Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The "Good" Beeson Students

Here's a report from the front line Beeson students who went to Montgomery, Alabama this week: link.

Thanks, Scott, for keeping us posted.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

When No One's Around

Dean Jesson did us a massive favor this week. He made the trip to Montgomery optional. I opted to stay in Wilmore to work on my dissertation. With everybody gone (I still have Nolan, Alicia, and Bryan to keep me company) there won't be much to blog this week. I'll just be in my carrel typing and reading away.

I thought I should let you see how the carrel is looking these days.
Nothing too exciting. There is a little more Gator memorabilia than when I first set up house.

And a lot more books.
After my Beeson training video some of you were a little concerned that I had too much time on my hands. Which got me to wondering . . . were you hoping to come to the blog and see something like this? (trust me, you don't want to watch this video)

I warned you.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Oscar and the Grouch

I watched the opening of the Oscars last night. I'm not fascinated by the Oscars. My lack of fascination has nothing to do with somehow being above that sort of thing. On the contrary, I'm apathetic because I am so far below the Oscars. Every time I've switched on the television to watch one of those things it strikes me as the ultimate high school clique party. And I know that it's a party that would have no interest in inviting me--or anyone I have ever met (I'm sorry if you're reading this and have met me. I mean no disrespect!). Some of the greatest people I have known would not be welcome there, people who have given their entire lives to help others, people who have lived with a desire to bring peace and joy into the lives of those with whom they come into contact.

But, these "stars," my oh my, do they ever think highly of themselves!

The only reason I'm writing about it this morning is that the Oscar celebration boldly crossed a line last night that surprised me. Ellen DeGeneres opened with a pretty mundane routine. I've seen her be pretty funny, but we have to be patient with her because it's hard to be funny in front of the "cool kids." It's a lot of pressure. One wrong word and she will be banished to the little table in the back with Mel Gibson, Michael Richards, and every entertainer who has ever been on Hollywood Squares. She will be forced to hang around a bunch of people who are wondering why Michael Jackson and Woody Allen haven't been banished (Why haven't they?).

DeGeneres is smart, though. She must have decided that if she couldn't make them laugh, she would do herself one better. She just massively stroked their egos. She told the crowd that this year they weren't just celebrating the winners, they were celebrating all of the nominees as well. This triggered a gospel-style choir in white robes appearing on stage singing "Hallelujah!" to the nominees as they passed through the crowd and out the back.

"Hallelujah," of course, means "God Save Us!" Which is exactly how celebrities view themselves--and exactly how a lot of people view them. That's why so many people are clamoring to be famous. It's their chance to share in the divine. It's the modern equivalent of Adam and Eve's forbidden fruit.

I enjoy a good movie every now and again. I certainly watch too much television. But I haven't seen anything on a screen lately that compares with the quiet dedication to God and service to God's kingdom of a Bill Norris, or a Howard Shaffer, or a Robert Fife, or my Mom.

I'm not sure what these Hollywood gods would save us from. Seeing pointless and countless murders on screen? The cheapening of relationships? Growing old gracefully?

I think their salvific answer would be something like "we're saving you from narrowness." DeGeneres even said so last night. She said that "without Jews, African-Americans, and gays there would be no Oscars." But if their gospel of inclusion is really true then try this little experiment on for size: try showing up at their party. You will quickly discover that if they are gods, you are the one who has been thrown out into the darkness.

After that, go visit a Christian service of worship on Sunday morning. Not only will you be let in, you might be fawned over. I know the Church isn't perfect . . . but it is way more diverse and welcoming than Hollywood.

Is this sour grapes on my part? I suppose it could be, but at least when I shaved my head nobody put pictures of me on the national news. There are some advantages to not being a god!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

A Wymer Weekend

I was able to work on my dissertation on Saturday morning while my brother and his family made their way to Wilmore. They arrived mid-afternoon and we all went to church on Saturday night at Crossroads Christian Church in Lexington.

