Friday, December 29, 2006

Dungeons & Dragons

Despite myself, I am beginning to become excited. A couple of our Junior High students have exibited an interest in D&D. In fact, one of them has approached me and asked me to run a campaign. Suddenly, I feel like Wil Wheaton sharing his love of "geeky" things with his step-kids.
I truly love telling stories and playing games, and D&D is such a wonderful way of doing that. It's the most cooperative passtime I've ever been a part of, and that's one of the things I love most about it. It's not an "I win, you loose, ha ha ha" kind of game at all. So I hope this works out, and that I'll have a chance to collaborate on a great story with some of our youth, soon!

Be good to each other,
Rev Josh

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Miracle of the Christmas Mic

A Charlie Brown Christmas has been striking a chord with all kinds of people from the religious to the not so religious (and even geeks to some extent!) since the mid sixties. So it should come as no surprise that (a) I posted Linus' famous speach just before Christmas. (Incidentally, check out what Linus does when he gets to the spot about "Fear not!" I believe that's the only time you'll see Linus do that on film!) and (b) That I thought to myself, "that'll preach" and decided to use it in my Christmas Eve sermon. Ah, but I was crafty! I roped in one of our Jr. High students (thank you, Kathleen!) to read the part of Linus when I got there in my sermon. I decided to give her the cordless hand mic, and have her read from her seat, so as to make it a surprise. And that's why this post is called "The Miracle of the Christmas Mic." My sermon was just that good.

Just kidding.

The miracle was this: The microphone almost didn't make it. It was to be used three times during the service. Once for the lighting of the Advent candles, once for the solo vocalist offertory, and when Kathleen was being Linus for the sermon. The deacon of the evening (Eric) went and got the mic for the Advent Candles, and noticed that the batteries were just about shot. So he turned off the mic, and didn't turn it on again until it was time for the solo, with the thought that if the mic made it throught the solo, we'd be in the clear. So he took the mic, turned it off, and put it back in its stand when the solo was done. At which point Kathleen did exactly what I told her to do. She got up, nabbed the mic, and proceeded to try to turn it on.

Now, imagine the look on Eric's face. Priceless.

So it's about time for the sermon, and I see Eric go up to Kathleen, take the mic from her, and leave. It turns out he's looking for batteries, but I don't know that yet.

Now, imagine the look on my face. Priceless.

So I buy us some time through prayer. I mean, isn't it lucky that I always pray right before I preach? So I give Eric what time I can, then, noting that he's in the pew in front of Kathleen (with no new batteries, but I don't know that yet) looking anxious, I begin to preach. When we get to Kathleen's Linus reading, I see Eric turn on the mic and hand it to her. She reads just a little bit fast, but honestly, so does Linus. She did a great job. It was fun watching people trying to figure out who was reading, and where it was coming from. I saw lots of nodding heads, agreeing with the Linus message. And she made it all the way through! And Eric takes the mic from Kathleen, and goes to turn it off.

But he doesn't have to.

Because the batteries have given out.

Kathleen literally finished her reading in the nick of time. She finished just before the mic.

And that is the miracle of the Christmas Mic.

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Thursday, December 21, 2006

I Can't Say It Any Better

I never noticed this before, but pay close attention to Linus and his security blanket...

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Who is Ministering to Who, Here?

Pastor Ed told me this story about one of our fellow clergyfolk. Apparently it was the middle of Advent, as it is now. (I like to imagine that maybe he had performed a funeral or two already that week, as I'm doing now.) In any case, it was the middle of Advent, and this pastor went to visit an elderly shut-in member of his congregation. And so he entered her house, which was quite warm, and sat down in a confortable chair to visit with her.

And then, quite suddenly, he realized that she was grasping his shoulder and asking him if he was okay.

He had fallen asleep.

When he explained that he had drifted off, she responded, ever so kindly, "You must be very tired."

Isn't that just about the sweetest thing you've ever heard?

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Friday, December 08, 2006

Abolitionist? Today? Really?

Yes, really. It's not something we think about a lot as U.S. citizens, since slavery is not legal here. We think of it as a thing of the past. I thank one of our youth for reminding me that it is not. You'll notice that I've linked Elizabeth's blog in my link list, please go check it out. But before you do that, look at this video she e-mailed to me. It's heartbreaking...

But that's why you have to see it.

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Every Time It Rains, It Rains Pennies from Heaven

Thanks to Jenny for finding this on the Mental Floss site this morning. As I was eating my breakfast, I looked up and she had this image up on our computer.

"What is that?" I ask. (To me it looks like somebody drove a tractor trailer truck into the ocean.)

"Apparently a cargo container fell off a ship and washed up on the Outer Banks of NC a few days ago. It must have broken open, because bags and bags of Doritos washed up too! And they were all still in their bags, so the chips were still good!"

Mmmm, nothing like the taste of free ocean Doritos!

Shooby Dooby

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Friday, December 01, 2006

More, more, more!

I ran across this today, and I simply must share it. Robert Needlman, M.D. gives us some advice on how to avoid Christmas becoming only about the presents.

Pay close attention to the developmental psychology, it's telling.

He writes:

Here in the world's richest country, we often confuse material things for love. "I give him everything," a frustrated mother complains, "New shoes, videogames, his own TV. You'd think he'd at least show me respect!"

Of course, love and consumer goods are related. Most parents work hard to earn money. They want their children to have more than they did. They sacrifice so that their children can have better lives.

The problem is, most children don't connect the things parents buy with the labor that pays for them. Children have more, but our culture -- and television in particular -- teaches them that more is never enough. Having more does not guarantee that a child feels loved.

From a parent's point of view, this all may seem like plain ingratitude. But normal developmental forces are at work. Young children see their parents as all-powerful. If parents fail to provide what they want, it must be a matter of choice. It's normal for children, even well into school-age, to not be able to take another person's point of view. For example, they may resent their parent for working long hours, and not realize that the parent would also rather have more time at home.

As hard as these issues are all year round, they're even harder during the holidays. For many children, Christmas is all about the presents. Even in devout families, it's easy for the religious meaning to be lost amid the tinsel and wrapping paper. At the same time, the holidays heighten needs for connection and belonging which cannot be filled by more and bigger presents.

Instead, we have to find other ways to express love and create memories. Reading or telling stories together, making music, playing games, are all ways for families to spend time without spending money. Traditions like midnight services, caroling, favorite poems, even snowball fights, all serve the same purpose. Most important, as parents, we have to learn to hold back some energy from our exhausting jobs and all-consuming careers. When we're present for our children we ourselves become the presents we want to give.

To read see the original article, click here

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day, and tonight I'll be doing my part in the annual World AIDS Day service. (7pm at United Methodist) But maybe that doesn't help you (or impress you much) out there in cyber-space, so here are some links to some on-line resources:

Ecumenical Advocacy Allience

The Balm In Gilead, Inc.


Personally, I will always remember a sign held by a demonstrator outside of General Synod in Kansas City, oh, a few years ago. I talk about that experience here. Anyway, Synod was being picketed by Fred Phelps' ravaging horde--er... I mean his church. Several signs caught my attention, some so badly graphic that I won't describe them here. But I will tell you about this one. It said that AIDS was a plague sent by God to destroy the fags.

I beg to disagree, on every aspect of that thought.

First, AIDS can be caught by anyone, gender and orientation have nothing to do with it. Not one thing. It can be spread through sexual contact and blood, and there are many, many ways that can happen.

