Sunday, July 30, 2006

A Great Day!

WARNING: Blogs are nice, but completely inadequate for a day like this one.Today, Sunday, July 30th, is Barbara's birthday--in more ways than one! Part of the reason for her visit here in Wilmore was to be baptized. Cindy and I are thrilled about this. We went to Southland Christian Church this morning, but we saved the baptism until the afternoon. Our new friends, Jason and Keri, used to preach at a small Christian Church outside of Nicholasville. That church (Elk Fork Christian Church) has merged into another church, Sulphur Well Christian Church (see above).

Jason and Keri's friends at Sulphur Well Christian Church were gracious to allow us to use their baptistry for the grand occasion. They even joined the celebration. Our Meghan sat with Jason and Keri's Meghan and Hannah while we prepared for the baptism.
The water was chilly and Barbara was nervous, but she was brave! She didn't hesitate to step into the water for the great sacrament. Her daughter, my lovely wife, joined us.

Barbara made her confession of faith and Cindy and I were honored to be a part of the baptism.
There were smiles all around!

After the baptism, Jason and Keri took us out to Elm Fork Christian Church's abandoned building. He preached there while he was in seminary.

Keri said they used to be sure to go to the restroom before leaving for church because this outhouse was the only option once folks arrived for services. The weeds have grown up around it now. But I digress! This day was huge. I leave you with this picture of a mother/daughter celebrating the culmination of years of prayers that are being honored by God, who is always faithful.

A Trip to the Kentucky Horse Farm

Cindy's mom, Barbara, flew up to see us this past week. Here she is posing for a picture with John Wesley and Anna. We wanted to do something with her that screamed "KENTUCKY!", so . . .
On an overcast, muggy, Saturday we made the trip just north of Lexington to the Kentucky Horse Farm. Nice place! Sometimes I get around people who are gung-ho over something and I wonder what the big deal is . . . but I can see why people are crazy over horses. The Kentucky Horse Farm has some magnificent animals! Most of the pictures below require no commentary. I hope you enjoy them.

Cora really wanted to pet the miniature horses (not ponies!)Cindy's mom is named Barbara, but her grandchildren call her "Bobby." We couldn't resist placing her in front of this horse's stall.

At the end of the day we needed a big rest. If you have time to spend in the Lexington area I would recommend the KHFarm. One word of caution, though. Our visit coincided with a convention of the Breyers. When I saw the big "Breyer Convention" sign I hoped that we would all get free ice cream. As it turns out, though, this is just the brand name for a miniature, model, horse manufacturer.

If you are reading this and happen to be a Breyer collector, let me apologize in advance. . . however, if you are willing to drive from California to Kentucky for a convention of toy collectors, then if you and I happen to talk you'll find that I just smile and nod.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Locks of Love

Anna poses with the lock of hair she had hacked in order to send it to the Locks of Love organization, to be made into wigs for children who need them. When I aked them if they had a "frequent donors" program that would allow some of the hair to be made into a wig for me they told me I had them confused with the Make a Wish Foundation.

The Company of Preachers: Section 2

Section 2 of Lischer's book focuses on the preacher's character and nature. In this section we are treated to eight essays/sermons/lectures on the desired nature of the preacher. This time we hear from John Chrysostom (347-407), George Herbert (1593-1633, this guy is one of my favorites), Richard Baxter (1615-1691), Jarena Lee (1783-1850), Horace Bushnell (1802-1876), Phoebe Palmer (1807-1874), PT Forsyth (1848-1921), Gardner C. Taylor (still living, as far as I know).

I'll keep this review short! They all touched on the need for humility, but each touched on it in his or her own way. The two women, Phoebe and Jarena, give a good account of their calls to preach when those around them were unsure that women should preach. Jarena Lee became the first female evangelist in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. She was not just battling the idea that women could not be preachers, she preached to some people who believed Black people did not even have souls (talk about a rough crowd!). Phoebe Palmer was an American Methodist evangelist and spiritual leader.

I think my favorite line in this section comes from Horace Bushnell who laments that every little church around thinks they deserve a great preacher and that these churches "are not as much baffled commonly in the matter of salvation itself as in finding just the minister that is worthy of them." He goes on to say about these churches, "Nay, there is, I fear, a silent scolding of Providence that so few [great preachers] are born."

