Friday, May 25, 2007

It was 30 years ago today...

Thanks to my buddy I.F. Eastman for finding this video clip:

This is the original promo video you would have seen in the movie theaters. And yes, it's AWFUL!!!! But that's the way it was back in the day.

20th Century Fox was very worried about this movie going in. It was like nothing ever done before. Plus it was attached to a big marketing campaign with all kinds of related merchandise. Problem was they had tried this with the original Dr. Doolittle movie. The merchandise was a flop and they had warehouses FULL of leftover junk. This was even worse, outrageous effects, budget problems, minimal support from the studio brass, Lucas was starting the story in the FOURTH chapter for the love of D.W. Griffith! Prior to the first audiences seeing it most folks including critics figured it to be anywhere from an OK money maker to a colossal flop.

It received 10 Academy Awards and won 6. It's earned around 20 Billion dollars between all of it's films and other "junk".

And, for better and worse, it changed the movies we watch.

Happy Birthday Star Wars. May the Force be with you.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Words Along the Way - Prayer (Part 2)

Last time I talked about prayer. After I'd posted I realized I'd done something dumb. It's the kind of thing adults do with youth all the time and the kind of thing church people do to non-church people.

I'd talked about the "How" of prayer before I'd talked about the "Why". If you don't have any reason why to do it why would you care how to do it?

The real problem is that for those of us who already are working on it the why usually boils down to "Well, because you have to/are supposed to/that's the way we've always done/stop pestering me with these questions!" It's simply such a part of who we are we don't think about it much any more.

But that's no excuse and not much help to you if you're not sure about this whole prayer thing. I've got to admit from the outside the whole "I'm talking to God" thing seems a lot like the character in the movie "Harvey" who talks with a six foot tall invisible rabbit. It certainly looks like someone needs their screws tightened.

So why pray?

Hmm, theological answers first. Because God has been pretty clear he wants us to and Jesus did. If it was good enough for the Big JC it's good enough for me.

Not good enough for you? OK.

Because it helps us look a little deeper, to think things out, to take burdens that just feel too damn big to carry and hand them over for a little while. When I'm praying (and you'll recall from last time that my prayer style is, shall we say, casual)I'm placing my thoughts into a holy place. I'm amazed at how much different they often look in the light of that place. Don't worry if you're not sure you've got the "holy place" stuff down perfect. It isn't necessary. God will work with you wherever you are. As with any conversation it's very important to listen. As much to yourself as for God (for the record I've never had God speak in words to me. But I have gotten some very clear communications from the Big Fella. I'm not sure how to explain what that means. It's one of those you'll know it when you get there things. No special effects, flashes of lightning. Just knowing.) Some of my best prayer moments is when God just kind of reruns what I just said and I go "Umm, wow. That was really stupid. Let me keep working on that one"

Why do I pray? Because it comforts me. It teaches me. It consoles me. It gave me courage one night driving through a blizzard all by myself out in the middle of nowhere. It's given me strength at times when I was pretty sure I was empty. Prayer has been a time to vent, to just really give God a piece of my mind. And that kept me from turning that on someone who couldn't handle it or didn't deserve it.

I pray because it makes me feel closer to God.

You'll need to find your own personal "why". You may want to experiment with someone else's "why" but don't let anyone force you into one particular "why" or another. Find the one that works for you.

God will be happy to hear from you, no matter what.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Send Your kids to camp

(This is my May column from our diocesan newspaper ChurchActs)

Let me be clear right up front. This month's column is intended for the adults. The parents, the youth leaders, the adult friends and relatives. Some of the young people don't want you to read this.

Summer time is almost here. There are a thousand things to be planned. Vacation schedules to coordinate, summer activities, family events, summer jobs and more. In the midst of all of that I want you to think about sending your kids to camp.

Not “send them to camp” as in “Oh, that's something you might want to think about this summer”. No, I mean send them to camp. Even if they don't think they want to. Even if they think they have other things they'd rather be doing. Her first year my daughter didn't want to go to camp. We made her. We sent her to camp. I'm here to make the case that sending your kids to camp is one of the best things you can do for them.