Second, I don't believe that gay men and lesbians warrent such vehement hatred to begin with. Of course, Jesus told us not to judge each other at all, and I'm obviously having my own problems not judging people like Fred Phelps and his ravaging horde--er... church. So maybe I'll just let this point drop for the moment.

Third, I don't believe that God sent AIDS to punish or destroy anyone. Not the queer community, not druggies, not even Fred Phelps' ravaging horde--er... church.

Here's the bottom line. There needs to be more education and less stigma attached to HIV/AIDS.

Don't you think?

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

For Safety's Sake

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and all you parents out there (unless you're as on top of things as our friend and neighbor, who's ALREADY DONE! Sheesh...) are getting ready to do a whole lot of Christmas shopping. Well, I just saw a news report with some new safety guidelines and some old ones that we should maybe be reminded of. First, if your child is under three years of age, avoid toys with small parts. That is to say, parts that are small enough to attempt to swallow. Swallowing parts is bad, ok? Second, if your child is under six years of age (and this is a new one, so pay attention) avoid toys with magnets inside. When magnets come loose, and can be swallowed, your initial reaction may be that they will simply pass through... however, once inside your child, the magnets can (and in some cases have) join together, effectively creating a larger blockage that can seriously injure your child. Finally, in children under the age of eight, you should avoid toys with sharp edges and corners.

Be safe!

And be good to each other,
Rev. Josh Sander

Friday, November 17, 2006

Silver Lake!

So, we're getting ready to take SPF (Senior Pilgrim Fellowship--that's our Senior High School youth group) to Silver Lake Conference Center. Yes, that Silver Lake, the one you see linked in my sidebar. Go on. Click it. You know you want to. I'll wait...

Anyhow, we're dropping like flies. Several regulars just aren't coming. Two of our advisors can't make it (one's even being shipped off to Puerto Rico for work) and now the son of another has come down with strep... which means one less kid and one less advisor. But I'm not worried! We still have two adults for nine youth, and that's really not that bad.

Besides... if we've had this much trouble before the trip, it has to get better during.


Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Be Intentional!

Thanks to my wife for finding these videos and showing them to me. Actually, this is the second of the series, which you can find on YouTube. It has been the focus of some lively (and for the most part, civil) blog discussion at redhead ramblings Go check it out, even I couldn't refrain from throwing my two cents in!

So, with no further ado, "I'm A Christ Follower Pt 2"

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Last Halloweenie

I thought I'd write an overarching, beautiful, poetic, creepy, scary, powerful post about Halloween that you would never ever forget.

But I'm not going to.

I'm just going to wish you a Happy Halloween. Be safe. Have fun.

and of course

Be good to each other
Rev. Josh

Friday, October 27, 2006

hangin' out with the DREAM KING

Not a Halloweenie, but then again, The Sandman gets pretty dark in places. But that's not really why I'm writing this post. I'm writing this post because Neil Gaiman is quite simply an author everyone should familiarize themselves with. I especially wanted to link this post from Neil's blog. You may have to scroll down a bit, but there's a great question about graphic novels' being eligible for literary awards. I love Neil's response. If you have any interest whatsover in our First Amendment Rights, and you should, you definately want to dig deeper into Neil's brain. Oh, and check out the Comic Book Legal Defence Fund The Comic Book Legal Defene Fund helps people like Mike Diana, the first American artist to be arrested under an obscenity law. His sentence was... rediculous, I honestly can't believe a U.S. court enforced his sentence.


I guarentee that if Mike were a novelist instead of a comic book artist, this case would have been all over the news.

Huh, maybe this post is scary enough to be a Halloweenie after all...

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Friday, October 20, 2006

Halloweenie of the... ok, the Week, sorry.

I know I haven't been keeping up with this very well, but you'd much rather I kept up with my other work first, right? I still have hope that my wife will be writing something about one of her favorite horror flicks, but for now I want to tell you about one of my favorite television shows that explores the creepy.

Ghosthunters follows a group of paranormal investigators called The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS) which operate out of Warwick, RI. This information in and of itself catches my attention, after all, I've been to Warwick many a time on shopping outings... and they're often investigating places we know, such as The Lighthouse Inn, New London and the Bradley Playhouse. (Incedentally, I know folks who have been involved with the Bradley, and they were disappointed in the episode... can't all be winners, I guess.)

Anyway, my wife and I have both seen shows that tear apart paranormal investigators as utterly pseudoscientific, and indeed, the founders of TAPS are not scientists--they're plumbers who had personal experiences which led them to wonder more deeply about the possiblity of hauntings. But they are a little more grounded than most of the "investigators" I've seen torn apart. For example, a staple of paranormal investigation is an EMF (electro-magnetic-field) detector. The theory is that unexplainable electro-magnetic fields could be evidence of a haunting. The thing is, anything with electricity has an electro-magnetic field, so when you see other investigators oo-ing and ah-ing over their beloved toy while they're standing next to an outlet... it means nothing.

But the TAPS team doesn't do that. They try to find what the base readings are in a room, and record fluctuations. And if they find fluctuations, they attempt to discover a reasonable explanation for it. For example, in one episode the team is investigating the claims of a pair of homeowners. The gentleman of the house is a refurbisher, and the house is old and in the process of being refurbished. The homeowners complain of phantom noises, unexplained shadows, and feelings of dread and depression. And the kicker? These symptoms are only experienced when in the house! During their investigation TAPS discovers that there is an unshielded electrical box in the basement under the stairs (where phantom sounds are heard) putting off an emense EMF. They also discover a serious mold problem. And the chemicals used in the gentleman's refurbishing business are stored near an intake for the air vents in the house. Any one of these, high EMF, mold, and chemical fumes, are possible explanations for the hallucinations and emotional swings the homeowners were experiencing.

Most of the cases they cover have no conclusive evidence at all. Some are even easily explained away rationally. So when they do catch something, it becomes that much more impressive. Now, I'm pretty sure that I could reproduce most of the evidence they've caught on tape. But if the show is a hoax, it's a really elaborate one, with money spent covering episode after episode where nothing really happens.

So when TAPS goes home and goes through their audio footage and hears a voice that they have no memory of, and they bring the audio clip to their host and she says, "No, that's not my daughter," then they call it an EVP (Electronic Voice Phenominon) and they put it in their "evidence file."

It's enough to give you a shiver, and get you to thinking... what if there are ghosts, and science just hasn't caught up yet?

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Thursday, October 19, 2006

I'm Sorry

I've actually gotten a response or two from my last post through private channels, and I think I came down too hard on the subject. From my original perspective I saw a large percentage of the congregation in a big hurry to escape from what I considered to be the responsibility of the membership. After all, the boards and committees of the church worked hard to get to that meeting and all that was asked of us was to vote on it--which, again, only took 7 minutes. And one of the first things I heard in the midst of that was what felt like an accusation that it was the fault of Pastor Ed and myself that so many people left. And as I reflected on that, I came to the post before this one. It was a little defensive, and it blew things out of proportion, and for that I'm sorry. It was not my intention to cause guilt over our busy schedules, and I'm sorry for doing that.

So let me try again. Pastor Ed and myself should not have recessed, it gave our "captive audience" the freedom to "escape."

I'm sure that there were many reasons for folks to not want to stay for a congregational meeting. We live in a society where every minute of the day is packed with more and more activities, especially if you have children. And you have to eat sometime. And so out they go. I'm sure there are people who would rather poke themselves in the eye with a sharp stick than sit through one more meeting. And so out they go. I bet there were at least a few who just hadn't been listening that hard, or their minds had wandered, and so they didn't hear that they were asked to stay. And so out they go. And so on, and so on.

