we finally did see Palmer, he was at the line getting ready for the snap. But we saw the rest--and that's what really matters to Bengal fans.

Palmer is a Christian. Here's an article posted on the website of Palmer's high school team that briefly mentions his faith.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Lessons on the Birds and Bees

Yesterday my 8 year old daughter asked me, "Were you surprised to see Mommy's tummy when our little brother was inside?"

I said, "No."

She asked, "Well, did you know how he got there?"

I replied, "Yeah, I think I have pretty good idea."

She said, "No you don't."

I retorted, "I don't?"

She insisted, "No you don't. He got inside Mom's tummy because I prayed for him!"

Golly, I can't believe it took me this long to finally figure it out!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

N.T. Wright's Last Word

After buying the book this past spring, I finally finished reading N.T. Wright's 144 page book on Scripture--The Last Word.

Wright is a British citizen, Bishop of Durham, and a member of the Anglican Community. He's one of the world's most respected biblical scholars. You can find some of his work here.

There were two things I found most helpful. First, "authority of Scripture" is a shorthand phrase that speaks of God's authority exercised through Scripture by means of the Holy Spirit. In particular, God's authoritative work is what He is doing through the crucified and risen Lord to change lives and bring about His kingdom on earth. In other words, God is using Scripture to proclaim the message of His Son that will change the world--a mighty work overseen by the Holy Spirit. So then, our allegiance is not to a Book. Our allegiance is to God who reveals and proclaims Himself (in part) through a Book.

Second, Scripture is best understood as a 5-act play. Act 1 is creation. Act 2 is the fall. Act 3 is Israel. Act 4 is Jesus. Act 5 is the church. Each act builds upon the other. Some themes are carried through the whole play. Some appear only for a time (like animal sacrifices and the Law in Act 3). So then, Wright says, we shouldn't expect a return to the Garden of Eden (Act 1) because what God is working toward is His kingdom over all the earth (end of Act 5). We shouldn't deny that evil exists (Act 2) and neither should we think that evil will not be overcome (Act 4-5).

This analogy is particularly useful because it explains why believers in the New Testament age don't obey every jot and tittle of the Law as believers did in the Old Testament age (with the coming of Jesus, the act/era of history has changed). It also explains why the New Testament's moral codes should not be nullified (we're still living in the age of the church).

While Wright covers a lot of ground in so few pages, I wish he devoted time to the question of the Bible's inerrancy and infallability. For this, I heartily recommend Dr. Dan Wallace's "My Take on Inerrancy."

If you're motivated to better understand the role the Bible plays in your faith, N.T. Wright's The Last Word is an excellent choice.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Diaper Bombs

Over the weekend we went to visit our friends the Mosers who recently moved to a new town.

Late in the evening, and with everyone near asleep in the house, my wife handed me my son's dirty diaper and ordered me to get rid of it.

No problem. I started looking for the trash. "No, don't leave it around here," she ordered. "Take it outside."

So I leave our basement bedroom and start looking for the trash dumpster.

I go out the front door and look near the garage. Not there.

I looked on the side of the garage. Nope.

I looked inside the garage. No luck.

As I wondered around in an unfamiliar house, looking for a trash can I can't find, I began thinking about my hero Adam West, better known as Batman, and that one scene in the 1966 movie where he's desperately running around with a bomb, and he says in exhaustion:

"Some days, you just can't get rid of a bomb."

I finally found the dumpster. It was sitting in the fenced-in backyard.

The world is safe again.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Bruce Cockburn

Last night I saw Bruce Cockburn, one of my favorite artists, perform in Kansas City at the Emporium.

Cockburn is a musician, guitarist, singer, songwriter. A Canadian, his lyrics are thick with observations about love, politics, and faith.

This was the fourth time I've seen him--Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in the late 80's, and Dallas in 1992. This was definitely the smallest venue. There was about 200 people, me, and my friend Lonnie. We pulled up chairs and were seven rows back.

Songs in his set list included his popular "Wondering Where the Lions Are," "Open," "Lovers In a Dangerous Time," "If A Tree Falls," "Night Train," "Last Night of the World," and "Put It In Your Heart."

New songs played from Bruce 29th album included, "Mystery," Baghdad," "Life Short Call Now," "Beautiful Creature," and "Slow Down Fast," "Tell the Universe," and "Different When It Comes to You."

I was surprised we didn't hear "Rocket Launcher" during the encores.

