Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Got to love the news

"Re-creation" -- seriously?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Love Rubs Feet

This post was written back on May 5th. I often write posts and never post them. Honestly, for me, much of blogging is personal journaling. But I was thinking about this again this week, looked up the post, and decided to go public with it.


This weekend I'm teaching on love. It's a sermon I have done before... actually several times. I heard another pastor at a conference give this basic outline back in 1991 and said to myself that day that I wanted to preach that outline every year of my ministry. Well, that hasn't happened. But I have given this outline maybe 5 or 6 times between the two churches I have served. Of course, some of the content changes... I would get bored with it otherwise... but the simple message is a good one:

Love boldly.

I have been thinking about love a lot lately. And much of it is born out of pain. I have been watching my parents struggle through dad's decline. I have another man I deeply respect who is in a battle with leukemia and doesn't seem to be winning. My friend and co-partner in ministry has a mom who is fighting her own health issues. In the midst of all of this darkness... there is this light. It's the love I see breaking through in these dark places.

Today I sat with this man named Paul. He is a pastor of sorts. And he is one of my heros. I had heard of him before I came to Athens and was really excited to meet him. In the past couple of years he, his wife and son became a part of the church I pastor. And at first, honestly, it was kind of wierd to have this guy who I kind of looked up to, be a part of my congregation. But in these years I have gotten to know him, his wife and son and I have seen a spiritual maturity that just blows me away. (Maybe I will write more about this another time).

But for now I just wanted to say: true love is really hard.

It rubs feet.

It changes bandages. It cleans up messes. It calls out the best in people. It forgets the worst in people.

So often our culture thinks of love as naked bodies writhing in pleasure. We even call it, "Making love."

That's stupid.

I'm not even sure "love" happens in the first years of marriage.

Love is when it becomes difficult. Sacrificial.

Love is when you talk to that friend and you don't want to talk.

It's when you give and don't want to give.

When you call and don't want to call.

Love rubs feet.


Paul Martin
June 28, 1946 - August 14, 2009

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The "cutting room floor"

"And by the way, lest you think that Jesus taught some wishy-washy, "can't we all just get along" kind-of-message, let me just say it this way: Nobody ever crucified Big Bird."

Paul Risler


I wrote that line for my sermon this weekend. For some reason, I just like it. But this afternoon, I cut it out of my message (as well as the whole larger section of which it was a part).

I hated to see it go.

People often ask me what's the hardest part of preparing a sermon. I think most people expect me to say that it's the research, or coming up with illustrations, or getting started, or ending the message...

For me it has always been the edit.

Almost without exception, every message I write (a finished message is approximately 20 half-sheets of paper long) is whittled down from about 40 pages. Usually the Tuesday before I preach a message, I have this 2-hour-long message that I run through. I take it on the treadmill, on the elliptical... I carry a copy of it in my coat pocket. I have even been known to read the entire thing into a voice recorder and play it in my car on long trips. I work on it whenever I have an extra couple of minutes.

And with each section, each paragraph, each line, I try to ask myself, does this REALLY support the main point? Does this REALLY make people wrestle with this text? Does this REALLY shed any extra light on anything?

Or do I just like it?

See, here's the thing: I think some of my best stuff ends up on the cutting room floor.

It's stuff I WANT to say, but I have to discipline myself not to say it.

Sometimes it's stuff I have poured hours into finding, wrestled with theologically and personally, mulled over anywhere from 6 weeks to a year or more. It stuff that I think is funny, or clever, or illuminating...

And it never gets said.

At least in that message. At least for now. Maybe there will be a time. Maybe there will be a season and I will give it a shot. But not now. Even if I WANT to say it.




It's good... but is it the best thing I can say?


I think some of the best stuff in life ends up on the cutting room floor.

Or at least it should.

