What Others Are Saying:

Steve Case, through his emersion into the story, reminds us that the presence of the divine surrounds us continually and he teaches us how to tap into that presence.

 - Mary Beth Howe, Author:A Baptist Among Jews

Wednesday
Nov132013

Wawa (warm cookies)

I’ve been getting my gasoline at Wawa lately.  I find myself driving by other gas stations in favor of Wawa. This is for several reason.  First I’m impressed by any marketing genius who can make a go of a business called Wawa.  They have cheap gas, clean restrooms, courteous staff, cookies, coffee and I’ve actually seen people cleaning the fountain-drink dispensers.  A few weeks ago I had my first sub from Wawa. Some sort of chipotle popcorn chicken number that was quite tasty. 

 Wawa is fairly new to Florida.  Up-north there are places where Wawa and another gas/convenient store called Sheetz have a rivalry going.  Sort of like Krispy Kreme verses Dunkin or FSU vs UF or Steelers vs Browns.  I will give it to Sheetz on the grab-and-go coffee and sweet tea. If Wawa ever comes out with their own brand of coffee in a can I will probably move in.

 I was filling my tank the other day and spotted a sign that said, “All lattes any size 1.99.”  I never had a Wawa latte so i thought I would give it a shot. If you have never been to a Wawa here’s how it works. You walk in and step up to a touch screen. You tap food or drink, then you tap what kind you want, hot or cold, large or small, extra expresso or whipped cream etc.  The machine prints you a receipt with a number and when they call your number you grab your food and go.

 So I’m in my local Wawa. It is seven o’clock AM on a cool Sunday morning. 

I touch LARGE,

and REGULAR

and ICE

and NO WHIPPED CREAM

and was tempted to touch EXTRA EXPRESSO but I did not. 

I touched the FINISHED button and think I am done.  Nope. There on the screen is one amazing question. 

  “Would you like a warm chocolate chip cookie with that?

 I don’t know a whole lot of people who would answer “No” to that question. I don’t care what the THAT in the question is.  Maybe you just bought a high powered circular saw at Home Depot...if the next question is “Would you like a warm chocolate chip cookie with that?”  Most people would say “Yes”. 

 I would love to try this at church.  Here’s your bulletin. Would you like a warm chocolate chip cookie with that?  Yes. Yes, I would.

 Here...take and eat this. It is my body which was broken for you. Take and drink this. It is my blood which was shed for you.  Would you like a warm chocolate chip cookie with that?  

 Having a good day? Having a bad day?  God says, “I want to make it just a little better. Would you like a warm chocolate chip cookie with that?”  Yes, God. Yes I would.”

 Leaders of foreign countries could sit down with each other and discuss how to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons.  “Here’s our proposal for disarmament.  Would you like a warm chocolate chip cookie with that?”

 Warm chocolate chip cookies are like God’s love. You can’t offer one in anger or hate. You can be a vindictive judgmental and damning creator and still say, “Here’s the life I want for you....would you like a warm chocolate chip cookie with that?”

 Warm Chocolate Chip cookies = God’s unconditional love.  Yes, I would like some please. Yes, I could really use it.  My week has been a bad week. My school work has been stressing me out. The world seems like it’s ready to rip itself apart.  Yes, I would like a warm chocolate chip cookie. (Cookie=God’s love.)

 God is love. Love is God. It says so in the Bible.   It frightens me how many people have a view of God as carrying around his big bucket of lightning bolts.  What if we saw a God with a kiss-the-cook apron and a plate of cookies?  

 GOD: “Here is a life.  It’s yours. You can do ANYTHING you want to with it. It’s entirely your call....would you like a warm chocolate chip cookie with that?”

Thursday
Nov072013

Safewater

 Mark Twain is one of my favorite authors.  I read Huckleberry Finn in my senior year in high school because it was required.  My English teacher told us it had been banned in schools in many areas of the country. I asked what other books has been banned and my teacher gave me a copy of Twain’s Letters from the Earth.  Thus began a life-long love of Twain’s work.  Letter’s from the Earth and Captain Stormfield are two of my favorite works. Ever.

 Twain’s real name was Sam Clemens.  Most of you know this.  When the riverboats would float down the Mississippi river it was one man’s job to drop a weight into the water and measure the depth. He would call out the depth to the boat pilot.

“marrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrk-twaaaaaaaaaaaaain”

was a river-boating term. It was the spot where safe water became dangerous water and dangerous water became safe. Anything less than mark-twain was going to be hazardous. Anything more than mark-twain was safe sailing. It is strange to hear a man’s name used as a term isn’t it? If you didn’t know what the words meant, what would your name mean?)

 I want to live at the spot where dangerous becomes safe and safe becomes dangerous.  Safewater = having a discussion in the youth room about events I clipped from the news.  Dangerous water is probably setting off a dry-ice bomb in the church parking lot.