If you've never heard him before, he's definitely worth checking out. What a great way to wrap up the summer.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Riding Lawn Mowers

It's Friday, so here's a thought off the beaten path.

When it comes to large motors on wheels, who is more typically attracted to that--men or women?

Right. Men. This isn't sexist. It's just a fact of life. Men like engines--building them, fixing them, running them, talking about them. Sure, there's lot of gals who like Nascar. But usually, motors are a GUY thing.

Which leads me to this observation:

If it's men who usually like big motors on wheels, then why is that I see more women than men riding lawn mowers?

Do your own unofficial survey. Do a Google image search on "riding mowers."

I think its the only time that men gladly give over the wheel to a lady.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Iraq, Prayers, and Miracles

By Pastor Ted Weis (C)

This story was first printed in the Little River Monitor Journal in 2004.

Tyler Whorton, son of Allen & Kristi Whorton of Little River, returned home to the United States last week after completing a year of military duty in Iraq.

But on the day that Tyler left Iraq, he almost didn’t get out alive.

About 3:00pm Iraq time on Tuesday, October 26, Tyler, his entire mortar platoon, along with medics, and other personnel, took off from Mosul on a C-130 airplane. When the plane left the ground, a sense of relief came over everyone on board. The soldiers had completed their year’s service. They had done their job well. They survived a year in a hostile war zone.

Meanwhile, back in the United States, three of Tyler’s relatives sensed a strong urge to pray the day before Tyler was scheduled to leave. Early Monday morning, Tyler’s aunt Merrily Pierson of McPherson started praying when she couldn’t get Tyler off her mind. Unbeknownst to Merrily, the mother-in-law of Tyler’s brother was also led to pray. Lynette Dansel of Jetmore, Kansas reported a strong burden to pray for Tyler.

Why was God leading people to pray? Less than five minutes after the wheels of Tyler’s airplane left the ground in Mosul, as the aircraft was still ascending into the sky, everyone on board heard something hit the plane. Was it a bird? That’s what everyone thought at first.

Then, Tyler looked out his window and saw that the plane’s # 1 engine was on fire. The C-130 has four propeller engines, two on each wing. The # 1 engine is the far outside engine on the plane’s left side.

Adrenaline swept over everyone. The plane was 1,000 feet in the air. Returning to Mosul was out of the question. The plane was potentially too crippled to make it back. If they did try to return, they risked falling under enemy fire.

Tyler and his comrades had served an entire year in Iraq. All that time, Tyler’s parents had prayed for his safety. All that time, Tyler and his platoon had avoided injury and death. Now, at the very moment they were leaving to get out, would they all die in a plane crash?

Everyone was scared, but everyone had also been trained for moments like this. Fortunately, pilots of the crippled plane were able to remotely extinguish the fire and land safely at a nearby airfield. The emergency lasted a total of five minutes. But as Tyler related, it seemed like hours.

After being so glad to leave Iraq forever, the 57 troops were relieved to be back on Iraqi ground so quickly. Amazingly, no one was injured.

What hit the plane?

When the pilots and soldiers went to examine the disabled engine, they made a startling discovery—a hole had been blown through the engine!

Apparently, an enemy insurgent shot a shoulder-launched, surface-to-air missile at the plane as it took off from Mosul.

Miraculously, the missile didn’t explode when it struck. In all likelihood, the insurgent forgot to pull out the missile’s two security pins that would have armed the explosive.

Further examination of where the missile struck unveiled the good fortune of everyone. The missile hit only 12” away from the plane’s fuselage and about the same number of inches from the plane’s left propeller.

If the missile had struck the propeller, the debris would likely have shattered the neighboring propeller on the plane’s left side.

With both propellers on the left side destroyed, the plane would have fallen like a rock hundreds of feet to the ground. And if the missile had struck the fuselage, the fuel that was propelling the soldiers out of a war zone would have become the bomb that killed everyone on board.

Startled, but grateful, Tyler and the 56 other soldiers boarded another plane later in the day, making it safely--and without incident--to Kuwait. From there, Tyler joined 335 other soldiers and flew out of the Middle East to Germany and then on to Bangor, Maine. In Bangor, a veterans group greeted the arriving plane. The veterans shook hands with all 335 soldiers, thanking them for their service. Then they handed each arriving soldier a cell phone and said, “Call whoever you want.”

But Tyler had already called his wife Darsha—as soon as he got to Kuwait. He asked, “Were you by chance praying for me early this morning your me?”