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

DM803 Dissertation Writing: July 26th

For the past three days we've been in class from 8:30-4:30, learning the preliminary ins and outs of the dissertation writing process. This means that we've been kicking around ideas for topics of research. I'll share more on that as it develops. I want a topic that centers around Grandview, so be prepared to be studied!This is Dr. Leslie Andrews, the dean of the Asbury Theological Seminary Doctor of Ministry program (a seperate but related department from the Beeson Program). She oversees the dissertation writing process for all students.

Below you see just two pictures of classmates (Bryan and Kent) discussing possible topics and how to narrow them, or measure the results. The discussion was interesting . . . even if this entry of the blog is not! Because of this class, there hasn't been time to do anything more insteresting. My apologies.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Ministry in the Image of God

Dr. Stephen Seamands will be our professor for an upcoming class, the Theology of Ministry. I was reading his book, Ministry in the Image of God, at my new coffee shop when a fellow coffee drinker came to my table and asked what I was reading. I showed him the book and he said, "Hey, I'm meeting Steve here for breakfast." So, I got to meet Dr. Seamands. I'm looking forward to his class.

Coming from our Stone-Campbell tradition (we can be a bit uneasy about the doctrine of the trinity) it was interesting to spend time in this book. Trinitarian theology baffles me because of its complexity. I like it on one level because it attempts to deal with all of the scriptural witness to the nature and character of God. However, Trinitarian doctrine can become so speculative that it spirals into a nebulous abyss. I don't blame the book, the act of considering the nature of God always makes my head hurt. Even as kid I remember feeling a little dopey whenever I contemplated God. I used to tell my mom that when I got to heaven (presumptuous, I know) the first question I was going to ask God was, "How did you get here?"

Seamands' book only begins by considering the nature of God, though. He uses the fruit of Trinitarian contemplation on the nature of God as a model for ministry. He contends that the Trinity is at the heart of our call to ministry, that ministers are called to perfect submission while not losing their distinct personhood. Below are some of the chapters with my favorite insights included:

Relational Personhood: This chapter is a reminder that the gospel calls us to relationships.
  • "Many Christians have bought into the cultural notion that religion is an individual, private matter and assume they can believe without belonging."
  • "Your faith may be individual, but it's not personal except in relationship."
  • "Solitary religion is unbiblical; so is solitary service for God."
Joyful Intimacy: Our joy lies not in accomplishing things for ourselves or for God. Our joy rests in our intimate relationship with God.
  • "Jesus is declared to be the Father's beloved Son in whom he is well pleased before he begins to preach, teach and heal."
  • "God wants us to be something before He wants us to do something. . . . God wants us to be lovers so that we do work."
  • We must be careful, lest "working for God becomes more important than loving God."
  • [This section reminded me of an acronym my friend, Nathan, came up with to remind him that God loves us . . . .Period. The things we do are simply a response to God's love, not an enticement to gain approval. Nathan coined the acronym, D.U.M.B.--Doing Until More Believe--to remind himself that evangelism is more than what we do.]
Glad Surrender: The persons of the Trinity are only too pleased to surrender to each other. This is to be emulated by Christians.
  • " . . . The triune person are self-actualized not through self-assertion but through self-giving and self-surrender."
  • "As bearers of the divine image, we too find our life by losing it."
  • "Can you imagine an advertisement in a Christian magazine urging those considering preparation for ministry to choose a particular college or seminary because 'we will prepare you to die'?"
  • As minister at Grandview, I identified with this one: "For those of us in Christian ministry, how often our Isaac is our ministry itself. This wonderful gift--the ministry to and for which we have been called, gifted and equipped--can easily become an idol rivaling God."
Complex Simplicity: This chapter claims that there is a simplicity in the Trinity. This claim i's not so convincing to me. It breaks the question down into mystery, paradox, and simplicity.