A couple years ago a friend sent me an audio file of a sermon preached by Father Jay Mills at St. Paul's Episcopal church in Kingsport Tennessee. It had to do with young people in the church and my friend thought it would interest me. It certainly did. Father Mills said several things that struck me so profoundly that I “rewound” the audio file and played them again so I could copy them down. One of them is a great argument in favor of sending youth to camp. Here's what I copied down (my apologies to Fr. Mills if I got this wrong. Any errors are mine)

“This is the only place on earth, and it is the grace of God, that if a kid doesn't show up they're not gonna be benched. The next time they come they're welcomed. It's the only place that happens”

Think about what most of our young people face daily. All the routine grades, the standardized tests, the team sports, virtually every step of the way they are being tested, graded, held up for comparison. Don't get me wrong, I've got nothing against testing or competition. Rather what worries me is that they may never get a break from it. I worry about the effect on their lives, especially their spiritual lives. That's what camp can be. It is the chance to step away, for just a little while, from the rigors of regular life. Camp is a place where there are no grades, there is no judging process going on. Instead it is a place of where they can explore their own faith. They can spend time with friends, old and new, in a lower intensity environment. That may be the greatest gift we can give them at this time in their lives.

Sure some of them are going to be grumpy about it. It wasn't what they had planned on doing this summer. Fr. Mills made another point that is worth repeating here. He pointed out that we need to make sure that they know:

“...that they will not lack what they need although they may not have what they want...”

Make sure that your youth, your children have what they need. A time to rest. A time to think. A time away. Send them to camp.


Distrubing sounds from the Youth Ministry office...

I can only imagine that folks might be a little concerned to hear the strong baritone of the youth minister pounding out Billy Joel's "Only the Good Die Young".

"They say there's a heaven for those who will wait
Some say it's better but I say it ain't
I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints
the Sinners are much more fun..."

Ummm, hmm, maybe ought to check what ELSE is available on my ipod.

Another quiz, I'm interested that Holiness/Wesleyan came in such a strong second. I don't know much about that but have usually felt that I WASN'T particularly pointed that way. Of course the short fall of these quizzes are the answers that I wish there was a different answer. So take this with a fairly large grain of salt. I do feel some strong connection with the Emergent movement and a strong affinity to the old forms. I keep wondering if there isn't a way to do both.
You scored as Emergent/Postmodern. You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don't think they connect to modern culture very well(They got this bit completely wrong). No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.



Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Roman Catholic


Classical Liberal


Neo orthodox


Modern Liberal




Reformed Evangelical




What's your theological worldview?
created with

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Ok time for some silly stuff. Blame Eric Travis for the first one:

Jay Phillippi --


Visually addictive

'How will you be defined in the dictionary?' at

It's just so true!

And the second is entirely the fault of Alexandra Connors:

'What will your obituary say?' at

And this one is just scary accurate!


Monday, May 14, 2007

Words Along the Way - Prayer

I find it interesting that very often we Episcopalians have trouble when we're asked to pray off the top of our heads. I've heard lots of reasons but I think there are two that cover most of the problem.

First, we are children of the BOOK (the Book of Common Prayer that is). While the BCP is one of our greatest resources and additions to the larger church I think it's made us think that prayer is always a formal, planned activity that only uses a certain kind of language. This is quite simply wrong. Yes the BCP gives us a wonderful collection of beautifully written prayers for virtually any situation. (As examples, just skimming quickly I found prayers for your school, rain, young people, our enemies, for VACATION!!!,two for birthdays and no less than five graces for meal time) The problem is that with such a great wealth of ready to use prayers we don't get much practice just making them up as we go.

Which brings me to the second point. I'm not sure we get enough practice away from church time and the BCP. Because of this mindset that prayer needs to be formal and in the "right" form we haven't ever explored anything else. You just need more practice.

So don't worry about the words. They aren't important. In fact we recognize at least one form of prayer that doesn't require words at all. (Did you know that the catechism in the BCP lists 7 principal kinds of prayer?)