On Sunday morning we had breakfast at the house and they took off. It was great to see them. I took pictures, of course.

After church we watched a was standing room only.
Lily likes the swings.She also likes her cousin, Meg.
Katherine loves her cousin, Anna.

Lily in the park.
Mrs. Wymer (times two).
We ate at Sonny's--of course!
Nobody climbs like Marcus and Ethan.
The Indiana Wymers getting ready to head north. It was great to see everybody.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Father Cantalamessa (The Preacher to the Pope)

Here are the promised pictures of Raniero Cantalamessa's visit to Asbury along with a digital short to give you a taste of the events.

Our first interaction with Cantalamessa was in a thirty minute Question and Answer session that Dr. Baucum set up for the Beeson students and a few other guests.

The picture shows how genuine this man is. He was a joy to hear.
I admit that I wanted him to talk more about what it's like to have papal preaching duties, but that wasn't the purpose of his visit. He didn't say much about that part of his vocation (he was appointed to this position, by the way, by the late Pope John Paul. He was retained by Pope Benedict). His purpose in coming to Asbury was to talk about preaching as it relates to our ministries . . . hence . . . no need to drag the Pope into things!

I asked him to talk about the use of allegory in sermons and how to recover it in approriate ways for preaching. He is a Patristics scholar by training (he taught at the University of Milan for a time). His answer was, essentially, that it just takes some wisdom and some common sense; that a preacher must always be careful not to abuse interpretation whether allegory was being used or not.
His understanding of what it takes to interpret scripture kept reminding me of my mother's use of scripture, even though she studied scripture very differently than Cantalamessa. She didn't bring a Ph.D. to the table, but she brought the same spirit to scripture as this man. Over and over I heard echos of my mother's understanding of how God blesses scripture and people and the interaction of the two.

In Bryan Bucher's blog he mentions how amazing it is that the papal pastor was asked to speak at a conservative Methodist seminary in the hinterlands of Kentucky. He's absolutely right. What's even more amazing is that Cantalamessa accepted. He has made it part of his mission to work for Christian unity . . . and that warms the cockles of my heart of Stone-Campbell.

If pictures are worth a thousand words, then this video might be worth seventeen or eighteen words. There is nothing funny in it. No trains will burst onto your screen. I just thought it might be nice to catch a snippet of the action with video. If you're two minutes ahead of schedule today, go ahead and check it out. I also included a little clip of the worship leader, Matt Maher.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A Tribute to Jack

Yesterday was a good day. Cantalamessa did not disappoint. Hopefully I will be able to give you a glimpse into his time on campus, but I'm putting that off until later today. For now I just want to give a blog (goodbye) wave to Jack Connell who will be returning to New York tomorrow.

We're all sorry to see him go, but we're glad we got to know him. May God bless you in your next ministry.

Here is your parting gift:

We'll see you in April.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Pope's Preacher

I am, of course, working on my disseratation this week--but not much on Tuesday. On Tuesday I will have the opportunity to hear Raniero Cantalamessa lecture on preaching. Cantalamessa is the preacher to the papal household. You can find out a bit more about him by following this link: Papal Preacher.

We Beeson students get to hear two lectures from him. He will also preach in chapel. I'm looking forward to finding out more about him and from him. My understanding is that he is a charismatic Roman Catholic (which is quite different, I suspect, from a charismatic pentecostal). His emphasis on the Holy Spirit is obvious in his books, two of which we have read for classes here at Asbury. I've liked his books.
Also on tap for this week is my first opportunity to preach in Dr. Baucum's class. That will be on Thursday. I will, of course, try to get some pictures of all these things for the blog.

The dissertation is the main thing now. All of the papers, sermons, books and assignments for classes have to be scheduled in and around the dissertation work. Those assignments essentially provide a break from the unending searching through books that is dissertation work.

Right now I'm trying to define the "kingdom of God." Which is silly. Jesus didn't define it. He told us what the kingdom is like. He lived in a kingdom way so we could see how it works. But he never gave us the kind of list that we could use to look at a person and be sure of his or her citizenship in the kingdom.

