Tuesday, February 24, 2009

At the Movies

I love movies. I can recall as a child how excited I was when I knew I was going to the movies. The old theatre may have been small and the screen may have had numerous holes in it from the local outlaws who threw things at the screen when the owner wasn't looking, but for me it was a personal adventure I could not resist.

At the movies, I could go across the earth in an instant and be in Africa on Safari, with wild Lions and Rhino's roaming the plains. The experience of the movies took me from the tiny little town I lived in to a world that expanded my thinking, my imagination, and my dreams.

I still love movies although I am so frugal that the price of a ticket makes me cringe. With popcorn, Junior Mints, and a cold Diet Coke I am armed and ready for new adventures.

Something that I have noticed is that my taste in movies is not shared by most people. I enjoy independent films, documentaries, and films that explore some pretty heavy subjects. I have found that most people just like to be entertained; lots of special effects, a car crash every few seconds, and plenty of explosions. Those kind of movies are not appealing in the least to me.

I am often reminded how people have different tastes in books, films, hobbies, and food. It is all very understandable - we simply like different things.

I also have realized that people have different tastes when it comes to church. I have been going to church services all my life and one thing has remained the same. When people leave a church service they often critique it like a movie, usually among friends over lunch - what did you think? Did you like that new song? Was the sermon too long? too loud? too boring? to controversial? I thought that prayer would never end. What did you think? How would you rate it?

Like the movies, church sometimes gets great reviews, sometimes not. Honestly, I think our personal tastes have a great deal to do with the review we give. After 30 years of "doing church", I am amazed at how the reviews of a particular service are often so different. I really should not be - the tastes of the church consuming public vary widely.

Just a thought, but perhaps our primary concern should be whether God was encountered and did he speak to us. Often when I am preparing for a church service the encounter I have with God is startling - he shows up in a scribbled note in the margin of my Bible or a line in a sermon that I just quickly wrote down, almost without thinking. God is full of surprises and is always coming around when we least expect it. Who knows - God may even show up at a church service that is less than perfect.

Just thinking, Steve

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Strange People

My wife and I just returned from an annual conference of Ministers and their spouses. The Conference was great and we were blessed. One thing I have to admit; Ministers are an odd group of people. They are just strange. I have known this about myself for many years and despite intense therapy and trying to change my weird ways, I am as strange as ever.

For example, ministers are about the easiest group to amuse that you will find. Anyone who is even slightly humorous will get a warm reception. We love to laugh. We like to laugh hard - the kind of laughing where you spray milk out your nose. This happens to me and I don't even drink milk any more.

We also love touching stories. There was so much crying at this conference. People would tell their stories and we would all just cry and applaud them for sharing their tear jerking stories. So go ahead and tell us your stories but remember to have some tissues available for the water works.

One other thing; we love free stuff. At this conference, with each session there would be free books or C.D.'s or pens or whatever and we acted like we had won the lottery. I guess we need to get out more.

Some people are embarrassed by their chosen profession or vocation. At times when ministers act like jerks, I am embarrassed. But on the whole I have found that these odd people who are called to ministry are delightful people. I am glad to be who I am.

Strange is beautiful in a strange way.

Just thinking, Steve

Monday, February 9, 2009

Beautiful Music

I am not a musician but I love music. I could listen to music all day. When I see the kids with their I-Pods I am a bit jealous. I get it. Music is good. I cannot get enough music. The stuff I like is odd and I know that but music soothes my soul.

At the Grammys there is all kinds of music, most of which I don't find very interesting. I read this morning that Robert Plant and Alison Krause won best album and several Grammys. What an odd pair they are! Plant is famous for his days with Led Zeppelin and Krause has the classic blue grass/country voice - how could such a pair make beautiful music? I thought their album, Raising Sand was surprising and remarkable. I have really enjoyed it. T Bone Burnett is a talented producer who finds some of the most unusual sounds to make great music.

It reminds me that life has a way of bringing together some of the most surprising people to do remarkable things. Beauty is often produced in that strange place where two very different people connect.

Sometimes when I see two people together in a marriage I am amazed that they are together. They seem so different from one another and yet the combination of their two unique personalities produces something spectacular.

I get so bored with people who think that we all should be "clones" of each other. I am thankful that you are not like me and I know that you are grateful for the same. Let's celebrate our uniqueness and work together to make some beautiful music.

Just thinking, Steve

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I'm Good!

The Super Bowl actually turned out to be a very interesting game. Often the game is a blow out and pretty boring. I watched the game and the commercials - it is my duty as an American to do so! The Super Bowl has become the single greatest cultural event of American life. I am not sure what this says about us -- probably a sign of the demise of our culture. I watched. I know I should have been reading or visiting the sick or trying to come up with a cure for the common cold, but I just watched the game. This was only my second NFL game to watch this past season - I work on Sundays. I do keep up with the scores simply because if I don't, I am viewed with suspicion and mistrust. I have too many other obstacles in life to let my lack of knowledge about football keep me isolated and viewed as a nerd.

Just a thought about one of my favorite commercials, the Pepsi spot with the bone headed guys who suffer through all kinds of pain and mayhem and seem undaunted, simply saying after each painful mishap, "I'm good."

I grew up in the world that told me to ignore my pain and just say, "I'm good." Life could kick you around, friends could cause you pain, and chaos could rule your life but your response was to ignore it all and say, "I'm good."

I am not a whiner. Never have been. But I do think that people sometimes need to admit honestly, "I'm not good." When you lose your job and someone asks you how you are doing surely it's O.K. to say, "Lousy." When someone you love dies and you are grieving their loss people should not expect that you are going to be "good." I have been listening to people speak about their pain for 30 plus years. A few are whiners, but most are just honest and searching for someone who will respect their pain and be a caring listening. Somehow God uses these meager efforts to bring healing over time.

The commercial was very funny. Living in denial of our pain is not. God's grace can bring healing even when we cannot say "I'm good."