Each of us has so much to do and so many options. And sometimes, the hardest part in life is the edit. It is asking ourselves, "Is this REALLY going to add to my life? Is this the right thing for my life right now? Maybe it will fit better later, but given my priorities and what God is calling me to do... is this really what I should do? Is this really something to add to my schedule? Do I really need to take this on?"




It's good... but is it the best way I can live?

I think some of the best stuff in life ends up on the cutting room floor.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Sign him up.

I'm writing our worship leader now and trying to sign this guy up.

Oh my.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Gambling - Vote no on 3

For those who know me, you know that I try to hide my politics. I certainly believe that Christians can be Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green and just about any other label you can put on a political party. There are way too many things to divide us already.

With that said, I want to say a word about Issue 3, the casino gambling legislation. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I'm simply going to publish a letter written by the bishop of the West Ohio Conference of the UMC. I hope it sheds light on the issue and is helpful to you.

For my vote, I'm voting a big "No."


For the fifth time in 19 years, The United Methodist Church and the Ohio Council of Churches are successfully mobilizing tens of thousands of voters from many faith communities to vote against casino gambling in Ohio. The gambling industry has mounted a well funded and deceptive marketing campaign to introduce predatory gambling into our neighborhoods. Issue 3, on the ballot in November, is a dangerous proposal which inserts new language into the Ohio Constitution, and creates a monopoly to run casinos in four Ohio communities. We call for an extensive effort to stop casino gambling from harming our citizens for these reasons:

1. Our position on gambling is consistent with our beliefs as United Methodists.

The United Methodist Church is very clear. Our Social Principles state that “gambling is a menace to society, deadly to the best interests of moral, social, economic and spiritual life and destructive of good government.”—2008 United Methodist Discipline, Paragraph 163,G. We also live by these Three Simples Rules from the founder of Methodism, John Wesley – Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God. Gambling does harm to families, economies, business and changes the fabric of life in communities.

2. Casinos create an illusion of free money.

The lingering economic downturn in our state and around the globe is frightening and devastating to individuals, families and institutions. There is incredible pressure on our state and community leaders to turn to the lure of casino gambling as the answer to our economic woes. We understand this. Noted economists call this “casino capitalism.” Casino capitalism contributes to an illusion of free money by preying on those least able to afford it. Across America, predatory gambling has helped create a culture based on financial gimmicks, false hopes and pure chance. This culture has led to and perpetuates the massive economic crisis we find ourselves in today.

3. Casinos do not bring positive economic development or create additional jobs.

This fact is documented once again in a report on the statewide economic and social factors of Issue 3 recently published by Ohio’s Hiram College. Casinos have the opposite effect by ultimately pulling money out of the local economy. This harms existing businesses and causes thousands of hard working citizens to lose their current jobs. The out of state companies that will operate these casinos will deplete the Ohio economy further as they take their profits elsewhere. Casinos ultimately lead to the loss of jobs and small businesses in the communities in which they are located.

4. Casinos are predatory by their very nature.

Casinos make windfall profits for their owners from the gambling losses of our most vulnerable neighbors, deriving much of their profits from the poor who spend more than they can afford to lose. Proximity to a casino also increases the levels of addiction. National studies indicate that people who live within 50 miles of a casino are twice as likely to become gambling addicts.

5. The social costs as a result of casino gambling will exceed revenue 3 to 1.

Let this sink in – for every dollar gambling generates, it will cost the taxpayers of Ohio three dollars in social costs. Problem gamblers ruin their lives and harm their families through increased debt, bankruptcy, home foreclosures, divorce, spousal abuse, child abuse and suicide. Casino gambling always does more harm than good to families. This amendment is economic nonsense in a time when we most desperately need sound, sustainable economic policies.

6. Law enforcement will need increased budgets & manpower to manage higher crime rates.

Nationwide, studies of existing casinos and surrounding communities have consistently found that crime rates increase by 10% each year after a casino opens, including violent crimes against people. In addition, 40% of all white collar crime is rooted in the gambling industry.