Darsha replied, “No, me and the baby were asleep. Why?”

Tyler said, “Oh, nothing…”

Looking back on all that happened, Tyler said, “It just goes to show you that it’s never over until it’s over. I never prayed so hard in five minute’s time in all my life. Our pilots did an incredible job.”

Interestingly, the weekend before Tyler left Iraq, Tyler’s grandmother Loretta Pierson felt such an urgent need to pray for Tyler that she felt sick to her stomach. The only other time Loretta prayed with such fervency was when Tyler was involved in a shootout with insurgents during his tour of duty.

Said Loretta, “Sometimes, God alerts us to pray before something happens.” Indeed, that’s what God did when he led the members of Tyler’s family to pray.

Christians know the need for prayer. Now, they know its power!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Sorry for the Delay

Golly, today I got snowed under with other responsibilites (I do have a life other than this blog) and I didn't get the chance to post this incredible story that I've told you that I'll tell you. Whew...

But have no fear! Tomorrow is a new day.

It'll be worth the wait. Promise.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

An Incredible Story--Forgotten

The other day a strange envelope appeared in my post office box.

The return address was from my church I pastor. The letter was addressed to me. It had an old .37-cent stamp on it, which you can see on the left (the post office didn't catch the fact it was mailed without the needed two additional cents). The envelope had two folds at perfect thirds.

All these clues led me to figure out that this was a self-addressed and stamped return envelope that I had created sometime in the past.

But when?

I opened the envelope. Inside, I found a story I had written two years ago in November 2004. Also included was a rejection letter from Guideposts magazine.

Then I remembered what I had long forgotten: Over two years ago, I sent Guideposts a true story about a soldier from our church that experienced the power of prayer in a most incredible way while serving in Iraq.

Guideposts rejected my story. However, here on my blog, we have much lower standards! So tomorrow, I'll share with you this story.

It's truly incredible.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Mortician's Funeral

I've conducted dozens of funerals and attended plenty of others, but today will be different because I'm going to the mortician's funeral.

Doug Sillin learned the funeral business from his parents and got his license in his early 20's. Sillin Funeral Home has served the people of Rice County for many years. Doug did his job well. He viewed his work as a calling. When our first baby died at four days old, I gave her over to Doug's big arms and compassionate heart. At that horrible moment, it was a blessing to give my daughter to someone I knew and trusted. Having worked "behind the scenes" on several funerals with Doug, he always performed his work with the utmost professionalism.

Doug, 52, died last Wednesday after a long battle with diabetes.

Even morticians are mortals. Rest in peace Doug.

Friday, August 11, 2006

"Comma-Tary" on God Is Still Speaking

The paper I presented at the Faithful & Welcoming's national conference about the United Church's "God Is Still Speaking" advertising and identity campaign is now posted on the website of Faithful & Welcoming Churches.

"'Comma-Tary' on the United Church of Christ's Still Speaking Initiative" offers an in-depth theological analysis on the campaign--considering its view of UCC history, its preference for recent revelation, its view that God's nature is evolving, and its view that the church be radically all-embracing.

In short, I put forth a four-fold case about the phrase, "God is still speaking."

1) It is a good summary of the UCC’s history, yet it cannot prima facie validate our history today as correct. 2) It warrants the UCC’s interest in God’s revelation today—in comparison to evangelicals, conservatives, orthodox, traditional believers (ECOT’s) pattern of placing all revelation in the sieve of sola scriptura. 3) It warrants the UCC’s belief in an all-embracing, inclusive God—in comparison to ECOT’s preference for God who redeems sinful humanity through Jesus Christ. 4) It warrants the UCC’s “extravagant welcome” in all aspects of the church’s life—in comparison to ECOT’s preference for distinctions and holiness guidelines.

If you're a member of the United Church of Christ, or if you really enjoy thinking and talking about theology, I welcome your thoughts and responses.

Other Voices To Hear About Terrorism

In reading about recent terrorist activities--Hezbollah in the Middle East and now an averted terror plot involving airplanes in England, I ran across two very interesting stories that give insight into each of these situations.