Alexander Campbell (our John Wesley, for those of you who are Methodists...or even if you're a Christian church person!) seemed quite sure who was and who was not in the kingdom. He was much better at seeing things in black and white than I am. He lived in a different time, though. In his day he was making bold moves by including more Christians in the kingdom, not just a denomination or two.

In our day I've been won over, however, by the likes of Steve Chalke, Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., and Dallas Willard. If we follow their understanding of the kingdom then we have simply to do the things we think Jesus would do with anyone (of any stripe) who will join in. We become less concerned with who is in and who is out, and more concerned with sharing the knowledge of Christ while we share the labor of Christ. This fits best with some of the things we do at Grandview, things like the Interfaith Hospitality Network, where we wind up serving alongside people who might not call themselves Christians.

Besides "defining" the kingdom, I'm trying to uncover specific ways churches "reach out in relationships." The best person to read on that topic appears to be Steve Sjogren, who planted a church in Cincinnatti and who wrote the book, "Conspiracy of Kindness." His book "The Perfectly Imperfect Church" is good too. Simple . . . but good (or, maybe it's good because it's simple).

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Need to Get Away?

I was sitting with my family in a little restaurant called bd's mongolian grill when it came time to make a pit stop. I did what we all do in that situation. I stood up and started glancing around a bit for the signs. I don't know if you've noticed, but the new trend in restaurant layout appears to be "don't let anyone walk in a straight line to anywhere."

After scanning the restaurant (again, it's laid out like a medieval village) I went in the direction that made sense to me. I went toward the bar/waiting-to-get-a-seat area, but that wasn't the place.

I did an about face and began snaking my way toward a back room called something like "The Warrior Room." I did a left at the salad bar, a right around a half-wall, a double helix around the last section of tables and then . . . nothing.

An astute waitress asked what I was looking for. I, of course, told her I was trying to find the restrooms. She said, "Oh, it's right over there, just around that corner."

She seemed honest enough so I went "over there", turned the corner toward which she had pointed, and voila! There it was.

While I was washing my hands I sensed something was wrong. This wasn't the normal kind of men's room. Suddenly I felt the blood rushing to my face. The main door from the hallway opened and standing there was a little girl--next to her mom. Her mom looked at me. Then she looked at the open door. Then she looked at me again.

"Ooooh noooo!" I said, looking again at the door, "Ooooh noooo! It says monGALS, not mongols! I am so sorry! This is awful!" And then a woman walked past me from the bathroom back into the restaurant--a woman who had been in there the whole time.


How does the cliche' go? Look before you leap? He who hesitates winds up in the correct room? I don't know. What I do know is that when I returned to the table the lady who breezed past me out of the bathroom was obviously telling the story to her table. Everyone at that table began to chuckle then turned to get a look at me.

All I could do was wave.

In my defense (and you knew I would try to defend myself here), the waitress did say "just around that corner." And the sign . . . the sign. . . well, let's just say it isn't designed for easy discernment in a time of need. I don't know what Mongolian women look like, but this trans-gender cartoon on the bathroom door communicated "boy" to me.

Oh well. Joke's on me.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Happy Birthday, Max and Max

The Buchers and the Layers had a double birthday party for their boys, Max and Max. They invited the whole Beeson gang.Here Max Bucher is making sure Max Layer knows there are TWO Maxes.
Meghan and Maggie continued the alliteration for the evening.
Even Ana was ready to party.
As you can see, the Beeson Townhouses don't easily lend themselves to large gatherings.
Every party has a pooper . . . but sometimes things start happening from the OTHER end (especially during flu season). Here Travis and Gordon spring into action after technicolor M&Ms "reappear".
Now we know why Scott was so happy--because the Buchers hosted the party!