 You can live beneath mark-twain, don’t get me wrong but eventually it could get you in trouble. You can live above mark-twain but I think eventually it becomes boring.  There are times for both. If you are one of the college readers then right now is a time in your life to live above mark-twain. Study hard. Get the degree. Do what you have to do. Graduation (high school AND college) is, for some, that moment of crossing over the mark-twain line. The secret is having the experienced boatman calling out the depths and letting you know when you may be in over your head.

 I’ve been trying to think where Jesus lived.  To the pharisees he was in dangerous water...all the time. He let the disciples sail into dangerous waters on purpose just to make a point.  Maybe the God/Jesus/Holy Spirit is the one calling out the depths to us. Letting us know when it’s safe to put on more speed and when we need to pull back and pay more attention to the river in front of us.  Then it becomes up to us to listen.

Sometimes we run aground.

Sometimes we end up on the rocks.

Sometimes we can put our feet up and and enjoy the view as we travel.

But that makes me the boat-pilot. I may run aground due to my inexperience but if I don’t learn from it....if i don’t listen the next time...I could get stuck. I might lose my captain’s license. 

 Mr Twain learned to live his name. He seemed to on the border quite often.  If I ever got the nerve to get a tattoo I would get “mark-twain” the term but then I’d spend so much time explaining what I really meant.

 Sometimes being Christian is about living at mark-twain. It certainly took us into some dangerous places on mission trips. Sometimes it can be dangerous just talking about what you believe outside of the church walls.  I never want our faith.  Those are safewater.  What we do might be dangerous. Stepping outside of ANY comfort zone is dangerous. But with experience...which comes with failure...and guidance which comes from listening to the God/Jesus/Holy Spirit we will get where we are going.

 Listen.

 “Marrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrk Twaaaaaaaaaaaaaaain.”

 What are you sailing into?

Tuesday
Oct292013

Who?

  Take a look at the picture. If you are a Dr Who fan you already know these guys.

 

                         

This is one of the publicity shots for a special episode of Dr Who in which all five doctors appeared. (Quickly for those who don’t watch...Dr Who is a science fiction television show about a time-traveler who can go anywhere in time or space. It’s been on the air since l963. Part of the reason it lasted so long is that the BBC occasionally recasts the doctor with a new actor. All of the actors in the photo are playing the same character.  Go it?  Okay, let’s mush on.)

 The special episode in which all five doctors appeared was called The Five Doctors. (Go figure).  The actor on the far left was not the original actor to play the role. Actor William Hartnell was too old and frail to resume the role so they found someone new.

The guy in the light jacket was the fifth doctor. It was his season in which all five doctors appeared.   

 So let’s talk about the guy in the hat.  Tom Baker was the 4th Doctor.  He was “my doctor” as they say in fandom.  He was the doctor the first time I became aware of the series. I wandered into the wrong room at a Cleveland comic book convention. Now, here’s the thing....Tom Baker is not in the picture.

 Tom Baker the actor declined to participate in the five doctors special episode. This was before the days of photoshop.  The other actors are posing with the wax figure from Madam Tussaud’s museum.

 There is a verse from 1st Corinthians. Just before the whole “love is patient love is kind” thing. 

 

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NIV) 

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all  knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 

3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. 

 I’m not begrudging Tom Baker’s lack of participation. He was an actor wanting to move on.  He wasn’t big on going back to a role he had just left.  He has since come back to work on the Dr Who audio series that I dearly love. 

 I also really like this picture. I love how the other actors are really selling the idea of a reunion.  I love that the moment after this picture was taken they wall walked away and left the 4th Doctor standing there all by himself.

 We must learn to be genuine again. I think we are born being ourselves. Childhood is an amazing time. Children are unapologetically honest with the world. Then we go to school and we are told to be something else. We are told behave THIS way or THAT way or you can’t be part of OUR group. We go to college graduate and join a world where corporate drone-ism is rewarded.  Inovation is considered to be boat-rocking.

 You  want to be cool?  Wear THIS?  

 Do THAT because everybody else is.

 We do things the way they always have been done. Why? Because we’ve always done them that way.

 It’s strange to me how much importance we put on the opinion of people we didn’t really like in the first place.  Love gives us permission to be genuine. 

 Be yourself.  Just think of how much time you’re going to have to spend with you.

 Live as though the words Genuine Article were tattooed on your forearm for all the world to see. You couldn’t be fake.  

 Live genuine.

Friday
Oct042013

Image

I looked up an old friend this week.  His name is Eric and we actually have been Facebook ‘friends’ for a little while. We knew each other in college. We were both DJs on the campus radio station. WKSR! (Where Kent State Rocks!!).  Eric was a year behind me.  We also were both student interns for WKSU-National Public Radio.  I looked Eric up this week because I knew he had continued his career in Public Radio. He also wrote an incredible and deeply personal novel called: Giving Up The Ghost and for those of you who are into Rock and Roll,  Eric also wrote a quite brilliant book on censorship and music called Parental Advisory. (A nice resource for term papers if you need it.)

