Archive for December, 2008|Monthly archive page

In Uncategorized on December 29, 2008 at 7:01 pm

reflections from the road: saturday, december 27th

since today was our last in amarillo i decided to take syd, my five year old niece, to see bolt the most recent film by disney’s increasingly irrelevant* pixar unit. although bolt was vaguely entertaining the primary lessons i learned by the end of the film were:

a) acquaint yourself with the voice actors before going to see a glorified cartoon lest you spend an hour and a half guessing whose annoyingly scratchy voice is behind the wonder dog
b) thou shalt feed pre-schoolers before the film lest you spend most of the film refusing to buy additional concessions, and
c) if one tears up during the “climactic” finale when the child actor voiced by miley cyrus is unexpectedly reunited and subsequently saved by the sans super power, but still darling and devoted wonder dog voiced by john travolta one probably misses his dog more than he would like to admit.

all in all, i enjoyed hanging with syd. maybe next year she’ll be old enough to catch an anniversary edition of raging bull with me or something.

one of the things i love best about celebrating with two families is expanding my christmas palate. at the morris house Christmas is not the time for turkey or god-forsaken spiral ham sandwiches, but the time to enjoy authentic hand-rolled tamales, tasty green chili and texas brisket with a nice, cold miller high life. we ate well in amarillo.

kellie’s dad, commonly referred to as “grumpy” also surprised preston and i with an uncle henry pocket knife for christmas. i’m crap with knives but little p has been having a blast with it!

on our long trip back to tulsa kellie and i listened to john le carre’s absolute friends, which is a lengthy examination of back story in search of a plot, stopped at bucks in okc for much needed pit stop and made it within three miles of my parent’s house before the left rear tire on our rental car shredded to bits. fortunately, thanks to my masterful mechanical skills, the donut was affixed in short order and we dragged our tired arses home.

* from what i’ve heard wall-e was fantastic and i enjoyed the incredibles as well. but “pixar does doc hollywood” and “pixar does milo and otis” is somewhat less than original.


In Uncategorized on December 27, 2008 at 4:26 pm

reflections from the road: friday, december 26th

on friday morning i finally had the opportunity to make my way down to lubbock, texas in order to both meet with agent b and piss on the red raiders for surrendering so easily to the sooners.

on the way down i promised myself that i would not listen to npr on xm or to an audio recording of fight club that i borrowed from the (incredibly impressive) hardesty branch of the tulsa public library, so that i could soak up the silence and stark expanses of west texas and try to commune with my God. i’d love to say that i immediately embraced the silence and rhythmically prayed the Jesus prayer the entire way. unfortunately nothing could be further from the truth.

although i could feel myself unfolding as i passed through the great expanse, the minutes felt like hours and my 125 mile trip turned into a sojourn. such discomfort is troubling since i spend so much time preaching and sharing my inner life with others. i realize that the most effective words come out of silence and i need to be more intentional about cultivating silence in the coming year year.

meeting with agent b was like reconnecting with an old friend. although we have only known each other for four years and we’ve only met on three occasions, his family and mine share the mission of incarnation and the ground that separates us is indeed holy. b and i shared our evolving visions over shitty beer and sub par burgers, we stumbled across a $50 subsidy for our gathering, we drank slightly better beer at chili’s and we started to cut to the heart of things at starbucks.

at the latter location i asked agent b how he would, in light of his a-congregational ministry and mission, define the gospel that we both serve. after hemming and hawing a little bit he simply defined the gospel as “doing.” when i asked him how the person of Jesus informed his practical definition of the gospel he said that Jesus was “the example” of doing. he then offered a number of illustrations of what this gospel looked like in action. if you’d like to hear those stories for yourself, you’ll find a few of them, along with the best characterization of my pastoral calling that i’ve ever read, over on the agent b files blog.

when we’d sobered up* enough to brave the trek home i embraced my friend and fellow slave and we went our separate ways. on the trip back, as i listened to fight club i was both titillated by the narrator and thankful that God has treated my disassociation disorder with His unrelenting grace and the unexpected graciousness of friends.

cheers agent b! here’s to a continuing long obedience in the same direction.

* i’m not simply talking about alcohol here.