Organizational Leadership

Just a little more about our Organizational Leadership with Dr. Jack. We've finished three days of class together covering fiscal, staffing, planning, strategies, and leadership issues. The class continued to be filled with helpful information and good discussion.We will meet again in April for two days after we students have had a chance to do our case studies. Each of us will be travelling to a church of our choosing to examine the organizational and leadership structures that are in place.
Jim is going to California. I am going to visit our friend, Ben Cachiaras, at Mountain Christian Church in Joppa, Maryland. I've been wanting to get up there for a long time now and this assignment turns out to be the perfect opportunity (the Beeson pays our way).
So here is Jack waving good-bye to us. Next week he'll be heading back to New York, returning Asbury in the Spring as adjunct faculty instead of as a Wilmore resident. We wish you well, Jack. See you in April.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Howard and Donald's Wild Ride

In an earlier post I lionized Howard Shaffer while wishing I had the picture of the time he rode the Montu roller coaster. Well, thanks to Grandview administrative assistant, Carla McKinney, I have the picture!

For those readers of the blog who don't know, Donald is on the left and 90-year-old Howard is on the right. This was when I realized Howard wanted to keep going. Magnificent. His face says it all.I wrote a blog entry on Howard a couple of weeks ago. It elicited more responses than any other post I've written. Though the replies tended to be complimentary to me or Cindy or Grandview, they were really commentaries on how loved Howard was. Not all of you read the comments that are attached to these posts so I will include some of them here. There are some beautiful memories in these comments:

Cindy Schade

Aaron, I cried as I read to Scott your comments. Scott and I, when we were first married and attending Grandview, sang in the choir. Mary and Howard picked us up each Sunday afternoon, and what a fun time. They, along with Donald, also showed up on our church doorstep in Selston, England. Thanks for putting into words our emotions.

Anonymous said...

He was such a fine example of true Christianity. He taught us love and faithfulness by example. He will always be remembered and loved by many. Pam

Scott Wakefield said...

Howard was exceedingly gracious, constantly smiling, and often teary with love and affection for people. He and Mary took in my parents and me as a young professor family at Great Lakes Bible College. They were part of a faithful generation of Christians who served without fanfare and didn't wait for a church program for the chance to hospitably love and mentor younger Christians to do kingdom work. He and Mary were parental in their care and affection for my parents. Thanks, Howard and Mary.

Melissa Noble said...

Years ago I began working at Milligan College. Since I have a great love of sports I attended several basketball games. Also in attendance was the sweetest couple I had ever observed. It was obvious both were late in years so getting in and out of those bleachers was not easy. But each time I watched as the (true) gentleman helped his wife to her seat. Taking care of her first. At one game I purposely sat close to them so I could strike up a conversation. Well, that didn't take long. :) I became well acquainted with Howard and Mary Shaffer. Then years later I was overjoyed to find out that they attended the church I had finally settled on. I have been blessed by several people in my life but two men stand out the most. My daddy and Howard Shaffer. Imagine how odd I felt being notified on January 31 that Howard had passed away. Because most of my day had been filled with memories of my own father who passed away on the same day 20 years ago. :) Thanks Howard, I love you!

Anonymous said...

We thank you Aaron for your words and message even from afar. Lisa and Amanda Norris, Florida

Jan Weaver said...

We read your comments and it seems you knew Howard well. I knew him in Lansing as director of the church choir where he and Mary sang many years ago. I have fond memories of the times we had together singing and just being friends. We have shared so much in the past- he is being missed - but I'll see him soon.

Marjorie "Deb" Shaffer Hoag said...

Thank you, Aaron, for this tribute to my dad, for your fine message at his memorial service, for your friendship with him both as his pastor and as his personal friend, and for the steadfast support you gave him as he struggled to carry on after Mother's death. Since I live so far from JC, I was always so grateful to you and Cindy, Donald, and the many special caring sisters and brothers at Grandview for the love shown my parents. The Grandview people are the most thoughtful and giving souls I have encountered. I am overwhelmed by their love and support. God is so good! He gave my dad a long and beautiful life and has now welcomed him into His heavenly fold. I rejoice in Dad's journey - he fought the good fight and has entered into Glory!