There were people who thought they had time to leave and come back, or were coming up from the church school, and the meeting was over before they could make it. And so out they go, and back in they come, surprised!

What worries me is the idea that some people just don't care about the meetings and boards and committees and how the church works, as long as it's still there for them. It worries me that there might be people who aren't as concerned with making this church a thriving, growing place as the rest of us are. The very idea worries me on a personal level (after all, you added my position with the intention of it helping the church become a more thriving, growing place), but more importantly the idea worries me because I love this community, and I want it to thrive, and grow.

And so, instead of asking you, "Why did you run?" I wish I had asked, "Do you care?"

Because I hope with all my heart that you do care.

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Velly Intellesting... But not funny!

I know, I know, I'm too young to be making Laugh In references, but I figure I gotta keep you wondering. I mean, even You Can't Do That On Television is pushing it just a little bit, and you ought to be wondering how I've even seen and retained any Laugh In. But I have! I especially remember Art Johnson popping up in his Nazi uniform, and Ruth Buzzi as an old woman beating the crap out of an old man with her purse.

But... that's not the thrust of this post.

The thrust of this post is... you ran. You ran away. You know who you are. You might be able to claim that you received a false signal from Pastor Ed and myself... but...

you ran.

From a meeting that lasted all of 7 minutes.

And I shouldn't take such a confrontational tone, but it's frustrating. We said at the beginning of the service that we would like you to stay put for a quick meeting. We said at the end of the service that we would like you to stay put for a quick meeting. And then we made the mistake of doing the recessional, just like we always do. And you got up and followed us, as you always do.

Only much, much faster.

So it's very interesting to me that you're willing to come to the service, that you're willing to be members of the church, but that you can't stay for a 7 minute meeting.

I'm told that our annual pledges are down a staggering amount of money, and I guess I already knew that, but...

I don't know.

I've never seen the sanctuary empty so quickly before, and I'm interested to know why.

It's very interesting.

But not funny.

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Friday, October 06, 2006

Breaking News

The Senior Pastor just came in and asked if we had heard about the chemical fire in Apex, North Carolina. Apparently the new Peter Pan book, some basketball guy firing a gun into the air outside a nightclub, and Uwe Boll literally beating up his critics were deemed more newsworthy today.

Anyway, he has family there, who have been safely evacuated from the area. He says that they have a good evacuation plan in place because they're also near a nuclear plant. Anyway, here's the story.

Thank God for the rain.
And that it wasn't the nuclear plant that went.

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Ooh-vay Scary...

I thought I was done posting for the day, but I was checking my e-mail and found an interesting headline on the yahoo home page. It read something like, "Horror movie director takes on critics in boxing ring."


So I read further. Said horror movie director is named Uwe Boll. Never heard of him. So I check out the video. I was wrong. I have heard of him. I had simply blocked it out of my mind because his movies are bad. And I don't just mean a little bad. I mean cataclysmically and unredeamably bad. And I like schlock. And I'm in the redemption business, right? To be fair, I've only seen one of his films, Bloodrayne... sorta. We fell asleep. We've been joking that our minds were trying to protect us from the crap. A lot of the arguments around why people hate Uve's movies so much center around his treatment of the source material. But here's the thing... I've never played any of the Bloodrayne games, and the movie was still bad. And I think that we all ought to be able to say that Uwe's movies are bad without personally attacking him. Be good to each other, right?

And this is a perfect example of why we should be good to each other. Because not being good creates more and more ungoodness. Now, I'm not feeling sorry for Uwe. Oh no. In fact, Uwe scares me a great deal more than his bad movies. You see, this isn't celebrety boxing. This isn't even a simple PR stunt. This is Uwe Boll, German film director and amature boxer brutalizing internet film critics with no training in boxing whatsoever! I don't like boxing to begin with, it's too violent, and before you come after me with arguments that I'm being hypocritical, stop and think. The stuff I'm into is all simulated violence. It's fantasy. It's not real. Boxing... boxing is real violence, and in this case, it's violence against defenseless people who thought they were in a simple PR stunt.

Uwe Boll must be stopped.

Be good to each other
Rev. Josh

"It's Funny Because It's True!"

Ok, so this isn't a Halloweenie, and it's not the post I promised you, but a friend sent this video to me from YouTube and I had to share it. It reminded her of my wife, and I'm not unconvinced that it should... so here's a vid for my wife and all of her fellow knitters!

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Thursday, October 05, 2006


I was reminded just the other day that new people might be having a look at my blog as word of its existance spreads far and wide! For those of you just joining us, I've been preparing for Halloween since... um... the beginning of September. Heh. I love Halloween. I always have. And when I made the Halloweenie updates to the site's look I did a whole big post about why I love Halloween and why I don't think it's counter to my faith or particularly harmful. If you want to, go back and read it. For now, just know that I think you can relax and have fun with Halloween, and that is why I've been sharing my favorite scary things with you all.

Next time, I think maybe I'll have my wife write up a little something about one of her very favorite scary movies. It's another slasher flick, but the killer doesn't wear a mask. It has very strong female characters--but I doubt that's what it's famous for! And many fans like it because they think the killer is... funny?

Be good to each other
Rev. Josh

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Other Originator

Yesterday I said I'd do a post on the originator of violence, Tommy Dreamer!


No, no I didn't. I said I was going to tell you about the other movie credited as an originator of slasher films. Have you guessed what it is yet? That's right, it's...

"He" of course is Michael Myers. There he is! Isn't he just as cute as a psychotic serial killing little button? Isn't he? This shot from the opening scene of the film explains what poor dear Michael was doing in the insane asylum to begin with. Of course, years later, when Michael has grown into quite the big boy, he escapes and returns home to go on a random murderous rampage. The plot really is just about that simple, like a campfire ghost story, right? Except with a Halloween mask. Oh yes, and good old Dr. Loomis, the psychologist (psychiatrist? I'm not sure the film specifies) who's responsible for Michael. Dr. Loomis quite seriously informs anyone who'll listen that Michael is nothing less than the bogeyman. And maybe he's right.

In any case, there are a lot more subtle things going on in the beginning of the film that I think make this one a classic. Michael's rampage is preceeded by an extended amount of, well, lurking. His mysterious shape appears almost randomly in the background and the affect is just a little disturbing.

Click on the picture to make it bigger. And see if you can spot him. Even in broad daylight, he's almost not there. Creepy. But the film doesn't stay in the realm of fear of the unknown. Oh no. You'll get to know Michael quite intimately.

Why won't he stay down?

This is the iconic Michael Myers moment. Our heroine is directly underneath him, and hurting badly. Will she escape?

You may be surprised that this film actually has very little blood and gore, especially compared to other "slasher films" that were to follow. In any case, this is a classic of the horror genre in general, and an originator of the "slasher films" specifically, and it's worth a watch, if you're up to it!

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Quote of the Day

“[I]t's not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers.”

— Judy Blume

Something That Actually Scares Me

Ok, I was going to talk about the second originator of slasher films, and I will (maybe you'll get two posts today, exciting, yeah?), but first something important.

Apparently this week is Banned Books Week, and I didn't know it. And the Something That Actually Scares Me? Censorship. The American Library Association has compiled a list of the 100 most frequently challenged books of the last decade (1990-2000). They define a "challenge" as a "formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness." And they go on to state that, "According to Judith F. Krug, director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom, the number of challenges reflects only incidents reported, and for each reported, four or five remain unreported." So no, the ALA's list isn't completely accurate--it's actually a very conservative estimate!