Gracious Self-Acceptance: Ministry needs to flow out of an understanding of self that is rooted in our relationship to God and others. We don't lose our personality (like the Star Trek concept of the Borg), we accept that God gave us uniqueness and we minister from that gift. This means, by the way, that we have to separate our false selves from our genuine selves.
  • He quotes Henri Nouwen: "self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us 'Beloved.'"
  • "Fig leaves and makeup don't make us more presentable to God."
  • "Accomplishment, acceptance and acclaim have been the fig leaves of my false self."
  • "Define yourself radically as one beloved by God." [emphasis his]
Mutual Indwelling: Phew . . . this is getting really long, sorry. I liked this book, though. Basically, this chapter makes the point that Christ indwells us, but doesn't become us; fills us and joins us, but doesn't replace us.
  • "the problem with many who earnestly pursue holiness is defective faith. Because they have a faith that seeks but not a faith that rests, the joyful confidence of abiding in Christ eludes them."
Passionate Mission: If mission is at the heart of the Trinity it must be at the heart of ministry, too. This is the strongest chapter. It bemoans the sad reality that many times a seminary education winds up isolating the minister instead of sending the minister out into the world.
  • John Wesley said that the world was his parish, some ministers find, though, that "their parish tends to be their world."
  • "The greatest danger that success brings, aside from arrogance, is the fear of losing what has been gained."
Okay . . . if you're still reading you may as well buy the book . . . or borrow it the next time you see me.

Monday, July 24, 2006

My Birthday Feast Weekend

WARNING: There is nothing about school or theology in this blog entry.Our friends, Jason and Keri, watched the girls while Cindy and I went into Lexington for date night. We walked around a little bit, but the stores were mostly closed. We went into a nice little restaurant downtown (see picture below) where we sat, ate, talked, and watched a rainstorm wreak havoc on those who weren't sitting inside.
We found a fan company on our way back to Wilmore. I really liked the sign. "That'll blog," I thought to myself. High volume, low speed? Hey, that's me!

On Saturday (my actual birthday!) we went on a family adventure, driving all the way to the other side of Nicholasville (about 5 minutes away) to search for Wymers Branch of Hickman Creek. I think we found it, but there were no signs confirming our discovery.It's a pretty little creek. I believe there must be a family connection because when I started taking a few pictures for the blog, some local "fisherman" became antsy (I never pointed the camera/phone at them). I think they were up to no good . . . a sure sign that they have some Wymer connection.

After we had looked at Wymers Branch of Hickman Creek for about as long as a person can do that sort of thing, we went to Olive Garden to use our gift certificate for my birthday supper. When I was out of the restaurant coaching Cora to pull her own tooth, they informed the waiter that it was my birthday. That means that I got to be in the middle of a bunch of waiters singing Happy Birthday. The one candle on the cake simply represents how many more years I have before turning 40.

Then, on Sunday night, I was surprised by a bunch of Beeson-ites who showed up at our door with a birthday cake, brownies, and another song. By now it was July 23rd, which is my neighbor's birthday! So, Aimee and I blew out the candles and enjoyed an impromptu birthday celebration. The picture below is of Alicia with her wonderful brownies.

This is Susanna with a very moist cake that had some sort of Butterfinger topping. Very good!
Jack and Jim enjoy the food. Jack (red shirt) isn't a student, he's the assistant dean of the Beeson and a graduate of one of the first classes of Beeson Pastors. His daughter, Rebekah, is only a year younger than Meghan. We're thrilled that they haven't found a house in Wilmore yet . . . that means they live in the Beeson apartments, just a few doors down.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Friday Reflection Session: July 21

Dr. Randy Jessen, Dean of the Beeson, led us in a discussion/reflection time from 9:30-noon this morning. He introduced us to a program he put into place in the church he last served in Colorado. He called his congregation to "EPIC leadership". It was an attempt to help move the congregation toward a deeper understanding of discipleship and away from an inward focus.

E: Excited about Service
P: Passionate about faith
I: Inspired by hope
C: Committed to love.

The process of implementing EPIC was hard going. He introduced the plan to staff first and invited them to participate in scheduling time for outward focused ministry during each week. When that didn't work he made it a requirment. When that didn't work 11 of 17 staff members were fired.

During the discussion I became acutely aware of how fortunate we are at Grandview. It would be easy, in the exclusive company of preachers, to forget that the church I'm allowed to serve is a wonderful place to be. At Grandview we, of course, aren't perfect . . . but this is a congregation that overwhelmingly wants to be faithful to the gospel.

In the above picture we have (from left to right) Matt, Gordon, Alicia, Jason, and Kent. In the below picture you can see Jim cheesing for the camera during the middle of the discussion.

I need to quit blogging and get to work. It's a nice diversion, though, from the 25 page integration paper I'm working on.