An exercise I use to help "loosen" people up about prayer is called the "Hey God". A lot of young folks will greet one another with the word "Hey". So start your prayers the same way you'd start a conversation with a friend. Then just keep on rolling. Yeah, prayer is a form of just talking with God. As time goes on you may find you'd like to use some of the more formal versions too. Great.

So just relax and find your own way to talk with God. He'll be good with it, no matter what. You should see how some people have spoken to him in the Bible!

So let us pray.

Hey, God. There's a lotta folks down here who feel kind of uneasy about starting the conversation with you. Please help ease their way into those first couple with you. Bring them the peace and joy that our conversations bring to me. And later on, I've got a couple other things I need to talk with you about. Ok? Cool. Amen.

Till the next time,

Peace (and keep prayin')

Friday, May 11, 2007

Thanks to tim schmoyer for creating this and Marko for pointing it out

Yeah, some days that about sums it up!


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Goldberg revelation

I offer this with the utmost in charity and love. A prophet is someone who speaks for God. A prophet called today.

I'm in my office, desperately fighting off the desire to take a nap when the phone rings. Since I'm the only one in the office I answer it.

"Are you the priest?", say a female voice.

"No Ma'am"

"Are you one of the prayers?"

This throws me for a moment.

"Well,uh, I can arrange to have someone prayed for if you'd like..."

"No, no I have a story that has to be told", her voice begins to speed up, "I prayed for 8 hours a day for 8 months. I prayed that single moms would be able to see their children every day, that the homeless would have homes, that everyone would be attractive, that all marriages would be happy".

I must confess. My eyes may have rolled, just a tiny little bit. The faintest hint of a smirk might, might mind you, have flickered across my face. Words like "nutter" and "crackers" peeked into the central room of my mind wondering if they needed to step in.

But there was something in her voice, that high almost girlish voice that stopped me. She told me that after praying for all that time God spoke to her. The Divine gave her a message for all the Christians of the world.

Let's say her name was Mrs. Goldberg and leave it at that. She told me stories of anti-semitism against her and her family as she grew up. She talked of her many friendships over the years with Christians. She told me what the message was. It's quite simple really. Mrs. Goldberg knows how much we want Jesus back. We want him back so much "'d dye your hair purple...". God told Mrs. Goldberg that we need to love the Jews. As soon as we do, as soon as we eliminate anti-semitism Jesus will be right back with us. There will be no war, no judgement day.

The conversation went on for many minutes. Her words spoken quickly but without any sound of anger or judgement. It was important and wonderful and she needed to get her story told. Did I have contact with any Catholics? I told her that I had a little. She told me that the Pope and all the bishops needed to be told that it was time for the priests and nuns to give up celibacy, to marry one another and go to Africa to care and raise the AIDS orphans.

How can I describe the calmness, the sanity of her voice in my ear? The peacefulness as she poured out her story and entrusted it to me. The assurance as she told me that there was so much more for her to say but that I didn't have time to hear it today.

In the end she finally thanked me and said goodbye. I sat in my office and thought about the revelation given to me. She's right of course. Jesus gave us a new commandment, that we should love one another. I don't know if actually getting that right will hurry Jesus along in his return but it strikes me that it's not a bad idea under any circumstances. Jew, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist. Mono-theist, poly-theist, atheist and agnostic. Every part of his creation. We need to care for them all. We need to treat them well.

Maybe we need to dye our hair purple.

Thank you Mrs. Goldberg. I hope God keeps talking to you.

And then maybe you'll talk to me again.


Monday, May 07, 2007

Movie Time!

Finally some movies I really enjoyed!

Cars - Pixar does another great job with CGI animations. Great story, wonderful look, fun for the whole family. Another one my teenaged daughter told me I had to see (she knows I'm a fan of auto racing). Good Stuff. I think we're showing this at our Junior High camp this summer.

Harvey - I love classic movies along with the new ones. Somehow I had never seen this Jimmy Steward classic. Great story about a man whose best friend is a 6 foot 3 inch tall rabbit that only he can see. Is he nuts or not? And if it's a delusion where's the harm? Really enjoyed it. Also a great movie for the family. The DVD comes with an audio introduction done by Stewart not too long before his death talking about the movie.