Some of these books shouldn't be read by small children and certain immature people, but does that mean that they should be removed from the shelves of the local library? No. It means that parents should be regulating what their children are reading right up until the point you know they are mature enough to handle such themes appropriately. This might mean that the library should (and I believe most do) separate their stacks into age appropriate sections, but the ultimate responsibility for what their children read should still fall to the parents. Your 13 year old is not going to find Madonna's Sex in the teen section of your local library.

In my admittedly limited knowledge of the books on this list, I only know of one that might actually be dangerous. The Anarchist Cookbook actually contains recipies for drugs and explosives. In the wrong hands, this book could be dangerous. In the hands of a political science major, however, it could be intriguing, since it was written in response to the Vietnam War and represents a political view that violence is an acceptable means to a political end--a view which the author no longer holds. In fact, the copyright is not held by the author, but rather the publisher, and remains in print and circulated despite the author's requests that it be taken out of print. Again, your 13 year old shouldn't be reading this book, and it's not going to be found in the teen section of your local library!

The Anarchist Cookbook aside, there are many books on the most challenged list that have every right to sit unrestricted on the shelves of your local or school library. Several of them were required reading when I was in school, and rightly so. Some of them I simply do not understand at all why they are on the list. Maybe it's just been so long since I read How To Eat Fried Worms that I've forgotten the recipies for explosives hidden in there... I'm sure that there are books on this list that have been challenged on the basis that they're popular pieces from the Fantasy genre, or display some aspect of the fantastic. (And we all know how I feel about that.) But honestly, there are some that I would encourage anyone with the comprehension abilities to understand what they're reading to pick up right this instant. Everyone should read A Wrinkle In Time. Everyone should read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Books like Bridge to Terabithia deeply influenced me when I was but a boy...

Ok, I've said my piece. Here's the list. Read it and be scared.

Be good to each other
Rev. Josh

1. Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
2. Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite
3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
4. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
7. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
8. Forever by Judy Blume
9. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
10. Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
11. Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
12. My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
13. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
14. The Giver by Lois Lowry
15. It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
16. Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
17. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
18. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
19. Sex by Madonna
20. Earth's Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
21. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
22. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
23. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
24. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
25. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
26. The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
27. The Witches by Roald Dahl
28. The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
29. Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
30. The Goats by Brock Cole
31. Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
32. Blubber by Judy Blume
33. Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
34. Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
35. We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
36. Final Exit by Derek Humphry
37. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
38. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
39. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
40. What's Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
41. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
42. Beloved by Toni Morrison
43. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
44. The Pigman by Paul Zindel
45. Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
46. Deenie by Judy Blume
47. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
48. Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
49. The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
50. Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
51. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
52. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
53. Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
54. Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
55. Cujo by Stephen King
56. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
57. The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
58. Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
59. Ordinary People by Judith Guest
60. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
61. What's Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
62. Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
63. Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
64. Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
65. Fade by Robert Cormier
66. Guess What? by Mem Fox
67. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
68. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
69. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
70. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
71. Native Son by Richard Wright
72. Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women's Fantasies by Nancy Friday
73. Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
74. Jack by A.M. Homes
75. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
76. Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
77. Carrie by Stephen King
78. Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
79. On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
80. Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
81. Family Secrets by Norma Klein
82. Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
83. The Dead Zone by Stephen King
84. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
85. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
86. Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
87. Private Parts by Howard Stern
88. Where's Waldo? by Martin Hanford
89. Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
90. Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
91. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
92. Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
93. Sex Education by Jenny Davis
94. The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
95. Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
96. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
97. View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
98. The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
99. The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
100. Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Three Halloweenies For The Price of One!

Of course, one is free, two are free also, and you guessed it, three! Free! so... anyway...

I grew up near Mystic, Connecticut, home of pricey tourist shops and summer getaway of folks from "the city." Oh, and fall getaway for leaf peepers from the city. Oh, and winter getaway for Christmas shoppers from the city.

Sorry... got a little carried away there.

Where was I? Oh yes, Mystic. Mystic is also home of the Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration, where my father is now working part time, incidentally. And yes, they have some Halloweenies in store for visitors. They call it Seascare. You might even see my Dad there, all dressed up in his costume!

Mystic is also the home of Mystic Seaport: The Museum of America and the Sea, and yes, they too have Halloweenies, known as Nautical Nightmares: Maritime Ghost Stories at Mystic Seaport I'm sure someone I know is likely to be there, too!

And finally... your Halloweenie of the Day!

I have most of these films on DVD, but far and away my favorite is the first. The rest of the series is almost completely schlock and all of them fall in the much maligned category of slasher films, but to be perfectly fair, Friday the 13th is often credited as one of the originators of the genre. For whatever that's worth to you. But here's what really makes the original film for me (without giving it away entirely). When I first saw the first Friday the 13th film, the only thing I knew about the series was this.
If this is all you know of the series, even if you don't usually like the plot of slasher films, you have to watch the first one. It will surprise you. Of course, if you don't like slasher films because of the blood and the gore... give this one a pass. After all, it really is one of the originators of the sub-genre.

Next time... the other originator.

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Pile

I have been under the pile for way too long. But look! And gasp! The light of day, and a few moments to blog! We've already missed Talk Like a Pirate day, but since pirates are most definately in this Halloween, I still feel within my rights to share this video with you. Enjoy!

Be Good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Friday, September 08, 2006

Halloweenie of the Day!

Just to remind everyone. I'm sharing with you some of our favorite scary things because (a) I love Halloween. and (b) It is now close enough to Halloween to go nuts. If you want to see a discussion of why I blieve that Halloween isn't harmful in and of itself, go here.

And now, one of my favorite scary things:

Needful Things probably isn't my favorite story of King's. But it is the reason I began reading King to begin with... and the first time my wife and I really got to seriously talking it was because we were both reading King in a study hall... so in a way, Needful Things is responsible for my marriage. In any case, Needful Things is the last King novel set in the fictitious rural Maine town of Castle Rock. And I first picked it up because I saw the first half of the movie (which is the best half, by the way... read the book and leave the movie alone, in my humble opinion)--I honestly don't know if I would have continued to devour King if I'd read, say, The Stand first. But as it was, if this was the last Castle Rock novel, what were the others? And that's how my King phase began.

Needful Things also represents one of my first epiphanies about horror. I already instinctually knew that being scared can be fun in the same adrenaline rush kind of way that thrill rides are fun. But Needful Things taught me that the basic horror plot is, undertneath everything else, about Good vs Evil. So pick up a copy of Needful Things, and see if Evil wins out in the end.

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Halloweenie of the Day!

The Blair Witch Project was released in 1999 in the midst of a television and internet campaign that managed to suggest that the amature footage used in the film was the result of a real event... without actually saying so. Some people were pissed about the film, some people were made physically ill from the camara work (although I suspect that these people were sitting in the front row... which would make me sick on a "normal" film)--but I think that the Blair Witch Project (A) Was the most brilliant attempt at facilitating the willing suspension of disblief in the history of the cinema. And (B) One of the scariest movies I've ever seen because it plays on what H.P. Lovecraft describes as the most ancient of fears: Fear of the Unknown.

I think that The Blair Witch Project struck me the hardest in the theater, but it's still worth a rent (heck, we own a copy). Put it in, tell yourself you're going to be watching a Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky documentary, and prepare to avoid wooded areas for about a month or so.