In the grip of His grace - Marjorie

Linda Lawson said...

I think Howard is what we all want to be when we are old -- loving, friendly, tender-hearted, forgiving, fun, engaged with life. It seems like it would be a rare thing for someone who enjoyed his life so much to be so prepared to part with it. It also occurs to me that Howard didn't get to be the Howard we knew and loved by waiting until he got old to be that person. There's a lesson in there. We sure will miss him.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Week in Wilmore

This week has been action packed, so I will combine some events into one post.

On Monday and Tuesday we spent some time with the Clergy Council. This is a group of ministers who serve to guide and advise the Beeson Program. The council members spent some time sharing their views on preaching. Pictured is Linda Adams who ministers at a New Hope Free Methodist in Rochester, NY. Also presenting were Jeff Spiller, minister of Christ United Methodist in Mobile, AL; and Jim Garlow of Skyline Church in San Diego, CA. On Monday we found out that Anna has strep and Cora has the flu. One Tuesday Cindy had a root canal. So, needless to say, we didn't make it to the Beeson Valentine's Dinner on Tuesday night. I did get some pictures, though.
This is Scott enjoying some lasagna and garlic toast.
The kids sat at the kid's table (where else?)
Alaina . . . delightful as always.
This morning (Wednesday) we started a new class on Organizational Leadership with Dr. Jack Connell. Faithful readers of this blog will recognize Jack as the associate dean of the Beeson Program, and as the guy who went with our family to King's Island last Fall.
Jack is a good teacher. He brings energy to his lectures, along with an understanding that every church situation is different. He doesn't advocate the old "one-size-fits-all" approaches to leadership. One of the best things? He really listens to our questions. His answers fit.
Jack was the minister of Crosswinds Wesleyan Church near Rochester, NY until last year when he and his family moved to Wilmore. Unfortunately for the Beeson Program, it turned out not to be the right situation for Jack's family. In a about a week he'll be moving back to his old town where he will begin serving Houghton College. We'll miss him. We already miss his family.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Beeson Marriage Retreat

Rather than ask our children to welcome a stranger into our house for the weekend Beeson marriage retreat, we traveled to southern Indiana to meet my sister's family and send Meghan, Anna, and Cora to stay with them.Anna wanted to have use of the camera while we were traveling.
So did Cora.
We met Connie, Deon, Olivia, and Gideon at a KFC in Scottsburg.It was frrrrrrreeezing in southern Indiana. Below you can see Meghan and Connie. Connie is my sister . . . she's the one on the right (could they be related?).Then Cindy and I zoomed back to Lexington for the marriage retreat. The newly weds, Susanna and Nolan were there to teach us everything we need to know.Pierson Layer let Susanna know what it's like to hang around a cute baby.Jim was digging deep into the topic of marriage.Below you can see the Scholls and Kate Layer juggling marriage retreat with newborns.
Matt found that Ian did better if he had a "play pen" in the corner.
It was a nice chance to visit with the Buchers and the Muses who ate at our table.Afterward the Muses and Cindy and I took a short walk to area just outside Rupp Arena to take in the pregame vibe as the big, bad Gators rolled into town to avenge decades of losses to the Kentucky Wildcats.People came from all over the universe to cheer for Kentucky.Even ESPN's GameDay crew was there to hype the game. The crowd was raucous and ready.Travis (who is from Oklahoma) was listening to the GameDay reports on the Oklahoma State vs. Texas Tech game that went to double overtime. Cindy was the one who convinced us to take the walk down to the GameDay set. Here she is with Ginny Muse.The Wildcat fans were very nice. The boys in Blue didn't throw anything at me when I dared to cheer for the Gators (Cindy, on the other hand, wanted very much to throw things at me). Here is the video of me trying to bring some orange into this sea of blue. By the way, the Gators won!