We Married Margot - Another movie I caught on IFC. Based on a true story of two guys who marry and divorce the same woman. They wrote the script and play themselves in this low budget indie film. Which is an absolute scream! Not available on DVD sadly so you'll have to try and catch it some else. This movie is just...bizarre and funny and touching. The outtakes at the end are hysterical, especially on why they didn't cast the real Margot as herself (and she was ticked off about it!)

Pushing Tin Saw this in the theater the first time when it came out. I really like John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton (although I have to fess that I don't understand the big fuss over Angelina Jolie. Good actress but I don't get the rest. Now Cate Blanchett? Whole 'nother thing) Typical quirky script that these actors are always attracted to about air traffic controllers. You either like these kinds of movies or you don't. Count me in.

Oh and one mention of some LIVE theater. Went to see Spamalot up in the big city. Again, you either "get" Monty Python or you don't. If you do, this is pee your pants funny. It is NOT for the faint of heart or those who don't like profanity. While not overloaded with it, when they decide to use it they go completely over the top. To the point that it begins to lose it's shock value and just become funny. The "Taunting scene" at the French castle is vulgar beyond belief and one of the funniest things I've ever seen. Fetchez le Vache!


Friday, May 04, 2007

Words Along the Way - Church

Time for another pause along our journey. Think of it as a time to sit and rest and talk a bit.

Last time I promised to explain why I think church is important. Let's make sure we're clear on what we're talking about. "Church" to me is the gathering of fellow believers, usually to worship but also including times of study or even just hanging out together. When we are gathered together (check Matthew 18:20) Jesus is with us and we are the church. So on Sunday mornings we're the church, at vestry meetings or conventions we're the church. We're even the church when we get together to tell each other that we're wrong and apostate and heretics. I'm not so sure that Jesus is happy with his church at those moments but that's another issue.

Notice that there's no mention of the buildings or institutions. No mention of the committees or whatever BEING the church. That stuff, including what we do on Sundays, is merely how we express what it means to be the church. The buildings can all fall down, every BCP can disappear, even every copy of the Bible could disappear and if we gathered together in faith we would still be the church.

The problem that a lot of us (including me many days) have with "church" is dealing with those other issues. Who's the boss, which service should we use, which Bible translation, which traditions or what kind of music? None of that is THE CHURCH. Getting hung up on it keeps us from focusing on the important stuff. You know, Love God, Love One Another, et cetera.

The church, the real, important church, is about people. People worshiping together, caring for one another, teaching one another, learning from one another. That other stuff is merely the manner which we have chosen to travel the way, the journey. How we do it is much less important than that we are doing it. If we choose to emphasize the real church then we will not, we can not choose a bad manner to travel.

So is church still boring sometimes? Yes. Find your way through. Like any journey some parts are easier and more interesting than others. Sermon not speaking to you? Fine, take a look at the scriptures and see what it does say to you. Take the time for some quiet conversation of your own with God. Get to know the other folks who are travelling along with you. Let them help you find your own method of travel. You may also discover that you can help them too.

I said in the last one of these that it takes time to make important decisions. The church offers you a history of how other people did it. Do you really WANT to make the same mistakes others made? Wouldn't it be nice to have someone point out a short cut to you? That to me is the church working at it's best. Remember that folks who chose a different means of travel are still members of the church. Treat them with respect. Hopefully they'll do the same but a lot of travellers will defend "their way" as the only way. Wish them well and keep moving. When someone asks you answer them gently and explain that this is the way you've chosen and why (that answer may change as time goes on, but that's cool).

Then point them towards the church to help them continue their journey.

We'll talk again.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Words Along the Way

After some additional thought I've decided to change the name of my "Letters to the younger brothers and sisters" to Words along the Way. What I'm writing is way too casual for the image in my head of a letters series and I don't want to go into "advice" mode. Other than serving as a "bad" example I'm not sure that I have any positive advice that's worth even this poor price.

Instead I'll continue to offer just some thoughts especially for the younger sojourners along the way of faith. My thoughts on various subjects that I don't feel we (the church) have done a particularly good job of talking about. The next installment should arrive later this week.