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


I read something really good that our Senior Pastor wrote for the church news letter. He was talking about looking for the image of God in one another as a spiritual practice. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, check out Genesis 1:27 at Faced with this scripture, the theological question becomes one of response. In other words, what do we do with the knowledge that every human being was made in God's image?

So here's where Ed picks up with the idea:
It's not an easy thing to do. But I've come to realize that we find whatever we're looking for.
If you look for dirt, you'll find it. If you look for God, you'll find God. I'm talking what you focus on in each situation you face and in each person you encounter. I nthe worst sinner, if you look hard enough, you will find the image of God. I can attest to that, having developed relationships with two men who were on death row. And I can attest that if you look hard enough in the holiest of saints, you'll find some dirt; or a demon they struggle with or something dark that haunts them. Trust me as your pastor. There are skeletons in everyone's closet and problems in the best situations; just as there are good things to find in the worst situations. The key, for each of us, is this. What are we looking for? After all Jesus said, "Seek, and you will find."

Personally, I'd rather look for the good. There's enough bad, and sad, and tragic in the world to depress me several times over. It's a whole lot nicer to find God.

Let's look for that, then.

Be good to each other.
Rev. Josh

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Halloweenie of the Day

So, as we move closer to Halloween, I thought I'd share some of my favorite scary things. And so with that in mind...

Silent Hill started off as a video game, one solidly in what is known as the survival horror genre. There's definately enough story in these games to keep my wife and I playing. Of course, playing in the dark with the surround sound on descourages us from sleeping. Again. Ever. So we may as well play a little longer, right? It's really little environmental things that catch us with the Silent Hill games. Like searching through a decrepit and abandoned public restroom and listening to the main character knock on a stall door-- and being answered, once, with a return knock.


And knock as much as you like after that, you can't get it to repeat. You just never know when something like that is going to happen. The monsters you fight are almost secondary. Almost. The mosters are seriously disturbing too. Imagine meeting one of these nurses in an abandoned hospital... *shiver*

Silent Hill has done well enough critically to warrent a feature film, now available on DVD. If you aren't into gaming but want to find out what the feel of the story and the environment are, I suggest you rent it. Then watch it with the lights out and the surround sound on.

Go on. I dare you. Find out why anytime my wife and I find ourselves someplace truly creepy, we turn to each other and say: Welcome to Silent Hill.

Friday, September 01, 2006


It's September! This means my brother's birthday is coming, fall is just beginning to fall, and the Halloween stores have been open for a week and a half.

And I couldn't be happier.

I love Halloween, I always have. I love costumes. I love being a little scared (adrenaline can be fun every once in a while) and I love not being scared because, well, I'm what's scary. I love Jack O' Lanterns and gargoyles. I love how happy the kids get, all hyped up and running, with flashlights and their pillow cases or plastic Jack O' Lanterns to hold all that candy. And if you're particularly clever, the flashlight goes into the loot bearing device, lighting it up from the inside. I love the yard decorations, the house decorations, the people decorations--

But, what about pagan elements? What about Devil worship? What's keeping Satan from stealing the very souls of our children as they run amok, transformed into candy crazed Halloweenies?


I don't think that Halloween is going to be what drives your children from the church. Be honest, which is more likely to regularly keep your child out of church on Sunday, Halloween, or team sports? And I'm not sure that I believe in literal evil spirits, but even if I did, many of Halloween's traditions are actually about keeping such spirits at bay!

Take the Jack O' Lantern. This tradition likely comes from the old Irish tale of Stingy Jack, who once tricked the Devil, trapping him and only releasing him if he promises to not come for his soul. To make a long story short, when Stingy Jack dies, neither Heaven nor Hell wants his soul. In some versions of the story, the Devil even throws a coal from Hell at Jack. In every version, Jack carves a turnip into a lantern (yes, a turnip, pumpkins are native to the Americas) and roams the countryside for eternity. I like the version with the coal, myself, as Jack of the Lantern uses the hell-coal to light his turnip lantern. In any case, folk in Ireland and Scotland began to make their own versions of Jack's Lantern, carving frightening faces into it to scare away Jack of the Lantern and any other wandering evil spirits.

So I don't think Halloween is harmful. And I rather think it provides a basic sociological need. Winter is on its way, the days are going to grow short, the leaves on the trees will soon be gone... The world gets cold, like death. I think we have a deep-seated need to cut loose a little before something like that. In that sense, Halloween is like Mardi Gras (which is the last big hurrah before we clamp down for Lent) -- only Halloween has always been very up front about centering around death.

I think maybe that's why it makes some of us uncomfortable. Some of us don't want to think about death and the fear it often brings. But death is a fact. Darkness is a fact. And both of those things will always have a certain amount of hold over us... or at least they will until the end of days. But you can steal some thunder from darkness and death, at least for one night. You can hide behind a mask. You can dress up as the dark. You can dress up as death. And in doing so, you can laugh at them. And run down the street with your flashlight in your Jack O' Lantern.

And for a little while you can forget your diet and eat lots and lots of candy.

The Wait

So here I am, it's about 10am, and the funeral I'm about to perform begins at 11am. It would be silly to go over there now. Besides, I'd better much on this "nutrition" bar that likely has too much sodium in it so my blood sugar doesn't crash at graveside. I kinda wish I had a toothbrush now, but I guess not passing out next to an open grave is more important than dental hygiene today.

I'm nervous.

It's a perfectly normal reaction to performing/public speaking, nothing debilitating or anything. It's just this one hour, really. It's the waiting that gets you.

I think I'll go read through the service one more time. I'll post again later, in celebration of September. Heck, by the time you read this, you may already be seeing what I have planned for the beginning of fall!

Be patient.
Rev. Josh

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Beating

It's been a long week, and it's only Thursday. I'm involved with a funeral on Sunday, and also performing one tomorrow morning. Which is enough to fill a week just on its own. And in the background there's been this haze... and as the week progresses I start to feel more and more dopey. I assume that it's my allergies, after all the fall weeds are starting to come out and I heard somewhere that this is going to be the worst ragweed season in a long, long time. Or... I guess it's good for the ragweeds, but not for my sinuses. Anyway... I found out yesterday that my brother is down with a fever that everyone was hoping was allergy related. And this morning I wake up feeling like a large pulsating ick beast from Omicron Persei VIII.

Not good.

So I've decided to come in to work and do what has to be done to be ready for the funeral of tomorrow morning... and apparently write a blog entry. And then it's off to bed with me.

Hopefully some rest this afternoon will fortify me enough to make it through the weekend.

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Quote of the Day

Grieve in the way that makes you happy. Sounds whacked, but it isn’t. The funeral isn’t for the dead, it’s for the living. ...If you’re lucky enough to be able to do it, call your mother. Yeah, right now. You don’t know anyone in the credits and they’ll be pretty much the same next week, so call your mother. Now.

--Penn Jillette
Penn & Teller's CENSORED

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Last Sunday I preached over Ephesians 6:10-17, if you're not familiar with it, pop over to oremus and have a look. Anyway, since you're reading my blog, I thought you might be interested in the section of the sermon that prompted me to name it "Dr. Doom vs. Colossus. Also, you'll have the benefit of all the visuals I wish I could show the congregation. Try clicking on pictures to see something more... or at least bigger! Hopefully someday (maybe soon!) the church will buy an LCD projector...