In Uncategorized on December 26, 2008 at 11:52 pm

reflections from the road: thursday, december 25

i celebrated the birth of the Lord Christ by:

breaking in my new running fleece and logging a mile or so with my sister-in-law

interrupting the family’s television time by laughing at matt taibbi’s undercover antics as profiled in the great derangement

finally admitting to my father-in-law, whom i love and deeply respect, that i am rubbish with power tools and don’t have an interest in improving myself in this area

watching the celtics dump a game to the lakers

half-watching the bucket list, a movie that is scarred by schlocky sentimentality and rob reiner’s inept direction, but is carried by actors who are hard to ignore

dancing a turn or two with the girl in the moon

re-watching portions of cars with the little p. while the film is endurable it was much more aesthetically enjoyable when it was called doc hollywood. you can definitely tell that brad bird didn’t write this one

and constantly reminding preston that his cousin’s new dollhouse is not a: a) stepladder b) window seat or c)gender appropriate toy for him to enjoy

how did your day go?

In Uncategorized on December 25, 2008 at 9:03 pm

reflections from the road: wednesday, december 24th

a couple of quick observations on our sojourn through the mostly barren wilderness that separates tulsa from amarillo:

1) there are several starbucks in the okc area that are available for mid-trip refueling. this is a good thing.
2) as opposed to years past, there are far, far fewer american flags stuck to people’s bumpers, festooning pot bellies or flying festively over ford dealerships. i’m starting to suspect that oklahomans and texans hate our freedom.
3) though i would like to report otherwise, i am really freaked out and afraid when i have to stop in places like mclean texas to get gas at 11 p.m. at night. the locals screaming at their kids, the senior citizens’ coffee clubs, the jalapeno corn dogs and jacked up pick-up trucks are quaint and entertaining during the daytime, but at night, when the locals could carve you up into bits and scatter your entrails in the red dirt with barely a notice, those little towns are downright spooky.*
4) the pix and i listened to michael lewisblind side on the trip down. the book was a wonderful exploration of southern football, the effects of africanamerican poverty and well-intentioned eh-vangelical philanthropy. it’s definitely worth a listen or read.

last night we attended a beautiful, but somewhat vacuous christmas eve service at a local church. the program was put together well and the sincerity of the participants was never in doubt, but they flattened the nativity narrative – Jesus’ birth was a gift for attentive shepherds and you! – and the logocentric, low-participatory liturgy left me wanting more. in a town characterized by a significant poverty culture and a large migrant community christmas seems to be the perfect time to discuss the displacement of the holy family and the exile of the infant Christ. it seems to me that in the often xenophobic south we also need to talk a little more about the role that the magi play in the nativity story.

i would love to get out to the movies this afternoon, but few interesting movies are playing here. palatable choices include the mysterious case of benjamin button and, the mysterious case of benjamin button. can someone get me some milk and a gran torino please? please!

* this reflection makes me feel out-of-touch, elitist and arrogant. but , well…

In Uncategorized on December 24, 2008 at 3:32 pm

reflections from the road: tuesday, december 23

the pix, pres and i are currently on a nine day road trip to oklahoma in texas. when i can catch a spare moment, i’m going to provide some reports from the road.

yesterday morning, after six short hours of sleep that followed ten hours of horrific christmas travel, i finally started to shake off sleep and get going. in the few short seconds between my first glimpse of the ceiling and my feet hitting the floor, i realized that i was going to see my pa pa, better known around my house as “big preston,” and i could barely contain my excitement.

since i’ve almost always got an analytical thermometer up my ass i then tried to parse why i was so excited to see my pa pa. was it because we would have long, meaningful conversations? probably not. we’ve had a number of those over my 31 years, but now we’re usually content to sit together. was it because i needed hug him tight and feel him reflexively scrunch his shoulders as if he was absorbing my love? closer, but that wasn’t the sole reason. was it because i longed for my son to bask in the gentleness, generosity and common nobility of his namesake? that was part of it.

in the end i realized that i could no more explain my heightened expectation of his arrival than i could rationalize the incredible depths of my love for the man. at almost the same moment, i also realized that the negative correlation between my increasing love for the man and my growing inability to express or explain my love is very similar to my growing passion and investment in the Kingdom of God and my decreasing ability to speak conclusively about my faith.

apparently, for me, the deeper the love and the more abiding the passion, the less i can actually say about it. i’m starting to realize that this tension does not give way to doubt, but leads me towards wonder, story and tears.

In Uncategorized on December 15, 2008 at 5:13 pm


today’s herb of grace advent reading included the following provocative reflection:

“A good question to ask in this Christmas season would be, “why did those in authority want to kill Jesus, not only as a grown rebel but even as a small child? What was he doing to disturb their kind of peace?” Once we find out exactly what kind of threat Jesus was to the established order, then all we need to do is be that same kind of threat. Then we will be praying “come Lord Jesus” as something different than a sweet Sunday morning melody.”

your response?