7. The casino owners do not care about our state or our citizens.

The proponents of Issue 3, just like their predecessors, allege they want to operate casinos in order to help the citizens of Ohio. Nothing could be further from the truth. Their well crafted promises of economic development, jobs and millions in revenue are motivated by greed, not by good will. In reality, they are seeking extravagant profits for themselves and are fear-mongers, not benefactors.

8. It is bad public policy to allow for-profit casino interests to write their own section of the Ohio Constitution.

Yet, this is precisely what they have done. They wrote the language in the proposed amendment and they paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to gather signatures to place their self-serving proposal on this November’s ballot. Their language not only grants them an exclusive monopoly on casino gambling for all time, it also dramatically limits the ability of the Ohio General Assembly to regulate their activities. The amendment specifically prohibits our state government from controlling the days or hours of operation, the size of the bets or even the types of gambling that will be allowed.

The language of the constitutional amendment is frightening and has loopholes. In fact, the language states these monopolies can inflict on our citizens any type of gambling that is currently allowed in any other adjoining state or any new types of gambling these states may experiment with in the future, including live sports betting. These casino interests even dictated the maximum amount they will pay in taxes and wrote in an amount that is dramatically lower than in some of the surrounding states. Other language in the amendment creates a loophole stipulating they will not pay any taxes when cash is directly used to place the bets.

We understand that the gambling industry is well organized and well funded to exploit the current economic pain and fear experienced by so many Ohioans. Issue 3 is not about jobs. It is about altering the very fabric of our life together. That is why Ohio citizens have voted consistently and overwhelmingly against bringing predatory casino gambling into our communities each of the previous four times this has been on the ballot.

We urge every United Methodist congregation in Ohio to be a public witness against Issue 3. There is no legal prohibition against churches taking a stance on ballot issues. Please join us in this endeavor as we abide by our Social Principles and live out our Three Simple Rules – Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

An Open Letter to my High School Class

Thanks to Facebook, I've re-connected with some former High School classmates -- I guess that is part of what we "old people" do on Facebook.

It's been good. It's fun to see my HS class all grown up. It is strange to see us with kids, jobs, and responsibilities. I've enjoyed following the threads of sharing memories. Catching up.

As I type these words, I realize that some of my former classmates may actually read this blog (although I'm betting most of you have more to do with your time than stalk my blog!). I hope this post is not misunderstood. In fact, I hope my words ring true to you as well. I would love to hear your thoughts, either here or in my inbox.


Dear Former Classmates of Toronto High School

Recently, I got out my HS yearbook (yeah, I was trying to figure out a friend request). It was the first time I had looked at that book, or for that matter, even deeply thought about high school in years.

And as I looked at the pictures, matching names with faces, I realized something: At the time, so many of your opinions meant so much to me (I guess that is the way high school is for a lot of people). Today, I don't remember many of your names. Some I couldn't remember at all.

I realized that I had forgotten who the HS quarterback was, and I couldn't name more than two cheerleaders. I'd forgotten who was voted class president or prom King or Queen. (I did remember Gretchen was voted "Most Likely to Succeed" but only because she was my first girlfriend and my first kiss. Come on, I was in 5th grade, I think... so I'm sure she will own up to it.) But I had forgotten who was voted "Most Popular" or "Prettiest Hair," etc.

I don't say that to be mean. In fact, I'm kind of embarrassed by it. But it WAS a realization that the particular part of my life called "high school" was actually a very small part in the overall picture, and a fairly insignificant part.

I smiled when I looked up the section of the yearbook where we voted for "Prettiest Smile," "Funniest," "Most Talented," etc. I smiled because, at the time, those things actually meant something to me. I looked at the pictures of the guys who were so popular. I looked at pictures of the girls I had huge crushes on... I remember feeling like I was on the outside most of the time.

But here's the point: In those days my classmates' acceptance of me mattered. My day would rise and fall based on their opinion of me. Opinions based, not on any substantive character issues, but on who was "in" who was "out."