The more I think about it, the more I think that the concept of armor and weaponry is neutral until you start thinking about the people inside the armor. And that is what leads me to consider Dr. Doom and Colossus. Both are characters from Marvel comics, both come from titles created by Stan Lee, and both have armor.
Dr. Doom comes from the Fantastic Four comic series. Victor von Doom impatiently sought out the armor that would become his trademark and grant him his super powers after a lab accident left him with a long jagged scar on one cheek. Victor considered the scar to be a hideous deformity and immediately displaced responsibility for the accident from himself and onto his scientific competitor and leader of the Fantastic Four, Reed Richards. Victor was in such a hurry to complete his transformation and hide his supposed deformity that he put the mask of his armor on before it had a chance to properly cool, ensuring that if his face was not deformed before, it certainly is now.
Dr. Doom is the villain of the story, using his special armor for the purpose of destroying Reed Richards and for world domination.

Colossus comes from the X-Men franchise. Peter Rasputin was a Russian mutant born on a Soviet collective farm in Siberia. His super powers first manifested when his little sister failed to notice a runaway tractor bearing down on her. In the instant that Peter selflessly threw himself between the oncoming tractor and his sister, he discovered that he can, at will, turn his entire body into a kind of organic steel, and that while in this state he gains superhuman strength and invulnerability. At first, Peter used his newfound gifts to do farm work. Then Professor Charles Xavier convinced him to join the X-Men and gave him the codename, Colossus. Colossus is one of the heroes of the story, and would prefer to be painting, rather than fighting, and only reluctantly uses his armored form for combat in defense of others and in pursuit of Xavier’s dream of a peaceful coexistence between human and mutant-kind. Colossus sacrificed his own life in order to make airborne the cure for a terrible plague-like disease and was later found to have been revived—cementing himself in my mind as a Christ-like figure in the modern mythos of the superhero genre.

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Friday, August 25, 2006


Let's see, where was I? I think I was about to talk about horror, wasn't I? Or was it a kitten? No, no, I'm pretty sure I've been promising you horror. There's a great essay by Robert Bloch (billed as an "introduction") in The Best of H.P. Lovecraft that has some wonderful stuff about the contemporary history of the genre. Of course, there's quite a bit about Lovecraft in there too, which is terribly interesting but not quite to my point, I guess. Let's see if I can give you some select quotes for a little background, shall I?

It was not until this country faced its own financial depression that the supernatural finally found a degree of acceptance... their king was Kong, Count Dracula their dark and noble lord. Frankenstein's moster served as surrogate for their own self-image as unwanted outcasts, victims of authority figures in a competative society where their elders maintained rigid control. ...World War II decimated American Dreamers and dissenters alike. Those who survived were faced with terrifying truths. Vast power can fall into evil hands--the world can be destroyed--science, armed with bological and nuclear weaponry of its own creation, is not our savior but an omnipresent enemy. ...In the light of such attitudes the movie monsters of the thirties frightened no one in the forties. Even Abbott and Costello could easily outwit them.
Their place was taken by mad scientists, prehistoric beasts, or creature from outer space. Such menaces came in many forms, but with a choice of only two motivations--to take over the world or to destroy it. Nevertheless, the hero usually managed to triumph in the end. ...But revelations of personal insecurity continued to rise in the decades that followed. Depletion of natural resources, spiraling inflation, religious warfare, governmental and industrial corruption, political assassination, street crime, mass murder, and drug addiction grew and flourished. No heroes appeared on the scene to offer succor or solutions. ...Graffiti proclaimed, "God is dead." ...Evil as a tangible presence gained adherents. ...Satan became the scapegoat.
And exorcism--that ancient, half-forgotten ritual to rid us of our demons--suddenly captured the imagination fo the masses. ...Vampires rose again to refresh themselves with a sanguinary nightcap; not to be outdone by the undead, the dead themselves awakened from their graves for a midnight snack... werewolves followed suit
and a seemingly psychotic mass murderer was solemnly identified by a psychiatrist as "the Bogeyman." Ghosts, ghouls, succubi, and incubi infested earth, and even in outer space The Alien incubated in a human breast, emerging to create catastrophe for cat lovers on a spacecraft.

There, I think that's a pretty good run-down. And I quote all that for you so you'll have a little bit of history, yes, but also to make a point. The horror written and filmed in any given time period is deeply affected by the fears of the day. I believe that art normally imitates life, if you really must use that cliched analogy. My point is this: There is darkness in the world, and we all have to learn how to deal with it. Some of us deal by choosing to stare indirectly into it... from the safety of the stadium theater seating of Regal Stratford Stadium 14 or even our own living rooms. Besides which, there's a physiological rush from getting scared--that's why roller coasters and thrill rides are so popular.

Still not convinced that it isn't sick and evil? Ok... here's the thing, if you pulled every book that was written by anyone who wasn't completely mentally and emotionally stable... you'd have very little left to read. And you'd proably be a hypocrit--I believe everyone could use a little counseling here and there. And really, horror has just as many good pieces of literature with deep symbolic meaning as any other genre... it just chooses to scare the piss out of you while it's doing it.

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Quote of the Day

"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown."

--H. P. Lovecraft

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Ok, if you really want a kitten post, scroll down and look at the post Fear and Blood! Ironically enough, this post is actually about horrible things like... fear and blood. You see, I'm going for some comedy here, like the MST3K episode, Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders. I can't seem to find the quote I'm looking for on-line, so it'll have to wait til I can watch it again. Let's just say that it sounds like it should be a cute kid's film, but actually plays more like an episode of Tales from the Crypt.

Not that I dislike Tales, in fact, I like to watch some every once in a while. Espcially as the weather begins to change, slowly becoming less humid and cooler. The leaves begin to change and you begin to find them on the ground and trapped in that little channel where your wipers hide at the bottom of your windshield. Fall is coming, along with the one time of year where it's stylish to consider horror.

and you'll have to wait to find out what I think about all that... duty calls.

Rev. Josh

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Fear and Blood!

Ok, fear and blood later. Instead we shall have....

Friday, August 18, 2006

Quote of the Day

"I think there are lots of ways of leading very good lives and growing spiritually. This process of growth goes on whether we believe in it or not." --Jim Henson

My Office

My office is a mess. I know it is. Part of that is because of the basic structure of space-time--only so many hours in a day to accomplish so many things... the stuff just piles up. It's also full of toys. And that's a combination of things, too. I am, after all, the Youth Minister, the Minister of Christian Education, but not the Sinister Minister! Ok, ok, my official title is "Associate Pastor" but if you were to check out my several page job description, you'll find that stuff in there too.
Except the Sinister Minister thing, of course.
Anyway, there are also toys in my office because I like toys. But I try to keep them relevant at least.
There's my Professor Charles Xavier action figure. Well, I'm not sure that "action" is the right adjective for a paraplegic character, but you get my meaning. He is, of course, one of the main characters of the 43 year old (and still running) Marvel Comics franchise, The X-Men. X-Men posits a world where the next stage of human evolution is occurring, resulting in "mutants" --some of whom have what we would call "super powers." Professor X founds the X-Men for the purpose of peaceful promotion of mutant rights while protecting the world from dangerous super-powered mutants. His "dream" is of peaceful coexistence of human and mutant kind. Imagine what it would be like if Martin Luther King Jr. had to deal with an African American community whose members could quite possibly pick up an SUV and throw it at their oppressors. There's a lot of social and even political commentary in X-Men, and that's why I have my Professor X figure in my office.