 Anyway I looked up Eric and found he is now a VICE PRESIDENT for Programming for National Public Radio. There was a picture.  I thought “God, he’s old.”  (Sorry Eric.) Then I remembered he was a year BEHIND me in college. This morning I looked at my face in the mirror and thought “Who is that?”.  

 I was holding onto the image of Eric the college student. The one who used to chill out in the “lobby” of the campus radio station. That was my image...worse yet...I still thought of myself that way. 

 Growing up is hard...on youth AND your parents. Your parents held you in their hands and sang you to sleep. There was a time when you were completely dependent on your parents. That’s like a drug in some cases.  Its easy for a parent to get hooked on that dependence. They need you to depend on them while at the same time pushing you toward being grown-up. I have a friend named Kenny.  Kenny is three.  Kenny at the crawled up in my arms the other day and hugged me tight. I’d forgotten how much I missed that.  At the same time I could not be prouder of my own offspring who are in their twenties. Cut your parents some slack. They may not see you as a grown up for a very long time. 

 I have this image of God in my head. It’s been there since my Kindergarten Sunday school teacher showed me his picture.  I’ve revised it over the years but to me my image of God is the old white guy grandfather. I see him dancing at the creation or wearing an apron and bending over a potter’s wheel.  I see him mooning Moses. I see him with a paint brush or a chef’s hat. No matter how many books I read  about God or how many theological articles, or how many sermons I hear.  God, to me, is a kind old man who has eyes older than creation itself.  I can’t accept the “cosmic blob’ or the great amoeba of love. I relate to my world physically...fatherly...perhaps it is only natural that my God is too.

 Who is God to you?  How does it relate to the world around you?  I have a friend who is a musician. God, to him, is a song. Nothing physical but like a song that you keep in your heart. God is the background music in the movie. Superman soaring or Darth Vader marching. If I think of God as a song it’s usually God driving down a beach road in an old convertible with the music turned up.

 How do you relate the world?  Who is your God?  Or maybe its the other way around. Who is your God and how does that affect they way you relate the to the world around you? 

Thursday
Sep262013

Authentic Play

Okay, check out the picture... 

 These are Imaginext figures from Fisher Price. Cool toys. Some of the coolest toys out there these days. I’ve been collecting these guys for a few years now. (Yes, I’m nearly 50. Deal with it.)  To me, these are the true toys. They run on imagination. No batteries. No videos. No plug ins. No blood. (Unless the dinosaur bites the Queen’s guard guy. He might bleed.)

 When I worked as a sales associate at KB Toys I would steer people toward cool toys like this.  Lots of grandparents would come in concerned they did not know what to buy their grandchildren for Christmas.  I’d show them toys like these.  When my own kids were little. We had a lot of toys like these. They had adventures as far as you could dream.  It was kind of a bummer when my offspring grew up because I thought I could not play with toys any more. (Solution: Get my own toys.)

 An Ipad is not a toy.  Toys should not interact with the television. Toys should interact with your imagination.  I don’t want the computer telling me what the story is. I can do that just fine thanks.  What happened to holding the bat-plane in the air and going 

 “WHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSHHHHHH”  or

 “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEYOOOOOOWWWW.......BOOOM!!!’ 

 (the plane crashed in that last segment but not to worry. Batman and the race car driver bailed out and the two Supermans caught them.)

 There is a four year old who goes to my church.  He’s my friend. He carries a dozen or more little plastic animals with him to church every Sunday and has names for all of them. 

 Nothing against video games. I have a few. If we want kids to make it today we have to introduce them to computers early and if you have to come up with a game or a toy to do that....cool. But I think there is such a thing as authentic play. I’ve watched little kids play and what they can come up with is so much better and, to them, so much more real than what the computer tells them.

 Authentic Play (Got that? okay. Let’s push on.)

 So, I’m thinking about this as I’m adding my most recent characters to the collection...and I’m wondering... 

 What is...“authentic” faith?  What does that look like?

 What does belief look like in its purest form without trimmings and trappings and rules?

 What does faith look like when it operates on imagination?  On hope?

 What Jesus said was pretty simple.  “Love God.  Love each other.”

 Love God. Love each other.

Think about that. Pretty much everything else that shapes our religion our church our actions....is our own additions.  We added volumes to “Love God. Love each other.”

 I work at an incredibly left-leaning-gay-marriage-performing church. Just down the street from us is highly conservative put-crosses-in-the-front-yard-for-aborted-babies Catholic church.  I have written articles for some conservative companies. Yes, I’m a liberal who can speak evangelical. 

 All of them started with “Love God. Love each other.” and look where we all have gone.

 Love God. Love each other.

 What if we started with that today. Skip everything else...just for today and begin with Love God. Love each other.

 Where will that take you?

 

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