That is so sad.

And now, with age and perspective... I really regret the way I saw myself and others in high school.

So I'm writing this letter to my entire class to apologize.

I'm sorry for those of you I may have excluded. I'm sorry I made you feel like others made me feel.

I'm sorry for those of you I judged, or put into a box, or stuck a label on: "stuck up," "jock," "nerd" -- whatever. We label people to control them. To categorize or even dehumanize them.

I'm sorry for the years I lost because I cared more about avoiding you, or impressing you -- rather than caring for you or impacting you.

I'm sorry I was so worried about you noticing me, that I didn't really notice you.

I suspect many of us felt "on the outside" in HS.

I suspect many of us wore masks.

How stupid we were.

If I could do it again, I would do it differently.

So I commit to trying to live that way now.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Posting soon

Dear Blog

I miss you. I miss writing deep thoughts. I'm tired of posting mostly humor and video clips. I miss being vulnerable. I miss sharing my soul.

I realize that when I took you "public" that now hundreds of people read you. Your stats counter scares me. RSS readers find you whenever I post.

But I didn't create you for them. Yes, I want their interaction, I love to read their thoughts... but I don't need their approval in order to write.

I think we should meet again.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Saturday, August 01, 2009

I'm sorry.

No really.

Don't watch this.

You won't get these 5 minutes of your life back.

That's just over 5 mintues. Over 300 seconds. And it's not really worth it -- watching a cartoon called, "Cows with Guns."

No really.

Dooooonnnnn't! Stop!!!!


Too late. Tee Hee. I warned you.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Ian and Kelly's wedding

I'm leaving right now to go officiate Ian and Kelly's wedding. Decided to change the processional.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I keep finding these lists of accountability questions. I find them convicting and fascinating. First, it's not the questions are asked... in fact... I have several relationships where these kinds of questions are asked. It's the intentionality and the regularity by which they are asked.

Curious to know your thoughts.

Again, John Wesley's Small Group Questions:

1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
2. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?

3. Do I confidentially pass onto another what was told me in confidence?

4. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work , or habits?

5. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?

6. Did the Bible live in me today?

7. Do I give it time to speak to me everyday?

8. Am I enjoying prayer?

9. When did I last speak to someone about my faith?

10. Do I pray about the money I spend?

11. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?

12. Do I disobey God in anything?

13. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?

14. Am I defeated in any part of my life?

15. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?

16. How do I spend my spare time?

17. Am I proud?

18. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisee who despised the publican?

19. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I going to do about it?

20. Do I grumble and complain constantly?

21. Is Christ real to me?


Wesley's Band Meeting Questions - these are the questions JW small groups would ask each other when they met each week.

1. What known sins have you committed since our last meeting?

2. What temptations have you met with?

3. How were you delivered?

4. What have you thought, said, or done, of which you doubt whether it be sin or not?

5. Have you nothing you desire to keep secret?

Reference: John Wesley's Class Meetings: a Model for Making Disciples, by D. Michael Henderson, Evangel Publishing House, 1997, pp. 118-9


Chuck Swindoll's Pastoral Accountability Questions:

In his book, "The Body," author Chuck Colson lists the questions used by Chuck Swindoll (pastor, author and Chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary).

1. Have you been with a person of the opposite sex anywhere this past week that might be seen as compromising?

2. Have any of your financial dealings lacked integrity?

3. Have you exposed yourself to any sexually explicit material?

4. Have you spent adequate time in Bible study and prayer?

5. Have you given priority time to your family?

6. Have you fulfilled the mandates of your calling?

7. Have you just lied to me?


Neil Cole (executive director of Church Multiplication Associates)

1. What is the condition of your soul?

2. What sin do you need to confess?

3. What have you held back from God that you need to surrender?

4. Is there anything that has dampened your zeal for Christ?

5. Who have you talked with about Christ this week?


HT: Journey ten questions:

1. Have you been a testimony this week to the greatness of Jesus Christ with both your words and actions?

2. Have you been exposed to sexually alluring material or allowed your mind to entertain inappropriate thoughts about someone who is not your spouse this week?