While journalists are laying fault at the feet of Israel and/or Hezbollah for the current conflict, little has been said about the culpability of Lebanon itself--until now. Writing in Beirut, Michael Behe exposes the fault of Lebanon's government in allowing Hezbollah free reign in their country after the UN passed resolution 1559 and after Israel abandoned its occupation in 2000. He writes:

"It is easy now to whine and gripe, and to play the hypocritical role of victims. We know full well how to get others to pity us and to claim that we are never responsible for the horrors that regularly occur on our soil. Of course, that is nothing but rubbish! The Security Council’s Resolution 1559 – that demanded that OUR government deploy OUR army on OUR sovereign territory, along OUR international border with Israel and that it disarm all the militia on OUR land – was voted on 2 September 2004.

"We had two years to put implement this resolution and thus guarantee a peaceful future to our children but we did strictly nothing. Our greatest crime – which was not the only one! – was not that we did not succeed but that we did not attempt or undertake anything. And that was the fault of none else than the pathetic Lebanese politicians.

"Our government, from the very moment the Syrian occupier left, let ships and truckloads of arms pour into our country. Without even bothering to look at their cargo. They jeopardized all chances for the rebirth of our country by confusing the Cedar Revolution with the liberation of Beirut. In reality, we had just received the chance – a sort of unhoped-for moratorium – that allowed us to take the future into our own hands, nothing more."

On the other terror front, a hair-raising article by Annie Jacobsen shows that as early as 2004, terrorists have been trying to blow up planes in-air by manufacturing a bomb in-flight with materials brought on board. These attempts are not just recent. They've been going on for three years. She recalls the events of her June, 2004 flight from Detroit to Los Angeles with 14 Middle Eastern men aboard:

"The take-off was uneventful. But once we were in the air and the seatbelt sign was turned off, the unusual activity began. The man in the yellow T-shirt got out of his seat and went to the lavatory at the front of coach -- taking his full McDonald's bag with him. When he came out of the lavatory he still had the McDonald's bag, but it was now almost empty. He walked down the aisle to the back of the plane, still holding the bag. When he passed two of the men sitting mid-cabin, he gave a thumbs-up sign. When he returned to his seat, he no longer had the McDonald's bag.

Then another man from the group stood up and took something from his carry-on in the overhead bin. It was about a foot long and was rolled in cloth. He headed toward the back of the cabin with the object. Five minutes later, several more of the Middle Eastern men began using the forward lavatory consecutively. In the back, several of the men stood up and used the back lavatory consecutively as well.

For the next hour, the men congregated in groups of two and three at the back of the plane for varying periods of time. Meanwhile, in the first class cabin, just a foot or so from the cockpit door, the man with the dark suit – still wearing sunglasses – was also standing. Not one of the flight crew members suggested that any of these men take their seats.

Watching all of this, my husband was now beyond "anxious."

Once you start reading Jacobsen's story, you can't stop until you've reached the end. Let's hope and pray these fascist threats to our freedom will soon end.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Jesus Meek and Mean?

Have you read a familiar Scripture passage, only to discover something you never saw before?

It happened to me the other day. I was reading John 2:12-25 and the story of Jesus clearing out the Temple. After Jesus sees the merchants and the money exchangers and before he runs them all out, John tells us one action of Jesus. This is what I never noticed.

"So he made a whip out of cords..." (2:15)

Jesus didn't grab an existing whip. He didn't buy one. He didn't commission one. He even didn't snap his fingers and have one appear.

He made it himself.

I wonder, where did he get the materials? What was he thinking about when he was making it? How long did it take him to finish?

Before I noticed this, I assumed that Jesus simply shooed everyone off.

We often picture Jesus is meek and mild, almost a sissy-like. This isn't the Jesus I grew up hearing.

Jesus, meek and mean.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

My Name In Lights

Never thought I'd see this--my name in lights. This is the name of a pharmacy in PA and I happened to see the sign. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Price of Gas

The other day I was on Main Street in our little town when I ran into a friend who sang at our church six weeks ago. Originally, we had planned to eat lunch after church, but I had to cancel because my son David was taken to the emergency room and eventually hospitalized the night before.

My friend asked, "Is your son OK?" I replied, "Yeah, he's fine. We took him in because he was in a lot of pain--his belly was bloated and hard as a rock. As it turned out, all he was suffering from was trapped gas...Now why couldn't he have this problem in the middle of Wednesday? Instead, it had to be on Saturday night, 11:00pm, when the only place to get him help is the emergency room. So basically, we spent $1,000 on trapped gas."

Hearing this, another friend standing by said, "And people have the nerve to complain about the price of gas!"