We have another "Grill-a-Palooza" tonight. I'll try to remember to get GOOD pictures, not just distant shots of people scattered on the lawn eating hotdogs. Ooops . . . I was going to get to work, wasn't I?

The Company of Preachers: Section 1

It occurs to me that I haven't reviewed any books lately. . . and I don't want any of you thinking that I'm not keeping up with my reading. While being in class and writing a couple of papers has slowed my reading, it hasn't stopped it completely.

I've finished two sections in Lischer's The Company of Preachers. Today I'll just review the first one, "What is Preaching?" This section contains the wisdom of seven separate lectureres on the topic of the nature of preaching: Alan of Lille (c. 1128-1202), Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834), Phillip Brooks (1853-1893), C.H. Dood (1884-1973), Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), Carl Michalson (1915-1965), and Barbara Brown Taylor (still kickin!).

They were all worth reading. I was surprised, though, to disagree with Bonhoeffer; such is my respect for his life and ministry. However, he beleives that preaching is Christ. "The proclaimed word is the incarnate Chirst himself," he writes. That, for me, is just too high a view of preaching.

I enjoyed Barbara Brown Taylor's lecture especially. It was helpful and I have a natural affinity for her methods. Also, I've quoted Phillip Brooks to some of you, but his essay put those quotes into conext:

"Truth through personality is our description of real preaching. The truth must come really through the person, not merely over his lips, not merely into his understanding and out through his pen. It must come through his character, affections, his whole intellectual and moral being. It must come genuinely through him."

Good stuff. Lischer did an excellent job of selecting texts for this book. I got an email from Susan Higgins last week telling me that she really appreciated Lischer's new book, The End of Words. I suspect, from Susan's recommendation and from reading The Company of Preachers, that it's a worthy read.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The New Usual--July 19

Just as water seeks its own level, life is finding its new routine as we inch past the newness of our experience and into the daily grind of studies. Travis isn't really sleeping in the above picture, he's just striking a pose--though I had to get anti-bacterial spray to clean up the drool.
They give us lots of breaks when we are in class. Not only that, they provide SNACKS for all of the breaks. Here Dr. Martyn, Alicia, and Nolan enjoy conversation along with sweets and savories.
I get going each morning by reading, sometimes at the local coffee shop (I'll have to supply some pictures of that!), and sometimes on a balcony outside of the Beeson Manor hotel. I read until class starts. Dr. Martyn's class started at 9am every day. I have the distinction of being late on the very first day of class--nothing like making a good first impression.

That's okay, though, because he was teaching about spirituality and . . . well . . . grace is such a large part of Christian spirituality that I was the first example of one who receives grace. The class is over now. We met for the last time yesterday. That means that today and tomorrow we return to Dr. Kalas' preaching class.

Again, I can't seem to get a good picture of the man. I'm just going to have to ask him to pose for me. This taking pictures secretly doesn't produce great results when you're worried you'll get caught.

Last night we went to a large bookstore in Lexington. It was pretty cool. It's called "Joe" something. A lot of people know about it, I'm just drawing a blank right now. Here is Cora standing in front of the water fountain that's just outside the store. She threw a penny in the fountain and made a wish, but I'm not allowed to tell you what it was. So, as you can see, there is no one thing dominating my time right now. I read, I write, I spend time with the family, I play racquetball, I run, and I blog!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Another Quick Trip to Indy-July 16-17

We took advantage of a free day and a half and the fact that we're only 3 1/2 hours from Indianapolis to run up there to see my grandfather, who isn't well. On Saturday at 2pm, Cindy hosted a tea part for our neighbor, Kate.

At 5pm we took to the streets as family. Here is a picture of us in the van on the way. We made it to my brother's house about 9pm.
The morning sun streamed through the woods around my brother's house as we left for church. It really was a beautiful morning. After church we went to see my grandfather. We had lunch with my Uncle Phil and Aunt Carol, my Aunt Marsha and her husband, David, my Dad and Wendy. We also posed for a picture in front of the soap making shed that grandma used to enjoy.

On Sunday afternoon we said goodbye to Eric, Missy, Ethan, Marcus, Lily, and Catherine. Then we stopped by Connie and Deon's house next door to see Olivia and Gideon. Then we made our way back to Wilmore.