Then, of course, there are my Jim Henson things: a little plastic Doozer from Fraggle Rock The Doozers were always working, and she reminds me to keep at my work as the day wears on. She also reminds me of something Jim Henson wrote, "I love my work, and because I enjoy it, it doesn't really feel like work. Thus I spend most of my time working..."
And then there's my Kermit the Frog doll. (Our friend, Kris, asked me what the rational for having Kermit in the office was, here's a slightly better wording of what I was trying to tell you, Kris.) Jerry Juhl, a puppeteer and writer for both The Muppet Show and Fraggle Rock had this to say about Kermit,
"Kermit is the eye in the middle of the hurricane. And, you know, he's always in control. Sometimes just barely, but he's always in control. And the interesting thing about it, of course, is that he created the hurricane." The fact is, I look up to Kermit. I work with children, and youth, and people who work with children and youth, and adults who are like children or youth. I hope to be the eye of the hurricane. I hope to always be in control (if only just barely)--and if I'm the one who created the hurricane, so much the better!

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Thursday, August 17, 2006


Been a little down, a little disillusioned the past day or two. I think it has to do with that grocery cart.

Wait, hear me out.

Every so often a woman comes by the church looking for clothes and food. (She always asks for clothes and food, and then proceeds to ask us medical questions that we don't have the answers to.) And she keeps all her worldly belongings in a grocery cart. "I need that cart," she'll say, "'cause I got a bad back." Anyway, the Senior Pastor gave her a ride to the social services the other day. Somehow the decision was made to leave her cart standing outside the church. And so she went in and told social services that she needs clothes and food, and they told her about exactly the same places we do. Well, by this time the Senior Pastor has gone to the hospital for a visit, and what's more, his car battery has died, so it falls to me to go pick her up from social services and bring her back here--or rather to the food pantry next door. No big deal.
"Where's my stuff?"
Sure enough, her cart is nowhere in sight. I'm flabbergasted, after all, we're on the "Gold Coast" and I have a hard time believing any of the neighbors are desperate enough to steal what little was in that cart. So we get her some food, question the nice people next door to see if they saw anything, and then... we hit the streets. And we do eventually find her cart.

Can you guess where?

With some dumpsters. Somebody was so offended by the sight of her cart that they took the time to take it across the road and behind a building and pushed it up next to their dumpsters. The totality of this poor woman's earthly possessions, treated like garbage.

A person's life treated as "unsightly."

I'm sure it wasn't an intentional slight. After all, her things did get left alone on the sidewalk there for a whole hour.

I don't know. It just doesn't seem right, is all.

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

PS This is horrible in a completely different way. Funny though. Thanks to Wil Wheaton Dot Net for bringing it to my attention. I think.

Mr. Popularity

Have you ever seen the hallways
as a sickening toxic zone
that must be traversed
in fear, surrounded but alone?

Do your shoulders clench
waiting for the blows
as cries of “Faggot!”
cut through the hallway’s noise?

Hey, Mr. Popularity, what do you know?

Have you ever disappeared
inside of your own head
and hope that they can’t get you
if you strangle your own dread?

Have you ever prayed your God for some kind of release?
Or sworn you would do anything for just a moment’s peace?
Hey, Mr. Popularity, can you feel it all increase?

I’m sure you have your problems
but I’m not sure I can care
when my world seems filled with nothing
but harsh words and violent stares
and my whole body clenches, waiting for the blows, as cries of
cut through the hallway’s noise

Hey, Mr. Popularity,
what do you know?

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Check Out My Tattoo!

So what do you think? What's that? You don't see any tattoo? Well, there's good reason for that. There isn't one there. But I'm seriously considering putting one there. And I have been for a very long time! It's not that I'm afraid of the pain, my tattooed friends say it hurts like a burn, and God knows I've burned myself before. And there isn't any kind of societal taboo--many "normal" people get tattooed now. (Tattoos, they're not just for the armed forces any more!) Partly it's that I know that my parents dislike the idea of tattooing on general principles. Of course, every child must break away from his parents eventually... but that's not why I'm considering getting a tattoo, either. Getting a tattoo for the purpose of rebelling, or even just to differentiate yourself, is a stupid move. After all, tattoos are pretty much permanent. Yes, there is the laser procedure, but really, who would want to do that? The fact is, if you're going to spend money on a tattoo, you need to treat it as something that will be on your body forever. Knowing this, there are several things you need to consider, and consider very carefully.

First of all, what are you going to get? In my opinion, if it's something that is worth having on your body 'til the day you die, it has to have a great deal of meaning to you. To me this means that you shouldn't put names of just about anything (possibly your children, but even then I'm a little wary) but especially not your boyfriend or girlfriend, your favorite band, or your favorite actor or actress.
For some people, something that they find particularly beautiful is enough to bestow that kind of meaning. Personally, I would have to have something a little more poetic, or symbolic--something that has multiple layers of meaning--and meaning deserving of some kind of permanency. And I don't mean to say that one should discount beauty. After all, a tattoo is a piece of artwork (or at least it should be, in my opinion). If you don't like the way it looks, for goodness' sake, don't permanently put it on your body!

Secondly, where are you going to put it? For guys, the rules are pretty easy. Unless your profession is (a)tattooist (b)professional wrestler or
(c)sideshow freak you should never ever tattoo your hands, face, or neck. Basically, if it will show when you're wearing a shirt and tie, don't do it. It's more difficult for women, as their formal wear tends to be more revealing in more kinds of places than men.
Our friend, Kris (there she is with us in Florida) told us a cool story about why her tattoos are where they are. She was planning on putting her first one up on her shoulder, but then she saw a woman in a beautiful evening gown--and a shoulder tattoo. To her eyes, the tattoo, as pretty as it was, totally ruined the effect of the evening gown. She has two tattoos on her lower back, and she says that she's successfully worn a very low-backed gown without them getting in the way. (Of course, a t-shirt and jeans is another matter).

So what tattoo am I considering? Well, you've already seen where, in the pic at the top of the page. Put on my shoulder like that, I can keep it hidden even under a short sleeved shirt. But what would I get? Something with some religious significance that ties directly to my faith journey? Something related to my love of the fantasy genre? Something beautiful? Yes. Yes. And yes. I've been inspired by the artwork on the cover of my copy of the collected Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis. As most of you know, Lewis' classic work has deeply influenced me over the years. The titular Lion, Aslan, is a vibrant characterization of the Christ as He would appear if there were a world of talking animals such as is found in Beatrix Potter or Kenneth Grahame.
Aslan is a part of my childhood. Aslan is a part of my first thundering epiphany ("You know those books are about the Gospel, right?"). Aslan represents my first struggles with anything resembling an organized theology. Aslan is tied up in one of my first projects in my first full time position as an ordained minister. Aslan is a concrete example of how popular culture and faith do not have to be separate. Do you think maybe that's enough meaning tied into a single image? 'Cause I'm sure I could keep going.

So, I know where, and I know what, to an extent anyway. Two major decisions remain. One decision is to bring that cover art to a tattoo artist and see if she or he can adapt it so that it would make a good looking tattoo. The second is to actually get the thing done.

Neither of those things has happened yet.

Guess we'll have to wait and see.

Background Checks

I don't have time at the moment to do a full post, but here, take a look at this NPR story and think of it as a lesson in looking before you leap. A representative from USA (United Students Association) turned up on the doorstep of the church, asking for help to locate host families for their student exchange program. Sounds like a fun opportunity, right?

Glad I asked around first.