In Uncategorized on December 11, 2008 at 2:39 am

speaks for itself

ht: sam fisherofmen

In Uncategorized on December 9, 2008 at 3:03 am


when i was a s.h.i.t. student i defined my homiletical theory as provocation.

recently, with little apparent provocation, a friend at church said that i could easily be renamed “table flipper.”

last night, during peter rollins‘* excellent talk at the gathering, he agreed that his writing is intentionally provocative. he then expanded upon this idea by stating that one of the goals of his teaching and preaching is to detach individuals from (i’m assuming) our conceptual idols, reductionistic readings of texts and our intrinsic desire to name, define and circumscribe that which names, defines and circumscribes us.

i’m proud to journey in the company of provocateurs like peter.** moreover, i think peter’s focus perspective on homiletical and pedagogical detachment is intriguing.

if you heard peter this week feel free to share your reflections. of course, all other comers are welcome as well.

* in addition to talking at the gathering and harvard div, peter also bunked out at 4 judson for the weekend. even when exhausted, peter is an excellent guest who is quick to share a story, parse a question and share a pint. here’s to hoping we’ll have an opportunity to host him in the future.
** peter’s visit is yet another example of how much the emergent village crew has invested in our cohort and church community over the last couple of years. tony jones has met with us several times, mclaren has connected with our community, will sampson graced us with a visit last spring, karen ward popped in on one occasion and peter has now been here twice. the good folks at emergent village don’t simply talk about generative conversation among friends…they incarnate their commitment. our communities has been all the better for it. thanks ev!

In Uncategorized on December 3, 2008 at 2:54 am


“Following the image of the kingdom that was spoken of by Jesus, we encounter the idea that while it is still thought of as ‘to come’ this does not mean that it will one day arrive at the end of a certain period of time, but rather the kingdom is ‘to come,’ that is, the kingdom is already among us but in a spectral manner that resists our grasp. here the opening created by the eschatological kingdom of God is not an opening into the future but rather an opening into the present that acts much like the portable holes we see in cartoons that can be placed on any solid surface, thus creating a gap.” -peter rollins, the fidelity of betrayal, pg. 51.

this passage challenged me to set aside my simple linear conception of God’s kingdom in order to contemplate God’s kingdom as a depth or chasm that i am sometimes standing on the precipice of, other times foolishly, cartoonishly spinning my wheels above or, in darker times, as likely to find as a artesian well in the desert.

contemplating the dimensions of the kingdom in this manner makes me suspect that when i am struck dumb by the texture of my grandfather’s hands or am seemingly called home by the squint in neal’s eyes, the Spirit is suggesting that i am near the holy and hidden heart of it all.

the unexpected depth and appearance of the kingdom in our midst, also makes sense of my uncle freddy’s suggestion to pay attention my eyes well up with tears, as they have so often lately, or when a lump rises in my throat.

during this holy advent peter’s text is reminding me that throughout this season of anticipation it makes as much sense to look down and dig around as it does to lean forward.

In Uncategorized on December 2, 2008 at 3:17 pm

by: kevin smith clark

“Could I have been a parking lot attendant
Could I have been a millionaire in Bel-Air
Could I have been lost somewhere in Paris
Could I have been your little brother
Could I have been anyone other than me…”
Dave Matthews, “Dancing Nancies”

Could I have been…miserable in central Kentucky? I had this Zen-like moment on Sunday while walking through the halls of my parents’ church. This was the same church where I cut my teeth on ministry and realized my calling. This was the same church where I met her…the girl I dated before my wife, Amy. And I saw her Sunday morning (I won’t get into details, I won’t slander, but we’ve taken distinctly different paths since June ’97). Then the FLASH of insight (sorry to mix Buddha and Jesus): what if I hadn’t severed the ties of that necrotic relationship? Could I have been anyone other than me?

I’m 99.9% confident: (1) I never venture out of KY for anything, (2) I never get involved in leading worship, (3) I miss out on my relationship with Amy, my two beautiful children, and (4) I don’t meet g13 at Soybean Bible and strike up a friendship that was originally based on two facts: the Dave Matthews Band are gods (we’ve both changed our opinions since then), and Barry Sanders is the greatest running back in history (I’m still steadfast on this, assuming g13 is as well).

Needless to say, I made the right choice…but that Sunday was all the Thanksgiving I needed. Anyone else had one of those moments lately?

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