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

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Importance of Hair

I'm hoping that my folks still have a nice pic of me with hair. Er... not that I don't have hair now, but I certainly have less than I once did! I've been working
on a sermon for Sunday about the ups and downs of being a prophet. And believe me, God's chosen mouthpieces had it rough! Anyway, I'm using my experiences with my hair as a kind of lesser parallel. (After all, the consequences of a man in long hair aren't usually as extreme as the consequences of being a prophet, just look at MLK) and I thought some of it might be blog-worthy, so here you go!

It's somewhere in the mid-90's, think Alanis Morissette, Green Day, TLC, Stone Temple Pilots, Boys II Men, Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana... and the death of Kurt Cobain. I'm over halfway done with high school (yes, I know, I'm dating myself) when I turn to my mother and say the fateful words, "I want to grow my hair out." Now, my mother is not thrilled with the idea--she tries to talk me out of it. In fact, we butt heads over it until we reach a compromise. I'll only grow the back out, so I can pull it into a ponytail and then at least from the front I will seem "presentable." Ironically the phrase "business up front and a party in the back" and the word "mullet" would remain unknown to me until halfway through college.
And so it came to be that my hair became a source of varying degrees of contention for years. There were people, like my wife, who loved my hair. There were the gender-role purists who detested long hair on anyone with a "y" chromosome. There were the fashion police who detested it because the mullet went out of style ages ago. And then as the great hair battle dragged on into seminary it became about age and maturity, and wasn't it time for me to grow up and cut my hair, and let go of my youthful rebellion?
And you know what? It was kinda fun! I believe just as strongly now as I did then that judging people by their appearance is wrong, and that the length of my hair isn't important, and that unity and conformity are not the same things... and it was fun to have something visible about me say all those things, and give cause for voicing all those arguments. But it did have its consequences, and I knew that I would have a much easier time finding a job as a short-haired man than I would as one in a pony-tail. And so practicality ended that argument.

Sometimes I miss my hair, although if I had it to do over, I think I'd grow it all out. Oddly enough that would make me more acceptable to the anti-establishment, if you know what I mean. Sometimes I even have long hair in my dreams. If I do ever grow it out, it'll be so I can cut it.

Wait, hear me out.

When I finally decided to get chopped, we saved the pony tail and donated it to Locks of Love, a charitable organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children who are going through chemo-therapy. I dream of running a walk-a-thon style fundraiser for cancer research... only instead of sponsering so much per mile, it's per inch. Can you imagine a large percentage of the congregation growing their hair out long? It would certainly be visible enough to raise awareness for cancer research. And then when everyone had reached the requisite ten inches we could cut it all off and donate it to Locks of Love.

There's even a Bibical tie-in, if you like. If you look at Judges 13, you'll see the beginning of the story of Samson (yes, that Samson) ...who was a nazarite. This means that he was bound by a vow to abstain from wine and strong drink, to practice extraordinary purity of life and devotion, and to leave his hair uncut.

Heh, I think it'd be hard enough to convince people to leave their hair uncut without asking them not to drink and to be extraordinarily pure and full of devotion... but it'd be impressive, wouldn't it? Hmm... maybe as a Lenten practice...

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Epiphanies and Revelations

In this case, not a divine revelation from God, but rather a revelation of mine. I intentionally do not make it common knowledge that I am an ordained minister when I am playing World of Warcraft (commonly abbreviated "WoW". It is perhaps a small sin of omission, but I have my reasons.
For one thing, here is a community of people (an on-line community, but still a communityin my experience) who are by definition not "members of my flock." If you don't want your pastor to burn out like a candle tossed in the lit fireplace, you better hope that they have friends outside of the congregation. I've found some through WoW. The other reason is this: Because many "religious" folk look askance (or even with open hostility!) at the fantasy genre in general, folks who enjoy fantasy enough to be playing WoW would be likely to assume that I am going to try to evangelize them, or save their souls from the demons of roleplaying or some such. So much easier to be myself if they don't know.

But like I said, I've made friends through the game, and for the first time I have revealed to one of them that I am an ordained minister. It hasn't changed anything. We're still friends--and even better, he understands why the part of me that's "Rev." isn't common knowledge in the Realms of WoW. And my revelation lead me to my own epiphany: Despite all the hype and bother around some, er, vigorous issues, there are still people who don't know who the UCC is. And it's a deeper ignorance than can be alleviated through saying, "you know, the United Church of Christ? Maybe you've seen our television adds?

Then again... I shouldn't be surprised. A remarkably high percentage of members of the UCC don't know anything about our history, our polity... heck, just who we are! It's a sad fact that if you ask most of our members, "What is the UCC?" they would have a hard time answering. Of course, that's not entirely fair of me to say, after all, our history is diverse and the way we govern ourselves is not only unique, it's so different from what people may be used to with, say, the Roman Catholic Church and are likely to know from their everyday work lives... it confuses people. There really isn't a comprehensible "soundbite" description of who we are and how we do things.

And I think maybe there shouldn't be. Life isn't simple, and neither should your faith. Polity and politics describe how we interact with each other, and that's never simple either. But here's the thing... it doesn't mean we shouldn't get a handle on it. You've had the time to play with my blog for a little while. Take a little while longer and play with the links I gave you concerning the UCC. Or just click the United Church of Christ and God is Still Speaking links in the sidebar and do some exploring yourself. And hey, if you have any questions, there's always room for comments.

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Friday, August 04, 2006

New Stuff Old Stuff Red Stuff Blue Stuff

Sorry, had a Suess moment there. I don't think there's actually going to be any red stuff or blue stuff in this post! I thought it was going to be difficult to get back into the swing of things after coming back from vacation, but I seem to have simply jumped in with both feet--as usual. There is something immediate about ordained ministry that catches you up and sweeps you along like a strong current. Which is of course why I needed the vacation to begin with. So that's the old stuff! New stuff, as you may have noticed, refers to the gadgets in my sidebar. Now you can see the time and the weather (the recent heat wave in CT inspired me to put that info up), as well as monitor my hit counter (as if anybody cared but me!)--and of course you can play with the monkey. Go ahead... you know you wanna play with my monkey!

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

What I Learned on Vacation

Your pets can survive without you for a little while.

So can your e-mail.

Professional wrestling is best watched with your brother.

Few things make you feel more like an adult than helping your dad with his latest home improvement project.

Pirates are way better than ninjas.

Samurai are way better than pirates.

Few things make you feel more like a child than helping your dad with his latest home improvment project.

"If you ever meet the Transandental Pig, ask it what the meaning of life is."

Nobody is ever as bad as others make them out to be.

Never let Charlton Heston anywhere near a nuclear device.

Nobody is ever as innocent as they feel they are.

Never let your apartment get knee deep.

Always know where your license, registration, and proof of insurance is.

Where your license, registration, and proof of insurance is isn't necissarily where they should be.

When you've lost something, it really does help to think back to the last time you know you saw it.

There really is something about a rainy highway that causes the average moterist to slam on their breaks for no apparent reason.

Honesty is the best policy.

Your family is a lot bigger than just the folks you're related to biologically.

Ice cream is best eaten sitting out on the lawn.

Trust people's instincts.

Especially your own.

Keep a book by the computer, just in case the server goes down.

If you ever find yourself questioning why you are where you are, consider that you might be the answer to somebody's problem.

"Everyone has a purpose."

Sometimes you're going to feel like you don't deserve to be as happy as you are.

Be happy anyway.

God can be anywhere.

Be sure to allow time to rest from your vacation.

The DMV is always on the bottom of your list of things to do.

Be good to each other.
Rev. Josh