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Friday, August 11, 2006

If You Can't Say Something Nice

Personally, I think that if you can't say something nice, you should be trying harder. It may have to be a non sequitur, but at least you will have saved yourself from being a jerk. Try this. Next time you feel the need to call somebody a horrible name, say "I like pie!" instead. Not only is it nice, it's also almost always true, and it will certainly diffuse the situation! If you happen to be one of the very, very few people who don't like pie, try "I like cake!" or "I like rutabegas!" or whatever it is that you do like. I find, however, that love of pie is so universal that anyone can relate to it.

Once upon a time I was helping a dear friend move out of his dorm room. He had been living in a suite, several bedrooms opening onto a living room with a small kitchen. And instead of hanging a poster of a bikini-clad woman washing a sportscar over the couch, he and his suite-mates had covered the whole wall with butcher paper. And so the wall was covered with poems, and quotes, and personal messages, and so on. I instantly decided that this was one of the coolest ideas ever. So now that I have my very own office, I've covered the office door with butcher paper... well, most of it anyway, I had to cut some holes for the window (Safe Church, you know), the deadbolt, and the doorknob. And I have a bunch of markers hanging up on the window, and anyone who wants can come draw, or leave quotes, or poetry and so on.

And for the first time today, I found stuff on my door that was just vicious. It mainly targeted one person who had gleefully and openly left his name up on the door. The rude comments, of course, were not signed. So I did what any responsible adult would. I took down the paper and put up a fresh piece. Now, I've noticed that when faced with a gi-normous piece of blank paper, most people won't touch it. So I always leave a little seed on the door--just to get it started. This time was the first time I was angry when I was trying to find a seed for my door, so I knew I needed to be very careful.

And that's when I flashed back to the General Synod of 2001 which was held in Kansas City. I was a young adult delegate that year, not really a youth delegate, but not a full-fledged adult either. Yet another one of those liminal times in my life. Anyway, that Synod was held in conjunction with the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) (with whom the UCC has a very close relationship)--it was huge. And I imagine that's one of the reasons why it was such a juicy target for Fred Phelps' crew. They stood on the sidewalk across from the convention center, screaming their hatred and fiercely displaying signs that said things like, "UCC fag church," "no tears for queers," and even "AIDS is a gift from God." I will always remember clenching my jaw and turning my back on one woman screaming at me (in my long hair, of course), "You, Sir! You don't make up the rules, Sir!" I wanted to get into it with her. But that's never a good path. That path leads to the dark side.
God bless the youth delegates of the General Synod and the General Assembly. They responded, and they did it well. I remember them giving water to the Phelps crew, after all, it was the middle of the summer in Kansas City. How about that for Christian witness, right? But the best was yet to come. The protestors weren't there 24/7, I guess hatefulness sleeps too, and in one of the breaks the youth went out with chalk and covered the sidewalk where the protestors stood with their own slogans. "Jesus loves you." "God loves everyone." And so on. Somehow, it wasn't so bad the next day, knowing that the people who were yelling so hatefully at us were literally standing on "Jesus loves you."

So for the seed on my door I wrote, "Somebody needs a hug!"
It isn't "God loves everyone," but it's a start.

I like pie!
Rev. Josh

Thursday, August 10, 2006

My Own Mother...

...sent me an e-mail with this list on it, entitled, "Raising Boys."

Raising Boys - 24 key points to ponder

The following came from an anonymous Mother in Austin, Texas...
Things I've learned from my Boys (honest and not kidding):
1. A king size waterbed holds enough water to fill a 2000 sq. ft. house 4 inches deep.
2. If you spray hair spray on dust bunnies and run over them with roller blades, they can ignite.
3. A 3-year old Boy's voice is louder than 200 adults in a crowded restaurant.
4. If you hook a dog leash over a ceiling fan, the motor is not strong enough to rotate a 42 pound Boy wearing Batman underwear and a Superman cape. It is strong enough, however, if tied to a paint can, to spread paint on all four walls of a 20 x 20 ft. room.
5. You should not throw baseballs up when the ceiling fan is on. When using a ceiling fan as a bat, you have to throw the ball up a few times before you get a hit. A ceiling fan can hit a baseball a long way.
6. The glass in windows (even double-pane) doesn't stop a baseball hit by a ceiling fan.
7. When you hear the toilet flush and the words "uh oh", it's already too late
8. Brake fluid mixed with Clorox makes smoke, and lots of it.
9. A six-year old Boy can start a fire with a flint rock even though a 36-year old man says they can only do it in the movies.
10. Certain Lego's will pass through the digestive tract of a 4-year old Boy.
11. Play dough and microwave should not be used in the same sentence.
12 . Super glue is forever.
13. No matter how much Jell-O you put in a swimming pool you still can't walk on water.
14. Pool filters do not like Jell-O.
15. VCR's do not eject "PB &J" sandwiches even though TV commercials show they do.
16. Garbage bags do not make good parachutes.
17. Marbles in gas tanks make lots of noise when driving.
18. You probably DO NOT want to know what that odor is.
19. Always look in the oven before you turn it on; plastic toys do not like ovens.
20. The fire department in Austin, TX has a 5-minute response time.
21. The spin cycle on the washing machine does not make earthworms dizzy.
22. It will, however, make cats dizzy.
23. Cats throw up twice their body weight when dizzy.
24. 80% of Men who read this will try mixing the Clorox and brake fluid. Those who pass this on to almost all of their friends, with or without boys do it because:
a) For those with no children - this is totally hysterical!
b) For those who already have children past this age, this is
c) For those who have children this age, this is not funny.
d) For those who have children nearing this age, this is a warning.
e) For those who have not yet had children, this is birth

Now, most of these do not have any baring on the childhood of my brother and myself. Honest! I've had a fear of superglue since I was little, for one thing. No really, do any of you remember the real, live action commercial this hanging guy comes from? When I was little I thought his hands were glued to the hardhat, which was glued to the girder... *Shudder* How were they going to get him down from there? I'm afraid it scarred my poor little mind. (I still treat superglue with the same respect as, say, fire. Or weapons grade plutonium.) I used to jump off the top of the big roll-top desk that came out of my grandfather's flower mill. And down the stairs. And off the deck. And out of trees... But probably the worst thing I did (or at least the most memorable) was the incident that I blame for my not turning out to be a scientist, like my brother. (Who had a job interview today: I hope it went well, Bro.)

Oh, and by the way. Do not try this at home. Trying this at home can result in broken machinery and being strung up by your toenails. Mom never actually did it, but I think I came close on this one...

One day, while my mother was doing laundry in the basement of the raised ranch I grew up in, I noticed that there are little holes in the back of the dryer. And that got me to thinking. Because I knew that the steam vent on the back of the house (which means upstairs from the dryer, you see, the drier being in the basement) only gives off steam when the dryer is running. So I wondered... maybe... maybe the little holes in the back of the dryer are connected to the vent in the back yard.

But... how to test my hypothesis?

So I took the garden hose, put it in the vent, and turned on the water--just a little!

I got as far as the landing before I heard my mother screaming. All three names, you better believe it. Which was a display of spooky Mom powers if you think about it... after all, I wasn't the only inquisitive child in the house.

"Turn off the water right this instant!"
"Is the water coming out of the little holes in the back of the dr--"
"Yes water is coming out of the little holes in the back of the dryer, turn off the water right now."
"But I want to see the water coming out of the little holes in the back of the dryer."
"You are going to ruin my dryer, now TURN OFF THE WATER RIGHT THIS INSTANT!"

Needless to say... I never did get to see the water come out of the little holes in the back of the dryer. But I was right. The vent and the little holes were connected!

Be good to each other. Especially your mother.
Rev. Josh