Monday, August 07, 2006

Faithful & Welcoming Churches Meet in PA

This past weekend, August 4-5, I participated in Faithful & Welcoming's (FWC) first national conference in Bechtelsville, PA. Nearly 150 people heard forums, presentations, and small group discussions around the theme, "Our Future and the United Church of Christ."

(For those needing background, FWC is an organization within the liberal-leaning United Church of Christ. FWC consists of Christians who consider themselves evangelical, conservative, orthodox, and traditional (ECOT) in their beliefs. We organized in opposition to our General Synod's recent support for same-gender marriage and in hopes of restoring the UCC to its founding vision of being a united and uniting church. I am one of the FWC board members.)

We invited and were pleased that several people from the UCC's national and conference settings attended the meeting. J. Bennett Guess, editor of the United Church News, filed a story that appears on the UCC website. Bob Chase, Minister and Team Leader of the UCC's Proclamation, Identity and Communication Ministry, addressed the group in the first plenary session, declaring the need to hear and respect a wide variety of voices that exist in the UCC. Bob Thompson, President of FWC, encouraged us with his opening message, "We Can Do It If We Will."

The Christian faith is all about relationships--with the Savior and each other (Steve Clifford). To this end, the weekend was successful in developing relationships and breaking down our suspicions of each other--even while we honestly discussed the issues that divide us.

I come home with a clearer understanding of where the UCC is right now. ECOTs are a dwindling minority in the UCC. While there's room for us in the UCC, we haven't been permitted a forum at the national and at many conference levels to present our views. For example, when General Synod 25 passed its support for same-gender marriage, it gave direction to how the national setting of the church should function; that's how resolutions affect the national setting. My thought is this: instead of providing web resources that only explain the support for same-gender marriage, why not provide alternative resources from UCC people making the case for traditional marriage? The General Synod resolution speaks to, not for the local churches. Let others voices speak as well--especially since everyone knows this issue threatens our unity like no other.

I also come home with a vision of what the UCC can be--a wonderful union of churches where there is liberty in the things we believe--a place where believers of diverse opinion choose to live in close proximity with those with whom they might disagree in order to learn more about our own beliefs and our Savior.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


I've heard it said, "If the world didn't have trade shows, nothing would ever get done."

I believe it.

All this week I've been preparing a paper for the UCC Faithful & Welcoming Churches conference this weekend in Pennsylvania. It's a detailed "comma-tary" on the United Church of Christ's "God Is Still Speaking" publicity and identity campaign.

The paper is done. The conference is tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Mel Gibson's BraveHeart Confession

By now you've probably heard that Mel Gibson, a Catholic and the creative force behind the 2004 movie Passion of the Christ, was arrested Friday, July 28 on a suspicion of drunk driving.

And--while getting arrested--he uttered quite a few colorful words and spewed out some despicable, racist epithets about Jews.

When Passion came out, critics questioned if it was anti-Semitic. Now that Gibson said as much while drunk, people are connecting the dots--thinking he really does hate Jews.

I don't know about you, but I admit times when terrible thoughts run quietly through my mind. Sometimes I welcome them and make them mine. Sometimes I repudiate them and put them out of my mind.

When people call us to account for the bad things we say, how we respond says a lot about us--and what we really believe about the things we said.

You've heard so-called apologies: "I'm sorry that people took it the wrong way." "If you got mad about it, forgive me." "I didn't mean to create all this attention." And of course, "My lawyers have told me not to talk about this incident because it's a pending legal matter."

You'll probably keep hearing in the media what Gibson said during his arrest, but you won't hear much about what he said after. So if you miss it, you can read it here:

On Saturday, Gibson released the following statement:

"After drinking alcohol on Thursday night, I did a number of things that were very wrong and for which I am ashamed. I drove a car when I should not have, and was stopped by the LA County Sheriffs. The arresting officer was just doing his job and I feel fortunate that I was apprehended before I caused injury to any other person. I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested, and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable. I am deeply ashamed of everything I said. Also, I take this opportunity to apologize to the deputies involved for my belligerent behavior. They have always been there for me in my community and indeed probably saved me from myself. I disgraced myself and my family with my behavior and for that I am truly sorry. I have battled with the disease of alcoholism for all of my adult life and profoundly regret my horrific relapse. I apologize for any behavior unbecoming of me in my inebriated state and have already taken necessary steps to ensure my return to health."

Have you ever seen a more complete apology from a public figure? I think Gibson has more than fulfilled the pre-requisite of 1 John 1:9--"If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

Hey Mel, God forgives you. May He now clean you up.