3. Have you lacked any integrity in your financial dealings this week, or coveted something that does not belong to you?

4. Have you been honoring, understanding and generous in your important relationships this past week?

5. Have you damaged another person by your words, either behind their back or face-to-face?

6. Have you given in to an addictive behavior this week? Explain.

7. Have you continued to remain angry toward another?

8. Have you secretly wished for another's misfortune so that you might excel?

9. Did you finish your reading this week and hear from the Lord? What are you going to do about it?

10. Have you been completely honest with me?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


It's easier not to have any expectations than to have them and be let down constantly. That is the problem with having a vision for life... the vision so often doesn't match reality.

Is trying to figure out...

How this doesn't get someone arrested. But I guess satire is protected.

And funny.

Taco Bell's New Green Menu Takes No Ingredients From Nature

Friday, June 26, 2009

This isn't funny

No really. So don't laugh.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A sad passing...

But an honorable tribute.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

John Wesley's questions

Some questions Wesley (who was the founder of the Methodist Movement) would ask himself at the end of the day. He required his pastors to do the same. Might not be a bad idea for any of us.

John Wesley’s Small Group Questions:

1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?

2. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?

3. Do I confidentially pass onto another what was told me in confidence?

4. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work , or habits?

5. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?

6. Did the Bible live in me today?

7. Do I give it time to speak to me everyday?

8. Am I enjoying prayer?

9. When did I last speak to someone about my faith?

10. Do I pray about the money I spend?

11. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?

12. Do I disobey God in anything?

13. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?

14. Am I defeated in any part of my life?

15. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?

16. How do I spend my spare time?

17. Am I proud?

18. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisee who despised the publican?

19. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I going to do about it?

20. Do I grumble and complain constantly?

21. Is Christ real to me?

Friday, May 29, 2009

"big" Grows Up

Yea, yea, yea... it's an old movie and released before many of my readers were born... yadda yadda....I'm assuming some of you may have watched it on the "Oldies" station.

But remember the movie "big?"

Remember the "chopsticks" scene?

Big grows up.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

We got it right.

Okay, maybe the United Methodist Church finally got it right... at least in the advertisement.

I really like this.

Friday, May 01, 2009


I guess I have been reluctant to write about my dad. I haven't slept well the past couple of weeks and I have been stress eating like crazy. Things that used to make me excited just feel flat.

I'm kind of a "wear my emotions on my sleeve" kind of person - transparency has never been an issue for me. But this struggle seems more private to me. It's been harder to talk about for some reason. And there is a tiredness to this season of my life that goes deep to the bone. Even to my spirit.

If you don't know, my dad has had serious health issues for the past 5 years. Slowly, I have watched his body deteriorate. Three weeks ago he had major open heart surgery (replacing a valve and repairing another). He spent the past couple of weeks in ICU struggling to recover from that surgery. And wouldn't you know, the day after they took him out of ICU, he had a stroke. He now has limited movement on his right side and has a lot of trouble getting words out. It's clear he knows what we are saying, he just can't put the words together. (This is in addition to the heart surgery and other complications.) So where most people are up and walking after 3 days, my dad is worse off now than when he went in.

To really know me is to know my family system. I'm incredibly close to my parents. My dad is, hands down, the most influential man in my life. Growing up, he was my hero. He could do anything. Fix anything. Overcome anything. He worked 30 years in the same classroom and loved every minute of it. He was loyal to his wife, his work, his friends, his family. I loved the way he loved my mom. He was my best man at my wedding. I could go on and on...

Tonight I was lying in bed trying to sleep and, for the first time, it dawned on me that I might have had my last "conversation" with my dad (as least as I knew it).

Even writing those words seem so surreal to me.

And really painful.

Growing up, dad would be teaching me something and he would say, "I know I have probably told you this before, and if so, I'm sorry. Just listen to it again. You know, when I was your age I used to get so frustrated with my dad. He would say the same thing over and over. But now, I really wish I had him around."

I guess I just want to "listen to it all again."

Saturday, April 18, 2009


This has to be one of my all-time favorite pictures of Lydia. Not because it's that great of a shot (although I like it), but because it captures who she is to me.

I really love my daughter.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

So sad...

[sniff sniff]

Funerals are so sad.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Extreme Sheep Art

(Thanks Jessica)

Thursday, March 19, 2009


The problem with making a meal for everyone else is that you often live your life just eating leftovers.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Solidarity Challenge

If you are doing the Solidarity Challenge in some form, I would love to hear how it is going. Please go to our Solidarity Challenge Blog and tell us what is happening.

Photos by Matt Eich

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Optical Illusion Girlfriend

I'm sorry, this is just REALLY funny to me.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Haggard Update

Those of you who follow this site know that I have blogged about Haggard before. I find the whole situation so interesting. Recently, Haggard was featured in an HBO special. I have seen several interviews with him in the past couple of weeks, including the one below. My take is that he actually seems to be getting perspective and maybe healing. I'm curious to know what you, my loyal readers think.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Just amazing

So this is one of the most amazing, creative videos I have ever seen. I can't imagine how long this took to put together... but the I think experiencing the creativity behind it is well worth the 4 minutes you will spend watching it.

Thanks Tobias for sharing this.

Friday, January 30, 2009

We really want to know you.

Dear Blog readers who are a part of the Central community.

We really need your help.

If you haven't already done so, would you take some time and take the survey that is linked on our homepage called "Spiritual Life Survey"? Please only take this if you are a part of Central (or have left within the past year). It is really, really important to us. It will take about 20-25 minutes but we believe this will help us in where this congregation is headed in the coming years.

To my RSS readers... the first link didn't work for some reason. I tried to link it directly...

Again, please only take this is you are a part of Central.


Monday, January 26, 2009


Recently I have made the decision to really work on my heath. I have tried and failed many times to lose weight... but I'm coming to a stage of my life where I feel if I don't make changes now, I never will. In addition... now it is more than a weigh thing to me. This is about my relationship to God, my family, my church and myself.

So, I have made some pretty bold moves in terms of accountability. I have a nutritionist. A doctor. A work-out plan.

And I have over 400 accountability partners.

My Central family knows that I made the decision to put my weight up on the screen each week as an ongoing accountability. It seems radical... but the changes I need to make are radical. I've also asked people to sponsor me per pound lost. (Several are doing this at $10-$20 a pound over several years! -- helps with matience!). The money is going to an intern program to develop young pastors that I'm pretty passionate about.

BTW, I would love to have you join me if you want to sponsor me!

I've been overweight pretty much all my life.

Actually, my weight has defined who I am, and how I see myself.

So I start by telling you that I'm not a guy who has a few pounds to lose. I'm a person who defines himself as "fat" and all that accompanies that three-letter word. The pain of not fitting in. Of using humor to deflect the piercing words of others. Of never feeling comfortable in my own body.

And some of you don't understand this. You have either always been thin, or you have gained a few pounds and you need to go on a diet.

But that is not me.

I'm coming to terms with the fact that I see food as a "god."

I go to it to celebrate. To mourn. To get encouragement. To comfort.

I need to change the way I see food...

I need to change the way I see myself.

So if I blog about this... show my mercy. It is what God is doing on my life. And I need you, my community... to help and encourage me.


"God, show me what I was when you first dreamed of me. When your eyes saw my unformed body. When I was hidden in the secret place. I suspect I was not who I am today. And that is the person I long to be. I don't want to be more than that... for your vision for my life is sufficient. In fact, it is more than I could ever dream. Allow "redemption" to redeem all of me. God, show me who I was when you first dreamed of me."

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Interesting perspective